Bifo: What Will Happen on Vis Island?

Franco “Bifo” Berardi

September 8th 2023:

What Will Happen on the Island of Vis?

(80 years after)

For many people in Italy, September 8th (1943) is the name of national shame.

As I don’t believe in nations this expression means nothing to me. 

However September 8th 1943 means something also to me: the ruining of the Italian society following the collapse of the Army and of the Fascist Regime.

My father told me his personal story: on that day he was in a barrack of Padova, where he was serving as a soldier of the Italian Army engaged in the war alongside the Germans. He was not a fascist nor an anti-fascist. He was a simple person who did not like war.

All of a sudden he received the news: war is over, well not really. The Italian Army is not engaged in the alliance with Germans anymore, but with the Anglo-Americans.

It was not the first time that Italy changed allies at the last moment in order to stay on the winning side.

It had already happened in 1915 when the Italian government accepted the offer of Great Britain and France, and betrayed the central powers entering the First World War with catastrophic results (half million casualties for a war of choice). 

In September 1939, after the occupation of Poland, Mussolini was uncertain about what to do, but he decided to go to war on 10 June 1940 when, after the occupation of France by German troops, he became convinced that Hitler would win the war.

Rushing to the rescue of the winner was the opportunistic choice of the fascists, but eventually, things turned bad. Hitler, the supposed winner was halted in Stalingrad, the Americans started bombing the European cities, so Mussolini realized that he was going to lose the war. At that point the fascists entered into a state of mental confusion. On 25 July the Fascists arrested Mussolini and the regime entered a phase of chaos.

On 3 September, General Badoglio, who had been the military commander of the deadly colonial adventures of fascism, signed an armistice with the Anglo-Americans.

At that point, chaos broke out at all levels of the Italian Army and also of Italian society.

Are we still at war?

Who is our ally? The Germans or the Anglo-Americans?

The king and royal family abandoned Rome and eventually fled the country. Mussolini,imprisoned by his fellow fascists, was freed by a German commando and gave birth to the Republic of Salò, entrenched in the northern part of the country.

The Anglo-Americans took control of the southern regions and a part of the disbanded Italian soldiers joined the partisan groups that were spreading throughout the country.

For my father (who was not fond of national pride) it was the beginning of an adventure: he left the army and fled like most of his fellow soldiers. Then he went to the mountains where he met a group of partisans and joined them.

September 8, 1943 is the best testimony of what fascism really is: quackery, arrogance, violence against the weak and compliant submission to the stronger.

A coward and imbecile, Mussolini had decided to go to war when he believed that Hitler had already won.

September 8th 1943 can also be seen as the epitome of the sudden disintegration of a state.

Let’s consider what is happening now, eighty years after.

In many European countries the fascists are back because people are frightened by poverty, migration and the crumbling of the neoliberal promise. Fascists rule Italy, Hungary, Poland, nationalist parties grow in Germany, France and Spain. They promise national glory and the extermination of migrants. 

Migrants are murdered all along the border between the North and the South of the world. But national glory means nothing but war, unemployment and fear.

A return of September 8 on a European scale is to be expected.

The fascists of today are not exactly like the fascists of the past century.

Twenty century fascism was all about youth, energy and conquest, the European population of today is senescent, depressed, infertile. 

European people are not conquering new territories, they are frightened by the mounting wave of migration.

The eighth of September that comes will not be a mere replay of eighty years ago. Not the political state, not the army are on the brink of collapse: the structures that enable social integration are at stakes. 

Climate collapse, militarization, all encompassing precariousness are transforming social life into hell.

This is why we should focus on a single issue: how will we survive?

How can we possibly create the conditions for happy life in the coming disintegration and chaos?

These two questions are the main issue of the Island School of Social Autonomy (ISSA).

Are we really able to create the institution that we need? Certainly not.

We – the small group of friends who launched the project – do not have the means for creating what is needed now.

We don’t have the financial and technical tools that are necessary for such an enormous task.

So what are we going to do in the island of Vis, on September 8th?

We are going to make a call to the cognitive workers of the planet Earth.

A call to start the process of creation of the Island School of Social Autonomy.

Millions of young people know that they will live in hell if we don’t create the conditions to create everywhere islands of self-organization for survival.

Human civilization is under disintegration: if we want to survive, and possibly live happily we must summon the forces of knowledge and innovation in islands of autonomous survival.

Antifascist graffiti from 1940s, “All for the defense of Vis” (Sve za obranu Visa)