Category Archives: Italy

An Affront to History: Giro d’Italia’s ‘Sport-Washing’ of Israeli Apartheid

For the first time since its inception in 1909, the legendary Italian cycling race, Giro d’Italia kicked off outside Europe and, strangely enough, from the city of Jerusalem on May 4.

The inherent contradictions in that decision are inescapable. Italy is a country that has experienced a ruthless forging occupation and was ravaged by fascism and war. To be a party in Israel’s constant attempts at whitewashing or, in this case, “sport-washing’ its military occupation and daily violence against the Palestinian people is appalling.

Every attempt aimed at dissuading the race organizers from being part of Israel’s political propaganda has failed. The millions of dollars paid to the Giro d’Italia organizers, the RCS Sport, seemed far more compelling than shared cultural experiences, solidarity, human rights and international law.

Legendary Italian novelist, Dino Buzzati wrote various accounts in Italian newspapers in the 1940s, describing the symbolism of the race in the context of a battered nation resurrecting from the ashes of untold destruction.

Just after WWII had ended, Giro d’Italia organizers found themselves contending with the seemingly impossible task of organizing a race with a few bicycles and even fewer athletes. The roads were disfigured and destroyed in the war, but the determination to triumph was stronger.

The 1946 Giro D’Italia, especially the legendary competition between Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali, became a metaphor of a country rising from the horrors of war, reanimating its national identity, symbolized in the final struggle between heroic athletes pedaling through the torturous mountainous roads to reach the finish line.

Understanding this history, Israel exploited it in every possible way. In fact, the Israeli government recently gave the late Gino Bartali an honorary Israeli citizenship. The decision was made as an acknowledgment of the Italian athlete’s anti-Nazi legacy. The irony, of course, is that the Israeli practices against Palestinians – military Occupation, racism, Apartheid and abhorring violence –  is reminiscent of the very reality that Bartali and millions of Italians fought against for years.

When Israeli officials announced last September that Giro D’Italia would start in Jerusalem, they labored to link the decision with Israel’s celebration of 70 years of independence.

Also, 70 years ago, Palestinians were dispossessed from their homeland by Zionist militias, leading to the Nakba, the catastrophic destruction of Palestine and the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state. It was then that West Jerusalem became part of Israel, and the rest of the Holy City, East Jerusalem, was also conquered through war in 1967, before it was officially, but illegally, annexed in 1981, in defiance of international law.

RCS Sport cannot claim ignorance regarding how their decision to engage and validate Israeli Apartheid will forever scar the history of the race. When their website announced that the race would kick off from ‘West Jerusalem’, the Israeli response was swift and furious. Israeli Sports Minister, Miri Regev and Tourism Minister, Yariv Levi, threatened to end their partnership with the race, claiming that “in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, there is no East or West. There is one unified Jerusalem.”

Alas, Giro d’Italia organizers publicly apologized before removing the word ‘West’ from their website and press releases.

According to international law, East Jerusalem is an occupied Palestinian city. This fact has been stated time and again through United Nations resolutions, including the most recent Resolution 2334, adopted on December 23, 2016. It condemns Israel’s illegal settlement constructions in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem.

This reality stands as a stark contradiction to the claims made by Giro d’Italia organizers that their race is a celebration of peace. In truth, it is an endorsement of Apartheid, violence and war crimes.

The fact that the race was held according to plan, despite the ongoing killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza, also underlines the degree of moral corruption by those behind the effort. Over 50 unarmed Palestinians have been killed since the start of the peaceful protests at the Gaza border, known as the ‘Great March of Return’ on March 30. Over 7,000 were wounded, among them 30 athletes, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Youth and Sports.

One of those wounded is Alaa al-Dali, a 21-years-old cyclist whose leg was amputated after being shot on the first day of protests.

‘Canadian-Jewish philanthropist’, Sylvan Adams, one of the biggest funders of the race, claimed that his contribution is motivated by his desire to promote Israel and to support cycling as a ‘bridge between nations.’

Palestinians, like Alaa, whose cycling career is over, are, of course, excluded from that lofty, and selective definition. Was the 12 million dollars received by the organizers from Israel and its supporters a worthy price to ignore the suffering of Palestinians and to help normalize Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people?

Sadly, for the RSC Sport, the answer is ‘yes’.

Many Italians, and more around the world, of course, disagree. Despite Italian media’s partaking in Israel’s ‘sport-washing’, hundreds of Italians protested at various stages of the race.

The fourth stage of Giro d’Italia, which was held in Catania, Sicily, was delayed by a protest, against a race which is “stained with the blood of Palestinians”, in the words of activist, Simone Di Stefano.

Renzo Ulivieri, the head of the Italian Football Managers Association, was one of prominent Italian voices that objected to the decision to hold the race in Israel. “I could have remained indifferent, but I fear I would have been despised by the people I respect. Viva the Palestinian people, free in their land,” he wrote in Facebook post.

The RCS Sport has done the ‘Giro’ race, sport cycling and the Italian people an unforgivable disservice for the sake of a few million dollars. By agreeing to start the race in a country that is guilty of apartheid practices and a protracted military occupation, they will stain the race forever.

However, the general wave of indignation caused by this reckless decision seems to indicate that Israel’s efforts at normalizing its crimes against Palestinians are failing to alter public opinion and perception of Israel as an occupying power – that deserves to be boycotted, not embraced.

• Romana Rubeo, an Italian writer, contributed to this article.

Seventy years of subjection to the US and NATO, by Manlio Dinucci

Manlio Dinucci summarizes seventy years of relations between Italy on the one hand, the United States and NATO on the other. Leaving aside the question of terrorism under false flag organized by the Alliance on Italian soil during the 70s, he notes only the commitment of the Italian armies on behalf of his "ally"; a story that speaks for itself.

Shakespeare said it best

Much ado about nothing.

That’s the “Russian interference” in the 2016 American election.

A group of Russians operating from a building in St. Petersburg, we are told in a February 16 US government indictment, sent out tweets, Facebook and YouTube postings, etc. to gain support for Trump and hurt Clinton even though most of these messages did not even mention Trump or Clinton; and many were sent out before Trump was even a candidate.

The Russian-interference indictment is predicated, apparently, on the idea that the United States is a backward, Third-World, Banana Republic, easily manipulated.

If the Democrats think it’s so easy and so effective to sway voters in the United States why didn’t the party do better?

At times the indictment tells us that the online advertising campaign, led by the shadowy Internet Research Agency of Russia, was meant to divide the American people, not influence the 2016 election. The Russians supposedly wished to cause “divisiveness” in the American people, particularly around controversial issues such as immigration, politics, energy policy, climate change, and race. “The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy,” said Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the inquiry. “We must not allow them to succeed.”1

Imagine that – the American people, whom we all know are living in blissful harmony and fraternity without any noticeable anger or hatred, would become divided! Damn those Russkis!

After the election of Trump as president in November 2016, the defendants “used false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies in support of then president-elect Trump, while simultaneously using other false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies protesting the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

The indictment also states that defendants in New York organized a demonstration designed to “show your support for President-Elect Donald Trump” held on or about November 12, 2016. At the same time, defendants and their co-conspirators, organized another rally in New York called “Trump is NOT my President”.

Much of the indictment and the news reports of the past year are replete with such contradictions, lending credence to the suggestion that what actually lay behind the events was a “click-bait” scheme wherein certain individuals earned money based on the number of times a particular website is accessed. The mastermind behind this scheme is reported to be a Russian named Yevgeny Prigozhin of the above-named Internet Research Agency, which is named in the indictment.2

The Russian operation began four years ago, well before Trump entered the presidential race, a fact that he quickly seized on in his defense. “Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” he wrote on Twitter. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”

Point 95 of the Indictment summarizes the “click-bait” scheme as follows:

Defendants and their co-conspirators also used the accounts to receive money from real U.S. persons in exchange for posting promotions and advertisements on the ORGANIZATION-controlled social media pages. Defendants and their co-conspirators typically charged certain U.S. merchants and U.S. social media sites between 25 and 50 U.S. dollars per post for promotional content on their popular false U.S. persona accounts, including Being Patriotic, Defend the 2nd, and Blacktivist.

Although there’s no doubt that the Kremlin favored Trump over Clinton, the whole “Russian influence” storm may be based on a misunderstanding of commercial activities of a Russian marketing company in US social networks.

Here’s some Real interference in election campaigns

[Slightly abridged version of chapter 18 in William Blum’s Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower; see it for notes]

Philippines, 1950s:

Flagrant manipulation by the CIA of the nation’s political life, featuring stage-managed elections with extensive disinformation campaigns, heavy financing of candidates, writing their speeches, drugging the drinks of one of the opponents of the CIA-supported candidate so he would appear incoherent; plotting the assassination of another candidate. The oblivious New York Times declared that “It is not without reason that the Philippines has been called “democracy’s showcase in Asia”.

Italy, 1948-1970s:

Multifarious campaigns to repeatedly sabotage the electoral chances of the Communist Party and ensure the election of the Christian Democrats, long-favored by Washington.

Lebanon, 1950s:

The CIA provided funds to support the campaigns of President Camille Chamoun and selected parliamentary candidates; other funds were targeted against candidates who had shown less than total enchantment with US interference in Lebanese politics.

Indonesia, 1955:

A million dollars were dispensed by the CIA to a centrist coalition’s electoral campaign in a bid to cut into the support for President Sukarno’s party and the Indonesian Communist Party.

Vietnam, 1955:

The US was instrumental in South Vietnam canceling the elections scheduled to unify North and South because of the certainty that the North Vietnamese communist leader, Ho Chi Minh, would easily win.

British Guiana/Guyana, 1953-64:

For 11 years, two of the oldest democracies in the world, Great Britain and the United States, went to great lengths to prevent Cheddi Jagan – three times the democratically elected leader – from occupying his office. Using a wide variety of tactics – from general strikes and disinformation to terrorism and British legalisms – the US and Britain forced Jagan out of office twice during this period.

Japan, 1958-1970s:

The CIA emptied the US treasury of millions to finance the conservative Liberal Democratic Party in parliamentary elections, “on a seat-by-seat basis”, while doing what it could to weaken and undermine its opposition, the Japanese Socialist Party. The 1961-63 edition of the State Department’s annual Foreign Relations of the United States, published in 1996, includes an unprecedented disclaimer that, because of material left out, a committee of distinguished historians thinks “this published compilation does not constitute a ‘thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions’” as required by law. The deleted material involved US actions from 1958-1960 in Japan, according to the State Department’s historian.

Nepal, 1959:

By the CIA’s own admission, it carried out an unspecified “covert action” on behalf of B.P. Koirala to help his Nepali Congress Party win the national parliamentary election. It was Nepal’s first national election ever, and the CIA was there to initiate them into the wonderful workings of democracy.

Laos, 1960:

CIA agents stuffed ballot boxes to help a hand-picked strongman, Phoumi Nosavan, set up a pro-American government.

Brazil, 1962:

The CIA and the Agency for International Development expended millions of dollars in federal and state elections in support of candidates opposed to leftist President João Goulart, who won anyway.

Dominican Republic, 1962:

In October 1962, two months before election day, US Ambassador John Bartlow Martin got together with the candidates of the two major parties and handed them a written notice, in Spanish and English, which he had prepared. It read in part: “The loser in the forthcoming election will, as soon as the election result is known, publicly congratulate the winner, publicly recognize him as the President of all the Dominican people, and publicly call upon his own supporters to so recognize him. … Before taking office, the winner will offer Cabinet seats to members of the loser’s party. (They may decline).”

As matters turned out, the winner, Juan Bosch, was ousted in a military coup seven months later, a slap in the face of democracy which neither Martin nor any other American official did anything about.

Guatemala, 1963:

The US overthrew the regime of General Miguel Ydigoras because he was planning to step down in 1964, leaving the door open to an election; an election that Washington feared would be won by the former president, liberal reformer and critic of US foreign policy, Juan José Arévalo. Ydigoras’s replacement made no mention of elections.

Bolivia, 1966:

The CIA bestowed $600,000 upon President René Barrientos and lesser sums to several right-wing parties in a successful effort to influence the outcome of national elections. Gulf Oil contributed two hundred thousand more to Barrientos.

Chile, 1964-70:

Major US interventions into national elections in 1964 and 1970, and congressional elections in the intervening years. Socialist Salvador Allende fell victim in 1964, but won in 1970 despite a multimillion-dollar CIA operation against him. The Agency then orchestrated his downfall in a 1973 military coup.

Portugal, 1974-5:

In the years following the coup in 1974 by military officers who talked like socialists, the CIA revved up its propaganda machine while funneling many millions of dollars to support “moderate” candidates, in particular Mario Soares and his (so-called) Socialist Party. At the same time, the Agency enlisted social-democratic parties of Western Europe to provide further funds and support to Soares. It worked. The Socialist Party became the dominant power.

Australia, 1974-75:

Despite providing considerable support for the opposition, the United States failed to defeat the Labor Party, which was strongly against the US war in Vietnam and CIA meddling in Australia. The CIA then used “legal” methods to unseat the man who won the election, Edward Gough Whitlam.

Jamaica, 1976:

A CIA campaign to defeat social democrat Michael Manley’s bid for reelection, featuring disinformation, arms shipments, labor unrest, economic destabilization, financial support for the opposition, and attempts upon Manley’s life. Despite it all, he was victorious.

Panama, 1984, 1989:

In 1984, the CIA helped finance a highly questionable presidential electoral victory for one of Manuel Noriega’s men. The opposition cried “fraud”, but the new president was welcomed at the White House. By 1989, Noriega was no longer a Washington favorite, so the CIA provided more than $10 million dollars to his electoral opponents.

Nicaragua, 1984, 1990:

In 1984, the United States, trying to discredit the legitimacy of the Sandinista government’s scheduled election, covertly persuaded the leading opposition coalition to not take part. A few days before election day, some other rightist parties on the ballot revealed that US diplomats had been pressing them to drop out of the race as well. The CIA also tried to split the Sandinista leadership by placing phoney full-page ads in neighboring countries. But the Sandinistas won handily in a very fair election monitored by hundreds of international observers.

Six years later, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Washington’s specially created stand-in for the CIA, poured in millions of dollars to defeat Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas in the February elections. NED helped organize the Nicaraguan opposition, UNO, building up the parties and organizations that formed and supported this coalition.

Perhaps most telling of all, the Nicaraguan people were made painfully aware that a victory by the Sandinistas would mean a continuation of the relentlessly devastating war being waged against them by Washington through their proxy army, the Contras.

Haiti, 1987-1988:

After the Duvalier dictatorship came to an end in 1986, the country prepared for its first free elections ever. However, Haiti’s main trade union leader declared that Washington was working to undermine the left. US aid organizations, he said, were encouraging people in the countryside to identify and reject the entire left as “communist”. Meanwhile, the CIA was involved in a range of support for selected candidates until the US Senate Intelligence Committee ordered the Agency to cease its covert electoral action.

Bulgaria, 1990-1991 and Albania, 1991-1992:

With no regard for the fragility of these nascent democracies, the US interfered broadly in their elections and orchestrated the ousting of their elected socialist governments.

Russia, 1996:

For four months (March-June), a group of veteran American political consultants worked secretly in Moscow in support of Boris Yeltsin’s presidential campaign. Boris Yeltsin was being counted on to run with the globalized-free market ball and it was imperative that he cross the goal line. The Americans emphasized sophisticated methods of message development, polling, focus groups, crowd staging, direct-mailing, etc., and advised against public debates with the Communists. Most of all they encouraged the Yeltsin campaign to “go negative” against the Communists, painting frightening pictures of what the Communists would do if they took power, including much civic upheaval and violence, and, of course, a return to the worst of Stalinism. Before the Americans came on board, Yeltsin was favored by only six percent of the electorate. In the first round of voting, he edged the Communists 35 percent to 32, and was victorious in the second round 54 to 40 percent.

Mongolia, 1996:

The National Endowment for Democracy worked for several years with the opposition to the governing Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRR, the former Communists) who had won the 1992 election to achieve a very surprising electoral victory. In the six-year period leading up to the 1996 elections, NED spent close to a million dollars in a country with a population of some 2.5 million, the most significant result of which was to unite the opposition into a new coalition, the National Democratic Union. Borrowing from Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, the NED drafted a “Contract With the Mongolian Voter”, which called for private property rights, a free press and the encouragement of foreign investment. The MPRR had already instituted Western-style economic reforms, which had led to widespread poverty and wiped out much of the communist social safety net. But the new government promised to accelerate the reforms, including the privatization of housing. By 1998 it was reported that the US National Security Agency had set up electronic listening posts in Outer Mongolia to intercept Chinese army communications, and the Mongolian intelligence service was using nomads to gather intelligence in China itself.

Bosnia, 1998:

Effectively an American protectorate, with Carlos Westendorp – the Spanish diplomat appointed to enforce Washington’s offspring: the 1995 Dayton peace accords – as the colonial Governor-General. Before the September elections for a host of offices, Westendorp removed 14 Croatian candidates from the ballot because of alleged biased coverage aired in Bosnia by neighboring Croatia’s state television and politicking by ethnic Croat army soldiers. After the election, Westendorp fired the elected president of the Bosnian Serb Republic, accusing him of creating instability. In this scenario those who appeared to support what the US and other Western powers wished were called “moderates”, and allowed to run for and remain in office. Those who had other thoughts were labeled “hard-liners”, and ran the risk of a different fate. When Westendorp was chosen to assume this position of “high representative” in Bosnia in May 1997, The Guardian of London wrote that “The US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, praised the choice. But some critics already fear that Mr. Westendorp will prove too lightweight and end up as a cipher in American hands.”

Nicaragua, 2001

Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was once again a marked man. US State Department officials tried their best to publicly associate him with terrorism, including just after September 11 had taken place, and to shamelessly accuse Sandinista leaders of all manner of violations of human rights, civil rights, and democracy. The US ambassador literally campaigned for Ortega’s opponent, Enrique Bolaños. A senior analyst in Nicaragua for Gallup, the international pollsters, was moved to declare: “Never in my whole life have I seen a sitting ambassador get publicly involved in a sovereign country’s electoral process, nor have I ever heard of it.”

At the close of the campaign, Bolaños announced: “If Ortega comes to power, that would provoke a closing of aid and investment, difficulties with exports, visas and family remittances. I’m not just saying this. The United States says this, too. We cannot close our eyes and risk our well-being and work. Say yes to Nicaragua, say no to terrorism.”

In the end, the Sandinistas lost the election by about ten percentage points after steadily leading in the polls during much of the campaign.

Bolivia, 2002

The American bête noire here was Evo Morales, Amerindian, former member of Congress, socialist, running on an anti-neoliberal, anti-big business, and anti-coca eradication campaign. The US Ambassador declared: “The Bolivian electorate must consider the consequences of choosing leaders somehow connected with drug trafficking and terrorism.” Following September 11, painting Officially Designated Enemies with the terrorist brush was de rigueur US foreign policy rhetoric.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs warned that American aid to the country would be in danger if Mr. Morales was chosen. Then the ambassador and other US officials met with key figures from Bolivia’s main political parties in an effort to shore up support for Morales’s opponent, Sanchez de Lozada. Morales lost the vote.

Slovakia, 2002

To defeat Vladimir Meciar, former prime minister, a man who did not share Washington’s weltanschauung about globalization, the US ambassador explicitly warned the Slovakian people that electing him would hurt their chances of entry into the European Union and NATO. The US ambassador to NATO then arrived and issued his own warning. The National Endowment for Democracy was also on hand to influence the election. Meciar lost.

El Salvador, 2004

Washington’s target in this election was Schafik Handal, candidate of the FMLN, the leftist former guerrilla group. He said he would withdraw El Salvador’s 380 troops from Iraq as well as reviewing other pro-US policies; he would also take another look at the privatizations of Salvadoran industries, and would reinstate diplomatic relations with Cuba. His opponent was Tony Saca of the incumbent Arena Party, a pro-US, pro-free market organization of the extreme right, which in the bloody civil war days had featured death squads and the infamous assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

During a February visit to the country, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, met with all the presidential candidates except Handal. He warned of possible repercussions in US-Salvadoran relations if Handal were elected. Three Republican congressmen threatened to block the renewal of annual work visas for some 300,000 Salvadorans in the United States if El Salvador opted for the FMLN. And Congressman Thomas Tancredo of Colorado stated that if the FMLN won, “it could mean a radical change” in US policy on remittances to El Salvador.

Washington’s attitude was exploited by Arena and the generally conservative Salvadoran press, who mounted a scare campaign, and it became widely believed that a Handal victory could result in mass deportations of Salvadorans from the United States and a drop in remittances. Arena won the election with about 57 percent of the vote to some 36 percent for the FMLN.

After the election, the US ambassador declared that Washington’s policies concerning immigration and remittances had nothing to do with any election in El Salvador. There appears to be no record of such a statement being made in public before the election when it might have had a profound positive effect for the FMLN.

Afghanistan, 2004

The US ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, went around putting great pressure on one candidate after another to withdraw from the presidential race so as to insure the victory for Washington’s man, the incumbent, Hamid Karzai in the October election. There was nothing particularly subtle about it. Khalilzad told each one what he wanted and then asked them what they needed. Karzai, a long-time resident in the United States, was described by the Washington Post as “a known and respected figure at the State Department and National Security Council and on Capitol Hill.”

“Our hearts have been broken because we thought we could have beaten Mr. Karzai if this had been a true election,” said Sayed Mustafa Sadat Ophyani, campaign manager for Younis Qanooni, Karzai’s leading rival. “But it is not. Mr. Khalilzad is putting a lot of pressure on us and does not allow us to fight a good election campaign.”.

None of the major candidates actually withdrew from the election, which Karzai won with about 56 percent of the votes.

The Cold War Forever

On March 7 British police said that a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, a city southwest of London. The police said that Skripal had been “targeted specifically” with a nerve agent. Skripal was jailed in Russia in 2006 for passing state secrets to Britain. He was released in 2010 as part of a spy swap.

Because nerve agents are complex to make, they are typically not made by individuals, but rather by states. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said that the Skripal case had “echoes” of what happened to Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB Operative who British officials believe was poisoned in London by Russian agents in 2006, becoming the first victim of lethal polonium-210-induced acute radiation syndrome. Before he died, he spoke about the misdeeds of the Russian secret service and delivered public deathbed accusations that Russian president Vladimir Putin was behind his unusual malady.

Because of this the Skripal poisoning looks like an open-and-shut case.

But hold on. Skripal was sent to Britain by the Russian government eight years ago in an exchange of spies. Why would they want to kill him now, and with Putin’s election coming up? And with the quadrennial football (soccer) World Cup coming up soon to be played in Russia. Moscow is very proud of this, publicizing it every day on their international television stations (RT in the US). A murder like this could surely put a serious damper on the Moscow festivities. Boris Johnson has already dropped a threat: “Thinking ahead to the World Cup this July, this summer, I think it would be very difficult to imagine that UK representation at that event could go ahead in the normal way and we would certainly have to consider that.”3 It was totally predictable.

Because political opposition is weak, and no obvious threat to the ruling United Russia Party, what would the government gain by an assassination of an opposition figure?

So if Russia is not responsible for Skripal’s poisoning, who is? Well, I have an idea. I can’t give you the full name of the guilty party, but its initials are CIA. US-Russian Cold Wars produce unmitigated animosity. As but one example, the United States boycotted the Olympics that were held in the Soviet Union in 1980, because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union then boycotted the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Ideology and Evolution

New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet recently declared: “I think we are pro-capitalism. The New York Times is in favor of capitalism because it has been the greatest engine of, it’s been the greatest anti-poverty program and engine of progress that we’ve seen.”4 The man is correct as far as he goes. But there are two historical factors that enter into this discussion that he fails to consider:

    1. Socialism may well have surpassed capitalism as an anti-poverty program and engine of progress if the United States and other capitalist powers had not subverted, destabilized, invaded, and/or overthrown every halfway serious attempt at socialism in the world. Not one socialist-oriented government, from Cuba and Vietnam in the 1960s, to Nicaragua and Chile in the 1970s, to Bulgaria and Yugoslavia in the 1990s, to Haiti and Venezuela in the 2000s has been allowed to rise or fall based on its own merits or lack of same, or allowed to relax its guard against the ever-threatening capital imperialists.
    2. Evolution: Social and economic systems have evolved along with human beings. Humankind has roughly gone from slavery to feudalism to capitalism. There’s no reason to assume that this evolution has come to a grinding halt, particularly given the deep-seated needs of the world in the face of one overwhelming problem after another, most caused by putting profit before people.
  1. New York Times, February 16, 2018.
  2. Mueller Indictment – The “Russian Influence” Is A Commercial Marketing Scheme,” Moon of Alabama, February 17, 2018.
  3. The Independent (London), March 6, 2018.
  4. Huffington Post, February 27, 2018.

To Honor Albert Camus on the Day He Died: January 4, 1960

Because he was not a partisan in the Cold War between the U.S./NATO and the U.S.S.R, Albert Camus was an oddball.  As a result, he was criticized by the right, left, and center.  His allegiance was to truth, not ideologies.  He opposed state murder, terrorism, and warfare from all quarters.  An artistic anarchist with a passionate spiritual hunger, an austere and moral Don Juan, this sensual man of conscience and honor earned his reputation by a lifelong literary meditation on death in all its guises: disease (he was constantly threatened by tuberculosis), murder, suicide, capital punishment, war, etc.; deaths both “happy” and absurd, sudden and slow.  His enemy was always injustice and those powerful ones who thought they had the right to make others suffer and die for their perverted purposes.  An artist compelled by history to enter the political arena, he spoke out in defense of the poor, oppressed, and powerless.  Among his enemies were liberal imperialism and Soviet Marxism, abstract ideologies used to enslave and murder people around the world.

Popularly known for his writing about absurdity (which for him was but a necessary step toward revolt), when he died on January 4, 1960 in a car crash on a straight country road in France with an unused train ticket in his pocket, the press played up the absurd nature of his death.  They still do.  But was it such?

In 2011, the media were abuzz with a report out of Italy that, rather than an accident, Camus may have been assassinated by the Soviet KGB for his powerful criticism of the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, their massacre of Hungarian freedom fighters, and for his defense and advocacy of Boris Pasternak and his novel, Doctor Zhivago, among other things.  These reports were based on an article in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, and were based on the remarks of Giovanni Catelli, an Italian academic, Slavic scholar, and poet.  Catelli said that he had read in a diary, published as a book, Ceĺ́ý zͮivot, written by Jan Zábrana, a well-known poet and translator of Doctor Zhivago, the following:

I heard something very strange from the mouth of a man who knew lots of things and had very informed sources.  According to him, the accident that had cost Albert Camus his life in 1960 was organized by Soviet spies.  They damaged the tyre on the car using a sophisticated piece of equipment that cut or made a hole at speed.

This claim was quickly and broadly rejected by Camus’ scholars and it just as quickly disappeared from view.

But in 2013 Catelli published a book on the case, Camus deve morire (Camus Must Die), that, oddly enough considering its explosive claims, has not been published in English (or French, as far as I know). I have recently read an English translation kindly provided to me by Catelli, and while I am still studying and researching his thesis, I will say that there may be more to it than those early dismissals of the Corriere della Sera report indicate. One has only to harken back to the 2013 mysterious death of journalist Michael Hastings in the United States when his car accelerated to over 100 miles per hour and exploded against a tree on a straight road in Los Angeles to make one think twice, maybe more.  Tree lined straight roads, no traffic, outspoken writers, anomalous crashes, and different countries and eras – tales to make one wonder.  And probe and research if one is so inclined.

Whatever the cause of Albert Camus’ death, however, it is clear that we could use his voice today.  I believe we should honor and remember him on this day that he died, for as an artist of his time, an artist for our time and all time, he tried to serve both beauty and suffering, to defend the innocent in this murderous world.  Quintessentially a man of his age, he was haunted by images that haunt us still, in particular those of being locked in an absurd prison threatened by madmen brandishing weapons small and large, ready to blow this beautiful world to smithereens with weapons conjured out of their hubristic,́ Promethean dreams of conquest.

This world as a prison is a metaphor that has a long and popular tradition.  In the past hundred or more years, however, with the secularization of Western culture and the perceived withdrawal of God, the doors of this prison have shut upon the popular imagination, with growing numbers of people feeling trapped in an alien universe, no longer able to bridge the gulf between themselves and an absent God.  Death, once the open avenue to the free life of eternity, has for many become the symbol of the absurdity of existence and the futility of escape.  Camus was haunted by these images, intensified as they were by a life of personal isolation beginning with the death of his father in World War I when he was a year old and continuing throughout his upbringing by a half-deaf, emotionally sterile mother.  His entire life, including his tragic art, was an attempt to find a way out of this closed world.

That is why he continues to speak today to those who grapple with the same enigmas, those who strive to find hope and faith to defend the defenseless and revel in the glory of living simultaneously.  Not absurdly, he left clues to that quest in his briefcase on the road where he died – the unfinished manuscript to his beautiful, posthumously published novel, Le Premier Homme (The First Man).  It was as if, whether he died in an accident or was murdered, the first man was going to have the last word.

One can imagine Camus saying with Hamlet:

Oh, I could tell you –
But let it be, Horatio, I am dead;
Thou livest; report to me and my cause aright
To the unsatisfied.

Let us do just that.

Italy-Israel: the Fighter-Jet Diplomacy, by Manlio Dinucci

European Leaders – from the EU's foreign representative Mogherini to Premier Gentiloni, from President Macron to Chancellor Merkel – have formally stepped back from both the US and Israel on the status of Jerusalem. Is a rift between the allies emerging? The facts would indicate quite the contrary. Just before Trump took his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, yet at a time when the dye had already been cast, Operation Blue Flag 2017 was executed. This is the biggest (...)

Pentagon’s colossal works are funded by us, by Manlio Dinucci

Colossal works are emerging on our territory both in Northern Italy and Southern Italy. Are we talking about those for which the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport is responsible? Works that has every tongue wagging? Not at all! We're talking about those thought up by the Pentagon that no one mentions. And yet most of these works are funded with our money and bring with them growing risks for us Italians: At Ghedi's military airport (Brescia): the plan kicks off to spend more than 60 (...)

Anti-BDS Laws and Pro-Israeli Parliament: Zionist Hasbara is Winning in Italy

A proposed law at the Italian Parliament is set to punish the boycott of Israel. In the past, such an initiative would have been unthinkable. Alas, Italy, a country that had historic sympathies with the Palestinian cause, has shifted its politics in a dramatic way in recent years. Most surprisingly, though, the Left is as implicated as the Right in the rush to please Israel, at the expense of Palestinian rights.

The sad reality is this: Italy is moving to the Israeli camp. This is not only pertinent to political alignment, but in the reconfiguration of discourse as well. Israeli priorities, as articulated in Zionist hasbara (official propaganda) have now become part of our everyday lexicon of Italian media and politics. As a result, the Zionist agenda is now part and parcel of Italian political agenda as well.

Italy’s anti-Fascist, anti-military occupation and revolutionary past is being overlooked by self-serving politicians, growingly beholden to the pressures of a burgeoning pro-Israel lobby.

Re-writing History

During the so-called “First Republic” (1948 to 1992), Italy was considered the Western European country most sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle, not only because of a widespread feeling of solidarity among Italians, but also because of the political environment at the time.

Then, Italian leaders were perfectly aware of the country’s unique position in the Mediterranean area. While they were keen on displaying loyalty to the Atlantic Alliance, they also established good relations with the Arab world. Maintaining this balance was not always easy and had led to what it is now being perceived as ‘radical choices’, which are now being disowned and criticized.

The pro-Israel trend has been in motion for years. In a famous interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot in 2008, former Italian President Francesco Cossiga declared: “Dear Italian Jews, we sold you out”.

Cossiga was referring to the so-called “Lodo Moro”, an unofficial agreement, which was allegedly signed in the 1970’s by Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro and the leaders of The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP). Its understanding supposedly allowed the Palestinian group to coordinate its actions throughout the Italian territory, in exchange for the PLFP keeping Italy out of its field of operation.

The “Lodo Moro” is often used in Israeli hasbara to highlight Italy’s supposed failures in the past, and to continue associating Palestinians with terrorism.

In the interview, Cossiga went further, blaming the Palestinian group for the Bologna massacre, a terrorist bombing which devastated the Bologna railway station in 1980, killing 85 people. Cossiga’s words may have pleased Israel, but were baseless. The attack then was the work of an Italian neo-fascist organization.

Unfortunately, the nonsensical allegations were not isolated. The example is representative of the general change of attitude towards Palestine and Israel, one that is largely predicated on re-writing history.

Then and Now

In 1974, the Italian government advocated for Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat’s participation in the United Nations General Assembly; in 1980, it committed to the EEC Declaration of Venice, which recognized the Palestinian ‘right to self-determination’ and, was expectedly strongly opposed by Israel and the US.

Throughout the 1980’s, the attitude of Italian government was openly pro-Palestinian, which often lead to foreign policy clashes with Israel and its American benefactors, especially during the so-called Crisis of Sigonella in 1985.

During a speech at the Italian Parliament, socialist Prime Minister, Bettino Craxi, went as far as defending the Palestinian right to armed struggle.

In 1982, the Italian President Sandro Pertini talked at length about the horror of the Sabra and Shatilla massacre in his traditional end of the year address to the Nation.

While center-left political forces supported Palestine to keep good relations with Arab countries, left-wing parties were mainly motivated by the anti-imperialist struggle, which then resonated within Italian intellectual circles.

But things have changed as Italy is now living in its ‘post-ideological age’, where morality and ideas are flexible, and can be reshaped as needed to confer with political interests.

Today, left-wing parties don’t feel the need to stand for oppressed nations. They are too beholden to the diktats of globalization, and are thus driven by selfish agendas, which, naturally brings them closer to the US and Israel.

While neo-liberal politics has ravaged much of Europe in recent years, Italy proved that it is not the exception.

In October 2016, Italy abstained from the vote on the UNESCO resolution, condemning the Israeli occupation of Palestinian East Jerusalem.

Even that half-hearted move angered Israel, promoting the Israeli ambassador to Italy to protest. The Italian prime minister moved quickly to reassure Israel.

Matteo Renzi spoke harshly of UNESCO’S proposal. “It is not possible to continue with these resolutions at the UN and UNESCO that aim to attack Israel”, he said.

One year earlier, Renzi had officially reaffirmed Italy’s commitment to Israel in the Israeli Knesset, declaring: “Supporters of ‘stupid’ boycotts betray their own future”.

During his inaugural speech, Italy’s current President Sergio Mattarella addressed the ‘menace of international terrorism’ by mentioning the attack in front of The Great Synagogue in Rome, in 1982. His words “deeply touched Italian Jews”, according to the right-wing Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post.

Rising Zionist Influence

Zionist groups constantly try to sway Italian public opinion. Their strategy is predicated on two pillars: infusing Israel’s sense of victimhood (as in poor little Israel fighting for survival among a sea of Arabs and Muslims) and injecting the accusation of anti-Semitism against anyone who challenges the Israeli narrative.

The hasbara instruments are working, as Italian politics and even culture (through the media) are increasingly identifying with Israel. Worse still, the pro-Israel feeling is now completely accepted among left-wing political parties as well.

According to Ugo Giannangeli, a prominent criminal attorney who devoted many years to defending Palestinian’s rights, the Italian Parliament is working on several laws, with the sole purpose of winning Israel’s approval.

One of these initiatives is Draft law 2043 (Anti-discrimination act. It ought to be called the Anti-BDS act. The signatories compare boycott of Israel to “disguised anti-Semitism”. If approved, the legislation would provide exemplary punishment for BDS campaigners.

Among the signatories is Emma Fattorini, member of the Italian Democratic Party and also member of the “Committee for the protection and promotion of human rights”. Palestinian rights, are of course, of no concern to Fattorini at the moment since it appears nowhere in her ‘human rights’ agenda.

Another signatory is Paolo Corsini, who abandoned the Democratic Party and moved to left-wing party MDP – Articolo 1. Corsini was also the rapporteur of the “Agreement between Italy and Israel on public safety”, already ratified by the Italian Parliament. The agreement strengthens the relationship between the two countries at a more effective way, in exchange for Israeli sharing of information on public order and how to control mass protests.

Only few voices are being raised against Italy’s political and cultural subordination to Israel. Italian politician Massimo D’Alema, also a former Foreign Minister, criticized the changing Italian policies. In an interview with the Huffington Post, he criticized Italy and Europe over their willingness to please Israeli leaders. He called on the left to reclaim its historic role in support of the Palestinian people.

There is a lesson here for activists and progressive politicians that can be learned from the Italian experience: solidarity with Palestine starts at home, with strongly opposing any efforts aimed at criminalizing BDS, while counteracting Israeli hasbara that is penetrating every aspect of society on a daily basis.

The True Impact of the Italian Pentagon, by Manlio Dinucci

The inhabitants of the district of Centocelle (Rome) are quite right to protest about the impact that the construction of the Italian Pentagon is having on their archeological park and their green belt (il manifesto, 29 October). However, another, rather more serious impact, passes uncommented on: the impact on the Italian Constitution. Earlier this year, we reported the following : • There was a plan to bring together all the Chiefs of the Armed Forces under a single structure, a (...)

Reflections on the Counsel of Italian Clowns, Anarchists and Social Movements

Ex Caserma Liberata, Bari, Italy — Some four years ago, a group of (mostly) anarchists occupied the premises of what was once a military barracks (caserma in Italian) in Bari, a port city at the top of the heel of Italy’s boot. They collectively took over 8 hectares (20 acres) in the heart of the city and began carving out a rather significant social center in the shadow of multi-story brick and glass apartment buildings. Soon realizing that 8 hectares in a large metropolitan area was a little too much territory for a few anarchists (and their fellow travelers) to occupy and defend or cultivate, they reduced their size to 2.5 hectares, which is still a hell of a lot. I suspect, from what I’ve seen here, that there are many political tendencies included among the residents and supporters of the Ex-Caserma besides the predominant anarchism, but as Pippo, says, “we are united by antifascism.”

Photo by Clifton Ross

Pippo, the poet, set up my visit to the Ex-Caserma Liberata and arranged for me to show Arturo Albarrán’s and my movie, In the Shadow of the Revolution, one week before I head off to show it at the London Anarchist Book Fair. Pippo is the founder of the Revolutionary Poets Brigade of Bari and as he takes me through the city he laughs as he points out the poems along the way that he’s wheat-pasted on walls, electrical boxes, light poles and anywhere else they’ll fit. Pippo laughs a lot. But his English and Spanish are as minimal as my Italian, so our communication is done more by hand signals than anything. I’m relieved, then, when we return and Pippo hands me over to “Aurora” for a tour of the squat. Now I can give my hands a rest and talk in English with my new, fluent guide.

I’d guess the young pink-haired woman is still a teen-ager, but Aurora speaks with great authority as she walks me through the Ex-Caserma.  Over these four years they’ve painted murals on the low, ramshackle buildings, planted a small garden and taken in a “herd” of seven cats. They created various sleeping rooms, a kitchen, bathrooms, a break dance/yoga studio, a library, a bicycle repair and construction garage, a screen print shop and an indoor skate park that Aurora tells me is now closed due to lack of use.

Needless to say, it’s all collectively organized and managed by consensus, and that night I’ll see one of the biggest crowds to turn out for a showing of our movie, brought together pretty much by word of mouth among the community of supporters. Support in the community they definitely seem to have. And they’re going to need it now that the “socialist” government of the PD is giving the national police free hand to evict all squats. No doubt Ex-Caserma is on their radar.

Eventually Aurora and I arrive at the “palestra,” or the gym where “Giulio” teaches boxing. Giulio is a handsome young fellow whose light brown full beard is just starting to turn gray. He has an easy, sweet disposition that seems so incongruous with the sport he teaches, but I see a striking consistency as we start to talk about violence. After all, Giulio teaches people how to be prepared to meet fascists who are out looking for trouble, skilled as he is in the art of self, and other, defense.

“Sometimes you meet fascists on the street and you have to be prepared to defend yourself,” he says in his heavily-accented English. He also recognizes that there will be times when those committed to bridging borders and welcoming, and defending, immigrants will have to deal with the violence of the right, especially the fascist right. Recall that this is Italy where the term “fascist” was coined from the Italian movement of Mussolini, the socialist-fascist.

In the course of my conversation with Giulio, I decide to ask him what he thinks of the August 27th violence in Berkeley, which touched off a few weeks of intense debate over the proper way to respond to right-wing violence and hate speech. I describe the scene as it was reported to me by eyewitnesses, and by newspaper reports, and from what I could see in videos that were posted online afterwards since I refused to participate. When I’d discovered the Portland Antifa was involved, I decided I didn’t want to be part of a peaceful backdrop to what I knew would be their violent attacks, so I protested the protest.

I express my own views up front to Giulio (that I only believe in defensive force, not offensive violence) and then I tell him that the demonstration in Berkeley was thousands strong, and marched through Berkeley, the home of the Free Speech Movement. This massive assembly was joined by a contingent of perhaps as many as 100 to 150 Antifa, said to have arrived from Portland, Oregon. As the demonstration converged on the Civic Center Park where Amber and Joey Gibson and a few others were gathered, the Antifa charged and began beating the “right-wing” gathering. None of the “right-wingers” fought back, but rather retreated. In one case a “right-wing” protestor fell and was kicked and beaten by a number of the Antifa before African American reporter Al Letson intervened and stopped the beating.

There’s a reason why I put “right-wing” in quotes: Joey Gibson appears to be something of a Christian anarchist or libertarian, but certainly in a very interesting interview, he denied being “right-wing.” Amber Cummings is a self-described “transsexual anti-Marxist” and also denies association with right wingers. No doubt, as organizers claimed, some people who may have been right-wing showed up, but the Antifa never allowed them to speak: they were beaten to the ground, in most cases, before they were even allowed to open their mouths.

So I asked Giulio what he thought of this.

Giulio shook his head. “No, I don’t agree with that. I don’t agree with fascist tactics.”

Ah, yes. That is exactly why I have such admiration for the Antifa I’ve met in Europe. We can actually have a conversation about these issues without anyone engaging in personal attacks. I don’t need to worry about them beating me up if I express any sympathy for victims of their attacks since, clearly, according to the Portland Antifa in Berkeley on August 27th, people they beat up are “Nazi” by definition, regardless of how the victim defines him or herself, right? Furthermore, Giulio and many like him recognize that fascism, more than an ideology, is a practice. It’s a way of doing politics by relying almost exclusively on the two main tactics of fear and violence. Anti-fascism, Giulio and others in the European Antifa might agree, would take the opposite tactical approach, relying mostly on courage and respect, backed up only when necessary, by defensive force. And after all, Europeans have painful experience with, and a long time to reflect on, fascism, and learn through that what does, and doesn’t, work.

Another group headquartered here in the Ex-Caserma has found a different way to deal with cops and fascists and other threats to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It was the last stop on Aurora’s tour and as we paused while she unlocked the door, she smiled and looked up at me. “You’re not afraid of clowns, are you?” I wasn’t quick enough to get the joke and so responded earnestly that I wasn’t, and then we entered the headquarters of the Clown Army of Bari.

This would be my home for the next few days, their nerve center, and the arsenal of the Clown Army is all around me: plastic clubs, fly swatters, and ridiculous neon orange and green space guns. Their headquarters have mostly been painted pink, but it was clearly a job done by clowns, and the white undercoat shows through everywhere. On the walls are photos of some of their more intensive military offensives: one clown dressed up as a large pink pig being arrested and handcuffed by two policemen; a line of police in riot gear with shields, all painted pink by passing clowns; police arresting a giant penis, and the other indignities perpetrated with the most extreme and violent forms of humor.

And by the door is a little bucket for strange, frilly umbrellas, a little yellow plastic kiddy bat for plastic baseball, and several tubes that look like kaleidoscopes. Above the bucket is a sign that says “Bastoni in caso di FASCISTI” (Clubs in case of fascists).

At this point in my life, clowns are probably the only teachers I could take seriously, so as I settle into the clown headquarters I begin to consider what lessons I can take back to the USA with me from this experience in the clown headquarters, and in Italy as a whole. After all, we North Americans really understand so little about our own situation and we have so much to learn from the world.

So here’s the first lesson: in just a short time here at Ex-Caserma my new friends have made clear that we’re definitely not going to be able to defeat fascists by using their tactics against them. That would only guarantee our own transformation into fascists. And though we certainly need to fight the ignorance that breeds fascism, racism, and malignant nationalism, we also have to deal with our own ignorance about that “basket of deplorables” that seems to evoke so much fear and disgust among liberals and the Left. To do that, we’ll have to let go of our arrogance in thinking we’re somehow better than them because we know the “right” language, are more urbane, and hold more humane views. To achieve that, we’ll need to cultivate greater humility to open our hearts and minds.

Of course, as Giulio knows, there may also be times when we have to defend ourselves, our comrades and people with whom we’re in solidarity, by the use of force—not “by any means necessary,” but rather only when necessary. We’ll need to begin to develop a strategy rather than relying simply on tactics, but a strategy can only be developed when we have an objective, a vision, a goal. All of this is strikingly absent on the Left these days now that socialism, defined as the “state ownership of the means of production” has proven to be an unworkable concept and many of us are left scratching our heads and trying to come up with a viable alternative to transnational capitalism. We’ll have to be willing to completely let go of unworkable ideas before we can hope to come up with new ideas, objectives and aims.

All that will require us to leave the safety of our mental and social ghetto of the “Left” and move out into the big world where the real 99% live. And that 99%, in the USA, at least, is mostly made up of liberals, conservatives and people that many of us still insist on describing as “fascists.” Will it be possible for us to let go of our cherished identity as (self)-righteous Leftists and just become people again? Will we be able to open ourselves up to all those people thrown away like trash by the neoliberalism Hillary Clinton and the Democrats (and Republicans) have touted for the past few decades. I’m not so sure.

Perhaps that’s why, at the same time I’ve grown alienated from the “Left” I’ve found myself drawn increasingly closer to European anarchists and Latin American social movements. As the Chilean social movement activist, Edmundo Jiles, told Marcy Rein and me when we visited him in Paine, Chile a few years back as we worked on the final stages of a book we were putting together at the time: “Social movements have no ideology…they don’t have their own programs and there are no political parties at the forefront interpreting the social movements to channel the social aspirations.” A little further south in the area of Aysén you could see this in practice. The social movement there was making national news at the time, and in our book we translated and published an interview with the main coordinator of that movement, Iván Fuentes.

Ours is a movement that cuts across lines with deep criticism for the current political scheme. The country today is demonstrating against a system, not against politicians. People want to vote for persons, not for certain political parties. So this is a wake-up call for politics in Chile; Chilean politics are sick and they have to be healed. I’m not of any particular political party, nor is this movement political. The demands represent deep social feelings that cross lines. My compañero Misael Ruiz is right-wing, and a militant in the Renovación Nacional. I’m not a militant of any party, but my work is social. We want people to regain their faith in politics, in our way of doing politics, valuing people dedicated to doing the things they were born to do. These people have no wage nor title, but they work from their hearts and they’re able to give, to leave something for their children and work for their community. Those are the leaders.

That was back in 2012 and we found this ability on the part of the social movements to cross all political and social boundaries very inspiring. This phenomenon has also been the case in Venezuela (as our movie demonstrates) where an array of social actors were out in the streets every day for four months this year in a struggle to restore democracy to the country. And now I’ve found refreshing evidence of others thinking along the same lines here in Italy.

After showing the movie in Bologna, the event organizer, poet Pina Piccolo, and I went out with a couple of students who also had helped organize the event. “Piero” and “Sofia”were part of a group called “Hobo” who had come together a few years ago because they were disgusted by what went under the rubric of “Left” in Italian politics.

As elsewhere in the world, or I should say, as everywhere in the world, the Italian Left has seen better days. In fact, it might be more accurate to say it’s a shadow of itself, in many senses. As a result, the reformed Communist Party, now the Democratic Party (PD) is gradually losing ground to the various fascist and populist parties, even in traditional Left bastions like Bologna.

Piero and Sofia took us to a bar on a quiet back street for “happy hour” which, in the Italian case, happens around 9 p.m.. Piero is polite and clean cut, like most Italian college-age men. His perfectly trimmed mustache and glasses fit the image of the long-term resident of academia that he is, but Piero is definitely not an academic. Nor is Sofia. Sofia, a British-Italian who rolls her own cigarettes, is loquacious but not excessively so: she’s just excited about the work Hobo has been doing recently.

When a local bank went belly up the Hobo students decided to find out what happened to the shareholders and those who lost money in the debacle. Most on the Left around them couldn’t understand why they were so concerned about “middle class” people, many of whom were considered “right wing” and quite “backward” by the educated, intellectual Left. But the Hobos insisted and roused the courage to go out and meet the people. Sofia described the process as having been quite difficult. “Yes, some of the people were racists; sexists, and so on. There were times when in a group they would sing the old nineteenth century Italian National Anthem and I thought I would choke. But gradually we got to know the people as people, and we developed mutual respect as they realized we were really interested in their situation.”

I have no doubt these experiences of social movements are repeated daily by social movements all around the world. I wonder when we’ll begin to recognize their value in the United States. The situation there cries out for such an awareness, and that was brought home to me in one great moment in the run-up to the presidential election of 2016. In perhaps the most backward state of the USA, Oklahoma (a state where, incidentally, I have family and where I lived for five years), Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders won the Republican and Democratic primaries, respectively. For me, that was an extraordinary revelation. It tells me that white “rednecks” are sick of the neoliberal politics of the likes of the Clintons, and they’re looking for alternatives.

Oklahoma, it should be recalled, was once “red” (communist and anarcho-syndicalist) of a different color than the “red” (Republican) of today. Back in the 1920s it had five socialist weeklies and it was also home of the now-forgotten Green Corn Rebellion when as much as one third of the state was flying red flags in a great grassroots revolution that was quickly stamped out by the Federal government. And what was the relationship between the government and the Klan? Racist populism clearly substituted for socialism…

The message of the last presidential election when Trump was elected couldn’t be clearer. The white working class has been ignored, and forgotten, but worse, it has been ridiculed and disrespected by neoliberals—and liberals, and left liberals, and the Left. This is the clear message that people like Arlie Hochschild (Strangers in their own Land) and Joan C. Williams (White Working Class) and others have so eloquently articulated. Only by patient and careful willingness to open our hearts to listen closely to people we find so terribly “backward,” “uneducated,” “uncouth” and even “unreasonable” will we be able to find common ground with people now entertaining political positions we (rightly, I think) find so counterproductive and destructive.

So perhaps Giulio is right, and we may find one day we’ll have to be ready to duke it out on the streets with fascists. This has been the case on many occasions here in Europe, and it certainly was an important part of the defensive force Antifa and others used in Charlottesville, Virginia this past August. At the same time, there’s also a need for education, dialogue, as well as the use of the best weapon the Clown Army possesses in its formidable arsenal: humor. But most importantly, we need to set our political, social and cultural differences aside to focus on problems that affect all of us. Like climate change.

I didn’t have time to hear how things turned out with Sofia and Piero. The subject turned to other things and Pina and I had to catch a train home. So let me imagine an ending, and say there’s probably great truth in my imaginary ending because I recall Sofia speaking with genuine affection about the people she’s come to work with recently when she dared to cross the lines of what she once thought was correct ideology to reach out to people so different from her. I do recall that the students and the aggrieved shareholders and former customers of the bank were able to demonstrate together for justice, crossing political and social boundaries that elites have thus far deftly managed to use on the 99% and keep it divided. Yet I imagine that eventually the issue with the bank became less important to everyone because a much deeper transformation was taking place. Gradually, in ways no one quite anticipated, and certainly no one really understood, people began to develop deep feelings of affection for each other and especially for those they once felt were repugnant, even deplorable. Now that’s a wonderful thought, isn’t it?