Silone, Ignazio: The European mission of socialism
La missione europea del socialismo , 26 Oct. 1947, from S. Pistone, L’Italia e I’unitd europea.
Translated at W.Lipgens and W. Loth, Documents on the History of European Integration, De Gruyter, 1988.
(…) A renewal of the struggle for European union is a vital necessity and the only means of salvation for the free countries of the old continent.
The sad facts we have pointed out do not, of course, call in question the good will of the protagonists. The gravity of the situation is admitted by all: the fragility of the present peace is a matter of universal apprehension. Each party is vying to declare itself more pacifist than the others. But we must not ignore the fact that it is an indeterminate pacifism, not free from the traditional weaknesses of the old inconclusive kind. What does fighting for peace mean if it does not include sincere good will, day after day, in attempting to resolve the disputes out of which war may spring? There is no such thing as a particular fight against war, separate from a just and courageous general policy.
It would be idle, I think, to embark on a fresh criticism of the old pacifism and its insufficiency, or to revive the dispute concerning its doctrinaire presuppositions, unacceptable as they are to all who feel that the defence of certain values may justify a voluntary sacrifice. But in a more strictly political sense, we must at least emphasize that pacifism is not enough for anyone who really wants to avert the danger of further wars. Its abstract formulations present a seductive vision of human brotherhood, but they do not give a precise, concrete idea of ways and means, of the forces that may lead us to the goal, or the obstacles that have to be overcome. The real pacifist’s motto therefore must be this: ‘If you want peace, prepare the political, economic and social conditions of peace.’ And from this point of view it is especially sad to note that among those forces which are far from struggling realistically for peace are those which should be most concerned in the fight: I mean workers’ organizations and socialist parties.
History has been generous to socialists. After the collapse of 1919-23 they were given a chance of recovery, but it does not look as if they intend to take advantage of it. The present helplessness and inefficacy of socialism at the European level is not perhaps due solely or mainly to the lack of leadership. The fact is that socialism in our day has been involved in a transformation of the state and political life which has enormously increased its material possibilities but deprived it of some more positive advantages. For decades we have witnessed a long process that may be called the socialization of the state: but it has been accompanied by the nationalization of socialism -and I use ‘nationalization’ in virtually the same sense as when one talks about the nationalization of coal or transport.
I need not recall at length how and why this happened. The economic crisis endangers capitalist profits, workmen’s wages and farmers’ earnings. All classes without exception demand economic and social security and look to the state to provide it. In recent years this has had very serious effects. One is that wherever there have been structural reforms they have taken place within national limits, on a national basis, and have been calculated to reinforce the bonds linking all classes to the national interest. Another effect is that the national state is no longer regarded by its population as an instrument of oppression, a hindrance to social development, a system that must be reformed or destroyed, or whose prerogatives must be curtailed for the sake of social welfare – on the contrary, it is seen as the sole guarantor of every form of security, in which all power ought to reside. But since the economic crisis is not due to national causes or confined behind frontiers, national remedies only aggravate it, and any serious economic conflict disturbs inter-state relations.