Interview. We spoke with Adelmo Cervi, son of Italian Partisans, about the regional elections taking place today in Emilia Romagna. ‘Ideals no longer exist and the Lega speaks to people’s gut instincts.’

If the left loses Emilia Romagna to the Lega, ‘it would be a disaster’

“My home is the left, for good and for ill, even if I get angry sometimes. And when it doesn’t do well, I think what is needed is to try harder. I’ll never retire. And I’ve never been one to cry if someone uses me and then doesn’t pay any attention to me anymore.” 

Adelmo Cervi is, as always, in the middle of the fray. Seventy-six years old, he is the son of Aldo, the third oldest of the seven Cervi brothers, partisan fighters shot by the fascists in Reggio Emilia on Dec. 28, 1943. Adelmo was 4 months old at the time. He told the story of Aldo and the whole family in his book Io che conosce il tuo cuore (Piemme). That’s a story for another time, though—or maybe not. 

Because Adelmo is a fighter. He spends his days with young people, telling stories about the Resistance, and with grown-ups, trying to mend the tears in the fabric of the left. It’s been the same for these regional elections: “Whenever there are elections, I always get involved for the left. This time even more than before. With the danger of the Lega winning, we have to be constructive. I’m not saying we should hold our noses when we vote, but we can’t remain scattered and give a helping hand to the right.”

What would it mean if the Lega was in charge of Emilia Romagna? 

We have already seen what they do with social services, with migrants — it would be a disaster. They’re relying on the support of Casapound, Forza Nuova, the neo-fascist groups. If they break through in Emilia, nobody will be able to stop them anymore — we’re the last bulwark.

Why might the Lega win in this region, considered a model of left-wing administration?

Because ideals no longer exist and the Lega speaks to people’s gut instincts. But here, the left has been arrogant. Let me give you an example: they’re using the investigation on Bibbiano for propaganda. But leaving the facts of the matter aside, I have a foster daughter and I know what it’s like to have to deal with bureaucrats: fights, humiliations. There’s a way of running the administration that drives people away. A lot of people won’t go to vote nowadays, and these are exactly the ones who need a helping hand the most.

There are other candidates to the left of Bonaccini: they might end up drawing the decisive votes that will determine who wins and who loses. 

I’ll fight to the very end to keep the Lega from getting into power. If the worst happens, I’ll still fight to make it clear that the fault doesn’t lie with the left, which hasn’t been voting for the PD for a long time. However, I’m making an appeal: yes, let’s try to get some people from the radical left in the regional council, but there’s only one candidate [for regional president] who can beat the Lega’s candidate, and that’s Bonaccini. So we have to split our vote, and vote for him anyway.

Liberazione and the Cervi brothers have joined the campaign. The Lega are seeing Jan. 26 as a kind of rematch for April 25 (Liberation Day) in Emilia Romagna. 

Whoever says such things is a coward and ignorant of history. They’re not going to tell us how it was. April 25 is not “world communism day,” but the symbol of liberation from Nazi-Fascism. It was the revolt of a part of the Italian people — only a part, unfortunately — against the dictatorship and for the freedom of Italy. And someone who was saying until just yesterday that Italy is crap and Padania should go it alone shouldn’t be talking about Italy at all.

You went to Piazza Bologna with the sardines. What do you think about them?

I’ll always be on the side of these guys. It’s an important movement that is saying no to racism and the Lega, that is saying who Salvini actually is: a wage thief who didn’t go to the European Parliament but still got paid, and who was going around Italy for his own interests all the time he was a minister. To those who are criticizing the sardines because they don’t have a radical platform, I’ll say this: we’ve been making political platforms for 50 years and we’ve only managed to become a laughing stock. And we’re always divided. I’m fighting, but then again I’m always among my companions. But sometimes we have to listen to both the heart and the brain. The heart says we have to do all we can for the left, but the brain says we should stick with Bonaccini, because otherwise we’re in deep shit.

Is the history of your family, which you wrote a book about, something to be passed on to those who don’t already know it? 

I didn’t write the book, Giovanni Zucca wrote it for me. After fifth grade, I went to work in the fields. Between the ‘50s and ‘60s, no one in the Cervi family was able to study. I’m not complaining, I count myself lucky compared to someone who didn’t have a family of heroes but still paid the price. For the past five years, I have been taking this book with me to schools and out among people, even in the most distant places. They find me on Facebook. When they invite me somewhere, I tell them: read it first, then we can talk about it. My father was a political leader of the Resistance in Reggio since the ‘30s. He was a Catholic, but he became a revolutionary, a communist—to help those in need, not for Stalin. If he were here today, he’d say: we have conquered democracy and we don’t know how to use it, we have conquered rights and now we’re consuming them. But before we fight it out with others, we need to admit to ourselves that we’ve delegated too much to other people. We have to participate.

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