Opening remarks: Stefano Albertini (Casa
Opening remarks: Stefano Albertini (Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò) and Natalia Indrimi (Centro Primo Levi). Manuela Consonni (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Michael Livingston (Rutgers University)
Manuela Consonni’s new book, “L’eclisse dell’Antifascismo. Resistenza, questione ebraica e cultura politica in Italia, 1943-1989, (Laterza 2015)” (Laterza, 2015), analyzes the history of the “Anti-Fascist paradigm” as the backbone of the Italian Republic, from its inception to its decline. In her in depth study of Italian post-war politics, Consonni argues that, since 1943, this paradigm has become essentially cultural, since the Italian Republic elected not to engage in a juridical and political assessment of the past and erase the Italian responsibility for Fascism and the Italian Social Republic. By indicting only the German ‘occupation’ Italy disowned the violent ideological confrontation between Italian Fascists and Italian anti-Fascists in the context of a civil war.
The institutional and political refusal to implement a ‘purge’ policy through the justice system, as happened in France and Germany, represented the first missed opportunity to rebuild Italy in a democratic framework. It was also the first major political and moral defeat of Italian anti-Fascism. In 1947, an amnesty was issued by no other than Palmiro Togliatti, leader of the Italian Communist Party and Minister of Justice between 1945 and 1946, eager to guarantee the inclusion of the Communist Party in the government. This step generated a form of institutionalized oblivion, which prevented the recognition of the nature of Fascism not only by all political forces that had fought it, but as a matter of collective conscience.
Consonni analyzes the liberation war, the Jewish question, and Italian post war politics in their reciprocal relations. She ponders how the progressive separation between political and cultural spheres, between political consensus and cultural narrative, reduced the anti-Fascist paradigm to celebratory rhetoric. In parallel to the widespread rhetoric however, she identifies a precise line of “cultural resistance” that flourished since the end of the war: the “memorial writings,” which kept alive the memory of the anti-Fascist battle, the political deportations and, in particular, the extermination of the Jews, which had not otherwise been legitimized as part of national history.
Taking a comparative step that challenges another foundational myth, Consonni proposes a parallel between the Resistance and the 19th century Italian Risorgimento. In her view, for both these highly symbolic raptures in Italian history, the concept of civil war was rejected by national consensus. For the Risorgimento too, historiography represented Austria as enemy of the nation rather than acknowledging the internal conflicts over national unity. In both cases, Consonni argues, it is essential to consider the active role played by the Catholic Church in the Italian Political discourse, first as a fierce opponent of the national unification, and later as an ally of the fascist regime.
In her journey through the postwar construction of memory, Consonni raises hypothesis on the effects of the politics of cultural consensus on public ethics and democratic conscience. She pushes the boundaries of her inquiry beyond Italy, trying to capture what she defines as the inability of the European societies to move beyond the trauma of the end of history, of the relativity of reality and truth, and the death of grand narratives. A process in which the history of ideas perilously overshadowed the importance of political and social history.