Day 77-III, from Velletri to Cisterna di Latina. 15 km.
Cisterna, January 23
I’ve witnessed this story before, in the north of France: people mongering fear for presumed ‘fascists’. They make us believe we’re entering a bullfighting arena, and we’re dressed in red.
True, we’ve arrived in the land of Mussolini. From here down to the sea this used to be a big swamp until the fascists laid it dry in the early 20th century. Before that, people died of malaria. After that, Mussolini founded five new towns in this region. ‘Littoria’ was the most important of them. The name, just like the term ‘fascism’ itself, refers to the arrows that were the symbol of imperial power in ancient Rome. At the end of WW2 the town was renamed ‘Latina’. But Mussolini is still revered as a hero by many people in this zone. In Latina there will even be held a referendum to give the city back its original name.
The fear mongerers have succeeded in deviating our route away from Latina/Littoria, but Cisterna is said to be almost as bad. Fascists bands are roaming the streets, armed with clubs, so they say.
This afternoon we arrived. Some of us waited at the city limits to hear from one of our contacts how the situation on the ground was. I thought it was ridiculous. I enter town alone.
On the central square I find some of our comrades who had staid behind in Rome for a couple of days, perfectly at ease. They are attracting everybody’s attention. But they don’t know that they are supposed to be afraid. We put up our signs and banners, and slowly, the citizenry approaches us. And once they start to understand who we are, what we are doing, and why, they embrace us all.
“Not since the end of the war, have we seen something like this in Cisterna.” We are the event of the day, the talk of the town. ‘Our house is your house’, people seem to say, and they offer us food and solidarity. The police offer their assistance: “If there is any trouble, just call us. We’re right over here.” The chief of police himself offers us moral and even financial support. One of the local journalists chuckles. “With all the trouble and the injustice in this town, his gesture is that of a sinner who goes to the church to confess.”
Then suddenly, there they are, in their black bomber jackets. The fascists.
The situation is red hot, right from the start. The fascists go down hard. On the politicians, on the banks, on the entire system. They completely agree with us. Only when it comes to solutions, they propose a different one. “We don’t need all those people to decide for us. We need just one leader.”
Our reaction is to hold an assembly. We want to decide things all together by using our collective intelligence. And so we explain how it works. The speaking turns, the signs, everything.
The fascists were a bit bewildered, but they participated. They respected the rules, they asked their turn to speak, and when it came around, they spoke. About all minor and major problems of the town and the country. About the euro, about unemployment, about corruption, and as the assembly progressed they were invited to reflect more deeply on what it is that makes us happy, as human beings. Labour not as a way to earn money to eat, but labour as self fulfillment; the importance of free time to develop your talents, to socialise and create a feeling of community, etc. It was one of the best assemblies that I witnessed for a long time. Boxes of pizza went around, offered by the local pizzeria, and in the end, the fascists thanked us for being here, for sharing our ideas and for listening to them.
It all goes to show that we should get over the old way of ‘labelling’ people and creating contradictions, because in practice, they don’t really exist.
Now it’s late at night, we’ve put up our tents on the square, and still there are locals talking with us around the fire. They illustrate all the various cases of corruption. “You see that building site? It’s a big hole, but it should have been a parking lot. It’s been there for three years. The money to finish it is gone…”
And so on. I didn’t expect it here in the South, but people want to talk, and all the people we talk to have good reason to be indignados just like us.