The Pan-Europe Problem

This interesting lecture was delivered by Huberman at the Polish Institute of Arts and Letters of the Roerich Museum, New York, on 16th December 1934. He gives persuasive arguments for the benefits a Unified Europe would bring its citizens.

Thanks very much to Joseph Herter for posting me this article from New York.

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There was once an Englishman or an American who was asked whether he plays the violin. He answered “I don’t know, I have not tried it yet.” Now, there you see a violinist before you, who is exactly in a reverse position. When the great honour of this luncheon was extended to me and the possibility of a speech of mine in the English language discussed, then I too had to give the same answer as the presumptive violinist amateur: “I don’t know I have not tried yet to make a speech in English”.

You expect me to give you an idea of my Paneuropean vision. To begin with, allow me to live up to one aspect of the Paneuropean problem, the linguistic, and to say a few words in another European language, the French. Tout d’abord, je tiens à vous dire, combine je suis heureux d’être parmi vous, combine je vous suis reconnaissant pour le grand honneur que vous m’avez fait, en m’invitant à vous parler de mes ideals d’une Europe reconciliée et réunie. Ma gratitude est d’autant plus profonde que je me rends bien compte qu’en principe un violiniste qui se met a parler des sujets politiques devrait être mis au violon.

Art and politics seem indeed such disparate ideas that when I had progressed half-way to my Paneuropean convictions I faltered and had to ask myself what is it which pushes me along this new path?

Although I felt in my sub-conscious mind that there must be some inward connection between my impulse towards art and my impulse towards so-called politics (which incidentally mean something quite special for me), I could at first find no answer. I had to descend into the furtherest depths of my soul to find the hidden link between them. And then I made a stupefying discovery; I had assumed hitherto that we artists practice our art for art’s sake only. I now say that this was a mistake. For if we practiced art only for art’s sake it would, for example, not be necessary for the practicing artist to assume the martyrdom of this nerve-shattering way of life, which with its haste and endless movement prevents a man ever coming to his senses. The milestones of Life are obliterated and the end is often nervous collapse. The magic word “art for art’s sake” would save us all from this sacrifice. The more prosperous among us could exchange the four bare walls of an hotel for a comfortable home in which there would have to be a large music-room, where we could strum our favourite pieces to our hearts’ content. That would be art for art’s sake. So it is practised by dilettanti who often distinguish themselves from the artists more by their egotistical self-sufficiency than by their inferior talent. The true artist does not create art as an end in itself; for him humanity is the end, he creates art for human beings, to give them joy, exaltation and forgetfulness of their sorrows. And believe me, this consciousness of fulfilling a higher and enviable mission towards his fellow-men is necessary if the artist is to compensate himself for a life full of privations and care. Bound up therefore with the conception of art is its social function.

Is it then so I asked myself, so great a jump from the function a real artist is performing, in giving spiritual exaltation to thousands for an hour or two, over to this new activity with which I now hoped, rightly or wrongly, but with fanatical faith to contribute to the lasting spiritual and material welfare of 400 millions of Europeans?

Since those days of my earliest conception of a United States of Europe many a change has occurred in the political aspiration and constellation of Europe. They do not seem to encourage the efforts of the Pan-European adherents. On the contrary, the trend goes in the opposite direction. Mutual distrust, jingoism, economic wars prevail in Europe. And yet, my firm conviction that the movement aiming at the formation of the federation of the European States is the ultimate goal of Europe and its only salvation from self-destruction and definite chaos, is unshaken. I do not hesitate to go further and confess: the more nationalism is getting hold of all domains of the political, cultural and economic life in Europe, the firmer is my faith in the unavoidable realisation of Paneuropa. When we analyse the forces which in the history of mankind lead to any progress, revolution or reform, we discover that originally they never were of a positive nature. Never a new idea, no matter how elevated or useful, was strong enough to attract the masses. The crowds are far too much subject to the law of inertia to get excited over the beauty of a new idea. The forces of nearly all the political, social or religious movements in history emanated from some feeling of indignation against existing conditions, rebellion against some outrage, abuse or incapacity of the government in power, revolt against some special sources of misery. This fact applies just the same to Christianity and the Reformation as to the American War of Independence or the French or the Bolshevik revolutions.

They all had to begin with a form of a protest, a struggle against something in existence. Only in such cases did a new structure evolve from the Chaos which invariably threatens all mass upheavals, when the gospel of a new idea happened to be ready for actual embodiment. Well, if one looks from this point of view at the prospects of Pan-Europe, one need not be pessimistic at all. The conditions of folly and contradictions now prevailing in the relations between the States of Europe are doomed to lead to absurdity and the reaction cannot fail to appear. This will be the psychological moment for the Pan-Europeans to lay down the practical basis of a federal European government, provided we have succeeded in sowing meanwhile in the European public opinion the germ of our political, social, national, economical creed, as formulated in the conception of Paneuropa.

When asked to give a short definition of this conception, one might feel tempted to state simply: Paneuropa is the contrary of the Europe of to-day. Yet this would not only be a superficial and incomplete but a misleading statement, because even the principles of self-destruction on which Europe is mainly ruled to-day, is, quite naturally, lacking in consistency and sincerity. I can visualise a European government building, divided into several departments; one minister is engaged in improving traffic, and increasing the speed of locomotives, aeroplanes and ships in order to attract foreign tourists; next door to him there sits another member of the same government using all his shrewdness to add to the existing custom barriers new hidden blows against the traffic of goods and men by means of currency restrictions, passport penalties and so on, thus frustrating his colleagues efforts and the national expenditure on ships, airplanes and railways.

The same applies to all the other ranges of national and international life: the race for exports paralysed by the rage for autarkie; the much emphasised protection of national culture is being ricialed[sic] by the persecution of persons belonging to another culture, race or creed. It is a state of perversion and hypocrisy of which Paneuropa would refuse to become even the antithesis.

Paneurope implies a complete revolution in the political, economical, social and cultural mentality and leads consequently to a general change of the maxims of government. Let me give you a few flashlights on each of the four aspects just mentioned. Economically Paneuropa carries with her all the blessings which the possibilities of an open market of 400 million peoples represent for the man in the street – as compared with the narrowness and handicaps of some 28 dwarf markets separated by insurmountable custom barriers. In nevcenthesis[sic] the effects of Paneuropa must not be confused with free trade, because free trade means only one-sided abolition of the customs of one given country, while Paneuropa means the extension of the economic area of an average of 14 millions. This would enable Europe to use the mass-production methods resulting in lower prices and higher wages. The final difference between the purchasing power of a salaried man in the average European country and that of a country with mass production is simply amazing. Take the motor-car as one of many examples: when the Ford Factory was putting out 200.000 cars a year, the price of the car was 1250 dollars and the wages of the unskilled worker were about 4 dollars a day. When the yearly output reached 2 millions, the price fell to 260 dollars and wages rose to 6 dollars. Thus, the worker grew seven times richer in relation to the automobile – and to most of the other commodities manufactured on a mass production basis. But in Europe no factory has ever reached a production of even 200.000 cars a year. A few figures illustrate this fact and explain the differences in the purchasing power. In 1928 the United States accounted for 83% of the world production of motor cars, Europe only 12%, yet in the States there were only 152 automobile factories against 333 in Europe.

The average annual output per factory in the States was 28,675 cars, in Europe only 1792 cars. In America there were only three types of popular cars: Ford, Chevrolet and Overland; Europe, with its twelve per cent share in the world’s production, had over a dozen popular types, or 11 too many, with all the resultant increase in the cost of production and waste of capital.

It may be objected that America is the ideal country for mass production methods and yet has fared no better as far as the crisis is concerned. This fact, far from weakening my thesis about huge economic areas and mass production, merely shows that it is impossible for the laws of national reciprocity, which the European governments imagine they could replace by a system of nationalist grabbing and reprisals, to be infringed with impunity even in the trade between continents. In the matter of contempt for natural laws the U.S. were lagging only a little behind Europe when they insisted on the repayment of the European debts to them, but at the same time made the payment of debts by means of supplies of European goods impossible through enormous increase in their tariffs; or when they carried their national production to some 15% beyond the American capacity of consumption, but the same time hampering the export of the surplus by throttling European imports into America. The present situation in the U.S. proves that agriculture and industry even of this blessed continent, with all its inexhaustible stores of material wealths and industrial skill are unable to prosper in isolation from the world.

When we assume that the abolition of the inter-European customs with the ensuing lower prices and higher wages would increase the purchasing power of the workers and the lower middle-classes from about 4 to 8 times, then we can safely take it for granted that an economically united Europe would lead unavoidably to a socially united or reconciled Europe.

There is no better ground for class warfare, for communism and fascism than misery, no greater enemy than prosperity.

The advantage which the numerous national cultures would draw from the Pan-European structure are not less revolutionary than those on economic and social lines. First of all these national cultures would once and for ever be protected by mutual respect against the danger of annihilation and abuse with which imperialism threatened them uninterruptedly since the dawn of modern times. Think of the riches humanity has lost through the wilful extermination of such highly developed national cultures as the Georgian or the Celtic (the latter incidentally having been recognized in the 12 th and 13 th century as the foremost musical country in the world – the original home of the polyphonic song)! Those who fear that Paneurope may endanger the variety and independence of the European cultures may be assured: Paneurope, far from being a melting-pot for her nations, will mark the beginning of a new era of real freedom and flourishing for their cultural subdivisions.

As an artist I should be the last to advocate the reduction of national cultures to a dull uniformity. For all true art is rooted in national soil. The phrase: “Art is international” is often misapplied in senses which it cannot legitimately bear. Art is international only in the sense that it is intended for international intellectual consumption for reciprocal stimulation. But just as the inclusion of caviar in a New York menu does not imply that the sturgeon can thrive as well in the estuary of the Hudson river as in the mouths of the Volga and the Danube, so the performance of “Meistersinger,” no matter how frequently in the Metropolitan Opera House or the production of Shakespeare on the German stage cannot dispose of the fact that a Richard Wagner could only have come from a German environment and a Shakespeare only from an English one, even though that environment in turn, together with those born and bred in it, is the result of manifold racial admixtures.

If the artist owes his creative capacity to his personal endowment, which, naturally, is not confined to national sources, he is indebted for the course pursued by that endowment to the thousand influences of his environment. That applies to art in general. For music in particular there are three further important factors, strongly differentiated geographically and nationally: folk songs, dance rhythms and liturgical influences.

One might, therefore, be tempted to suppose that the demands of culture and the intellect are in conflict with those of economic life, and that it is not easy to reconcile the national subdivision that enriches the material for the mosaic of the European arts with the universal trend towards a levelling and standardization across all frontiers. But on a closer view this antimony proves to be only apparent. Cultural and economic boundaries have not coincided in the past, and the removal of the latter will do nothing to efface the differences of culture. A few examples from the past will amply demonstrate this. Is there anything more thoroughly German than those Swiss citizens the writers Carl Spitteler, Gottfried Keller, Konrad Ferdinand Meyer, the painters Holbein and Arnold Bocklin, or Stauffer-Bern, or more thoroughly French than those other famous Swiss citizens Jean Jacques Rousseau, Benjamin Constant, Madame de Stael, Jacques Dalcroze, Honegger? Is there anything more thoroughly German in the best sense than the cultural achievements of the Germans of the former Baltic provinces of Russia, in their art and architecture, their scientific and educational work? It is , perhaps, scarcely fair to quote the case of Finland, with its wholly Scandinavian culture, since in spite of Russia’s overlordship the country was separate from the Empire by an officially recognized frontier line. But there can be no possible cavil in regard to my own country, Poland.

Two of the three territories into which she had been partitioned suffered from continual official obstruction, steady and ruthless, of their political and especially their cultural development; they were not even allowed the free use of their mother tongue or the free exercise of their religion. And what, after a century and a half of oppression, was the result? A nation entirely unbroken and homogeneous, above all in regard to its culture, a nation that has maintained the full purity of its colour on the intellectual palette of the European peoples.

Bearing in mind that, with the exception of Switzerland, these are cases of subject nationalities, artificially hampered in their cultural development, it is quite evident that a voluntary union of the peoples would enhance rather than diminish the guarantee of their cultural integrity. In any case, there would be nothing to prevent the adoption of special cultural guarantee clauses in the Constitutions of the various federated States, on the model of the Swiss Constitution. So much for culture as a creative activity.

The problem, no less vital, of the spreading of the existing cultures among the mass of the people would find in the enriched and pacified Federated States of Europe its first opportunity of a full and worthy solution. In this respect European culture has always suffered from a tragic paradox. Its sources spring from the multiplicity of the European nations. It is to that multiplicity that we are indebted for the Ninth Symphony, for “Faust”, for the Sistine Madonna, the Ballades of Chopin, and so on. These masterpieces, wrung from the depths of the human heart, masterpieces of which each one is a sublimation of the noblest that a nation … and that nation alone … can give, are destined for all humanity. On this earth nothing is a value in itself; value is created only in association with the purpose served ……. the service of man. The most sacred conceptions, God, religion, mother country, culture, are justified only by their works in contributing to the salvation of man, and become a curse as soon as they turn against him. Thus the evangel of the Son of God, who was crucified for humanity, was the most affecting and exalted conception of the human heart in its need … the sacrifice of God for the salvation of man; while the sacrifices of human beings that were made for the honour of God became a fiendish blasphemy.

So it is with our culture. Its creators intended it for the service of humanity; but in the present political structure of Europe the source of its lavishness … the multiplicity of nations … was at the same time the cause of all but a fraction of the people of Europe being shut out from its blessings. Again and again the spectacle is repeated in Europe! There come to hear these masterpieces, this Hamlet or Ninth Symphony, not all who deserve and who would desire to hear them, but only the tiny group of those who, amid the periodically recurring collisions of the European nations, have had the good fortune to escape economic ruin. A culture that depends for its existence on a group of mutually predatory nations, and is in consequence inaccessible to 99 out of every hundred Europeans and so merely the culture of a class such as culture is a mockery and does not deserve to endure.

There would be no escape for it if those were right who have no more faith in the capacity of nations to live at peace with one another than in the capacity of wild beasts for subjugation. “Struggle”, they declare, “is an inescapable law of nature.” Struggle is indeed a law of nature, and we Paneuropean do not deny it; but its crudest form, annihilation, is not always valid for mankind. Naked sexual lust is too a law of nature, and yet in the course of the ages men have sublimated it in the emotion of love. And so it has been with every human instinct, including that of struggle between man and man. Should then only the struggle between nations remain eternally in the primitive form of annihilation which in our times leads to absurd self-destruction? Such an outlook, apart from being inhuman, simply ignores the unmistakable voice of the spirit of our times and the lessons from history. History points to frontiers as the bearers of the germ of war. Germans and French, for instance, with the national frontier dividing them, have fought one another, from time to time through hundreds of year.

These same peoples, united within a frontier in the Swiss State, have got on peacefully together for just as many centuries. Bavarians, Hanoverians, Prussians (and similarly Neapolitans, Savoyards and the rest), divided by State frontiers, found it perfectly natural to fight one another in spite of their national identity, but once the German Empire or the Kingdom of Italy were created, all that changed, the idea of war between them would have been considered as high treason.

Let me not be charged with casuistry, with confusing the issue by mixing up cause and effect. It was the frontiers that made the difference. The world war once more proved it: in this war Germans fought Germans, for no other reason than the frontier that divided them. I am referring to the Germans in the Baltic provinces of the Russian Empire; similarly the Poles of the three Empires, or the Croats and Serbs fought each other. Try the experiment of restoring the frontiers between all these nationally kindred units; if the occasion comes, they will have no more compunction about falling again upon one another than men have since the world began, according to the scale of the frontier division – man against man, village against village, city against city, State against State, grouped States against grouped States. Consequently – pull down the political frontier divisions between the European States, and once more the same psychological process will operate, the force of suggestion proceeding from a common state citizenship.

The sacred spirit of our times works in the same direction. This spirit, one may call it the controller of all ethics and morals as to their conformity with the requirements of every new phase in human evolution. There never have been other morals ruling than those imposed by these requirements, no matter whether it concerned slavery or abolition, monogamy or polygamy, waging wars or organizing peace. There is no bigger crime than the sin against the sacredness of this spirit. In our days its commandments read:

As long as the distance between say Berlin and Dresden was 2 days journey, there was no ethic to prevent war between them. Since the distance shrunk to 3 hours, they had to accommodate their morals and give up wars considering them as high treason. It took them some 40 years to realize that fact and to form accordingly the federated German Empire. Now the radio, the aeroplane brought Paris, London many times nearer to Warsaw and Belgrade than Berlin was distanced from Dresden a hundred years ago. The interdependence, moral and social, correspond naturally with this shrinkage of distance between the European countries. The idea of war between them must soon, surely in less than 40 years, appear just as outrageous as it would have been 10 years ago between Berlin and Dresden or 300 years ago between Paris and Versailles.

Another perhaps still more convincing aspect is the following: suppose that the aeroplane is making such a headway as did the motorcar. Then in 10 years time every European owning a car today will possess his own aeroplane. Every house roof would represent a hangar. This would make tariff barriers impossible, because it would take millions of frontier guards in the air to chase 10 millions of aviation smugglers. And without the protection of tariff barriers there is no possibility for the preparation of a modern war – anyway not amongst the European nations. This material impossibility of a European war will inevitably outlaw once for ever an inter-European war. And then the way would be paved for the unrestricted working of the laws of economics. These laws will impose a political federation in Europe as surely as they have done in America.

Out of the consciousness of these only real energies within the cross-currents in European politics, Count Coudenhove started some 10 years ago the Paneuropean movement in order to prepare the European public opinion for the inevitable development. I joined him 9 years ago. We have many thousand members, and the idea as such is spreading rapidly all over Europe. Our practical success seemed assured when we succeeded in inducing M.Briand to make his famous move towards a Paneuropean organization before the League of Nations. But public opinion was not yet mature to see the facts as they are. Yet it is moving – “eppur si muove”. Look at the latest development: all Paneuropeans, Pacifists, all sincere League of Nations’ supporters have been fighting for many years for the creation of an inter-European armed force at the disposal of the League of Nations. The powers flatly refused to discuss the matters. Now the acute danger of a European war imposed simply the creation of a League of Nations’ army to safeguard peace in the Saar Basin. I consider this perhaps the most important and revolutionary political event since the world war. Think of it, the first army of a sovereign international body! This must not at all be confounded with previous international military activities such as the allied powers in the world-war or the intervention of the world powers against the boxer upheaval in China. The next step might be the League of Nations’ assuming its permanent territorial sovereignty over the Saar Basin. This outlook, we owe it to Herr Hitler, of course, against his intention. ----- Let me finish – as I began – with an apology of the evil as creative power in the sense of Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust: “Ein Teil von jener Kraft, die stets das Böse will und stets das Gute schafft” --- (A part of that power which always intends the evil, yet always creates the Good).

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