Giap/digest #27 - The Fascists - 29 March 2005
0- Thank you + pieces of news
1- Getting Rid of the Constitution
2- The Fascists, a gonzoid story by Wu Ming 1
3- We Wonder if We've Answered the Question...
Here's a new issue of Giap/digest. Better late than never. First of all, we would like to thank all the people who, after our call for help, volunteered translation work. The English language section of our website is getting richer and this newsletter might even reach you on a less irregular basis. Some texts are already on line, some are being edited, some others are still being translated.
It's official, our novel 54 will be published in the UK on 5th May, 2005, and the rest of the Commonwealth in June. Here's the blurb you can read on the web these days:
'Set in former Yugoslavia in the 1950s, the new novel by the members of the Luther Blissett Project, now calling themselves the Wu Ming Foundation, tells a story of intrigue, spying and paranoia, centring on the hiring of Cary Grant to play the lead role in a Yugoslav propaganda film. Truly bizarre - truly culty.'
William Heinemann, ISBN 0434012939, hardback, 640 pages, £ 16.99.
In the meantime, Q (that Kultowy europejski bestseller!) was published in Poland by Albatros. Isn't that a fascinating language?
Not so many days ago, the international, English language edition of Spanish newspaper El Pais (reaching the newsstands as a supplement to the International Herald Tribune) featured a centre-fold article on copyleft in the publishing industry, creative commons etc. Wu Ming's official portrait stands out on the page. Click here if you want to read the PDF file:
And now for some very serious business...
GETTING RID OF THE CONSTITUTION
It is unprecedented that Italy celebrated an important anniversary of her Liberation (on April 25 falls the sixteenth) in such a climate of rehabilitation of fascism, its accomplices (the Savoia royal dinasty, pope Pius XII° etc.), and its heirs. A hysterical smear campaign against the Resistance is well under way by the Berlusconi government and its lackeys.
It's an old issue, but it reached new heights after this far-rightist coalition won the 2001 election.
Some ministers of the government belong to the National Alliance "post-fascist" party, which is nothing other than the old Italian Social Movement, the neo-fascist party that changed its name in 1995. Another member of the coalition is the heavily racist Northern League party.
All over the country, streets and squares are named after leaders of the old fascist regime. Right-wing opinion-makers flood the media with nonsense about the 'good faith' of those who joined the collaborationist militia in 1943. Nazi war crimes have disappeared from the public discourse, they've been replaced by pseudo-scandals on partisan vendettas during the post-war years. The most exploited pseudo-scandal concerns the so-called "foibe", deep caves along the north-eastern border which Yugoslavian partisans supposedly turned into "common graves for Italians". It is little more than a legend created by the same right-wing "historians" who describe the nazi-fascist occupation of the Balkans as 'a civilizing mission'.
Hordes of professional "euphemizers" say that Mussolini's regime wasn't as racially oppressive as Hitler's one, and describe the 1938 legislation against the Jews as 'an incidental mistake' [un incidente di percorso]. The public television is broadcasting stolid TV movies featuring "good" German soldiers, "good" fascists, and "bad" partisans. Another puzzling show inflicted to the viewers was the Giorgio Almirante Awards ceremony. Giorgio Almirante (1914-88) was the top leader of Italian neo-fascism. In the days of the Nazi occupation he was in the editorial staff of La Difesa Della Razza [Defending The Race], a vicious antisemitic magazine.
Last year the speaker of the Senate, Mr. Marcello Pera, stated that anti-fascism is 'a debilitating myth' [un mito incapacitante]. A few months later our premier described the 1948 Constitution as 'a Bolshevik constitution'. In fact, the government is trying to change it in the direction of power centralization, a weaking of Parliament, and 'more freedom of enterprise' (i.e. the destruction of labor rights). The day-by-day construction of an 'anti-antifascist common sense' paved the way for this constitutional "reform".
This government is desperate to fulfill its urges... before the coalition crumbles down to pieces. Since the victory of 2001 (actually the other coalition got more votes, only it wasn't yet a coalition: some opposition parties had run alone), Berlusconi has lost every local election, as well as the 2004 European election. Berlusconi's index of popularity is the lowest since he went into politics, mainly in order not to end up in prison for corruption, fraud and so on. The outcome of government's policy is catastrophic: massive loss of jobs, out-and-out poverty, conflicts of interest and corruption at all levels of public power, mafia business thriving on deregulation, and a dramatic increase of pollution.
What's more important, the nation is in a turmoil, conflict is all around. Hours of strike increased by 454% during the first year of government (2001-02), and have kept increasing since then. From October 2003 to October 2004 the hours of strike increased by another 400%: from about 170,000 to over 656,000.
*This* is the beast to be tamed. The best way to tame it is by changing the Constitution, which was 'born of the Resistance' [nata dalla Resistenza]. The only way to change the Constitution is by getting rid of antifascism. They're trying to achieve this by manifacturing an endless series of pseudo-scandals aimed at rewriting history.
Another important thing: The article 11 of the 1948 Constitution states: 'Italy renounces war as an instrument of offense to the liberty of other peoples or as a means of settlement in international disputes, and, on conditions of equality with other states, agrees to the limitations of her sovereignty necessary to an organization which will ensure peace and justice among nations, and promotes and encourages international organizations constituted for this purpose.' Those sentences were written by people who had experienced the horrors of the war and the destructive backlash of fascist imperialism in Africa and the Balkans.
Nearly 80% of Italians was against Italy's participation in the Iraqi War. Berlusconi didn't give a fuck and joined that crazy adventure all the same. In order not to violate the Constitution, the government never described the Italian contingent in Nassiryah as 'being at war'. Officially speaking, there is no Italian belligerent force in Iraq. It's pity the Iraqi resistance doesn't seem to agree with that.
We bet whatever you want that the next assault will be on good old article 11.
In such a climate, the latest issues of our e-zine Giap have featured a lot of texts about the fascists raising their heads again. The following, gonzoid story by Wu Ming 1 appeared on Giap #6, sixth series, on March 4, 2005.
by Wu Ming 1
I just wanted to say this: "Fascism" is not the problem, *the fascists* are, I mean, the blokes, the actual persons.
Not so long ago, fascists lived in Tony Binarelli's "fifth dimension" , now they're closer, you unfold the newspaper and smell their bad breath, you turn on the tv and wonder when was the last time you called the sewer cleaners? Is the septic tank full?
When I was a kid, I'm not sure I ever saw any fascist in flesh and bones. I was taught contempt for those people, I found them disgusting by default. No exaggerations, my old folks never catechized me, nothing like that. Maybe it was the ambient. A friend of mine's got two little kids, one day one of them asked him: - Dad, what's a fa-sist? - To which he gently replied: - Fascists are sewer animals.
That's great pedagogy if I may say so, but there was no need for it at home, we were a family of commies, and that was an already answered question.
I was raised in a small village, about one thousand people. Haven't been there for many years, nay, I go and see my folks but I never walk the village. Recently, strange things happened down there. Once a year, nazi boneheads and fascist war veterans gather in the neighbouring county to commemorate their "fallen ones" - they might as well fall from higher places if I may say so, they didn't hurt themselves enough.
Every year, that mass becomes a parade of repulsive freaks with tight, bleached trousers and wadding in their underpants. When they pass by the monument to the Resistance, they swear, throw eggs, and raise their middle fingers. Every year they cause a scandal, there are indignant comments in the local press, the authorities condemn them publicly, but no-one does a fucking thing! No buckets of shit thrown at the bastards. No elderly ex-Partisan taking his perfectly oiled 1945 rifle, peering out of the window and shooting the motherfuckers if that's the last thing he does. Nothing.
Another strange thing just happened in my native village, less than a month ago. In 1944 an aviator of the collaborationist Salo Republic took off with his plane and was downed by the RAF (not the German RAF, Ulrike Meinhof's one; I mean the British RAF, the Royal Air Force). They downed him near Argenta, in the middle of a vast marshland. He vanished. No trace of him or even the plane. An airplane cannot disappear like that, and yet it did, just like that. The guy was from the same village as me.
Sixty years later, some "amateur searchers of downed planes" (they really exist, I read it in the paper) scoured the countryside and, what, did they find the plane? No shit.
What happened next: the villagers hurried to organize a big mass and welcome back the son of... the village, exactly. Hardly unpredictable, the point is that the event was attended by the military authorities (in 1944 the legitimate government was the Southern one, led by marshal Badoglio, what have the military authorities got to do with a guy who fought at the orders of a puppet government set up by the Nazis?), as well as some of the right-winging old crocks I mentioned above - they might also have padded underpants, I dunno.
In plain words, the mass became a revanchist blackshirt rally. The Left-Democrat mayor said: - Hell no, I won't go! - and someone complained, talked about "the insensitiveness shown by the mayor", "the mayor's factious choice" etc. What could the guy do, for Christ's sake? Rub elbows with the nazis, do the roman salute, shove a broom up his arse so he could walk and sweep the church-square? No, I think he did the right thing.
In short, fascists walk around the streets I used to walk when I was a kid. There wasn't any back then. Fascists were far away, in the remote background. So much atmosphere between me and them, they didn't even look black, they were light blue.
The first time I saw the fascists at close quarters, they were far away all the same. I mean the fascist fascists, the hardcore ones, not the posers I met at the high school. It was the springtime of '91 when a squad of them stormed the White Room at the Department of Literature, 38, via Zamboni, Bologna. The White Room was "self-managed by the students", i.e. by the Autonomists , i.e. us. To tell the truth, it was just a place to hang out, there was nothing in there. They broke in with clubs, heroically fought against no-one, scattered the nothing all over the place, and proudly went away.
I don't remember which sub-species they belonged to, the Youth Front, the United Front... If memory doesn't fail me it was a few days before the student election. The right-wing candidates ran under the name "Sturm und Drang" (we immediately renamed them "Strunz und Sprang", mock-German for "Stronzi e spranghe", Shitheads With Sticks), but the two groups might as well have nothing to do with each other.
Someone had seen them before the raid, gathering at a bar in via Belle Arti which I'll call The Maybug. We decided to attack them as they were drinking coffee, make them feel the club between lip and cup (without any implied metaphor). Trouble was, they were waiting for us. They came out from under a scaffolding, wearing helmets and waving their sticks. We stopped across the street, we were not ready for that. I don't know why both groups froze, a few dozen yards from one another. On the scaffolding there was a hodman, he quietly climbed down, crossed the street... and gave us a spade-stick! Wow, thank you very much, brother! You're welcome, have a nice day.
Feeling reassured by the people's solidarity, we ran back and unpaved a few square yards of via Zamboni. When we turned up again, the fascists were gone. There were only a few cops, and the bar was unprotected. We threw bricks at the window, just to make the day complete. The bar owner, I swear it, ran out and yelled: - Please, don't, you got it wrong, I'm not a right-winger, I used to give money to Prima Linea!  - What a baffling thing to hear. Not knowing what to do next, we called for a public meeting, like the Jewish revolutionaries in "Life of Brian".
I have almost no memories of that meeting, the only sentence I remember is: - Fascists are neither a merely political problem nor a merely military problem. They are *both* a political and a military problem. - O what depths of wisdom!
The day after some fascists placed a petition signing table at the gates of the Department of Law. We didn't know whether they were the same fellas or not, but, I mean, who cared? The White Room opened and out stepped fully armoured warriors. The newspapers had covered yesterday's racket, and we wanted to cut a fine figure. Woollen balaclavas (at the end of May!) and wooden clubs of various sizes. A fella even had a fire extinguisher, and another guy had made a rudimental flamethrower, using a spray-can and a lighter. Even the most bloodthirsty comrades looked at him as if he were a madman you don't want to contradict.
We headed to Piazza Verdi, our Ok Corral. The street was blocked by a riot squad line, beyond which was the signing table. The fascists were down there, about two hundred yards away, nothing more than matchstick men. Between the helmets of the cops we saw raised arms, sticks (or were they rolled fly-posters?), and assholes wearing Ray Bans, although it might be a case of cognitive dissonance: fascists are supposed to wear Ray Bans, therefore we saw them.
We were a bunch of clowns. One of the comrades started to explaining his view of the situation, waving his arms in the air, oblivious of the club he had in his hand. He accidentally hit another comrade in the nose. The poor guy had to be taken back to the White Room, blood sprayed all over his face. We hurt ourselves doing fuck all.
There we stood with nothing going on when Luca, who's going to become Wu Ming 3, lifted a foot from the ground, pointed a finger at it and said: - I'm wearing these boots made at the Leoncavallo squatters' shop. The sole's coming unstuck, what'll I do if the coppers charge, uh?
At that precise moment, the coppers did charge. As we were withdrawing, Luca's sole came apart, the rip started from the tip, it looked like a mouth opening to bite the pavement. Luca stumbled as a cop yelled to him: - You piece of shit! You fucking piece of shit! - Luca tried to protect his head with his arms and was repeatedly hit on them. His hands would remain swollen well into the night.
The final body count: two injuries. One had been clubbed by mistake by a comrade, the other had been fucked by the Leoncavallo lace-up boots. Talk about fratricidal fighting in the Left.
The day after, the local section of L'Unità newspaper published a picture of us fully armored, it looked like the Carnival of Cento, we were absolutely ludicrous. The caption said: "Autonomia lined up in via Zamboni". Big deal.
A few months later, at dead of night, the fascists were caught sticking up flyposters. That time, they got beat up with no fanfares. A quiet, discreet thing.
What were we talking about? Oh, yeah, the fascists are closer, sewer cleaning, septik tanks, etc. I just wanted to say this: the fascists are not vague flickerings of Ray Bans anymore. They are no longer either the blokes you chase off or those you're chased off by, and sometimes you brawl with each other and they put out a knife or something like that but it's as if they live in another world, like the aliens in those 1970's Japanese cartoons. I don't know how to explain it, but it's like they're really *too close* now, and they're loathsome in a way you can't imagine. Maybe it was that bullshit on the "foibe" which pissed me off, maybe all those squats burned down by the nazis, maybe this or maybe that, but the situation is dreadful.
Oh, I forgot to tell you: the guy, the aviator, was downed by the Brits in 1944. How come he's listed on a fascist website (the "Amici della Folgore") as a victim of post-war 'communist rough justice', as though he'd been killed by underground cells of former partisans? Did they mistake Winston Churchill's RAF for Ulrike Meinhof's one? Who knows. Anyway, it is a good example of how reliable these "lists of victims" are. And it's nothing compared with the "foibe" scam, but that's another story.
1. Tony Binarelli is a well-known Italian conjuror. The height of his popularity was during the 1980's, when he seemed to be on television 24h a day. Back then, when he pretended to hypnotize somebody, he'd say: "Relax... Don't think of anything... Now you are in the fifth dimension". It probably isn't the same fifth dimension The Byrds sang about. Visit Tony's website at http://www.tonybinarelli.com
2. Autonomia was a current of Italy's far left.
See http://www.answers.com/topic/autonomist-marxism and http://www.geocities.com/aufheben2/auf_11_operaismo.html.
3. Prima Linea [Front Line] was a far-leftist armed organization, which disbanded in the early Eighties.
"WE WONDER IF WE'VE ANSWERED THE QUESTION…"
Wu Ming interviewed by "Cem Mondialita' - magazine of multicultural education", November 2004
Translated by Manola
Q. The experience of Luther Blissett, your precursor, was based on mockery and guerrilla warfare against the media. You adapted a slogan by Sun Tzu (author of "The art of war"): "You can act within the media only fighting fire with fire". Do you still adhere to this concept?
A. We never created theories on the media or philosophies regarding the media. We simply and practically criticised it and the way it works. Quite obviously, we did it through the media itself. None of our contemporaries lives outside of the media landscape. Society wouldn’t even exist without the information reported in the media (either of the old or new kind). To act within the media is not only possible: it’s also inevitable. The system is systemic, in fact: we live inside it, it engulfs us, it in-forms us. A strategy of resistance and counter-attack must aim at deepening the crisis in the relationships between the informers and the informed, producers and consumers, top and bottom, broadcasters and receivers. All these dichotomies are on the verge of extinction thanks to new technologies, new behaviours, new tools and new spatial-temporal dimensions. Not to mention blogs, peer-to-peer networks and sms used for organising spontaneous demonstrations. More often than not it happens that a piece of top-down information gets lost along the way, gets torn or twisted or misinterpreted and goes back to the sender failing to accomplish its task, or even achieving the opposite. Many people and communities are now working in order to decode, disavow, demystify and discredit this kind of information. Moreover, all this is happening in the media realm, not in any imaginary "outside".
Q. Luther Blissett used to have a name and a face (even if virtual and mischievous). Wu Ming lost them both (quoting from your home page "this revolution is faceless"). What’s the meaning behind the purpose of ending Luther Blissett’s experience, not to mention the ritual suicide?
A. Actually, Wu Ming *has* a name: "Wu Ming". Wu Ming is the name of a five-member band as "The Beatles" was the name of a four-member band. Wu Ming has got five faces, because people have faces. What has no face is the anthropological revolution taking place nowadays (we’ve just mentioned some examples). This is to say that it isn’t ruled by any star, leader or celebrity. Luther Blissett represents the eventual anthropomorphism of this process. He used to be the folk hero; he was everybody and nobody, the one who embodies everyone’s desires and aspirations. Anyone can be Luther Blissett, the imaginary folk hero of the Internet era, simply using his name to move into action. We did it for five years then we stopped, but his name is still used in the Net, in many countries like Spain and Brazil…It’s *our* experience which has stopped. We've been the pioneers, the veterans in the use of this name. It had been planned since the beginning, in fact it was a five-year plan.
Q. "Anything is a story and stories belong to everyone", you said. Our magazine supports the need of a "narrative pedagogy", thus we feel complete empathy with your statement. Does it make sense to speak of a "narrative turning point" in your experience? And if so, which means do you intend to develop it with? Do you think it could have a pedagogical or educational impact?
A. Even in the Luther Blissett days we created and told stories. The difference is that, at that time, we used to tell them on the streets, on the stage of the world, in order to smuggle them into the media: poisoned scoops devoured by journalists as if they were forbidden fruits which would eventually rack their stomachs and intestines with painful cramps. Our faked plots had a huge amount of characters and actors who were mainly unaware of it. So, we’ve always been story-tellers, but the means used to be different. Today we focus on a more specific narrative dimension and it’s our job. We think of ourselves as story-tellers. Narrating has always had an educational value (or a misleading one, depending on the point of view): an anti-racist person considers educative what a racist one sees as completely misleading, and so on…). We all educate (or mislead) our neighbours and ourselves twenty four hours a day through stories told on a train, at a bar, at school, in front of the office coffee-machine, on stadium terraces, in parish recreation centres. People’s lives wouldn’t be the same without the stories, anecdotes, gossip, jokes, tales, and recollections we tell one another everyday. Story-telling is the prime and primordial social act of human beings.
Q. "A story-teller is someone who tells stories and re-elaborates myths, i.e. stories with symbolic referents shared - or at least known, or even put into question - by a community". This is the outset of the Preamble of your *Declaration of rights (and duties) of story-tellers*. In which way myths and symbolic references affected your experience?
A. They affect everyone’s lives, not only ours. Same concept mentioned above: there’s no society without legend-making, there’s no community without symbolic references. There’s a popular, but incorrect, way of saying: "It has only symbolic value". "Only" is utterly inappropriate because any symbolic reference has an immense value which often goes beyond its use-value and exchange-value. Take the peace flag, for instance, it doesn’t protect you from missiles or bombs (it's only acrylic fabric, it doesn’t fend off blows), nor a prisoner’s hunger strike physically affects the jailer (the jailer’s forced fast eventually would), and yet we hang peace flags out of our windows, and people go on hunger strike. This kind of actions have symbolic effects, they mean to undermine consensus, to create feelings of shame, to highlight inconvenient attitudes, to draw people’s attention to a possible need of social sanctioning. They can have a material effect. A storyteller’s work consists of constantly exploring the symbolic dimension, understanding and helping other people to understand its function, creating stories that can startle people and bring symbols to life.
Q. The title of our dossier ("The art of appearing") aims at being discussed, questioned. (Is appearance a trick? Or the ultimate truth? Is disappearance an art in this world of appearances? To disappear in order to stand out? ) What’s your opinion about this dichotomy Appear/Disappear?
A. "Transparent towards the readers, opaque towards the media". We are always *present* but do not *appear*. We don’t go on tv and, when possible, tend to avoid having our pictures taken. The natural place of a story-teller is seated in a circle with his or her listeners. Nowadays, paradoxically, your public image is an obstacle between your story and your public. Authors are marketed, their stories seem less important than their faces. The star is the real commodity, not the book or the movie. All this might have reasons to exist from a commercial point of view, but it’s not the kind of relationship we’re interested in.>
Q. Could you synthetically explain your collective writing experience? How did you organise yourselves while writing, for example, "Q"? Do you receive external help from collaborators?
A. Any writer receives external help from collaborators who are often unaware of it. No writer, no human being actually, can abstract himself or herself from the rest of the world. An isolated story-teller would have no story to tell. We are links to a huge net, the human species’ net. It comprises the living, the dead, and the yet-to-be-born. We authors simply receive, elaborate, and then spread their messages. In any book you can find, for instance, what the author heard on TV, the phone s/he received, recollections of his/her mother, the very first love, the most embarrassing situation, the caricature of someone the author can’t stand at all and so on. A writer is like a sponge, all you have to do is squeeze it. In our case, of course, it implies certain methods, but we keep on changing them, sometimes radically, depending on the book. It can depend on the story we want to tell, on the sources we rely on, on the time we have, on the presence or absence of any of us and on the implements used. Methods can be very different if you’re doing your research with the help of a recorder or by consulting microfilms. Moreover, when it comes down to sharing duties, we have no rule. None of us have a specific duty, it’s an open and interchangeable type of work.
Q. Recently, you’ve collaborated on a movie with Guido Chiesa, "Lavorare con lentezza", and promoted a book of Girolamo De Michele (whom you’ve discovered) "Tre uomini paradossali". They both try to observe, from different points of view, the ’77 Italian movement. The ‘77 insurgence has been subterraneously "working" inside Italian social history along the years. Do you think it's still a powerful, moving legend?
A. Cum grano salis, definitely yes. The problems the ‘77 insurgence faced are the same ones we are facing nowadays. Superficially, the two periods have many things in common: there was an energetic crisis as there is now, actually the one we’re living these days is much worse because it's 100% structural while in 1977 it was due to the economic situation. Close your eyes and petrol's gone forever. There was stagflation as there is now - but nobody admits it because the capitalistic economy hasn’t the means to solve stagflation. At that time the key word was austerity, nowadays an economical decrease is needed, as some bright-minded economists claim. In 1977 mobs of kids used to go to gigs without paying, today they download music from the Net because CDs are too expensive and so on… we wonder if we’ve answered the question.