Saturday, 26 April 2008

Our Future, Resistance and Liberation

(Photo: 25 aprile 2006, by Iguana Jo) Friday, April 25th 2008, Italy celebrated the 63rd anniversary of the Liberation from Fascism and Nazism.

On April 1945, Northern Italy uprised against the German occupation and the Repubblica Sociale Italiana, the collaborationist government established by Mr Benito Mussolini after the armistice of September 8th, 1943. At the end of a desperate twenty-month-lasting struggle over the mountains, on the streets and within the plants, thousands of partisans freed the main Northern towns of the country and settled new democratic institutions before the arrival of the Allies.

In Turin, the Italian industrial hearth where FIAT was born and one of the Italian Resistance capitals, a double celebration took place this year. While public institutions, partisans associations, many intellectuals and artists met in Piazza Castello to remember the Civil War and the 1948 republican Constitution, Mr Beppe Grillo and his movement met in Piazza San Carlo, promoting three new referenda to abolish the Journalists' Association, public funds for newspapers and the law regulating TV broadcasting.

According to Mr Grillo, his V2-Day event is the natural prosecution of the Liberation from Fascism: "Il 25 aprile ci siamo liberati dal nazifascismo. 63 anni dopo possiamo liberarci dal fascismo dell’informazione, dai suoi padroni e dai suoi servi. E’ più difficile di allora. Non ci sono più fucile contro fucile, bomba a mano contro carro armato. La lotta è tra le coscienze addormentate e la libertà di pensare" [On April, 25th (1945), we freed ourselves from Nazism and Fascism. 63 years later we can free ourselves from information fascism, from his bosses and his slaves. Now it's harder than then. There are not rifles against rifles now, not hand grenades against armour. The struggle is between the sleep of mind and the freedom of thought].

So far, the political system and the press have been very tough over Mr Grillo and his movement. In their opinion, indeed, Mr Grillo is a danger for democracy aiming to dismantle the State and its institutions (Will Pinocchio Listen to Mr Grillo?). As Mr Eugenio Scalfari said after September 8th 2007 first V-Day: "L'antipolitica pretende di abbattere la divisione tra governo e governati instaurando il governo assembleare. L'"agorà". La piazza. L'equivalente del blog di Internet." [Antipolitics aims to destroy the division between goverment and citizens, setting up an assembly government. The agorà. The square. The same as the Internet blog.] (repubblica.it).

On the other hand, some observers such as Giovanni De Luna (La Stampa), Barbara Spinelli (lastampa.it) and Giovanni Sartori (corriere.it) clearly understood the political meaning and strenght of the message.

In my opinion, Mr Grillo and is undoubtedly soaked in populism, he lacks of historical memory and usually escapes the public debate. But he is not a politician, he is a comic. And he is telling the truth, he is saying what the political system looks as inconvenient, he talks about issues that most journalists seem unable or forbidden to talk about. He has the right to express his opinion and his voice can help to restore Italian democracy.

As a matter of fact, indeed, in Italy there is no chance to enter the Journalist Association but that you're entrusted by an influent relative or friend (radicali.it). Moreover, public funds are given to many political and private newspapers and magazines which don't sell a copy (libero.it). All the more reason, the upcoming Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi "controls most of Italian private television" and "now that he is back in government, he will indirectly control state-run television too, giving him influence over some 90% of Italian TV" (economist.com).

On January, while Mr Romano Prodi's government was still promoting a bill made by the Minister for Communications, Mr Paolo Gentiloni, aiming to reform the TV broadcasting system, Mr Silvio Berlusconi clearly explained that this law was incompatible with any attempt of dialogue on reforms between his Popolo della Libertà and the Partito Democratico (corriere.it). Unfortunately, after losing the elections, PD's leader Mr Walter Veltroni seems likely to dialogue and co-operate with Silvio Berlusconi (corriere.it). Since la Sinistra l'Arcobaleno didn't enter the Parliament, Mr Antonio Di Pietro's Italia dei Valori is actually the only political party sitting in Parliament still fighting against a political context which is definitely far from being democratic (antoniodipietro.it).

Personally, I think that public funds to the press should be reformed and not abolished, because if the market decided by himself what is worth to be published and what is not, the free debate of different ideas would be much more conditioned by vested interests than it is now. That's why I will sign up only two of Mr Grillo's referenda.

Anyway, I think that Italia dei Valori, the small left faction within the Partito Democratico, la Sinistra l'Arcobaleno and Mr Grillo's movement should come together to establish a concrete, democratic, peaceful, not violent and uncompromising opposition against Mr Silvio Berlusconi's government.

During the electoral campaign Senator Marcello Dell'Utri explained that after winning the elections, the PDL would revise the books of history because they are still conditioned by the rhetoric of Resistance (corriere.it and lastampa.it).

He won't make us forget that Resistance is the hearth of the Italian Constitution. We owes our freedom to all those men and women who chose to put their life at risk fighting against the cruel ferocity of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini between September 1943 and April 1945. They were Communists, Socialists, Actionists, Repubblicans, Liberals, Monarchists, Christians, Jews, Waldesians, Atheists. They were most Italians, while some of them were foreigners. They were common men and women aiming to restore freedom in Italy and in Europe. Many were killed, many were tortured, many were deported and never came back.

Those of them who survived contributed to make Italy a democratic republic, while then grew old and died constantly facing any progressive attempt to erase their memory. Few of them are still alive. Now more than ever, we have the duty to remember. Resistance never ended, Resistance will go on.

"[Gennaio, 1944] La neve era alta, c'era pochissimo da mangiare, le porte delle case e delle stalle non sembravan più aprirsi così ospitali come un tempo, tra la popolazione v'era paura e diffidenza, il domani era incerto, i tedeschi e i fascisti apparivano più minacciosi che mai, non c'eran indumenti e stufe per ripararsi dai rigori invernali: ma bisognava non mollare, bisognava resistere, bisognava tener duro.

[...]

[Aprile, 1945] E finalmente venne l'ora tanto sospirata: l'ora dell'attacco, l'ora della GOP. Il 24 aprile, in Torino, il CMRP aveva deciso di aprire l'offensiva generale, e aveva diramato a tutti i comandi della zona del Piemonte la famosa comunicazione: 'Aldo dice ventisei per uno', che voleva dire: 'Alle ore una del giorno 26 si attacca'!"

{[January, 1944] The snow was high, very little was left to eat, the houses' doors and the stalls didn't seem to open as hospitable as they once were, people were scared and mistrustful, the future was uncertain, Germans and Fascists looked much more threatening than they ever did, there were nor clothes nor stoves to shelter from the cold winter: but we oughtn't to give up, we ought to resist, we ought to hold on.

[...]

[April, 1945] And at last that longed-for day came: the day of the attack, the day of the GOP. On April, 24th, in Turin, the CMRP decided to start the general offensive, and it dispatched to every Piedmont's war zone headquarter the famous message: 'Aldo says twenty-six for one', which meant: 'We're going to attack at one o'clock of the day 26!]}

(Dante Livio Bianco, Guerra partigiana, 1954).

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Hoping to Find the Left Over the Rainbow



The General Elections are scheduled in Italy for April 13th and 14th, 2008. The President of the Republic, Mr Giorgio Napolitano, decided to call them after Mr Romano Prodi's center-left Government fell on January 24th, the main political parties being unable to agree and support a short-term government to change the electoral law (bbc.co.uk).

Mr Silvio Berlusconi, heading the Center-Right coalition Popolo delle Libertà, is leading the run to become the new Prime Minister. Mr Walter Veltroni, heading the new Center-Left Partito Democratico, is running after. Moving far behind them, the catholic Center party Unione di Centro and the Left coalition la Sinistra l'Arcobaleno (the Left the Rainbow) are struggling to survive and enter again the Italian Senate, where you need to outcome a barrier of 8% reckoned on regional basis (repubblica.it).

Besides, according to the current electoral law promoted in 2005 by the then Minister for Reforms Roberto Calderoli, Italian citizens will not be able to choose their representatives themselves. Indeed, the "pig law" - as Mr Calderoli itself named it - states that the parties fix a list of candidates while citizens can only choose which party they want to vote for (Will Pinocchio listen to Mr Grillo?).

Aiming to shape the Italian political system as a two-party context and getting rid of all other parties, Mr Berlusconi and Mr Veltroni mixed up both their campaigns and programmes, so that if you read an extract from one of them it's very uneasy to recognize which one it belongs to (partito democratico.it and forzaitalia.it).

While Mr Berlusconi, which is 71 years old, explains that we're in for big economic troubles and pretends to be very sad for his upcoming Prime Minister work (repubblica.it), Mr Veltroni claims that - being 52 years old - he can really change the country, and tries to mingle himself with Mr José Louis Rodriguez Zapatero (aprileonline.info) and Mr Barack Obama (repubblica.it).

In his desperate run to overcome Silvio Berlusconi, Walter Veltroni - one of the former leaders of the Partito Comunista Italiano - decided that the Partito Democratico was not supposed to join forces with the left coalition la Sinistra l'Arcobaleno and in an interview to the Spanish newspaper El Pais clearly said that the Partito Democratico is not a Left party: "Somos reformistas, no de izquierda" (elpais.com).

Mr Veltroni's peculiar style, stigmatized by the italian comic artist Maurizio Crozza as "maanchismo", seems to put opposites in common (corriere.it). The Partito Democratico, for example, decided to candidate both the former president of Federmeccanica (the Italian federation of metalworking industries), Mr Massimo Calearo, and Mr Antonio Boccuzzi, the only survival of a terrific work accident which took place in the Turin Thyssenkrupp steal plant last December, killing seven workers (lastampa.it and repubblica.it).

The issue of death at work is indeed very significant (Working side by side with death): when Mr Romano Prodi's government tried to make a new law implying strong penalties over managers lacking in adopting safety measures in their plants, it was forced to change its decree by the strong opposition of Confindustria, the Italian employers federation (corriere.it and repubblica.it).

All the more reason, after having granted huge tax cuts to businesses (Who is going to pay the budget bill?), Mr Prodi fell just when he was about to give something back to workers and pensioners too (repubblica.it). Here again, when his government tried to set a law recognizing the rights of not-married couples, the opposition of the Church made him soon step back (lastampa.it).

Here is the matter: being supported by Confindustria and partly by a Catholic background, Mr Veltroni – acting as Prime Minister – could only sit and ask what Confindustria and the Church would like him to do.

As a liberal socialist, I am thus wondering who I should vote for. Actually, the Democratici di Sinistra - belonging to the European Socialist Party - merged with Mr Francesco Rutelli's Margherita into the new Partito Democratico, which is no more a Left party.

The former Partito Socialista Italiano lays down, as a sad prisoner of Mr Bettino Craxi's criminal heritage: nine times out of ten there you find still the same names and the same ambiguities.

I have no doubt that now an Italian Socialist can do nothing but try to explain its view and join his forces with what still is Left. I wouldn't probably agree with some of the economic solutions promoted by la Sinistra l'Arcobaleno. But considering the pillars of their programme, I can do nothing but feel at ease voting for them. Here they are:
Of course the political programme is not enough. Unfortunately, la Sinistra l'Arcobaleno is the result of the merger between four failing political entourages: Partito dei Comunisti Italiani, Rifondazione Comunista, Sinistra Democratica and Verdi. Their leader, Mr Fausto Bertinotti, is the past and not the future of the Left. la Sinistra l'Arcobaleno should soon erase its national and local leaders, attending public bottom-up elections to choose brand new players. They had better chosen someone like Mr Roberto Saviano - the young writer who reported on the power of Camorra in his masterpiece work Gomorra - as their candidate for the premiership. We can hope many other things along these lines, but our duty is now to protect democracy, pluralism and the existence of the Italian Left itself.

"Mi sono sempre considerato un uomo di sinistra e quindi ho sempre dato al termine 'sinistra' una connotazione positiva, anche ora che è sempre più avversata, e al termine 'destra' una connotazione negativa, pur essendo oggi ampiamente rivalutata. La ragione fondamentale per cui in alcune epoche della mia vita ho avuto qualche interesse per la politica, o, con altre parole, ho sentito, se non il dovere, parola troppo ambiziosa, l'esigenza di occuparmi di politica e qualche volta, se pure più raramente, di svolgere attività politica, è sempre stato il disagio di fronte allo spettacolo delle enormi diseguaglianze, tanto sproporzionate quanto ingiustificate, tra ricchi e poveri, tra chi sta in alto e chi sta in basso nella scala sociale, tra chi possiede potere, vale a dire capacità di determinare il comportamento altrui, sia nella sfera economica sia in quella politica e ideologica, e chi non lo ha. Diseguaglianze particolarmente visibili e, a poco a poco trasformandosi la coscienza morale, sempre più consapevolmente vissute, da chi, come me, era nato ed era stato educato in una famiglia borghese, dove le differenze di classe erano ancora molto marcate. Queste differenze erano particolarmente evidenti durante le lunghe vacanze in campagna dove noi venuti dalla città giocavamo coi figli di contadini. Tra noi, a dire il vero, affettivamente c'era perfetto affiatamento, e le differenze di classe erano assolutamente irrilevanti, ma non poteva sfuggirci il contrasto tra le nostre case e le loro, i nostri cibi e i loro, i nostri vestiti e i loro (d'estate andavano scalzi). Ogni anno, tornando in vacanza, apprendevamo che uno dei nostri compagni di giochi era morto durante l'inverno di tubercolosi. Non ricordo, invece, una sola morte per malattia tra i miei compagni di scuola di città.
Erano anche gli anni del fascismo, la cui rivista politica ufficiale, fondata dallo stesso Mussolini, era intitolata 'Gerarchia'. Populista, non popolare, il fascismo aveva irregimentato il paese, soffocando ogni forma di libera lotta politica; un popolo di cittadini, che già avevano conquistato il diritto di partecipare a libere elezioni, era stato ridotto a folla acclamante, un insieme di sudditi tutti eguali, sì, nell'identica uniforme, ma eguali (e contenti?) nella comune servitù. Con l'approvazione improvvisa e improvvisata delle leggi razziali, la nostra generazione si trovò negli anni della maturità di fronte allo scandalo di una discriminazione infame che in me, come in altri, lasciò un segno indelebile. Fu allora che il miraggio di una società egualitaria favorì la conversione al comunismo di molti giovani moralmente e intellettualmente seri. So bene che oggi, a tanti anni di distanza, il giudizio sul fascismo deve essere dato col distacco dello storico. Qui, però, parlo non da storico, ma unicamente per recare una testimonianza personale della mia educazione politica cui ebbero tanta parte, per reazione al regime, gli ideali, oltre che della libertà, anche dell'eguaglianza e della fraternità, le 'ridondanti blagues', come allora erano sprezzantemente chiamate, della Rivoluzione francese. Se avessi avuto ancora qualche dubbio, sarebbe giunto, nel momento più opportuno, proprio mentre stavo scrivendo queste pagine, un articolo sul nuovo settimanale 'l'Italia', dichiaratamente di destra, intitolato Abbasso l'eguaglianza.
Proprio così: 'Abbasso l'eguaglianza'. Il che non vuol dire, come qualcuno potrebbe interpretare: 'Viva la differenza'. No, vuol dire: 'Viva la disuguaglianza'."


[I have always considered myself a man of the left, and therefore, for me, the term 'left' has always had a positive connotation, even now when it is under such attack, and the term 'right', which is now being widely reassessed, a negative connotation. During my life I have on occasion shown some interest in politics; in other words, I have felt the need (I will not say that I felt it my duty, because that is too grand a word) to get involved in politics, and more rarely, to engage in some political activity. The fundamental reason for this has always been an uneasiness over the spectacle of enormous, disproportionate, unjustified inequalities between rich and poor, between those at the top and those at the bottom of the social ladder, and between those with power – that is to say, the ability to determine the behaviour of others in the economic, political and ideological spheres – and those without power. These highly visible inequalities are experienced with increasing awareness as the moral conscience is gradually strenghtened with the passing years and the develpoment of tragic events, especially by someone like me, who was born and brought up in a bourgeois family, where class differences are very pronounced. These differences were particularly evident during summer holidays in the countryside, where we city lads played with the sons of peasants. To tell the truth, our friendship was based on a perfect understanding, and the class differences were completely irrelevant; but we could not help noticing the contrast between our houses nad theirs, our food and theirs, and our clothes and theirs (in the summer they went barefoot). Every year when we started our holidays, we learnt that one of our playmates had died the previous winter form tubercolosis. I do not remember a single death among my school-friends in the city.
Those were the years of Fascism, whose official political journal, founded by Mussolini himself, was entitled Gerarchia (Hierarchy). Populist but not popular, Fascism regimented the country, and suffocated all forms of free political struggle; a people of citizens, which had already achieved the right to participate in free elections, was reduced to a cheering crowd, a collection of subjects all equal in their identical uniforms, but also equal (and content?) in their common servitude. With the sudden and unexpected passing of the race laws, our generation had to face, as it came of age, the scandal of that shameful discrimination which had a lasting effect on me and many others. It was then that the illusion of an egalitarian society favoured the conversion to communism among many moral and serious-minded young people. I know very well that today, after so many years, our judgement of Fascism must be made with a historian's detachment. Here, however, I do not speak as a historian, but solely as an individual, giving a personal account of his political education, which, in reaction to the regime, was greatly affected by the French Revolution's ideals of liberty, as well as equality and fraternity – the 'empty rhetoric', as they were contemptuously referred to at the time. If I had still had any doubt, in the right moment, just when I was writing these pages, an article would have come. This article, published by the new magazine 'l'Italia', come out belonging to the right, was intitled: 'Down with Equality'.
Which does not mean, as someone could interpret: 'Long Life Difference'. No, it does mean: 'Long Life Inequality'.]

[Norberto Bobbio, Destra e Sinistra. Ragioni di una distinzione politica, Roma, Donzelli Editore, 1994; translation (last period excepted) by Allan Cameron, Polity Press, 1996].