Less than three years ago, on July 15, 2016, we at the il manifesto cooperative bought back our newspaper: it was a historical and emotional moment, the culmination of a very tough battle, coming at the end of a long march by women and men who have always loved their work and fought to defend it.
It was an impressive achievement for us, which would not have been possible without the extraordinary level of support and success of our self-financing campaign. Back then, we thought we had succeeded in performing the miracle of becoming, once and for all, masters of our own history. We thought that we had secured our newspaper’s future, and the future of our posterity.
But we celebrated too soon, because our optimism, and our common project, had already earned us a place on the target list of the Five Star Movement.
The Movement doesn’t like the free press: it doesn’t like newspapers in general, because it was established and grew online. Now, after they have moved from the opposition into the government, the M5S wants to cut off our wings: they want to make it so that they—the government—decide who gets state funding for publishing and from whom to take it away. Like a killer, they want the right to decide who will live or die.
During the year-end press conference, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who has gone from a “people’s lawyer” (as he liked to call himself) to a supposedly skilled leader of the country’s government (as some particularly generous commentators have called him), responding to a specific question about il manifesto, which asked whether his government wanted to get rid of us in particular, asserted that nobody intended to hinder the free expression of the press.
He added that a solution would be found at the round table of the much-touted General Consultation on Publishing—to which we ended up not being invited, along with other newspapers, and which, if anything, is only serving to empower the anti-press idiosyncrasies that are part of the DNA of the supporters of the M5S, whether right-leaning or left-leaning. And Conte has failed to keep his promise.
There is, however, something standing in the way of their hatred and their distaste: namely, us.
As those who follow our work know, we have always been fighting during the 48 years of existence of our newspaper. And we will not stop fighting now, even if the clash is between some who fight with heavy artillery and some who fight armed only with pen and paper.
We will not shut down. We will break the wall that is meant to bury us, knocking it down brick by brick, as we have always done, with the help of our readers who have defended il manifesto, a leftist newspaper whose own DNA is quite different: democracy, freedom, human rights, workers’ rights, the fundamental values of Italian history.
Whoever aims to eliminate us should know that they will have to get past our readers first—who will now have at their disposal a collective game—found at iorompo.it—which is at the same time a very serious project: a brand new online outpost, our foxhole from which we will strike and tear down the wall being built by the government, with a crowdfunding campaign that aims at bringing a benefit to all.
We are counting on the overwhelming force that good causes are sometimes able to unleash, and we march on towards a tough battle, as the “game” will be the online beating heart that will measure the vitality of our new journalistic adventure.
Of course, our invitation and our hope is aimed at inspiring an active and broad participation by everyone: whether you can only give 3 euros or 3,000, just click on iorompo.it and knock down a brick or two. Then again, our concept, our general idea is a simple one: what the M5S are taking away with their funding cuts, we must replace with subscriptions, to build a bridge made of paper, subscriptions, solidarity and participation.
The goal is to set off an avalanche of support to get to €1,200,000 in one year.
Every time we launch a campaign for public support, we wonder if we’ll actually succeed. Even though we don’t have any major publisher behind us, who are willing to spend enormous amounts of money trying to “reinvent” themselves, past experience tells us that yes, we can.
But at least half the power is exclusively in your hands: you who are our readers, and even you who don’t read us, but are convinced that shutting down a democratic voice would be a serious danger for our democracy.
That would be the case especially if a newspaper like il manifesto were to disappear from the newsstands, a left-wing daily dealing with both history and current affairs, at a time of maximum crisis for the left. It would be a blow against the pluralism of ideas, against the very existence of information that is different, independent, free, unpredictable and unwilling to conform.
We cannot stop the crisis of printed media, which is probably irreversible, as the numbers seem to show. However, we can try to contain it by fighting our own battle for freedom, with a campaign that will go on until we have managed to tear down the obstacles that this government, illiberal and xenophobic, is putting up against us.
Of course, L’Avvenire, Radio Radicale and other small media outlets are also in the crosshairs of the Palazzo Chigi. But we are the only left-wing daily which has been made into a target.
“Some build walls, some tear them down. We tear them down”—this is the slogan with which we are setting off on this mission. To tear down the wall means to subscribe, and to subscribe means to tear it down. In our case, with no more funding for publishing, subscriptions will become the core on which our project rests. We want to continue to build up high-quality journalism that is shared and accessible to everyone, because that is a common good, and because an independent newspaper is as necessary nowadays as the air we breathe.
There are many walls, in Italy and around the world—and each of us, each of you, has one that we would like to tear down. But the one that is perhaps the most dangerous, and difficult to bring down, is the wall of ignorance, as the current election campaign is amply demonstrating, reaching new depths every single day.
At the upcoming elections, the voters will look at what the left has to offer: it won’t be an easy choice, and many concrete needs, as well as many hopes, will influence their vote.
But of all the various political orientations, forces, and parties to which they will look, there is one cause that we can all share: that of our newspaper. In the confused and divided world of today, it can stand for the ideas, the journeys, and the victories we share.