Radical media, politics and culture.

Scraps of the subversive force of memory

As suspected Ballestrini's Vogliamo Tutto is indeed based on the life of a real individual, Alfonso Natella, a worker originally from Salerno near Naples. This I gleaned from Aldo Grandi's interesting, if contested, history of Potere Operaio "La Generazione degli anni perduti, Storie di Potere Operaio". He is still alive and active.

Last night I saw my first film by Franceso Rosi, who had been recommended to me by many people. "Sal;vatore Giuliano" recounts the story of the eponymous bandit who, manipulated by a diabolic trinity of mafia, church and landowners (in iderological guises of seperatism and monarchism), carried out a massacre of leftist workers and peasants on May 1st 1947 at Portella delle Ginestre. The atrocity was ordered by persons high in the Sicilian hierarchy of power, althoiugh it was never revealed who. The film is a masterpiece, and what's more is subtitled (the version I saw is the Criterion edition) so I recommend it to everyone.

Rosi's film reminded me of a book I read some years ago, written by Norman Lewis. He was a member of British intelligence (simply be dint of his being a linguist he was put into the secret services) and penned two good books aboput Italy "Naples 44" which chroniucles the allied landings towards the end of the war, and "The Honoured Society" which is a social history of Sicily rather than merely an account of the mafia. The latter remains one of the most interesting and insightful investigations into Italyt available in english. Lewis is clearly sympathetic to the progressive movements that have striven to explode the feudal structure under which the mass of Sicilians suffer. In addition to the important social context he provides, Lewis also has an eye for the absurd, exemplified by his closing chapters which recount the tale of a bunch of monks who principally occupied themselves with robbery and extortion, as well as the mafia's lucrative trade in 'authentic' religous relics. He devotes many pages to the story of Giuliano.

Elsewhere in the book he documents the murder of former partisan Placido Rizzotto the on march 10th of the following year, 1948. Rizzotto was a trade unionist and organizer as well as head of the local labour council in Corleone. On a busy evening he was abducted in front of hundfreds of people on the square in Corleone by the Mafia. Subsequently he was shot and thrown into a ravine .

My last Sicilian note relates to Leonardo Sciascia, whom I regard as being perhaps the greates modern Italian writer and who died in 1989. His novels and short stories are very noir and he achieves what I had thought to be impossible, successfully making a police officer the protagonist. His police officers however know that they do not have the state behind them, because the state is merely an artifice manufactured by a series of para-political powers. Sciascia refused to defend the italian state, even in the midst of the armed struggle of 1970s (although he had no sympathy for the Red brigades" and famously decalred that Italy wasa country without memory or truth, and thus he at least strove to remember.