Anarchist archives, terrorism and censorship

Anarchist archives, terrorism and censorship

In the impossibility of countering the mounting tide of vicious anti-anarchist imbecility that is washing over Italy, as Archivio Giuseppe Pinelli we cannot however hold back when it comes to the statements, made by some individual belonging to the parliamentary commission on culture, on the Historical Archive of the Italian Anarchist Federation (ASFAI) These statements, while naming only the ASFAI (probably due to simple incompetence; too difficult as it is to identify other entities), are obviously aimed towards all anarchist archives.

A request has been made to strip away any public recognition (and funding) from any archive that makes an “apologia of terrorism”, even demanding the intervention of the Ministry of the Interior to identify any “dangerous” documents on their shelves, which, in their view, would have nothing to do with the “historical papers” that an archive is supposed to preserve.

What emerges from these statements is, unsurprisingly, a problematic conception of history and culture, to say the least. Above all, the cultural work of an archive is misconstrued as political propaganda. If archives cannot preserve all the existing documents relating to a political movement, or referring to a certain historical period, what kind of history would one end up making? We might have an answer, perhaps: as revealed from certain passages of the inaugural speech of this new government, there’s an evident lingering passion for erasing or rewriting unwanted pages of Italian history (it could be enlightening to investigate, for example, which political forces were in the Resistance and which in the Republic of Salò).

A non-secondary component of the reasoning regarding ASFAI is the axiom “anarchist equals terrorist”, which has come back into the limelight in recent days. Even taking for granted this “terrorism” notion, which in this time and age is nonchalantly applied even to minor acts of “vandalism” such as terrifying political graffiti, what are they trying to convey? That should we dare to burn texts and documents that speak of violent practices and ideas? And what do we do with the archives on military history, then? What do we do with the Risorgimento history institutes given that most of the Italian patriots can be considered full-fledged terrorists (starting with Mameli, father of the national anthem, mortally wounded on the barricades of the Roman Republic while opening fire on the powers that be)?

In other words, should the Ministry of the Interior decide which documents can be kept? In this case, just as some imaginative denominations were invented for various new ministries, the one for Culture could also benefit, becoming for example the Ministry of Authorized Culture.

The history of anarchism – while not being for obvious reasons the history of the Italian state – is in its own right a part of Italian history, both for the contribution of anarchists to decisive historical moments, and for the (often unrecognized) influence of its contents on the more general culture. The State can fully decide not to finance the preservation of this historical and cultural heritage – which is, in fact, largely self-managed – but we are curious to know what criterion is going to be adopted in selecting the entities to be financed with the public purse. Is this going to be an exception for anarchists or does it extend to all the “anti-establishment forces”? Because, in this second case, what should be done with the institutes that deal with the history of fascism (and let it be clear that we are not for cancel culture)?

It is well known that history is largely written by the victors, but going back to lean on police statements when talking about anarchists – as is being done now – is truly a sign of the times. Which are not times of “terror”, but of political misery and papier-mâché heroes.

Centro Studi Libertari/ Archivio G. Pinelli