Why I became a Pan-European
This article was published in the American publication The Living Age, November 1925.
Huberman briefly discusses the ideas that were expanded upon later that year in his book Mein weg zu Paneuropa.
WHY I BECAME A PAN-EUROPEAN
BY BRONISLAW HUBERMAN
I HAVE spent the last four winters in the United States, and I shall first relate my experiences there, for they explain how I was converted to the idea of a United States of Europe. I am not one of those prejudiced Europeans who look down upon America. On the contrary, many of its political and social institutions impress me as models and excite my envy. I wish my fellow Europeans, especially the wealthier among them, would take a lesson from the liberal public spirit and the sense of civic duty that inspires many Americans of their class.
Since the days of the Medici the world has not seen such generous givers
as every important town in the United States to-day possesses. Universities,
research institutions, museums, libraries, conservatories, symphony orchestras
with adequate concert-halls, testify to the munificence of public-spirited
private citizens. Nor do these men confine their bounty to signing checks.
They often devote a substantial part of their time and energy to the welfare
of these institutions.
I can hear the prejudiced European objecting: 'Yes, but with all their wealth it's no real sacrifice to give a little.' But I look around our circle of European Crsuses in vain for a Carnegie or a Rockefeller who devotes two thirds of his wealth to public objects.
What made the strongest impression upon me, however, was not the wealth of individuals in America, of which we hear many misleading stories, but the general standard of well-being among the masses. It was to see so many people wearing silk stockings and fur collars, and riding around in automobiles. These things were much more impressive to me than the glitter of diamonds in the boxes at the Metropolitan Opera.
Let me relate some personal experiences. When I reached a city of the Middle West, on one of my first engagements in America, I found a musical acquaintance waiting for me at the station. I remembered him well as occupying the last seat among the second violins in the Warsaw Philharmonic. After the usual greetings this fellow countryman of mine said that he would take me to the hotel in his machine and then accompany me to the rehearsal. I thought I must have misunderstood him, and said it was very kind of the people in charge of my recital to place an automobile at my disposal. Whereupon my friend informed me that it was his own machine. I smiled, but felt an inner shock. Can it be, I thought, that this fellow, who was hardly up to playing the last of the second violins in Warsaw, has a position here that enables him to keep his own automobile? He must be the director at least. How much better off an American director must be than any director, or even impresario, I know in Europe. Filled with forebodings as to the quality of such an orchestra, I went to the rehearsal. But what did I see there? My fellow countryman who owns his automobile, with a modesty inconceivable in a European thus blessed, took the same place at the end of the row of second violins that he had held in Warsaw. The only difference was that in Europe he had looked half-starved and impecunious, while here he looked like a prosperous businessman.
Another example. I set up housekeeping in America and engaged a servant. His monthly wage was a hundred and ten dollars. A European who converts this sum into the money of his own country may half-incredulously pity me. But he would be wasting his pity, for a hundred and ten dollars was no larger a percentage of my American income than the wages of a similar servant in Europe would have been of my income at home. But the significant fact was the relation of that man's salary to his expenses. He had to pay nothing for room and board. Suppose he wanted a pair of shoes. He could buy them for five dollars, or about four per cent of his monthly wages. But let us assume that he was a little more ambitious and wanted a Ford automobile. The price of that was two hundred and sixty-five dollars, or less than two and one-half months' salary. Now point out to me any country in Europe, even before the war, where a servant could buy a pair of substantial shoes for a day and a quarter's wages, or an automobile for seventy days' wages! Such conditions are not unusual in America. They are universal. I knew a lady who had to give up a woman cook whom she had engaged because she did not have room in her garage for the cook's automobile.
Still another example from a different occupation. In getting aboard a sleeping-car I hung on to my precious violin-case. That aroused the interest of the colored porter, who was a music-lover. Let me say parenthetically that I think the American Negroes, with their inborn gift for rhythm and melody, are about the most promising musical material in the country. When I began to practise, as is my custom when traveling, I could not keep that porter out of my compartment. It turned out that he owned a hundred Victrola records of Kreisler, Elman, Heifetz, and my modest self, which he criticized in his characteristic dialect, to my intense but suppressed amusement. Now I never met, even in the most musical countries of Europe, a railway porter who could talk with me appreciatively and intelligently about the quality of my playing as reproduced on Victrola records. A Continental porter might possibly be a member of a men's chorus, for our European railway men are sometimes musical, but I can hardly conceive of his having a more extensive knowledge of the musical world than that connection might give him.
Conceive also my surprise when, upon offering my room-servant at a hotel
a free ticket to one of my symphony concerts, he refused it with thanks,
explaining that he had a season ticket for the whole series. Yet that was
not so surprising as it might appear, for a season ticket for a fairly good
seat at the ten concerts cost $7.50, or no more than it would in Europe;
and in proportion to the man's wages, which were several times as high as
they would be here, it was a mere bagatelle.
I received still another memorable surprise at a concert I gave to the employees of the Beechnut plant, one of America's finest food-preserving establishments. This concert was not got up as a similar entertainment would have been in Europe - through an invitation from a Social-Democrat labor delegation to play for the workers gratuitously. It was a regular business-engagement, at my usual fee, arranged between my agent and the proprietors. I should have been well repaid by the experience itself, however, had I given the concert free. I do not know whether my playing came up to the expectations of my audience of employees, but my own expectations regarding themselves, though high, were far exceeded. The people came in their own automobiles, including not only Fords but also more expensive cars. The ladies were dressed much better than those in a middle-class European audience - elegant shoes, silk stockings, fur collars, and, last but not least, a certain self-possession and poise that I admire immensely in the American fair sex; and the men were quite worthy of their partners in dress and manners. I could not help drawing mental comparisons between their appearance and that of a similar audience in Europe, and I felt a heart-pang as I recalled the pale careworn faces and shabby clothing I should have seen on such an occasion in my own country.
I could fill volumes with similar incidents. But they would add nothing to what I have already said. Universal prosperity, general content, and a certain pride in belonging to a great, united nation, take the place of our irritating class-distinctions, of the mutual hatred between bourgeoisie and proletariat, and of our national animosities. This difference even produces a clearly discernible physical resilience in the American people. Nowhere else can you hear the grass of progress grow the way that you can there.
Such impressions were reënforced,[sic] moreover, by economic phenomena that seem to a European like the effect of witchcraft. For instance, take the relation between wages and prices. The average wage of an American worker must be at least three and one-half times that of a European. Nevertheless, the product of his labor is by no means three and one-half times dearer than in Europe. It is not two and one-half times dearer. Many things may cost twice as much, but other things cost no more, and some things are even cheaper than in Europe. Any man can see that if an operative earns three and one-half times the European wage for making a hat, for example, but that hat can be sold for the European price, he can buy three and one-half times as many hats as his European comrade. If, however, - as, for example, in the automobile industry and in the building-trades, - he earns from four to ten times the European wage, but can produce things to sell at one fourth of the European price, then there is a relation between wages and purchasing power that simply bewilders a European. In such cases the American worker is sixteen to forty times better off than our workers. The most remarkable, but by no means unique, instance of this kind is at the Ford works. They keep on raising the wages of their employees, reducing the prices of their cars, and yet adding to their profits!
Now such things make a man think. They must have a cause. I made an exhaustive inspection of the Ford plant in Detroit just to discover, if possible, this cause. The impression that the place made on me was as overwhelming as that produced by a Partitur by Stravinski - both alike were emanations of genius and the contemporary spirit.
The shortest explanation of the magic formula of America's prosperity, whose most perfect exponent perhaps is the Ford system, is the United States. The United States connotes two all-important factors - mass output and quantity markets; in other words, the lowest possible costs of production and the largest possible sales. These two factors combine to cheapen goods automatically. They make it possible, not only to lower costs of production to the minimum, but also to place products in the hands of consumers at these low costs of production plus profits, with no deduction for customs duties and war taxes, which are as inevitable on a continent divided up into a multitude of petty States as is war itself.
I returned to Europe filled with these ideas, and resolved to start a campaign
for a United States of Europe. But the first time I opened my mouth to proclaim
this new gospel a friend slapped me smilingly on the shoulder and said:
'Yes, yes, I know where you get that idea. Pan-Europa.'
I asked him what he meant, and learned that a movement to attain this object already existed - the Pan-Europa organization of Count Coudenhove-Kalergi. I bought his book, and was delighted to find many of my ideas already in it, and above all to discover that his object was identical with my own.
I do not pique myself upon the originality of my ideas. They are everywhere in the air. We judge the man of vision, whether he be poet, leader, or prophet, not by the novelty of his revelations, but by his ability to give form and substance to what already lies in the hearts and minds of men. Coudenhove has done that. He has studied the problem under all its aspects and has always come back to the same conclusion. All roads may not lead to Rome, but all roads do lead to a United States of Europe - the road of reason, the road of material prosperity, and the roads of ethics, of religion, of pacifism, of Christian love for our neighbor, and of the instinct of self-preservation.