He joined the Italian Communist Party at a very early age. Arrested in 1927, he spent ten years in prison and six in confinement. During his confinement on the ismand of Ventotene, he abandoned communism and embraced federalism. Along with other colleagues, he drew up the Ventotene Manifesto in 1941. Spinelli soon realised that the battle for the European federation required the creation of a new type of political organisation, immune to national fetishes and the limitations of traditional ideologies.
In the early fifties, the campaigning of Spinelli and the MFE toward the Italian government proved decisive in making the European constituent question the central issue in the intergovernmental negotiations for the creation of the European Defence Community (EDC), but its work was frustrated by France’s refusal to ratify the EDC in 1954.
Despite this setback, between 1954 and 1960 Spinelli and the MFE re-launched the federalist struggle. However, Spinelli left the MFE in the 1960s.
From 1976 to 1986 he was a member of the European Parliament, becoming President of its Institutional Commission in 1984. From that post, he promoted the elaboration of a Draft Treaty establishing the European Union. This project was approved by a huge majority in February 1984. This initiative was blocked and shelved by national governments, which in 1985 passed the less ambitious Single European Act. However, it marked the entrance of the European Parliament onto the European scene as a new political actor in the process of democratising the Community’s institutions.
Spinelli died in Rome on 23rd May 1986.
Vote on Altiero Spinelli’s draft treaty establishing the European Union
European Parliament, February 1984