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Report by Maurizio Turco, Vice-president of the Senate of the NRPTT

General Council of the PRNTT - Brussels, 7/8 December 2007

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1. “Across borders, parties, nation States. The party for a Europe of law and nonviolence” – with this slogan opened the 34th Congress of the Radical Party (PR) in January 1988, which was held in Bologna and sanctioned the transformation of the Radical Party into a transnational political body, an instrument of political organisation open to the participation of citizens from every country, belonging to various parties which, as such, does not take part in electoral competitions.

2. From December 1955 to January 1988 the Radical Party was a national Italian political body (though was never defined as such) which made nonviolence its main point of struggle, by means of which, despite its absence from Parliament, it managed to secure for the country the only two reforms that Italy has seen since 1945 to the present day: that of family law with the legalisation of divorce and the law against mass clandestine abortion.

3. In this respect we should also remember that as soon as the referendum on divorce had been won, PR began campaigning for the referendum on abortion and, thereafter, eight further referenda to repeal various fascist laws including the ‘Concordat between State and Church’. The Constitutional Court declared this referendum inadmissible and raised the Concordat to the level of an international treaty. In this way in Italy the popular and radical path of reform was blocked.

4. I am talking to you about a party, the radical party, which 20 years ago had already arrived at the conclusion how: “None of the major problems of our time on which depend the destiny of humanity, the right to life and a life with legal rights for every person, can today be confronted with any hope of resolution purely on the national level”.<![if !supportFootnotes]>[1]<![endif]>

5. There is no doubt that one of the most significant battles in the journey which has made the Radical Party what it is today and which has irreversibly marked radical history, was the “campaign against death by famine in the world” deliberated by the extraordinary Congress of 1980.<![if !supportFootnotes]>[2]<![endif]> This would occupy the party for the next five years, although Marco Pannella, leader of this struggle, had already foreseen it back in 1979.

6. One Congress, in March 1980, approved among other things what is now the preamble to our statute in which it is proclaimed, the right to disobedience, to non-collaboration, to conscientious objection, to the supreme forms of nonviolent struggle for the defence, with life, of life, of legal right, of law.”2

7. The campaign against death through famine led thousands of people from various countries to support and practice radical nonviolent initiatives. In the middle of this struggle Marco Pannella wrote what would become the “Appeal Manifesto of Nobel Prize-winners against extermination by hunger”<![if !supportFootnotes]>[3]<![endif]>, a prescient and very timely document signed by over 100 Nobel Prize-winners: “if the unarmed would go and organise themselves using their few but long lasting weapons political democracy and the great nonviolent "Gandhian" actions, fixing themselves and imposing the choice of objectives from time to time limited and adequate; if this would happen, it would be certain, just as today it is certainly possible, that our times would not be catastrophic. (…)if the men and women, if people knew, would be informed, we do not doubt that the future could be different from what is looming and seems destined for everybody and the whole world. But only in this case. It is necessary to choose immediately, to act, to create, to live and make people live.”

8. From 1979 to 1988 there were countless nonviolent initiatives. There was not a country in the communist bloc, from Russia to Poland, from Hungary to the ex-Yugoslavia that did not witness nonviolent demonstrations “for the right to life and a life with legal rights” led by radical militants, already from that time not only Italians.

9. But already on 24 September 1968 in the capital of Bulgaria, in Sofia, we find demonstrating against the invasion of Czechoslovakia the 38 year-old Marco Pannella and the young radical leaders Marcello Baraghini, Antonio Azzolini and Silvana Leopardi.

10. And, in 1977, Marco Pannella is in Madrid where, between 20 September and 2 October, he went on a hunger and then thirst strike for the liberation of conscientious objectors to military service.

11. A year later, in 1978, Congress<![if !supportFootnotes]>[4]<![endif]> elects as Party Secretary a French conscientious objector: Jean Fabre and, in April 1995, Congress<![if !supportFootnotes]>[5]<![endif]> elects as Secretary a Belgian “conscientious affirmer”, Olivier Dupuis, who was held in a Belgian prison for 11 months.

12. Or, again, Marco Pannella and Olivier Dupuis who in Croatian military uniform spent the night of 31 December 1991 in the trenches of the besieged city of Osijek. Or on 27 January 1993, when Emma Bonino and Sergio Stanzani go to Sarajevo – on the very day on which bombs kill 15 people and where, among others, they meet City Mayor Muhamed Kresevljiakovic, a Party member and who, one month later, will take part in the radical Congress. Muhamed Kresevljiakovic will help by his presence, words and actions the party to exceed 30,000 members, a condition set by the Congress to ensure continuation of activities.

13. These are just a few nuggets, examples of a history, our history, which often slips our memory long as it is complex, profound is the series of analyses, which are followed by initiatives of nonviolent struggle. Sometimes crowned with success or which, when the goal is not met, herald new initiatives.

14. I believe it is not only necessary but also a matter of great urgency to write a summary of these struggles, of the people who have animated and enlivened this party so that we may get to know ourselves and each other better, and to let us learn from whoever does not know us what we are and what we are proud of being able to say, and not to be what we want but what we have become via our coming together, our knowing one another and living as radicals.

15. In the words of Marco Pannella “We hope to be the revolutionising and revolutionary seed of a new and different, even anthropological, awareness. And we also hope to spread this like DNA and not only in the form of political victories.”

16. An awareness abiding in recent times and recalling only the most important initiatives, details of which follow:

- 1 December 2001, World Day of fasting and nonviolence for women in the Afghan Government: 4,985 participants from 101 countries, including 282 MPs, 103 senators, 127 MEPs, 17 members of the government, 209 personalities;
- March 2002, For Israel in the European Union: 7,532 participants;
- January 2003, “Free Iraq! – Liberty, democracy, law, peace for the Iraqis”, campaign seeking exile for Saddam and to prevent armed intervention:
26,509 participants from 172 nations, 501 Italian MPs;
- April 2003: For a United Nations provisional administration in Chechnya:
38,026 participants from 135 nations;
- April 2004: Against the international ban on research carried out on embryonic stem cells:
1,546 participants, 77 Nobel Prize-winners, 166 MPs;
- June 2006: “Hands Off Saddam”, against the execution of the Iraqi dictator:
146 Italian MPs and 3 Nobel Prize-winners;
- August 2006: World Satyagraha for Peace, Democracy and Liberty:
2,021 participants from 69 nations, 2 Nobel Prize-winners, 46 MPs;
- June 2007: For a UN Moratorium on Capital Punishment: 52,424 people from 158 nations, 55 Nobel Prize-winners.

17. But at this point we should not fail to point out that the campaign for a UN Moratorium on Capital Punishment is one that the ‘Hands off Caine’ association, a part of the NRPTT, started 13 years ago led by Maria Teresa Di Lascia, Sergio D’Elia and Elisabetta Zamparutti. They manage against all the odds to count the hours of fasting, hunger and thirst strikes, and today have secured a first, major yet limited success: 15 November the 3rd UN Committee approved by absolute majority the resolution in favour of the universal moratorium on the death penalty.

18. Unfortunately we are still occupied and preoccupied about winning this point definitively. The European Union and the Italian Government do not seem to have understood the need to prepare for the final vote in the General Assembly, to be held on or around 20 December, with new initiatives, with the official mobilisation of ambassadors, not only Italian and perhaps Portuguese, but those from the 27 EU States, and from the European Commission, summoning on the eve of the vote with testimonials from at least 100 Nobel Prize-winners. Instead, unused to such successes and victories, they are limiting themselves to mere ceremonial or behind-the-scenes duties.

19. Also in these hours, just three days ago, on 4 December, Marco Cappato, MEP and Secretary of the Luca Coscioni Association, a part of NRPTT, after having met with President Erdogan in Italy, travelled to Turkey to discuss about the Second World Congress for the liberty of scientific research which should be held in Istanbul.

20. Allow me though to turn briefly to the Italian situation, in part because it is the home that has always breathed life into the Radical Party and continues to do so to this day in spite of many difficulties, and because the Italian situation is really a text-book case of how legal rights can be destroyed in the name of democracy.

21. I shall start with a recent quote: on 14 February, the Committee of Ministers adopted a resolution in which one may read that since the 1980s Italy has been repeatedly condemned by the European Court of Human Rights as a result of structural problems relating to the excessive length of civil, penal and administrative judiciary proceedings in Italy and that these, I quote verbatim “represent a serious danger for respect of the rule of law”. In reality the rule of law is constantly violated in Italy.

22. For a year and a half the Italian Constitutional Court deliberated without the allotted constitutional quorum. The election of the missing judge took place thanks to Pannella’s so-called pressure: hunger and thirst strikes.

23. The Italian Constitution provides for 630 MPs. For a year the Parliament legislated while lacking 13 MPs. After the usual pressure applied by Pannella, hunger and thirst strikes, Parliament at least resolved that the Parliament would be composed of 617 MPs for that legislature.

24. For a year and a half in the Senate have sat eight people nominated by magistrates thanks to an interpretation of the law in breach of the applicable written law. It needs no pointing out that among the eight elected though not validated senators are Marco Pannella and the party leader of ‘Italian Radicals’, a part of NRP, Rita Bernardini. All this happens in spite of the fact that for the first time in the History of the Italian radicals, we participate in the Government of the country. For the first time ever there is one Radical Minister, Emma Bonino.

25. Over the years, radicals in Italy have promoted 89 referenda to repeal laws by collecting 50 million authenticated and certificated signatures; the Constitutional Court has thrown out 45 ignoring over 27 million signatures; of the 44 allowed referenda the “Yes” camp has won 31 times: in other words, in 70% of cases voters joined forces with the radicals against the party system and in most cases with majorities of 75%. But what has also happened is that, for example, citizens have voted to abolish public funding for parties, but the Parliament, via the law on electoral reimbursements, has actually increased it fivefold. This is one of the many cases in which Parliament has “corrected” the popular response, in the sad silence of institutions appointed to respect it.

26. There have just been published transcripts of several telephone intercepts from which it emerges that the former Secretary of ex-Prime Minister Berlusconi, promoted by the latter as head of public television, made a deal with the heads of the three largest private networks, also owned by Berlusconi. And that the leading political journalist on television made a deal with the Secretary of a Minister of State on what to air from an interview.

27. Against this backdrop, the radicals are systematically excluded from taking part in debates on both public and private networks; it is no accident that our complaints have led to these channels being “censured” some 26 times in recent years for breaches demonstrating their ever more treacherous attitude, certainly towards us and above all to democracy and citizens.

28. Our analysis of the Italian situation is based on facts, it is not an abstract assessment. And from an analysis of the facts we move to action. It has never been enough and it is not enough for us to declare, however truthfully or objectively, how “in Italy we have no democracy or rule of law”. For example, ahead of the June 1983 elections, the Radical Party convenes an extraordinary Congress<![if !supportFootnotes]>[6]<![endif]> to debate how to take part. Discussions conclude against an automatic and arbitrary presentation, as “act of duty”. The decision of the Congress develops in the following weeks into the presentation of the party list, only with the aim of securing the minimum earmarked TV spaces to openly call for people not to vote and to stand against party democracy. Since then, following actions of civil disobedience to conquer laws that govern the black and criminal market of drugs, dozens of radicals militants, led by Marco Pannella, Sergio Stanzani and Rita Bernardini, have been put on trial and have lost the right to stand as candidates in local elections.

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29. These however are just a few examples to help understand the background in which we are living and struggling, and the way in which those who guarantee this party’s existence live and struggle. But this “Italian case” is text-book material. A text-book to which we shall never give in or give up and which I believe it is useful and incumbent to know and make known.

30. To complete this scene, it must be said that in Italy we have a pontiff, a Vatican and an ecclesiastical hierarchy that devotes every day to the denunciation of the enlightenment and secularism which it holds responsible for all the evils of the 20th century, and even in the denunciation of “moral relativism” which was the inspiration for the UN.

31. All of this is happening in a Europe that is very different from that dreamed of by radicals such as Ernesto Rossi. This staunch Italian and European federalist wrote, together with Altiero Spinelli, the “Manifesto for a Free and United Europe”. They wrote this in 1941, during the rule of fascism, while confined to the Island of Ventotene; Ernesto Rossi had already been in prison for nine years and on the island for two. We are this. We are also this.

32. And we are Radio Radical. The only political broadcaster to air the voices of all political leaders and all Congresses of all parties. All of them. And which allows for example our Montagnard partners to air their voice in the central highlands of Vietnam via radio short-wave radio broadcasts, which are the only source of free information broadcast today in the Montagnard dialects in Vietnam.

33. And we are the “Radio-Television Audience Centre”, the only structure able to monitor everything about information, freedom of speech, respect for regulations. It is no accident that they want to close it down. And they are succeeding. Over the last few days have been sent out the staff redundancy letters. We have but days, two or three weeks, before violations will not even be opposed.

34. Today we are continuing to live as we have always lived. We are, still today, like Ernesto Rossi on the Island of Ventotene, in a forcibly and violently imposed confinement which is based on an improper, violent and illegal use of law and institutions. And like Ernesto Rossi we must, today, struggle against the Europe of fatherlands for a European homeland. A homeland that also includes Israel, Turkey and the community of Northern Cyprus.

35. The Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational and Transparty continues to live as it has always lived – via campaign and initiative self-funding. We have always been poor and we continue to be poor. The only property that we possess, if one can call it that, is our headquarters in Rome. In reality we have a mortgage with a bank which, if we succeed, we shall finish paying off in a few years.

36. Today we find ourselves confronting the umpteenth difficulty, I would say unbearable, crisis. While it is not a crisis of ideas, it is one of money in that we have lost our voice, above all that of Marco Pannella and Emma Bonino, who can no longer reach the Italian citizens and so in turn cannot reach the people and leading classes of other countries. It is like the voice of Umar not being able to speak to the Chechens; Vanida not being able to speak to the Laotians; Vo Van Ai and Penelope not being able to speak to the Vietnamese; Kok not being able to speak to the Montagnards; Enver and Rebiya not being able to speak to the Uygurs, Wej not being able to speak to the Chinese; Turgay not being able to speak to the Greek Cypriots.

37. We cannot communicate our ideas, we cannot put them on the market of free conscience for individuals which is for them to decide if and how to act; or for our political adversaries to try to convince them to win as one the battle for liberty, democracy and rule of law.

38. And also, but not only, our not being heard in the place where we were born and where some cannot even live, makes us understand the importance and necessity of our struggles, of nonviolence, of liberty.

39. How not to forget in this regard, that the only piece of international jurisdiction in existence, the International Criminal Court, is the fruit of years of radical struggle by Emma Bonino and the association ‘No Peace without Justice’, a part of the nonviolent Radical Party. An organisation which in 1998 prepared what would become the indictment against Milosevic for his political responsibilities in crimes committed in Kosovo. And which has for years been politically committed to the struggle against female genital mutilation.

40. At this our General Council we face a very difficult situation, but with a very important campaign in sight, The First World Satyagraha for Peace, Democracy and Liberty, coinciding and not by chance with the Beijing Olympics. This is the main priority of our General Council, which will be the campaign focus and radical initiative for next year.

41. And confronted with the prospect of such a high profile struggle, once more echoing the words of Altiero Spinelli, just a few weeks before his death at the 31st Congress in Florence in November 1985: “You know how to conduct this action, infusing it with your fervour and even your hint of madness.”

42. Fervour and hint of madness that we find in some statements by Marco Pannella who, speaking about himself but I believe can and should apply to each and everyone of us, said:

We became radicals because we felt we had an insurmountable solitude and diversity from other people, and so a deep and different thirst, more lasting, more ‘radical’ than others... We do not “make politicians”, MPs, leaders … we campaign for what we must and what we believe in. And this is the difference which sooner or later, and we hope not too much later, people will have to understand.

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43. In the meantime we continue to struggle and the first campaign, the most pressing and to guarantee the launch and success of all others, starting with the First World Satyagraha, is firstly the registration of each and everyone of us followed directly by those who can, in their own words, recognise what is here, in the NRP, that gives birth to and builds the struggle to conquer that insuppressible desire for liberty which crosses individuals, borders, parties, and nation States.

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<![if !supportFootnotes]>[1]<![endif]> From a motion at the 34th Radical Party Congress – Bologna, 2/6 January 1988.

<![if !supportFootnotes]>[2]<![endif]> 33rd (extraordinary) Radical Party Congress – Rome, 7/9 March 1980.

<![if !supportFootnotes]>[4]<![endif]> 20th Radical Party Congress - Bari, 1/5 November 1978.

<![if !supportFootnotes]>[6]<![endif]> 28th (extraordinary) Congress - Rome, 13/15 May 1983