Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

Chapter X Part IV

The United States of Europe

The idea of a European Union was not new; it was present in the realm of ideas from as early as 17th century based on multifarious considerations like regional peace, Christian unity and political unification. However, Sri Aurobindo envisaged a European Union not for consolidation of Pan-European power and prestige but as an intermediary and transitional step towards a broader global unification of all mankind. Naturally a European Union could not be a final dream as such a continental consolidation would be ‘a reactionary step of the gravest kind and might be attended with the most serious consequences to human progress’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 351).

Among the many factors guiding the collective destiny of mankind, the Time-Spirit or the Zeitgeist has its unenviable significance. In 1916, in the backdrop of World War I, the major European nations had colonies in Asia, Africa and Latin America and a United States of Europe at that stage ‘would therefore mean a federation of free European nations dominant over half-subject Asia and possessor of parts of America and thereby standing in uneasy proximity to nations still free and necessarily troubled, alarmed and overshadowed by this giant immiscence. The inevitable result would be in America to bring together more closely the Latin Centre and South and the English-speaking North and to emphasise immensely the Monroe Doctrine with consequences which cannot easily be foreseen, while in Asia there could be only one of two final endings to the situation, either the disappearance of the remaining free Asiatic States or a vast Asiatic resurgence and the recoil of Europe from Asia. Such movements would be a prolongation of the old line of human development and set at nought the new cosmopolitan conditions created by modern culture and Science; but they are inevitable if the nation-idea in the West is to merge into the Europe-idea, that is to say, into the continental idea rather than into the wider consciousness of a common humanity. ’ (Ibid, pg 352-353) [The Monroe doctrine was the first US foreign policy statement issued in 1823 to discourage European nations from establishing footholds in USA. In 1904, this doctrine was further emboldened with the Roosevelt Corollary that declared that the USA had the right to interfere in the internal affairs of any Latin American State if it overstepped its boundaries. True to Sri Aurobindo’s speculation, the Monroe doctrine began to signify the Western Hemisphere as a US ‘sphere of influence’, once USA became a superpower.]

Such an outcome would not be conducive for the global unification of mankind and a ‘free association of free human aggregates’. In fact, even if the European Union had colonizing, imperialistic set-ups, the subject people would rebel and revolts and revolutions would occur once a threshold of oppression was crossed. A somewhat better solution could happen if a subject-nation was held for a time till it attained a capacity for self-administration. After all, even a ‘healthy political, social and economic foundation’ needs a ‘natural unfolding of the spiritual and ethical progress of the race’ so as to ‘enable mankind to turn from its preoccupation with these lower cares and begin at last that development of its higher self which is the nobler part of its potential destiny or, if not that, -- for who knows whether Nature’s long experiment in the human type is foredoomed to success or failure, -- at least the loftiest possibility of our future which the human mind can envisage’(Ibid, pg 353-354).

In fact, Sri Aurobindo had suggested a United States of Europe formed at that turbulent post –World War I phase would not be able to function in isolation without acknowledging the increasing importance of America in world-politics, the importance of Japan and China and the renewed stirrings of life in Asia. He therefore suggested

(I)    The notion and definition of Europe could be expanded to mean not only Europe ‘but all nations that had accepted the principles of European civilization as the basis of their polity and social organisation. This more philosophical formula has its obvious or at least the specious advantage that it … recognizes all the actually free or dominant nations in the circle of proposed solidarity and holds out too the hope of admission into the circle to others whenever they can prove…that they too have come up to the European standard.’ (Ibid, pg 352).

(II)     If  a new supra-national order evolves in the aftermath of World War I, it should ideally combine free nations like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the United States, the Latin republics together  with the imperial and colonizing nations of Europe(Ibid, pg 353). A mere union of imperialistic and colonizing nations of Europe would be vehemently reactionary.

The Time-Spirit came as a saviour and the European Union began actually to crystallize at an opportune time in history when imperialism had receded, colonization had become a past phenomenon and the Soviet puppet regimes ceased to exist after the dissolution of the USSR. Finally, when the idea of European Union started materializing, economic and cultural considerations became equally as important as military and political prowess. In the post World War II backdrop, it was a question of European survival with strength between the two super-powers, the USA and the USSR. After the disintegration of USSR and with unprecedented economic crisis not sparing even the USA in the second decade of the 21st century, the European Union has also to take into cognizance emerging powers like China and India and cannot overlook the strength of the Arab world. In this context, it is interesting to note that Sri Aurobindo, even in 1916 was worried about ‘the often expressed resentment of the continual existence of Turkey in Europe and the desire to put an end to this government of Europeans by Asiatics, -- yet as a matter of fact it is inextricably tangled up with America and Asia .’ (Ibid, pg 352) That controversy still persists after a century and the entry into a new millennium with the European Union still not unambiguous about the acceptance of Turkey in its intrinsic fold. Critics differ on the Turkey affair speculating whether European values are synonymous with Christian values in modern Europe where Christianity has become more ornamental than reflective. Perhaps this controversy could be resolved if the European Union decided to define Europe in the way Sri Aurobindo conceived.

Nevertheless, the European Union is an important stepping stone towards a global governance of a free universal association of free human aggregates.  

Date of Update: 13-Aug-12

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu