Interview with Franco Cardini by the Megachip Drafting. This interview was published in 2011. Yet it maintains aspects that are relevant for the situation in the subsequent years, especially with respect to the immigrants issue and the “right” vs. “left” debate. Which is why we republish it here in 2018.
We continue with this interview with the Italian historian Franco Cardini a series of surveys on the ideas for the Transition, small introductions to thoughts that might accompany us for a long time, now that we do not want to linger with the twentieth century patterns: the usual left-right, the incomunicanti cultural islands, clashes of civilization, the accumulation of practical ideas to market ideologies, against the background of the self-destructive possibilities of our species…
Professor Cardini, you have said many times not to recognize yourself in the political “right wing”. What remains today of the right wing ideals of the XX century, and how it might regenerate itself, in the absence of clear boundaries between left and right, both subordinate to the myth of capitalist development to the bitter end?
An adequate answer to your question should start with a historical analysis of the origin of the word Right in the European political lexicon, from the French Revolution to the present. In summary, the word Right is born – as opposed to the word Left – at the beginning of the Great Revolution, to indicate those who remain loyal to the Throne and Altar as opposed to ideal values; and who therefore, consistent with that choice, defend the values of local communities, of intermediate bodies and of their ancient liberties against the individualistic and egalitarian leveling imposed by Jacobinism. In this historical sense, which has changed over time – from De Maistre to Donoso Cortés up to Miguel de Unamuno and Carl Schmitt – a meta-historical and metapolitical value, I remain a participant to the right-wing. But, mind you, only in this sense. A sense that is first and foremost based on the belief that the main enemies of justice, freedom and of mankind are individualism, the primacy of economics and materialistic liberalism that Jacobinism forwarded to the liberal-liberal bourgeoisie in the eight- and twentieth century.
The fact is that, between the “revolutions” of 1830 and 1848, a part of that individualistic and progressive bourgeoisie, which created and promoted contemporary liberal capitalism, has apparently accepted – while frightened by the growth the “Fourth Estate” – a part of the Right conservative positions: the nation and the homeland, born as values of the Left, have become values of a “new Right”, characterized by the alliance between the dying ancien régime and the bourgeoisies well decided to defend their privileges (which were born in large part on the betrayal of the traditional values of Europe and on the exploitation of situations like the privatization of church property)…
Israeli historian Zeev Sternhell is one who in my opinion has well understood and interpreted this historical and political dynamics (referring to his “Naissance de l’déologie fascist”, Paris, Fayard, 1989). I wasw trained in the Florence of the Fifties and Sixties in the XX century (I was born in 1940), at the school of a young traditionalist thinker who died prematurely, Attilio Mordini (1923-1966). He formed a group of young people with the arduous and largely obscure ambition to connect and metaphysical values of Europe expressed by de Maistre and Donoso Cortés to the policies of the current struggles. Those guys went through the Europeanism proposed by Jean Thiriart, which in the Sixties sought to fight for a “European country” which became independent from the two opposite of the American liberal block and of the Soviet collectivism. They aimed at creating a new reality, based on solidarity and socialism, which would be capable of connecting with the struggle for the liberation of what was then called the “Third World”. They mostly came from MSI (Movimento Sociale Italiano), and among them, there were sympathizers with the “fascist movement” (Berto Ricci, etc.), for the very first Spanish Falange (Primo De Rivera, Redondo, Hedilla), for the very “left” National Socialist (the Strasser brothers), for the Argentine Justicialism and the Guevarism; and they were tired of socializing academy that reigned in that party, and that resulted in a constant electoralist rhetoric, while the leaders of that party in parliament, regularly waged conservative and filoccidental battles.
With the Valle Giulia movement, when in ’68 the “right wing” youngsters who had joined the “left wing” in protest against the establishment capitalist-bourgeois were treated as “traitors” by Almirante and Caradonna, thas was the signal that from that moment on, no further dialogue between them and the “right wing” party (that filled its cultural vacuum with capital letters, billing itself as ”The Right”) was possible.
The critique of the concept of “the West” was one of the elements that allowed the group, numerically small, to which I belonged, to sympathize a decade later, in the Seventies and Eighties, with the “New Right” of Alain de Benoist and with the positions that in that direction were carried out by another then very young leader, Marco Tarchi. Then Alain de Benoist has “broken” with the utmost clarity with the “right”, proposing not to speak of “New Right” but of “New Synthesis.”
One can say that at least at the beginning of the Eighties, friends, young and old, who – of course with many differences – historically recognized and continued to identify themselves in this main stream politics and culture, have definitively ceased to call themselves ”right wing“ even if they may have kept some personal bond of friendship with people who remained for various reasons within the formation calling itself ”The Right“ that has later become the National Alliance to finally merge in its near totalilty in the party-company of Mr Berlusconi’s. A sad end, that any of them did not deserve, that they would have better avoided.
Currently, my position consists in getting engaged within the limits of my ability to achieve a European Union that is based on a really common policy (not the bank, financial, bureaucratic Euroland that exists today), which is opposed to both the ”single thought“ inspired by the international conformity that now prevails in the mass media, to the anonymous empire (but not too anonymous in fact) of multinationals and lobbies and its ”armed wing“, the US led by the likes of Bush, now active in much of the UN. I believe that the great battle to fight in the Twenty-first century is the one against those forces, that operate with the unique goal of making profit and of exploiting the planet, working on his destruction.
My positions today are largely identifiable in those of thinkers like Serge Latouche, Noam Chomsky and Vandana Shiva.
As a Catholic, I believe that the great Catholic battle today consists in being close to 5/6 of the planet, those who suffer, to those who are poor and impoverished more and more because of the criminal assault of the turbo international against the planet, to those who struggle so that they are not stolen, at least, their air and water.
As a European, on July 16 2011 I was, anonymous, in the mass of hundreds of thousands of anonymous European citizens who rushed to Vienna to pay their last respects to the remains of Otto von Habsburg, the last heir to the imperial throne Austria: in the name of that old Europe that was destroyed in 1918 by the unjust Versailles peace talks, which gave way to the nationalist hysteria and mad capitalist selfishness and ferocity.
I donot care about definitions like “right” or “left”: but the positions that today I defend and with which I sympathize are, for the most part, now supported by formations that are said to be “left”: this is a fact . For my part, I call them Catholic, socialist and pro-European. If someone else I sticks with other labels, it is his business, not mine.
As a Catholic, what do you think of the role played by the Church in the last thirty years, while the current system of consumption dominate by and large? It makes sense to expect just from some basic Christianity the boost to a renewal of the ethical and political categories which prevail in the Post-modernity?
Again, I very much hope in the rebirth of a “Catholic traditionalist” who rediscover the sacredness, and opposed to a Catholicism that, as in the Fifties and Sixties, especially after Vatican II, seemed to be moving with great strides in the direction of “secularization” and the flattening of religious values; in short, in reducing religion to humanitarianism and sociology. Even the “pacifist” Christians seemed part of that surrender of the Church in front of the values of modernity: of everything that had led Jacques Maritain to stigmatize “the church knelt in front of the world.”
But the turn largely caused by Giovanni Paolo II has produced – and not because of that great pontiff – a singularly unsuccessful situation: the emergence of a kind of pseudo-neo-traditionalism that identifies the Catholic Church with the “values” of the modern Western world. That proclaims Modernity the legitimate daughter of Christianity (forgetting that the “tear-off” of the modern revolution, between the sixteenth and eighteenth century, started and legitimized the victory of individualism and the dominance of economics and technology by allowing the West to dominate and exploit the world) and announces crusades for the “defense of Christianity” (perhaps exploiting the tragedy of the Christians that today are killed around the world, often because those who suppress them believe – wrongly – that they are complicit with the crimes of the West ). This pseudo-neo-traditionalism-called “Catholic” is a true leprosy: Catholics who do so in truth forget that at the end of time God will not judge us on the basis of orthodox theological or ecclesial practice or liturgical correctness, but only on the basis of love and charity. This is the Christian truth, which is the prophecy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, 25: 31-46: and there is no sophistry to von Hayez, we are not talking to Novak taking.
Giovanni Paolo II, who, just after beeing been elected visited Latin America striking a blow to the “liberation theology”, in his second trip to the continent in 1979, promptly inquired about the crimes of the dictatorships of gorilas – often, as in Guatemala, supported by the United States more or less “covered” by Protestant religious missions – and the tacit or explicit support that in some cases the higher ranks of the Catholic Church had accorded them. Moreover, among the brave opponents of the “conservative criminal blockade” there were also figures such as Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, he had the absolute confidence of the Holy See and was an opponent of the “liberation theology”: but once office, he realized how big was the dullness and the recklessness of those who, even among Catholic prelates, favored a repression which presented itself as “anti” while pointing only to the maintenance of injustice and exploitation, in line with the interests of lobbies of criminals such as the United Fruit Company. But authentic martyrs, such as monsignor Romero, they care little about the actual drafters of the new martyrologies, for which only count the martyrs killed by Muslim fundamentalists.
Today, I do not expect anything from the “Right”, from Western Catholic conservatism. Instead I rely on a few basic movements and in some groups that carry out intensive ecologist type of activities and solidarity, which engage in helping immigrants and the fight against prejudice and discrimination, which create volunteer groups capable of representing in time a new great ideal, that of widespread struggle for the advent of a different world in which the evil magic circle, production-profit-use-consumption is beaten in breach.
Even today, too many Catholics are couch potatoes uncritical and Sunday – maybe after Mass – accompany the little family in the rite of dire festive trips to shopping malls. Is this conformism, this kneel before the profit materialism and consumption, which must be defeated. Not all areas of the Catholic Church have yet realized that this is the great, sacred battle of our time. The Italian government, for example, is in default of the comparisons of the global fight against AIDS, against which still does not pay contributions of which it was committed. Despite the economic crisis, or perhaps because of that, the Catholic Church should condemn strongly these violations. But it may be that it prefers to accept from the Italian Government other “favors”, fiscal or otherwise, rather than remind it of its humanitarian duties. It is from these cowardy that the Church needs to be healed.
How do you consider the way Obama and the United States attempted to address the Arab uprisings? Do you think that it really exists in the Muslim world, a growing attraction for Western liberal democracy?
When it came to beat the infamous Bush, we were all for Obama: there was no choice. It was to be against Bush, who was to be beaten by any means and sent home (as in Italy, in the past years, you had to send home Berlusconi). It took little, however, to understand that President Obama would be a bluff, perhaps beyond his personal intentions. In particular, Obama “subcontracted” foreign policy to the fatal Mrs. Clinton, who workd in a substantial continuity line with respect to the previous criminal management of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice, despite the apparent failure of their choices.
The culs-de-sac of Afghanistan and Iraq are proofs of this. As for the Muslim world, we must never forget that it is a billion and a half people, a majority in the intercontinental belt from the Maghreb to the northwest of the Indian subcontinent, which leads to the Southeast Asia: in the great mass of men and women and the variety of peoples and countries, there is an infinite variety of issues and positions.
That in the “Arab spring” there were also instances tended to pick up some items from the Western “representative democracy”, it’s true. But all this is not enough. Within Islam there are also other components. And in it as a whole there is a strong will to find new ways that are consistent with respect to the many versions of Muslim culture developed within various ethnic groups: national, social and so on. On the other hand, we must not forget that Islam – a religion that, unlike Christianity, has no organized institutional centers comparable to the Churches – is suffering from a serious crisis arising from the impact of modernity and Postmodernism: you can only evaluate the components “fundamentalist”, superficially judged “obscurantist” and “reactionary” as a whole, and those called “progressive” and “Westernized”. But the reality is more complex.
What is, in your opinion, the most realistic and supportive way to tackle the immigration emergency in the European Union, taking into account the social upheavals that await us as a result of the austerity policies imposed, in these days, by the power of the big financial centers?
You need to evaluate very strictly, but also with serenity, the possibilities for absorption of non-European workforce that can support various EU countries as a whole and take them one by one; we have to have basic reception facilities and solidarity in order to deal with the immigration waves without failing in humanitarian duties but at the same time preventing as much as possible the overcrowding phenomenon of refugees. But we have also to involve in a serious way Mediterranean non-European countries, so as to induce them to a serious cooperation in the surveillance and containment of the phenomenon. We have also to facilitate repatriation, organized with the necessary guarantees (you can not just “send back” people, no one in government can respond to the needs of the present time with the only instruments of repression, of concentration camps, imprisonment and violence). We have to develop new tools that allow us to set aside the osolete solutions based on integration (the “French” way, which humiliates people and cultures), or on “multiculturalism” (the English or Dutch way, which creates “islands” of “difference“ in societies that tolerate the immigrants while exploiting them, but without understanding them).
You need to point to new synthesis enabling prospective European nationals who were born in Europe from non-EU parents, to live in their European homeland without lessening the traditions of their fathers, or being forced to forget them and betray them.
As for austerity policies, it is clear that one can not accept the principle that profits and income of speculators (those often euphemistically called “entrepreneurs” and “shareholders”) are to be safeguarded in the name of “recovery” and “development” , at the unilateral expense of the fixed-income categories and the lower classes. We have to fight against the concentration of wealth and parasitic annuities, including financial profits, which can not be saved through the “cuts” in what remains of the welfare state. The immigrants should not be considered unrelated to this struggle: the “black economy”, for example, results in a form of massive tax evasion which goes against us all, against the poor people in particular. The point is that today, unfortunately, in Italy, there is no longer a “social conscience” as part of the “civic consciousness.”
The great battle lies in its reconstruction and the involvement in it of the very immigrants. And you have to start all over again, with young people. Older generations are lost if they do not get along with this. Blaming the immigrants who “steal our work” means to make the same mistake that does the dog which, struck by the owner, bites the stick, but doesn’t see the arm that maneuvres it. You have to start all over: to teach to bite the masters, not the stick. Better if the throat.
5) In the book she wrote with Sergio Valzania, “The roots of Europe lost. From Charles V to the world wars ” , connects many clues that can demonstrate a different fate of Europe, not the one then shaped by national states. Today they are vertically crisis is national states is the European model of the last sixty years, and without a Charles V on the horizon, we can imagine a further different historical fate, another cultural and political path for the continent?
For this reason, and not for a surge of reactionary aesthetic, July 16, 2011 I was in Vienna to render homage to the remains of the last heir of the Hapsburgs. Europe needs to find herself in a way that modernity has prevented so far, because it has imposed first the victory of absolutism, then the development of national states. And this choice has given us two fratricidal wars. The path to take now requires to discontinue gradually what happened between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries: and we have to recover the path of solidarity, the restoration of “intermediate bodies” formed by local communities with their prerogatives and their rights, the general recognition of a common European home, that since the Middle Ages has built a culture based on diversity of languages and traditions, but with a common legal tradition and ethics, which derive from the encounter of the Roman world with Christianity.
The European Union was born in 1951 but, as they say, on the wrong foot: the money, the single currency, and the bureaucratic institutions supported by formal democratic scaffolding. But the people remained outside that scaffolding. They were not born nor grew with a common European school, equal for all citizens, nor have had a common army (defense of our continent has been entrusted to NATO), nor a real judicial system.
According to the principles of international politics, to form a correct policy team you need four things: the Flag, i.e. institutions (we only have a hypertrophic and expensive European Parliament, with few real powers); the coin (we have it, the euro, but alone is not enough); the judicial institutions (themselves confused); the Sword: the defense apparatus (but the “European” army does not exist: it is replaced by NATO, namely a sword in the hands of others). We have to start from scratch, with one goal: the creation of a real European patriotism, which leads to the founding of a Europe that is no longer that of the governments and states, but that of the people.
The first realistic goal today is to reiterate the pro-European willingness to stand together against micronazionalistic temptations, which serve to divide us again, to keep us in the service of NATO and lobbies multinationals, which obviously tend to divide us to better control us. In the Fifties, people like Altiero Spinelli believed that European unity was around the corner and deluded themselves that the superpowers would allow it. Half a century later, we know that everything is different and that world powers will never allow the emergence of a Europe actually free, independent and united. Today, in order to entertain a bit of hope, it takes a brave dream, to the verge of madness. You have to be realistic on the contrary: and ask for the impossible.