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1968 in the province told by those who were there

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It is difficult, if not impossible, to enclose ’68 in a definition: if history is always complexity, an articulation between objective and subjective elements, this is even more true for a phenomenon like the ‘long ’68. 1968 was an international movement, which took on a completely new physiognomy compared to the other previous social movements: in the first half of the 1900s the masses had been included in the nation state. On the other hand, 1968 was the first moment in which the masses started an opposite process, “denationalizing themselves”.

However, 1968 was also a child movement of the great economic transformation that involved the West between 1950 and 1973.

1968 began in 1964 with the occupation of the University of Berkely and continued in Washington with the struggles for civil rights and against the Vietnam war; in Latin America it took the form of the anti-imperialist struggle, in China in ’66 that of the cultural revolution; in Italy the occupation of Palazzo Campana in Turin took place in autumn ’67. During ’68 as a year, there was the French May and the repression of the Prague spring in August; in Mexico City, Tommy Smith and John Carlos on the Olympic podium with their fists raised and gloved in black represented an iconic image of the protest, but there was also the massacre of hundreds of students by the Mexican police in Piazza delle Three cultures.

Simplifying, the common features of this planetary protest movement were: anti-authoritarianism, which had as its object the radical criticism of power in all its forms, from the family, to politics, to morality, to the state; anti-consumerism, that is the rejection of the well-being society; the third world, with the myth of Che Guevara, the “young and beautiful” hero of the liberation of peoples. This has resulted in the elimination of distances in the world, well before the globalized economy and the Internet.

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’68 also represented, especially in Italy, the irruption of politics into everyday life: public and private overlapped and merged and every problem, every relationship became mainly a “political problem”. Feeding the risk of an exclusionary self-referentiality, in which all social and friends relations were born within the political area of ​​belonging with heavy consequences on the affective sphere of each militant that Marcuse’s ironic quote summarizes in an exemplary way: ” all the problems one has with his girlfriend are necessarily due to the capitalist mode of production ».

But if ’68 was an eminently metropolitan phenomenon, linked to the big cities and their industrial hinterlands, where factories, high schools and universities were concentrated, which were the epicenter of the protest, we can speak of a “’68 of province”? Or did “the provincials” necessarily have to undergo long trips to Turin or Milan in order to “breathe the air of rebellion”?

Remo Schellino’s documentary (made in collaboration with the Historical Institute of the Resistance of Cuneo) gives a positive answer to the first of these questions, recounting a “’68 in the province”, that of Cuneo, through a journey on a Renault 4: not it is the “history of ’68” but that of the transformation of a province and a city that a documentary of the Teche Rai of ’67 had portrayed “as quiet and reserved as its people”.

The twenty or so testimonies of the protagonists, wisely dosed in the montage, intertwine with images, newspapers and historical documents, recounting a decade from the Cuneo point of view, from the mid-60s to the mid-70s, central to the transformation not only economic of the country but also in its modernization and secularization. Certainly the local political traditions, from the monarchical vote of June 2, 1946 to a conservative Catholicism, have allowed the DC to constantly confirm itself as a majority party, on the other hand the left had a generally weak organizational and electoral tradition. But, as one of the witnesses says, ’68 “It was like a wind, like the north wind in Provence that comes in through the windows, you can close it but the drafts come in anyway”. A wind therefore capable of penetrating also into the Catholic world, in which the post-conciliar innovative ferments have given way to the protagonism of many young people and to a new generation of priests, giving life here too to that “season of dialogue” with other political cultures. , which has produced a social commitment that over time has also become a political commitment. Of course, the resistance to the wind of change has been strong: “Cuneo city of rubber” was the headline of the new weekly “The time is coming”, in which the so-called “Catholics of dissent” found space after the commissioner of La Guida.

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A conservative province but strongly linked to the experience of resistance and anti-fascism, a school of values ​​of life transmitted by families to all young people, Catholics, lay people, leftists. No squares or public places granted to the MSI and the popular trial of fascism celebrated in the Church of San Francesco as concrete symbols of the slogan “Now and always Resistance”.

1968 was also, for middle and university students, the discovery of the factory: Michelin, Ferrero, Miroglio, the Clavesana cotton mill which employed workers-peasants.

To be, to feel, to recognize oneself as companions at first sight, even for that “innocent parka” worn by many, for those twenty years in which “everything was still whole” was a way of feeling part of a community, of a tribe.

In the 1970s, the birth of political groups gave an organizational change to the initial spontaneity and created fractures and divisions, even if the choice of the political group was often made “by affinity of skin rather than by depth of analysis”.

What’s left of that long season? Surely the experience of the practice of participatory democracy, of solidarity as a shared value, of political commitment as a passion. The terrorist “degeneration” did not involve Cuneo, thanks to the paternal surveillance of “good teachers like Nuto” and a certain natural and deep-rooted predisposition to “nèn exagerè”. If the “Moro case has put a tomb lid” on the movement, the awareness of the memory of the witnesses, as in history, remains that upstream there was the massacre of Piazza Fontana, with which it was necessary to acknowledge “the enemy he was really bad. ‘

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That season, however, also led to an important phase of liberalization and secularization of society: the women’s movement has placed at the center of the discussion the injustices and discrimination present in the penal code, from adultery to sexual violence to family law, has fought to obtain and defend divorce and abortion laws.

Schellino’s work avoided the risk of talking about that season by mythologizing it and comparing it with an air of sufficiency with the current era, judging today’s young people with the categories of a twentieth-century historical and political context. No reductive spirit emerges from the film, only a veil of legitimate, understandable and shareable melancholy tempered by a good dose of self-irony of the witnesses in telling about themselves.

The generation that lived the “long ’68” as a protagonist “was given that time by lot” and for this it was a fortunate generation, which experienced “the thrill of believing that it could change the world“. It did not succeed, we did not succeed: today therefore we have no qualification to pretend to teach young people how to change it. Surely “it was a dream, a utopia, but without utopia you can’t go anywhere”. –

*scientific director of the Historical Institute of the Resistance of Asti

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