This essay was printed in May 1956 in the German monthly Nation Europa. Replying to Comment and Criticism from Britain, Germany, Italy and America.
It is necessary in the development of new ideas to hold firmly the essentials. We must not lose them in the discussion of detail, vital as detail is to a policy whose whole fibre is practical. But we are in some danger in this debate of not” seeing the wood for the trees “; as the English and German proverb puts it. We are coming to the point when we must decide whether we are for or against the main principles. I have replied to some interesting questions which dealt in detail, because it was necessary to show that such questions could be answered. So far no point of detail has been put which presented any considerable difficulty ; in fact, most of these minor problems could be met in several ways. At a later stage those of us who are united on the principles of this matter will have to spend many hours together on questions of ever closer detail. But at this point it seems to me necessary to recapitulate the main principles and to ask those interested to make up their minds on certain preliminary questions.
I gave recently a broad definition of European Socialism as follows :
“European Socialism is the development by a fully united Europe of all the resources in our own continent, for the benefit of all the peoples of Europe, with every energy and incentive that the active leadership of European government can give to private enterprise, workers’ ownership or any other method of progress which science and a dynamic system of government find most effective for the enrichment of all our people and the lifting of European civilisation to ever higher forms of life.”
It is an error to regard European Socialism simply as a synthesis between private enterprise and syndicalism. That is a component of a far larger whole. I was myself mostly responsible for this overemphasis of one aspect because I was so attracted by the idea of the synthesis between the previous contradictions of private enterprise and syndicalism when it first occurred to me. In discussion I tended to put it out of perspective with the whole, but this has since been corrected in my own writing. There is, of course, nothing new in either private enterprise or syndicalism. What was new was the synthesis of the two ideas by employing them both in their appropriate chronological order and devising a natural transition from one to the other. Another new factor was, also, possibly, the introduction of the hard and practical motive of profit to the starry-eyed anarchy of earlier syndicalist thinking. This recognised the basic fact that the pure ideal of service is only for a dedicated elite, and that a more personal motive is necessary to the mass ; a fact which both purifies socialism and reduces it to the practical. But it was the synthesis of the full urge of individual initiative with the collective urge of syndicalism which was the real contribution of our thinking. And I became for the time being so interested by this idea that I tended to over-emphasize it in relation to the rest. That policy stands, but it is now in perspective with the whole.
In fact, the idea of European Socialism has developed continually since I first used the phrase in a speech on May Day 1950 todescribe the ideas we had developed to meet the facts of the post-war world. That is inevitable, and in full accord with the intention. European Socialism is a dynamic and not a static creed, an organic and continuing development, not a petrified revelation on a tablet of stone. The influence of many minds, the stress of controversy, and above all fresh facts will continually contribute to its full development. The principles of European Socialism are a constant advance, not a frigid is, nor, worse still, like the policies of the old parties in the present world, a frozen was. We have direction which is very definite, but not rigidity ; our principles are flowing, not frigid. So we seek accord with nature which is ever evolving and developing to higher forms, and reject the artificial systems by which small men seek to imprison both science and the forward urge of humanity within their narrow and transient preconceptions. Do not reproach us for constantly developing our ideas ; it is our principle and not our weakness, our pride and not our shame. We strive always to march forward ; we should betray only if we turned back or halted on the march.
Summary of European Socialism
May I now recapitulate very briefly the main principles of this thinking as they stand after a decade of development since the war.
1. Europe a Nation. I first used this phrase after the war to describe the complete integration of the European peoples which I believe to be essential to the survival and advance of European civilisation. No lesser degree of union than that of an integral nation can give the will and power to act on the great scale, and with the decision, which are now necessary. No lesser space than all Europe, and the overseas possessions of Europe in a common pool, can give the roomwithin which to act effectively. The necessity for the close union of the European peoples as a third power has been emphasized by the appearance of the rival giants, America and Russia.
2. Government with the Power to Act. The revolution which science has brought can only be faced by government armed with power to act by the free vote of the people. This does not mean dictatorship or any form of totalitarian state, as I have made clear in my essay Government of Tomorrow and on previous occasions. But it does mean a clearly defined division of functions between executive, judiciary and legislature, and that, within the limits so prescribed, the executive shall have a free hand to carry out the mandate conferred by the people’s vote. Opposition parties will have every right to criticise, and to enter elections at regular intervals, in an attempt to change the government, but they will not be able by obstruction to impede the work of an elected government and thus to thwart the people’s will.
3. The deliberate equation of production and consumption within the viable area of Europe-Africa. We have long believed that the individual nations of Europe would founder in the chaos of world competition when normal conditions returned. Each strives to export more than it imports in order to pay by competition on world markets for the raw materials and supplies which none possess in sufficient quantity within their own borders. We propose therefore that the economy of Europe-Africa shall be insulated from world chaos ; it will form an area large enough to supply both its own raw materials and its own markets. The aim of government and of a new trade unionism will be deliberately to equate production and consumption by raising the standard of life equably throughcomparable industries, as science increases the power to produce. The European peoples will thus acquire the power to consume what they produce. This is impossible while they have to face on world markets the competition of labour with a far lower standard of life which is equipped by international finance with modern, simplified machinery. The isolated nations of Europe will also, in the end, not have the strength to meet the dumped surpluses of great industrial countries like America with large home markets, or the below-cost sales of large slave industrial systems like Russia, directly the full force of the coming competition is felt. Developments such as automation will also oblige the active leadership of government in a constructive wage-price policy to prevent production outstripping demand and causing an economic crash. The part of government will be to lead to the utmost, but to control to the minimum, the necessary industrial organisation.
4. The method of industrial organisation will be a dynamic pragmatism. We shall experiment, find out what works, change a method quickly if it does not work, and follow success with every energy. We will be bound by no preconceptions or economic shibboleths of the old world. Science has made them all obsolete. We believe the development of new enterprise is best done by an unfettered private enterprise which should not only be free but by every means encouraged. When private enterprise is exhausted and the concern becomes too big for any individual management, we prefer workers’ ownership to state ownership or nationalisation. What is begun by a creative individual should finally be continued by a collective individualism of workers who own the enterprise to which they have given their lives, and not by a state bureaucracy without interest or contact with workers or industry.
5. All reward should be according to effort and the acceptance of responsibility. The present tendency to reduce all reward to the dead level is fatal. Reward for skill, effort and responsibility in industry should not be reduced but increased. We clash here fundamentally with all egalitarian doctrine. But it must be reward for work, skill and service and for that alone. In all European countries the extra reward for skill, effort and the acceptance of responsibility is tending to disappear. It must be restored and emphasized. The future must rest on those who can, and those who do.
6. The burden of taxation should be shifted from income to spending. A man should be taxed not on what he earns but on what he spends, not on what he brings in but on what he pays out. Thus saving, thrift, the power of the individual to accumulate the fruits of his labour, and, himself, thereby to develop new enterprises would not only be preserved but be increased, and by every means encouraged. But the luxury spender and the spendthrift, the fool with money to burn, should carry the burden which today cripples the hardworking. We propose that this should be done by a graduated expenditure tax on all high spending groups, coupled with indirect taxation of everything except necessities.* All direct taxation of earning would be eliminated. All basic necessities of life to the mass of the people would also be freed from tax. The definition of necessities would vary naturally with national prosperity. For instance the standard of life would be much higher within the developed union of Europe-Africa than in an economically beleaguered island. There are various effective administrative plans for implementing the principle : tax spending, free earning. We propose a combination of expenditure tax and indirect taxation which would be graduated sharply on luxury articles.
I am well aware that at this point there may be complaint I have introduced a number of principles which are fresh to this discussion before I have answered many outstanding questions. It is not with the object of avoiding questions, which can be answered without much difficulty, but of putting the matter in perspective with our whole thesis. The above six points are simple to the verge of crudity, but they give a brief summary of principles evolved in our thinking since the war. If we are to discuss effectively particular aspects of European Socialism, we have to regard them in relation to the whole.
Workers’ ownership combined with private enterprise by the creative individual
Recently debate has concentrated almost entirely on point 4, the question of workers’ ownership. It was in pursuing this topic that we tended to lose perspective. Personally I believe that workers’ ownership of completely developed industries is an immense possibility which should be given the fairest chance in a series of well thought out experiments. I believe that some will succeed ; but, if they did not, it would be no disaster ; that is the advantage of the pragmatic method. It is probable, in practice, that some will succeed and others will not. By much trial and some error we shall find the right way to go about it ; if we plan seriously in advance, we shall minimise loss where things go wrong and rapidly exploit success where things go right. For instance, the debenture provision to which some questions have been addressed not only affords just compensation but secures naturally, easily and rapidly a new direction if things go wrong.
It appears clear from the proposals as they stand that the debenture interest represents three parties. The first debenture represents the compensation paid to the creator of the enterprise and to retiring workers according to the number of years they have put into the business, and, I would add, the degree of responsibility they exercised. It seems fair that the contribution of the original owner and of his team of workers should fall into the same category. Whether it is in the form of a marketable annuity which is the first charge on the business, or whether it ranks as a first debenture, makes no great difference in practice. The second debenture represents money raised for the development of the business by the workers in a syndicalised industry, after they have taken it over. If the business is sound, and the compensation paid to the original owner is not excessive, this should present no insuperable difficulty in normal market conditions. It would be attractive to the investor as it would have a speculative in addition to a security interest, as we shall see.
In the event of the workers in a particular industry proving incapable of running it, these debenture interests would foreclose in the ordinary way. By agreement among them in proportion to their interest the industry would be reconstructed under private management. Those who believe, therefore, that workers are always incapable of running their industries under any condition, should hurry to buy either the first debenture from the original owner and retired workers, or the second debenture when offered to the market. I believe a wise man would not be found among the speculators as he would have no such disbelief in the workers, who would be on their mettle to transform these speculative hopes into a normal loan security based on a sound business. But in some cases, no doubt, there would be failure, and the industries would then revert to private management rapidly and painlessly when it could not pay its way. No more dislocation would occur than takes place daily in capitalist industry when once prosperous concerns which have fallen into difficulties are re-constructed under more competent management.
For my part, I believe many of the worker owned industries would succeed, and only time can prove who is right. But it seems to me a great act of justice to, and of faith in, the workers to make it possible for them to conduct their own industry, rather than to make it dully inevitable that, in the stage of full development beyond any possibility of individual control, they should fall to the machine management of state or capitalist bureaucracy.
We need first a revolution of the spirit
Many cogent arguments have been advanced against the whole conception, which really can be reduced to the simple proposition that you cannot run a factory by an anarchic, obstructive, chattering mob. After some recent experience of the degeneracy of great states this may very often be true in present conditions. It is, indeed, difficult to imagine anything working with the spirit abroad in some quarters. But these critics overlook one decisive factor : the revolution we intend to make, and to whose struggle our lives are dedicated. It is not a law of nature that when workers own a concern it becomes a rabble-driven nonsense, it is only a rule of a society in decay. For instance the workers own our Movement. They made it, and they own it. More than 90 per cent of our members have always been workers in the narrowest definition of that term. They have always been volunteers who can leave at any moment, but, in fact, remain in conditions of great sacrifice and hardship, work for nothing and pay to be members. No one by any stretch of the imagination could call our Movement, or any similar band of workers, a rabble. In fact our movement of workers has been violently denounced for being a highly disciplined army, and a special Act of Parliament was passed to deprive it of that character. The law was obeyed and we are not so organised, but we certainly have the spirit of an army and not of a mob.
The point of all this is that it has been proved again and again in movements with which many of my readers will be familiar that the workers are perfectly capable of acting in union and discipline for great ends which they clearly understand ; in fact, they have often proved themselves much more capable of so acting together than some of the middle class people who regard them as anarchic mobs. Our movement, and all similar movements if they are to be effective, depend on the organised workers acting in a voluntary union and co-operation. Without them such movements could not exist. But that knowledge does not turn them into a chattering mob, a discordant rabble. On the contrary, in such movements the workers move in calm and self-disciplined solidarity under leadership they have selected and trust, to objectives they have studied and know. It is true that the details of policy are not always known to them all, and that only the deep principles are universally known and accepted. Decision in many matters needing rapid action is, also, left to leadership, because it becomes trusted over a period of time as judgment appears correct, and character is proved under hard test. But trust comes, too, from the capacity for constant consultation with colleagues and supporters before decisions are taken. This enables leadership to know what the workers are feeling and think ing and, therefore, continually to interpret their best ideals and, on occasion, to lift their eyes to yet higher aims. I write this to illustrate that leadership which is constantly and completely dependant on the support of the workers can be very remote from a waste of time in constant debate, or from continual danger of upset owing to the anarchic impulses of mobs. But such leadership must not be, and cannot be, remote from the workers. The day of the remote boss has gone ; certainly in real politics and almost certainly in industry. Even in war it is gone, and some successful generals were recently much concerned to explain and to popularise their measures (some almost to the point of playing the monkey on the democratic barrel organ).
It may be that in the heyday of American capitalism the managerial class, or a few great promoters, are exercising a remote dictatorship without check of any kind, or any necessity to explain beyond the natural persuasion of high wages. This goes as long as the system goes, but when things go less well, or even when a dynamic generation petrifies into a bureaucracy – as all remote controls do in the end -American industry will either develop leadership or revolution. At any rate in this seething European continent of individuals, ideas and ideals, men have to be persuaded and not just paid. And to an almost fantastic degree the question of status rises above the question of mere reward among the elite of the workers. So, above all this turmoil can rise the majestic and inspiring ideal of the worker as owner. It can become an ambition that moves much, and is worth a trial that has safeguards from disaster. It may be argued that the workers to whom I refer are a self-proved elite, moved by an idea and not by the present materialism. But the answer is surely that before we can succeed, this elite and their ideas will have prevailed; that is precisely why the revolution in ideas is the premise of all achievement. They will, of course be aided in this struggle by the manifest breakdown of the present system which will open the way to their ideas. When the mass of the workers have learnt in bitter experience that an anarchy of chatter means industrial death, they will be more disposed to accept both the leadership and the ideals of those who have devised the means of action and recovery. In short a revolution in thinking is a necessary prelude to a revolution in action. That is the present task of our movement, everywhere.
The combination of an attack which can roll up the left flank of labour by its syndicalism, with an attack which can roll up the right flank of conservatism by its support of the creative individual and the freeing of his enterprise from repression and taxation, is certainly a revolution in thinking. We can by this new combination capture the main position of the present system in classic fashion, as its centre collapses through an internal disintegration which is already well advanced. It is natural that those who come from the right, and are still thinking in the outmoded terminology of old world politics, should at first be alarmed by the thought of syndicalism, however well guarded it may be from anarchy both by practical safeguards and by the far more powerful factor of a revolution in feeling as well as in thinking, without which our system cannot begin to function ; in fact, without which we shall not win power. It is equally natural that men from the left who have faced employers in many a bitter clash should now sometimes view with suspicion a system of thinking which would free from all burden of direct taxation even men with great resources, provided they use their powerful means in creative enterprises to serve rather than injure the state and its peoples ; (curiously enough this inhibition does not arise so often among the workers). But, when the central objective becomes clearer, the sentiments of the different wings become fused as they converge upon it, and they begin to realise that they are meeting in order to enter a new civilisation.
Government – Taxation – Europe a Nation
Once again we must emphasize that our thinking must be regarded as a whole. So far we have not had much criticism of points 5 and 6 above, though the thinking in point 5 was published in my writing after the war some time before my syndicalist thinking. It is beginning now to win very wide acceptance in theory, but no one outside our ranks dreams of implementing it in practice. The reason is that it cannot be implemented without the strong government suggested in point 2 which, at present, is regarded as almost improper to discuss ; that phase will pass when the necessity emerges strongly in a situation presenting the clear alternative : act or crash.
The most recent development of our thinking which for us dates back a little more than two years, is, also, not much discussed in our debates. Point 6 contains the suggestion for shifting taxation from income to expenditure. This is not original to our thinking ; in principle, it has been debated by English economists for generations and was reduced to a practical administrative system by the contribution of American economists during the war. It was at this point that America entered with a constructive thought which could be of great benefit to Europe. In America apparently it provoked a storm of opposition from various interests who find the present system of taxation more convenient. Our only contribution in the matter has been to relate this traditional thinking and its recent development in transatlantic practice to our basic position of sustaining the creative individual. It is inherent to our thinking that he must be free of the burden of mob impulse and mob jealousy, that he may perform his destined service for the well being of the present and the elevation of the future.
The creative spirit, whether he be scientist, technician, individual pioneer or the deviser of new forms of service to the people which enrich or illumine daily life, is the key of our system because he is the key to higher forms of life. All devices that free and encourage him in his task must be welcome additions to our thought and method. Their discovery and development become imperative at a moment when this main hope of the future seeks release from the burden of taxation, restriction, jealousy and prejudice. If our views on this matter be regarded as impracticable, let them be criticised, and we will either defend them or improve them.
The policy of Europe a Nation in point 1 has now long been debated in strenuous controversy. We are, at any rate, emerging from the period when everyone paid lip service to the ideal of the united Europe while most sabotaged it in practice. The nominal adherents who came from the old world parties have fallen away in a variety of directions, or so reduced the concept of union that it becomes meaningless. In fact, this is an occasion on which an all or nothing policy poses a true dilemma. This union of Europe will not work in any form less complete than an integral nation. Scores of conflicting local interests will generate friction and ill-will enough to destroy union a score of times if the conflicting local interests still exist ; if separate nations still exist within Europe. Post-war experience has proved this again and again. What was regarded as our extreme emerges as the plain sense of the matter. It is Europe a Nation or nothing. Then let it be nothing answer the men of the old world, and will so answer until their old world falls about their ears. Ideas so great and so decisive as the union of Europe are only fully implemented with the aid of some compulsion from events. Few men are ready to step into greatness without that persuasion. Those few are the leaders of mankind. They are followed only when the old tenements of small minds tumble about their occupants in the earthquake of the system.
This is not the occasion to discuss in detail our belief that a crisis of this system will arise, and that the only escape is into an insulated economic area of Europe-Africa, with the possible addition of South America ; we have done this exhaustively elsewhere. It now remains to be seen over a period of time whether we are right or wrong in regarding this as necessary as well as desirable. When we prove to be right, many who agree with our general philosophy of life, but are repelled by economic ideas which seem to be unnecessary in present conditions, will be disposed to regard them with a more urgent attention ; “sharp is the glance of necessity”. In this sphere as in others the presentiment of the workers, who have suffered before, awakens first.
The Relations of State and Industry
But it is necessary here to deal with the basic question of the structure of state and industry under our system, notably the relation of the state to syndicalised industries and the degree of planning, government direction or interference, which will be necessary in the insulated system of Europe-Africa. The great dilemma of early syndicalist thinking was, of course, precisely this question of relationship with the state. This arose directly syndicalist thinking developed sufficiently from the original anarchic urge to think at all in terms of system, and that dilemma was never really resolved. It is at this point that the original element in our thinking – synthesis between private enterprise and syndicalism – can make another very effective contribution ; in fact, it can overcome the hitherto insuperable dilemma. Originally syndicalism was baffled by the choice of being entirely independent syndical industries, each with the unfettered power to hold the community up to ransom, or being subject to such a degree of state control, bureaucratic interference, that it would all end again in the old state socialism.
So far as I know, no effective compromise was ever worked out between the all powerful syndical industry and the all powerful state ; no system of balance was attained. The corporate system reached some balance in another way, but it did not admit workers’ ownership and was, therefore, an entirely different principle. In European Socialism the synthesis between private enterprise and syndicalism achieves this balance without the continual interference of the state which entails government by bureaucracy. Competition between syndical industries and private enterprise will be entirely free. It will be impossible for a syndicalised industry to hold the community up to ransom without being undercut by a competitive private enterprise. It will, therefore, be unnecessary for the state to interfere in the normal conditions of industry. We resolve the dilemma : either the omnipotent syndicate or the omnipotent state. Nature can take its course in the freedom of this synthesis and can evolve its own industrial efficiency. Conditions are, of course, different in industries which are natural monopolies ; for example the railways. In theory it is possible to check exploitation by the development of other forms of transport. But, in practice, this can be an expensive pedantry. In such case the state must surely fix both the price charged and the wage paid in the industry, in practice it does so today in most such cases. But over the whole field of industry it should not normally be necessary for the state to interfere so intimately when syndicalised industries and private enterprise exist side by side.
What then is the degree of government planning or direction, interference or leadership as divergent views would phrase it, which will be necessary ? As I stated in a recent essay on automation a far higher degree of government leadership in industry is likely to be necessary than we contemplated soon after the war. We were repelled, as were most people, by the spectacle of bureaucracy in action, and strove to the utmost in our system to avoid bureaucratic control. It ends invariably in disaster, and can easily also become a tyranny as in Soviet Russia. The idea we then evolved was that the state should define the broad boundaries within which industry might operate, and should, itself, only intervene in the event of breakdown ; something like the administration of the Charlemagne state in modern industrial terms, if I may take a remote illustration which is yet apt. Never interfere except when it is necessary, but retain the power to do so with a strong hand when occasion arises. It was a system which was free – in a sense almost liberal – but with the latent power of decisive action which modern necessity and our creed of life alike impose. Even our pre-war corporate ideas seemed to us at that time a good deal too bureaucratic, while anything like state socialism could all too easily end in the dull and brutal hordes of Soviet officialdom throttling all creative life as well as all personal freedom. Such in very brief and crude summary was the direction in which our thought was then moving. But science has lately been moving a great deal faster than any political thinking of the old world, and it is vital that our creed, whose first principle is a recognition of facts, and whose second principle is rapid action to meet them, should not also lag behind the onrush of this deciding factor. The creed of dynamism must come to its own in the epoch of dynamic change. That is the moment of supreme opportunity for our spirit, not the moment of its petrifaction.
State action by leadership, without bureaucratic control
The question arose how the problems of automation and other questions of scientific development can be resolved except by continual state action ? Did this then mean the control of a universal bureaucracy ? That would bring everything to a standstill just when everything must move faster in order to keep pace with events. Such was the beginning of my thinking in terms of wage-price mechanism.
The state should direct not by control but by leadership, not by bureaucracy but by wage-price mechanism. It is possible to guide the industrial state in the necessary degree, and in the desired direction, by fixing wages in comparable fields of industry, and, when necessary because competition does not exist, by fixing prices. Over the whole great field of competitive industry where both private enterprise and syndicalised industry will exist side by side it will only be necessary to fix wages ; when no monopoly or combine exists prices will look after themselves, if a reasonably sound monetary policy is pursued. But in monopoly conditions prices as well as wages will have to be fixed by the state or exploitation can occur, and, conversely, when a great increase of productive power is evoked by such factors as automation in productive industry, wages, and, consequently, in some degree prices, must be fixed in the basic services, which are virtually monopolies, in order to provide the enlarged market which productive industry cannot secure in sufficient degree by raising its own wages. I will not here repeat my whole argument in the study of automation, but the method of wages being raised within an insulated economy in a similar degree over comparable fields of industry is, in my contention, the only possible way of producing a market to absorb a sudden advance in productive capacity.
Present wages in the basic services like railways are held down by the fear that any increase in costs will make productive industry uncompetitive in foreign markets. In an insulated Europe-African economy, which is free from world chaos, such problems as automation will be resolved by a measured increase of purchasing power not only in the wages and salaries of productive industry but, also, in the basic services such as railways, agriculture, housing, banking, insurance, civil service, etc. The leadership of the state will be exercised by the planned and regulated raising of wages over the whole field of industry as science increases the power to produce.
It is thus, also, that the problem of redundant industry can be solved ; or the solution can be assisted. If, for instance, a particular industry is tending to over-produce, the problem will to some extent settle itself if a uniform wage has to be paid throughout the industry ; and, of course, to some extent this has happened through trade union action. When the market is limited, less effective firms will tend to go out in face of a stronger price or quality competition within the industry. In our old phrase, any man may undercut his neighbour by being more efficient but not by paying lower wages.
It is at least arguable that the state should plan further in advance, and should consciously guide the development of industry by deliberately making wages more attractive in the area to which it desires to draw labour ; thus introducing a flexibility often lacking to present capitalism, and forestalling the problems of obsolescence and redundancy. At this point we break new territory in examining the possibilities of a wage-price mechanism, and certainly enter highly debatable ground. These are problems which will sooner or later have to be faced as the revolutionary development of science imposes them on statesmanship. We must devise methods in every sphere for moving far quicker than any system can move today, or any present principle can suggest. What I want here to propose is one simple principle ; within an insulated economy the wage-price mechanism can give government the power of leadership and action without bureaucratic control. If that contention be valid we can be at the beginning of a certain revolution in economic thinking. I more than welcome criticism, and contribution to thinking which is so far only in the early stages. In principle we must have a system which leads free men by a method of rapid action to meet the revolution of science ; I believe the wage-price mechanism can supply that method. When capitalism abdicates to chaos throughout the west, such leadership alone can meet and defeat the cumbersome machine of the soviet system, which is enforced by the brutal tyranny of the Communist Party.
Our present policy in relation to the past
It remains a question whether those who think as we do should advance in union, in what has been called a pan-European movement, or in separate national movements. As long as the objective is Europe a Nation I do not greatly care whether we march together, or march separately and arrive together. What matters is that we should hold the same objective. For my part I am always a protagonist of union, when it is possible, because union gives strength. But, in cases where physical union is difficult, it matters not, if there be a union of the spirit. Our main exponents in Europe now know and understand each other well enough to make the question of formal union almost irrelevant. That work is now done, and nothing will shake it. First comes the idea, and the union of the spirit. All else follows.
I am not particularly interested in debating to what extent our thinking is original, and to what extent it is derived from previous thinking or is a synthesis of prior conceptions. If we had to choose between the power of synthesis and the capacity for original thought, I should be inclined to the view, which Aristotle at least indicated, that the former quality is the more vital attribute. Yet none of these considerations really matter at all. What matters is that our thinking now exists as a conscious and comprehensive European policy, which is open to the helpful criticism and suggestion of our friends to aid its full development, and is certainly exposed to the assault of our enemies on the open battlefield where we are eager to exchange with them blow for blow, and more. I think on the whole it fulfils the postulate that I suggested at the beginning of these researches : what is desirable is a synthesis of the best elements of fascism and of the old democracy to which is added new thinking to meet the new facts of the new age. In part our thinking is a synthesis of what previously existed and, in part, it is original thought. That is as it should be in the development of a creed which is organic and, therefore, is both related to the past and responsible to the future. No thinking is entirely original in that it has no relation to what has gone before. Man is the child of man and not of a camel, and our thinking is either the child of generations of European thinkers or it is unworthy to exist. It was the most literary of English Prime Ministers who observed that if any man made an entirely original speech no one would understand a word that he was saying. Everything that we think and say is inevitably connected with what has previously been thought and said. When we can see further than great predecessors it is because we are standing on their shoulders, as Shaw said of Shakespeare. All men – even men of genius – are to some extent the prisoners of their time and circumstance. We live in an age of unprecedented opportunity because science has broken so many bonds, and has so greatly enlarged the horizons of men. It seems to me therefore, true to say that we present a new creed to meet new facts. And the emphasis of differences in this discussion between what we advocate and the pre-war policies of Fascism appear merely to prove this point.
It is suggested that the leaders of Fascism and National Socialism, so late as the 1940’s had contemplated some form of European movement which would transcend nationalism. I will go further and recall from my own experience the very favourable reception they gave to my own advocacy of a united Europe in an article entitled in English The World Alternative, which was published in Germany by Geo Politik in 1937 ; so from my own experience I can confirm and pre-date this event. Yet the sad fact remains, whatever the merits of the dispute or the justice of the cause, Europe was divided and temporarily destroyed shortly afterwards in a fratricidal war which had the narrowest of national origins ! Many then had such feelings, but remained the prisoners of their time. It seems to me unnecessary and undesirable in practice to debate at length whether, as I think, and can prove in some detail, we formulate a new creed, or whether fascism with its “doctrine of immanence”, “perpetual reappraisal and re-orientation” could transform itself sufficiently to become approximately the same thing. It is sufficient to agree : “it is needless to deny that the fascism of 1919 must be inadequate to express the needs of our time” ; there we can agree, and further debate would only lose time in splitting hairs. What matters is whether we agree now, and the debate has shown a considerable communion of principle can be developed.
If men in an age of new facts are prepared to find new policies to meet them, they are our natural companions ; provided, of course, that we hold together that all-important “spiritual kinship”. What would have rendered co-operation difficult would have been a tendency in German or Italian friends simply to regard all truth as contained in the original revelations of the Fascist and National Socialist revolutions. In that event we should have left such Italian and German friends to debate between themselves whether final truth was revealed to man in the year 1922, or in the year 1933, while, in our dull English way, we got on with answering the question of what to do now. But, as the discussion has shown, this view is happily not present to any serious thinkers. I have, however, sometimes come across it during my European travels and labours. It is one of the two rival stupidities, as I term them. The first is to say that nothing good came out of fascism or national socialism. To such a crude error the crude answer is : then begin by flooding the Pontine Marshes and ploughing up the Autobahn. The second is to say that final truth was declared before the war, and that those programmes should never be varied or developed. The second error is nobler because it is born of loyalty which is one of the highest qualities, while the first error is born of spite which is one of the lowest. But they are both errors, and elementary errors. In fact we Europeans are part of an organic process which has already 3,000 years of great history and is moving to ever higher forms. It is at one with nature as are all real things, because nothing can succeed in defiance of nature’s laws. Nature works not in a steady progression, but in great leaps after long lethargies ; and the greatest of all these forward springs is expressed by modern science. That is why for practical purposes all things are new after the cataclysm which precipitated this great advance. For this reason we must think again ; then act most strenuously, and on a greater scale than ever because we have greater possibilities. But we remain in the service of the European spirit in a movement to ever higher forms, which began millenia before us and will continue long after we are gone.