The vote in France has shown that national politics is not entirely dead. The hope that all the citizen body can accomplish something, this hope that we can create something new to get rid of the old is an act of freedom. It is perhaps not surprising that the French vote has been monitored with so much attention across Europe and beyond, because France, as one of the leading European countries, is the only one that can also develop enough political momentum to have a real impact across the continent. This political experience, which goes back to the Revolution, has been one of the main driving forces that has pushed for greater European integration. Monnet, De Gaulle, Mitterand are names that are associated with European unity. German power is of a different kind. Germany’s economic power certainly gives it political clout, but it does not have the same will to create something radically new, to develop a vision that would give a united Europe stable political foundations.
Yet, as I said above, even if the anti-austerity current is spreading and making gains across the continent, this alone will certainly not be enough to create a stable political entity that will make it possible for its citizens to live well. The old national state, entangled as it is in a non-existent European union and in a destructive financial system which it helped create and develop, seems to have forever lost its capacity to act, that is, it has lost the freedom it was created to give. As things stand today, the old national state is like a machine that has lost steam, unable to move forward despite occasional bursts of power. What is needed is something radically new, something not entangled in uncontrolled global currents and financial flows; a new political experience, in short, that will start everything anew. “The capacity to begin something new inspires all human actions and is the hidden spring of all great and beautiful things,” said Hannah Arendt in her essay on freedom.
The only experience that can start on a radically new course and accomplish the freedom now lacking is the (re)creation of a stable European polity, a polity that is politically and fiscally integrated, one in which we are free to decide what to accept and what to reject, one in which the welfare of the citizen body is at the core of politics, one in which education is no longer the servant of the economy but is what it has always been before modern times, a water that nourishes the mind and brings it to maturity and truth. Only a truly united, federal Europe would have enough power to resist the cyclical and destructive nature of the economic system. Europe needs a refoundation on radically new bases.
That will of course require a lot of courage from both citizens and, even more, the political élite, but courage, so lacking in our world, is precisely the virtue at the core of every political action. It is, in short, what makes us free.