Bad Teachers


Giovanni De Sio Cesari



The death of Toni Negri has brought back to public attention the old and often forgotten issue of bad teachers. It concerns the criminal responsibility (not political or ideological) of those who theorized armed struggle and violent revolution, even if they did not actively and personally participate.

Undoubtedly, armed struggles and violent revolutions are part of history; however, it is equally true that in any state, governed by any system, attempting to overthrow established orders through armed conflict is considered a crime.

In this specific case, the freedom of thought characteristic of democracy becomes a fundamental question. Are individuals free to theorize and incite, perhaps only implicitly, armed struggle, or is it a crime only when it transitions into concrete action?

The same issue arises in the context of Islamic terrorism: does the muezzin who calls for jihad commit a crime even if they do not actively participate? The problem is often resolved by asserting that the bad teacher has also participated, but this is not always true, as in the case of Toni Negri, at least according to the available judicial evidence.

The so-called Mitterand doctrine emerged based on the idea that France considered certain intellectuals as political exiles and not criminals. These intellectuals, while theorizing armed struggle, had not participated, or at least there was no judicial evidence supporting such participation, even though the Italian judiciary sentenced them.

Currently, there is a tendency to absolutize the Constitution, despite being a document written in a specific historical context that is constantly changing. The Constitution itself provides procedures for amendment, and it ends up being interpreted according to contemporary ideologies claiming to be the majority in the country. In this case, the interpreter of popular will should be the parliament and therefore the government, its emanation, rather than the judiciary, which should apply laws, even regarding constitutionality, without relying on ideological interpretations.

The problem of Toni Negri and bad teachers not only concerns positions irreconcilable with democracy but also the attempt to pursue them through violent actions rather than following the procedures established by the Constitution. It is not just about changing the political structure but about pursuing this goal with violence instead of peacefully according to the law; it should still be considered a crime.

However, the problem remains on the political level of freedom of thought guaranteed by democracy itself: is it permissible to express ideas proposing the overthrow of the current order through violence (revolution)? This is a difficult question.

However, it seems to us that the problem of bad teachers, both those from the '68 generation like Negri and more recent ones from Islamic Jihad, should also be viewed from the perspective of political reality, regardless of the crucial aspects of legality.

Now, Negri and others claimed that our political and economic system, defined as capitalism, is evil and must be replaced by a communist society, which would be good. Negri does not advocate for increasing the pensions of the poorest, developing union negotiations, or popular education; these changes remain within the system and do not aim to overthrow it.

If we now, 60 years later, see the problem, we must consider that all attempts to establish a communist society, whatever their method, have miserably failed in blood and misery, often with the death of millions of people. The system defined as capitalist (but I would say social democratic) characterizes the most prosperous and free nations where vast masses of people seek to enter (migrants) to occupy the lowest positions.

If we do not accept this fact, which may be liked or disliked but is TRUE, then we do not grasp the reality of today. Certainly, Western systems are full of flaws and injustices, but compared to the attempts of communism and any other system actually experimented in history, they have proven to be the best. One should not confuse the comparison with an ideal model against which every reality appears inferior with the comparison with other realities.

Marxist ideologies, which had their credibility 70 years ago, are now out of touch with reality, pure fantasies, not even dangerous anymore because no one thinks of following them except for some radical survivors.

A similar argument applies to Islamic jihadism: Islamic radicalism developed from the '80s starting from the ayatollah regime in Iran, bringing wars, disasters, and catastrophes everywhere. The entire Middle East, despite being the heir to a illustrious civilization, goes from one catastrophe to another, while the Far East, which has originally imitated the Western economic system, has had incomparably greater development.

Let us then say that those who declared themselves the TRUE communists or in the '80s the TRUE Muslims are bad teachers, not so much because they commit some crime, but because they have given teachings that have turned out, in hindsight, to be absolutely wrong and catastrophic. After all, every change and evolution, at the beginning, is against legality but then proves to be a good thing. Even the American and French revolutions were illegal and violent and could not be otherwise, but we consider ourselves heirs to them.