The nEUres project, Nonviolent European Resistance, was born in October 2019 from the Nonviolent Movement in Italy. Its purpose was that of spreading information on the history of Nonviolent resistance to Nazi-fascim in Europe among young people as a starting point for reflection on Civil Society. Contrary to popular belief, Nonviolent resistance does not mean only pacifism, but also the ability to be proactive on a daily basis through refusal to obey certain laws or governmental demands, with the aim of influencing the legislation or government policy. Refusal and opposition are characterised by the use of non-violent techniques such as boycotts, picketing, non-payment of taxes, and failure or refusal to cooperate.
Passing through six countries, Italy, Austria, Hungary, North Macedonia, Romania and Spain, it was possible to impart knowledge, and encourage a transnational discussion on the forms of organised and unorganised Nonviolent resistance to Nazi-fascism. The educators responsible for sharing this knowledge were trained during the first of the three planned modules, which, ideally, are expected to end with an international conference in Turin.
Despite the fact that the pandemic forced nEUres partners to resort to hybrid and/or remote ways of conducting both the workshops and the 72-hour training course, the partner organisations achieved the training objectives. The workshops dedicated to the younger generation focused on ways to reinforce Nonviolent resistance: to impart historical knowledge of cases of Nonviolent resistance in the 20th century; to enhance the capacity for critical reflection and reading of historical events from a Nonviolent perspective; to improve the analysis of conflicts, power dynamics and leadership in order to facilitate action on Nonviolent principles and techniques.
nEUres builds on Gandhi's teachings through his satyagraha (force of truth), distinguishing itself from the passive Nonviolence movements of those who prefer not to intervene and follows Martin Luther King Jr.'s six principles of Nonviolence. But nEUres and the values of freedom, peace, justice, democracy and coexistence are deeply European. We see these Values in the actions of the men and women who laid the foundations for contemporary Europe. The protagonists of this heritage would today have a European passport. Examples of these are: Jan Palach, a socialist student from Czechia who died by setting himself on fire in protest as a symbol of the anti-Soviet resistance of the Prague Spring in 1968; Hannah Arendt from Germany who, through writing, resisted and recounted Nazi persecution; Marek Edelman from Poland, an activist and politician who took part in the Warsaw ghetto uprising and later became a militant in Solidarnosc; Celeste Caeiro, a Portuguese worker, who distributed and inserted carnations into the barrels of the rifles during the 1974 revolution. These are just a few of the Founding Mothers and Fathers of the idea of Europe as a project of hope and peace.
What does it mean to be Nonviolent in Europe today?
Today, the Nonviolent struggle means defending life, dignity, and the rights of all human beings. The fight for peace is also the fight for a more sustainable and solidarity-based future, as well as the fight against climate change. The latter started with Alexander Langer, one of the first to take the issue of ecological transition to Europe. Today, Nonviolence means the strikes of young people on Fridays for Future, a global movement for climate and environmental justice driven by young Europeans. Greta Thunberg, sitting outside the Swedish parliament during school hours in her "School Strike for the Climate" was the first to set the example. Nonviolence today means opposing exploitation, as Irene reminds us in the Italian workshop "an example of Nonviolent resistance today are the worker- riders who struggle to obtain decent working conditions". Nonviolence today means opposing sovereignist and populist logics, for a Europe of solidarity and welcoming.
It is "the everyday struggle of migrants against xenophobia", says Muscas to his companions of the Hungarian workshop. Dignity and equality are the keywords.
Nonviolent resistance today is, therefore, also opposition to war and violence, racism and all forms of persecution, exploitation and oppression. It is fundamental to oppose weapons and armed organisations, and it is imperative to choose the path of truth to achieve peace. nEUres aims, through its activities, to keep alive the memory of the past in order to look with more clarity towards the future and to have the strength to act against violence in the present. The beliefs on which this project rests can be traced back to the words of Aldo Capitini, founder of the Nonviolent Movement, who stated in 1940 "to work for a liberal and social Europe, without conservatism and particularism [...] for tomorrow (regardless of the outcome) the principle of a supranational economic and cultural community". In 1940 Europe was in the midst of a world war. It was unthinkable to talk about peace, and even less so a Union of States. Yet, from Ventotene to Brussels, Europe is humanity's
greatest peace project and boasts more than 70 years of peace in one of the most fragmented and quarrelsome continents.
Today, more than ever, the European Union must be democratic, federalist and a beacon for the green and digital transitions. The crises brought upon by the financial crash of 2008, the migration flows of 2015- 2016, the rise of national populism, the 2016 Brexit referendum, the Covid-19 pandemic or climate change require a paradigm shift for the survival of the Union from national selfishness to a revival of the project of Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi, that in a bitter-tasting spring like this one, wrote the Ventotene Manifesto. The manifesto was then spread across the continent thanks to the commitment of some colleagues, including Ursula Hirschmann and Ada Rossi. It is a forward-looking manifesto, which has remained relevant 81 years after its first edition and has the great merit of bringing together the ideas of three great philosophers, Kant, Robbins and Lord Lothian and of proposing new policies that have given birth to the European Federalist Movement.
A movement that was not born in the palaces of power, but within the walls of a cold house on a small island where dozens of opponents had been sent into exile by the fascist regime. A project born from a common conscience, from young people who dedicated their lives to build an idea that today lies in our hands and is our responsibility to defend: the idea of a Free and United Europe.
Written by Cecilia Comastri, UEF Project Assistant - July 2021
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