Today, the Basso Foundation is the result of the convergence of two organizational experiences conceived and founded by Lelio Basso: the Fondazione Lelio e Lisli Basso – Issoco and the Fondazione Internazionale Lelio Basso. The two foundations, separate until 2005, reflected the great political and intellectual vocations of the socialist leader: the battle for democracy, supported by historical-social and legal-institutional studies, and internationalist commitment to affirm human rights and the rights of peoples in the world. The processes of globalization gradually blurred this distinction and led to the integration of the two experiences, while maintaining their historical identity.
Lelio Basso and Lisli – Issoco Foundation, founded in Rome in 1973 with the merger of Lelio Basso’s rich personal library and the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Society (1969), was established as a non-profit organization by the President of the Italian Republic in June 1974. From the beginning, its cultural profile was defined by the coexistence – and interaction – of two fundamental areas of Basso’s political-intellectual interests, which clearly emerge from the history and composition of the library and archive: a historical-social sphere, which even in the early phases (under the direction of Gastone Manacorda and then Georges Haupt) went beyond traditional ideological categories and the ethical-political dividing lines of the history of Marxism and the labour movement. In the second phase, after the death of Basso (under the direction first of Alberto Caracciolo and then that of Giacomo Marramao), socio-historical inquiry gradually extended to other areas and methodological fields, from the history of mentalities to urban and environmental history and to the history of science. It also provided a legal-institutional framework with a mainly theoretical and political focus on the role played by the State and legal institutions in the dynamics of social order and conflict, and therefore in the constitutive process of “historical entities” (classes, elites, institutions). Other areas covered included bioethics and the process of European constitutionalisation. A third element that contributes, together with the two mentioned above, to define the Foundation’s profile is its public role and its contribution to the growth of Italian democratic life as a cultural institute. The Foundation’s work has always been marked by a solid interplay between strong ideals, a vocation for comparison and the importance of the historical dimension, while also focusing attention on data emerging from social contexts. It is no coincidence that, originally, the foundation was simply called Institute for the study of contemporary society (Issoco). Throughout its history, critical research and rejection of any form of dogmatism have always been a constant. Lelio Basso was man of strong convictions and passions but his Marxism was that of a critic, of dissenting opinion, a spirit of an irreducibly free man. Thus, other hallmarks of the Foundation include individuality, free and open debates, research that is not conditioned by any form of bias. The Foundation could also be defined by the expression “borderline institution”, in the sense that it has never been a work environment for those who consider themselves satisfied by their certainties.
Lelio Basso International Foundation was constituted formally with the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples, adopted on July 4, 1976 in Algiers, and in the context of the political and cultural references deriving from the sessions of the Russell Tribunals I and II, on Vietnam (1966-1967) and Latin America dictatorships (1974-1976), respectively. The focus of the International Foundation was research and project work to highlight and denounce the violation of rights, and to understand their profound causes. It operated through the work of experts, taking the rights of peoples as its methodology and benchmark. Throughout its history it strove to bring to light, give critical support to and share the many examples of resistance (intellectual and especially on the ground) to forms of domination and oppression. In this endeavour, it was strengthened by the creation and maintenance of international networks of individuals/groups, old and new. One of its fundamental tools was the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (TPP), founded in Bologna in 1979, which since then has carried out its work in more than forty sessions. Following the merger in the Fondazione Lelio e Lisli Basso – Issoco, it continued its activities as the “International Section”, promoting and maintaining legal, historical, economic, social and anthropological contacts and exchanges, at national and international level, on the “Rights and Liberation of Peoples”. Over time, it established itself as a natural point of reference and meeting point for different fundamental rights and peace movements, against all forms of war, domination and inequality.