In life, there is a time for everything – and now, after almost 14 years, my tenure as editor-in-chief of il manifesto has come to an end. I am stepping down with a light heart, having recognized that leading a daily newspaper is a task that requires fresher energy. This is why over the last months I have told the editorial staff of my intention to pass on the primary responsibility for the newspaper to others.
The victory of the center-right in the September 25 elections had heavy consequences in the pro-democratic part of the political spectrum. Such a defeat concerns us intimately. Not because the worst right-wing we’ve ever had is now in government, but because of the failure to build a concrete and lasting alternative that would be able to compete with it.
Democratic and left-wing forces are not in good shape – as we also saw in the last local elections – and we at il manifesto, who are part of this left, are also laboring under the pains of the inadequacy of our camp.
The left must rediscover its people, its empathy for the weakest, for those who depend on a living wage, and it must come to terms with a much-changed new lexicon of social and civil rights: “gender equality” and “environmental justice,” for example, represent two macro-coordinates that are reshaping the rights-based civilization of today and the horizon of necessary change. Luckily, this change has been given concrete form by the entry on the world stage of new global generations, determined to continue the battle for freedom and justice, because, as Valentino Parlato used to say, “we started in 1789 and we aren’t finished yet.”
During my long tenure at the head of the newspaper, the longest in our 50-year history, the world has changed, and we have changed as well. The terrible, painful and endless tragedy of millions of migrants involves us and concerns us deeply. Nationalisms and sovereignisms have exploded, affecting both Europe and the U.S. with Trump in the White House.
In Italy, we have witnessed the gradual involution of the PD, from Bersani to Renzi, and the flight of voters, including from leftist forces, until the remarkable and positive turnaround with the leadership of a young woman, Elly Schlein.
We observed first the electoral triumph of the Five Star Movement and then the drying up of their support, followed by the electoral hemorrhage of the Lega to the benefit of Fratelli d’Italia. The tragic Covid pandemic has wrought havoc all over the world, with millions of deaths and the daily existence of each of us disrupted.
There wasn’t even time to catch our breath after the ravages of the virus – a result of man’s violence against nature – and we had to face the brutal, neocolonial violence of the criminal invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s regular and mercenary troops. A bloodbath that forced Europe and the U.S. to support, including with arms, the resistance of a people fighting for their fundamental right to hope for a future in a peaceful Europe.
In 14 years, we have had two popes, polar opposites of each other, with Francis giving the church a new social and pacifist mission.
On every political, social, cultural, and economic development, we have tried to offer as complete an interpretation and reading as possible, beyond the narrow current happenings, with our own point of view, even if we sometimes stand alone – and this is what we would like to continue to build every day through these pages.
We are a political collective and we are a cooperative. As everyone knows, there is a deep crisis in the publishing industry, and newsstands are particularly suffering, with newspapers trudging along. But our subscriptions, both print and digital, have topped up the overall sales to a good level and will continue to do so, with the readers supporting us because they still recognize that we have a voice outside of the media chorus and circus.
Without that support, I would not be writing this article today, and our editorial staff would not be able to continue doing their work.
Usually, when one steps down from a role of direct responsibility, it is customary to draw conclusions about the bottom line of their tenure. For myself, I leave that to you, the readers, to the one who will take my place, and to the whole editorial staff. Still, I can say that these were very intense and passionate years, both tough and easy, sad and exciting. The most dramatic moment was when there was a split among the editorial staff, after which I was appointed as editor-in-chief, with a significant part of the founders leaving the paper, first of all Rossana Rossanda.
Back then, being on the side that “won out” did not give me any joy, because I knew that I would lose real friendships, deep relationships that went beyond work, daily interactions with dozens of years of common history behind them. No longer seeing Valentino every day, and other comrades and friends, was very painful for me – and, I am sure, for others as well.
I always thought that we, the younger people, owed a lot to them, the mothers and fathers of a political project that has no equal in Italian history. Because il manifesto is still here, after more than 50 years. They were unwilling to recognize the importance of what some of us were advocating for: the need to save the newspaper as it was, to ensure its daily presence on the newsstands, without turning it into a publication intended only for intellectual reflection.
Becoming editor-in-chief and leading il manifesto was a source of pride for me: I knew that we were saving the newspaper and protecting numerous jobs. I knew that we were the custodians of a history that still lives on as one of the voices of the Italian left, credible and with its own editorial space. But I still feel within myself a sense of a loss that cannot be erased, an open wound – allayed over time, to a degree, by some of the old figures coming closer once again, such as Rossanda and Parlato, who returned to write in these pages.
If I have one regret, it is not being able to convince everyone that the future of the newspaper was in our hands. This goal was fully achieved when we founded the New Cooperative, which I am handing off in a healthy state and with an easy conscience: the fate of il manifesto now truly belongs to us, and to those who read and support us.
During my leadership, I have tried to be simply as I am: almost or entirely non-ideological, allergic to those who want to “dress up the world,” faithful to a number of moral imperatives, sustained by sincere curiosity.
I tried to bring what I had learned from Luigi Pintor, a master for so many of us, into the daily work of putting the newspaper together, and in the design of the front pages, which, thanks to the creativity of il manifesto‘s leadership team, have led the way in printed media (and beyond). Our in-depth weekly supplements are just as appreciated and widely read, including the latest addition, the environmental supplement Extraterrestre (“Extraterrestrial”), the fourth offshoot after the Saturday and Sunday Alias and the international politics periodical Le Monde Diplomatique.
There is one aspect of Pintor’s teachings that has weighed even more than the others over time: the autonomy of the daily newspaper, conceived as an original form of politics.
It is true that il manifesto was born as a means of communication of a particular political group, and in a certain phase was an expression of that organization. But being a party newspaper was a limitation that had (and always has) to be overcome, because il manifesto has always had the ambition of becoming a voice of the plural left and thus of the broader pro-democratic area. It is no coincidence that today it also feels the effects of the predicament of its political area, together with the dramatic crisis in publishing.
However, that doesn’t mean it should ever lose its identity as an open, reflective, critical, non-partisan, non-minority newspaper. If it were to one day tie itself to a single political entity, or abandon its mission to work for the unity of our world, it would destroy its own DNA.
In the end, to get a true appreciation for this newspaper, which, despite political divisions and economic difficulties, has never been missing from the newsstands for even a day in more than half a century, it is enough for us to ask ourselves a simple question, the same that our late friend Alberto Asor Rosa asked himself and all of us: “What would the world have been like if there had been no il manifesto? And, more importantly: what would the world be like now if there were no il manifesto? The answer, in both cases, is: worse, much worse … and I’m not just talking about the historical il manifesto, that of the “Old Greats,” the likes of Pintor, Rossanda, Parlato, Castellina, Magri. I’m also talking about all those who accompanied and followed them over these long years, and all those who still do and make it possible for us to read it and reflect every day.”
Above the masthead, we have always had the words: “a communist newspaper.” It is a reminder of a tradition, a past, a cultural matrix and a class, which this group has never wanted to forget, least of all disown.
However, in the original experience, the Marxist experience, before there was communism there was critique: the critique of capitalist society, the critique of ideology, the critique of bourgeois forms of government.
Since communism itself is not on the agenda, the manifesto has gone back to its roots, rediscovered the critique of ideology and tirelessly practiced the critique of power. If it were up to me alone, I would add “a newspaper of critical thought” under the masthead. Especially at a historical stage when standardization, subservience and servility are dominant in all fields. il manifesto, with its analyses and interpretations, warns us that neither a recovery nor a future project can be possible without a good, honest, effective, radical critique of what is.
This is where we start from, not from beating dead horses. I would add that there is no such thing as (true) freedom of the press without genuine critical thinking; and there is no critical thinking without the freedom of the press. This is the first nexus to be defended and protected – at all costs. Not least because we are performing a “public service” role in concrete terms. It is not by chance that we’ve decided to make our Historical Archives available to all.
For all of this, I would like to thank co-editor Tommaso Di Francesco, who, with great commitment and passion, joined me in the delicate, complicated and fascinating task of managing the newspaper.
And I would like to thank the entire editorial staff, which has worked, and is working, to build up the front pages with unique creativity and imagination – a collective that believes in the importance of our newspaper, without getting in return the financial compensation and recognition it truly deserves. A thank you to the technical department, to the administrative personnel who work hard every day to get il manifesto to the newsstands. And a “Godspeed” to the website team led by Matteo Bartocci, who are building the digital platform every day, growing our community and ensuring the future of the newspaper with a solid online presence in all its forms.
A special thanks to Luciana Castellina for supporting our project, as a founder of this grand adventure, and for stimulating us to move forward: she is unique, precious, irreplaceable. And I want to thank the contributors, whose reflections have brought a continuous intellectual, political and critical contribution, not only to us but to the entire left.
And I especially want to thank you, readers, comrades, who help us move forward, who always support us in difficult times, who contribute financially to keep the voice of il manifesto alive. It is not a mere figure of speech to say that without your support, the newspaper would have been finished long ago.
Finally, I pledge my loyal support and I wish all the best to the one who will take my place, taking up a responsibility that carries a heavy weight. I just have one piece of advice/request: il manifesto should be handled with care, commitment, patience, dedication and, first and foremost, respect for an incomparable history.