Pietro Quaroni’s Comments on Rudolf Mueller’s Paper (Bilderberg, 1957)
A few observations on Dr. Mueller’s paper: “Weaknesses of Western Society” by P. QUARONI
In my earlier letter to H.R.H. [Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands] I raised the problem of the moral basis of our policy.
The objection can naturally be made — and was indeed that it is difficult to define this moral basis; to establish what is moral and what is not.
Political action imposes certain expediencies: there always has been and always will be a difference between public and private morality; but there have also been, varying from age to age, certain deviations of public morality which have been permitted and others which have not. There was a time when even in our countries it was permissible to get rid of a political adversary by killing him; today, for the moment, at least, this would no longer be permitted.
In fact, none of us would have much difficulty in saying what world opinion — if I may be permitted to use this expression — accepts and what it does not. One may therefore say that one cannot or will not submit the policy of one’s own country to these moral rules, but one cannot say it is impossible to define what they are.
I still believe that in the struggle we are carrying on against the Communist and totalitarian world it is of the greatest importance to have world opinion on our side. In the year just ended, Soviet policy has had undeniable successes; can one be sure that the fact that world opinion was not always on our side did not contribute something to those successes?
The question seems to me a very pertinent one for us, for yet another reason.
It is perhaps permissible — even if questionable — not to take too much notice of moral laws when one is very strong, when one is the strongest: history has been written by the conquerors. It is more dangerous to do so when one is not strong. Justice — and morality — are the weak man’s protection!
Up to a few months ago we may have thought — and a lot of people thought with us — that we were in the strongest. But it would be dangerous to claim that we still were. In any case there would not be many people who would believe us if we said so.
This change in the balance of power will have its consequences, at least in the so-called uncommitted areas. It will be more and more difficult for the Russians to claim at one and the same time that we are the aggressors and that they are strongest. People will come to be a little more afraid of them and a little less afraid of us. If we add to this a sincere attempt to enlist on our side morality, justice, world opinion — call it what you will — we can perhaps hope to regain at least a part of what we have lost.
The historian of the future who tries to define the policy of the western world — and we are in fact so bound up with one another that the consequences of individual actions will rebound on all of us — will certainly be tempted to call it: power politics pursued by counties who no longer had power, or who lacked the courage to us it, which comes to the same thing.
Dr. Mueller has raised another aspect of the problem.
If I understand him rightly, he thinks that the European world lacks internal social cohesion and dynamism, and therefore any power of attraction: he calls all this, in an appropriate phrase — absence of “social morale”. In other words, other peoples and even perhaps our own — may be attracted by the American way of life, or by the Soviet way of life, but not by the European way of life: this European way of life we are so proud of appears as the privilege of a select few without much real contact with the lower levels of the population: an attempt to prolong a state of affairs which belongs to the past.
If this is what Dr. Mueller has in mind I can only reply that I entirely agree with him: there are variations of course from country to country, but what he says is true — in my opinion at least for the greater part of Continental Europe.
Dr. Mueller raises the question of whether our Group is willing or able to tackle this problem. It remains to be seen whether our Group is able to do anything about it: but it is a problem which it would be difficult to pass over in silence, for quite a few different reasons, but mostly because it is this lack of dynamism and internal stability in our society which is at the bottom of European neutralism.
European neutralism is quite different from Afro-Asian neutralism: it springs from lack of confidence in society; and this is especially true in those countries where this lack of confidence takes the form of mass support for the Communist Party.
In many of the countries of continental Europe, the ruling class refuses to recognise the radical transformation which the world has undergone and is still undergoing. It is natural that it should be so, since all these transformations are contrary to the interests of the ruling classes. But the result is a policy both at home and abroad, which consciously aims at re-establishing the order which existed before 1914: a policy looking towards the past and not toward the future.
For this very reason it is a policy which cannot succeed, but nobody wants to see this, so they hit out at all those who seem to be responsible for these unpleasant changes. At the same time, in a rather confused way, they do not believe it is possible to mobilise all levels of society for the efforts needed to defend it whether in cold or hot war. They hope to survive by closing their eyes and shutting themselves up in the absurd dream of a disarmed neutralism.
This problem of European neutralism, a deep-rooted neutralism which all the orthodox declarations of Governments cannot disguise, despite every effort to control and destroy it, is indeed a problem to which our Group could usefully give its attention. And it would be no good facing it without considering also this question of ‘social morale’ and of the revision of our whole internal structure which, in my view, is at the root of it.
Our relations with the United States — the Atlantic Alliance — are without precedent in any previous alliances: so is the problem which we must face in the Cold War. The internal unity of the member countries of the alliance should therefore be considered as a problem of the first importance.
There is not doubt that on the plane of internal politics account is taken of the weaknesses of our society: there is the movement towards reform, whether vague or clearly defined, on the part of Socialists, Christian Democrats and other progressives. It is typical, in this connection, that in France or Italy there is not a single party that dares to call itself Conservative or Right-Wing.
This is what the supporters of European integration have felt pretty clearly: they hope that this dynamism, this readjustment of internal relations which seems impossible in a national framework might succeed in a larger framework. And the anti-Europeans — whatever their slogans — are often absolute pessimists who do not believe in this possibility.
I think, therefore, that our Group has a duty to consider the problem; indeed a duty to itself. It must, above all, analyse more deeply the real reasons for this absence of ‘social morale’ of dynamism, in Europe, and what could be done to remedy it. Our ideas about this will differ a great deal, not only because the situation varies from state to state but also because it is not to be expected that a socialist and a conservative will make the same diagnosis or offer the same prescriptions. Indeed, I believe that if we get down to this examination, we shall find ourselves more along political lines than national lines.
After this there is another question which we ought to thrash out. Is the integration of Europe really able to give back European society this dynamism that it has lost? If the reply is in the affirmative, our path as a group is already mapped out. We need only concentrate on this struggle for European integration and for the form or forms of integration which will best contribute to this end.
If the reply should be negative, then we must again examine what we as a group can do to stop this hardening of the arteries.
It would be our duty to understand the problem and get inside it to draw more attention to this side of things: it is a matter to which Europe — and continental Europe in particular — would like to close its eyes; and it is impossible to resolve a problem if one does not recognise its existence.
We are going through a bad stage in the cold war — all wars have their bad stages. But in all wars when one is going through a bad stage one should concentrate first and foremost on the core of the problem; and the core for us is what is left of Western Europe.
In a war which has a good chance of remaining cold, the internal front is the most important. If the internal condition of our Society is as Dr. Mueller describes it — and I think he is right — it is very difficult to hold out if we cannot manage to cure the sickness at the root.
Having got so far, have we the duty or the power, as a group, to do something to compel our governments, let us say, to get on the path to fundamental reforms, the kind of reforms which could give back to our countries their internal dynamism? For my part, I think it should be done and I would like to do it.
But we must take into account that if we set ourselves on this road, our group cannot avoid getting involved in internal politics, which up to now we have avoided doing.