As we cross the half-century mark, it’s an odd trick of time how the endless number of stories, small and big, that have gone on through the years, turns into History.
Thus, an ordinary anniversary can take on a special character, a symbolic importance, halfway between wondrous alchemy and concrete determination.
As time has gone by, the years I spent at il manifesto became more and more precious. And I realized that if time has taken its toll on us, those who made and are still making this newspaper, the newspaper did not age, because the paper has been able to continuously renew itself.
Now at 50, it has only a few wrinkles, it is fit, strong and tenacious. As combative as on the first day, on that April 28, 1971, which is now the start date of a journalistic history so long as to make il manifesto the longest lasting among the Italian national newspapers after La Stampa and Corriere della Sera.
Its interweaving ideals live in the hearts and minds of millions of people; a political history that matured in 1969 with the magazine of the same name and immediately afterwards with the birth of the extra-parliamentary group. A collective history, of a community of women, men, girls, boys and members of the old guard, who support each other in the unwavering conviction that a different world is possible.
Fifty years ago, no one would have ever imagined that the great battleship of the PCI would sink and the frail boat of il manifesto would survive. This probably happened because that branch, which cut itself off from the great tree, was already preparing for grafting, for fruitful cross-contamination with the overwhelming wave of 1968, coining a new, original form of politics with the invention of a daily newspaper.
It was a meeting of mutual, reciprocated love, which, in spite of everything, now celebrates half a century.
Getting this far has been a secular miracle: the existence of il manifesto has been marked by hard, difficult, even traumatic moments. Not just once, but on several occasions, we have been on the verge of ending our adventure for good.
Certainly, this came as a consequence of the crisis of the Italian—and global—left, unable to stay afloat and swim in the torrent of ideological, social, cultural, economic changes that have characterized the end of the 20th century and the first 20 years of the 21st; but also because of an even more concrete and radical threat: the fate of the newspaper has always depended on the “coffers.” Which have always held very little, when they were not completely empty. Over and over again, we have been on the verge of “final” bankruptcies.
But it was precisely in the darkest times that our survival instincts kicked in and got the upper hand, and this turned into such a determined obstinacy that we became our own owners, proprietors of the cooperative we formed, which puts out il manifesto every day, not for profit, but for other, much more satisfying and exciting goals.
The cooperative was one of the dreams of Luigi Pintor, our most beloved editor-in-chief. He hit as hard as few could in his 40-line editorials—piercing arrows for the hapless targets, and objects of pride responsible for our success during the newspaper’s most beautiful and exciting periods.
Luigi would certainly be happy to celebrate this little-expected birthday with us, and we with him.
As would be Rossana Rossanda, Lucio Magri and Valentino Parlato, the founding core of this special political project born to the left of the old PCI, after the expulsion of some and the departure of others, those who would become the “heretics” of il manifesto. It is impossible to think of il manifesto without Rossana, Lucio and Valentino, even if perhaps at the beginning they intended the newspaper more as a “house organ” of the group than as a newspaper independent from “party” ties.
I remember the difficult discussions that involved the editorial staff, often deeply dividing them. But the newspaper’s loyalty to its origins as an independent publication always prevailed. And this basic choice has endured—until it took concrete form as the current cooperative.
Among the people with whom we share the good fortune to be able to toast together today, Luciana Castellina—also one of the founders, and a passionate, indomitable, unparalleled witness—stood by us when the dark clouds of a premature end began to hover above the editorial staff and around the newspaper, with the crisis of 2012, more serious than the others, which led Rossana Rossanda and some younger people of our editorial staff—all of them important—to leave the newspaper.
If today il manifesto maintains some of the characteristics of its original identity, we owe it also to Luciana, who has remained with us.
I’m sure that others who are no longer here—sadly, there are many—would be happy to raise a glass as well. And I am equally convinced that the community of people who would be happy to physically join us and share in this moment is much larger than it might appear.
It is a community that has always walked alongside us, supporting us throughout our 50 years. Without these readers, without their “militancy” that is as intellectual as it is concrete, we would not have been able to overcome the specter of failure, which is always possible, always lurking.
We have asked for help countless times, and just as many times this help has come to us, in the form of lire first, and then of euros, as subscriptions. We’re once again asking you today to celebrate by donating a subscription to those you care about: you don’t need to do it right away, as we intend to extend the celebrations throughout the year.
Among our editorial staff, we have asked ourselves many times if we really deserved your enthusiasm, the extraordinary participation and your financial support. Yes, we deserved it, we told ourselves.
We do deserve it.
Because our newspaper is the result of a collective work that goes beyond the standard commitment to information: il manifesto is something more than just a newspaper. It is an idea, a school, a feeling, a collective and beating heart. Sometimes it’s self-denial: I’m thinking of this year of the pandemic, of the physical and mental fatigue of meeting at a distance, denying ourselves the regular exchanges in the corridors, the discussions, the moments of anger and the odd hug.
For over 10 years, I have felt pride and gratitude at the opportunity to guide, together with Tommaso Di Francesco, our group of the young and less young, every single comrade, doing every kind of task, who all live their political commitment with passion. After this year, my gratitude has become even greater. And also my pride.
Always at our side, our collaborators contribute with proposals, advice, suggestions, comments, articles for the daily newspaper or the supplements: Alias del sabato, Alias della domenica, Extraterrestre, Le monde diplomatique: they are another community that is generously making itself a part of our “project,” who write free articles on topics that are often impossible to find in other newspapers, giving shape to the story of “another” world, a different one, unknown, alien to the current journalistic mainstream.
We would be even more foolish than we’d be short-sighted if we didn’t take care to bring to the fore stories, situations, characters, places that we don’t find on TV or read about on social media, or in newspapers. Moreover, these are the same media that almost always ignore il manifesto and therefore lessen its visibility, preferring to grant exposure to those who already have it, because it is guaranteed by the big publishers or by links with some party. Some will talk about il manifesto only to remember its birthday, then they will resume their role as supplicants at the court of those whom they believe can better serve their interests.
Nevertheless, we’re here: for 50 years, in fact. A surprising fact, including for us. We couldn’t help but be affected by the drop in sales caused by the crisis of the print media, but fortunately less so than the larger newspapers, which we have seen desperately grasp for the relief of early retirements, drastically cutting the number of jobs.
As for the crisis of the left—a crisis that is now constant—it too could not fail to involve il manifesto. Without bringing it down, however.
It’s hard to explain this ability of our newspaper to react to the near-disappearance of the political and social components that animated the left for decades, and to justify its resistance to the drift of print media as new media has emerged.
It seems to me that this can perhaps be explained by the fact that il manifesto has been able, in spite of all adversities, to maintain a double role: as a good witness to the past and as a not-obvious interpreter of the present.
We resist the arrogance of capitalism, we bear witness to the ups and downs of neoliberalism, and we continue to be on the side of the least protected workers, convinced that there is no alternative to a welfare system that is not an afterthought but a central axis of the economy.
We believe in representative democracy, but we are passionate about the prospect of a participatory democracy, which begins in the neighborhood where we live and then extends outward. We intend to continue to give visibility to the have-nots of the earth, and we are passionate about those forms of politics that are committed to improving people’s lives, bringing new stores of ingenuity. We have been, and will be, attentive to the youth movements and their sensibility, in tune with the dramatic environmental problems of the planet.
In short, we still stubbornly believe in the possibility of contributing to a more equitable sharing of rights and well-being, and, of course, to a progressive elimination of warmongering barbarism.
We want to contribute to the possibility of living freely, in a civilized manner, with dignity—this is what being a “Communist daily newspaper” means for us, beyond the more traditional sense. It could not be any other way.
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