History is once again becoming a casualty on the battlefield, with the ruins of the Donbass and Putin’s aggression against Ukraine in the background. Yesterday was June 2, Republic Day, a celebration marking the 1946 referendum which established the Italian Republic. And after two pandemic years in which the military parade was rightly suspended – as we were engaged in a quite different battle – this year the military parade returned.
Honestly, that was not something anybody needed.
Not only because of the vocation of our country for peace, long echoed in the words of former President Pertini – “close the arsenals, open the granaries” – but because of the profound disaster that surrounds us that demands quite other urgent priorities. Beginning with the material condition of society, as in our country inequalities are visibly increasing, with poverty, starvation wages, the lowest in Europe (but go tell that to Bankitalia), where in the “Republic founded on work” there is no work and precarious work is rampant, undermined with non-precarious work by the lack of safety in workplaces that fuels the massacre of the workers and the environment that is before our eyes; a country where young people no longer seek either work or education. Not to mention the disaster in public health care, everyone’s health care, which is starting the privatization of key health care departments in the absence of means and funds.
Still, we might say that what is sustaining the fertile soil of social life, the struggle for an accomplished democracy, the struggle of the powerless and disenfranchised along with the human relationships between generations in Italy, is the substance of a Constitution that still stands for equality, work, rights and peace, repudiating war – right?
But we’d be deluded to think that way. We’d be deluded to think that June 2 is not only the anniversary of a fundamental date in Italian history, the choice between republic and monarchy, but of the strong legacy of the Resistance against Nazi-Fascism that gave birth to the Constitution; and that above all, it was intended that the war that had just ended, with the rubble still visible and the veterans returning for the battlefield, should be the last one: this was the real reason for the defeat of the monarchy option, which divided a country that was aware of the monarchy’s serious historical responsibilities and connivance with Fascism. In short, that the atrocities to which an entire people had fallen victim should never be repeated.
That is why the Constitution, born out of war, out of a war of liberation that was won, declares that it repudiates war not only “as an instrument of aggression against the freedom of other peoples,” but also “as a means of settling international disputes.” An aspiration so ingrained that our framers wrote it indelibly into Article 11 – whose sub-article provides for a reduction of sovereignty to arrive at peace solutions, but never authorizes any war.
But we’d be deluded to think that way, because on Wednesday, an op-ed by Antonio Polito in Corriere della Sera (which Pintor called the “Czar’s Courier,” to highlight how close it is to power) tells it like it really is.
As he argues, the real “material Constitution” actually has as its founding date Italy’s choice to join NATO in 1949, passing, of course, through the defeat of the Left Front in April 1948 and the breakup of the collaboration of the anti-fascist forces, who were expelled from government “all the way to Berlinguer” (one might note his constant overuse of the figure of Berlinguer). Polito writes: “A material Constitution that bound the Republic and accompanied the literal Constitution that resulted from the 1946 referendum … This is Italy’s identity card in the world, and its passport. Without it, we would count much less, in a global scene where we would otherwise be potted plants.”
Good. Finally, it’s out in the open. Now we know why, in the face of the social disaster of Italy, we have decided on a rearmament that immediately allocates 33 billion euros, but aims to go up to 40 billion, to fill our arsenals again with more and more sophisticated and deadly weapons; and why we can’t figure out what has happened to our democracy in our own Parliament; now we know why we have about fifty atomic bombs on our territory; and why we are making our territory available every day – military servitude on a grand scale – for NATO bases, new control systems and operations. We now know why we don’t have a foreign policy, and the European Union doesn’t either, but has delegated it to the Atlantic Alliance; and why we have participated in that dangerous “saber rattling” towards the East called NATO enlargement, against which even many U.S. security analysts had issued warnings; and now we also have an awareness of why, among the subordinate retinue of the Atlantic Alliance – much better than “potted plants,” to be sure – we have entered into appalling wars: Somalia, former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, in which thousands of horrors, massacres and crimes have been committed by us Westerners, and have gone unpunished.
Now we know why. There is the “material Constitution,” the one that really matters, because of course the other one, the text of the Republican Constitution that “repudiates war,” is nothing but a “literal” show piece.
That’s why on Republic Day, the show must go on, amid the parade of tanks, jets and paratroopers, amid military ranks, goose-stepping and the blowing of trumpets.
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