Alain Caillé is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense. He co-founded the MAUSS (Mouvement Anti-utilitariste dans les sciences sociales) in 1981, and has been editor of the MAUSS Journal since its foundation. In June 2013, Alain Caillé and Marc Humbert created the Convivialiste Manifesto, a text signed by some sixty personalities from all over the world. He is the leader of the Convivialistes’ Movement (www.les convivialistes.org) and the Club des convivialistes.
The European project has not made us dream for a long time. It included two promises. By transcending the borders of nation states, it had to guarantee a perpetual peace. By creating a large market, unified by a common currency, it had to ensure economic prosperity. The first promise may seem to have been kept, but for how long? Europe is in fact divided into six or seven blocs of countries, each with its own unstable contours and deeply divergent interests. The unanimity rule prohibits any consistent political project and therefore any significant concrete progress in any field whatsoever. This is not without explaining why the second promise has hardly been kept or is no longer kept. In the absence of common economic, financial, social, technical, energy, scientific, diplomatic and military policies (except in fragments), Europe is losing ground to Markets and tax havens, to the United States, Russia and emerging powers, particularly China, whose hegemonic aims are no longer a secret. Europe does not speak to the world and no longer even speaks to itself.
Of course, one could say that, on the one hand, there is only a fair catching-up of a temporary historical imbalance, and, on the other hand, that Europe has always progressed slowly, and that it must be given time to complete the many forms of cooperation that already exist in many areas. The problem is that we have absolutely no time left, for at least three reasons. First of all, if people remain attached to the euro, anger is growing everywhere in Europe against the deterioration of material and moral living conditions. And also, perhaps first of all, against the meaninglessness, the absence of a mobilizing project. Secondly, it is now time to promote an energy transition that can no longer wait. If Europe does not provide itself with the institutional, technical, economic and financial foundations, it will lose all geopolitical autonomy, an autonomy that can only be based on good economic health. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as we can see, everywhere in the world, and even within Europe in which they were born, adherence to democratic values – respect for pluralism, human dignity and freedom of thought – is in constant decline. If Europe is no longer able to carry and embody these values, who will do it ? Since the democratic ideal is not strong enough in itself, Europe, which claims to be strong, must assume to become strong again in order to champion an ideal of (re)civilization in the face of rising barbaric behaviours.
Contours of a European Republic
Europe believed that it could go beyond the form of the nation-state. However, all over the world, there are nations that are asserting themselves and confronting each other. And this is true again within Europe itself. The reason for this is that the national framework is the only one to date, where, in modern societies, citizens feel solidarity with each other, and are protected and reassured by this solidarity. This presumption of solidarity is irreplaceable. However, it would be dangerous, and impractical, to want to return to the traditional forms of the nation based on the imaginary tendentious identity between a people, a territory, a language, a culture and a religion. How can these two requirements, that of solidarity and that of diversity, be reconciled within the framework of a Europe that would break with the denial of nation and force, both of which are in reality necessary for the achievement of the democratic ideal? The only solution seems to be to build a meta-nation, a nation of nations, in the form of a European Republic. This Republic would be of a confederal type in order to leave as much scope as possible to the principle of subsidiarity. With a sovereign Assembly and a Senate representing both the regions and civil society organisations (trade unions, NGOs, associations, etc.), this Republic would be governed by a small government, drawn from national governments, responsible for implementing the principles of common economic, financial, social, technical, energy, scientific, diplomatic and military policy adopted by Parliament. This institutional set-up could be complemented by an Assembly of citizens drawn by lot (a kind of permanent consensus conference). Its role would be consultative, but this assembly would have the power to submit to a referendum those proposals that have not been taken into account.
Six priority projects
Such a European Republic would have six projects and six reasons to be priorities:
– The European project was first embodied in a coal and steel community (the ECSC). The European Republic’s first objective would be to provide itself with the means to meet the objectives set at the Paris Conference and to achieve an efficient and virtuous energy transition.
– For this to happen, it must represent a sufficiently important economic area and show sufficient political coherence to be able to effectively combat tax havens and tax optimisation when their sole function is to enrich the richest to the detriment of the most vulnerable.
– Similarly, this Republic must be strong enough to be able to enforce its own accounting and legal standards (and not have them imposed on it by private firms), and to ensure control over all “data” concerning it. The importance of the battle of Artificial Intelligence does not allow us to wait.
– To ensure that the European Republic is indeed a space of solidarity, and therefore functions as a meta-nation, it must respect the rule that only the most advanced social protection can be generalised.
– Only a European Republic will be able to respond both effectively and humanely to the enormous influx of migrants that neoliberal globalisation is causing. Similarly, only a European Republic will be able to meet the challenges of radical Islamic terrorism.
– Finally, while the sustainability of the American shield is problematic, it is essential to have a real European defence. A defence that will be all the more effective if it is clear that its sole objective is to ensure world peace.
Who will or could create the European Republic?
The project, the broad outlines of which have just been described, while remaining at the level of generality desirable at this stage, is not for the time being supported by any of the existing political forces in Europe. It is easy to understand why: These political forces only exist, act and influence at the national level, not at all at the level of the meta-nation to be brought about. This project may therefore seem totally utopian and unfeasible. Need we remind you, however, that it was one of Europe’s founding fathers? A totally forgotten project, yet more urgent than ever. Because the peoples of Europe no longer have a choice. To unite, once and for all, or to perish. To leave history and exist only in the renunciation of everything they believed in. Europe is now at the mercy of a challenge. To reconnect with what she has invented, and to update it, or to disappear. Contribute to the invention of universalizable standards, become exemplary, or vanish into the chaos that lies ahead. The crucial test before us is this: will the peoples of Europe be able to move beyond their nationalism and chauvinism to a higher-ranking nation, or will they prefer regression? At the very least, the question must be asked to them by accessing media visibility. It will not be possible for it to be asked either by business representatives, who are subservient to “markets” (even if those are often their main enemy), or, so it seems, by the current political parties, confined to national spaces. It is therefore up to European civic society, this informal nebula, so lively and protean, of associations, cooperatives in the social and solidarity economy and NGOs to take over. It is now that we must create a debate that can give hope to the peoples of Europe. Do they not have in common a past, too often murderous but also full of artistic, technical, scientific and political splendours (the emergence of modern democracy…)? They still have to invent their future.
Who would be a stakeholder and constituent part of the European Republic? All States, regions or peoples of Europe who so wish. But it is clear that this could not be achieved and reach a critical size without, at a minimum, the participation of France and Germany, plus Italy and/or Spain. It is also clear that such a project can only be truly meaningful if it is sufficiently exemplary on at least two levels: on the one hand, on the preservation of ecological balances, and on the other, on the reinvention and revitalization of a democratic ideal. The European Republic, which must now be built, will have the project of strengthening a peaceful and equitable multilateral world order. It will be built around common public policies for collective well-being, developed and evaluated in a participatory manner, with deliberate and shared objectives (ecology, energy, the fight against inequality and poverty, etc.), and no longer as a correlate of the single market.