Divide and Concur: A Radical Plan for Peace in Europe (1920)

Published in Vienna a year after Germany signed the Treaty of Versailles, Die Unionisierung Mitteleuropas! (The Unionization of Central Europe!) anticipated not only the Second World War but also the coming European Union. “Does anyone really seriously believe that the current peace agreements have put an end to the idea of revenge [Revancheidee] of individual tribes?” asked the anonymous author, who wrote this twenty-four-page pamphlet under the initials P. A. M. The Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empire had suffered the “death blow” (Todesstoß). The Habsburg dynasty, upon which the sun once never set, “disappeared from the throne overnight”. The Allies had won, but animosity and divisiveness were haunting Europe, festering away in fields scarred with trenches, bullet-pocked homes. If “world peace” was a possible horizon, it would have to be worked toward gradually, starting with economic and cultural unification.

According to P.A.M., war arose from nationalism, and nationalism could be overcome with a “Union”, consisting of a common flag, monetary system, time zone, postal service, and language. Upon forming the Union, Europe should immediately revise its school systems, allocating half of all teaching hours to Esperanto and the other half to a student’s mother tongue. After twenty-five years, there would be enough widespread command of Esperanto for it to serve as the language of the Union’s defense forces. After another twenty years, Esperanto was to become the language of politics. Eventually citizens will vote on whether their mother tongues are even needed anymore.

The most bizarre aspect of The Unionization of Central Europe! is P.A.M.’s proposed canton system, which almost makes the Berlin Conference and Sykes-Picot Agreement look like ethnically sensitive approaches to territory distribution in comparison. To visualize this system, P.A.M.’s pamphlet came with foldout maps: “The New Europe with Lasting Peace”, and a slightly smaller map proposing a unification of European colonies in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia, “The Colonies of the Union.”

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Detail from the map showing the central area of the union.

The center of the Union was to be Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral. From here, on the map, twenty-four cantons radiate out in all directions, named for their capital cities and overlaid with color that designates their residents’ ethnolinguistic identity: Roman, German, Slav, or Magyar. Kanton München runs from Vienna to the Bay of Biscay; Kanton Budapest fans out eastward to the Black Sea; Spain, Italy, the Nordics, and other nations outside of Central Europe were exempt from the plan. There are alternative arrangements, but P.A.M. assures his reader that he has chosen “the most advantageous and fair” division, which will instantly resolve the Balkan question and all other tensions.

In a kind of wonderful inversion of concerns, P.A.M. spends more time on the details — outlining, for instance, the design, denominations, and iconography of the Union’s currency — than he does explaining how, exactly, this might all work. Since most of Europe’s problems can be solved by cutting it up like an overshared pie, he turns instead toward future threats to the Union: the East. To prevent “cultural upheaval” and incursions by “Asian peoples”, soldiers would occupy a fifty-kilometer no man’s land, where, when not fending off invasion, they could freely farm and marry. The pamphlet’s politics run the gamut. “Gypsy” children will be placed under state protection, and if parents complain, they are to be “expelled from the Union forever”. Schools are to be placed in forests due to the aromatic air (würzigen Waldesluft); factories that emit heavy smoke or pollutive noise must be relocated away from the capital; and imperial colonies should be consolidated, for this is the only way the Union can obtain, at a good price, “the raw materials that it absolutely needs for processing and producing cultural products”.

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Proposed flag of the union, frontside.

P.A.M., Die Unionisierung Mitteleuropas! (Wien: printed for Otto Maaß, 1920).

The government of the Union is to be built on the tenets of consociationalist power sharing. At first, a Frenchman will be president, a Pole will serve as Minister of Agriculture, and a Hungarian will oversee transport and nutrition. Every three years, these departments are to be reallocated to a different canton. Swiss law is to rule the land, and citizens will be discouraged from marrying within their ethnic group. Every male must complete compulsory military service: two years of active duty — split into a year of state infrastructural labor and a year of military service — followed by eighteen years as a reservist. Land ownership will be capped at a thousand yokes (about 1400 acres, or 6000 square meters), and larger plots will be seized by the state. Wealthy individuals can opt out of the mandate for intermixed marriage, which was meant to encourage the dissolution of sociopolitical difference, but they must forfeit a significant percentage of their assets. While optional retirement begins at fifty-five, no one can work past sixty-five, as this creates youth unemployment, and those unfit for work will be provided for by the state. As everyone will have the ability to lead a life of “moderate prosperity” — due, in large part, to a massive network of colonies whose citizens reap none of the rewards offered to Central Europeans — “class struggle” and “the hatred of Capitalism” will naturally subside by itself. After a century, it is presumed that all divisions of nation and people will dissolve into a unified whole.

As if shielding himself from potential critics until the genius of his vision began to manifest in Europe, P.A.M. filed details about his true name and profession with a notary, which were only to be released to the public once four nations had considered his proposal. This presumably never happened as historians remain uncertain of the writer’s true identity. Given that the publication of this pamphlet and its cartographic enclosures involved one Otto Maas, some think the author is likely his son, P. A. Mass. Abstract, geometric solutions to land distribution rarely result in lasting peace, especially when imposed from afar. However flawed and idealistic his vision, the core tenet — peace — of P.A.M.’s desired future remains one worth aspiring toward:

To many a reader this work may appear as the result of over-excited imagination; someday, though late, the knowledge of truth will gain the upper hand, and perhaps many things which have been stimulated by me here will be realized. This would be the most beautiful reward of my quite selfless, long, and elaborate intellectual work.
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