[Note by John Gittings: This is part of a much longer memorandum by Francesco, a veteran peace scholar and activist, which he has kindly supplied to me for MAW.
We are familiar with the Japanese constitutional provision (Article 9) outlawing war as a means to settle international disputes involving the state, but perhaps less so with the Italian provision (Article 11) to which Francesco introduces us here. Both were passed in the same year – 1947 – and both reflected a revulsion against the militarism that had led to the disastrous world war only recently ended.
Francesco has also supplied some useful information on those Italian individuals, groups and media that are prominent in the peace field, which I have appended below.
Francesco’s full text lists a large number of peace initiatives that have been taken in the context of the Ukraine war, and many types of support for the Ukrainian people. But he acknowledges that there are difficulties these days in pursuing traditional forms of mobilisation through mass action “in the piazza”, and he suggests the need for a structure of national cooperation that would bring together the various initiatives.
For any MAW members who read Italian and may be interested, I’ll be glad to supply Francesco’s full text. [firstname.lastname@example.org]
There are many voices in Italy against war and many initiatives and theatres of peace. However, we cannot speak of a real movement as in the past: in the ’50s against the bomb, in the ’60s against the Vietnam war and the Cold War, in the ’80s against the Euromissiles of the East and West, in the 90s against the wars in the Gulf and in the former Yugoslavia, in 2002/2003 against the US attack on Iraq. And yet, there remains a significant pacifism supported by many vocal individuals and groups. These immediately criticized the Italian government’s sending of weapons to the Ukrainian government, while both condemning Putin’s aggression and sympathizing with the Ukrainian people under attack. Attempts have been made to analyze the causes of the conflict, the interests at stake, and to propose other solutions.
This “galaxy of pacifism” defended the rationale for the United Nations (when no one else did) and current international law (not the rationale of empire). It posed unavoidable (yet avoided) questions: what are the economic consequences? Who will pay the price? What is the impact on the environment, on the frightening ecoclimatic crisis underway? How many deaths, massacres, horrors? Has everything possible been done to prevent conflict in Ukraine?
These have been times of very strong warmongering propaganda, in a climate of attack on dissent and the arguments of those against war. There has been censorship and marginalization of dissenting voices (including insults against them), and pacifists have been labelled as Putinists. Truly, critical information has been the first victim, especially on TV and newspapers.
The presence and contribution of Catholic pacifism is considerable with historic organizations such as Pax Christi, Acli and many others involved on the peace front. But the firm anti-war position of Pope Francis has not been widely followed on the ground in the parishes, as Alex Zanotelli has observed: “At this time, men and women of religion should be the first on the street. Yet the fact is that the sensitivity of Pope Francis [to the need for peace] has not yet passed into the Christian communities… Sometimes I get angry with these because more than a Pope we have a prophet who is walking with the Gospel in his hand” ( AdnKronos, September 2022).
There has been no support for pacifism from the Partito Democratico (PD), which is partly heir to the pacifism of the left: it has been embarrassed and immobile after the parliamentary vote on military support and the sending of weapons to Ukraine. Yet the fight for peace was one of the founding reasons of the Italian workers’ and socialist movement; even if the relevant parties have not always supported these reasons and there has been no shortage of splits, second thoughts and steps backwards. The left voted with conviction for Article 11 of the Constitution in 1947 [see text below] and supported the fight against the atomic bomb during the 1950s; “Peace first” was its compass until the 1980s, when things changed with the bombings of Belgrade and the war in Kosovo.
Italy shall repudiate war as an instrument of offence against the liberty of other peoples and as a means for settling international disputes; it shall agree, on conditions of equality with other states, to such limitations of sovereignty as may be necessary to allow for a legal system that will ensure peace and justice between nations; it shall promote and encourage international organizations having such ends in view.
The Draghi government proposed to send weapons to Ukraine in law decree no. 16 of 28 February 2022, and asked for the green light from Parliament: on 2 March the Senate approved this almost) unanimously, (244 yes, 13 no and 3 abstentions); a unanimity not seen even in the days of the pandemic. There was no discussion, no dissent; the parties formed a bloc that asked no questions, apart from PD secretary Enrico Letta: “We are all asking ourselves: is Putin sane?”. Even in the Chamber there was almost unanimity on 14 March. But in civil society there was anything but unanimity: there was widespread concern. People asked: This is not discussed at all in Parliament, yet the risks and consequences are so many: are we at war? Article 11 of the Constitution should be respected. And the UN charter? Which treaty asks us for military support? Government and parliamentary politics remain grounded in the decision to send weapons with no second thoughts apart from that of the Five Star Movement; moreover, the weapons have been sent in great secrecy, unlike other important European countries.
Yet Italy could have a significant role and make an important contribution to political and negotiating solutions: there is the Alto Adige model, recognized as a model for resolving complex issues; there is Article 11 which obliges Italy to seek and propose ways of peace; there is the institution of the Vatican which is now more involved than ever before in negotiations and diplomacy.
Article 11 of the Italian Constitution is a constitutional dictate that cost tears and blood, but unfortunately it has been seriously and repeatedly tampered with by Italian governments starting from the 1990s. This has been in parallel with the international tendency to weaken the UN and cancel the prohibition on war contained in its Charter, with states recovering the right to wage war as an intangible natural right (as was the rule in pre-UN international law). Hence the terrible project of re-legitimizing war as a tool for resolving conflicts and controversies; hence the removal of the moral revulsion towards war in public opinion.
Among the voices raised against the looming carnage in Ukraine was that of the Rector of the University for Foreigners of Siena, Tomaso Montanari: “Having reached this point, the only moral position for us Westerners is the strongest possible pressure for an immediate cease-fire, for a peace table where Ukraine and Russia seek an agreement. That would be better than the continuation of this senseless carnage. Fanning the flames of the Ukrainian Resistance means counting thousands (and potentially hundreds of thousands) of deaths of Ukrainian resistance fighters: and it means hoping to push Putin into a corner, which could have disruptive results for Ukraine itself. It’s not realism: it’s adventurism using other people’s lives. Or, even worse, it is a different, cynical realism: that of those who hope that Ukraine will become a sort of Afghanistan in which to trap Putin. An outcome perhaps desired in some Western chancellery: but whose cost in human lives would be frightening, and whose systemic risks would be incalculable…” (Il Fatto Quotidiano, 11.3.2022)
Constitutionalists such as Gaetano Azzariti and Michele Ainis have explained: “Sending weapons to Ukraine is against the Constitution… Article 52 (“The defence of the Country is the sacred duty of every citizen”) refers only to defence, while Article 11 only allows defensive war. These two articles work together: they refer to our homeland, not to that of others — to the invasion of our territory. Otherwise, every time one state attacks another (and in wars it almost always happens) we would have to intervene out of constitutional obligation…” (Il Fatto Quotidiano, 4.4.2022) Not only that, Law 185/1990 which prohibits the export of weapons to countries at war (for which the pacifist bishop Don Tonino Bello had fought so hard) has also been circumvented.
Peace in the Piazza
The presence and mobilization in the piazza in 2022, a traditional strong point of the colourful world of Italian pacifism, did not have the scale and breadth of previous times. There have been difficulties and delays, perhaps resignation and impotence. The autonomy of pacifist movements from the political parties, and their capacity for mobilization and organization, remain open questions today. Perhaps the traditional forms of participation and presence in the streets are in difficulty; perhaps there are difficulties in activating, mobilizing, convincing and having an impact. Perhaps fatigue after phases of mobilization and unsatisfactory results has had an impact. Perhaps there is a lack of a national coordination structure for Italian pacifism and a lack of cooperation between the many active elements.
Pacifism is necessary
We must look again at the mobilization of conscience and the No to War, at a time when war has once again become the only way to resolve international conflicts and controversies. “Everyone can do something” stated Aldo Capitini, the founder of the Nonviolent Movement in Italy and of the Perugia to Assisi annual March. It was hoped that the cancellation of the right to wage war by states would be irreversible, through the UN and international law. It was hoped that humanity and nation states had taken the path of peaceful resolution of conflicts, non-violence, human rights and peace with conviction. Today we seem to have returned to pre-UN international law and the relegitimization of the war. War seen to be the only path.
This time too, pacifism continues to fight in the name of international law, the United Nations and its Charter, and has produced analyses, studies, research and proposals. This “galaxy of pacifism” continues to be the only political entity that advances the reasons for peace, that says No to massacres and the horrors of war, and searches for an alternative to weapons and war. There are voices that keep the ideals and function of the UN alive (even if it needs to be reformed and relaunched), that defend the reasons for the United Nations (when few have done so), and defend the current international law (not the rationale of empire) in the general interest of humanity.
Pacifism tries to make people understand, this time too, that war is the wrong path and that the culture of war is powerful and hegemonic. It warns of the trap of warmongering and the abyss that humanity risks, of the need not to get used to, or resign ourselves to, war. That would be the definitive victory of the warmongers.
This is why the mobilization of peaceful public opinion and pacifism is fundamental to stop the race towards the precipice — those who are sleepwalking towards it still cannot see it. Will the reasons for weapons win this time too? Will the sleepwalkers of Europe take us into the abyss this time too? Will all men of good will be able to wake up the sleepwalkers and stop the warmongers? Will peaceful people and pacifists be able to heal the planet, to cure those who suffer the malady of war, and to honour life instead?
Let us reflect carefully on the words of the Russell-Einstein Appeal of 9 July 1955: “We are speaking on this occasion, not as members of this or that nation, continent or creed, but as human beings, members of the species Man, whose continued existence is in doubt…. Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.”
Pacifism has a history of fighting for the logic of life and against the logic of war. Let us remember what the great historian of pacifism Lawrence Wittner has claimed: it was precisely the mobilizations for peace in the years of the Cold War that played a fundamental role in preventing an atomic conflict. There is also a great heritage of texts and authors which we must rediscover, to throw light and support commitment in these dark historical moments. There is the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the precious work of the Hibakusha; there is the twentieth-century history of international attempts to ban war.
Pacifism is necessary, peaceful people are necessary, and their imagination and collaboration is necessary to counter the single-minded philosophy of war, war that is incapable of solving problems, that generates death for many and riches for a few, as it has done for millennia and especially now with the invention of weapons that can cause self-destruction. To make a definitive choice between these alternatives, we must banish war from our history.
Let us recall the thought and work — too rare in Italian pacifism — Dr Gino Strada, founder of Emergency and a persuasive man of peace: “Eliminating the hypothesis of war from the instruments that regulate human coexistence is the most rational, realistic and safe choice for the citizens of the planet. But we cannot expect the Parliaments of the world, which have always and in every case voted in favour of war, to do so. We will have to commit ourselves personally to throw war out of our history….”. (Gino Strada, Una persona alla volta, One person at a time, pp. 89,91).
LEADING PERSONALITIES, ORGANIZATIONS AND MEDIA IN THE ITALIAN PACIFIST AND ANTI-WAR WORLD
Carlo Rovelli: Physicist and scientific communicator, in 2021 he coordinated an open letter signed by over 50 Nobel Prize winners (Global Peace Dividend initiative), a strong (unheard) appeal to states, governments and political leaders to reduce military spending launched in December 2021 by 50 Nobel Prize winners.
“[…] We want to present a simple proposal for humanity: that the governments of all member states of the United Nations undertake to enter into negotiations for an agreed reduction in military spending by two percent every year, for five years [. ..] At this moment, mankind finds itself facing dangers and threats that can only be avoided through collaboration. Let’s all try to collaborate together, rather than fight each other.”
Alex Zanotelli: A Comboni Missionary for many years in Kenya in the slum of Korogocho (Nairobi). Currently in Naples; a coherent and tenacious figure of pacifism and active nonviolence. “Jesus is the inventor of nonviolence”, he claims. His contributions to the fight against the privatization of water, against arms trafficking and rearmament, against armed banks and the climate crisis, against white supremacism are important. His latest book is: Lettera alla tribù bianca, (Letter to the white tribe), Feltrinelli, Milan, 2022.
Tomaso Montanari: Professor of Art History, Rector of the University for Foreigners of Siena. Among his many books are Eretici (Heretics,) Paper first, Rome, 2020
Paolo Nori: Prolific writer, translator from the Russian language, and blogger.
Massimo Cacciari: Philosopher and writer, he has been mayor of Venice. Publicly committed to peace. His latest book is Metafisica concreta (Concrete Metaphysics), Adelphi, Milan, 2023
Michele Ainis: Jurist, specialist in Constitutional Law. He teaches public law institutions at Roma Tre University.
Luigi Ferrajoli: Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of Law at the University of Roma Tre. His books include: Perché una Costituzione della Terra?(Why a Constitution of the Earth?), Giappichelli, Turin, 2021
Gaetano Azzariti: Professor of Constitutional Law at the La Sapienza University of Rome. Co-director of the online magazine Costituzionalismo.it.
Raniero La Valle: Committed intellectual and journalist; director of the newspaper Avvenire d’Italia during the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).. Parliamentarian several times; he recently promoted the “Costituente Terra” association with a website of the same name. His latest book is Leviatani, dov’è la vittoria? Tornino i volti, disimparare l’arte della guerra (Leviathans, where is the victory? Change your minds, unlearn the art of war), Emi, Bologna, 2022.
Nico Piro: Journalist, RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana) war correspondent. Has published Maledetti pacifisti. Come difendersi dal marketing della guerra (Damned Pacifists. How to defend yourself from the marketing of war), People, Busto Arsizio (Va), 2022. His goal: “Faced with the verbal violence of helmeted commentators, with the rise of a single war-mongering thought, the purpose of this pamphlet is to dismantle the narrative of the war that they are passing off to us as a necessary evil with a high moral value”.
Luciano Canfora: Historian and philologist, professor at the University of Bari. His latest book is Lezioni di filologia classica (Lessons in classical philology), Il Mulino, Bologna, 2023
Angelo d’Orsi: Professor of History of Contemporary Political Thought at the Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Turin; among his books: Guerre globali (Global Wars), Carocci, Rome, 2003
Aldo Capitini: Philosopher, founder of the Italian Nonviolent Movement and of the historic Perugia-Assisi peace march (more than 50,000 people joined the latest march in October 2023).
Marco Travaglio: Journalist and writer; founder and director of the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano. His latest book, on the war in Ukraine: Scemi di guerra. Un paese pacifista preso in ostaggio dei nopax (War idiots. A pacifist country taken hostage by the nopax), Paperfirst, Rome, 2023
Carlo Cassola: Writer; highly committed to disarmament. His novels include La Ragazza di Bube, Strega Prize in 1960. Among his essays are La rivoluzione disarmista (The disarming revolution), Milan, Rizzoli, 1982. He founded the League for Unilateral Disarmament in 1977. He works with clarity for peace, even criticizing the conformism and acquiescence of contemporary intellectuals. His vision is close to that of Guenther Anders: “humanity is a blind giant heading towards its own annihilation”, and he advocates a revolution in disarmament.
Michele Santoro: Journalist, presenter of historic investigative programmes on RAI. Promoter of the Servizio Publico association and website.
Luisa Morgantini: A veteran exponent of Italian pacifism, she has been a vice-president of the European Parliament. Among the founders of the international network Donne in nero (Women in Black) against wars and violence.
Raffaele Crocco: Journalist, war correspondent, founded and directs the annual publication Atlante delle guerre e dei conflitti del mondo (Atlas of World Wars and Conflicts), now in its 11th edition, 2023, TerraNuova ed., Florence.
Gino Strada: War surgeon, founder of Emergency, latest book Una persona alla volta (One person at a time), Feltrinelli, Milan, 2022
Alessandro Marescotti: Teacher and journalist, founder of the Peacelink association with a website of the same name.
Movimiento nonviolento: Founded by Aldo Capitini; national headquarters in Verona, where there is also the editorial office of the monthly Azione Nonviolenta founded by Capitini in 1964 and now directed by Mao Valpiana.
Article 1 of its Statute states that the Nonviolent Movement “works for the exclusion of individual and group violence in every sector of social life, at a local, national and international level, and for overcoming the apparatus of power that is nourished by a spirit of violence. In this way the movement pursues the aim of creating a classless world community that promotes the free development of each in harmony with the good of all […]”. Central to this are the integral opposition to war, the fight against economic exploitation and social injustices, against authoritarianism, nationalism and discrimination of all kinds. It proposes grassroots democracy for everyone to manage power, understood to be a community service. The Movement, the Statute continues, “operates on the basis of non-violence, which implies the rejection of killing and physical injury, of hatred and lies, of the prevention of dialogue and of freedom of information and criticism …”. The tools of struggle of the Nonviolent Movement are example, education, persuasion, protest, strike, non-collaboration, boycott, and civil disobedience.
Rete Italiana pace e disarmo (Italian peace and disarmament network): an organized network of various organizations committed to peace and disarmament; established on 21 September 2020. The website states that “the aim is to create peace together starting from the union of our forces, of common objectives, to strengthen and grow collective work for peace and disarmament. For us it was a natural outlet and a further stage in a long journey that has seen us work together on some issues and campaigns also at an international level (Stop Bombs in Yemen, NO F-35s, Unarmed Civil Defense and nonviolent, nuclear disarmament with ICAN, IoAccolgo, Peace Law Justice in Israel/Palestine, for the reduction of military spending, for the control of arms exports and the defense of law 185/90, in the Control Arms Campaign, Killer Robots Campaign, and the Inew campaign against explosive weapons”.
Emergenzia: Independent Italian organization founded by Teresa Sarti and Gino Strada in 1994. It offers free, high-quality medical-surgical care to victims of wars, landmines and poverty in various countries. It promotes the culture of peace, solidarity and human rights. Between 1994 and 2020 it treated over eleven million people free of charge. Various hospitals have opened in the world, the latest is a Pediatric Surgery Centre (with criteria including circular economy and energy sustainability), opened in April 2021, in Entebbe, Uganda, one of the poorest countries and with the highest infant mortality.
Centre Studi Sereno Regis (Sereno Regis Study Centre): A non-profit centre and association based in Turin; highly committed against war, for the culture of peace and non-violence. Nanni Salio was President for a long time. The Centre has a rich library, newspaper library and video library specializing in peace, environment and development; there are numerous study, research and training initiatives and international collaborations. “Research, education and action for peace, the environment and sustainability” are its fields of work and institutional purpose. Founded in 1982 by Domenico Sereno Regis, protagonist of nonviolence and pacifist and named after him following his untimely death in January 1984. The Centre’s idea of peace is not only the absence of war or conflicts, but also social justice (there is no peace without justice), respect for the environment and future generations, attention and listening to others.
Centro di Documentazione del Manifesto Pacifista Internazionale (Documentation Centre of the International Pacifist Manifesto): based in Bologna; founded by Vittorio Pallotti, a rich and valuable Centre for the documentation and study of pacifist posters, among the most important in the world. It is part of the International Network of Museums for Peace, founded in 1992 in Bradford (England), on the initiative of Professor Peter Van Den Dungen, historian of pacifism, linked to over 125 museum entities on the themes of peace and war.
Movimento Internazionale della Riconciliazione(International Reconciliation Movement) (Mir): Historic international organization committed to peace and non-violence, among other things a supporter of the right to conscientious objection, education for peace, and non-violent conflict resolution, in the spirit of the Constitution.In 2020, together with Pax Christi, it launched the national campaign “Demilitarized Schools. Repudiate war and promote peace” to denounce the ongoing trend towards the militarization of society starting from schools, with the growth of self-promotion and propaganda of the armed forces in educational institutions.
Lega Internazionale Donne per la Pace e la Libertà (WILPF Italia),Italian section of WILPF. In its long history of commitment to peace it includes two Nobel Peace Prize winners, Jane Addams (1931), Emily Green Balch (1946) and Rita Levi Montalcini, honorary member of WILPF Italia (Nobel Prize for medicine in 1986).
Pax Christi: International Catholic organization and movement. Its various activities include information and education work, such as the monthly Mosaico di pace and the School of Peace in Impruneta (Florence). President of the movement from 1985 to 1993 was the bishop Don Tonino Bello.
Beati i costruttori di pace (Blessed are the peacemakers): Non-profit voluntary association; headquarters in Padua, founded by Don Albino Bizzotto in 1985 to “promote peace in its broadest and deepest meaning, including the choice of non-violence, universal human security, peaceful coexistence, recognition and valorisation of the differences existing between people and between peoples, together with the total repudiation of war, the rejection of violent economic structures, the removal of the causes of social inequalities and the overcoming of armed national defense systems” (art. 2 of its Statute)
Atlante delle guerreea dei conflitti del mondo (Atlas of world wars and conflicts): An annual publication edited by the 46° Parallelo Association founded in Trento in 2008 to “address the topic of war and peace by looking at it differently, by putting geography at the centre of evaluation and analysis of the narrative” (Raffaele Crocco)
Avvenire (The Future) Catholic newspaper founded in 1968 on the initiative of Pope Paul VI, has recently expressed the desire for peace of both Catholics and lay people, supporting Pope Francis’s commitment against war and weapons, and his support for negotiations.
Quale vita (Which Life): Bimonthly magazine, published in Torre dei Nolfi (province of L’Aquila) since 1980. It fights for an alternative model of life, based on non-violence and self-restraint.
Mosaico di pace (Peace Mosaic): Monthly promoted by Pax Christi Italia, founded by bishop Don Tonino Bello in 1990. Alex Zanotelli is the current director. It informs and delves into the themes of peace, dialogue and non-violence.
Il Fatto Quotidiano (Daily Fact): Daily newspaper, founded in 2009 by Marco Travaglio, Antonio Padellaro and others, countering the dominant official and media narratives about the war in Ukraine, and giving voice to the opposition and to calls for negotiations.