Federalism from a Weltanschauung

Federalism from a Weltanschauung

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Under this same title of Federalism from a Weltanschauung 1, the Munich lawyer Edgar J. Jung,2 known for his book The Rule of the Inferior (Verlag Deutsche Rundschau, Berlin), published a work that also deserves attention in this country, especially since it addresses a problem that is of the utmost importance for the Swiss federal state. Recently, the statements of Vaud and other cantons on various federal draft laws (December 6, 1931) have clearly shown us that the question of the internal structure of our state has by no means found a “permanent” solution. The combat programs of Ordre et Tradition3 and other federalist associations clearly prove this. But our centralists are still far from achieving their desired goal. Both sides are making absolutely contradictory demands on our state. Resolving the tension this creates seems almost impossible. People therefore anxiously preserve what they have achieved and shy away from the necessary fundamental discussions.

What makes it difficult for us to take a stand today in the struggle for a unitarist or federalist state structure is a one-sided approach that either only starts from traditional historical perspectives or then focuses solely on the question of expediency and economic efficiency. In both cases, one overlooks the fact that each solution can only claim conditional correctness for its time in certain circumstances, and that is why it is necessary to first deal with the timeless ideological forces that are at work behind all individual solutions. The text discussed here aims to serve this discussion. That is what makes it valuable to us.

Unitarian and federalist attitudes are poles of two worldviews, which culminate in their own state doctrines. In order to get closer to this, an excursion into the field of political philosophy is necessary. There is an eternal conflict between the two inseparable forms in which man appears: as an individual and as a social being. As an individual being he is a unique, complete whole, as a social being he is part of a higher whole. From a religious perspective: the divine creation; from a sociological perspective: the community. The conflict between the individual and the community is always decided differently in different historical periods. Sometimes a sense of value tends to regard the protection and development of the individual as the ultimate purpose of all political endeavours (individualism), sometimes it tends to place the preservation of the species, the whole of life, above the life of the individual being (universalism).

Of course, individualism has a need for organisation. It is its most bitter task to reconstruct the society it created. However, this does not create an organic whole, but rather a mechanistic summation. According to this doctrine, the state is based on a tacit agreement between individuals, whereby they partially waive their inherently unlimited freedoms in order to guarantee each other life and property. The prerequisite for this state construction is, in addition to the theory of freedom, the theory of equality. However, through their application, every edifice and every structure of the state disappears. Everyone stands in the same communal relationship to the whole. There is only an atomized mass of so many millions of citizens. Therefore, the state of individualism is necessarily centralistic and denies any autonomous subdivision, any independent life of the parts and any right that is not granted by the centre.

The universalistic doctrine, on the other hand, sees the state as the highest form of grouping together the living volk, whose spiritual community in turn has its blood, spatial, historical and class structure. What is essential is the living unity of the whole, reflected by parts that in turn have a life of their own. Society is not an arbitrary sum of individual beings, but rather the structured diversity of natural associations to which life itself, and not intellectually calculated benefits, assigns tasks and purposes.

The problem concerns not only the question of the state constitution, but also of the social order in general. Anyone who understands the human community as a spiritual entity is forced to conclude that every social action presupposes the existence of special circles of life that identify their own tasks and achievements: art, science, religion, church, family, community, economy. These partial wholes are determined by the spirit of the people, just as the highest level of organization, the state.

What are the circles of life into which the closed community of people separates itself? Two large groups catch the eye: the circles of economic and intellectual life, then the commonality of blood in space. The Spannian school4 calls these performance communities “estates”, in contrast to the class as a pure community of interests. The cells of today’s state, especially the urban communities, can no longer be addressed as such performance communities.5 But today’s professional organizations are also not estates in the sense mentioned. The true state therefore first requires the lost social foundation. Today, the main concern of universalistic state thought is its revitalization through corporate self-responsibility of the economy, the sciences, etc.

During the enormous period of individualistic state development, which extends from the decaying Middle Ages to the present, the state swallowed up all of society’s own life and took over the tasks of the corporations. Where the old structure was not already absorbed by absolutism, it fell victim to political liberalism and its successors. Today the state must take on the tasks that the structured society itself should carry out. It becomes a universal regulator, a total state (Carl Schmitt). Soviet Russia with its state communism logically brought this development to an end. This creates the surprising picture that liberal individualism and Russian communism, despite their apparent opposites, are links in a single chain. In addition, there is the burdensome fact that even those bodies that today believe that they represent the principle of the structure, the German states and Swiss cantons, have themselves succumbed to the principle of centralism in their internal structure. That’s why their fight against the Reich and the Confederation is hopeless in the long run. The question arises as to whether the reorganization of the state today should not take place on the basis of completely different structures, and which are the actually existing performance communities in society that can be considered as a viable basis for the state?

The federal and unitary state principles are not generally up to us to choose. The decision must be made based on the nature of the people in question.

Historical observation shows us that individualism prevailed from Roman soil in the form of the all-powerful state (centralist democracy in France, centralist dictatorship in Italy, although in contrast to the strongly federalist new Spanish constitution), while on “sub-Germanic” soil in general the idea of a structured empire remained powerful. According to the universalist-federalist conception of the state, “Reich” and “Federation” refer to a state of suspense that is not intended to place emphasis on either the summary or the structure. It is impossible if one part surpasses all others in importance, power and scope. This applies today to the relationship between Prussia and the German Empire. Bismarck’s constitution was still based on the dynastic structure. The Weimar constitution destroyed this and shifted the centre of gravity to the Reichstag, which was no longer supported by the states as the successors to the ruling houses, but by the imperial parties, three-fifths of whose voters came from Prussia.

In this context, the question arises for us Swiss as to whether a similar actual relationship of dominance between Alemannic Switzerland over French Switzerland, based on the predominant political importance of the National Council over the Council of States and the purely numerical majorities in our liberal democratic voting system, is compatible and consistent with the nature of a “federation”, and whether this is precisely the reason for the current strong opposition to all federal decrees in the French-speaking area of our Confederation? Ultimately, the awareness of the dependence on the grace and restraint of the other confederates must necessarily breed a sensitivity in every minority, which is expressed in the fact that every step towards a closer union, no matter how objectively justified, is rejected because the minority does not, like the majority, find the expression of their spirit in the new project. This seems to me to be the psychological reason for the talk of the “Germanic spirit” of the upcoming Federal Criminal Code and other things. “Il faut supprimer le conseil national”, was recently written on the first page of a Vaud magazine. And I would like to add that I fully understand this defensive position of the Welsch6 If we do not find anything like this in Zurich and Bern today, it is probably because we never had to fear for our uniqueness because of our numerical superiority and leading position in the federal government. A similar sensitivity, comparable to that of the Welsch, is often evident in the relationship between Alemannic Switzerland and influences from the German Empire, from which the German-speaking Swiss fear a threat to their own tribal culture, which then causes them to align themselves more closely with the Welsch than with the latter is desirable in order to be able to more emphatically defend one’s own Alemannic position against Imperial German influences. The problems can only be hinted at here and I must content myself with pointing out the similarity of the conflicts that arise between Alemannic and Welsch in our country, as well as in the relationship between Alemannic Switzerland and the German imperial lands and in the empire itself between north and south result.

The various proposals for a constitutional reorganization of the German Empire, which Jung examines in detail, cannot be discussed here. This would require further discussion of the question of democracy and parliamentarism. Of the latter, Jung rightly says that it has become completely superfluous since the party representatives go to the council meeting with the firm determination not to be convinced. Dismantling of state self-government, penetration of democracy with aristocratic elites, primary elections in the centres of life, mere representation in the higher associations, these are the solutions proposed by the author in this context.

Something very contemporary can then be found in the section on the division of competencies between the state as a whole and its members, especially the empire and the states. The task of the whole should be to maintain the consciousness of the people and to lead them to their great European task. The whole (empire) should therefore pursue leading politics; the parts (states and corporations) should manage. It follows from this that leadership over foreign and economic policy, as well as over the defence forces, must necessarily lie with the whole, furthermore that the means of transport should be arranged in a uniform manner and the requirement for the greatest possible harmonisation of the legal principles that govern civil and economic life, trade and traffic. “The dominion of a legal system cannot be large enough, and the legal-creative power of a people often strengthens its position in the world more strongly than even the most excellent armies” (P. 59). Jung here calls for the unity of law and economics, in contrast to some Swiss federalists, because this is precisely how the parts become aware of the whole and the diversity7 creates folkish8 unity. (I hope to have demonstrated in this magazine in October 1931 that the Swiss Civil Code today fulfils this task to a large extent, and that the Swiss Criminal Code will also be able to do the same). Anyone who cannot commit to the unity of the Volk in these questions is, according to Jung, not a federalist, but a particularist, because he does not want the federal government, the federation, but self-indulgence. Volk and nation are always the whole: the empire, the federation. Do we still have such confederate awareness today?

Finally, the foreign policy consequences of this universalist-federalist stance are remarkable. Anyone who sees an order of separation in the state must also recognize the effectiveness of this idea externally. Just as the unitary state cannot tolerate independence and a life of its own internally, it is also unable to radiate beyond its borders. These states collide hard with each other. From this point of view, there is only one unattainable and undesirable goal: the gigantic mass republic of a coming European mixed race without any individual ethnic life of the parts. But the path to the coming Europe is different. An almost mythical idea of empire was able to create a unity from medieval Europe, despite all its diversity, which, however, fell apart when the idea of the Christian universe no longer held the whole together. Even today, unification of Europe will only be possible on a federal basis. According to Jung, the German mission is to prepare this by eliminating French power and centralization policies.

Here too, the parallel to our own Swiss task in Europe is obvious. Following the universalistic idea of the separation order, every people and every state appears to us as a community based on internal laws that at the same time fulfils special tasks in a higher whole. Our Swiss mission lies in conveying the awareness of the unity of all parts – which has nothing in common with an egalitarian internationalism. However, it follows from this that there can no longer be self-sufficiency in all European events in our politics, especially when it is a question of our commitment to a meaningful order for Europe, which, for the sake of the whole, should better meet the vital needs of the individual parts than is the case today.

All too often and for too long, federalism has been portrayed solely as a matter for those circles that only look backwards because they cannot come to terms with the present. I didn’t want to mention such federalism, which does exist. The here present case is an attempt, from a basic federalist stance, to show new possibilities for constructive politics and state formation in the deadlocked present, which are of particular interest to us Swiss. That is why I read Jung’s statements with enthusiasm and tried to highlight at least a few points from the rich content of his writing that are particularly important for our own questions.

Originally published in Schweizer Monatshefte, 1932.
Rediscovered and published by the Helvetic Archives. Reprinted with permission.

  1. Edgar J. Jung, Föderalismus aus Weltanschauung (J. Schweitzer Verlag, München 1931) ↩︎
  2. Edgar J. Jung (6 March 1894 – 1 July 1934) was a Bavarian lawyer and one of the pioneers of the German Conservative Revolution. He joined the army as a volunteer during the Great War and then in his own home of Bavaria against the Bavarian Soviet Republic. His ideas were close to his fellow conservative lawyer Carl Schmitt, although more vocal in his opposition of National Socialism than the latter. This in turn would place him under the personal crosshairs of Hitler and ultimately assassinated by the SS during the Night of the Long Knives as he was preparing to flee to Switzerland.  ↩︎
  3. Ordre et Tradition was the name of a Swiss patriotic association from the Romand canton of Vaud, founded in 1926 by the Laussanois lawyer Marcel Regamey and other university students who went on to regularly publish articles. The group would become known as the Ligue Vaudoise, which survives to this day. ↩︎
  4. The philosophical school of Austrian conservative philosopher Othmar Spann, who was noticeably influential for early Frontists like Tobler. ↩︎
  5. Leistungsgemeinschaften has no clear English translation. It is a composite word containing Leistungs– (performance, work, merit) and –gemeinschaften (communities, groups) ↩︎
  6. Informal Swiss-German noun for Romand (French-speaking Swiss). It traces its origins to the Germanic word walh– (foreign language speaker), which is also the etymological origin of “Walloon” and “Welsh” ↩︎
  7. Vielgestaltigkeit : manyfold-ness; of many shapes. The English translation “diversity” results in the indication to something which has many different items. The German word refers to the collection of a singular type of item whose shapes are different. ↩︎
  8. Völkish : ethnic, national. ↩︎

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