The stamp, to be put on sale next month, honours Giovanni Gentile, a leading thinker of the early 20th century who joined the Fascist Party in 1923 and was killed by partisans in Florence in 1944. The issue, which would be a sensitive one under any Italian government, is made particularly inflammatory by the fact that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Giuseppe Tatarella, is a member of the neo-Fascist National Alliance. The Italian Federation of Partisan Associations and the National Association of Italian Partisans are demanding the withdrawal of the stamp.
However, Italo Bocchino, a spokesman for the Post and Telecommunications Ministry, said yesterday that the request for a stamp had come not from neo-Fascist ranks but from a cross-parliamentary group. 'This has been under discussion for more than a year. There's a big fuss being made over nothing,' he said. 'Gentile was an important philosopher who was murdered. Others like him survived, went over to the partisans, and have been heaped with honours since their death,' he added.
The episode has not stirred up wider public furore - Gentile is not well known outside his field - but it is an indication of how confident the hard right is becoming in taking on sacred cows. Under previous Christian Democrat- led administrations, it would have been unthinkable for anyone linked with Fascism to be honoured.
Mr Tatarella has maintained that the decision to issue commemorative stamps is made on the basis of 'people and historical facts analysed without political colouring'. The partisans' associations are not convinced and refer to 'the political and moral responsibility of Giovanni Gentile, who in the 1920s supported the regime in every one of his decisions'. Mr Tatarella's defence of objectivity was 'childish and laughable'. They seem unlikely to be able to stop the issue, though. 'Of course it will go ahead on 21 November. It is all nonsense stirred up by people who want publicity,' said Mr Bocchino.
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