In your editorial (The Guardian view on Italy’s resistance anthem: sing it loud, sing it proud, 21 September), you make the argument that Italy’s famous anthem Bella Ciao “is not a leftwing song; it is not leftwing to oppose fascism and insist on universal human rights and freedom from oppression”.
Actually, Bella Ciao is, by any criteria, a leftwing song and should be defended as such. It was adapted from the folk song Mondine, in which poor peasants lament their exploitation working for the rich in the rice fields of northern Italy.
It was an anti-establishment song about resistance to economic exploitation from the start. During the second world war, it was adapted by anti-fascist partisans into the version sung today. The most committed and unrelenting fighters against fascism during the second world war – in Italy, France, Greece and Yugoslavia – came first and foremost from the radical left.
I learned to sing Bella Ciao as part of the 200,000-strong anti-G8 demonstration held in Genoa in July 2001. I have heard it sung many times since at demonstrations, strikes and protests across Europe and beyond by those of us fighting against capitalism and for progressive change.
Bella Ciao is a leftwing anthem. If it weren’t, Italy’s far-right parties wouldn’t now be trying to ban it.
• Bella Ciao was sung by the resistance, all over occupied Europe. The song appeared in local, online versions as soon as Ukraine was invaded. I last sang it in 2020, in support of grassroots Sardines against Matteo Salvini.
Seeing now the way anti-immigrant hate speech is bubbling up again, like gas from a sewer, it is time for me to practise my singing!
Prof Woody Caan
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