Commentary. ‘Italy built and accomplished things during its 100 years of having colonies in Africa [because] we have a civilizing culture,’ says Deputy Foreign Minister Edmondo Cirielli.

The Mattei Plan and the eternal myth of Italians as good people

On Friday, as he was talking about the role to be played by Melonian Italy in the “four corners of the Earth,” Deputy Foreign Minister Edmondo Cirielli, speaking at a meeting of Fratelli d’Italia’s youth party, dug up a great classic in the falsification of Italian history: “Both in the pre-fascist period and during fascism, Italy built and accomplished things during its 100 years of having colonies in Africa,” because “we have a civilizing culture.”

This absurd claim by the deputy minister is not only an attempt to whitewash the colonial and imperialist policies of both the liberal state and the Fascist regime (something already serious in and of itself), but aims, through the propagandistic exploitation of the past, to legitimize the government’s choices in the present.

The present is represented by the so-called “Mattei Plan,” propagandized by the current post-fascist government since it took office, and built on three major erasures from both Italian history and the personal history of the founder of ENI. The first such erasure concerns a symbolic photograph that is dear to the whole of pro-democratic Italy.

It is May 6, 1945, in liberated Milan, and the partisan groups that defeated the Nazi-Fascists are marching on parade, with the commanders of the Corpo Volontari della Libertà at the head of the procession: Mario Argenton, Luigi Longo, Ferruccio Parri, Raffaele Cadorna, Giovan Battista Stucchi and none other than Enrico Mattei.

This shows clearly that the first step of the human, political and institutional story of the then-exponent of the Catholic Resistance and future president of ENI came from the historical root of antifascism.

Antifascism is that foundation of the Republic which Prime Minister Meloni and her party don’t recognize as such to this day – while, on the other hand, their political “father” Giorgio Almirante did acknowledge it, and in the most concrete manner too: during the days of Liberation, he escaped, disguised as a partisan, through the back door of the Milan Prefecture, together with the representatives of the fascist Salò Republic – in sharp contrast to Mattei.

The second erasure concerns the legacy of Fascism in terms of the war crimes committed in Africa in the course of our “civilizing mission,” which, even though it was deserving of a Nuremberg trial along the lines of the one against the Nazis, was fraudulently recast at the end of World War II in terms of the false self-justifying myth that “Italians are good people.”

This myth is evidently still dear to Cirielli, who, “without going off on tangents,” was keen to sing a paean to its glories: “The Italian has always been a person who respects his neighbor. We are not, by nature, people who go to plunder and steal from our neighbor.”

It must have been because of this innate goodness of spirit of ours that the Fascist air force, in its quest for “our place in the sun” desired by Mussolini, in the “Battle of Scirè” in February-March 1936 alone, dropped more than 200 tons of explosives, mustard gas bombs and asphyxiating gases (forbidden by international law) against the civilian population. It took until 1996, and it was only thanks to the historical studies of Angelo Del Boca (who was punished with media-wide lynching by our well-known “liberals” and “maestros of journalism”), that these events were officially admitted by the Italian state.

They were systematic war crimes, confirmed by now by a vast trove of documents illustrating the campaign of occupation of Addis Ababa and the massacres of hundreds of thousands of Ethiopian civilians and partisans, along with the massacres ordered by Rodolfo Graziani, Fascist official and viceroy of Ethiopia, war criminal and minister of the Armed Forces of the collaborationist army of the Salò Republic – to whom, nonetheless, a mausoleum was dedicated in 2012 in the town of Affile, built by the Lazio Region, led back then by Renata Polverini.

That monument was probably also intended to celebrate “our ancient culture,” which, according to FdI Deputy Minister Cirielli, “does not make us a people of pirates who go around plundering the world.” That same “culture” must have prompted Graziani to order a mass extermination on February 19, 1937 (with 14,294 rebels killed and executed and 50,000 houses burned) after an attack against him carried out by the Ethiopian Resistance, culminating in the massacre of the Coptic monks of Debrà Libanòs.

And the third erasure of memory that underlies Meloni’s “Mattei Plan” is the actual Mattei Plan, conceived and advocated for by the ENI chairman until his assassination. It was a political, economic and diplomatic effort, entirely directed towards the goal of Italy achieving strategic energy autonomy. This orientation put Mattei in conflict, and on a direct collision course, not only with the interests of the Anglo-American oil companies dubbed the “Seven Sisters,” but also with the system of international relations of which Italy was, and still is, a part: the Atlantic Alliance.

This element represents the most evident and uncomfortable erasure of Mattei’s true legacy – and thus is swept under the rug the most. That legacy is hardly in tune with the ultra-Atlanticist posture of the post-fascist government that is usurping his name.

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