Commentary. April 25 comes amid the darkness of Russia’s war in Ukraine. On the matter of sending weapons, one can legitimately hold different views, and in fact the left in Italy is divided on this issue.

To celebrate Liberation Day is to condemn war as an irreparable evil

In the war of words between the different organizations that took part in the April 25 demonstrations, it would be preferable that the marches take place under one banner, above all others: the multicolored flag of Peace. Because that was the true value, and the true goal, of those who fought the “war of liberation”: the end of the war. The end of all wars. The condemnation of war itself as an irreparable evil. And the quest for peace, as a principle of civilization opposed to the barbarity of every ideology of death.

Fascism was (and still is, as their own insignia shows) the epitome of these ideologies of death. That’s why I believe there would be no worse way to celebrate April 25 (and betray the essence of its spirit) than to ride the wave of the fury – stoked up again and again and virulent beyond all limits – that has risen up against the main Italian association of partisans, ANPI. The attacks are often on a vulgar level (for example, the suggestion that its acronym means “National Association of Italian Putin-lovers”), and at other times malicious, contrasting positions held by some old partisans with others, and falsifying the ANPI’s positions, as if they had expressed some sort of equidistance between aggressors and victims, something that does not emerge from any official position of the association – quite the opposite.

On February 24, the National Secretariat of the ANPI had issued a statement in which it strongly condemned the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation: “It is an act of war that denies the principle of self-determination of peoples, precipitates Europe towards the brink of a global conflict, imposes an imperial logic that is opposed to that of the new multipolar world, brings sorrow and devastation,” it said, in terms that cannot lend themselves to any misunderstanding.

In the same communiqué, they added the hope that “no further military escalation should take place as a reaction to the invasion, that a diplomatic channel should be reopened to work for an immediate ceasefire, and that Italy should stay out of any war operation in full respect of Art. 11 of the Constitution” – and it was this “nuance,” together with their refusal to adhere to the urgency-filled campaign to “send weapons” to Ukraine, which set off the haters.

On the matter of sending weapons “to the Ukrainian people,” one can legitimately hold different views, and in fact the “people of the left” in Italy are divided on this issue. This is a part of the “mortal dilemmas” that each of us is caught in when faced with this accursed war, torn between fear and powerlessness, indignation and frustration, solidarity and responsibility. But something we cannot legitimately do is dismiss the arguments of those who remain opposed to that “military” option, or at least troubled by it – and dismiss them as “friends of the enemy.”

Those arguments have weight, and they certainly cannot be accused of mere ideological prejudice or equivocation – and they are worth considering in their full form. First of all, there is a first principle of all pacifist thought that is oriented towards nonviolence: that “weapons are never the solution, they are part of the problem.” When applied to the Ukrainian scenario, what follows from it is the common sense observation that the more weapons enter the field, the more victims there are (especially civilians). It is understandable that for those who have been attacked and have to defend themselves, weapons are the first instrument they can think of. But we know – or at least we should consider – that while every extra day of war gives a measure of the strength of the “Ukrainian resistance,” it’s also true that every day that goes by means more innocent victims, destruction and mass death. This way of thinking is not emotional despair: it is one way (perhaps not a very heroic one, but certainly a human one) to try to grasp the balance of arguments for life and for death.

To this I would add the consideration – which for me is of decisive importance – that every additional day of war increases the risk not only that it will become even more cruel (as we have seen in the last two months) but that it will grow in extent and scale. That it would spread and infect everything around, in a scenario in which the outbreak of a world war (with the looming prospect of a nuclear conflict in the background) becomes a real risk, one which cannot be ignored.

In this regard, there is a precedent – although I am aware it’s a debatable one – in the Spanish Civil War and the position that the “democratic powers” took at that time, first and foremost France led by the socialist Leon Blum, who refused to supply arms to the Spanish republic under attack (while Fascist Italy and Germany were arming Franco’s coup) as he was concerned not to trigger a world conflict. Back then, a figure as extraordinary as Simone Weil, who also went to fight in Spain – in Aragon, with Durruti – supported the French policy of “non-intervention,” with the same argument: “Why? Because the intervention, instead of restoring order in Spain, would have put the whole of Europe to fire and sword.”

Four years later, when Europe was put to fire and sword by the fascisms, Simone joined the Resistance; but he held on to his argument from 1936, which remained valid nonetheless, as an expression of a way of thought that was based not only on the “ethics of principles” but also on the “ethics of responsibility.” Not only on moral values, but also on the practical consequences of one’s actions.

And it tragically took into account the price that had to be paid: “If we accepted to sacrifice the miners of Asturias, the starving peasants of Aragon and Castile, the libertarian workers of Barcelona rather than unleash a world war, nothing else in the world should ever lead us to unleash war. Nothing, not Alsace-Lorraine, not the colonies, not the treaties.”

I would like us to ponder these lines – about this tragic and very human way of thought, at the opposite pole from any nationalism – as we prepare spiritually for the “Day of Liberation,” so we don’t end up betraying its spirit.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!