"I will always be, and this time in the best, more correct and more difficult way, a communist, a revolutionary.... I am not here to ask for leniency, I have come here before you, but not for the reasons that a common prisoner presents himself in court: to defend himself legally to lighten the penalty. I am here to criticize my past where it should be criticized, in a revolutionary way, from a revolutionary point of view.
"I turn to all who were exploited as I was, as I am: only with respect to the values that they represent can my past be criticized and condemned. If I robbed banks, if some men died against my will and not at my hands, I certainly do not have to justify myself to a society founded on robbery, fraud and violence. I made a mistake, it's undeniable. Just as I feel remorse for the dead, unknowing victims of a continuous and unstoppable struggle which we insignificant exploited men certainly did not ask for. It is up to my class, the proletariat, the exploited masses, to judge me, and it is them that I ask to understand that we wanted our action to be an answer – instead it was only a reaction – to a situation intolerable to human dignity, and that is the bourgeois system that is responsible for all this, the cause of every violence and injustice, the provoker of crime.
"I have rebelled against this state of things from the age of 14. At a certain moment in my life I expressed this rebellion in an absolutely mistaken way, when I decided to become a bandit: I confused the revolutionary struggle with individual rebellion, playing the game of the ruling class in this way... others better than me will follow, well-taught by my errors, to grasp the positive side of our experience. The struggle against you will continue, inside and outside the jails.... All the common criminals, the lost, the rebels without hope, we will return them to you with a revolutionary consciousness. It has been and will be our task, as the vanguard inside the jails, to turn the prisons into schools of communism and replace opportunism with an always greater spirit of brotherhood and solidarity. This is my commitment and this is your error. You think you have won and instead, even with me, you have already lost the battle."
This work has a certain degree of difficulty and is intended for the serious student, who needs an understanding of repression. It is based on the key documents of the strategic debate within the Italian revolutionary movement as they approached armed confrontation with the State. That was the first stage of urban guerrilla warfare in Italy from 1970-1975, whose primary (although not only) expression was the Red Brigades. While many have heard of that organization, people know little but the name. The entire Italian revolutionary struggle was politically unknown to us save for the subliminal: effects of imperialist media, with all its censorship and untruths.
In general it is our internationalist duty to spread the lessons of all revolutionary movements, to strengthen ourselves as we defeat the isolation that imperialism strains to impose on all of us. Specifically, the struggles of the european metropolis, which take place in the urban-technological society, have special meaning for us. It is not just in Vietnam, Guinea-Bissau, and El Salvador that one finds the front-lines of battle.
The experience of forming the Red Brigades is not in our opinion a blueprint or an idealized model to be imitated. Situations within the u.s. Empire, within both oppressor and oppressed nations, differ greatly from the Italy of the 1960s-1970s. Yet the problems, pressures, errors and questions they faced in their formative stage were to some degree true here as well. The questions around beginning the process of revolutionary organization are important, since we, like our Italian comrades know that: "To fight, to be defeated, to fight again, to be defeated again, to fight anew until final victory" is the law of history.
What is essential now is that the Italian experience deepens and re-states questions that we must answer. Not facile answers but a more profound question.
In setting off on the still-unknown path of urban guerrilla warfare, the Red Brigades rejected the non-materialist conception of armed struggle as a voluntary tactic. That is, that armed struggle is supposedly something only done when the movement decides that it is ready to try it. The founding members of the Red Brigades pointed out that in Italy a truly mass revolutionary sentiment was forming, which the State had decided to militarily wipe out. So violent confrontation would take place whether or not the movement was ready or even willing. Nor was the timing completely up to the movement. The only choices were to give up, to suicidally pretend that violent repression wasn't happening, or to leap to the higher stage of revolutionary armed struggle, however hard that leap.
This study begins with two background chapters. The first gives a brief factual overview of Italian society and its political situation in the years being discussed. The second chapter tells the general history of the New Left, from 1960 to the coming together in 1969 of what would become the Red Brigades.
We have no secret sources of information. This study is completely based on publicly available documents, Italian newspaper and magazine accounts, books, and the Italian movement press. We are indebted to the former Information-Documentation Section of Red Aid, whose diligent work made this book possible.
Edited by toyotathon ()
In terms of geography, Italy is a long, boot-shaped peninsula that juts out of Southern Europe some 500 miles into the Mediterranean Sea. In area this peninsula is roughly the size of Georgia and Florida combined. And to the West and South respectively, the two large islands of Sardinia and Sicily (each the area of Vermont) extend Italy even further out into the Mediterranean. While its Northern border anchors Italy to France, the Swiss Alps, Austria and Yugoslavia, on its other three sides Italy is bordered by sea. There is less than 100 miles between Sicily and Tunisia, on the North African coast. So Italy is almost a bridge between Western Europe and the Arab world.
The Italian nation is sharply divided regionally between North and South. Northern Italy is completely European--urbanized, highly industrial, relatively prosperous, consumeristic. The way of life in such cosmopolitan cities as Turin or Milan differs only in details from that of Hamburg, Paris or London. By contrast, the South seems almost like the Third World. The saying that Southern Italy is closer to Africa than it is to Europe is meant as a social comment. Southern Italy has a hot, sunny, Mediterranean climate. There is little industrial development. Traditional peasant agriculture and fishing play a large role in the economy. Poverty and unemployment are widespread. In Naples, the major city of the South, there is 40% unemployment. Smuggling and other Mafia activities comprise the largest single economic sector in that city of 1.1 million people.
The per capita income in Sicily and Reggio Calabria, the two poorest South Italian provinces, is on a level with that of Greece, Puerto Rico or Venezuela, and is roughly one-third less than per capita income in Northern Italy.1 Not surprisingly, the South's main export has always been emigrant workers, who historically made up the bottom of the industrial and service workforce in the North; the cleaning women, factory assemblers, sanitation men and construction laborers.
Italy is the weakest of the major imperialist nations. In the colonial era it was almost completely left out as Italy was itself dominated by other Powers, and until very late--1861--did not have a national government. Italian capitalism attempted to take over near-by Tunisia in the 1860s-1870s, but lost out to French colonialism. The Italian army which invaded Ethiopia in 1896 was smashed, with Italy having to pay reparations to Ethiopia for the return of its captured soldiers. Italy began colonizing the Somalia coast in 1885, gradually expanding inland until it had taken all of Somalia by 1927. In 1912, Italy seized Libya from the dying Turkish Empire. Despite killing half the population, Italy was never able to stamp out Libyan guerrillas. Albania was captured in 1939, at the start of World War II. This meager colonial empire--Albania, Libya, Somalia, Ethiopia--was all lost by Italy in the course of the War (1939-1945).
Italy's weakness is manifested in uneven economic development. Although Italy is Europe's second-largest steel producer and FIAT is Europe's second largest auto corporation, the state had to assume the main role of industrial development due to the weakness of the Italian bourgeoisie. Italy's largest industrial corporation, IRI, and the major petroleum corporation, ENI, are both government-owned. Main industries are textiles, steel, auto, shoes, machinery and chemicals. Italy's main exports to the u.s. empire are shoes, textiles and foodstuffs (olive oil, etc.). In important capitalist sectors such as finance or advanced electronics, Italy plays only a minor role. While there is considerable natural gas in the North, petroleum must come from the Arab nations. Italy has historic ties to Libya, and is Libya's biggest trading partner (taking 24% of Libyan exports, mostly oil, and sending 30% of Libyan imports).
The Americanization or Coca-Colonization of Italy has been pronounced since the u.s. occupation during World War II. This is especially noticeable in the more prosperous Northern cities, where people have been better able to afford it. As in so many other nations, automobiles, Hollywood movies and rock music are basic elements in the mass consumer culture.
The living standard in Italy is at the low end of the major oppressor nations. In 1980 Italian per capita (i.e. per adult person) income was $6,914 per year, while Japan's was $8,460 and in the u.s. empire it was $11,675. In 1982 the average Italian industrial working class family earned $8400, while the average family of a white-collar employee earned $10,200, and the average professional or small business family income was $14,300. In compensation, the pace of work is more relaxed in Italy. Long lunch-hours, sometimes 1 1/2 or 2 hours, are not unusual. Italian workers are less convinced that hard work and "drive" will get you anything in the end. They have a saying: "Americans live to work, whereas we Italians work to live."
DISTINCTIVE HISTORY AS A NATION
Italy in both similar to the u.s. oppressor nation and very different. Certainly its political history has been quite different. This is an ancient society with well-defined class lines and little upward social mobility. While the Italian society is old, the Italian national State is relatively new. Italy was first born out of the Roman Empire two thousand years ago. The Roman Republic, originally just one city-state, had conquered all of present-day Italy by 172 B.C.. Eighty years later, after widespread revolts, the republic granted Roman citizenship to the fellow slave-owners of other Italian regions and cities. Roman law, culture and language replaced local dialects and customs. A unified Italian society was created, based on a slave plantation economy and rule from a centralized Roman bureaucracy. After a series of long bloody wars with the powerful North African city-state of Carthage, Rome became the dominant military power in the Western Mediterranean and declared itself an Empire. This Empire came to dominate all of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and India.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Italy went through a long period of political dismemberment lasting 1400 years. Northern Italy was held by foreign conquerors, first the Visigoths, Franks and other Germanic tribes, and later the French monarchy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and other feudal powers. During the long feudal period Italy was chopped up into many foreign colonies, independent city-states and local principalities. In Central Italy the Catholic Church ruled over its own nation, the Papal States, complete with papal armies and church-owned plantations. The Papal States were once as large as one-seventh of present-day Italy and had a population of 3 million people. The social effects of Italy’ s long feudal past are still evident in Italy's backward and archaic culture.
Italy became independent again only in 1861, when Garibaldi's nationalist legions unified the country around the banner of King Victor Emmanuel II of the Kingdom of Sardinia, who ruled Piedmont and Sardinia. The Papal States, which were guarded by French troops, held out until 1870. In the South, where rebellious peasants resisted rule from the North, Garibaldi's legions and the Piedmontese army forced reunification in a bloodbath of repression. The new Italian state was a constitutional monarchy, modeled after Great Britain. Although the new state was a bourgeois democracy, with an elected parliamentary government, at first only a small percentage had the franchise: all women, the entire working class and the entire peasantry were excluded from voting.
The new State had been created to nourish the weak Italian bourgeoisie, which had been stunted under foreign domination. Even more, Italian capitalism had been left behind as the bigger powers monopolized world trade with their growing colonial empires. The new Italian bourgeois state presented itself to the people as the patriotic opponent of foreign domination. From the beginning, the nationalism of the Italian oppressor nation justified itself by picturing Italy primarily as an underdog, as the victim of France, England, the "u.s.a." and the other Powers.
By the start of World War I, in 1914, the Italian industrial proletariat had grown into a political force. Some 2 million workers had joined the Socialist trade-unions by 1919. Although the capitalists, seeking to end growing strikes and street fighting, had granted all Italian men voting rights in 1912, the workers struggle grew more militant. Italy had entered the first imperialist World War as one of the Allied Powers (England, France, "u.s.a.", Italy, Czarist Russia and Japan) against Germany and Austro-Hungary. The war years, even for a winning oppressor nation, were a time of increased misery, of hunger and brutal overwork in the factories.
At the War's end in 1918 the class struggle broke out in an even sharper way. In 1918 there were many strikes and food riots. In 1919 socialist-led peasants both in the central Italian "red belt" and in the South staged armed land take-overs against the feudal landlords and the Catholic Church. And in 1920 the Northern proletariat struck in a wave of factory take-overs. In the Turin auto plants, where the revolutionary movement had its stronghold, the workers formed factory councils modeled after the Russian soviets. Not only running the occupied factories was on the agenda, but seizing State power over the North. After two months of public debate and indecision, the Socialist leaders backed down and the soviets dissolved. The whole revolutionary movement collapsed under the violent counter-attack from the fascist gangs. While workers armed themselves and fought back, they were disorganized and no match for the fascists, who were backed by the army. Thousands were shot. The socialist union confederation lost 90% of its members, shrinking from 2 million to 200,000.
Still the Government in Rome was barely able to govern. Class struggle had moved beyond the framework of bourgeois democracy. Italian capitalism was faced with the question of holding State Power. In those circumstances the ruling class turned to fascism. On October 28, 1922, King Victor Emmanuel III officially asked fascist boss Benito Mussolini to take over the Government. Over the next decade Mussolini became the strongman of Europe. Every fascist movement in Europe, including Adolph Hitler's fledgling Nazis, were to model themselves after him.
His fascist movement initially pretended to be anti-capitalist. It had its class base in the rural petty-bourgeoisie and lumpen (Mussolini himself, who was in turn a poor schoolteacher, a peasant agitator, a socialist journalist, a police agent, and a pro-war nationalist, was a rural lumpen). Italian fascism also attracted the nationalistic wing of the Italian anarcho-syndicalist and social-democratic movements, whose best-known political leader was Mussolini himself. While the Italian fascists always like to pretend that their 50,000 "Black Shirt" legionnaires had seized Rome by force, the fact is that fascist dictatorship was installed by the army and politicians at the orders of the bourgeoisie.
The Italian people suffered through 20 years of fascist rule, ending with a year and a half of brutal German Nazi occupation and the rigors of becoming a World War II combat zone. After the u.s. Army and the British Army "liberators" captured the city of Naples, for example, many thousands of Neapolitans died from starvation and disease. The u.s.- British occupation refused to provide either food or medical care in the middle of a famine. Some observers at the time estimated that as many as one-third of all the women in Naples had been forced into prostitution for the Allied soldiers.
ARMED STRUGGLE 1943-45
The bitter experience of fascism meant, among other things, that two generations of Italian workers prior to 1960 had gone through the experience of armed struggle. There were some 180,000 armed partisan guerrillas in 1943-45, primarily led by Communists. The Italian Communist Party had been crushed in the 1920s by Mussolini, and had never had the leadership for armed struggle. But with the fall of Mussolini in 1943, partisan groups of all kinds began. Many revolutionaries and democrats had gotten out of prison. In those circumstances the PCI leadership finally began to organize guerrilla groups. Protest strikes in Winter 1944 against the German occupation lasted eight days in Turin, and throughout the North involved close to a million workers. On April 24, 1945, in response to a Communist call for "a national uprising", 60,000 workers revolted in Milan and took over the city. Workers councils were formed to run things. In Turin the partisans overcame a stiff German Army rear-guard and also liberated their city. People's courts throughout the North executed 20,000 fascists. But the partisans were disbanded by the revisionist PCI, which was cooperating with the u.s. military occupation. While many revolutionary workers were dismayed and disoriented by this turn, since they had expected to push on to socialist revolution, there was little anti- revisionist leadership.
In Turin's Barriera di Milano, a working class neighborhood, the Italian Communist Party section rebelled against the PCI national leadership. They formed the Red Star Collective, which organized the refusal to surrender arms, called for guerrilla organization, and published a militant newspaper. But Red Star was before its time and became politically isolated. Discovery of communist arms caches and occasional small clashes with police still continued through 1949. Particularly after the 1949 assassination attempt of PCI head Palmiro Togliatti. All across Italy communist militants, fearing a fascist coup, dug out hidden arms, seized factories, built barricades and began patrolling the working class districts.
ARCHAIC & BACKWARD CAPITALISM
This inheritance of feudalism, fascism and class struggle had given Italy a distinctive type of capitalist society by 1960. One very different from the "u.s.a." The Italian State has always been a bureaucratic mess. Hastily imposed, almost overnight, in the 1860s-1870s by a weak bourgeoisie, it was designed to forcibly hold together different regions. Thus, there are no local-regional "checks and balances" as in the "u.s.a." Italian government is highly centralized at the national level, with different bourgeois interests expressed in overlapping, competing agencies and bureaucracies. There are no local or municipal police; instead there are five different national police forces--ranging from the para-military, sub-machine gun toting Carabinieri (always commanded by an Army General) to the forestry police--with deep rivalry between them all. Instead of a C.I.A. there are numerous overlapping military intelligence agencies, who regularly expose each others' scandals to the press. One of the real contradictions within Italian capitalism in the last thirty years has been its unmet need to modernize and reform its own State apparatus without destabilizing everything.
Italian society is strongly influenced by bureaucrat fascism. Much of Italy's legal code and court structure are from the fascist period. Civil liberties are restricted. There is no "right to a speedy trial," for instance. Judges are in no way neutral, not even as a pretense, but are part of the prosecution. Many fascist business leaders, military brass, police officials and government bureaucrats were given amnesty after World War II and re-entered public life. This gave the Italian State a strong right-wing presence.
This rightward orientation is strengthened by the feudal-clerical force of the Roman Catholic Church. Italy is a Catholic country; 90% of the people are baptized and 30% attend Catholic mass. The Church is not merely a conservative religious force. In Italy the Church, which once held state power as a feudal society, operates as a secondary government. Under Mussolini the Church became the official state religion, in the fascist-Vatican treaty of 1929. The Vatican was a strong supporter of fascism. Most mass education has been in the hands of the clergy. Extreme authoritarianism, with corporal punishment (whipping and beating) and religious indoctrination typified Italian schools. Catholic indoctrination for all children was compulsory until the reforms of the 1970s.
Italy's bourgeois culture, shaped by fascism and clericalism, has been extremely reactionary. Both government and the Vatican enforced the open oppression of women. Ingrained class distinction and sexism is customary. The 1945 constitution has an equal rights provision that says: "all citizens have equal social dignity and are equal before the law without distinction as to sex, race, language..." These standard democratic promises were completely overridden by specific constitutional articles, laws and court rulings. The infamous "unity of family" provisions of the constitution banned abortion while giving men legal power over women. The 1942 fascist marriage code was incorporated intact into the new legal system. So husbands had supreme decision-making power over the family, women were legally obliged to follow their husband wherever he moved, and to seek his permission before taking wage employment. As late as 1967 the Italian courts reaffirmed the fascist laws giving the husband the right to control "his" children even after his death--instructions on how to raise them given in his will are binding on his widow.
Violence against women was normal and ever-present. If a man killed "his" wife or daughter it was usually considered only a minor crime or no crime at all. Article 587 of the legal code stated that "whoever causes the death of their spouse, their daughter or their sister upon the act of discovering that illicit carnal relations have taken place and in a state of anger caused by the offense to his or his family's honor is to be punished by imprisonment for 3 to 7 years." Rape and public harassment of women were condoned. Due to the power of the Vatican, divorce was banned until 1970, and abortions were illegal. In the 1960s there were an estimated 2-3 million illegal abortions every year, with Italian feminists estimating that 20-40,000 women died each year from the effects of illegal abortions.
In 1970 women were only 20% of the wage-labor force, concentrated in offices, retail stores, garment manufacturing, textiles, shoes and tobacco processing. One-third of all wage-employed women work in "home industry", most typically in knitting sweaters. Knit clothing was Italy's leading export product by 1967. To raise their profits the capitalists began shutting down older knitting factories during the late 1950s. Women workers were offered the "opportunity" to buy the old machines, and to produce goods on a piece-work contract basis in their kitchens. Of course there were no minimum wages, no security, no health insurance or other benefits--and isolation from other workers. In the South the emigration of male-workers to the North and to other countries in search of factory and construction jobs, left much of the migrant farm labor to women, picking grapes and harvesting grain on the large farms. Women's subordinate and oppressed place in imperialism was reflected throughout Italian society, which still defined women as housewives. It was not until 1969-1970 that a women's liberation movement began, as an expression of the new revolutionary developments.
The Church's counter-institution on the Left, the revisionist Italian Communist Party (PCI), had by the 1960s become the center for modernizing and welfare-state currents in Italian society. For twenty years it dominated much of the local government in the Central Italian "red belt" (approximately the region of the old Papal States). In Bologna and other cities in the region the PCI controlled city halls, and ran a giant patronage machine. It ran a large network of agricultural and commercial co-ops that provided marketing and financial services for peasants, shopkeepers and craftsmen in Central and Northern Italy. Its union federation, the Central Confederation of Italian Labor (CGIL), while much weakened in the 1950s, was still the largest. The Party had a widespread cultural apparatus with a battery of newspapers, magazines, research and cultural institutes, and youth clubs.
While the PCI was more liberal and modern in its outlook, and at least paid lip service to the wage demands of the workers, it was itself very absorbed into the dominant capitalist way of life. Individualistic Western consumerism was encouraged by the Party, which remained a patriarchal organization in composition, leadership and outlook. To illustrate: in the 1970s struggle over women's right to abortion, the Party took the position that abortion should remain illegal except in medical emergency to save the mother's life.
The PCI always supported male supremacy and undermined women's struggles. During the 1943-45 partisan guerrilla period the PCI was forced by necessity to permit communist women to organize separate women's defense groups. These became mass clandestine organizations of young working class women. In addition to being a support network for urban guerrillas, the women organized food collections for prisoners, staged raids on government coal trucks and redistributed the coal throughout the community, and conducted anti-fascist propaganda. Feminist campaigns in the fascist-run factories for "Equal Pay for Equal Work" won much support, as did the defense groups’ anti-rape activities. In one case the groups led a large factory strike that forced the fascists to punish soldiers who had raped several women. Just before the April 1945 general insurrection that liberated Northern Italy, the women's defense groups led hundreds of thousands of women in closing transit and mail delivery in Turin.
As soon as the fighting stopped in 1945 the PCI leadership dissolved the women's defense groups, replacing them with a sterile PCI women's auxiliary for housewives. In the immediate post-war period the PCI also backed the imperialist campaign to drive women workers out of the major industries and to suppress any women's liberation activity. The undeveloped political consciousness of communist women then emphasized subordination to "socialist" patriarchy, and lost all the gains of the women's struggle.
If the Vatican represented an embalmed feudalism, the PCI represented an embalmed European Social-Democracy of 1900. Thus, both right and left had become different expressions of the backwardness of Italian bourgeois society.
BRIEF SKETCH OF ELECTORAL PARTIES
Italy is a bourgeois republic with a popularly elected parliamentary government, similar in some ways to the u.s. Congress. However, the number of legislators each party had is based on proportion of votes captured nationally. The party or coalition of parties with the majority of seats in the Parliament becomes the executive, selecting the Prime Minister and Cabinet. There were eight major parties in Italian bourgeois politics, and a large number of minor ones. They were, in order of strength in the 1969-1970 Parliament (there have been changes since then):
1. Christian Democrats (DC)--formed in 1944, DC is the mass, conservative Catholic party. Similar to the right wing of the u.s. Republican Party. This is the traditional ruling party; from 1948 through the 1970s every Prime Minister was DC. Social base is middle-size capitalists, small shopkeepers, rural landlords, rich peasants. Uses Catholic Church hierarchy as its electoral machinery (before elections most priests preach sermons about voting DC). Biggest stronghold is in the South, where Mafia and Church are the party. Has been in crisis since early 1960s, losing popularity. 42% of the Parliament in 1970.
2. Italian Communist Party (PCI)--formed in 1921, PCI is now a classic example of the European working class reformist party. Social base among industrial workers and poor peasant day laborers in the North and Center. Increasingly recruiting young petty-bourgeois professionals who want a modern welfare state. As a vestige of its past as an actual Communist Party, the PCI is nominally pro-Moscow and anti-"u.s.a." in world affairs. 27% of the Parliament in 1970.
3. Italian Socialist Party (PSI)--formed in 1892, was once the first Italian mass party of socialist workers. Now pro-NATO social-democrats. (Present 1985 Prime Minister, Bettino Craxi, is PSI leader. PSI has become more like PSU/PSDI.) Lost most of its base and social role in the working class to the PCI. Once as strong as the Communist Party of Italy (PCI) in the late 1940s, the PSI repeatedly lost left and right wings in various splits. 10% of Parliament in 1970.
4. United Socialist Party (PSU)--formed in 1948. Was then called Italian Social- Democratic Party (PSDI) and has now retaken that name. Nominally social- democratic, but rabidly anti-communist. Was formed by C.I.A. to split socialist vote and prevent united front with Italian Communist Party (PCI). Financed and operated with u.s. AFL-CIO assistance. Although small, they are the party of u.s. imperialism in Italy. Since 1950s has been in Christian Democratic ruling coalitions. 5% of the Parliament in 1970.
5. Liberal Party--despite name is conservative party. Traditional 19th century bourgeois views, closer to fascists than to the present Christian Democrats (by 1980s had lost many members to the outright fascist groupings). 5% of the Parliament in 1970.
6. Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity (PSIUP)--formed in 1964 as a leftwing split from Italian Socialist Party (PSI). Provoked by majority PSI decision to end their traditional workers' united front with the Italian Communist Party (PCI), and instead join DC Premier Aldo Moro's first Center-Left coalition government. Left wing of PSI refused to go along with that coalition, wanted to still ally with PCI while making entire Left more militant; split to form PSIUP. Many 1960s New Left theorists (such as the Red Notebooks grouping) were in PSIUP. Main strength in Sicily and Sardinia. 4% of Parliament in 1970.
7. Italian Social Movement-National Right (MSI)--formed shortly after World War II in 1946. The legal "neo-fascist" party. Italian constitution forbids reorganization of the fascist party, but the MSI is the direct continuation of Mussolini's party. Was organized by fascists to give them a legal front after they were amnestied by then- Minister of Justice Togliatti (head of revisionist PCI). Most ex-fascists went into more respectable DC, so MSI represented the hard-core, ideologically-committed fascists. Prominent MSlers originally included Prince Valerio Borghese (the "Black Prince"), an infamous fascist war criminal in WWII (he headed a special unit that worked with the Nazi S.S. torturing and killing suspected partisans). MSI thugs parade in fascist Black Shirt uniform ala Mussolini. Program is reactionary anti-Communism: physically wipe out Left, eliminate women's right of divorce, and so forth. Rightwing of MSI involved in terrorist mass bombings in 1960s; attempted fascist military coup in alliance with Italian Army elements in 1970s. Officially the terrorist wing left the MSI. Social base is petty-bourgeois and lumpen. Strongest in Naples, Southern region of Calabria, Sicily (since 1960s has gained much strength as Italian politics polarized). 4% of Parliament in 1970.
8. Republican Party--formed in 1898, one of the first petty-bourgeois parties in Italy. Originally had an anti-clerical, anti-monarchist orientation. Small but influential in state policy; hold balance of power in coalition governments. Giovanni Agnelli, owner of FIAT corporation, is Party's most noted leader. Similar to Rockefeller wing of Republicans in "u.s.a." 1.5% of Parliament in 1970.
NOTE: 10-12% of Parliament were unaffiliated political figures and minor parties. The monarchists, who favor the return of the aristocratic system, were 1% of Parliament in 1970. The anti-revisionist Maoist or socialist parties that run in elections usually get under 2% total. Voting is compulsory in Italy.
New Left up to the formation of the BR
This chapter reviews the events that led at the end of the 1960's to the start of urban guerrilla warfare in Italy. We can see two processes at work. The first was the growth of political violence, both in the increasing militancy of the working class and in the military counter-offensive of the State. The second process was the influence of advanced ideas from the national liberation movements. Italy had produced a generation of young revolutionaries who turned for answers to communism in the Third World.
Armed struggle became the main issue debated within their movement, not only because of the models of guerrilla movements in Cuba, Vietnam and Uruguay, but because it was already an objective reality. The escalating clash between the mass movements and the Italian State had already carried the antagonists onto the terrain of armed struggle. The ruling class itself was divided (as we shall later discuss) on how to handle the crisis, and was forced on the defensive as the New Left advanced. Trying to repeat their successful repression of the post-World War I factory take-over movement, the imperialists began to use not only the police, but also fascist para-military groups to violently break up the 1960's movements. At the same moment, the revisionist Old Left parties were steadily pulling to the right, trying to drag the struggle back onto the terrain of legalisms and parliamentary reform. How to consolidate the renewed revolutionary activity within the masses, and how to deal with the militarized nature of the political clash, became the central question for the new generation of the 1960's.
Italy at the end of the 1950's was a society of growing contradictions. It had just gone through ten years of rapid industrialization and urbanization known as the "Italian miracle", following the heavy destruction and defeat in World War II. Masses of peasants from the impoverished South had been forced off the land into Northern industry. A middle-class consumer society--semi-amerikan--had been created in the urban North on the backs of this new class of low-wage immigrant proletarians. The South itself remained the most backward and poorest region. Because of its position as the official State religion, the Catholic church still held Italian culture in a semi-feudal grip.
The conservative trend of the 1950's dominated the Italian Communist Party (PCI), which had become a legalistic, mass revisionist party. While the PCI-led unions remained the largest, their size had shrunk. In Italy industrial unions are voluntary political organizations, with various unions competing with each other for individual members within each factory. Different unions represent different politics and in fact represent the major political parties. By the end of the 1950's, company unions (often run by the Fascists), Catholic unions, and Social-Democratic unions led by the rightwing pro-u.s. Italian Social-Democratic Party (PSDI) had taken over sizable chunks of the labor movement. Between 1955 and 1961 the Italian Communist Party's membership had dropped from 2.2 million to 1.7 million, a loss of 500,000 members. There had been much disillusionment among Italian workers following the 1956 revelations about Stalin's crimes and the reformist decay of the PCI.
The PCI-led union federation, the CGIL, had even lost control of the traditional stronghold of the Italian working class-—FIAT's huge Mirafiori works in Turin. This had a larger meaning than we might see at first. In Italy there was a high degree of industrial concentration, on a semi- feudal pattern. Corporations concentrated production in a few urban centers, which also therefore contained a high concentration of workers, and which they dominated like an industrial fiefdom. In the "u.s.a." this was seen at the turn of the century at Ford's River Rouge works in Detroit, Michigan, and in U.S. Steel works in Gary, Indiana (a works is an industrial complex of many factories in one place). FIAT automobile corporation is the largest and most powerful company in Italy. Its owning family, the Agnellis, were and are imperialist royalty, the Italian equivalents to the Rockefellers.
FIAT's Mirafiori works employed 40,000 workers in 1968, with 80,000 more in other FIAT plants in that city. In fact, 80% of FIAT's total work- force then was concentrated in Turin, the 2nd largest city in Italy. Fully one-half of Turin's population was economically dependent on one company, FIAT, either directly or indirectly in smaller companies supplying auto parts to FIAT production. It was in Turin that the Italian proletariat had its greatest social concentration and political cohesiveness, giving it a leading role within the entire working class, so the PCI's loss of mass support at FIAT Mirafiori, where they once had gotten 70-80% of the vote in union shop steward elections in the late 1940's, meant much more than losing support in one factory or one industry. It really meant that they had lost the confidence of the vanguard of the class.
THE CONTINUITY OF RESISTANCE
A young Communist FIAT worker, Sante Notarnicola, was among those who resisted the mood of political demoralization in the late 1950's. Notarnicola hung out with some other rebels at FIAT. Among his comrades was an older worker, Danilo Crepaldi, who had as a teenager been a fighter with the Armed Partisan Groups. The Armed Partisan Groups (GAP) had been the most daring of the anti-Fascist guerrillas during World War II, shooting it out with Nazi troops in lightning raids in the Northern industrial cities of Genoa and Turin. Notarnicola was part of a smaller group of FIAT rebels who started collecting arms and discussing armed struggle in 1956. Danilo Crepaldi reminded them how the PCI had sold out the revolution:
"He reminded us that while among us so many hopes, dreams and myths were crumbling, in faraway countries heroic fighters were holding high the banner of guerrilla warfare. In Italy instead the revolution had been postponed. In Turin, in certain factories, out of a workforce of 10,000, only 100 workers could be counted on to answer a strike call. SIDA persisted in its strike-breaking and corrupting maneuvers. Danilo ... thought about building a kind of Armed Partisan Group, with very vague goals to begin with. Once again he brought up the question of arms: the first objective was to find weapons, put them in working order, or to accumulate a certain quantity of them. Once this was done we could decide what to do with them."
Notarnicola and his two comrades were all in the PCI, and lived in the Barriera di Milano neighborhood. Barriera di Milano, one of many "red neighborhoods", was a closely-packed slum where 80,000 working class people always voted for "communist" or "socialist" politicians. There it was common for families to be loyal PCI members going back two or three generations. The Italian Communist Party ran much of the community's life, with their own community officials, coffee shops, and sports clubs. Notarnicola was a typical militant. Child of an emigrant, he had grown up surrounded by both FIAT and the PCI. He went to work at FIAT as most of his childhood friends and classmates did. While he was angered at the oppression, Sante Notarnicola was not a leader.
One of the others, Piero Cavallero, was the son of a Partisan fighter and was himself a minor paid functionary of the PCI. Cavallero took charge among the three. They became a clandestine unit of PCI members, but in- dependent of the PCI and unknown to the Party. As we've discussed, the PCI had treacherously disbanded the Partisan guerrilla movement after Germany was defeated in 1945. But many Communist Partisans, although grudgingly going along with PCI orders under threat of death, didn't turn in their weapons as they were supposed to, As one of these ex-Partisans, Danilo Crepaldi still had his old sub-machine gun, and he taught Sante Notarnicola how to use it. Their first plan was to collect guns from old Partisans, repair them, and quietly train young PCI members to use them. While Cavallero was breaking with the PCI, Notarnicola still hoped the PCI would revitalize itself. They began making plans for actions in the spring of 1959. The group decided that the main thing was to get money, which would be hidden away to buy arms and support guerrillas when the time came. In May, 1959, they executed an expropriation where they worked, seizing the FIAT Mirafiori night shift payroll. The three guerrillas got away cleanly, but decided because of the intensive police investigation to lay low for a long time.
In January 1964 the armed group, which still had no name or more definite political plans, began doing regular expropriations. On a technical level the cell seemed to work well, and did 23 expropriations over a four year period. But they had gradually become more and more adventurous, attacking two or three banks within one hour. Civilian bystanders were shot. On September 25, 1967 the cell, which no longer had Danilo Crepaldi, but had recruited two more young Communist workers, became trapped by police after an expropriation at a Bank of Naples branch in Milan. The cell, which was armed with sub-machine guns, and police reinforcements got into a heavy fire fight on the street. Five civilian bystanders were killed, or died afterwards, in the rain of bullets (a student, a driver of a passing car, a woman and a man on the sidewalk, and an elderly war veteran). Six police and sixteen civilians were hospitalized with wounds. Only one of the cell was wounded and captured at the shoot-out, the others escaping temporarily.
These events were a national sensation, both in the capitalist press and within the Left. The authorities began a national manhunt, offering a 20 million lire reward for information leading to their capture (20 million lire then represented over ten years’ wages for a factory worker). Piero Cavallero and Sante Notarnicola hid out in a forest near Turin, but were tracked down and captured after eight days. The careless taking of lives, the supposed "base motives" of robbing banks for money, were factors in the controversy.
It became known that behind Notarnicola's back all the expropriated funds, which were to have been hidden for future guerrilla use, had been ripped off. Danilo Crepaldi and Piero Cavallero had set up a small business to cover for the new flow of money. But the business lost money. Becoming politically discouraged, they began to argue between the two of them over whether or not to continue, and began spending the money on themselves. Danilo had died in 1966. Cavallero, who had come to enjoy the actions and the financially improved lifestyle, continued on for his own purposes. As guerrillas the cell was discredited.
The movement related to the trials mainly as a big scandal. Notarnicola was at first abandoned. Their cell was publicly denounced by the Italian Communist Party, the Social-Democrats, and the liberal press, as just thieves, criminals and murderers. Sante Notarnicola was given a life sentence. Misled by his few comrades, isolated by the movement, publicly labeled foolish at best, Notarnicola still believed in revolution. Although no leader or theoretician, Notarnicola refused to work for the State or to be crushed by his own heavy defeat. He never denied the many political errors he had made or the primitive level of the political understanding he and his comrades had started with, and used his trial to put forward a self-criticism.1 He told the court at the end of his trial in 1971: "I don't regret having rebelled against the bosses. I regret having done it at the wrong time in the wrong way."
In prison Sante Notarnicola gradually became a symbol to the New Left of the search for revolutionary answers. He became a leading prison activist and later joined the NAP (Armed proletarian Nuclei) communist guerrilla group. Notarnicola was a public figure in Italy equivalent to George Jackson. His experience and the experience of other unsuccessful rebels during the lost years, was a reminder that Italy had an unbroken history of revolutionary armed struggle. Italian communists of three successive generations, in 1920, 1943, and in the 1960's, had fought their government and the Fascists. In Italy, deep, bitter class hatred of the bourgeoisie was a reality in the 1960's. One traveler in Italy during those years reported:
"A young Italian railroad machinist I talked to this summer told me that he had joined the PCI-controlled CGIL union two years ago, but that he and his friends had quit in disgust. When I asked him and a 32-year old fellow railroad worker what they thought of the left wing parties they told me with very pointed, heavy irony that 'all the parties' were the same. They all bought votes, scratched each others’ backs, robbed the public till, and lived like kings. 'The Communists, the Socialists and the trade union bureaucrats live off our backs, like everyone else,' the younger worker pointed out. What was the answer? 'Maybe a really honest Socialist party which will change things,' the older worker suggested. What should be done, I asked the machinist? 'Wipe them all out and start from scratch.' ...Finally the older worker, a quiet, almost timid railroad clerk-statistician, concluded with vehemence: 'If I had the power?' Then he quoted Dante, an old Italian poet: 'Se fossi foco brucerei il mondo. Were I a fire I'd burn the world.'"
The same outbursts of rage, even against the established class leadership, marked the start of the 1960's. In July 1960 the Italian Communist Party (PCI) organized protest strikes against the new Tambroni government, which represented the Christian Democratic right wing and had Fascist backing. Quickly the protest got out of the revisionists control. After two weeks of violent street battles, largely led by young Southern immigrant workers, the Tambroni government fell.2 The July 1960 street fighting, which took place all over the country, stunned and scared the revisionists and the Italian bourgeoisie alike. It signaled the start of two decades of social and political crisis for Italy.
In the summer of 1962 another violent revolt erupted in Turin. During a strike at FIAT, the Social—Democratic union and the Catholic union attempted to sell out the strike. Thousands of FIAT workers, in a spontaneous move, marched on the Social-Democratic UIL union headquarters in Piazza Statuto in downtown Turin and surrounded it. Workers burned UIL union cards in a bonfire. When the police attempted to disperse the crowd, fighting broke out. Three days and nights of violent street battles followed, as young workers held their ground against the police. Again, as in the July 1960 battles, young Southern immigrant workers were in the forefront of the fighting. Many Communist militants, PCI shop stewards, and rank and file members took part as individuals in the thick of the street battles. Top leaders of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) rushed in to stop things and restore bourgeois order, but were physically chased away by the masses.
Sante Notarnicola, who was in the 1962 Piazza Statuto fighting, described what happened:
"In the summer of '62 the revolutionary base revolted openly against the party, telling the old party hacks to go get fucked. The battle lasted three days and L'Unita called us thugs and lined up with the bourgeoisie. For many comrades it was the collapse of the last illusions of a revolutionary reform of the PCI. I remember Pajetta . He came there and he didn't know what to do; the great leader was no longer in front of an enthusiastic crowd, but in the middle of people who had lost their patience and who were tearing down the pedestal built for him because of his past as a partisan. When a volley of stones was thrown at him, he re-awoke and began to shout, ‘Down with the bosses and the cops', urging us on to the attack. His partisan past had re-emerged from his subconscious. Then, in the cold light of the next day he called us 'Fascists' in the pages of L'Unita!"
The Piazza Statuto fighting was the first, open mass defiance of the revisionist leadership since the late 1940's. It led directly to the first Center-Left reform government a year later by Aldo Moro, head of the moderate wing of the DC (Christian Democratic Party).3 Moro, in alliance with the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), promised wide-ranging social reforms and modernization of society. But he was unable to carry them out because of obstruction from his own DC party's powerful right wing, which had the backing of the Vatican and the Fascists. Center-Left governments ruled Italy from 1963 to 1968, and their total failure to carry out any real social reforms set the stage for the mass student and worker revolts of 1968 and 1969.
NEW POLITICS OF THE 1960'S
From the beginning the Italian New Left gave an importance to political theory. It was only with this theoretical work that their young movement could assimilate the lessons of Mao, of the Tupamaros, of Carlos Marighela and other Communists from oppressed nations. Political journals prepared the way for a new revolutionary movement that would consciously unite factory, prison and university in class war. The earliest and most germinal of these journals was Red Notebooks, begun in 1961 by young intellectuals on the Left edges of the Social—Democrats. What they had in common was an agreement that the existing Left stood in the way, and was a reformist hegemony stifling struggles of the working class. Red Notebooks student activists pioneered by aiding Turin auto workers opposing the reformist trade unions.
In addition to Red Notebooks, some of the many New Left theoretical journals were Young Critic, Piacentini Notebooks, Class & State, Hammer & Sickle, Workers Voice, New Commitment, and finally in 1967, Political Work. The cadre from Political Work were to. become an important part of the founding nucleus of the Red Brigades.
In this period intense debate and study began, centering on the question of new forms of working class resistance to advanced capitalism. It was clear that the old European answers--legal trade-unionism, parliamentary political parties, defense of bourgeois democracy until some distant hour when the final insurrection takes place--were sterile. While their debate drew on European experiences in Italy and elsewhere, it was especially internationalist. Peoples War in Vietnam and the armed party-building line of Mao Zedong were studied. Of special interest were the experiences of other movements that, like the Italians, were starting out again. For that reason the fledgling urban guerrilla forces in Brazil and Uruguay, as well as the Black Liberation Movement in the u.s. empire were studied as having special significance. The Italian movement had much admiration for the Black struggle. Rebellions in Watts and Harlem from 1964 on, together with the rapid development of Black Power and the Black Panther Party were closely watched in Italy. Emergence of New Afrikan self-defense groups with popular support, verified for Italian revolutionaries that new revolutionary potentialities existed even in the "urban-technological metropoli" of advanced capitalism.
An anti-authoritarian university reform movement had sprung up in Italy starting in 1966. Mass student occupations of campus buildings became a main form of struggle. In November 1967, a new student organization formed in Turin, the MS ("Student Movement" or Movimento Studentesco). All decisions of the MS were made in mass assemblies of students. MS and radical student activity in general quickly spread. As the numbers of student protesters grew into the thousands in each major city, and as their tactics and politics grew more militant, clashes with the police became increasingly violent and frequent. Those clashes then in turn further radicalized the mass movement in an upward spiral.
One of the key centers of this student movement was Trento University, in the northern-most region of Italy in the Alps, near the Austrian and Swiss borders. This is a conservative region politically. In March 1967, Trento students staged a week of mass demonstrations on the campus and in the streets of Trento in support of the Vietnamese revolution. Demonstrations were attacked by the police. Students reacted with a mass strike which closed the school. Police repression against the student movement only produced more resistance, and in the fall of 1967 the Trento University administration was unable to open the school in the face of a continued student strike. In October of that year the Trento student movement leadership issued a Manifesto for a Negative University, and organized counter-courses for the student body. One was on the Chinese revolution and Mao's politics; another was a study of the current phase of capitalist development, using the writings of Euro-amerikan radical economists. The Manifesto put forward an anti-capitalist critique of the existing educational system, and saw the student movement at Trento as part of a revolutionary movement.
The most important fruit of the Negative University, however, was the emergence of a new magazine called Political Work. Among the editors were two future founders of the Red Brigades, Mara Cagol and Renato Curcio (who had met as sociology students at Trento in 1966). First published in the nearby city of Verona with left Catholic politics, Political Work was soon ideologically Marxist-Leninist and Maoist. The group was heavily influenced by the comparison between the Vietnamese revolution and the degeneration of both the "Communist" PCI and the "Socialist" PSIUP Left parties. Although Political Work had a limited distribution of only five thousand copies at its peak, it had great influence on the student movement as a whole. In collaboration with the Negative University, Political Work published a number of pamphlets for study groups—-the first of which was on the Black Power movement in the "u.s.a."
The militancy of the student movement spread to the working class in 1968. In March-April 1968 a series of wildcat strikes broke out at FIAT auto plants in Turin. A joint strike committee of workers and radical students was formed, which issued a daily strike bulletin. Out of this committee the largest Italian New Left organization, Continuous Struggle ("Lotta Continua"), was born. That same strike bulletin grew into a national daily newspaper for the New Left, while Continuous Struggle itself grew. into an Italian equivalent to the "u.s.a." SDS. During these spring months the political focus of the student movement grew from university reforms to building a broad anti-capitalist alliance with industrial workers.
1968, we must remember, was the year the Vietnamese Revolution had reached a decisive turning point after the victory of the Tet offensive in February. Imperialism was in retreat and political disarray. There was an anti-imperialist tide advancing world-wide. Everybody was watching everybody else and drawing strength from each others' example. Throughout 1968, the Italian student movement was deeply affected by and increasingly saw itself as part of this growing world-wide youth revolt against imperialism.
In May 1968 the ruling Center-Left coalition government of Premier Aldo Moro was voted out. The national elections had been conducted at the height of the worker-student rebellion in France, which had monopolized Italian news. In a spontaneous explosion, all the major factories in France had shut down in a general strike. The general strike was not over economic demands, but expressed an unarticulated anger at the social-political system. Street barricades went up in the heart of Paris. Thousands of militant French students took over school buildings and fought hand-to-hand against black-uniformed CRS security force for over a week. The French May 1968 worker-student rebellion had a big impact on Italian politics, speeding up the process of mass radicalization.
Throughout 1968 and 1969 the process of radicalization continued in giant steps. Two developments cast their shadow into the future: the New Left vanguard was being absorbed into a revolutionary sector of the Northern working class struggle; that class struggle itself was becoming militarized, with the state mobilizing its forces for a military "final solution" to their crisis. The question of a strategic line that could answer the critical problems of this militarized confrontation became the number one question for the movement.
In June and July of 1968 a wave of wildcat strikes swept through many small and medium-sized factories where the unions had been too weak to stop them. In Milan, workers at Pirelli tire corporation's Bicocca plant set up a new form of organization called the C.U.B. ("United Rank-and-File Committee" or Comitato Unito de Base). The Pirelli C.U.B. was a joint worker—student organization and soon was leading strikes and other actions at the plant. Like the student movement, the C.U.B. made all its decisions in open mass assemblies. The very existence of the C.U.B. was a recognition that workers couldn't move forward within the unions. It was similar to the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in the Detroit auto plants in that regard. Within the next eighteen months the C.U.B. movement spread to over a hundred factories, in a push for class organization independent of capitalist domination.
The strike movement gradually spread to more and larger factories. Increasingly the tactic of mass factory take-overs and direct worker control of the struggle through open mass assemblies was adopted. Between
January and early April 1969 a series of important factory struggles broke out in the North with even more militant tactics. On February 4, 1969 striking Monfalcone shipyard workers near Venice occupied not only the shipyards but the town hall. This was the first time striking Italian workers had moved against the government. The strikers won their demands. Textile workers in nearby Marzotto di Valdagno had been on strike at the same time, occupying their factory and making decisions in a mass assembly. After three months of intermittent strikes, the textile workers mobilized the whole town through neighborhood committees. All the highways and rail lines into Marzotto were blocked. Angry demonstrations were held against the TV news whiteout of their struggle. At the end of 1969 the strikers occupied the town hall. The government gave in. This was the militant strike movement that would continue to grow until reaching its peak during the "Hot Autumn" 1969.
ARMED STRUGGLE ON THE AGENDA
The pivotal event of 1968-69 took place in the South, however, involving peasant day laborers. Pursuing their strike, farm laborers had taken over and blocked the main national highway at Avola in Sicily. On December 2, 1968, police were told to immediately restore order. They began firing at the unarmed demonstrators, who fled into the fields and took cover. For 25 minutes the police fired volley after volley of shots into the fields where unarmed families were hugging the earth. Two laborers were killed and others wounded. It was clear that the State was sending a message, threatening the workers with violent repression if they went too far and challenged the State Power.
For a week Italy was rocked by violent protests. The Italian working. class and the student movement were enraged. In Milan, Genoa and Rome thousands of workers and students battled with police. In Milan, students and workers held a mass meeting inside the Alfa-Romeo auto plant (a future stronghold). In Turin students marched into the FIAT-"Grandi motori" plant and held a joint protest meeting with FIAT workers. The Avola killings and the demonstrations that followed were a key turning point in the mass revolts of 1968 and 1969. They marked the beginning of effective cooperation between student revolutionaries and workers on a mass scale. And for some New Leftists like future Red Brigades (BR) leaders Renato Curcio and Mara Cagol, then still student leaders of the Negative University movement at Trento University, it starkly raised the question of the movement's lack of preparation for military action by the State. Avola convinced them of the need to prepare for armed struggle, and this problem dominated their thinking from December 1968 and through all of 1969.
The militarization of the conflict was only further confirmed by the events of 1969. In February 1969 the government began more attacks on the student movement following the demonstrations against visiting u.s. president Richard Nixon. 12,000 police put Rome under a virtual state of siege and there were violent confrontations between students and police. 31 people were hurt and 300 arrested. Two days later 6,000 heavily armed police staged a pre-dawn raid on the barricaded campus of Rome University, but the students who had been alerted to the raid had evacuated the campus during the night. The Rome University assault was the beginning of an all-out campaign of police repression which the student movement was unable to resist. In the following 19 days heavily armed police staged military assaults on and seized every occupied university campus in the country. Italian Communist Party (PCI) members of parliament protested verbally against the repression of the student movement while at the same time PCI senators kept their political distance from the student movement by abstaining on a key senate vote on a university reform bill. In fact, as the State increased its repression of the student New Left during the winter of 1969, the PCI's line against “extremism” in the student movement also hardened. The PCI blamed the left wing of the student movement for provoking government repression. Instead, the PCI argued, students had to recognize that the PCI was the only force capable of solving the crisis of the student movement by winning legal reforms through electoral means.
The increasingly militarized nature of the clash only became more apparent when the struggle broke open in the poverty-stricken South. On April 9, 1969 police in the little town of Battipaglia, south of Naples, opened fire on demonstrators who had seized the town in protest over the closing of a local cigarette factory. Two people, a student and a professor, were killed by police. Battipaglia had been one of the government's regions of model development in the South. But despite government investments in the area, unemployment had continued to grow. In March of 1969 five small factories had shut down, and when the Santa Lucia cigarette factory was also threatened with a shut-down, workers occupied the factory. The entire town was mobilized to support the strike.
What began as a union demonstration turned into a violent uprising. The city hall was attacked and burned. Highways and rail lines were blocked and the police headquarters surrounded and besieged. Police and reinforcements were driven out of Battipaglia and the town was "liberated". It was while police were trapped in the police headquarters by demonstrators that they opened fire on the crowd. The next day the reformist union leaders tried to hold a meeting but it was broken up by townspeople. In Battipaglia and elsewhere in the South these uprisings took on a multi-class regional or semi-nationalist character, an explosion of rage against the neo-colonialist exploitation of the South.
The violence in Battipaglia in which 200 people were hurt, including 90 policemen and security agents, touched off violent support demonstrations in the rest of Italy in the following days. In Milan demonstrators battled police for 4 hours in an attempt to march on the Business Association headquarters. There were violent demonstrations in Rome, Florence, and other cities. In Bologna, a major city of the central Italian "red belt", where the PCI had controlled the city government for decades, the demonstration turned into a violent confrontation with the revisionists. PCI goon squads tried to defend "their" train station from being seized by the enraged demonstrators. In the FIAT plants in Turin southern immigrant workers went on strike in solidarity with Battipaglia struggles. This was an important political step forward for them and FIAT workers as a whole. The three major union federations of the PCI revisionists, the Catholics and the Social Democrats called a joint 3-hour general strike in protest on April 11, while the PCI called for a law to disarm the police: "to make the police defenders of democratic order and the people rather than the tool of the anti-worker struggle".
After Battipaglia popular uprisings of entire villages and towns spread throughout the South. Typically, city halls and railway stations were seized, highways blocked. Orgoloso in Sardegna rose, Castelvolturno and many other towns outside Naples were swept into the movement. Occupations took place throughout Calabria, one of the poorest southern regions. In Sicily, Palermo (the island's capital and a city with a revolutionary proletarian tradition dating back to the 1789 French Revolution) joined the occupation movement. In the rough mountainous interior of Sicily, one of the poorest regions of all western Europe, 25 towns were occupied. L'Unita, newspaper of the PCI, treacherously imposed a press whiteout and did not report any of these uprisings.
In June and July 1969 most of the Puglia region (Apulia) on the south-eastern Adriatic coast of Italy's "heel" was swept by insurrectionary town occupations touched off by a militant agricultural laborers’ strike. The State chose to play a waiting game and did not attempt to openly repress the Puglia movement, which was the most militant and widespread of all the rebellions in the South that year. Instead the government waited until the movement had died down later in the summer to repress individual militant leaders. The government was particularly worried that open repression would have led to a link-up between struggles of Northern industrial workers and Southern peasants.
In the spring and summer of 1969 secret high-level government meetings were held to decide what response to take to the spread of Battipaglia-type uprisings. The governing Center-Left coalition, whose main parties were the conservative Christian Democrats (DC) and the Social-Democratic Socialist Party of Italy (PSI), was split into hard- line vs. soft-line factions. The hardliners in both parties argued for open "exemplary" repression to intimidate the masses and the movement. The softliners argued for a strategy of co-option, using a cautious combination of selective repression and promises of social reforms. That softline faction, led by former DC Premier Aldo Moro, also argued that a "historic compromise" was necessary: bringing the revisionist Italian Communist Party (PCI) into the capitalist government as a partner. Only such a broad alliance, they said, would provide the government with a broad enough social base to make it politically stable. The hardliners in both the DC and the PSI, who were backed by the u.s. Nixon-Kissinger administration, argued that any alliance with "communists" would be treason.
Because of these splits in its own highest councils, the then-current government of DC Premier Mariano Rumor temporarily opted for a soft line in the South in the spring and summer of 1969. Hard-liners in the police and military security forces, however, encouraged the fascist New Order (Ordine Nuovo) movement to begin a "strategy of tension". This entailed violent terrorism against the Left together with random atrocities. Their plan was to create a public mood of panic, in which a military dictatorship would be welcomed.
The Fascist strategy of public terror bombings began in April 1969. On December 12, 1969, a Fascist bombing in front of a bank, in a downtown Milan square, killed 16 and injured 90, crippling, maiming some for life. The police quickly framed two anarchists for the bombing, throwing one to his death from the window of a Milan police HQ. A national symbol of the State-Fascist armed collaboration, the bombing is simply referred to as "Piazza Fontana".
ORGANIZATION AND STRATEGY
The political crisis was no less a crisis for the New Left, which was faced with the challenge of jumping to a higher level of revolutionary organization and strategy--or of falling back. With the South in revolt and the dissident C.U.B. workers’ movement spreading through factories in the North, many new parties, groups and collectives sprouted to try and solve these pressing problems. On July 26-27, 1969, on the initiative of Left vanguard groups such as Continuous Struggle and Workers' Power, a national meeting of C.U.B.s was convened in Turin. Continuous Struggle's attempt to build the C.U.B.s into a revolutionary organization, national in scope and with anti-revisionist politics, failed, however. The direct democracy of mass worker-student assemblies making their own independent decisions in each factory was a strength at first, but had become an "ultra-democratic" barrier to higher forms of organization. There also existed a strong economist influence among both radical students and workers. Meaning, however militant or illegal or violent the tactics used (fighting police, sabotage, taking over plants, etc.) for many, the purpose was only the pursuit of higher wages, or other reforms within the bourgeois system. In this framework, real revolutionary strategy was unnecessary.
There were four main trends visible in the Italian New Left after Avola--with different strategies and different forms of organization:
Reformist: Those who took this as their main strategy spoke of how impossible revolution was without the working class majority—-which was, after all, still loyal to or influenced by their traditional party, the Italian Communist Party (PCI). Therefore, this trend said, the main strategy had to be takeover or reforming of the Old Left. Some, such as Red Notebooks co-founder Mario Tronti, implemented this strategy by leaving the New Left and joining the PCI, ostensibly to take it over from within. Others, such as the "Maoist" party PCd'I, established rival micro-parties to the PCI, building the same type of legalistic organization and running candidates against the PCI in the parliamentary elections. Their hope was to become the PCI of the future. This trend naturally believed that armed struggle by the Left was premature. Instead, they led a retreat in the student movement back to the terrain of bourgeois democracy, until that fabled future hour when the contradictions are overcome, and the Old Left parties are revolutionized from within.
Spontaneist: This was the largest trend within the New Left, dominating both Continuous Struggle ("Lotta Continua") and most of the worker-student factory assemblies. This trend was revolutionary, but saw revolution as coming spontaneously from the masses without "bureaucratic" mechanisms such as programs, parties or armies. Mixed together in the spontaneist trend were undeveloped young militants, anarcho-syndicalists, and those who were, in reality, reformists. The main thing to these militants was to radicalize the form of present mass activity, acting as a tactical vanguard to create more violence. In the factory struggles, their main answer was more and more sabotage. In demonstrations they started destroying property or even, after first quickly tying scarves around their faces, coming forward to fire pistol shots at the police before disappearing back into the crowd. While the spontaneist trend believed in the importance of anti-capitalist violence during mass demonstrations, it opposed urban guerrilla warfare as “separating themselves from the masses”.
Workerist ("Operaista"): This trend was more developed, with a Marxist orientation. It interpreted the revolutionary role of the working class, however, in an abstract way. Workerism saw the revolution as being completely determined by struggles on the factory floor. In fact, revolution was seen as solely coming from the economic struggle in big industry between capitalists and factory workers. Workers' Power (Potere Operaio), one of the strongest New Left organizations, was the main workerist force. It was founded in 1966 out of a split in Red Notebooks magazine. Under the leadership of Tony Negri, an influential: 1960s radical professor, Workers' Power spread from its original student base in Pisa to Pavia, Venice, Turin, and Padova. Workers' Power local student collectives were largely independent of each other but shared a common national newspaper with the same name. Although Workers' Power played an early role in turning the student movement towards factory organizing, the organization always remained primarily a student one. Only in the large Montedison chemical works at Porto Marghera outside of Venice did Workers' Power build a strong base among factory workers. The organization went through a crisis in late 1968-early 1969 over whether to remain a loose student structure or to become a revolutionary party. In September 1969, Workers' Power formally reconstituted itself as a Marxist-Leninist cadre organization. It was to reach its greatest strength in 1971-72, when it had 150 local sections and 4,000 members, 1,000 of them full-time militants. This trend was sharply divided over the question of clandestine organization and urban guerrilla warfare.
Peoples War Based in the Working Class: This trend, whose main organization was the Red Brigades, saw the modern struggle as protracted war between imperialism and the working class. In their view revolutionary organization was not the unarmed mass movement nor the would-be guerrilla "foco", but a combatant Communist party whose armed activities are actively based in and a political expression of the most conscious strata of the working class. In the 1970s the Red Brigades demonstrated a strong class base and rapid growth. The BR's organizational strongholds were in certain key Northern Italian factories (FIAT, Alfa-Romeo, Sit-Siemens, etc.) where they politically controlled whole departments. The Brigades eventually had thousands of members, tens of thousands of active supporters, and at least hundreds of thousands of sympathizers.
These trends were not separated by iron walls, but shared people and ideas as they struggled together in a quickly-changing movement. They often referred to their movement as "autonomy" or the "autonomous movement". This word was used by the Italian New Left in the same, all-purpose way that 1960s movements in the u.s. empire used the word "liberation". Autonomy stood for changes far beyond the present system. Autonomy was the name given to the radical counter- culture and to the New Left itself. Autonomy was also used to designate groups and programs tactically independent of the Old Left parties and unions. And for some, proletarian autonomy was used to indicate the zone of communist ideas, culture and embryonic society of the new armed struggle.
In late 1968 the entire editorial board of the Trento university journal Political Work, including Mara Cagol and Renato Curcio, had dissolved PW and joined the Maoist party "PCd'I". But only two weeks later "PCd'I" split, with the PW group leaving the party as part of the more activist "red line" faction. By the fall of 1969 many of the PW cadre, including Cagol and Curcio, had moved to Milan to take part in another attempt to start a revolutionary organization.
Milan was the main center of the militant C.U.B. worker-student movement, which had first begun at the Pirelli tire factory. In several Milan workplaces, notably the IBM and Sit-Siemens electronics factories, communists had formed Study Groups of technical workers to "study and propose goals and actions to the employees...not from the outside like the union does...but from the inside through analyses and mass assemblies everyone can participate in." On September 8, 1969 the Pirelli C.U.B., the IBM Study Group, the Sit-Siemens Study Group, the former PW collective, worker-student collectives at the Alfa-Romeo auto plant, the State Telephone company and at other workplaces, merged to form the Metropolitan Political Collective (CPM) in Milan. This was the organization that gave birth to the Red Brigades.
2: See first post.
3: Under the Italian legislative system, which is like the British parliament, any time that a government loses a vote on a major issue its term of office ends. Unlike the u.s. system, in which an administration has a fixed term of years, in Italy a government can last years or days. The Tambroni government lost its voting majority because some legislators felt it was not keeping order while other legislators wanted to use the Tambroni government as a scapegoat.
4: Trying to cope with the steadily shrinking conservative vote, which was leaving the DC without enough power to pass legislation, Moro formed an alliance with a moderate "Left" party, the PSI. This gave the imperialists working class support in parliament. The PSI leaders gained by becoming part of the ruling government. They were also pressured by threats of a military coup and mass repression if they didn't join the DC coalition.
Edited by toyotathon ()
also, i saved the images, but learned from FNFI that screenshotting pdfs gives 1MB+ B&W bullshit, so i'm gonna learn imagemagick to shrink them, and edit the posts in the future.
Preparation for a new resistance: C.P.M.
In the winter-spring of 1969-70 the CPM grew to be one of the key organizations in Milan. It continued to operate inside the factories where the C.U.B.s and study groups that had given birth to the collective were based. CPM consciously linked wage and working condition struggles to the larger struggle against world imperialism. Slogans like "Indochina- Italy: the same struggle" and "Imperialism-reformism: the same chain", were typical of their mass political line.
An important new element in the Milan situation was a movement of vocational students, representing the spread of student rebellion into the working class. There were 80,000 such vocational students in Milan, the most of any city in Italy. These young workers labored during the day and attended school at night to complete their technical training or apprenticeships. Their student/worker movement rebelled against the long hours, arbitrary and vindictive school discipline, and the high tuition fees. Led by CPM militants at the Feltrineli Technical Institute, thousands of vocational students had a large demonstration demanding an end to tuition fees. The slogans included: "The union=workers police", "Administrators + teachers--servants of the bosses", and "The bourgeois state cannot be changed, it must be destroyed!" CPM was a large political influence in the student/worker movement in Milan.
The collective was still only an intermediate stage of development. It was not in its own eyes the revolutionary vanguard, but only like—minded militants who had come together to consciously search out the path of transition from spontaneous mass movement to revolutionary organization. As an IBM study group paper put it: "Struggles on the factory floor must be integrated into the world-wide class struggle, particularly in its European expression."
The CPM found itself in disagreement with the extra-parliamentary Left groups over their assessment of the national labor-management contract fights of the "Hot Autumn" of 1969. These battles involving 5 million unionized workers began in September 1969. Most of the New Left had been overly optimistic about their potential results, viewing the wage struggles in themselves as "revolutionary" and the bourgeoisie about to "surrender unconditionally". But in December after the national wage contracts had been signed the reformist unions had come out of the fight numerically and organizationally stronger, and spontaneous mass struggle in the factories had not only ebbed temporarily but had been co-opted. Unprepared for this set-back to the rank-and-file C.U.B. movement, the mood of the New Left now swung from wild optimism to deep pessimism. CPM disagreed with the shallowness of the New Left's understanding. CPM, having reached a more political assessment of the shortcomings of the C.U.B. movement, now also saw its strengths more realistically than the rest of the New Left.
At IBM-Italy the revolutionary study group had taken a leading role in the "Hot Autumn" struggles. A manager had been fired at the IBM Vimercate factory “for having been part of a group politically opposed to management", and for thus having supported the workers' demands. When the unions defended the company, a spontaneous struggle broke out. The study group reported:
"The workers of IBM stop working and meet in mass assembly ... the decision of the Internal Commission is totally repudiated and the union body itself is pushed aside and denied any authority to lead the workers: the Internal Commission is forced to demand that management reverse its decision. It is decided by the workers to constitute themselves as a permanent mass assembly linking together the fight against repression with the contract struggle. It is a memorable day for IBM, and for the autonomy and the class momentum that the workers express in totally spontaneous forms; it is lived through in an atmosphere of high tension. The spontaneous strike lasts the whole day changing from a mass assembly into a parade which snakes through the entire factory and then reconvenes in mass assembly to decide the forms of struggle for the following days."
IBM management was forced to back down. The IBM study group concluded:
"The balance sheet is undoubtedly positive: the spontaneous strike and the achievement of the mass assembly ... constitute the new political base from which to move forward."
But "... political insufficiency and a certain dose of opportunism present in the group permits the unions to quickly reabsorb the movement within the channels of their contractual logic.
"The political vacuum in which factory struggle takes place is a sign of the progressive lessening of tension. From time to time some incident just happens, some big shock, such as clashes with die-hard scabs, or incidents involving destruction of their cars, to which no one knows how to give proper political weight and a proper outcome..."
Between November and December 1969, the group analyzed its own crisis, expressed by the contradiction between "the success of the general goal of mobilization of the working class, and the failure of the presupposition of autonomy which was to be its foundation."
According to this self-criticism: "To turn to all the workers ... has been to pretend not to notice reality, to not act to identify the Left in the factory and within it find a political space to constitute oneself as a point of reference.... At IBM we wanted to be the point of reference for all the workers and we weren't a point of reference for anyone. We won everyone's sympathy and we were considered a dissident fringe of the unions; we wanted to change the direction and the terrain of the struggle at IBM in opposition to the union's choices and we were almost always
the unconscious instrument of the unions. Errors were committed in mistaking for real political consciousness a generic opportunism of the silent majority type which monotonously sides with the winning proposition."
The study group concluded that there was a need to go beyond the spontaneous level of struggle in the factory, and to raise the level to that of the anti-revisionist and anti-imperialist struggle. To start this an exemplary action was carried out. During ceremonies IBM held to inaugurate a new computer model top directors of the Italian IBM affiliate as well as u.s. IBM management were present at the plant in Milan. CPM, which the IBM study group had just joined, put up banners inside the IBM plant with slogans like "IBM Produces War", "IBM in Italy, Imperialism at Home", "On Strike, Out With The Servants of Imperialism". As a result the u.s. IBM directors were forced to enter the building by a service entrance,
The IBM study group's radical self-criticism was part of their political interaction inside the Metropolitan Political Collective (CPM) with the Sit-Siemens and Pirelli groups, who were undergoing a similar crisis over spontaneism. The decision by the IBM study group to join CPM at this point came out of their understanding that to make this qualitative political leap to anti-imperialism and anti-revisionism, the factory movement needed to go beyond the political and organizational limitations of the C.U.B. and factory study group forms of struggle. The IBM study group described the problem as follows:
"The crisis of the Pirelli C.U.B. (which resulted from the collapse of the struggle after the contract was signed, and the failure to organize a working class vanguard within the factory), the impasse faced by the IBM, Sit-Siemens and other factory groups which have sprouted like mushrooms during the hot autumn contract fights some of which are just as rapidly falling apart, demands a fundamental change of the political assumptions underlying their actions and a radical rethinking to justify their existence outside of the trade union organizations and the left parties."
The IBM study group concluded that the "Hot Autumn" factory uprisings had decreed the death of "groupism". From now on the factory struggle had to be seen in the framework of a wider class struggle on the European and world level. As far as the terrain of the struggle was concerned the study group concluded "above all, the class struggle in the metropolis is defined in revolutionary terms whose outcome is represented by PEOPLE'S ARMED STRUGGLE".
In December 1969 a small group of Catholic laypersons held a conference at a religious institute in Chiavari, a small port city on the Ligurian coast not far from Genoa. The "Catholic laymen" were disguised CPM representatives. The secret meeting discussed a proposal, put forward by Curcio, Cagol and others, that CPM prepare for immediate armed struggle. A military-political organizational plan was outlined. The debate that ensued caused sharp divisions in the CPM between those who wished to advance the struggle at that point primarily by violent mass "social confrontation" in strikes and demonstrations, and those who wanted to begin a systematic plan of urban guerrilla warfare. There were also differences on timing, with some holding that a longer period of political-organizational preparation was necessary before forming guerrilla forces. This debate was to continue throughout 1970 until a second secret meeting in October of 1970, when the two groupings split and the Red Brigades were formally launched.
One interesting result of the Chiavari conference was a long theoretical document, entitled Social Struggle & Organization in the Metropolis, which systematized the political line of the collective. In it, the CPM comrades drew up "a balance sheet of concrete political experience and outlined plans for future political work". In this document a definition of proletarian autonomy is given:
"We see in proletarian autonomy the unifying content of the struggles of the students, workers and technicians which prepared the way for the qualitative leap of 1968-69.
"Autonomy is not a fantasy or an empty formula for those who, in the face of the system's counter-offensive, nostalgically cling to past struggles. Autonomy is the movement for proletarian liberation from the comprehensive hegemony of the bourgeoisie and it coincides with the revolutionary process. In this sense autonomy is certainly not a new thing, a last-minute invention, but a political category of revolutionary Marxism, in whose light the consistency and direction of a mass movement can be evaluated.
"Autonomy from: bourgeois political institutions (the state, parties, unions, judicial institutions, etc.), economic institutions (the entire capitalist productive-distributive apparatus), cultural institutions (the dominant ideology in all its manifestations), normative institutions (habits, bourgeois 'morals').
"Autonomy for: the destruction of the whole system of exploitation and the construction of an alternative social organization."
* * * * * * *
"It is necessary today to redefine the very concept of revolution in the light of objective conditions and the real development of the
autonomous movement of the european proletariat....
"Revolutionary process and not revolutionary moment.
"The Brazilian revolutionary Marcelo De Andrade writes: 'Before the unification of world capitalism by yankee imperialism, the proletariat was able to arm itself by unarmed means, that is they could first organize themselves politically and develop the political struggle and unarmed violence up to a certain point, to then profit from the social, political and military disasters of the ruling classes of their respective countries to arm themselves and seize power.... Today, given that the possibility of an inter-imperialist war is historically excluded, an alternative proletarian power must be, from the beginning, political-military, given that the armed struggle is the main form of the class struggle.'
"Implicit in incorrect conceptions current today in Italy regarding the relationship between mass movement and revolutionary organization is the image of a process of this type: first we develop the purely political struggle, winning the masses to the idea of revolution, only then when the masses have become revolutionary we will make the armed revolution.... Intermediate objective: the construction of the Marxist- Leninist party.
"Reality itself pulls us away from suggestions of a false alternative. The social dimension of the struggle and the highest point of its development: the struggle against generalized repression, already constitutes a revolutionary movement.... When it is possible to get 4 years in jail for not having attacked a cop, a choice is imposed: either one hides in the marsh of renunciatory reformism, or one accepts the revolutionary terrain of the struggle.... The bourgeoisie has already chosen illegality. The long revolutionary march in the metropolis is the only adequate response."
"SINISTRA PROLETARIA"--THE SHIFT FROM LEGALITY TO ILLEGALITY
In July 1970 the CPM collective began publication of a theoretical magazine called Sinistra Proletaria (Proletarian Left). CPM had previously published agitational leaflets using this title, but the appearance of the magazine reflected a new stage in the ongoing struggle inside the collective over the question of armed struggle. With the appearance of Sinistra Proletaria, the collective dropped the name CPM and took on that of Proletarian Left. This collective was the embryo of the Red Brigades.
SP/CPM pointed out that the struggle within the movement for a higher level of organization was the critical step:
"To organize ourselves is not easy, it's a struggle... it is a struggle, first of all against spontaneism and confusion, against the tendency to accept the frontal assault which the bosses would like to impose on us, we need an all-inclusive organization which is able to carry out the struggle we're engaged in, not in one factory or in one neighborhood, but in the whole society.... The proletariat has gone through the first stage of struggle: that of spontaneous clashes everywhere and anywhere, where it's go for broke, risking everything, and it now begins to understand that the class struggle is like a war. One has to learn how to strike without warning, concentrating one's forces for the attack, dispersing rapidly when the enemy counterattacks.... When the american army invaded Cambodia, it did not find even the shadow of a Vietcong, later it had to endure sudden attacks everywhere in South Vietnam, in the rear areas where it was weakest. This is the model to follow...
"... whoever thinks they can attack us with impunity, fire us, beat us up, must meet with a hard answer. But not only that: we must learn to strike the enemy first, when it is still unprepared.... We must build workers cells for defense and attack, we must learn to protect our backs, to defend a comrade when they are assaulted.... The organization of violence is a necessity of the class struggle."
In addition to theory-battle against general backwardness in the wider movement, SP/CPM sought to deepen its roots in the factories and generalize the anti-capitalist struggle to Italian society as a whole. And they put special emphasis in the summer of 1970 on building a clandestine base in the key factories of Sit-Siemens, Alfa-Romeo, FIAT and Pirelli.
During this same period SP/CPM joined with Continuous Struggle and other groups to challenge the reformist PCI's attempts to co-opt the mass discontent with a legalistic program tied to a return of a Center-Left government. They ambitiously initiated an aggressive campaign called "Let's take the city" which called on workers "to take, not ask for" housing, transport, books, food, etc.
Between the summer of 1970 and February 1971 (when it ceased to exist as a public organization) SP/CPM led a series of mass occupations of abandoned housing in the Red working class neighborhoods like Quarto Oggiaro, Gallaratese, and MacMahon which ring Milan's outskirts. The popular mass slogan "housing should be taken, don't pay rent" was put out in June 1970.
In these housing struggles SP/CPM emphasized the need for the masses to prepare themselves to militarily meet the violence of the State, pointing out that these struggles were part of a wider struggle for State power. The level of mass support for these housing occupations was very high, and women played a leading role in the many violent clashes with the police. The poor families in each building had to fortify it and organize themselves to fight off police attacks to evict them. Despite the PCI's denunciation of these occupation movements as adventurist’ provocations which would only help the Right, a number of them were successful, such as one in September 1970 in the Gallaratese neighborhood which won badly needed housing for 20 proletarian families.
This struggle took place under the leadership of a committee set up by Sinistra Proletaria (SP). The target was a 14-story empty apartment building, belonging to public housing authorities, in the Red proletarian Gallaratese neighborhood.
"The committee nominated three household heads to take care of technical problems. Only the members of this small committee were to know the day of the occupation.... The overall problem consisted in carrying out the occupation by surprise.... The occupation of the apartment was decided for the night of September 24-25. Only the committee of three knew the exact day.... The families left in separate waves: this way if the police followed and stopped one automobile the others could still continue….
"A comrade acting as courier was supposed to be stationed near the apartment building to relay a warning if the police were nearby.... The police were not there.... By 10:45 p.m. all the families were in the building.... The action had been very swift and silent.... A rudimentary defense was immediately organized with... bricks and stones brought inside... The police only found out about the occupation the next day by reading the newspapers! During the night the walls of all the nearby houses were plastered with a special edition of the Sinistra Proletaria newspaper entitled Who do our houses belong to? and leaflets entitled Housing should be taken, don't pay rent. An enormous banner saying OCCUPIED HOUSES, festooned with red banners, made the police furious....
During the morning the biggest mistake of the action was made. Trusting a rumor spread by the police... the comrades ignored the problem of defending the building. The error is paid for... 300 police intervened in a very swift action.... They were able to break down the front door despite being bombarded with bricks and stones... from the windows. The police drove everyone out.... The response of the occupants, especially the proletarian women was immediate.... The will to struggle and win emerged clearly from the mass popular assembly . All those who spoke reached the same conclusion: struggle until victory, no retreat, mass encampment in front of the building until all the families were given housing. If the police intervened again they were ready to put up a violent resistance.... At 11 p.m., the police made their first charge, which was very violent. They met with an enraged response: a lot of cops ended up in the hospital, among them a police captain who was hit over the head with a bottle of milk by a mother. Violent police charges followed. Tear gas was used."
The next day, September 26, after seeing the resolve of the twenty resisting families and the solidarity shown them by the rest of the neighborhood, the public housing authorities gave in and granted them housing. The violent struggle had paid off! Sinistra Proletaria distributed a victory statement which concluded:
"They have won against the revisionists and all the other 'false friends of the people’ who preached moderation, who wanted to rely only on negotiations, who accused the people in struggle of extremism and adventurism. Revisionists of all varieties said we would be defeated! And instead we won! The new law of the people has won!"
The changing SP/CPM organization also led a campaign in early 1971 to make transportation free, urging workers to seize buses during rush hours, and refuse to pay. This struggle did not take on a really mass character like the housing struggles, since shortly after SP launched the campaign they went underground. The seeds for a future mass struggle were sown however. Three years later mass struggles for free transport did explode all over Italy.
The one new sector of rebellion that the SP/CPM backed away from was the feminist movement. At that time the first women's liberation groups were forming in Italy. While composed of petty-bourgeois intellectuals, as is typical of new radical phenomena at first, feminism was a shock to the ingrained backwardness of Italian society—-including the New Left. SP/CPM viewed women's oppression as a secondary issue, often as a petty-bourgeois diversion from the revolution. Their view was that women needed nothing except to join their husbands in overthrowing the government. Here is a CPM leaflet distributed for International Women's Day in 1970:
"But liberation in relation to whom?
From the husbands who are exploited 8 hours a day in the factory, who work in unhealthy conditions, workers whom the bosses’ system makes believe they have some privileges?
Liberation so women ‘can work’? Liberation so that women today 'can' go to a cafe or movie alone, buy some extra clothing or a necklace, or take the pill?
In our society based on exploitation 24 hours out of 24 hours a day: Men have the privilege of being exploited in the factory to 'maintain the family’ maybe by working overtime, when with the word ‘maintain’ the bosses mean they are also paying for the wife's housework(!!).
Then in addition in the name of their liberation the bosses offer women the right to be exploited in the factory, what the bosses call: the right to work.
In this way women are exploited: First, because they have to enter the factory to pay the rent, to buy books for their children and send them to school.... Second, because they have to take care of the house, the children and perhaps ‘struggle’ for day care centers with gentle tactics! All this helps to keep the bosses system alive, in fact the system's way of proposing day care centers serves:
--to take away the so-called ‘weight' of educating your children and to make you work when and how they want you to;
--ask you to ‘delegate’ to them the authority to educate your children from birth according to their interests. To struggle for day care centers means to struggle for our right to educate our children ourselves in day care centers and thus not permit the system to exploit us on all levels. Real liberation comes from the class struggle."
---Metropolitan Political Collective
The leaflet expresses some good ideas, particularly in the need to protect children from the State and the so-called educational system. But the male outlook and narrowness of the leaflet is evident. To belittle women's struggle for basic human rights, for the right to a job or the right to go out in public alone without fear of violence, is chauvinism. Remember that this was in a society where women were legally not allowed even wage labor without a husband's permission.
What was so incongruous about that was the leading role in CPM played by Margherita (Mara) Cagol. She was an exceptional woman in both senses of the word. The Italian New Left was still primarily male in outlook and composition, based in certain key factories in heavy industry. She herself came from a middle class family (mother a schoolteacher and father a small cosmetics store owner) in the far North. She had a very Catholic upbringing, and was thought to be a serious-minded person by her teachers. It was at Trento, as a student activist, that she first found the revolution. While her close comrade and husband, Renato Curcio, became the leading theoretician of the Brigades, Mara Cagol was a leading militant in her own right. During the Political Work period at Trento University, she had done social investigation on peasant conditions in the surrounding Trentino region, and had translated an abridged version of Karl Marx's Capital which was widely used in Italian New Left study circles.
In the Metropolitan Political Collective Mara was among the most radical. She took a leading role in organizing the new guerrilla formations, and was to become the political-military commander of a column of the Red Brigades. As Renato Curcio wrote of her: "For Mara imperialism was not an abstract concept but an enemy that you began to fight--in common with comrades—-in your everyday choices." Mara certainly was exceptional in her commitment and abilities. But she was also the proverbial exceptional woman whose abilities even male chauvinists always depend on, and whom they single out for praise in part as a way to avoid facing the general oppression of women.
Mara was at the same time a pathfinder for other women who were coming to join the anti-imperialist armed struggle. As the radicalization of women in Italy grew, the number of women in the armed struggle rose. However, the women in the armed struggle and the women raising feminist struggles were not necessarily the same women. In Italy (as in the "u.s.a.") there was a profound division among radical women--where armed anti-imperialism and Women's Liberation were put in opposition to each other. Neither this nor the attitude of the BR were static situations, however. The practical effect this had on the movement will be seen in the national referendum on divorce in 1974.
* * * * * * *
Beneath the public struggles led by "Sinistra Proletaria" in the summer and fail of 1970, a new organization calling itself the "Red Brigade" singular at first, and then the "Red Brigades", began to carry out small propaganda actions. This was a point where armed activity was also taking root even in the flinty soil of West Germany, with the appearance of the Red Army Faction (R.A.F.). In France, an armed organization had risen out of the ashes of the French May 1968 student revolt. The BR felt especially close to this French group, which began with the same name, Proletarian Left ("Gauche Proletarienne") and did the same kind of illegal housing occupations, bus take-overs and other mass actions that SP used in Italy. European developments were encouraging. In its September-October 1970 issue SP wrote:
"Guerrilla warfare has now completed its initial phase... it is no longer simply a detonation... but has taken on the dimension of being the only strategic perspective that can historically replace the insurrectionary one, which is now inadequate, and... penetrate the metropolis, fusing the world proletariat in a common strategy and form of struggle. Capital unifies the world through its project of armed counter-revolution; the proletariat unites itself on a world scale through guerrilla warfare.
ITALY AND EUROPE ARE NOT HISTORICAL EXCEPTIONS."
The Red Brigades appear: factory actions
The first stage of the armed struggle was one of propaganda actions, not directed to Italian society at large, but organically growing out of the existing workers’ struggle.
The Red Brigades were rooted in the Italian working class. This fact, which imperialism has worked to conceal, was the explanation for their political strength and fearless militancy. At the first large trial of BR prisoners in 1978, the defendants issued a statement refuting all the misleading speculative gossip about their origins that had been slyly circulated by the bourgeois press, the intelligence agencies, and the revisionists:
"The Red Brigades were not born in the secret police office, nor in Moscow, nor in Washington, and not even in the University of Trento or in the Italian Communist Party federation of Reggio Emilia province. The Red Brigades simply sprang to life at the beginning of the 1970s from the advanced units of the working class.... more specifically, the Red Brigades were born in Milan in the Pirelli plant."
In the early days, the Brigades held many lunch-time rallies in front of factories. A "liberated" car would pull up, with loudspeakers temporarily mounted on the roof, and several masked comrades spoke to the crowd of workers that gathered. They passed leaflets. Company guards or foremen trying to get close to the car found their way blocked. Just before the pigs arrived the car would zoom off to cheers. A study of the "Historic Nucleus", the first, founding wave of the BR, revealed that the majority of them were young working class men from the ages of 22 to 33. Among the first 172 persons arrested or indicted as BR members, by the end of 1977, there were only 21 former university students.
To grasp why the Italian proletariat produced advanced elements that embraced armed struggle, we can look at the FIAT Mirafiori auto works in Turin. There, within the gigantic 60,000-worker FIAT complex that was like a small city, the stamping plant ("presse") became known as a BR stronghold. "Presse" was officially a department, but it was really a factory itself. 8,800 men labored there, feeding the huge hydraulic-powered presses that stamped out FIAT's steel auto body panels. It was one of the lowest-ranking jobs in the complex. Working conditions were hard, dangerous. Noise from the ever-hammering presses was so severe, that every year one-third of presse workers had to be transferred out due to deafness.
Those were unskilled laboring jobs, paying 3rd level wages (lowest at FIAT). Many of the stamping plant workers were Southern immigrants. Unable to both send support money back home to their families and pay rent for themselves, some FIAT workers bought cheap round-trip train tickets every night, and slept on trains. Other FIAT workers slept in the train stations or other illegal shelters. Many auto workers lived in "hot bed" rooming houses, where 3 or 4 workers would share one bed in turns. It is not difficult to grasp these workers’ understanding of imperialism.
On November 16, 1977, one Carlo Casalegno, deputy editor of the newspaper La Stampa in Turin (Italy's second-biggest newspaper), was executed by a BR unit. La Stampa is owned by FIAT, and Casalegno had eagerly taken up his bosses' special assignment to slander the emergent Red Brigades. He was notorious in turning out falsehoods and journalistic intrigues against the BR, who had warned him to either cease his dirty work or face the consequences. Casalegno’s correction drew the ire of both the imperialists and the revisionists (who were engaged in Brigade slander of their own). The Italian Communist Party's (PCI) union called a brief, liberal protest strike in Turin to support "freedom of speech" and to condemn the Brigades for "terrorism". At the FIAT stamping plant, where the company encouraged the PCI’s demonstration, 90% of the men refused to stop work. This was a shock to the bosses, revealing the depth of BR support.
Brigades activity at "Presse" was ever-present. BR leaflets were hung in washrooms and coffee machines, and stuffed inside lockers. Six particular managers from "Presse", zealous oppressors, were knee-capped (in this favored BR tactic, an offender would be stopped by a BR unit and shot in the leg, to make a public warning without creating a martyr). In January 1976, the security police captured a BR unit, which included a union activist from the FIAT stamping plant. This surprised the PCI, since the captured BR militant, Basone, had been in the PCI masquerading as a critic of the Brigades. It was clear that the Brigades not only had considerable support at FIAT, but had infiltrated and won over people within even the opposing structures. As of February 1982 the State had convicted 26 FIAT workers of being BR members, with 3 others having died in firefights. Of these 29 workers, some 14 were union delegates in the Catholic, Social-Democratic, or PCI unions (an additional 32 FIAT workers were either awaiting trial or had been arrested and released for insufficient evidence). And what was true at FIAT was also true at other factories—-at Alfa—Romeo, Lancia, Pirelli, Sit-Siemens and elsewhere.
The Red Brigades held their first public action in the spring of 1970: an unannounced rally in Lorenteggio, a proletarian neighborhood in Milan. At the end of August 1970, during a labor contract fight at Sit-Siemens, they distributed leaflets at the company's Piazza Zavattari plant. A week later, the Brigades distributed a leaflet at the Sit-Siemens Settimo Milan plant with a long list of scabs and others "tied to the bosses who had to be hit with proletarian revenge".
The first military actions of the Red Brigades took place, not surprisingly, inside the factories of Sit-Siemens and Pirelli tire corporation, where CPM and later SP held their strongest base. On September 17, 1970 the Brigades carried out their first armed action: a particular Sit-Siemens manager's car was set afire. The Brigades left their signature symbol, a five-pointed star, but no leaflet. However, no one thought it too significant: this sort of action was already common.
More importantly, in October and November of that year,the SP and BR led a pitched contract struggle at Pirelli. On November 27, 1970 and December 8, 1970, the BR set fire to the cars of the head of personnel and the head of security at Pirelli's Bicocca plant. This was to be Enrico Loriga’s retribution, who as head of personnel, had fired a leading PCI union militant and ex-partisan leader, Della Torre.
December 1, 1970
Della Torre, mechanic.
A good comrade: one of ours, 50 years old, two sons. Leading trade-union comrade of. the CGIL. 25 years of union activity. Partisan Commander (during the World War II Resistance--ed.). Led the struggles. They fired him. They did it together: first the bosses, then the unions. This firing has to do with all of us. It is not a private matter, it is a cowardly POLITICAL LINE which strikes all workers in struggle.
If it takes place without a firm answer from a united factory, if it takes place because of a cheap surrender by the unions and on our backs, then Pirelli and associates will have a free hand, from now on, to get rid of whoever raises their hand to demand their rights.
In the first communication we distributed, it said: "For every comrade they strike at during the struggle one of them will have to pay."
A comrade has been attacked.
And so one of them, precisely "the head of the list" (as many workers in the factory suggested) found his auto destroyed.
But it's not over.
We have said, in fact, "for one eye, two eyes..." and the Fiat 350 automobile of the spy Ermanno Pellegrini...is for us, much, much less than an eye. Without even considering that his real car is a white Giulia 1300 junior GT which he has for some time "inexplicably" kept jealously guarded in his garage.
But we are patient....!
If the spy Pellegrini were to FIRE HIMSELF then maybe the Peoples’ tribunal will concede him a pardon. In any case Della Torre must return to work to continue the struggle of all the exploited against the bosses.
Collections, lawyers kindly offered by the union, gestures of "solidarity", these are not enough. So until Della Torre does not return the game between all us workers and the boss' servants and jailers must not and will not be closed. The list is long, imagination is not lacking.
For the communist revolution, Red Brigade.
December 11, 1970
In the second communique we said: "For every repressive action that the boss tries to carry out against the workers as a result of the struggle we are conducting we will answer according to the principle: for an eye, two eyes, for a tooth, the whole face."
Shortly afterward a comrade of ours, Della Torre, was fired. So:
--Pellegrini after having found his car burned up HAS NOT BEEN SEEN AGAIN IN THE FACTORY. This big spy seems to have accepted the sentence handed down by the People's Tribunal in a "disciplined" way.
If this is so we will pardon him. In the meantime we remind him that siding with the bosses against the workers is becoming more and more expensive.
Then it was the turn of:
--Loriga Attorney Professor Enrico, the executioner who signed management's letter firing comrade Della Torre, who even though he parked his Alfa Romeo 1750 far away from his house, did not escape the execution of the verdict which the People's Tribunal issued for him as well.
At 1:05 pm Tuesday, December 8, 1970 (and not at night as the "Corriere della Sera" wrote) nothing was left of that auto but a little scrap-iron.
Two million (lire) up in smoke.
This is not the first time that the workers have, in their own way of course, shown their "recognition" for this new personality, the new hardliner of the contract talks. In fact, once already when he was head of personnel at Carbosarda (plant in Sardinia) as a result of the great "proletarian" merits he acquired, our Sardinian comrades of Carbonia after having hung a nice sign around his neck (like the IGNIS workers did with the fascist provocateurs in Trento) put him on a docile donkey and took him to "visit" the countryside, guarding him with a long line of marchers so nothing would happen to him.
A beautiful proletarian festival, in other words, which only those like him failed to understand.
Now we will give Professor Attorney Loriga some advice.
If he should have trouble getting to work to earn his cake there's always the little donkey toward which we promise clemency.
Whereas for the ass...!
And now two news items. Management has proletarianized the managers cars. In fact, it recently advised all the managers at Bicocca to take their precious big machines out of the underground parking lot and park them next to the broken down "utilitare" (the cheapest model Fiats made for workers) of the workers on the streets.
Just as management promised in their "communication to all managers." Here are their "appropriate measures"! One more proof of the fact that capital only protects its profits.
The second news item regards the "second on the list," the big spy Palmitessa, who for some time now has "fallen sick". We wish him a quick recovery.
Finally two words on basic questions. The active struggle against the bosses' repression, in the form of a direct attack on the personified structure of power, must not let us forget that the power structure bases itself not only on its servants, but also on "things" and on "production".
It is worth thinking about.
To conclude: -- Della Torre in the factory. Pellegrini at home.
In the meantime accounts are not closed.
For the communist revolution. Red Brigade.
N.B.: The "Corriere della Sera" wants to make us think the auto suffered light damage.
Maybe Attorney Prof. Loriga is not of the same opinion! Red Brigade
With these actions, the BR introduced itself, became well-known, to the workers of Pirelli. But outside of Pirelli little notice was taken. The general level of factory struggle was already quite high: what was to distinguish these torched manager cars among dozens, except by their small BR calling card? And in reaction: armed attacks by fascist gangs, beatings by company guards, were common as well. Italian workers developed an arsenal of novel tactics. Marches across the factory floor were both mini-strike and a method to physically drive out fascist thugs. Workers regularly demonstrated their control of the factory floor. Sabotage mushroomed. And the practice of "proletarian justice" was very widespread. As Continuous Struggle ("Lotta Continua") described the situation in its January 28, 1971 issue:
"After every action, every procession, every blockade of products, or blockade of office buildings, etc. every department is turned into a proletarian court: those workers who could have participated but did not were made to leave the factory. An example that illustrates this point: in one warehousing department it is learned that people worked on Sunday, 4 workers and 3 supervisors. A discussion is held and the scabs are ‘suspended’: 2 days suspension for the workers and 3 days for the bosses. 3 days for the supervisors because they are bosses and because during the discussion one of them showed a lack of respect for the workers saying he didn't give a damn what they said.... It is not only a matter of maintaining unity: the workers learn to exercise power and take pleasure in doing so."
The Red Brigades introduced themselves to the rest of Italy on January 25, 1971. On that date, a BR commando planted 8 timed firebombs under 8 trucks parked on the Pirelli tire testing track, in the Lainate neighborhood of Milan. Only 3 went off, but the next day Italy's leading newspaper, the Corriere Della Sera, ran a big 5-column article on the BR describing them as "a phantom extra—parliamentary organization". The PCI's newspaper L'Unita also ran its first article, attacking the BR as "provocateurs" and inciting the workers to take vigilante action against them. The BR left a leaflet at the testing track, reproduced below. It includes a self-criticism for technical errors, which caused the bomb malfunctions, but points out they still caused 20 million lire worth of damage (about $25,000 in 1971).
February 5, 1971
--Della Torre in the factory
Piazza Fontana (the fascist terror-bombing massacre--ed.), Pinelli, cops who kill, comrades in jail, Della Torre and many others fired, gangs of fascist thugs protected by the police, judges-politicians-governors, servants of the bosses...
These are the instruments of Violence that the bosses turn against the working class to squeeze it more and more.
Asking us to struggle respecting the laws of the bosses is like asking us to cut off our balls!
But one thing is sure: we will not turn back! We will continue with more advanced forms of struggle on the road already chosen: attack production, lots of damage for the bosses, little cost to us.
We have already begun to take the first steps on this path.
Monday night January 26, on the tire testing track at Lainate, 3 Pirelli trucks were burned. 20 million gone up in smoke!
From a "technical" point of view this action was not good and 5 other trucks were left undamaged. But one learns by making mistakes and the next time we will know how to do better...
The bosses have made their calculations poorly. The intensification of their violence, cannot help but make the intensity of our attack grow. Until they cancel the new provision and reimburse us for the money they've stolen, their accounts will not return…
In Milan, Rome, Trento, Reggio Calabria the bosses are using police and armed fascists.
Processions, "solidarity" and various kinds of petitions can only lead us to defeat.
We have begun to strike persons and "things". We forced Pellegrini, one of the bosses’ pigs, to fire himself. Some other pigs, seeing how things stand shit on themselves.
It must be made very clear: We will continue on this road!
Why MacMahon as well?
The boss that squeezes us in the factory is the same boss that increases the cost of living, who does not permit us to have a decent home without stealing back those few lire we extract from him through hard struggle.
Those families forced to occupy the houses on via Mac Mahon, which they've already paid for with their taxes, did it to remove themselves and their children from the unhealthy shacks of the infamous "centers for the evicted".
The bosses have answered them with the violence of tear gas and police truncheons.
At Lainate we struck the same boss that exploits us in the factory and makes our life insufferable on the outside.
Who are the provocateurs?
The bosses are always the provocateurs.
Provocateur is Leopoldo Pirelli, via Borgonuovo #18, tel. 651-421-Milan, who, kidding himself that he could stop the struggle which strikes at his power with ever growing force, set fire to the warehouses at Bicocca and Settimo Torinese.
He hopes to kill two birds with one stone this way: kill the struggle by blaming it for things it hasn't done and get the insurance company to pay for new buildings.
Provocation is a weapon the bosses will never stop using. But the bosses and their "useful idiots" should not fool themselves, because the working class by now knows how to distinguish clearly between the just violence of the proletariat in struggle and the dumb criminal violence of the bosses!
For the Communist Revolution. Red Brigade.
Continuous Struggle ("Lotta Continua"), the biggest of the extra-parliamentary New Left groups, was critical of the BR's first actions. In its newspaper, they criticized them as "not a mass action", as "only exemplary", said that BR actions were "objectively a provocation". The criticism argued that "the military organization of the masses is not built by some group carrying out military actions" but by "the creation of stable and autonomous mass political organizations". Continuous Struggle concluded that the BR's actions were only helping the fascists, were an obstacle to the growth of proletarian autonomy, and predicted that they would be isolated by the workers themselves and the revolutionary vanguards.
Despite this peculiar united front (the bourgeoisie, the revisionists, and the largest New Left group) against the early BR, the Milan working class rank and file openly approved of the sabotage at Lainate. Just as earlier they approved of the actions at Pirelli. And theirs were the voices that counted.
Edited by toyotathon ()
The struggle for political line
The emergence of the BR coincided with, inspired, and encouraged the formation of more armed groups. During the first half of 1971, actions by independent armed collectives dotted the Italian map. Many groups took the BR as a direct model, some even referencing BR in their leaflets. Simultaneously, fascist groups carried out their own series of bombings, some leaving leaflets praising the BR, as part of the strategy of tension.
The BR saw through the provocation early, and issued a leaflet repudiating the latter bombings. They warned the fascists, and the police behind them, that “nothing would go unpunished”. The text of the leaflet is reproduced below:
In these days we have witnessed a series of terrorist actions with a clear fascist imprint and also clearly inspired by the police.
In particular we want to mention those carried out against the Rossari and Varzi factory in Trecate in Novara province, the Norton International factory in Carsico (Milan) and the Necchi factory in Pavia, the actions against the army barracks of Riete, L'Aguila, Lamezia Terme and Vibo Valentia.
The bomb attacks were accompanied by leaflets in which, among other things, the "Red Brigades" are praised.
The fascists--the executors--and the Carabinieri, their superiors, by "signing" these
leaflets with the symbol of our organization, are attempting to achieve the following goals:
1. To link anti-proletarian, fascist actions with a revolutionary communist organization.
2. To make those organizations that have chosen the path of direct action, partisan action and armed propaganda hated and unpopular, removing all political meaning from their work and portraying them as criminal organizations that pursue aims contrary to the interests of the popular masses.
3. To terrorize the left; supplying "facts" to feed the theory that has for some time has been slyly circulated that the Red Brigades are provocateur organizations led by fascist intriguers and pigs of the various police agencies.
4. To create a climate of tension by carrying out terroristic and gratuitous violent actions that, in the name of the theory of the "opposed extremes," will justify a government attack on the revolutionary left and more generally the working class.
5. To lay the groundwork for a much bigger provocation to be carried out in some factory, attributing it to the left and to, why not, the Red Brigades.
In reality the fascists and the police want to strike, from its birth, at the roots of the strategic hypothesis which will bury them, along with their bosses, forever.
People's guerrilla warfare
The workers of the factories and the neighborhoods where we operate, know that the Red Brigades are communist organizations. They know because these organizations have never carried out an action contrary to the interests of the workers.
In the factories we have hit the despots, the servants of the bosses, those most hated by the working class, when this was made necessary because some comrades had been hit;
we hit the fascists because they are the armed forces that capitalism uses today against working class struggles and the proletarian demand for power;
we have always hit the enemies of the people and we have always hit them from within vast movements of struggle.
For this reason, if on the one hand we are convinced that no comrade will fall into the trap laid by these fascist actions, falsely "signed" with our emblem, on the other hand we give the forces of reaction a warning:
Whoever plays with fire
will burn their fingers...
We are investigating to find out who are the individuals directly responsible for these provocations. Perhaps we will know soon, perhaps it will take us a longer time, in any case, you can be sure that:
Nothing will go unpunished!
To the police and the fascists we say one thing clearly: There will be no mercy as far as you are concerned. The fist of proletarian justice will fall with tremendous force on whoever conspires, intrigues and works against the interests of the proletarians.
READ, CIRCULATE, TAKE ACTION
UNIFIED COMMAND OF THE RED BRIGADES
Within the movement, the BR had opposed indiscriminate bombings because they felt it spread fear among the masses. As well, bombs were widely used by, and associated with, the fascists. BR felt that more difficult, but more precise, tactics were necessary.
In this period of 1971, while BR actions were centered in Milan, an additional BR column emerged in Rome to confront the fascist threat. Milan BR accepted responsibility for the Rome column and its actions. Rome BR communicated with the masses through a hard-to-read mimeo newspaper called Red Brigades, #2. This paper detailed actions by both the Milan and Rome BRs, but devoted itself primarily to the fight against the fascists. Nearly all Rome BR actions consisted of setting fire to fascist headquarters, or other fascist property, when no one was present. The Rome BR did not connect any of its actions to factory struggles with the exception of the fire-bombing of a Fascist union leader's auto.
In April of 1971, the first issue of New Resistance appeared. The old SP logo, the hammer and sickle and rifle, now a BR emblem, adorned the masthead. It published both BR and GAP (Armed Partisan Group) documents, plus those of smaller groups, and defined itself as a "communist newspaper of the New Resistance". The intended purpose of the magazine was to provide an ideological center for all emerging armed collectives. A second issue appeared the following month, and then it ceased publication. NR was to be the Brigades’ last attempt at legal forms of organization.
New Resistance gave particular attention and analysis to the guerrilla experience in West Germany, Uruguay and Palestine. For instance, they reprinted a long German R.A.F. document, plus an old interview with a Tupamaro comrade that hadn’t been widely circulated in Italy.
In a polemic with the Rome solidarity collective, Red Palestine, NR warns: "In all likelihood the time is coming for the end of solidarity committees; this work will be taken over by those who link the struggles of the peoples with the revolutionary struggle in their own country.... While the solidarity committees serve revisionism or begin to decompose, the extra-parliamentary Marxist-Leninist forces should seek to find their moment of unity in a collective analysis of the concrete relations between the revolutionary struggle of our country and the people's wars and struggles."
The editorial in the first issue of NR explained "New Resistance" as meaning: "resistance to imperialism, resistance of oppressed peoples and nations, of the revolutionary China of Mao, of Vietnam and the revolutionary peoples of Indochina, of the peoples of Palestine and Latin America, resistance in the imperialist metropolis, in the Black ghettos and the white cities." It ended with a polemic against "conservative" and "often non-proletarian" tendencies in the movement "who not being able to recognize the first signs of partisan struggle" liquidate the question of armed struggle.
Intending to open debate among comrades who didn't object to violence in principle (this included both Continuous Struggle and Workers’ Power, the two most important groups of the extra-parliamentary New Left), NR put forward the theory of the guerrilla-party. The guerrilla-party would be an evolution of the old European formula of the unarmed party and its "armed wing". The article went on to discuss the relationship between revolution and repression, quoting Marx and Lenin's observation that as the revolution progresses, it provokes a counter-revolution, and that "the progress of the revolution is... the capacity of the proletariat to acquire new instruments... in keeping with new tasks."
The article analyzed three main forces of violence: 1. individual spontaneous violence, "the worst way to express a just need", 2. mass spontaneous violence, such as demonstrations inside the factory, spontaneous factory struggle, and 3. partisan actions, the first moments of a proletarian will to armed political organization.
The debate within the class-conscious Left, they believed, was being held hostage by yesterday’s successes and schemes. The classic European revolutionary theory of insurrection, the strategy of a long, legal preparation of the urban masses for a future insurrection was blinding many comrades to the important vanguard role that partisan actions were playing. It was necessary "to abolish opportunist distinctions between the party and guerrilla struggle, between political and military organization". "Partisan actions," NR concluded, "were correct in principle and necessary now."
The BR also engaged in debate with other armed organizations in New Resistance. In an article on the failed military coup led by Fascist leader Prince Valerio Borghese, some fundamental differences with the GAP. (Partisan Action Group) emerged.* A Fascist military coup was not seen as a real and immediate danger by NR. Fascist leader Borghese was declared unimportant, called the "2 of clubs". The GAP, on the other hand, considered a Fascist military coup the main danger, and called on the rank and file of the major Left parties to join them in a revolutionary anti-fascist united front. New Resistance disagreed: the real danger lied with revisionists and the State, who opportunistically used the threat of a fascist coup to consolidate mass support for bourgeois democracy.
Partisan Action Group (GAP) conducted a series of bomb attacks on centers of bourgeois power in Genoa: the u.s. consulate, the headquarters of one Social Democratic party, the Ignis warehouse, the Garrone oil refinery. GAP broadcast class propaganda through pirate radio - "Radio GAP" - escaping detection by moving their antenna around in a van. GAP attempted to follow the old '40's clandestine partisan strategy, where the mountains and isolated rural areas were the terrain of struggle. All factions (GAP, Continuous Struggle, Workers’ Power) published communiques.
New Resistance's second issue, dated May 1971, featured an analysis of a new State strategy for repression of the revolutionary movement, which NR referred to as the "criminalization of the movement". They pointed out that the revisionists and the State were co-operating in a strategy to outlaw or "criminalize" the revolutionary Left. The article was prophetic. It showed how BR saw much earlier than the rest of the movement that the State had decided, in collusion with the revisionists to repress all militant activity and all the organizations of the extra-parliamentary New Left.
The second issue of New Resistance also included articles on the struggle in the prisons and the Army. The New Left had been organizing draftees inside the Italian Army, much as the u.s. anti-war movement did during the Vietnam War. Soldiers in uniform were coming to rallies and marching in Left demonstrations. The BR was unhappy that as fast as soldiers were being won over, they were being wasted--and exposed--in public movement activities. In a polemic with Continuous Struggle and PID (Proletarians in Uniform), NR argued that the aim of revolutionary vanguards in the Italian Army should no longer be to simply mold opinion and create a mass movement, but should be the creation of clandestine political-military cells that would be capable of counter-posing themselves to the power of the State at a constantly higher level.
In an article entitled "Burning down the prisons is just", NR takes a position on criminality and the revolutionary role of the lumpenproletariat:
"The modern revolution is no longer a clean revolution... it gathers its elements fishing in muddy waters, it advances by side roads and finds allies among all those who have no power over their lives and know it.... In waiting for the revolutionary festival in which all the expropriators will be expropriated, the isolated 'criminal' act, robbery, individual expropriation, the ransacking of a supermarket are nothing but a sample and a hint of the future assault on the social wealth, ‘the criminal breaks the monotony and the banal daily security of bourgeois life’ (K. Marx). By his very existence he throws the ideology of capitalist society into crisis: he appropriates concretely what the bourgeoisie shows him to be abstractly available."
In September 1971, after a year in existence, the BR published its first systematic theoretical statement. The document was in the form of an interview, in the style of the Tupamaros, the Uruguayan urban guerrilla movement much admired by the BR.
The document systematized many ideas already expressed during earlier phases of the BR's political evolution. According to the BR, the bourgeoisie had only one possible response to its crisis: militarization, with a goal of not traditional fascism, but a Gaullist fascism like France, i.e. fascism with a democratic facade. The non-reformist Left was not prepared to meet this armed attack by the State. The movement could respond in one of two ways: 1. with a "3rd Internationalist" (i.e. insurrectionist) strategy with an anarcho-syndicalist variation (that believed in spontaneity and opposed organization); 2. link up with the metropolitan revolutionary experience of the current historical period. The New Left “groups” had chosen the first way, and BR the second.
The BR's discussion of the birth of "alternative" power in the factories and neighborhoods was similar to the theories on dual power of the Argentinian guerrilla organization ERP. Finally, as regards the PCI and the New Left “groups”, the BR opposed sectarian ideological polemics and offered unity with all comrades who supported armed struggle.
The full text of this document follows:
FIRST THEORETICAL REFLECTION
1. How do you judge the current phase of class struggle?
It seems to us that there is a consensus of views within the Left on the current situation.
Neither the reformists nor the extra-parliamentary forces have failed to notice the bourgeoisie's plans for reorganizing society around a reactionary and violently anti-working class perspective. More generally everyone realizes that a decisive conflict has begun which on the one hand holds out the prospect of a new political and economic balance of power for the bourgeoisie, and on the other hand for the workers holds out the prospect of overthrowing existing relations of production. But leaving aside the reformists, whose strategy shows itself to be always more and more suicidal in the face of the attacks of reaction, we are interested in pointing out the state of unpreparedness in which the revolutionary forces find themselves in the face of the new level of maturity of the struggle. The revolutionary Left never understood that the cycle of struggles begun in 1968 could only lead to the present levels of violent conflict. Because of this the proper instruments were never developed to match the situation. Our political experience was born out of this need.
2. What are the causes of the present crisis?
Today we find ourselves before a bourgeoisie whose political plans have been overturned. This is due to the failure of capitalism's plans for development and the failure of political plans of the reformist parties. In fact, faced with the initiative of the working class, which has repudiated reformism as a plan for stabilizing society and put the end of exploitation on the order of the day, and faced with the objective contradictions of imperialism which impede a peaceful planning of capitalist development in individual countries, the bourgeoisie has had to reorganize the entire apparatus of power along "right-wing" lines.
3. In which direction do you think the political situation will develop in the near future?
The bourgeoisie is now on a forced path: regain control of the situation through an ever more despotic organization of power. The growing despotism of capital over labor, the progressive militarization of the state and of the class struggle, the intensification of repression as a strategic fact are two inexorable and objective consequences. In the Italian situation we are witnessing the formation of a reactionary bloc, a bloc of law and order as an alternative to the center-left. This bloc prospers under the banner of the nationalist Right. It tends to re-insure its control of the economic and social situation, and thus to repress every form of revolutionary and anti-capitalist struggle.
4. Do you think therefore there will be a new edition of fascism?
The problem should not be posed in these terms. It is an incontestable fact that this repressive strategy aims not so much at the institutional liquidation of the bourgeois "democratic state" as fascism did, as at the most savage repression of the revolutionary movement. In France, DeGaulle's "Coup d'etat" and today's "Gaullist fascism" live under democratic appearances. In the short-run, this is certainly the least uncomfortable model.
It would be naive however to hope for a moderate stabilization of the economic and social situation with the presence of a combative revolutionary movement.
5. What are your choices therefore?
We were faced with two roads besides the reformist path which we, along with the rest of the revolutionary Left, refused to take some years ago: to repeat the past historical experience of the workers movement, according to the anarcho-syndicalist or Third Internationalist versions, or to integrate ourselves into the metropolitan revolutionary experience of this epoch.
Generally speaking, the groups of the extra-parliamentary Left have not given up the first perspective because they have not known how to subject the defeats of the post-World War I revolutionary movement to a critical analysis. They have taken up once again, in its essence, the theory of the two phases of the revolutionary process (political preparation, agitation, and propaganda first, then armed insurrection) and today they are retracing the steps of the first phase while the bourgeoisie is already unfolding its armed initiative.
The ruling class attack against the most effective forms of mass struggle, the political trials and the prison sentences against the most combative militants, the rebirth of fascist Blackshirt terrorism and the fascist attacks on worker pickets, the police attacks on small factories, evicted tenants and students, the house to house searches in rebellious neighborhoods, the hiring of undercover cop provocateurs and fascists in the factories; all these things are testimony to this armed initiative. The armed confrontation has already begun and it aims at liquidating the working class capacity for resistance. Hour X of some future insurrection will not come. And that which many comrades hope to see as the future decisive encounter between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie would only be the last and victorious battle of the bourgeoisie. Just as it happened in 1922, when the fascists took power.
6. Specifically what is the ideological and historical tradition with which you identify?
Our reference points are Marxism-Leninism, the Chinese Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and the ongoing experience of the metropolitan guerrilla movements; in one word, the scientific tradition of the international revolutionary and workers movement. This also means that we do not completely accept the theories that have guided the European Communist parties in the revolutionary phases of their history, above all in regard to the question of the relation between political organization and military organization.
7. Can you spell out this point of view better?
The Brazilian comrades hold that the origin of the retreat of the communist parties into the social democratic degeneration is to be found in the inability of their organizations to cope with the levels of military conflict which the bourgeoisie progressively imposes on the working class movement. It is not the “betrayal” of the leadership as much as the structural inadequacy of the weapon they use, that is, their organization, which is at the root of it all.
All the metropolitan armed organizations have taken this into account and from the beginning they have totally organized themselves to be able to confront all levels of struggle.
8. The problem as you see it therefore is to begin the armed struggle?
The armed struggle has already begun. Unfortunately, it is a one-sided struggle; that is, it is the bourgeoisie which strikes. The problem therefore is to create the class instrument capable of dealing with the conflict on the same level.
The Red Brigades are the first results in the process of transformation of the class political vanguards into armed political vanguards, the first armed steps in the direction of this building.
9. Are you for a "foco-ist" conception of the armed vanguard?
No. Our point of view is that the armed struggle in Italy must be conducted by an organization that is the direct expression of the class movement. Because of this we are working toward the organization of factory and neighborhood worker cells in the industrial and metropolitan centers, where revolt and exploitation are primarily concentrated.
10. Are you therefore in a preparatory phase?
From a general point of view we cannot help but be in this phase, in that the road we have chosen requires a long period of accumulation of experience and cadres. It is not however a phase separated from the class struggle but one carried out completely within this struggle.
11. Does this mean therefore that the Red Brigades even in this phase are engaged in the conflict?
There is a trend within the class movement which is not related to any of the existing extra-parliamentary organizations, which expresses the need for new organizational forms of revolutionary struggle: organizations of self-defense, first forms of clandestinity, direct actions... The Red Brigades have grasped this need and propose to pass from these first experiences, which constitute a necessary tactical phase, to the strategic phase of armed struggle.
12. What are the conditions needed for this passage to occur?
No armed revolutionary movement which struggles for power can measure up to the struggle without being able to realize two fundamental conditions: 1) measure itself against power at all levels (freeing political prisoners, executing death sentences against police assassins, expropriate the capitalists, etc.) and naturally demonstrate the ability to know how to survive these levels of conflict; 2) bring forth an alternative power in the factories and workers neighborhoods.
13. What do you mean by alternative proletarian power?
We mean that the revolution is not just a technical-military fact, and the armed vanguard is not the armed wing of an unarmed mass movement, but its highest point of unification, its demand for power.
14. What lines do you intend to move along in this phase?
In the past months our fundamental preoccupation has been to root a strategic discussion within the class movement. We hold today that it is decisive to work for its organization. It is a matter, in other words, of rooting the first forms of armed organization in the daily struggles in the factories, neighborhoods, and schools which aim at breaking the tactical offensive of the bourgeoisie. Thus, it is a matter of fighting the bosses' terrorism in its objective and subjective aspects without separating the struggle against the Capitalist organization of work and social life from the struggle against the Capitalist organization of power; to confront the fascist gang violence (squadrismo) and to strike with sufficient hardness at both the persons and the things of its political and military organizers; refusing to concede impunity to the cops, spies and judges who attack the interests and the militants of the class movement.
From an immediate point of view this action must allow us to maintain high levels of popular mobilization, blocking the spread of liquidationist and pessimist tendencies. More generally this clash will not end with the return to the preceding situation but will serve as the premise for the strategic conflict, for the armed struggle for power.
15. So the Red Brigades are transitional organizations?
No, because the armed struggle cannot be confronted with intermediary organs such as the rank-and-file factory committees, the worker-student circles or the extra-parliamentary Left political organizations themselves. It requires, from the very beginning, the strategic organization of the proletariat.
16. Are you talking about the Party?
Exactly. The BR are the first points of aggregation for the formation of the Armed Party of the Proletariat. Here is our profound connection with the revolutionary and communist tradition of the workers movement.
17. What position do you hold in relation to the extra-parliamentary groups?
We are not interested in developing a sterile ideological polemic. Our attitude toward them is above all determined by their position on armed struggle. In reality, despite the revolutionary definitions which these groups attribute to themselves, a strong neo-pacifist current flourishes within them. That is an attitude which we do not share in the slightest, and which we hold will constitute, at the opportune moment, a strong opposition to the armed organization of the proletariat. Yet surely some of their militants will instead accept this perspective of armed struggle. With them the discussion is open. Certainly this is not the only issue: fundamental questions remain relative to the timing and the tactics to follow, as well as the fundamental question of the proletarianization of the organization. We do not accept the mystification which tends to identify the existing vanguards as the vanguards of the class. The problem of the construction of the political and armed vanguards of the proletariat is still open. It cannot be resolved by following the path of facile group self-congratulation, nor with plans for the accumulation of forces that are not significant from a working class point of view.
18. How do you view the accusations which several groups of the extra-parliamentary left have made against you?
Here we have to distinguish two kinds of charges: one is, in substance, a criticism of our "adventurism" and about which we can only say that adventurism is confronting the conflict with the armed bourgeoisie without an adequate armed instrument. And even those who make this criticism of us in a militant spirit cannot escape this judgment.
The other accusation, which is a slander in which we are pictured as provocateurs or fascists, does not deserve a political response. That accusation constitutes an action which those who made it will have to account for at the opportune moment. More generally, going beyond these charges, we believe that with the progress of class struggle the Left will undergo a process of proletarianization in which the dividing criterion will inevitably be the position on the armed struggle. The PCI will be pulled into this process as well. For this reason we refuse every ideological sectarianism typical of the pseudo-revolutionary intellectuals, and reaffirm our strongly unitary position with all the comrades who choose the path of the armed struggle.
* The Partisan Action Group (GAP) was an armed organization that was formed in the spring of 1970. Its main units were based in Turin, Milan, Genoa, and Trento. GAP posed its task as creating a broad partisan army, which in conjunction with a reinvigorated PCI (Italian Communist Party) would make the revolution. Their major political leader was Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, millionaire, publisher and one of the central figures of the Italian New
Left. Feltrinelli was killed while planting a bomb in March 1972. Within the next year the GAP died, with many of the surviving militants joining the BR.
Edited by toyotathon ()