Alfonso Navarra is an “anti-journalist”, writer and editor of the magazine “Difesa – ambiente” (Defending the environment). He has always been a pacifist and antimilitarist, he is the spokesman for the “Stop playing with atomic fire” argument within the campaign for conscientious objection to military spending (www.osmdpn.it) and the Secretary of the League for unilateral disarmament. He is working with eco-pacifist organizations such as (Energia Felice,and Accademia Kronos).
We interviewed him at during the meeting with writer Laura Tussi at the Literary Cafe Primo Piano in Brescia, on March 21st, 2015.
What is your experience in the anti-nuclear field?
Since I’m an immigrant from Palermo, I link it all to Peppino Impastato’s Antinuclear Collective of Cinisi, we went to University together and were members of left wing party Democrazia Proletaria. I used to follow the activities of an anti-nuclear collective in Cinisi, and I was also the regional coordinator of Democrazia Proletaria. Back then, Peppino was considered a kind of peripheral comrade, despite his enormous cultural and social contributions. Indeed, his kind of broadcasts in my opinion represented a very important communicative experiment. Among other things, he used to organize performances, which are rather common today: for example, such as the fake post atomic death scenario with people dressed in white who would lying on the ground. All obvious things that today would not be used in order to raise awareness or encourage fighting.
Then I took part in the Peace Camp against euro missiles in Comiso. A lot of young people had left their families and moved there to protest and demonstrate against the building of the euro missiles base, the same one that brought about the east-west nuclear crisis. I served eight months in prison for getting inside the base and offering flowers to the Americans, and for refusing bail, which would prevent me from setting foot in Ragusa’s province of as a Sicilian. However, I served a lot of time in prison, despite having no criminal record. I think I have been inside almost every Italian military base.
What are the MDGs?
It stands for Conscientious objectors to military expenditures. The national coordination of these objectors is in Brescia, the Mir’s House for Nonviolence, which is the non-violent movement, in Via Milano 65. Then the coordination moved to Milan. Our idea was reflected in the motto Paying for peace rather than war, in order to make it possible for citizens, with the tax option, to finance a defense system based on alternative non-violent means. A national campaign for alternative means of defense is currently under way. Some laws have actually recognized that the defense of the country, as ratified by the Constitution, may be exercised by nonviolent means, and the first task of the civil service would even be, in the first paragraph of the establishing law, this form of unarmed and nonviolent defense. We are, as Peppino Impastato was, the nuddu ammiscatu cu nenti, a nothing mixed with anything, but we have established something real, in all the years of struggle: we were able to introduce the concept of non-violent defense, we had the civil service approved, and we have prevented Italy from becoming a nuclear platform such as our neighbouring France, These are very concrete steps made by the nuddu ammiscatu cu nenti. I recently spoke on the anniversary of the Fukushima’s nuclear disaster. When we go around Europe, What do the French think of the Italians? They see the ones who prevented the nuclear power plants while they are padded up to the ears with them.. What has Italy really obtained? We have blocked nuclear plans. Thanks to Peppino Impastato and thanks to the many who, at various levels, fought for these very concrete things.
The MDGs have also recently established five , objectives to get out of the crisis. That is something which partly lies outside their core mission but that affects us all. The first step they propose is not to pay the illegitimate debt and to hit hard at financial speculation…
Fortunately we have a recently elected government in Greece which put this point forward and it is suffering a lot, because of international ‘loan sharks’ demanding money back. Tsipras claims that public debt has been largely caused by paying off banks’ speculative deficit. The countries have been drained: for example, there were 1.8 trillion Euros worth of long-term loans at very low rates (1%), which now must be repaid. The current operation in place, called quantitative easing, entails the creation of 60 billion per month, and Central bank’s purchases in the secondary market, which means buying stocks from institutional investors, i.e. banks. Poor Tsipras is asking for a few billions in order to resolve a humanitarian emergency, three hundred thousand people with no electricity, the homeless, the pensioners whose pensions should be paid: all things that would cost, at first glance – it has been calculated – two billions euro, and a total of around seven billion euro. The spending as well as creating money continue though, 60 billion euro a month. Buying securities from banks continues as well, while we are told to obey the rules. We shall give you four deadlines, because Greece pays an interest of 10% on its GDP. The Greek GDP is 300 billion, meaning that the interest on previous debts is 30 billion. This is loansharking, debts that have been made and which are illegitimate: the Olympics, infrastructure, all this bad habit of speculation, bribery and corruption. Here in Italy we should know something about it. There is no money for the homeless, for hungry children, for people who can no longer treat their illnesses, and there is this figure of 60 billion … seriously! This is why I name myself ‘anti-journalist’, because you have to understand the weight of things: 60 billion are being printed, buying securities from who? To who should this money go? Let’s be clear. And there is no spare money for homeless or for those with no electricity.
The Greek government is fighting a very delicate battle, because there are European rules, the rules of the Fiscal Compact, the rules of a balanced budget. The rules are the parameters that creditors need, and this is what they do not want: they do not want these rules, these parameters, to be called into question. They are very hard. There is a negotiation in progress, and they tell you: if you do not pay we’ll make you fail, get out of the eurozone, but it is very complicated, I cannot get into it right now: there are many technicalities around this negotiation between the borrower and the loanshark. Because those who have demanded clarifications about these speculations (Olympics, trafficking etc.), were the French and German banks. Therefore, when they say that they have helped Greece, it’s a lie: actually all the billions that have been given to them, have helped these banks to repay loans that ended up in a bottomless pit of waste and corruption.
On the second point, you have proposed drastic cuts in military spending and an end to all war missions outside national borders.
Drastic cuts …! The Italian Constitution says we are a pacifist country, and basically the Army should serve to defend ourselves if someone actually attacks us. It should be for that purpose, so ours should be a defensive army. An army that has aircraft carriers to be built, or hosting US nuclear weapons, as in Ghedi and Aviano NATO bases, near here, is not a defensive Army. I believe there are 40 at Ghedi and about 50 at Aviano and, but figures are very presumptive, because there is a duty of confidentiality on the real number. American scientists of the Federation of Atomic Scientists groom scrutinize budgets and come up with these figures. Despite their research one is not certains of the actual figure of nuclear weapons, aircraft carriers, and now the F-35 (multi-role fighter aircraft), which must also be modified to carry new types of nuclear weapons. There are 12 billion dollars allocated for these B61 (hydrogen nuclear bombs) that are in Ghedi and Aviano in the process of being modernized to become remote-controlled, and they must be transported on the F-35. I think this is hardly known fact in Italy: there is a plan according to which, by 2020, $12 billion for the modernization of these B61 must be spent in Europe: these are the new models -the atomic come in various models- becoming B61-12, become remote-controlled, transportable on the F-35. The Italian Parliament had previously said that maybe we should not buy the F-35, and instead purchased them. What has all this to do with the defense of the borders from attack? Clearly, it’s not only saying we cut 10%. If we have a Constitution that says that the military instrument, also based on a non-violent defense, should serve only for defense, all these military expenses must be cut because they are unconstitutional: they have nothing to do with the model of defensive war. They are of NATO’s concern.
On the third point, you ask for rights and justice in the job environment.
The slogan here is rather important as it is taken from Stephane Hessel’s latest written appeal for total nuclear disarmament ‘You must demand’, which we translated into Italian and from which we have picked some extracts as sources of inspiration. This work is beign carried out in collaboration with Nova Milanese and the ANPI friends, Laura Tussi and Fabrizio Cracolici, on the project Not to forget.
The point is that there is a financial dictatorship. Hessel, in his previous Time for Outrage!, substantially referred to an appeal to the young protagonists of the French Resistance, saying: the programmes for the European resistance are still relevant today. The resistance doesn’t only help us is not only to remember, for example, the partisan Bacio Capuzzo who managed to escape from a concentration camp by jumping on the train, but those programs, that model of society that they had, is still relevant today. This means that creating a new resistance against financial dictatorship (or an oligarchy of 1%) is possible. There has never been so much social inequality throughout human history. Probably between the stonemason and the pharaoh there was not as much difference as the one existing today between the elements of the middle class in Western countries and this very narrow oligarchy of the rich, which created a mechanism for sucking power and real resources through monetary mechanisms of financialization. This is the great gap hole. There is a class struggle, but you have to understand what it means today. There is a mass of parasites that live only on stock exchanges, on speculation, and the real economy, including that of multinationals, is very subordinate. They are winners and this is the only way they can make sense of their lives. Luciano Gallino speaks of a Finanzcapitalismo, (Finance-Capitalism) dominated by a very small group, getting richer and richer through the fact, though, that we all accept money as a social technology for trade settlements; which tends to gradually crush what is called ‘the real economy’. Work counts less and less, is bound to be more and more of subordinate nature, enslaved and paid less. Despite the fact that world has moved on and that we have the technological and industrial powers, as well as incredible productive forces, the meaning of all that one does is basically distorted and destructive. I want to focus on this point: 1% against the rest of humanity. From a certain point of view, it feels like living in the times before the French Revolution, on the one hand, we have a very narrow mass of parasites, who dominates the financial system which rules the world economy, and on the other all the rest of the increasingly impoverished humanity.
On the fourth point you propose the “common goods” for a new model of development, since starting from the implementation of the referendum on producing water and energy from the sun and renewable rather than nuclear energy.
“Common goods” means the opposite of Thatcher’s famous statement ‘society does not exist, that there are only individuals’. The social pact makes sense if society exists, because it has to guarantee the basic rights and dignity of every individual; if we are not a society, what are we? Everyone must have the opportunity to meet his or her own needs, otherwise there is no society. The idea of the common goods is, above all, that the planet does not belong to the human species as such, because we have to consider ourselves as part of an evolutionary process and flow of life, and take some responsibility for it as well. Man didn’t just come down from the top of natural we live near and with other people, we are part of natural processes, and our own survival depends on this. We should be guardians and responsible for the reproduction of these cycles. Hence the origin of common goods.
What is wealth? Our planet is wealth. Wealth is not the world’s 70 billion dollars a year GDP: wealth cannot be measured with a monetary figure. Wealth is this planet, is the only Earth we have, and must continue to live, in harmony. This is wealth. Our planet is one of the common goods, the great natural processes, earth, air, water are all common goods; common goods are all things that belong to all mankind, which has the responsibility of keeping them running, not altering them, while the social processes are obviously dependent on them. We cannot put profit as a fundamental parameter, as unfortunately happens today.
Fifth and final point: a constructive revolution to build a real democracy, with more participation and direct expression of people.
We talk about it, but we also have to put it into practice. We have to understand why oligarchies exist, and also which of our mental constraints cause, for example, some people with a finger on a button to threaten to blow us all up. Today, we officially have a kind of ‘balanced terror’ that does not lead to disarmament: at UN level, everyone says that nuclear disarmament is necessary, no one says that it is not necessary, and they vote on the resolutions. There is, however, an international treaty, the non-proliferation treaty, which allows the use of nuclear weapons because the threat of them being used may actually prevent it from actually happening. The so-called deterrence. Nevertheless, when I admit this, it means I somewhat allow the chance, and indeed the reality of the fact that I can play with people’s lives. Very few individuals have the finger on the button. The UN, with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, officially admits that we are all hostages of atomic death, that you can play on people’s lives, that there is a right to self-defense of States which controls these kind of mind games. Imagine what kind of democracy this is! These games are unacceptable, because we must ensure that there is first a right to survival for humanity: the people’s right to life. The right to self-defense of States cannot override these basic rights, it cannot come first. Member States are following: humanity must be free from nuclear blackmail. This has to do with democracy, because this defense, based on absurd games, is all concentrated in oligopolies, in narrow technocratic, military, bureaucratic and political elites. Let’s not even continue with talking about finance or indeed other sectors!
Our problem is to understand why 99% of humanity, with all its distinctions, its layers, fails to impose the priority of basic human rights, guaranteed by the UN bill. It just cannot do it. Because, in spite of these rights having been established, certified, proclaimed, there is always some reason why they are somewhat overshadowed by other issues. Call it power politics: all the conflicts we are seeing become a pretext for not implementing what was the invitation of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, in the first movement for nuclear disarmament. Their slogan was Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. Shared humanity must come first. Before being Italian, before being Kurdish, before being Palestinian, before being Tibetan, remember to put the spotlight on the shared humanity. This does not mean giving up being Kurdish, Palestinian, Italian, Sicilian, or however you want to define yourself, shared humanity must come first though. Why can’t we move forward on this principle?