Thursday, May 13, 2004

Which 25th of April (by Stefano Folli, translated by Steve)

With June 2nd, the Nexus of Our National Identity (#53)

Published originally in the Corriere Della Sera, April 25, 2004, page 1

Fifty-nine years later, there are still a thousand ways to remember the 25th of April, 1945: as many ways as there were ideals, hopes, and aspirations in those years.

The best way to remember it would be for each of us to look back on our own personal memories of that day. They are personal precisely because they belong to a person, a group and a culture and therefore they can never truly be shared. And such personal memories would never be replaced by anything common unless it were actually embraced by every Italian. Basically, there are as many memories as there are personal experiences of April 25th according to who celebrates it, who judges it, and who inherits it whether they are Catholic, Communist, Socialist, or stock-holders [owner-class]. And why not include anti-fascists and even those who are simply neutral: the “grey zone” described by Renzo Di Felice, whose new studies would be a mistake to underestimate.

Although it’s possible to ignore April 25th or even cancel it entirely, it would be a mistake. Now that even the political successors of Salò condemn fascism and recognize the values of a democratic republic, how can one remain agnostic or indifferent? Usually the agnostic wants to emphasize how useful April 25th has been to the Left in the past. But removing one’s self and minimizing it sixty years after the fact is not a valid, long-term strategy for at least three reasons.

The first is that there is no other story, no other democratic myth besides that of April 25th. In France, the Gaullist Right is distinct from that of Pétain and each has managed to institutionalize the values of Liberation. They have prevented the Left from appropriating these values for their own exclusive use. In fact, even in Italy, there was in a Resistance that was non-Communist, even anti-Communist, a Resistance not just for business owners, but also for various liberal groups and even Monarchists. Some of these individuals would have merited much more attention since the war instead of the political oblivion into which they have fallen.

That part of Italy which does not celebrate the 25th of April or just doesn’t feel it as an inheritance, aught to ask itself why these figures have not been celebrated. And at least they should fight to revive their memory for the benefit of young people. One name for everyone: Raffaele Cadorna, commandant of the Corpo Volontari della Libertá. If the memory of April 25th is different for everyone, but the date belongs to everyone, they should insist on taking back the values of liberty and independence as a proud inheritance of the entire nation, as it was for the Risorgimento. It’s strange that instead they prefer to leave the field.

The second reason is with regard to the national identity. It is difficult to deny that the 25th of April has contributed to the rebirth of Italy. In any case, it’s better to link the day of Liberation to the day of the Republic. The 25th of April 1945 and the 2nd of June 1946 together make up the name – the identity – that completely encapsulates and describes the democratic construction [of the 2nd Republic] and is a testimony to the complex, not to mention fortunate, equilibrium of both domestic and international factors. Perhaps one day the Republic will realize some of those lofty ideals. At the moment, however, we can’t even imagine that day, perhaps because of the inability of our political leaders to define more precisely what this period was all about.

The third reason pertains to the present. Those who argue that the 25th of April should be used to support the Iraqi “resistance” and to condemn the US are right. But those who instead remember the weight of the Anglo-American force in the liberation of Italy are even more right. But both of these are reasons to reinforce the meaning of the 25th of April, to be involved, to be strong and to recall our own memories of that day.

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