I’ve taken the liberty to compile into a single article a few quotations from the man whose spirit still animates the European Union.
If you don’t recognise his photograph, try to guess his identity – and no peeking into the last two paragraphs where all is revealed. I’ll give you a clue: the writer inspired not only the EU but also Jeremy Corbyn.
The world economic and political development tends to gravitate toward a unified world economy, with its degree of centralisation dependent upon the existing technological level.
The economic and political unification of Europe is the necessary prerequisite for the very possibility of national self-determination.
On the all-European scale, the principle of the “right” to self-determination can be invested with flesh and blood only under the conditions of a European Federative Republic.
The United States of Europe – without monarchies, standing armies and secret diplomacy – is the most important integral part of the peace programme.
It would truly be a miserable petty-bourgeois utopianism… to think that the fate of development in Europe and the entire world will finally be secured if the state map of Europe is brought into correspondence with the map of nationality, and if Europe is split into more or less complete nation-state cells ignoring geographic conditions and economic ties.
The task is to combine the claims to autonomy on the part of nations with the centralising requirements of economic development.
Europe is not a geographical term; Europe is an economic term, something incomparably more concrete than the world market. Now the time has arrived for stating definitely and clearly that federation is essential for Balkanised Europe.
The national community, arising from the needs of cultural development, will not only not be destroyed by this but, to the contrary, it is only on the basis of a republican federation of the leading countries that it will be able to find its full completion.
Recognition of every nation’s right to self-determination must be supplemented by the slogan of a democratic federation of all the leading nations, by the slogan of a United States of Europe.
The necessary conditions for this presuppose emancipation of the limits of the nation from those of the economy and vice versa. The economy will be organised in the broad arena of a European United States as the core of a worldwide organisation. The political form can only be a republican federation, within whose flexible and elastic bounds every nation will be able to develop its cultural forces with the greatest freedom.
The capitalist forces of production had outgrown the framework of European national states.
What is perfectly obvious is that the customs barriers must be thrown down. The peoples of Europe must regard Europe as a field for a unified and increasingly planned economic life.
Germany had set herself the task of “organising” Europe, i.e., of uniting economically the European continent under her own control…
But France cannot stand aloof from Germany, nor can Germany stand aloof from France. Therein lies the crux, and therein lies the solution, of the European problem. Everything else is incidental.
Of course, the United States of Europe will be only one of the two axes of the world organisation of economy. The United States of America will constitute the other.
It must not be overlooked that the very danger arising from the United States of America (which is spurring the destruction of Europe, and is ready to step in subsequently as Europe’s master) furnishes a very substantial bond for uniting the peoples of Europe.
I shan’t keep you on tenterhooks any longer. The author is Leon Trotsky, born on this day 140 years ago.
Happy birthday, Leon! Thank you for your inspirational insights – and sorry you can’t be with us today. But fear not: as you Bolsheviks used to say, our comrade is dead, but his cause lives on. Your legacy is in safe hands, your prophecies are coming true, and your disciple may well be Britain’s next prime minister.