Lipgens, Walter: Motives for European unity

From Walter Lipgens, A History of European Integration, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1982.

frissell1The motives and theoretical arguments which the leaders of the Resistance put forward in favor of a European federation were surprisingly similar in all European countries, even though, if only for reasons of brevity, they were tersely expressed in underground leaflets and not developed in scholarly detail. In the following paragraphs they are arranged in order of the importance assigned to them by the Resistance writers themselves.

1. The basic and major justification for their plans for European unification in the case of nearly all the Resistance writers was defined as taking up an ideological stand against worship of the state, against the ‘terrible compulsion towards totalitarian rule, as it is inevitably forged by nationalism’. The system of nation states which had brought on mankind so much suffering, and in its extreme form of Fascism had been carried to absurd lengths, was felt to be unworthy of preservation. What was needed, instead, was to safeguard true values, personal freedom, religious and political rights, etc. against state nationalism by a European federation which should prevent the return of nationalism and Fascism in its member states. This conviction was reinforced by the experience of a common struggle against injustice and slavery by the Resistance groups of all the occupied countries, a feeling of Europeanness that was especially marked in the French group known as Combat, but was also summed up by Moltke when he wrote: ‘After considerable difficulty we are in touch with Christian groups in the various occupied territories’, and their ‘effective opposition on grounds of principle’ means ‘a great addition of strength for us’.(82)

2. An equally fundamental argument, and one which was put forward by almost every author during the ordeal of war, was that the unity of Europe would make it impossible for the nation states to plunge the peoples of Europe into war in generation after generation. If the first argument stemmed from the degeneration of the nation state, the second argument was based on the experience of the League of Nations, whose purely intergovernmental machinery was unable to prevent war between European nations. Only a European federal union could put an end for good to ‘European civil wars’ and make peace secure once and for all. Not another loosely structured League, only a supranational federal authority could finally overcome nationalism and, being directly elected by the people and under their watchful eye, could exercise those common powers over foreign policy, security, and economic planning which could be effective only on a European scale.(83)

3. All those documents were characterized by a remarkable transformation of people’s attitude to Germany. The Resistance writers shared the worldwide anxiety to make any recurrence of German aggression impossible. The question was how this was to be done without continual constraints, occupation, reparations, etc., which would only breed a new spirit of nationalism, and without enforcing the dismantlement and reduction of industry to a point where Germany would become an economic disaster area in the heart of Europe, with adverse effects on its neighbours. Unlike those planners who proceeded from the assumptions of nationalism and military power, they answered that the ‘German problem’ could be solved only by Germany’s becoming a full member of the European federation. Distinguishing between the Nazi leaders and the German people, Claude Bourdet, for example, wrote in March 1933 in Combat, the leading Resistance organ in Southern France, that ‘the revolutionary spirit of resistance unanimously looks to the Europe of the future and this Europe cannot be built without Germany’. Of course for some years to come Germany would have to be ‘placed under tutelage in a political as well as a cultural sense’, but this could be ‘tolerated if at the same time all the nations of Europe renounced a part of their national sovereignty in favour of a European federation … We do not forget that it was the German resistance which first raised its head and produced the first martyrs.’ On the German side the deteriorating military situation brought similar insight. ‘The main advantage of integrating Germany into Europe’, wrote Theodor Steltzer, a member of the Kreisau Circle, to a friend in London in July 1944, ‘as opposed to a policy of pure suppression would lie in the fact that in the first case all the constructive forces would be applied to cooperation under the lead of a German government, whereas the handling of the security problem has much less prospect of success through an isolated system of formal controls’. The statement issued by the International Conference of Resistance Fighters at Geneva in the spring of 1944 put the point incisively: ‘Only a federal union will permit the German people to take part in European life without becoming a danger to other nations.’(84)

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