The European Parliament Inured to Wiping Out Memory

On left silence and the foreign-policy motivation behind the revision of history contained in the European Parliament’s resolution. Read Luciana Castellina’s comment.

I confess that Friday evening – while waiting for Tsipras at the event organized by the Articolo 1 party – when a comrade showed me an excerpt on the internet from the resolution on memory voted by the European Parliament, I dismissed it: ‘Don’t you see that it’s fake news?’ and then wondered ‘but who’s spreading this fake news?’

The text in fact seemed so outrageous that I thought it could have come from neofascist Casa Pound.

It was only the next day that I realised: no, something was possible that I would never have believed – that only 66 MEPs out of 748 would have voted against this resolution that is so extraordinarily shameful not only because it effects a despicable distortion of history but also because – through its resounding botching of the historical record – it calls into question the prestige of the parliamentary institution that promulgated it, an institution which up to a few years ago, incidentally, had seated Altiero Spinelli as an independent though elected in the list of the Italian Communist Party.

Notable is the decisive and significant ‘historic contribution’ of President Sassoli: ‘But there were armed tanks in Prague!’ Not to mention the damage done to the reputation of the consistent group of MEPs, former communist and socialist activists who carried that memory.

(Alas, among them even Giuliano Pisapia who thus damaged his reputation, having been a long-time deputy of a party that called itself Rifondazione Comunista.) 

But to my surprise it didn’t end there. Asked to make a statement on the issue, the French philosopher Étienne Balibar answered from New York (where he has been teaching for some time now):
I know nothing about this story; the press is not reporting on it here, and not even the French press, which I continue to read.

I check on this in Paris, calling our old chief correspondent in France, Alexandre Bilous. He is flabbergasted, he has never heard of this resolution. He calls me back a short while afterwards: no newspaper, I mean none, not even l’Humanité [1], mentioned this European vote. Only one excellent online site, Mediapart, spoke about it via a letter sent by Charles Heinberg, a Swiss history lecturer in Geneva. Thank goodness! Then I reflect on the fact that in the last European elections no PCF deputy, and not even one from the PSF, was elected.

(And yet, even if they are not in parliament, did people not notice how serious this resolution on our common memory is, written as it is by the worst European right groups? And how did Raphaël Glucksmann, son of the well known nouveau philosophe, today head of a vaguely defined regrouping of socialist origin, justify his favourable vote?)

Silence also in the German press, which is normally attentive to questions of historical memory – both the right and the left press.

I am less surprised by the Greens’ favourable vote – their traditional anti-communism has always produced no small amount of political ambiguities.

In Italy, aside obviously from the communist Il Manifesto (fortunately, the resolution has no juridical weight, otherwise it could be banned because it’s a communist daily), centre-left La Repubblica commented on what happened. For the rest, almost nothing – other than, of course, the cries of joy from the right.

I won’t go into a historical analysis of the text; historians have written about this with more competence. And others will certainly write about it in the future.

I only want to say here that our reaction, that of all of us who have been stunned and outraged, cannot, must not, stay at this level. We cannot just marvel that it could happen; we have to pillory those who made possible such a thing and answer energetically, immediately, and everywhere. Because otherwise we will end up being amazed that for many what happened doesn’t matter – doesn’t matter at all.

We are in danger of being struck dumb by the discovery. Then what? First of all, it’s good that the MEPs Massimiliano Smeriglio and Pierfrancesco Majorino didn’t accept the discipline of the PD group and refused to vote yes, but that’s not enough.

With the National Association of Italian Partisans (ANPI), with Luca Pastorino and Francesco Laforgia of Liberi e Uguali, and Nicola Fratoianni of Sinistra Italiana, who immediately reacted here in Italy and being deputies in Italy’s lower house can launch initiatives here; and above all with all those who are outraged, something has to be done, a debate has to be opened. Above all in the Partito Democratico. Memory is not something to entrust only to specialist historians; it is a fundamental part of our present.

Moreover, the squalor of the unabashedly denialist operation set in motion resides in the fact that it has the underhanded immediate motivation of reinforcing economic sanctions against Russia, of exacerbating the most irresponsible of European ‘after-the-fall-of-the-wall’ policies. That is, rather than seize the occasion – as Gorbachev had urged in vain – to finally strike out on the path of Europe’s autonomy from the two military blocs and involve Russia in a common project (the common European home), the road was taken of extending NATO so far east as to station its missiles under the nose of Moscow. If Putin, whom no democrat can like, has consolidated power in his country (and has also become well more popular than the western media would have us believe) it is because he has been able to play on the chauvinism stirred up by this encirclement.

How do you think Moscow can react now that the EU has decreed that 22 million Russian women and men who lost their lives while making the decisive contribution to the defeat of Nazism are, instead, our enemies?

Originally published at Il  Manifesto, 24 September 2019 (full version)



[1] On 26 September, L’Humanité published an editorial on this subject.

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