Interview. We spoke with the president of ARCI, Walter Massa: ‘The demonstration must set up an alternative project for society, and il manifesto is giving us a great opportunity to build an alternative path to the neoliberalism of the last 30 years.’

Walter Massa: ‘Rights, peace and work – we welcome the April 25 demonstration’

il manifesto’s appeal marks a turning point,” says Walter Massa, the president of ARCI, with one million members across Italy.

On March 9, the historic association was the first since October 7, 2023 to convene a large national demonstration in Rome for a cease-fire in Palestine.

“We didn’t do it to be the first, but because we were sickened by the pub-level debates about the use of terms while a massacre was going on in Gaza. Whether you call it ‘genocide’ or ‘extermination’ doesn’t change anything, but you have to take notice: in five months there have been 32,000 victims, not only from bombings, but also from hunger and the lack of healthcare. Taking a stand is an urgent matter. We welcome the April 25 demonstration in Milan to revive a pacifist project.”

Last month, you organized the mission of a number of parliamentarians to the Rafah crossing, where you all witnessed what is happening to the Gazans.

As we walked around among hangars full of food sent back to rot by Israel, we were told that 10 children had died from malnutrition. It makes one very angry to think of the pain we are causing that population by our indifference. One is overwhelmed by a feeling of human decay; what is going on there is real sadism.

There is also war in the heart of Europe.

We are outraged that two years after the start of the conflict on Ukrainian soil caused by the Russian occupation, there’s still no one saying how many people are dead, while the newspapers are full of militaristic gossip. In Ukraine, as in Palestine and South Sudan, there are ongoing humanitarian tragedies, also caused by European policies.

We must strongly denounce the fact that these conflicts do not arise by accident: the EU must stop outsourcing borders and making dictators do things for us that we Europeans cannot bear to admit to doing. And we must say with equal force that our continent is now bathed by an open-air graveyard, the Mediterranean.

The June vote could lead to a further advance of the right-wingers within European institutions.

We must find an alternative to a European Union that wants a war economy and is suspending austerity for the first time, but only to produce weapons. The fascist upsurges in Germany, as in other countries, are disturbing. il manifesto’s proposal fulfills a need on this issue as well.

Beside the international issues, there are also strong domestic reasons for protesting.

I was part of the organization of the Genoa Social Forum in July 2001. All the institutional violence that took place there was authorized and covered up from above. I was immediately reminded of that event when I saw the images of the students being beaten with batons in Pisa.

This government was not born out of Fininvest TV: it has a centuries-old history behind it, accustomed to building its narrative around the leader who speaks directly to the people so that whoever dissents is an enemy. We are in the presence of a phenomenon of cultural involution, based on fear, repression and hatred of the youth.

A country with a past such as ours must be careful. Democratic civil society will take to the streets massively and unitedly on April 25 to show that it is not afraid.

You used a particular adverb: “unitedly.”

The Day of Liberation is the celebration of those who contributed historically to liberating Italy from Nazi-Fascism and writing the Constitution, and it is the celebration of all those who resonate with the principles of the Charter and are committed to implementing them.

This is the only distinguishing factor. Those who want to make further distinctions must remember that we are in opposition to the worst government in the history of the Republic, and not by accident, but because we on the left did not understand something, we got something wrong.

It’s not a mere rhetorical flourish to admit this: we must learn from our mistakes and find common ground to build an alternative to the current economic and social system. il manifesto‘s call is extraordinary because it doesn’t look back, but forward: to rights, to peace, to labor, and it is necessary for all democratic forces to contribute, without petty divisions.

And what will happen the next day, on April 26?

The demonstration must set up an alternative project for society, and il manifesto is giving us a great opportunity to build an alternative path to the neoliberalism of the last 30 years, one that we must not waste.

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