The other Saturday I found myself in Piazza Sempione in Rome, where the Montesacro district starts off, for an open-air assembly organized by the Municipio III, something I wish was happening everywhere. Sitting on a platform instead of standing on a stage: this was the only difference from what we used to call a rally, something that is no longer taking place.
But my jolt of nostalgia was not only for that: right in that square, before the birth of this newspaper, was the location of the first “Manifesto circle,” created by the local “builders’ collective,” who, together with many others with no ties to construction—and certainly thanks to the prestige of Aldo Natoli in the Roman branch of the PCI—immediately became readers of the newly published journal by that name.
This structure—a circle—influenced the name of all the similar organizations that soon sprouted up all around Italy, called “Centri d’iniziativa comunista del Manifesto” (“Manifesto Communist initiative centers”). We ourselves were surprised by this spontaneous proliferation, which made us have to travel around Italy for a long time to find out who were these people who had so enthusiastically decided to take on the Manifesto name.
I don’t know what I said on that stage on Saturday. I only know that I was distracted, with my eyes, and my heart, pinned to the windows of that historic place. Because memories of our history had overcome me, and emotion with them.
The newspaper was not born in the same casual way, I mean without a real decision. I remember that when we found ourselves with so many circles that had grown like mushrooms and we understood that they had become, like it or not, part of our own enterprise, Luigi shook his head and kept saying in a self-deprecating tone: “Heaven knows that we had no desire at all to form a party!”
We were carried away into it, also because we immediately felt how terrible it was that we thought we were just going to write and the young people would have to limit themselves to reading us and nothing more.
Rather, the newspaper was fully intentional and began with a reasoned and collective decision. In the editorial of issue 12/1970 of the magazine, unsigned but written by him, Luigi Pintor—designated director because, as Berlinguer recognized years later, he was the best journalist in Italy—explained the reasons for it.
“The social body,” Pintor wrote, “is infinitely richer in energy than the political avant-garde can express. But to use this energy seriously, it must produce a mobilization and a manner of instrumentalization that is adequate to the task. The monthly Manifesto was a choice of a battlefield and a vehicle for ideas. A daily Manifesto is the natural and almost obligatory response to a phase of growth.”
Many people know how things developed, because they were protagonists of that story; this is much less true for the current readers, for obvious reasons of age. If I have returned to talk about the circumstances of its birth now, it is not only due to the remembrance at Montesacro, but it is because I am restless, as are almost all of us, after all.
Restless in the sense that I am aware of the dramatic nature of all the epoch-making problems we are facing and of the extreme inadequacy of our forces; but at the same time I feel, as we said back then—and I still see this every day—that today, even more than before, “the social movement is much richer in energy than the political avant-garde can express.”
Thus, I feel that we have a great responsibility to address this inadequacy. Which also affects il manifesto, a name that includes not only those who make the newspaper, but those of us who are only readers, or often, like me, readers and close collaborators.
In the course of these 50 years that we are celebrating today, there have been many discussions, some acrimonious, on the political role of the newspaper: as I mentioned earlier, the newspaper was born to respond to a need of the movement; which then became a party, from which the paper separated in 1978, an event that left heavy wounds—which did not, however, prevent those who found themselves committed to one side or the other from finding themselves in common ventures later on.
The most important of these initiatives was certainly the second “Rivista del Manifesto” magazine, published between 1999 and 2004. Lucio Magri was its director, and it featured not only all the editors of the first magazine, but also those who, despite being an important part of the PCI world from which the Manifesto was born, didn’t want to cross the line of allowed dissent back in 1969: Ingrao, first of all.
Not to mention the friendship that has continued to bind us. I don’t know if everyone has understood how emotionally painful it was for Rossana to accompany Lucio until the last moment of his life, and why it was her that he asked to help him enact his choice to die.
In the proceedings of the most difficult moment in our history—the congress of the PDUP in Viareggio in November 1978—I find a statement by Valentino and myself in which we said, “Knowing and loving each other is not a psychological matter, but an exquisitely political one.”
I have not written all these things in order to reopen the debate we had back then: the context in which it took place is so different from the current one that it would not make sense. However, I wanted to recall that problem, because it is still a problem that belongs to il manifesto, which, as we all know, is not only a newspaper, but something much more.
Particularly today, since it is the only left-wing newspaper that has survived, and the one which has carried the bylines of everyone in our shattered part of the spectrum. Which, of course, is not a party, nor can it be its task to create one.
However, I would like us to agree, on this anniversary, that we should not consider it only as an instrument of communication, but as a point of reference for an effort to build a political line, a project.
I mean we should commit ourselves not only to expressing our own point of view, but also to studying how to give it life in a collective manner in order to lead to similar action, at the very least. And first of all, to contribute to making il manifesto not only a place of dialogue, but also of orientation.