When Rossana Rossanda decided to leave il manifesto in 2012, something unthinkable happened: it was like the mother leaving her son—the newspaper—to its fate.
I have often recalled—the last time at our 40-year anniversary as a newspaper—how traumatic that separation was: for her, for me, for the editorial staff, for the readers, for the activists of a political history more than four decades long.
The rift remained between us for a few years. But in recent times, the paths of the mother and the son had crossed once again.
With her articles on abortion, the PD, Berlinguer and fascism, when she argued harshly with those whom she called “beautiful and democratic souls,” because they did not see the violence and were asking everyone not to exaggerate.
However, the primary cause of the rift was not political in the strict sense of the word, about the “political line,” but concerned the function of the newspaper, the future of our cooperative, the very structure of il manifesto.
Would it continue to be a “generalist” daily newspaper, rooted in the Italian left, or become an instrument of reflection, research and debate, at that point also in the form of a periodical?
The editorial staff wanted to continue, and the newspaper you’re reading right now is the fruit of what happened back then, having, in addition, a well-defined and clear function for the editorial staff, which has become the true and sole owner of the newspaper. And, therefore, its own master.
At the same time, it maintained its own political and cultural autonomy, always with a critical role towards the left and the present state of things. Certainly, it was not as Rossana would have wanted, and as she had taught some of us since the early ‘70s.
In the “school” of il manifesto—in the newspaper more than in the political organization—the same process had taken place, and the first teacher was Rossana herself, with the authority of her guidance, with the richness of her words and her knowledge. I can’t imagine the il manifesto of the early years without “la Rossanda,” the rock of the group, to whom Luigi Pintor, Lucio Magri, Luciana Castellina, Valentino Parlato and, in a different way, Aldo Natoli were all tied, the latter perhaps generating the same awe as Rossana herself.
They gave birth to a team of enormous value, a formidable political group, a unique, unrepeatable agora, which formed thousands of young people, hungry for knowledge, for awareness, for a desire to change the world.
Rossanda was the guide of this handful of masters, also because she aroused boundless respect and admiration among us, the generation who had not experienced the Resistance but wanted to follow its moral and generous example.
The passing of time, despite the social and political changes of great historical importance—I am thinking of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which the il manifesto group wanted to demolish as early as 1969—did not change Rossana’s behavior, nor did it affect her choices: her ideas are still nowadays the intellectual force of an uncommon way of thought, capable of looking and understanding beyond the appearances and superficial judgments that have spread among many intellectuals, in Italy and beyond.
Hers was not, and could not be, a thought fit for “social media,” and this fact marked a difference between her and other thinkers, excited by the communicative power of the new media. Such an approach was unthinkable for her, accustomed to well-thought-out considerations allergic to the constant political theater.
In recent times, she pursued this detachment from the politics of everyday life even more. On the other hand, she was always reluctant to compromise, as she showed throughout her whole life, not accepting weakness and fragility even in herself. But that was how she demonstrated great strength, which was visible when she accompanied Lucio Magri on his final journey. He was like her younger brother, to whom she gave support and the help necessary to take the final, definitive step of his life.
I would be hypocritical if I were to claim that we had the same point of view on politics, and especially if I failed to stress that today, il manifesto is “senza padrini e padroni” (“without dons or masters”), the slogan that summarizes the fundamental creed of Luigi Pintor, the inimitable and one-of-a-kind editor of our newspaper.
But it was from Rossana that we learned a lot about ethics, morality, intellectual rigor and critical thinking, which is our heritage today and which il manifesto as a whole will continue to keep alive.
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