The last stand of an embattled minority has just ended. There was a fundraiser among the readers and supporters of il manifesto, the self-taxation of the new cooperative members, three auctions, two proposals for purchase and an application for funding to an ethical popular bank. These steps summarize how we acquired our newspaper. But behind each stage is the determination of a collective that has chosen this goal after the liquidation of the historic cooperative that for over 40 years had brought il manifesto to newsstands.
But there was nothing epic that winter three years ago. In addition to the bitterness over the failure of a political-journalistic experience, there was the firm decision not to stop the publications, to continue to move forward, keeping the doors of the newsroom open.
The Board of Directors had the task of collecting the funds necessary to purchase the newspaper, the domain and the archive. The subscription drive launched at the beginning of 2014 received a tremendous response from readers and supporters.
In a few months, readers donated over €476,000, deposited into an account at Banca Etica. Even the workers of the new cooperative did their part. We taxed ourselves. Salaries were reduced to the minimum total salary, but each full-time worker has voluntarily left in the coffers of il manifesto €300 each month for a total of €119,900. Then the renunciation of one bonus month, as well as the payment of the membership fee: €1,000 each, which is also a “heavy commitment” for those who suffered years of intermittent salary and layoffs. Finally, the funding request for the purchase of the newspaper to Banca Etica: a loan of €150,000 to be repaid in five years.
The final amount raised from reader donations, self-taxation of the members and the loan from Banca Etica amounted to €760,958.
Administrative compulsory liquidation is a procedure with regulations for competition: Respect for regulations has been the leitmotif of the liquidation commissioners. We presented to the Ministry of Economic Development often our intention to buy the newspaper, based on economic, political and editorial reasons.
Starting from the fact that leasing the newspaper to publish and sell on newsstands was burdensome. Every month there was an expense of €26,000, more than €300,000 per year. A significant figure, especially considering it could have been used to enhance the editorial products: the daily newspaper, the Saturday insert Alias and the Sunday insert, the website, the publication of the Italian edition of Le Monde Diplomatique and other initiatives that we have fielded anyway, by leveraging the work of all partners.
We met sensitive yet firm people. Officers, directors, surveillance committees who often wished that the story would end positively for us, however insisted that the process of liquidation was to be followed. The newspaper would be auctioned. And so it was.
There were three auctions. The first took place before the constitution of the new cooperative. We did not participate in that one. We only learned of the outcome. The proposals by other private companies were considered “inadmissible” by the liquidation commissioners.
Then a long period began, punctuated by a reassessment of the value of the newspaper, from the discussion on the management of the website (we had to move from manifesto.it to manifesto.info), the concerns over keeping the 40-year archives no longer accessible from the outside, to the news of the constraint placed on it by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, to requesting a clear road map on the sale of the newspaper.
In 2015 there were two other auctions. No bids were received.
We decided to invest in the legal department of il manifesto and two other attorneys experienced in bankruptcy proceedings and intellectual property to strengthen the relationship with the liquidation commissioners. A decision made after knowing the base amount of the first auction, launched on April 29, 2015: over €1,757,537 (plus VAT), a figure we could never afford. The law states that every auction renewal can contemplate a fall of 20 percent. But even the amount of the second auction, which took place on July 24, 2015, was not within our reach (€1,318,153 plus VAT). This did not, however, precluded the opportunity to put forward a purchase offer outside of the auction process.
The proposal was sent but it was deemed “not fair” by the commissioners. For its part, the Ministry of Economic Development reaffirmed the autonomy of the liquidators in choosing the best way to achieve the sale to the protection of creditors of the “former” manifesto, but stressed that our purchase request could not be ignored.
During the second half of 2015 and the first six months of 2016, the economic evaluations of the liquidation commissioners and ours were researched looking for a point in between.
In the end, the agreement was reached to pay €900,000 (plus VAT), payable in two installments. The first installment for €600,000, the second of €300,000 to be paid in 2017. In addition to the VAT (€198,000), payable at the time of the agreement.
Last month, we closed our three most difficult years with the signing of the sale before a notary.
The purchase of the newspaper is good news to announce to the readers, without whom we would not have been able to achieve this goal. Behind the figures of budgets and purchase proposals, there are men and women with passion, knowledge, intelligence and political experience: This is the “capital” of il manifesto.
So many people to thank. First, the attorneys who accompanied us on this path: lawyers Raimondo Becchis, Marina Belloni, Fulvio De Crescenzio and Andrea Fiore. There are other friends and comrades who stood next to us to help us keep alive a newspaper that stubbornly remains in the wrong. We can’t name them because the list is very long.
From today on, we are once again in control of our destiny. We are therefore a “recovered company.” We will focus on self-management, shared decision-making and everybody’s commitment.
We have a newspaper, we have the intelligence and ability to generate political information outside the ring of mainstream media. We are a newspaper, however, that operates in a world where the production and circulation of information gives the paper an ancillary role compared with other media. We’ll start from this principle, working at the same time in the construction of a new left befitting a world in flux.
And this is the challenge of the coming months and years. A challenge that we want to face to the best of our ability. Starting from being masters of “the communist daily.”
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