European Social Policy: The Demolition of the Social State

Historical Roots and Processes. Current developments

The common experience of resistance against the regimes of Hitler and Mussolini
and the occupation policies of the “axis powers” already during World War II led to
debates within the broad anti-fascist spectrum concerning the necessity to unify
Europe. From diverse national groups there emerged a European movement, which
after the end of the Second World War experienced a brief idealistic blossoming. For
this movement, the creation of a social Europe as one consequence drawn from
having had to overcome fascism and war stood at the top of the agenda. It
consciously advocated a European perspective (United States of Europe) of
reconstructing democracy, which was to be nourished from the different traditions of
anti-fascist resistance.
Thus the “Manifesto of Ventotene”, inspired by Altiero Spinelli and his fellows in the
later on socio-libertarian Italian Partito d’Azione, already in 1941 demanded a new
ordering of Europe, aimed at a mixed economy and socialisation of the key
industries: “The European revolution has to be socialist in order to do justice to our
needs; it must strive for the emancipation of the working-class and the creation of
more human conditions of life. The needle of this compass, however, should not be
swung into a purely theoretical direction, according to which private ownership of the
means of production should be abolished completely or only be tolerated temporarily,
if there is no other way. (…) Private property must, on a case-by-case basis, be
abolished, constrained, corrected or expanded and should not be handled according
to a mere dogmatic moralising stance. This guide-line fits in perfectly with the
developmental process of a European economic life liberated from the alp of
militarism as well as national bureaucracy. The rational solution should replace the
irrational one, also in the consciousness of the working people.”
The Manifesto also demanded to ground the reconstruction of the European
economy on the principles of the social state: “The almost unlimited capacity for
mass production of existential goods thanks to modern technology today permits to
everyone to secure at relatively minor social costs dwelling, food and clothing, as well
as a minimum of comfort indispensable to human dignity. Human solidarity towards
those who succumb in economic battle, however, should assume no charitable
forms, which would humiliate the recipient and provoke precisely those ills, whose
consequences one seeks to combat. One should, on the contrary, adopt a series of
measures which enable each and everyone to have a decent standard of living,
whether he or she can work or not, without on the other hand lowering the incentive
to work and to save. Thus nobody will be forced any longer to accept strangulating
work agreements out of misery.”