The Ventotene Manifesto is a political statement written by Altiero Spinelli and by Ernesto Rossi while they were prisoners on the Italian island of Ventotene during World War II. Completed in June 1941, the Manifesto was circulated within the Italian Resistance, and it soon became the programme of the Movimento Federalista Europeo. The Manifesto encouraged a federation of European states, which was meant to keep the countries of Europe close, thus preventing war. Vayssière notes that the manifesto is widely seen as the birth of European federalism. Spinelli (1907–86), a former Communist, became a leader of the federalist movement due to his primary authorship of the Manifesto and his postwar advocacy. The manifesto called for a break with Europe's past to form a new political system through a restructuring of politics and extensive social reform. It was presented not as an ideal, but as the best option for Europe's postwar condition.
The most important assessment was the assertion that
- "The dividing line between progressive and reactionary parties no longer follows the formal line of greater or lesser democracy, or of more or less socialism to be instituted; rather the division falls along the line, very new and substantial, that separates the party members into two groups. The first is made up of those who conceive the essential purpose and goal of struggle as the ancient one, that is, the conquest of national political power – and who, although involuntarily, play into the hands of reactionary forces, letting the incandescent lava of popular passions set in the old moulds, and thus allowing old absurdities to arise once again. The second are those who see the creation of a solid international State as the main purpose; they will direct popular forces toward this goal, and, having won national power, will use it first and foremost as an instrument for achieving international unity.".
This statement was in contrast with the idea, then prevailing, that unity could be achieved almost naturally and only as a secondary goal, after the attainment of political purposes (communism, democracy and so on) in individual countries.
- Bertrand Vayssière, "Le Manifeste de Ventotene (1941): Acte de Naissance du Federalisme Europeen," Guerres Mondiales et Conflits Contemporains (Jan 2005), Vol. 55 Issue 217, pp69-76
- "La linea di divisione fra i partiti progressisti e partiti reazionari cade perciò ormai, non lungo la linea formale della maggiore o minore democrazia, del maggiore o minore socialismo da istituire, ma lungo la sostanziale nuovissima linea che separa coloro che concepiscono, come campo centrale della lotta quello antico, cioè la conquista e le forme del potere politico nazionale, e che faranno, sia pure involontariamente il gioco delle forze reazionarie, lasciando che la lava incandescente delle passioni popolari torni a solidificarsi nel vecchio stampo e che risorgano le vecchie assurdità, e quelli che vedranno come compito centrale la creazione di un solido stato internazionale, che indirizzeranno verso questo scopo le forze popolari e, anche conquistato il potere nazionale, lo adopereranno in primissima linea come strumento per realizzare l'unità internazionale".