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The Ongoing Popular Responsibility of the Liberation

April 25 -- marking the victory of the Resistance in Italy over Mussolini and German occupiers -- is the day we remember that the Constitution and anti-Fascism are a daily practice, not an occasional celebration.

Some years ago, on April 25, Luigi Pintor wrote that he wished for “100 such days.” I’d go even further: 365 such days, April 25 all year round. Alfonso Di Nola, a great ethnologist and comrade, explained that traditional holidays represent an intensification of community relations and the liberating emergence of alternative values and desires to those that are dominating everyday life.

The festive days of the civil calendar, which include April 25, also intensify social relations, but – unlike traditional festivals – don’t practice alternative values for a day, but instead reaffirm the values and relations that should apply every day and which, in our case, have a name: the Constitution. April 25 is the day we remember that the Constitution and anti-Fascism are a daily practice, not an occasional celebration.

I grew up and was educated in an Italy where the Constitution was not talked about, where civic education in schools was a marginal subject and viewed with suspicion, and where we didn’t even know what the Resistance had been. Then, when I began to hear about the “Constitution born of the Resistance” (it was in the ‘60s, I believe), I asked myself: what does that mean? First of all, it means that if we hadn’t had the Resistance, we couldn’t have written our Constitution ourselves, but would have received it – like Japan – from the occupying powers. I doubt that a Constitution given to us by the victorious Allies would have had that striking beginning: “Italy is a democratic republic.”

It’s not only about how it arose, but also about its spirit and contents (by the way, our current rulers, themselves heirs of Fascism, are claiming there’s no mention of anti-Fascism in the Constitution. They’re reading it wrong: it’s there in the first line, because Fascism is dictatorship and a democratic republic is its opposite). I began to understand the relationship between the Resistance and the Constitution when I realized that the Constitution is based on a principle of active citizenship (the people “exercising” their sovereignty), articulated through a series of instruments (freedom of thought and speech, trade unions, political parties, public schools), and that this principle had its origins in the free and voluntary choice made by the partisans.

No one fought with the Resistance except by their own choice; I have never heard a partisan say they were just obeying an order from someone else.

Marisa Musu, a partisan: “We’ve never said that, and we are not saying it now, [for instance about the] Via Rasella [attack against Nazi troops], ‘I did it because the Americans wanted me to’ or ‘because my commander wanted me to.’ I wanted to.”

Maria Teresa Regard, a partisan: “I went there on September 8, to the fighting at Porta San Paolo, but I went there for my country, for Rome, to save Rome, I didn’t go there because the Communist Party told me to. The party didn’t tell us to go there. They thought they had to be given orders. Instead, I went there and I said, ‘This is how it is, we have to drive the Germans out of Rome.’”

After 20 years of [the Fascist slogan] “believe, obey and fight,” they stopped obeying and chose what to believe in and what to fight for.

The men and women who founded the Italian Republic were inspired by this idea of citizenship, but their only sin was their optimistic naiveté, taking it for granted that the principles that animated them were definitive and shared by all. They were convinced that the democratic principle of participatory equality was so inherent in democracy that it implicitly extended to its main mechanism: one person, one vote; every vote counts equally and is equally represented in the institutions.

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So, they wrote a Constitution imbued with proportional representation principles (see, for instance, the thresholds required for its reform), but did not think to set that out in writing. The erosion of the Constitution began precisely at the moment when – with the active consent of the left – we replaced the central role of participation and representation with the central role of governability and delegation, introducing a majoritarian logic thanks to which the (post-?)Fascist right wing of today is able to consider tampering with the Constitution (enhanced role for the prime minister, differentiated autonomy), thanks to their disproportionate majority guaranteed by electoral laws that may not go against the letter, but go against the very spirit of the Constitution.

Similarly, they dictated the “fundamental principles” in the glorious first 12 articles of Part I, as well as the duties and functions of the State, but they didn’t deem it necessary to equip them with “teeth,” as they say in America – that is, the tools to enforce the application of these principles, the fulfilment of these duties. For example, Article 9 (amended and enriched in 2022): “The Republic shall promote the development of culture and of scientific and technical research. It shall safeguard the natural beauties and the historical and artistic heritage of the Nation. It shall safeguard the environment, biodiversity and ecosystems, also in the interest of future generations.”

But what if the Republic doesn’t do that, or does exactly the opposite – how can we force it to do so, what tools do we have at our disposal? Or the unforgettable Article 3: “It is the duty of the Republic to remove economic and social obstacles which, by limiting the freedom and equality of citizens, prevent the full development of the natural person and the actual participation of all workers in the political, economic and social organization of the country.” But what if the Republic doesn’t do this, and Italy – one of the most unequal countries in the West – becomes more and more unequal: what can we do, who do we sue, to whom can we turn?

The truth is, we have an answer in none other than Article 1: “Sovereignty belongs to the people, who exercise it …” The point being: the Republic is not just the institutions, the government, the apparatus of the state; the Republic is the citizens, the state is us, we are sovereign and we have the task of exercising this sovereignty. Protecting the culture, the landscape, the environment, removing obstacles that prevent the equality of all human beings, repudiating war – this is, first of all, our task.

If the country is breaking down at the local level, if Italy is unequal, if we’re spending more on war than on schools, this is also because we, the citizens, have neglected the care for the local territory and weakened the struggle for equality and for an active politics of peace. Therefore, let us recall that remembering and marching on April 25, as we did in Milan almost 30 years ago at the invitation of Luigi Pintor (and coming back to do so again on May 1, on March 8, and so on), is not only an act of protest and struggle against those who are governing us and who don’t represent us, but it is, above all, a way of reminding ourselves of our responsibility: our task of exercising, on a daily basis, the sovereignty that the Resistance won for us.

Il manifesto has for decades been unaffiliated with any party or political doctrine, though such affiliations are common in Italy. However, we have kept the heading “quotidiano comunista” on our front page as an acknowledgment of our historical and cultural heritage. We oppose the plutocracy of old and new oligarchies, imperialism in all its forms and environmental destruction. We are against dogmas, but we are resolutely for peace, social solidarity and economic justice. We advocate inalienable human, civil and cultural rights in an age of globalization that too often runs roughshod over democracy.