Five years ago, on the occasion of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Italian state, as many recalled the Risorgimento, the historical process that led to Italy’s unification, it became evident that the values of honor, sanctity, and family that inspired this nation-building movement could not be considered today as the foundation of Italians’ sense of belonging.
On the other hand, in the wake of Habermas’ thought, a ‘constitutional patriotism’ (that is, the need to identify the Republican Constitution as the source of our allegiance to the nation), seems closer to our sensibilities. This constitutional pact is therefore that which unites us and the ethics of anti-Fascism represent a ‘civic religion’ that in turn makes us a community.
At least from the early ‘90s (a period when there was a strong request for pacification of national memory), anti-Fascism and the Resistance were the subjects of revisionist interpretations that considered anti-Fascist partisans and Fascist fighters of the Italian Republic of Salò (RSI) patriots in the same way. Furthermore, this revisionism has also attempted to undermine the concept of anti-Fascism as the source of national identity and sentiment. Instead, anti-Fascism should be emphasized as not only an integral part of the Italian Constitution, but as its fundamental feature, its bedrock.
Today, our Constitution is understood as the fruits of the remarkable, visionary capacity of the Republic’s founding fathers. Within it, there are references to concepts such as ‘social utility,’ and ‘social purpose;’ concepts proclaiming the superiority of the general interest of the public and the configuration of a state whose guiding principle is constituted by bene comune, or common good. The fundamental rights (beni comuni) indicated within the Constitution as those deserving protection, include labor, health, education, equality and liberty, namely all ‘goods’ that affect each of us. It is therefore evident that the attacks on the Constitution and its cardinal principles impact us all.
The Constitution most certainly needs to be upheld, yet not in a manner that distorts its guiding principles, but instead in a way in which these principles are implemented. Unfortunately, the amendments to the Constitution that have been proposed and advocated by several factions (one example being the hypotheses of presidentialism) tend to erode – behind a veneer of efficiency – the democratic equilibrium that the document outlined and to prefigure an authoritarian drift. In other instances, such revisions resulted in a relinquishment of sovereignty in favour of super national entities, as has recently occurred (in the realm of control of our public finances) with the amendment of ART.81.
Revisionism and negationism have made it possible to underestimate the threat of Fascism and have allowed the diffusion of a dangerous belief pertaining to the existence of a ‘good’ or ‘acceptable’ Fascism; this has thus paved the way for associations like Casa Pound – a fascist, xenophobic and sexist association – which has opened headquarters in many Italian cities including Florence, where, in December 2012, an activist associated with Casa Pound shot and killed Modou Samb and Mor Diop and wounded three other members of the city’s Senegalese community. A ‘constitutional patriotism,’ a patriotism that entails inclusion without homologation, can be an antidote to the anti-liberal, anti-union, and xenophobic currents that have infiltrated our society.
In fact, the link between April 25 – that is to say anti-Fascism – and the Constitution is inseparable. It’s not by chance that the legal scholar Piero Calamandrei asserted that our Constitution was born in the mountains, a product of the partisan struggle against Fascism. April 25 embodies the re-foundation of Italy thanks to the Resistance; the best part of the country – that for once emerged victorious – sought a more just, democratic society and found later, in the Constitution, the codification of its vision of civic life and its own conception of citizenship.
In Florence, the ANPI (National Association of Italian Partisans), college students, and the Circolo ARCI S. Nicolò, have for many years organized an ‘anti-Fascist’ lunch in a city square on April 25. Far from rhetorical celebrations, these lunches present an opportunity for a festive gathering, an occasion to reclaim public space and promote the idea of active citizenship centered on the idea of the common good.