Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

Chapter X Part III

The United States of Europe: Concept-Formation

In the aftermath of World War I, Sri Aurobindo conceptualized how the formation of a United States of Europe could logically evolve as a historical necessity. One way that was already being suggested ‘was the elimination of war by a stricter international law administered by an international Court and supported by the sanction of the nations which shall be enforced by all of them against any offender’ (The Ideal of human Unity, pg 350).It would however be difficult to enforce the law delivered by such a Court as an unholy alliance of rival groupings could sabotage justice and unity. It is in this background of the  ‘Concert of Europe’ that Sri Aurobindo pointed out , ‘ The Law within a nation is only secure because there is a recognized authority empowered to determine it and to make the necessary changes and possessed of a sufficient force to punish all violation of its statutes. An international or an inter-European law must have the same advantages if it is to exercise anything more than a merely moral force which can be set at naught by those who are strong enough to defy it and who find an advantage in the violation. Some form of European federation, however loose, is therefore essential if the idea behind these suggestions of a new order is to be made practically effective, and once commenced, such a federation must necessarily be tightened and draw more and more towards the form of a United States of Europe’(Ibid, pg 350-351).

True to Sri Aurobindo’s anticipation, the European Union formalized through the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, signaled an era of peace and abolition of war among member-States who were arch-enemies for centuries (like Germany and France, France and England) and the European Court of Justice, one of the principal organs of the European Union has gained credibility. In fact, though the European Union was primarily meant to oversee the economic and political integration of member-States, the law-based integrative perspective has perhaps till date held more resilience than the economic and political perspectives as events in 2012 started exposing financial chinks in the Euro-armour.

It would be interesting to recall some of Sri Aurobindo’s apprehensions about the envisaged European unity which he voiced in 1916:

  1.     The European unity would have to be ‘maintained and perfected against the many forces of dissolution, the many causes of quarrel which would for long try it to the breaking point’ (Ibid, pg 351). Indeed, the economic crisis in Greece brought it close to a near breaking from eurozone in May, 2012 and the temporary crisis management has only emboldened the idea that in the absence of a real political unity, the credit rating agencies will call the shots.  As Europeans discover that the bond markets have more power over their destinies than they have themselves, the conflict between democracy and capitalism gets fresh leverage. David Marqand, an ex-official in the European Commission (Deccan Chronicle, 12th July,2012, published by arrangement with New York Times) succinctly explains that this conflict can take a toll in the democratization of Europe as recent elections are marked by a steady fall in voter turn-outs with the far-Right and far-Left gaining significantly. It would be a tragedy if the democratization of Europe was affected as the European Union was established after settling of age-old disputes between arch-enemies like Germany and France, abolition of Fascist regimes that once ruled Spain, Italy and Portugal and abolition of Soviet puppet regimes that had once an important sway over Europe.

  2.           Sri Aurobindo also foresaw that a strong European unity would ‘inevitably awaken in antagonism to it an idea of Asiatic unity and an idea of American unity, and while such continental groupings replacing the present smaller national unities might well be an advance towards the final union of all mankind, yet their realisation would mean cataclysms of a kind and scope …in which the hopes of mankind might founder and fatally collapse rather than progress nearer to fulfilment’ (Ibid). It would be significant to read the chain of events that followed this statement written in 1916. Firstly, third world countries shed off their colonial past to form significant regional supra-national groupings viz. ASEAN in Asia, UNASUL in Latin America, African Union and ECOWAS in sub-Saharan Africa.  Such regional groupings are expected to facilitate best practices in economic co-operation and political unity at regional levels which can later be elevated to a global level when a consensus on best practices emerges. Secondly, supra-national groupings can effectively try to dominate other human groupings as in the case of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) which increased oil prices in retaliation of Western preference of Israel resulting in a huge increase in income during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. Thirdly, the creation of a single European currency, the euro, was the most important development in the International monetary system in recent times to become a real competitor of the dollar which had long surpassed the pound sterling. In fact, the euro has given eurozone an increased autonomy in monetary affairs in the context of a market economy dominated by the USA. That despite problems, the dollar continues to dominate the euro needs an appreciation of non-financial factors like national security concerns. Fourthly, with the growing importance of regional supra-national groupings, the financial world cannot be maintained in a strictly bipolar fashion between the dollar and the euro; China has already expressed its agenda to enter this arena by promoting her currency. Fifthly, it has also been speculated that the world can move to a leaderless currency system one day with different currencies competing for international use and recognition, the competition dictated by counter-productive political rivalries instead of a globally unifying vision.

  3. Despite these concerns, European unity emerging from that part of the globe which gave to mankind the principles of liberty and equality as well as the clarion call to unite all working comrades and elevate the status of the proletariat is a historically significant step and forerunner towards international unity.  

Date of Update: 19-Jul-12

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu