Go away, Outcasts!

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roubille-august

Go away, outcasts![1]

Who said this? France? You wouldn’t really want to! The old crone who said what is the foulest part of hatred, what is the least noble issue of servility is no more France than the fury in black shirts shaking their fists at us and spitting insults from the other side of the Alps is Italy!

Look here: the two harpies are the same. The one has achieved in the domain of terror what the other dreams and thinks about, what it might commit tomorrow if there were not spirited energy and physical bodies between its action and freedom. The one perpetuates, the other approves. The fascist is soaked in blood up to its elbows; the reactionary (who preserves the memory of the 30,000 casualties of 1871[2]) still has only its fist stained with the generous purple that spurted out of the skull of Jaurès[3]—but it threatens, it hopes, it aspires!

These witches are the visible faces of the past who are struggling to come back to life in the present. They are not—let’s shout out loud in honor of the provinces of Europe where we were born!—either chivalrous France or magnificent Italy. They had, they have other faces. Their people (who sometimes argue and fight but who are often allied together) have demonstrated, in the past, elegance and courtesy. Will we only be here, then, to miss those long lost days?

I don’t think so. There is a mirage on the banks of the Tiber. The Italian language is so intoxicating that the people frequently get drunk on words. Their sun is so hot that thoughts fly happily beyond the limits of the possible, borrowing its wings from illusions. A man fitting the national profile, full of passionate speech and imagery, jumps on the platform, speaks down to people, takes a gamble; the king gives in and a boisterous minority rushes onto the stage. The “march” to Rome is made on railroads, don’t forget. Who paid for the seats? That’s the mystery of the aperitif. The “Apero” sponsored the “Impero”. All-powerful alcohol incites people to dictatorial aspirations in every country. Using a famous poster it seems to be innocent Nicolas coming with a sack full of bottles—it might, depending on the circumstances, just as well be Josephine Baker carrying bananas or Napoleon with laurels.

Laurels are so far lacking for Mr. Mussolini. His brow is heavy with greed, his speech bursting with metaphors… but his feet are clay. Especially since he relies on a horde that is known to surrender itself to its violent instincts (with the bridle round their necks) and is eager to enlarge its field of operations. Out of the entire population of Italy how many members of fascism are registered? The great, passive masses, manipulated only up to a certain point, being nice when the going’s good but vicious when things go wrong, this mass is an essentially inconsistent and shifting base.

Severe, silenced by force, but the mind imprinted with ghastly memories, the heart swollen with bitterness, the Italian people, the true ones, who don’t get sucked in by the speeches or blinded by all the flash, think about things and mark their time… They are fed up with war and they weigh the dictatorship in their strong hands. They are our brothers like they always have been—and its in the face of these outcasts where we will find traces of our common ancestry, a family resemblance that will always bind Italy to France—whatever the madmen do.

Even though the club wants to turn into a scepter, it can do nothing—the tombs of Jaurès and Matteotti[4] earn our equal respect and affection.

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And now concerning the sentence of Di Modugno[5] fascism is making a stink and our government, completely uninvolved with the verdict of the jury, figures it is the opportunity to bear witness to who’s side its on. Because the enemy is no longer clericalism like in the times of Gambetta nor Germany like during the war. Since Albert Sarraut declared it in a movement that was more spirited than sensible—communism is the enemy!

Only that? It doesn’t seem so. A glance at Europe is enough to show that under this broad label, the fascism in all the States is also targeting socialists, radicals and progressive republicans. It’s considered and called all communism militant and a bother to the “rackets” of the masters.

Even being pacifist (unless it’s very official) with filed down teeth and gnawed fingernails, not to mention the harmless character natural to such an opinion, is suspicious. Especially if it’s “whining”. No preachers! They cannot govern peacefully except at this price.

So, they hunt them down everywhere with a particular system. Where oppression is pretty strong they kill them, secretly, or else in a small group. Mercy means only deporting them, like the wife and young child of Di Modugno, in a place chosen so that they won’t be living off the state for too long. They tyrannize the others in such a way that they risk everything, death, the loss of civil rights, confiscation of goods, to reach a more hospitable land.

It was France once, beautiful France with arms wide open to receive all the outcasts, all the hunted, all the “survivors”. It had taken over the generous tradition of Holland and Switzerland during the revocation of the Edict of Nantes; of England and Germany during the Revolution; of Belgium, the Swiss and the British again after the Commune (Hugo was expelled to Brussels only because of a letter to the defeated).

So in the time of the Encyclopedists it welcomed philosophers and writers who were not prophets in their own country; after 1830 and 1848 for the Greek, Hungarian, Italian and Polish refugees it became the asylum for all the victims of tsarism. My childhood saw the end of this era (who didn’t have a refugee either after the attack by Orsini or Berezowski[6]?). All of subversive France was vibrating with the perhaps impolite but very human cry of Floquet as Tsar Alexander II passed by: “Long live Poland, Sir!” My youth was a regular visitor to the nihilists on the left bank, often grouped together around Lavrov and old Considerant.

Since the map of Europe has been cut up by haphazard scissors, they are coming here from all points of the globe. But especially from Italy after fascism clamped down there. They flee vandalism, looting, the burning of their houses, being thrown out windows, summary executions, organized shootings, pseudo-conspiracies, hostage taking, all the exploits that the Golden Book of Fascio prides itself on.

Many of them have white hair, belong to the working or intellectual elite. Welcome, Latin brothers. We’ll squeeze a little tighter to make room for you in the home, in the stable, with the books…

But Mussolini is grumbling because a French jury showed some indulgence to a husband whose wife they are holding, to a father whose child they are holding, to a citizen chased from his homeland. The supporters of Il Duce are hissing at France like its other members in Venice after the hostilities hissed at our military envoy Marshal Fayolle after tearing off and throwing in the canal the insignia of the consulate of France. There was no question of Di Modugno at that time or of strengthening our institutions in a strict sense.

Bad French woman that I am, I want desperately for France not to be dishonored!

 

Next:  The Fear of Death

[1] Le Cri des peuples, December 10 1928.

[2] From the Paris Commune

[3] Jean Jaurès, pacifist socialist murdered on the eve of WWI.

[4] Giacomo Matteotti, Italian socialist murdered by fascists in 1924.

[5] Sergio Di Modugno, an anti-fascist who assassinated Count Carlo Nardini, vice consul of Italian Consulate in Paris in September 1927, sentenced to only two years in prison.

[6] Assassination attempts on Napoleon III in 1858 and on Tsar Alexander II in 1867.