RADICAL INTERNATIONALISM IS BORN: A HOPE FOR PEACE AND LIFE<br>THE FIGHT AGAINST HUNGER IN THE WORLD

Jan Fabre
Notizie radicali



ABSTRACT: The European Parliament passes a resolution that is called "historical" by the French Foreign Minister Cheysson. It calls for the European Commission and the EEC governments to work out an emergency plan to save at least 5 million lives in the Southern World and estimates the funds necessary at 5000 billion lire with 45 days for mobilising the necessary resources. It is a document that no longer permits of prevarication. Thanks to Food and Disarmament and the Radical Parliamentary Group this resolution is brought to the attention of parliaments - and not only European ones - in what will soon become the most massive international mobilisation on this issue. Marco Pannella, on a hunger strike since September 2, suspends this non-violent action of his for three days, from October 17 -19. On October 20 the European Parliament begins a study of the budget; the amendments brought in support of the resolution approved against hunger are rejected by a slim majority. Commissioner Pisana states that "the European Commission will offer an adequate response". Pannella and Bonino are at Cancun to relate the E.P. resolution to twenty heads of state. The conclusion is a bitter one: "Cancun is the Munich of the Eighties". The internal mobilisation proceeds in view of the European Summit planned for the end of November. The Italian Prime Minister, Giovanni Spadolini, does not utter one word in favour of the action against extermination by starvation despite the commitments made in Italy and before the President of the Republic Alessando Pertini. The battle proceeds in the European Parliament led by the Radicals.
(NOTIZIE RADICALI No.7, January 20, 1981)


On September 30 the European Parliament approved a resolution, by an absolute majority of its members, presented by Marco Pannella and which the French Foreign Minister Cheysson called "historical". Following the Political Manifesto of the 54 Nobel Prize Winners, this statement opened an inescapable confrontation between the politics of death and the new group being formed on the European and international level for a politics of life. By asking the European Commission and the EEC governments to work out a plan against hunger and under-development beginning in January 1982, by estimating the cost at 5,000 billion lire and by not giving the Commission more than 30 days to report to Parliament and 45 days to the European Council to mobilise the necessary resources, the majority of the European Parliament blocked any further delays and loopholes. The document was an act of political courage that rose to the level of the dimensions and the tragedy of our times. Thus no parliamentary document has ever received such large and prestigious support.
Food and Disarmament International and the Radical European Parliamentary Group immediately accepted the task of reporting on the position taken to all the parliaments of Europe (and not only to those of the Ten) as well as to the Nobel Prize Winners, religious and political authorities and specialised organisations. Dozens of letters and messages of adherence immediately arrived from parliamentarians in all parts of Europe announcing parallel initiatives. One hundred fifty letters from bishops, primarily of Third World countries, expressed not only hope but support, told of messages sent to ministers and heads of state, and gave recognition to Marco Pannella's hunger strike as an act of great political and human value. Messages also arrived not only from European heads of state but also from the Sahel and those of the countries hardest hit, such as Bangladesh and others.
Ambassadors, European, African, and Latin American diplomats, high U.N. officials, experts on famine, Nobel Prize winners, all changed their schedules at the last minute to be present in Strasbourg at the European Parliament on October 14 where Food and Disarmament International and the [Radical] Parliamentary Group together organised on the highest level an international colloquium to study immediately the application of the parliamentary resolution in the face of the problems which it posed. Bradford Morse, director of the United Nations Development Programme, the Assistant Director General of UNCTAD and other eminent specialists all clearly indicated that it is possible and reasonable to reach the goals set for Europe by the European Parliament and emphasised how ludicrous, all in all, was the sum requested with respect to the total budgets of the European countries.
The meeting of the Nobel Prize winners with Spadolini and Pertini (1), the success of the Rome march on October 17, the numerous signals received during those days, all allowed one to think that something was about to change. Thus Marco Pannella decided to suspend his hunger strike for three days (October 17, 18, 19) which he had begun on September 2. Meanwhile in Belgium a great debate was begun organised by the National Radio which for the entire first week in October dedicated one hour a day to the objective of the hunger strike. It began with a one-hour interview with Pannella, then continued for the next three days with an open line to listeners and ended with a reply by Pannella.
On October 8, on the initiative of the Belgian Associates of the Radical Party, hundreds of people gathered in Brussels before the Ministry of Development Co-operation to honour the victims of hunger and under-development. On the ninth Marco Pannella held a public conference in the Aula Magna of the University of Brussels. A lively debate, often upsetting for those who discovered that the watershed of the policy of the defence of life and the choice of death does not lie between "right" and "left" but often passes within the party alliances. A rich debate.
On October 20 the fight over the budget began in the European Parliament with the presentation of amendments amounting to 600 billion in concurrence with the September 30 resolution. The rapporteur, Spinelli, pronounced himself in favour. Even though obtaining a large number of votes, they were however rejected by the opposing group. On October 20, the Commissioner of the EEC for development, Pisani, uttered assurances that "the European Commission will respond adequately to the request made by the Parliament...". At that point Marco Pannella and Emma Bonino left for Cancun to report to the 20 heads of state gathered in Mexico on the European Parliament's resolution, the Manifesto of the Nobel Prize winners and the many prestigious messages received from all over the world. Unfortunately the conclusion was a bitter one: "Cancun is the Munich of the Eighties" Bonino and Pannella stated, adding: "It was not a question of trying to negotiate but of making a break with the past and the present, with holocaust and war".
On the 27th, the Dutch television broadcast a programme on the basis of the European Parliament's resolution containing an interview with Pannella. In France, ever since the beginning of the hunger strike the number of supporting committees had multiplied to 54 on the eve of the Florence Congress. On November 1 the Paris committee began a 48 hour sit-in at the entrance to the Pantheon. Two weeks later leaflets rained down in front of TV cameras on the heads of the French deputies who were discussing the development co-operation budget: "Must the five million children, women and men die for whom the European Parliament had promised life?"
On November 6, at the Bourse du Travail in Paris, Pannella held an assembly in the crowded hall where seventy years before Jean Jaurés had made some of his most important speeches. There where some of the great actions were born that gave substance to the Workers International and to Socialism, Marco Pannella recalled the history of the Popular Front and its inability to understand the need for action, to risk even the Socialist experience then taking place in order to fight Nazism, Fascism, Francoism. He remembered the millions of dead who were the price paid by that generation for its "reasonableness", its sense of "Realpolitik". "Will comrades Cheysson and Mitterand also remember it?", Pannella asked...
For its part the Luxembourg Parliament passed a resolution on the basis of the Nobel Prize Winners Manifesto and the resolution of the European Parliament. In the face of the hopes that had been raised, the reply of Commissioner Pisani was unworthy which he made November 16 to the European Parliament. He reduced the operation proposed by the Assembly to an adequate plan for "food aid" amounting to 40 billion [lire].
The ball now went to the European Council. On November 17 a meeting was held between the foreign ministers of the ten EEC countries with an enlarged Office of the Presidency in which Marco Pannella took part (as president of the Parliamentary Group). Many telegrams from bishops had arrived on the desks of the ministers. In the course of the meeting the Council President, Lord Carrington, made the commitment to put the question on the agenda of the European summit due to take place in London on November 26 and 27. On succeeding days very many European deputies, among them Willy Brandt and about a hundred of those who had not approved the parliamentary resolution, signed a document asking the heads of government and state to examine the points contained in the resolution itself. It was at this point that Marco Pannella decided to "suspend" his hunger strike while announcing to the Florence Congress of Liberals his intention of taking it up again and carrying it through to the end, or else to suffer the consequences of a possible defeat in his own person.
But in Brussels Marco Pannella was denied the right to hold a conference in EEC headquarters, contrary to what had always been granted to European deputies. Refusing to allow such a serious precedent to take effect, the Radicals opposed it with the daily distribution of leaflets and with civil disobedience. They finally obtained the revocation of the decision. The conference was thus able to be held on December 1 with the participation of a quantity of EEC officials never before seen.
Four days earlier the London European summit had ended which Emma Bonino and I had followed on the spot. Spadolini uttered not a word in favour of the European resolution, whereas in Italy he had committed himself publicly to do so, as President Petrini had also asked him to do. The long battle at this point seemed to enter a new phase. What has been achieved so far is history. We in Brussels know it and, for our part, we intend to go ahead. ----------------------------------------------------------------

TRANSLATOR'S NOTES

1) Alessandro Pertini, then President of the Italian Republic.