Giovanni Agnelli was born in Piedmont, Italy, in 1866. His father was Edoardo Agnelli, the wealthy mayor of Villar Perosa.
After studying at the expensive private school, Collegio San Guiuseppe, he spent time in the military. After experimenting in the development of motorised tricycles he founded Fiat (Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino) in 1899.
Agnetti took an increasing interest in politics and in 1918 joined the campaign against the formation of the League of Nations. Instead he urged the establishment of "a federation of European states under a central power which governs them." He thought this would maintain peace in Europe. Agnetti also argued it would help economic growth: "Only a federal Europe will be able to give us a more economic realization of the division of labour, with the elimination of all customs barriers."
In 1920 Agnetti suggested that Fiat might be transformed into a cooperative managed by the workers. However, he soon abandoned this idea and gave his support to Benito Mussolini.
During the Second World War Agnetti played an important role in mobilizing Italian industry. Giovanni Agnelli died in 1945.
(1) Giovanni Agnelli, European Federation or League of Nations (1918)
Without hesitation we believe that, if we really want to make war in Europe a phenomenon which cannot be repeated, there is only way to do so and we must be outspoken enough to consider it: a federation of European states under a central power which governs them. Any other milder version is but a delusion.
The typical example which shows how one community, for its very survival, has had to change from a league of sovereign and independent states to a more complex form of a union of states ruled by a central power, is given with unsurpassable clarity by the history of the United States of America. As is well known, they went through two constitutions: the first, drawn up by a Congress of 13 states in 1776 and approved by these same states in February 1781; the second, approved by the national Convention of September 17th 1787 and which came into force in 1788.
A comparison between the two documents explains why the first failed, threatening the independence and freedom itself of the young Union, while the second has created a Republic, which we now all admire.
In Europe we had reached this level of absurdity, that every factory that arose in one state was a thorn in the side for every other state: that while the superb inventions of steam applied to land and sea transport, of electricity as motive power, of the telegraph and telephone had by then cancelled distance and made the world one single large centre and international market, little men strove with all their might to cancel the immense benefits of the big discoveries, artificially creating isolated markets and small production and consumption centres. . .
Only a federal Europe will be able to give us a more economic realization of the division of labour, with the elimination of all customs barriers.