Part 2: On the 1970 Situationist Reorientation Debate, the Never Work(ing) worker. Mayakovsky / Tatlin & the Red Brigades …….

The Late 1970s in Italy: The Good The Bad and The Ugly

Subversion in Italy and its enemies


One of the Red Brigades’ big shots, Renato Curcio with a friend, a Mr. J Stalin. (Photomontage from Subversao International, Lisbon 1979 a group and periodical initiated by Julio Henriques). For more information on Julio Henriques take a look at From the End of Empire to the Empire of the End elsewhere on the RAP web and / or from The Banks of the River Styx where there is an account of how Julio was subsequently cynically tricked by a similar state terrorist group in Portugal.

Text from Collegamenti on the Armed Struggle in 1970s Italy

INTRODUCTION

The following text is translated from a book on the question of the armed struggle published in France: C. Orsoni, C Reeve, Pour une discussion politique sur le lutte arme, Paris 1979 ed. Spartacus. In the book is a long interview with Italian subversives in Florence written in collaboration with members of the Italian review, Collegamenti / Wobbly per l’organizzazione diretta di class made by a member of the collective, which published the review Subversao Internacional, in Portugal. This text appeared in the third number of that magazine. (Obviously Wobbly in this context is an allusion to the American IWW – Industrial Workers of the World, though present day Collegimenti has superseded the need for any kind of workers’ trade unionism. TN)

The book includes several translations of Italian texts, critical of the conception of armed struggle, which complement the analysis made in the text which follows. In particular, they focus on the disagreements between the different tendencies within the armed struggle strategy, mainly between the followers of the conception of the “armed movement” defended by members of so called “organised autonomy” tendency, and those who identify themselves with the conceptions of the “armed party”, defended by the Red Brigades. The book also contains a part on the German RAF, with texts which develop a critical approach to the politics of armed struggle in West Germany. There are, finally, several general theoretical texts by different authors, including Rosa Luxembourg and Paul Mattick, which discuss the political meaning of armed struggle from the point of view of anti-Bolshevik communism.

In order to give the reader an idea of the general political positions defended by the authors of this work, we translate here some parts of the introductory text of the book.

The Impotent Arms of Leftism

(….) In modern capitalist society, any armed activity must necessarily be based on an organisation of a military type. As such, it cannot escape the logic of the state which, in the last resort, determines the whole of its organisational functioning and the internal social relations, as well as its relations to the social environment. Therefore, the model of the armed struggle organisations is perfectly compatible with the Bolshevikh conceptions of the revolutionary party. For both the Red Brigades and the German RAF, this organisation must be built on, and through, the armed struggle. As has already been pointed out, “[the RAF] added to the substitutionism of Lenin who replaced the proletariat by the Party, by replacing the Party by the armed struggle.” (La Bande a Baader, La Guerre Sociale, No 2, Paris, 19780. It is, then, quite correct to see in the emergence of these groups and activities “more the product of the end of a period than the signs of the emergence of a new one”, and a voluntarist attempt to “force the pace” in a “blocked situation” (La Bande a Baader), op cit), but these old conceptions of revolution and the Leninist foundations of these groups are not merely evident in their form of organisation. More essentially, they are to be found also in the content of their revolutionary project, in their violence against the state namely, which has become the essential aspect of social transformation. That is why it is wrong to consider that these groups raise “the problem of the destruction of the state.” On the contrary, their conception of the revolution remains an essentially political one – the objective is the destruction of the state – while their principles of functioning rapidly lead towards the creation of a mini-state organisation, a mirror image of the enemy it is fighting against. Furthermore, we might also refer to the famous ‘military question’ of the revolution that many people also believe has been raised by the activities of these groups. First of all, what is meant by the question? For sure, the ‘military question’ was one of the specific aspects of the bourgeois revolutions of the past, characterised by the weakness of the working class and the strategies of class alliances. The end of the nineteenth century in Europe, the beginning of the twentieth century in Russia and, later on, the upheavals in the countries which freed themselves from colonialism, provide us with plenty of examples. Today, in the countries where capitalism rules in its most finished form, not only can the social revolution not be conceived as a ‘military question’. In modern societies, where wage labour relationships have become generalised throughout private and collective life, the subversion of the capitalist order can only be realised through the takeover and control of the productive apparatus, through its transformation and refunctioning on the basis of new social principles, under the control of the producers themselves. If we can thus preview the eruption of violent confrontations with the bourgeoisie, its state and the political and social forces which defend a state capitalist project, there can be no doubt that these confrontations will mainly occur within the framework of this process of taking over the social productive apparatus – because its control is the key to political power in society – and not on the traditional and specialised level of military action. In these examinations, we can hardly imagine what can be the use of the ‘the military experience of the armed groups’! On the contrary, the success of the anti-capitalist forces in these confrontations depends on their superiority at the level of the reorganisation of society and not on any so-called military efficiency of a specialised group (which in fact would be difficult to imagine given the efficiency of the repressive forces of the state). The recent experience of the Portuguese ‘revolution’ of 1974-5 can, despite its limits, make clearer what we are saying. When the right wing putch of November 25th took place, what remained of the real anti-capitalist activity of the Portuguese proletariat wasn’t sufficient enough to try, or even consider, opposing a coup which clearly represented the beginning of a period of the imposition of law and order. What this implies is that the workers were unable to develop and organise a different and clearly anti-capitalist social project, that the defence of the ‘revolution’ was delegated – automatically and without discussion – to the apparatuses of the ‘military question’, the populist sectors of the army and the armed cells of such groups as PRP, which even possessed a past experience of armed struggle! Everyone knows what happened afterwards. In other words, here as elsewhere, the ‘military question’ was raised because the social question had been buried (or solved) beforehand. In fact, if the bourgeoisie is able to push the class confrontation to the strictly military camp, the proletariat will be smashed in advance. Earlier in history, but with much more significance, the example of the Spanish revolution of 1936 also shows how the development and predominance of military activity necessarily means the neutralisation of the social revolution.

It is clear that any armed political activity implies and necessitates, in any capitalist society, a centralised organisation, based on hierarchy and founded on the principles and morality of bourgeois politics: then ends justifies the means! Of whatever variety, through all more or less Bolshevikh, all of the armed groups are based on these principles (which are the price of their own survival) and represent a mirror organisation of the capitalist state, the yardstick of their own organisation. If one analyses, as we do in the following texts, the functioning and political project of these groups, we can see clearly their undoubted filiations to the old organisations and principles of the labour movement, from social democracy to Stalinism (….)

If the present crisis of capitalism deepens, if social confrontations erupt and spread, and if the wage labouring masses begin to lose faith in the system, then, little by little, one can see capitalism and its state forced into a situation where the choices will be few. The use of the traditional mechanism of integrating the working class will basically depend on the capacity of the parties and unions to control the responses of the proletariat. If this solution does not produce results, the capitalist state will be obliged to use its repressive machine, demonstrating a far greater force than that which the armed struggle groups have obliged it to use till now. If despite all this, the working class is able to find in its struggles the determination and initiative to go further, to organise itself on a new basis (refusing leaderships, the delegation of powers and strategies of class conciliation), to build the framework for subverting the present order and system of production, then, the circumstances will be transformed. The politics of a radical social movement will replace the politics of military strategies and the destabililization of the state institutions, the means of the apprentice manipulators of the “brigades” and “armies” of all kinds, whose content is devoid of any anti-capitalist perspective for the mass of wage labourers.

May 1979. Paris Ch. Reeve

***************

A Diversified Movement

When speaking of armed groups in Italy it is necessary before anything else, to emphasize the extent of this phenomenon and, also, to demarcate the different tendencies that are operating. During the summer of 1977, the Italian Police claimed to have identified about a hundred armed groups, of which only 4 or 5 were considered “stable”, the remainder thought to be “variable”. Around the end of 1977, there were over 300 members of these armed groups in prison, of which 152 belonged to the Red Brigades. [l]

According to the Italian Communist party, “these groups during 1978 have carried out a total of 1,487 armed actions, i.e.10% more than last year with 23 people killed and 318 injured).337 of these armed actions were claimed by 137 different groups (115 on the left and 22 on the right). Of these the Red Brigades claimed 58.” [2]

More significant still is the zone of “diffuse terrorism”. What we can understand by this is the growing milieu of individuals and non permanent groups which adopt violent actions; from stealing from supermarkets to actions against minor state officials and factory foremen. Almost in their totality, the more structured groups with a continuous activity have an ideology of Leninist inspiration, amongst them, the Red Brigades…..etc. The Red Brigades represent the more or orthodox Marxist-Leninist tendency, while a variety of the other groups are influenced by the ideas of Italian “workerism”. [3] Concerning their structure there are, on the one hand, the ‘stable’ ‘insurrectionist’ groups which present themselves as the party “of a new kind” (we’ll say more about this later on), and, on the other hand, the ‘variable’, ‘marginalist’ organisations which claim to be the “armed” expression of specific sectors of the Movement* women, youth, delinquents, etc., and “which form and disband as the moment or occasion demands, changing their name, each time”. [4]

This is called the zone of ‘diffuse terrorism’ where these groups intervene as mobile action units, e.g. around lump labor **, during prison revolts, etc. The NAP (Nuclei Armati Proletari), for instance, was created with the objective of, supporting those in struggle in the prisons. These two types of groups also have different conceptions on other questions, such as the type of violence to use, the objectives, the relation to the masses and so on. The marginalist and workerist groups put forward the idea of the “armed movement” in opposition to the concept of the ‘armed party’ whose proponents are the insurrectionalist groups. Amongst the latter, the most well known are Prima Linea, the NAP and, naturally, the Red Brigades. Apart from the Red Brigades, only Prima Linea has still today a constant activity even though it is evident that contacts exist between the leaderships of these two organizations. The other two groups - the NAP and UCC (Unita Combatenti Comunista) - have disintegrated and their members have joined either the Red Brigades or the ‘marginalist’ action groups.

Prima Linea, which regularly carries out armed actions, has a position half way between the Red Brigades - entirely dedicated to the notion of the “armed party” - and that of the ‘marginalist’ groups. For Prima Linea, the question is to reconcile “terrorism with mass based urban guerrilla activity; the only strategy which avoids being separated from the popular struggles, allowing an enlargement of the bases of support thus preventing a retreat into total clandestinity” …. Their members do not live underground but work normally, agitating in the factories, and alternating between clandestine armed actions and the social camouflage of everyday life.” [5] This model of the “new party” is quite different from that of the Red Brigades, as we shall see.

There is a further tendency, anarchist in nature, which is very small. The most well known group here is Azione Rivoluzionaria though it lacks organizational efficacy; the majority of its members at this moment being in prison. They were the only group to attack members of the Italian Communist party, which marked a rupture between them and the other armed groups in relation to the Communist party.

At present, the Red Brigades are the most organized and implanted armed group in Italy, the only group which could attempt to be the pole of convergence for all the other armed groups; this is mainly due to their apparently superior ‘effectiveness’. Without dismissing other hypotheses, we can perhaps explain this situation in two ways. Firstly, it is necessary to take into consideration the importance of the Stalinist tradition in the post-war Italian left; secondly, we must understand what the consequences are of the road the Red Brigades have chosen: namely, its option for operating within the framework of “political autonomy”, rejecting the perspective of directly linking itself to the mass movement.

The “parallel” party and the Stalinist tradition

We shall begin with the importance of the Stalinist tradition in Italy. From the end of the war until the electoral campaign of 1975 - which was still very much centered on the corrupt nature of the Christian Democrats - the Italian Communist party had always attacked the Christian Democrats (DC) head-on. Until then, the party followed a double policy; legal activity and illegal activity. The latter was preserved in case of the need to oppose the fascist putchist tendencies with anti-fascist violence which, until very recently, was considered by all the Italian left to be a great danger. This policy, it should be made clear, was increasingly called into question by the progressive strengthening of the strictly legalistic tendencies within the party - proponents of an approximation of the Italian Communist party with the Christian Democrats and of the Eurocommunist road. As a consequence of the debates within the leadership of the Italian Communist party after the coup in Chile,(1973) the legalist line was able to gain the upper hand. But for an important part of the party - above all of Stalinism and the Resistance, as also by a ‘class’ hatred of the Christian Democrats with its corruption and cold war line - it was very difficult to accept the new direction signalled by the “historic compromise”. This hard-line tendency of the Italian Communist party, which in Italy is called the “parallel party”, is not officially recognized but is tolerated. It groups old Stalinist cadres, the majority of whom were linked to a military clandestine organization that the Communist party created during the Second World War called Volunta Rossa. After the war the organization was converted into the internal police apparatus of the party with an ‘iron fist’ for dealing with its opponents. It was ‘officially’ dissolved (others say it went into clandestinity again) during the cold war. Even so, actions claimed by Volunta Rossa took place in the 1950s in Reggio Emilia. Their objectives of “popular justice” against the bosses and their techniques - rapid and effective actions - have a curious resemblance to those of today’s armed groups. Some who hold leading positions in this parallel organization of the Communist party still today occupy important positions in the local apparatus of the party and openly proclaim their Stalinist positions.

One for example is Vidal, representative of the Comintern in Spain in 1936 and responsible for the murder, among others, of the anarchist militant Berneri*** and Nin. Generally speaking the parallel party forms part of the anti-fascist milieu which is still very strong in Italy [6]. Their constant preoccupation has been to build a united front against the famous danger of a fascist coup d’etat. Individuals such as Pirelli and the publisher, Feltrinelli**** were direct expressions of this front and financed the efforts of this project.

It is here necessary to recall that the problem of anti-fascism was raised again after the right wing bombings which occurred in 1969 in Milan. The fascist terror again appeared as a reality and the problem of fascism could hardly be seen as a mystification. The fact is that the bombings created a certain fear amongst the workers’ movement. The workers believed that it was a violent response of the conservative sectors of the state to their social agitation of 1968-69. The political consequences of these events were very important. The antifascist front was reinforced with the leftist groups of Leninist inspiration which still today constantly attack the fascists, particularly the MSI (Movimento Sociale Italiano, neo-fascist party with parliamentary representation). Apropos of this, one shouldn’t forget that not until 1973 did the Communist party condemn leftist violence against the fascists. We could say, therefore, that the confluence of the organized leftists and the Communist party and the former’s acceptance of the political institutions is the result of the anti-fascist activity since 1969. In the same way this confluence will be realized later on in the factories through the CUB (Unitary Commissions of the Base). It is exactly within the terrain of anti-fascism that the Red Brigades have a special place.

In effect then, since its beginnings, The Red Brigades is an organization which could, and wants to, take on this role of anti-fascist defence while at the same time seeking to occupy the Stalinist political vacuum opened up by the evolution of the Italian Communist party towards the “historic compromise”. It should be pointed out, however, that this relationship between the Red Brigades and the “parallel party” is neither simple nor direct. On the one hand, this ‘party’ does not constitute itself as a structure with which direct contacts or links can be established. On the other hand, not all classical Stalinists of the Communist party agree with the Red Brigades, far from it in fact: some even propose their physical liquidation and this in the name of the same logic behind the fascist danger which attracts other Stalinists to the Red Brigades! In order to understand the phenomenon of the armed struggle in Italy and the impact of a group like the Red Brigades, it is necessary to understand, first and foremost, that Stalinism and militant anti-fascism in Italian society are an expression of a political culture with considerable roots amongst the communist masses and certain popular sections, and it is to these militant principles and traditions which the Red Brigades refers itself and to which it makes its appeal in its search for a social basis for support.

The Efficacy of ‘Political Autonomy’

This said, it still remains to be understood why the Red Brigades was successful where the other groups failed. There are, in effect, a great variety of Marxist-Leninist (Maoist) groups which sought in vain to occupy this political terrain vacated by the evolution of the Italian Communist party. But only the Red Brigades had the wits to understand that it was not possible to compete with the Italian Communist party in the sense of building a party of the classic type, based on mass organizations. The Red Brigades chose another road: the creation of a military and clandestine organization, without direct links to ‘mass work’ in the traditional manner of the Maoists. From its inception, the Red Brigades considered that it would be at the military level, the level of big-time politics, in direct confrontation with the state, that the revolutionary alternative would be affirmed. This conception fitted in perfectly with the political ideology of the “parallel party”.

When the Colectivo Politico Metropolitano de Milano, later the Proletarian Left, decided, in 1968, when the student movement was still very active, to “re-define Marxism-Leninism”, it in reality took the first steps in defining the orientation of the Red Brigades, formed from that group some months later. Lotta Continua and Potere Operaio were criticized for their immediatist conception of class struggle and their defence of proletarian autonomy, as well as for their underestimation of the political dimensions of the struggle and of the political instruments capable of assuming it: in a word, the Party.

The hypothesis of a reconstruction of the party (for those groups that made this criticism) was considered possible at the military level. [7] Ten years later, the conceptions of the Red Brigades have not changed; they have merely become more precise; above all in respect to their faithfulness to Leninist principles. “The conscious and imperative project of the communist vanguard is to create the conditions of an alternative to the reigning Power, to strategically organize the revolutionary potential of the proletariat.” [8] But they have revised the typical Marxism-Leninism in the following way: by affirming that this vanguard - that is, the armed party - cannot “firmly consolidate the organization of proletarian power other than by the most rigid clandestinity.” [9] It is on this point that the armed ‘marginalist’ groups criticize the Red Brigades, accusing it of conceiving the “armed party as an organization separated from the masses.” [I0] For these groups, “the vanguard armed struggle is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the building of a politico-military organization of the proletariat. The other indispensible condition is the autonomous initiative of the masses.” [11]

Notwithstanding these inter-vanguard polemics, it is evident today that the Red Brigades strictly military and clandestine line, which refuses any mass practice, has preserved their existence within the ambient of the armed groups. And this from two points of view: security wise and politically. From the point of view of security, such a line protects their militants from exposing themselves to mass activity, be it of a union or any other type, as frequently the members of other armed groups do. This does not mean that members of the Red Brigades refuse all and any involvement in syndical activity, as we shall see, but that they refuse any identification with leftist-oriented mass activity. Politically, because in its strict clandestinity the Red Brigades is unable to judge its political efficacy through mass activity, to the contrary of other armed groups which attempt to create factory organizations linked to the armed-party, provoking factory revolts, and so on. In choosing to confront the state strictly within the framework of ‘high politics’, the Red Brigades oblige us to evaluate their efficiency through their actions against these institutions, and nothing more.

Reflux of the Workers Struggles and the Crises of Leftism

In attempting to form and implant themselves, the Red Brigades and the rest of the armed groups were able to take advantage of the historical convergence of two social phenomena. First was the Eurocommunist evolution of the Italian Communist party, about which we have already spoken, and the second was the crisis of the leftist movement which developed around 1974-75. We have just seen how for the Red Brigades, the fundamental political question is the confrontation with the state, a line which they have followed since 1968. According to the Red Brigades, leftism underestimates this ‘moment’ and, consequently, does not engage in Politics in the sense in which the Red Brigades understand it. But during this period the social movement was reaching its height and this criticism of the Red Brigades fell on deaf ears. It is only from 1974-75, with the first signs of reflux of social activity and, somewhat later, after the extinction of the ‘movement’ of 1977, that the political positions of the Red Brigades now appear as an alternative for a large number of leftists denuded of the basis of their militantism.

The years 1974-75 saw the reflux of the social movement in the factories and the consequent crisis of the extreme left. The agitation in the factories had begun to flounder; after the great upsurge of workers’ activities which produced a new unitary, organizational practice (through the CUB – Unitary Commissions of the Base), the unions began to reorganize themselves, integrated the CUB into their machinery, and absorbed or neutralized the militancy of the leftist groups. The leftists, after a brief phase of growth, gradually became institutionalized, above all through their electoralism, thinking that they could participate in political power side by side with the Italian Communist party, and in practice often supporting this party against the Christian Democrats; The Italian Communist party, now involved in the “historic compromise”, abandoned its traditional post-war oppositional role and opted for a policy of “national salvation” and for a social contract. These transformations provoked feelings of frustration and impotent anger amongst many leftists and radical factory militants. “Progressively we witnessed even our own organizations evolve towards the institutional struggle; they were becoming vaguely ‘democratic’ and increasingly dissociated from the interests of the workers…. It was then that we decided to take up the armed struggle, then the only form of struggle. This was in the autumn of 1974.” [12]

From the crisis and decomposition of groups such as Lotta Continua and Potere Operaio, a plethora of nuclei appeared which took up the armed struggle. These groups were frequently formed by factory militants, proponents of the practice of armed struggle. Today, it is possible to view this period with a little more hindsight, and already some militants - who were at the time involved in the armed struggle – have begun to develop a critique of their experience. Such a group is one from Milan which has published a text reflecting on their experience, from which we will extract extensive passages to better understand the process we have outlined.

“Recreating the origins, we can establish a close relationship between the reflux of the autonomous workers’ struggles and the formation of the Red Brigades; at the beginning of the 1970s, the unions began to reorganize and re-implant themselves in the factories. They were the proponents of an explicitly reformist practice and project.” [13] This re-emergence of union and Italian Communist party activity was evidently stronger and more rapid in the industrial regions of the North of the country, above all in Milan. This signalled the failure of the leftists whose idea was to build “a workers leadership based on the Alfa/Pirelli/Siemens” triangle, a leadership which would be based on the “hegemony of the mass worker”, a concept dear to the ‘workerist’ school. The dissolution of these groups was even further aggravated by the fact that it was precisely amidst the ranks of the “mass worker” - the new revolutionary subject to whom the ‘workerists’ attributed such a decisive anti-reformist potential - suffered in the 1970s the consequences of the reorganization of the proletariat carried out in the big industries as well as the social consequences of the crisis becoming, then, the sector of the working class quite tempted by, if not favourable to reformist unionism.

This is one reason why “Milan became the most favourable terrain on which to rekindle the hypothesis of the party”, in its armed form. The “autonomous circles”, born after the crisis of Lotta Continua and similar groups and broadened with the sterility of the ‘workerist’ current, would come to be the favoured field of the formation of the various armed groups of a ‘workerist’ stamp. These groups, confronted with the reappearance of reformist power amongst the working class, “responded with a leap forward, with the old Leninist scheme of voluntarism and the “theorization of the vanguard.” [14]

In conclusion, we can say that the years 1970-75 in Italy produced a situation which was very favourable to the proliferation of armed groups. This situation was essentially characterized by the impasse of the autonomous tendencies within the working class, by the re-emergence of reformist control over the workers, and by the frustration this produced amongst leftist militants and active workers. The armed groups of this first phase came above all from the ‘workerist’ circles, closely linked to the experience of the production line worker and very critical of the political conceptions of the Red Brigades, particularly of their idea of the armed party created from above, to which they opposed the creation of a party formed from the base, founded on workers organizations and factory nuclei. Today, however, it is evident that this latter project has not withstood the test of time. These types of groups, more easily persecuted by the police, increasingly isolated from the very workers amongst whom they stubbornly persisted to act, undermined by the dual nature of their clandestine and mass activity - and we refer only to those which have survived - are today (and particularly Prima Linea, the most well known) in the political shadow of the Red Brigades, whose military efficiency and rigid structures ineluctably came to dominate them.

Ideology and how it Functioned

By now, the reader will have a general idea of the political principles which guide the Red Brigades. Both in their vanguardist conception of the cadre party and in respect of their statist project of “socialism”, the Red Brigades can be defined as a Marxist-Leninist organization. However, in relation to the other, more orthodox Marxist-Leninist groups which, we can note in passing, accuse the Red Brigades of being manipulated by the KGB!, they differ over other questions. The principal idea of the Red Brigades analysis is that capitalism finds itself in a crisis caused by the tendency of the rate of profit to fall (a classic Marxist thesis), which will inevitably result in a confrontation between American imperialism and Russian social-imperialism. At this point, the Red Brigades modify the classic Leninist notions, which seek to transform the imperialist war into a civil war. For the Red Brigades, on the contrary, it is necessary to unleash the “class civil war” in the imperialist metropoles thus anticipating a Third World War. This political position is both influenced by the Maoist notion of the “peoples’ war” and of the “red bases”, and by the theses of the Italian ‘workerist’ school which attributes a primordial importance to the subjective factor in determining change. In the present period, “in which the principal contradiction is between the metropolitan proletariat and the imperialist bourgeoisie”, the Red Brigades regard the Christian Democrats as the party which groups “those politicians most closely related to imperialist circles.” [I5] Through the military confrontation with these “imperialist politicians” - a task which falls to the “revolutionary vanguard” – “the class struggle takes on the form of a civil war.” [16] In certain aspects, there is here a convergence between the analysis of the Red Brigades and the classic anti-fascist conceptions of the “parallel party”. Both consider that the legalist line of the Italian Communist party robs it of its ability to oppose both an eventual attack on the Soviet Union and the coming, or prior, fascist coup in Italy carried out with the collaboration of the Christian Democrats.

As for its principles of functioning, the Red Brigades obeys the laws of all military and clandestine organizations. The ideology of sacrifice and centralized discipline, hallmarks of all these organizations, are here carried to the extreme, justified by the Stalinist ideology of the party. The Red Brigades don’t hesitate to declare that it is through their activity that a “new proletarian figure” will be forged, characterized as follows: “The political identity of the revolutionary militant means, first and foremost, the party. It is through the principles, the strategy, the program and the discipline of the Party that the militant, freely and autonomously, recognizes himself.” [17] The Stalinist tradition serves as the cement of the clandestine structure, contrary to what happened within the armed groups of West Germany where the militants, marked by an anarcho-individualism, rapidly came into conflict with the principles of the clandestine military organization. [18] Unlike the members of these German groups, the Red Brigades members do not live in total clandestinity, at least not the majority of them. They also lead ‘normal’ lives, manifested, for instance, in their involvement in union activities - mainly in the Italian Communist party dominated unions where they present the image of an active, but not an extremist worker. On this question, the Red Brigades have been very much criticized by sections of the 1977 movement which attack the reactionary concept of the clandestine life and its isolation from the social movement. A certain debate has even taken place between the movement and the Red Brigades in which the latter have always refused the affirmation that their militants live separated from the masses. Generally speaking, we can say that if it is true that many members of the Red Brigades lead an integrated and ‘normal’ life (especially in their union activities), all this changes from the moment that the militant goes into total clandestinity - which after all, is the inevitable logic of this type of activity.

The experience of the Italian armed groups allows us today to have a better idea of the functioning of a Leninist-type clandestine organization inside modern society. Within these groups to discuss the political content brings into sharp relief the social relations created within it. In a public testimony published in a large circulation Italian magazine, a militant of an armed group (who is not from the Red Brigades but more likely from one of the ‘workerist’ groups) gives an account quite complete and precise, of a professional of the armed struggle.

Within these organizations, the militants are obliged “...to lead a double life and to strictly follow a certain behaviour which is the proof of their suitability as a militant; they cannot frequent political circles nor mix with comrades from the movement…. In all, they must lead a regular life… They cannot freely leave the organization, as this is a decision taken centrally….. To join the organization, the candidate has to present excellent credentials, and even then is followed during the period of his ‘apprenticeship’… Intimate personal relationships are forbidden as these are capable of causing conflicts within the organization. Living as a couple is also prohibited unless the relationship is formally celebrated….The public image of the clandestine militant has to be that of the model worker. At work… he doesn’t discuss politics.” [19]

The least we can say is that it is hardly by these means, which the clandestine organizations employ to combat the old world, that they are going to usher in the new; on the contrary, they do nothing more than perpetuate the forms of the old world.

Concerning the political principle of the armed groups, it’s not without interest to say something about their attitudes in prison. A recent testimony gives a good example of this. During a revolt in a special prison at Asinara (which ‘houses’ many members of different armed groups) an anarchist political prisoner, Horst Fantazzi, managed to send out a chronicle of the revolt which was published in the magazine Anarchismo. The prisoners’ struggle committee, under the pretext that the text wasn’t ratified by them before being sent out, expelled Fantazzi from the prisoners’ organization and marginalized him within the life of the prison. This is a concrete example of the Stalinist practice prevalent within the political prisoners’ movement, a behaviour which resembles that of the Italian Communist party during fascism when the party completely marginalized any prisoners not in complete agreement with the party.

The Armed Groups and the Communist Party:

If one takes into consideration the stabilizing role played by the Italian Communist party in the functioning of the parliamentary system and the institutions, it is therefore quite normal that the strategy of the armed groups takes account of the political line of the party and is sensitive to its tactical changes. We have already seen how the armed struggle developed in Italy in close relation to the victory of the line of the “historic compromise” within the Italian Communist party. To a certain extent, the political attitude of groups like the Red Brigades towards the Italian Communist party has changed according to the difficulties encountered by the Eurocommunist line and also according to the events unleashed by the armed struggle. From the beginning, these groups considered it necessary to carry out a political struggle against the present direction of the party – the “Berlinguer clique”. They never question the party, simply its present direction.

Basically, they consider the Italian Communist party as more of a secondary force in the tendency toward the creation of a “world imperialist state”, while they regard the Christian Democrat party as the organic expression of this tendency. Nor is the Italian Communist party viewed as the expression of a tendency of national capital in Italy with interests in the fortunes of Italian capitalism at the world level. [20] At most, it is seen as the expression of the “workers aristocracy”. Like all other Marxist-Leninist groups, the Red Brigades consider that the base of the party has been hood-winked by the Eurocommunist leadership, and think that their armed actions will cause the base to open its eyes and rediscover the ‘correct line’. The Red Brigades are quite explicit about this: “The solution will inevitably be found in the armed struggle, about which it will be necessary to take a position. The Italian Communist party itself will be involved in this process. We here reaffirm our unitary position in relation to all comrades who choose the path of the armed struggle.” [21] This attitude - which is shared by the Red Brigades and other groups of the extreme-left, such as Lotta Continua and Potere Operaio - is based on the analysis that “the deepening of the crisis and the growing class confrontation is progressively reducing the visibility of reformism. Such an analysis, however, fails to understand the historical and structural roots of reformism within the class, and views its strength only in periods of economic expansion as inherently stabilizing. This type of analysis is therefore incapable of seeing that after the period of reinforcement of the unions in the factories comes the growth of the role of the reformist party in the management of the crisis.” [22] Moreover, this underestimation of the role of reformism in periods of crisis results in “viewing the state almost exclusively in its repressive aspect.” [23]

In conclusion, “such a practice (in relation to the Italian Communist party) not only made the armed groups incapable of building an alternative to reformism inside the working class, but also left them indirectly dependent on the reformist project, in so far as their initiatives were directed against those sectors of the capitalist apparatus (the Christian Democratic party) which reformism was also attempting to marginalize. [24]

With the consequences of the Moro affair, which should be understood as an attack on the line of the “historic compromise”, the “armed party” was obliged to slightly modify its tactical attitude towards the Italian Communist party without nevertheless altering its basic analysis which we spoke of above. In fact, the Italian Communist party’s call for an “upsurge of democratic consciousness” against terrorism, its campaign of denunciation in the factories, couldn’t leave these groups indifferent, the Red Brigades above all. In their Strategic Resolution No.5, the Red Brigades take their analysis of the Eurocommunist line a little further. They denounce the Berlinguer line as “representatives of a bourgeois front” and “instruments of the imperialist state of the multinationals.” According to the Red Brigades, the Italian Communist party, in collaboration with the “union bureaucracy” has in practice denounced the revolutionary vanguard, trying to destabilize and later smash the resistance of the working class. (New Note. 24a, Strategic Resolution, no 5, Sept 78, Le Monde, 26.1.79)

In this new situation, it is no longer sufficient just to criticize and condemn Eurocommunism. It is necessary to pass to the attack. The Berlinguer line (boss of the Communist party) therefore becomes a target of the armed struggle. After a first attack on a party bureaucrat (in Genoa) in charge of the relations between the state enterprises and the Italian Communist party, the Red Brigades directly attack the denunciation policy of the party in the factories, killing, on 24.1.79, the Communist party trade unionist Guido Rossa who had informed on a Red Brigades sympathiser to the police. This new step in the confrontation with the Italian Communist party had nevertheless contradictory consequences for the strategy of the Red Brigades. In fact, the reaction of the party to this attack was very rapid and the whole of the party apparatus was mobilized in a reaction of self-defence. If up to now we could affirm that the actions of the Red Brigades always had the goal of putting the Eurocommunist line into difficulties, this time with the killing of Rossa, the consequences have been quite the contrary. The action was understood as an attack on the party as such and unified the whole bureaucracy---around the apparatus. For the first time, there was no convergence between the objectives of the Red Brigades and those of the “parallel party.”

The Relapse of the Movement of 1977

The events of 1977 shook the Italian extreme-left more than once, as well as the armed groups. It is necessary to understand, however, that this movement had quite specific characteristics. [25] On the one hand, it spread mainly among the youth, especially the socially marginalized, but also demonstrated a quite sophisticated political nous, capable of alternating violence with the satirization of reformist institutions and those of the state. Nevertheless, this movement quickly reached a political and an organizational impasse. The assemblies which were the organizational form of this movement were unable to extend beyond the student and marginal milieu.

The attitude of the Italian Communist party also had an important bearing on this outcome. The Italian Communist party never attempted: to recuperate the movement but, on the contrary, did everything possible to confront it from the beginning (recall, for instance, the incident with the general-secretary of the CGIL union, Lama, at Rome University [x] and to isolate it from the working class. A part of the movement reacted strongly against this isolation, expressing its frustration by introducing new analytical concepts to deal with the situation. The “socialised worker” and the “diffuse factory” were the concepts through which they sought to give expression to a new revolutionary subject, after the failure of the political project based on the “mass worker” of the 1960s.

This situation further aggravated the crisis of the radical factory militants who, very marked by a “workerist’ subjectivism” were forced to recognize their impotency in introducing the new discourse of the movement into the factories. Once more, and after a period during which they had been overtaken, the armed groups rediscovered a favourable terrain for recruitment. The Red Brigades regarded the movement of 1977 as a type of non-political agitation, concerned only with defensive actions. They did not, for instance, hide their disagreement over the street clashes; according to them, the confrontation with the state must be led by the Party, and only at an institutional level. As Sergio Bologna points out, non-political activities can in no way “influence the institutional balance, nor the machinery of the government, of the state. The Red Brigades, in the way they conducted their Turin trial and the Moro kidnapping, demonstrated to the left-wing workers and to the movement of 1977 their inability to act politically, i.e., to have any influence at the institutional level.” [26] Even though this is a demonstration of the Red Brigades purely bourgeois conception of politics, the fact remains that a part of the movement of 1977, above all the more violent autonomous wing, accepted these criticisms of the Red Brigades as correct, and associated itself to the positions of the armed groups, and in particular to those of the Red Brigades. It was not by chance, we may add, that the Moro kidnapping occurred immediately after the failure and break-up of the movement of 1977; quite the reverse, as the moment was well chosen by the Red Brigades to demonstrate their political efficiency, their capacity to act at the level of the institutions, to the contrary of that of a crisis ridden left, of the movement and of the autonomists.

But, by and large, it wasn’t such a great break for all those militants who passed from the autonomous movement into the armed groups. On the contrary, there is a certain invariability in their Leninist conceptions of political action, of political power and of revolution. Enzo Modugno, of the review Marxiana, clearly pointed this out when, in 1977, he criticized those who wanted to exclude the P.38 (gun toting) autonomists from the movement: “It is necessary to understand the reasons why these individuals resort to the gun. These autonomous groups cannot be reduced to three or four homicidally inclined youths; …. what is today called the ideology of the P.38 was only yesterday the political line of the revolutionary parties.” [27]

The Red Brigades and Workers’ Self-Organisation

Before dealing with the consequences that the actions of the Red Brigades and the armed groups have had on the workers movement, two points should be made clear. Firstly, many members of the Red Brigades are, evidently, workers. However, this is not the criterion by which we consider the Red Brigades to be “separated (or not) from the working class.” We consider the Red Brigades to be the particular and momentary expression of a traditional tendency of the Italian workers’ movement, the Stalinist tendency. Secondly, it is important to understand the Red Brigades position of the process of self-organization which dominated the Italian workers experience from the end of the 1960s. Basically, the Red Brigades consider all and any work-place struggle to be defensive, lacking in any political content (in the institutional sense). The only political actions are those which are part of the “Offensive Movement of Proletarian Resistance,” that is, those which have a “politico-military content.” [28] Based on this extremely militarist conception of political activity, the Red Brigades reject any expression of autonomous factory organization as a manifestation of “centrism” (note the typically Stalinist terminology). To these autonomous factory organizations, the Red Brigades oppose the idea of “organs of the proletarian state.” [29] Here in a nutshell is an entire political programme in perspective. Thus, when the Red Brigades take a position on the CUB, they do so to warn the masses that these organizations can only be “intermediary organs” (which, as it happens, is also the position of the Italian Communist party and the unions), which will “not be able to assume the armed struggle.” [30]

In conclusion, and to refer again to the reflection of the Milan comrades, “the Red Brigades essentially reproduce the Leninist conception of the separation between strategy and tactics, between the ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ moment of the armed struggle….. This is why the Red Brigades don’t hesitate to withdraw their most capable sympathizers from the factories and turn them into professional cadre organizers, leaving the rest of their followers in the factories to attempt to radicalize the union struggles,”[31] according to the famous indications from Lenin’s What is to be Done?

The Reaction of the Workers re the Moro Affair

In describing the immediate reaction of the popular masses, and in particular that of the workers, to recent events, we will schematically consider three aspects of the situation.

1. In the present social and economic crisis, a large part of the working class feels an insecurity provoked by the worsening of their living standards. This sentiment is projected - and channelled by the state - into a demand for order and social stability, for the repression of delinquency and the armed groups.

2. It was in such an atmosphere that the political parties and the mass-media, as well as the state’s ideological apparatus, could organize demonstrations protesting against Moro’s death. For its part, the left condemned the Red Brigades on two counts. On the one hand, it evoked the danger of a fascist coup, thus resurrecting the old anti-fascist sentiments; on the other hand, employing the well-worn ideology which presents the police as ‘workers’, it tried to appeal to peoples’ emotions over the five police agents shot dead during Moro’s kidnapping. The truth is that the demonstrations which took place were the expression of a total mobilization of political society. Even sectors of the population not normally disposed to act politically joined in, such as small shopkeepers who closed their doors. In many factories, workers were paid during the strike in protest at Moro’s death. But we should also point out that many people who came onto the streets did so neither to praise Moro nor to bury the Red Brigades, but simply to express their feelings of confusion about the event.

3. In the following days, all this created a feeling of unease among many factory militants, even among activists of the union left and of the political groups who did not identify themselves with the climate of national unity that the political parties sought to create around the event. This uneasiness was expressed, for example, in Milan, over a proposed demonstration against the murder of two militants of Autonomia, killed by the police (or by fascists) after Moro’s assassination. In the Milan factories, there was a big debate on whether or not to strike and join the demonstration. Despite the opposition of the Italian Communist party, the workers and the CUB ended up massively participating; for many, though, this was justified by the fact that they had already demonstrated in favour of Moro! In any event, more than 100,000 people, almost as many as for Moro’s burial, came onto the streets, and it was well evident that the demonstration carried an implicit criticism of the Sacred Union desired by the Italian Communist party.

The Italian Communist party and the Criminalization of the Autonomous Movement among the Workers

Following on the heels of the Moro case, the Italian Communist party attempted to profit from the general mood of confusion to witch-hunt the radical factory nuclei and to tighten up its control over the working class in general. But this policy met with little success, mainly because the workers themselves did not support it. The right and the left within the unions also reacted against this policy as both feared that it would allow the Italian Communist party to irreversibly reinforce its repressive power within the factories. The union right maintained that only the state should exercise the function of repression, while the left, fearing that its own members might be caught up in the Italian Communist party hunt for extremists, opposed any wave of repression in the factories, though they nevertheless clearly distanced themselves from the Red Brigades. But where the Italian Communist party came unstuck was in its attempt to tar the radical factory nuclei with the brush of the Red Brigades

But where the line of the Italian Communist party could have more dangerous consequences is in accusing groups of radical workers as being potential members of the Red Brigades. In general, in those factories where the Italian Communist party is well implanted, the workers have rejected this attempt at criminalization and denunciation refusing, as they say in Italy, “to become the state”, to internally police the factories. Only some bureaucrats from the communist union apparatus have in fact dared to denounce to the police some sympathizers of the armed groups, as in the case of Guido Rossa at Genoa, murdered later on by the Red Brigades. Nevertheless, there have been cases where the Communist party has achieved positive results in its crusade against the activities of the extra-union militants. A good example is what happened to an autonomous workers’ collective at the port of Genoa. After distributing a leaflet entitled “Neither the Red Brigades nor the State”, this group was violently denounced by the Italian Communist party as “brigatisti”, which led to its isolation and political weakness. One should recall that since 1977, this group had achieved a certain implantation in the port, previously an untouchable fiefdom of the Communist party since the Second World War.

At the same time, however, reformism made other uses of the anti-terrorist cry, above all employing it as a stick with which to beat any combativity in the factories. But here as well, the results were not so wonderful for the Italian Communist party, at least in the cases we know of. In SIP (National Telephone Company), in Milan, during a general assembly of workers intended to ratify the wage contract (May 1978), the union put this recipe to the test. After the habitual politicking, the bureaucracy tried on the anti-Red Brigades, pro-national unity line, thereby attempting to justify the need for “a reasonable attitude in this period of crisis” - and the workers’ reaction was straight to the point: “we don’t give a fuck about these stories; we’re here to talk about something entirely different, about our concrete situation as wage labourers.” This case exemplifies the attitude of the mass of workers in relation to the Red Brigades: not only do they fail to see what all this military activity has to do with them, but, above all, they also recognize that all of the political forces are making capital out of more difficulty in calling protest strikes whenever an armed it, from the Italian Communist party to the Christian Democrats. For the workers, it is all Politics with a capital P, in the traditional sense - that is, exactly the way in which the Red Brigades understand it: an activity completely separated from the workers, from the conditions of their existence, from their problems and struggles. It is moreover significant that the unions now have much action is carried out. As one worker said to some journalists during one of these strikes, “Will you journalists go on strike if they kill me?”, or, “Now that they’re knocking off one a day, I won’t have much of a wage at the end of month if we go on strike for all of them.” [32]

And in January 1979 when the Communist party called a protest strike against the killing of Rossa by the Red Brigades, 300 out of the 6000 workers at Alfa Romeo in Milan stayed at home on sick leave (and for many days after the strike) in a striking manifestation of wanting to separate their interests from those of the party and above all of their refusal of such political strikes. Nevertheless, in one respect, the simplest slogan of the Red Brigades is quite well received by the popular masses, when they insist that “those responsible for the difficult situation of the people are the corrupt politicians of the Christian Democrat.” This slogan was in fact used by the Italian Communist party for many years. Further, in relation to the Red Brigades, the workers very often manifest an attitude of expectation, seeing them as those who can “do justice for us”, beating the corrupt politician, the hated foremen, the exploiting boss. All of this makes it even more evident how substitutionist these type of actions are.

Today in Italy in the present social situation, and after some years during which its control was severely weakened by the development of the autonomous struggles of the workers, reformism has returned to dominate the scene, including the factories. It is true that oppositional tendencies still confront the line of “national sacrifice”, but these nuclei of contestation, above all in the service sector, by and large feed off the demagogic and unsophisticated way in which the Italian Communist party presents its policy of “historic compromise” and “national salvation”.

The recent surge of strikes in the service sector can be explained above all by the low level of wages paid in this sector. The rate of unionization is very low and the struggles tend to go beyond the control of the union bureaucracies giving rise to strong autonomous organizations such as those which appeared during the Italy-wide hospital strike in 1978. The Communist party is opposed to these strikes which it describes as “sectoralist” (see the French review Spartacus, no 13).

As the economic crisis deepens, fear conquers a growing number of workers (though this does not mean that the situation could not change rapidly); and, more than the political spectacle offered by the Red Brigades, it is the actions carried out by the armed ‘workerist’ groups which run the risk of reinforcing that fear, facilitating the acceptance of the reformist project. The case of Alfa-Romeo in Milan is worth considering in this respect. This enormous factory, the stronghold of workers’ agitation since 1969, is something of a barometer of the Milanese working class. An autonomous workers’ collective is active inside the factory and has led some important struggles. [33] But some time ago, the situation began to change for the worse. When the factory management decided to re-establish compulsory overtime, the autonomous collective responded by mounting pickets at the factory gates [34] their action, however, was not well received and they failed to carry the majority of the workers with them. For the first time ever, some Italian Communist party heavies tried to expel the workers of the collective from the factory. Shortly afterwards, an armed group sabotaged the machinery. The workers, in response, fearing that they would lose their jobs because of the risk of the factory closing down [35], showed themselves less hostile to the union policy of sacrifices. To recover production lost because of the sabotage, the workers agreed to work an extra Saturday, a new and bad sign, which indicates how the mood is changing. [36]

Some Conclusions

The radical factory collectives which still exist, more or less throughout Italy, have only just begun to discuss in political terms, though hesitantly, the question of terrorism. Their main and immediate problem is to defend themselves against the attempts of the Italian Communist party to outlaw them. Thus far, they have done so by exploiting the contradictions of the Italian Communist party, its changes in attitude towards the Christian Democrats, by refusing to discuss the question of the armed groups with the party, and by opposing the question of the workers living conditions to that of the “danger of terrorism”. Nevertheless, many workers collectives have already explicitly criticized the armed groups and their adverse effects on revolutionary activities in the factories, attacking in particular the “substitutionist character” of their actions’ [37] in relation to mass activity. But these collectives are in the main yet to discuss the principles on which the armed groups base their existence and their activities, and have also little discussed the problem of the state and its relation to revolutionary activity. In this respect, we can consider that the echo found by political terrorism in Italy among many militants who came from the Leninist left was due, in large part, to the inability of this current to deal with the problem of the state and its relation to mass activity. Each time that the social movement had to confront the state, in 1972 and again in 1977, leftism could only find an electoralist response, and it was then that the Red Brigades could present themselves as ‘effective’, as capable of political action. It is in this sense that we can say that the relation between the radical factory nuclei on the one hand and the Red Brigades and the armed groups on the other, is the reflex of the impotence that the former feel in relation to the reigning social reality, above all in the factories. In the same way, “the experience of armed struggle expressed and still expresses, for a part of the proletariat, the need to exorcise this necessity through resorting to tactical means, but to locate it within the worker himself, since only when this necessity is expressed through a process of self-organization will it then have a role, not one based on strictly political objectives like that of the confrontation with the state, but on the process of the growth of class power.” [38]

If an autonomously based workers’ activity capable of introducing a new political discussion into the workers movement does not appear, then it is likely, in the immediate future, that Italy will see a polarization of the confrontation between reformism and terrorism. In the long term, however, this option will be revealed for what it already is - a false option. Even if during the period of crisis the reformist workers organizations were unable to control the demand struggles, we don’t believe it a possibility that the terrorist organizations could substitute them or even surpass them, because of their complete preoccupation with the political struggle at the institutional level. At the end of the day, even the armed groups base their political future on the passivity of the masses. With the reflux of the autonomous struggles, they no doubt hope that the workers will lose their ‘illusions’ about reformism, but quite simply so that they will reap any benefits. The Italian example quite clearly demonstrates that all leftist terrorism asks of the workers is an attitude of blind and passive trust in the armed party: the eternal application of the law of least effort in the class struggle.

If there are workers who project onto the Red Brigades their impotent hatred of the capitalist system, the Red Brigades, in exchange – and the same goes for the rest of the armed groups – considering their principles and activities, can in no way provide the working class with any new or useful means in their task of radically transforming society and in their struggle for the emancipation from wage labour.

Colectivo: Florence/Lisbon June-August 1978

(Translated by Phil Meyler and Stuart Wise: Early 1979)

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NOTES

1. Monicelli, L’Ulttrasinistra en Italia – 1968-78, Tempi Nuovi Laterza, 1978, pp.160-61.

2. Le Monde, 9/10-7-1978

3. Italian ‘workerism’: political tendency which appeared in the 1960s around the review Quaderni Rossi, later Classe Operaia, whose most well known theoreticians were Tronti, Cacciari, A. Rosa, Negri, Scalzone and Bologna. Tronti’s book “Workers and Capital” (several chapters of which have appeared in various numbers of the North American review Telos) is the basic text of this current, which had a strong influence on the Italian extreme left in the 1960s and 1970s and on groups such as Potere Operaio. Its political project was based on the importance given to the “subjective factor in the modification of situations and on the mass worker” a concept elaborated from the experiences of the Southern immigrant workers struggles in the factories of the North. The recent evolution of the majority of these theoreticians clearly shows the Leninist foundations of their theories. Tronti, A. Rosa and Cacciari have joined the Italian Communist party and are today part of this party’s ideological apparatus. Negri and Scalzone have a significant influence over the neo-Leninist tendency of Autonomia Orsanizada (whose journals are Rosso and Senza Tregua). Only Sergio Bologna and the group around the review Primo Maggio have opened themselves to a critique of Leninism. In his last text, L’Autonomia del Politico, Tronti criticizes leftism and takes up the defence of the Eurocommunist conceptions of the state, which he characterizes as “…nothing more nor less than the modern form of the autonomous organization of the class…”

* This term is used in a generic sense in Italy to denote a number of organizations, collectives or individuals of the extra-parliamentary left.

4. Monicelli, op.cit, p.160.

** Irregular, off the cards work with even worse conditions than usual. Involves a considerable number of workers.

5. Monicelli, op.cit., p.164.

*** Camillo Berneri (1897-1937), Italian anarchist militant, killed in Barcelona by the Stalinists during the May days of 1937.

6. It is convenient to note here that Italy is the European country which possesses both the strongest Communist party and the strongest fascist party, the MSI.

**** Feltrinelli was a publisher of the extreme left killed in 1972 during a bombing in which he was participating. Pirelli is from the famous family tyre company/calendar manufacturers.

7. Collective text, “Note sul’esperienza di lotta armata”, Collegamenti, no.3-4, Milan, May 1978.

8. Brigate Rosse, “Risoluzione della direzione strategic delle BR”, in “Moro, Una Tragedia Italiana,” Ed. Saggi, 1978, pp. l03 and 106.

9. Ibid.

10. “Parla un terrorista”, interview with a member of an armed group, Panorama , 6.6.1978.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. “Note sul “esperienza di lotta armata”, op.cit.

14. Ibid.

15. “Risoluzione della direzione strategica delle BR”, op. cit., pp.51-54.

16. Ibid , p. 66

17. Ibid, p. 68.

18. Cf. the experience of the June 2nd Movement told by Bommi Baumann in “Wie Alles –Anfing”, (“How it all Began”). There is a Canadian version of this book - a very useful account of the radical movement in W. Germany. (The English edition was published in the late 1970s).

19. “Parla un terrorista”, op.cit.

20. The National League of Cooperatives, which includes firms from a number of sectors, including agriculture, commerce and building, controlled by the Italian Communist party, is today the third largest economic group in Italy. Have investments in other countries, above all in the Third World.

21. Interview with the Red Brigades in Espresso, Sept. 1971, published by the Autonomous Collective of Turin, in “Terrorismo di partito o organizazione autonoma dei proletari,” Todi, May 1978.

22. “Note sul’esperienza” op.cit.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid

24a Strategic Resolution No 5 Sept 1978, Le Monde, 26.

25 See in particular a text of Bologna, “La tribu delle talpe”, in Primo Maggio, no. 8.

x , See Subversao Internacional, No 2, pp 27-29 Lisboa, Codex

26. S. Bologna, text on the BR. Unpublished, but circulates in Milan amongst radical political circles.

27. Monicelli, op.cit. p.15l.

28. “Risoluzione della ••• “, op.cit. p. 95.

29. “2nd Documento delle BR”, Jan. 1973, republished by the Autonomous Collective of Turin, op.cit.

30. “Risoluzione della •••”, op. cit.

31. “Note sul’esperienza”, op. cit.

32. Monicelli, op. cit., pp.183 and 185.

33. See articles on Italy in nos. 9 and 10 of the review Spartacus, Paris, 1978.

34. Cf. “Le Singulier role du PCI”, in Spartacus, No. l0.

35. One of the bombings, apparently carried out by a group which didn’t know the factory, had very bad consequences for the workers.

36 .La Republica, 11-12-6. 1978.

37. “Note sul’esperienza ••• “, op.cit.

38. Ibid.

FIM

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The rich publisher, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli of the Feltrinelli Editore company: Died 15. 30 hours, March 1972


(Feltrinelli with wife, kids and an obligatory Che Guevara)

The Feltrinelli case can truly be considered the initial episode of that dramatic interweaving of events that leads up to the present tragedy. Not only because Giangiacomo Feltrenelli is one of the progenitors of today’s terrorist groups but also because some hours after his death on the electric pylon in Segrate an entire operation distorting the facts began (carried out unfortunately by the progressive democratic intelligentsia and by all the left wing) that has retarded all consciousness of the truth.

- On March 17th 1972 a manifesto signed by the student movement and by some intellectuals asserts that “Giangiacomo Feltrinelli has been assassinated.” No-one could ever suppose that a man like Feltrinelli (even if ideologically confused) would clamber about on a pylon at night placing a bomb two hundred metres from a branch of his publishing house. But it was so and those who could admit it even then were many. “It was no surprise for several of us to realize what Giangiacamo was proceeding to get up to” a relative told me today.

To realize more or less at once that for more than two years Giangiacomo had become a clandestine guerilla there were before all else those who were the closet to him: his wife Sibillo Melega, his ex-wife Inge (now vice president of Feltrinelli) and the closest contributors to the publishing house. Giangiacomo even when he changed to being “Osraldo” (one of his battle names) and was organizing GAP had continued in fact to maintain contact with people he trusted and made use of. With him the dividing line between private life and clandestine activity was not clearly defined. Of those who knew of his activity or had good reason to suspect it there were besides, naturally, other groups involved in armed struggle (essentially the Red Brigades) the leaders of extra-parliamentary groups not only Potere Operaio, but Lotta Continua, the Marxist-Leninist movement, the Milanese student movement, and also some old partisans belonging to ANPI (also some national leaders) several lawyers from Soccorso Rosso (Red Help) and the left in general, some journalists and so forth.

A 1ittle after the event the representatives of the extra-parliamentary groups met in the offices of Potere Operaio in the Via del Boschetto in Rome to decide what position to adopt. Besides those belonging to Potere Operaio, there was LottaContinua, Il Manifesto, Soccorso Rosso and some belonging to the student movement. Lotta Continua and Il Manifesto, for reasons of political opportunism decided it was better to let Giangiacomo’s death be the state’s responsibility - as it was too risky to admit publicly that armed struggle was one of the choices open to the extreme left - preferred to avail themselves of a conspiracy theory. Only Potere Operiao chose to air the truth saying “A revolutionary has fallen” which was the whole page headline of the group’s periodical and in the article dedicated to the dead editor it was clearly stated, “Feltrinelli was a member of GAP.” (Partisan Action Groups –TN) How had he become so?

------During the period immediately following world war two, the young Feltrinelli was brought up in the cult of the ideals of partisan warfare. Also he was much attracted to the forms of warfare this type of struggle utilized. He wanted to get to know them “thoroughly”. He sorted out relations with men belonging to the paramilitary apparatus of the Italian Communist party. A firm friendship with Pietro Secchia sprung up which continued developing through alternate phases of his life. Then bit by bit his cultural interest prevailed. In 1948 on the advice of Togliatti (the CP boss) he founded the Institute for Research on Socialist History. Then the Party put him in charge of organizing the “popular book co-op'” (in which he had invested money) which was a collection which sort to provide material for the historico/political organisation of Italian Communist party cadres. In 1955 Feltrinelli founded his publishing company. In 1957 he took the decision to publish Dr Zhivago, which was circulating secretly in manuscript form in Russia. The Russians officially warned Feltrinelli not to publish but he disobeyed them: that meant breaking with the Soviet Union and with the Italian Communist party and he was sternly rebuked on the side by Secchia himself.

A period of separation from political activity followed during which his job as an editor pure and simple prevailed. But Cuba soon arrived. From here began that winding road---that led him to choose to be a guerrilla, to GAP, to the guerrilla foray. From 1963 to 1967 Feltrinelli was primarily interested in Cuba intending to publish Castro’s memoirs. But after lengthy negotiations and a long wait the memoirs were not forthcoming and Fidel returned the favour ceding to the editor the Italian rights to the Tricontinental review. So Cuba and Castro from a publishing interest had become for FeItrinelli a political interest and a visiting card in order to create links with the nascent European extra-parliamentary groups.

Feltrinelli was probably the first person to believe in the possibility of armed struggle in Italy. Even in 1965-66 when he was going to and fro between Cuba and Italy he was trying to gather supporters to his cause. At the start his mouthpieces were ethnic minorities, immigrants, marginals like shepherds and the banditti of Sardinia. His first model was that of the rural guerilla, a sort of Castro Guevarist projection on Italy. He pictured transforming the Sardinian banditry into an “anti -colonial guerrilla force.” He published the booklet of an independent (autonomista) Sardinian leader (signed with the pseudonym “Copiza”) and managed to make several journeys to the island meeting secretly the bandit Mesina to whom he suggested more or less that he become the Guevara of Genmargentu.

So the era of contestation had arrived. It was 1968. Giangiacomo who spoke five languages fluently contacted in Germany Hieinrich Lefebvre and Jurgen Krohol the student leaders of the Cologne SDS and Rudi Deutschke and Peter Sneider of the Berlin SDS and he became the first to publish their essays. During May '68 he was in Paris where he got to know Cohn Bendit.Sauvegeat, Krivine and other barricade leaders (jeez what a creep the guy is -TN). In between 1968 and 1969 he got to know Brandirolli, Scalzone, Sofri, Negri, Piperno, Bologna, Rostagno, Capanna and so on. In “Linea di massa” a series created for that purpose he published their writings. He also participated in the first workers base committee published the first CUB (Comitato Unitario di Base) document in Pirelli, helped in June 1969 organizing the Fiat strike and participated in the demonstration at Turin in the Corso Traiano and one of the fiercest episodes of the “Hot Autumn.”

Contemporary with the first moves in the strategy of tension the conviction grew on him of the need to do something quickly, to resist the anti-democratic regression and creeping coup. He felt ready to take aim immediately and in away did so after the incident at the Milan Fair on April 25th 1969 when his friends in the Corradini anarchist group were incriminated and investigators tried to criminally involve him. In the summer of 1969 he wrote a pamphlet in which he expressed for the first time with great clarity and conviction that the only form of effective struggle against an immanent coup d’etat was a clandestine struggle. --------- From that moment hence, his contacts with ex partisans, with the old “gappisti” with ex militants of the “Red Flying Squads” (Volante Rossa) and with extra parliamentarian groups multiplied, criticizing them for not taking up a clandestine struggle. So we arrive at the beginning of 1970: in Trento, Milan, Turin and Genoa the ex-editor creates the GAP network. Amongst them there are also some workers recruited above all from amongst emigrants. Giangiacomo Oswaldo is the only real co-ordinator of its activity. In this coordinating task he availed himself of some unknown collaborators. From a group of mathematicians he made use of a code constructing a second method which hasn’t been decoded yet by the investigators. A great one for centralizing, only he knew the GAP members who were fragmented in various brigades and groups: the Canossi Brigade in Milan, Dante di Nanni Brigade in Turin, the Genoan cell incorporating the pre-existent “22 of October” (Rossi Viel etc.). The Canossi Brigade (taking its name from a worker who died at work) carried out a series of raids against Milanese building firms where deaths had occurred. The Dante di Nanni together with the Trentino Brigade became specialists in anti fascist struggle.

In Genoa the idea was born that immediately pleased the leader of GAP: a private radio station jamming TV programmes. A “formidable alternative use of the mass media”, Feltinelli maintained. The first private radio transmission asked people to go out on the streets and interrupt the local council. This technique also interested Potere Operaio: on Tiburtino TV and San Lorenzo in Rome slogans came through on the housing problem and against rents. (“Squat, don’t pay rents”).

Now really on the brink of armed struggle at the beginning of 1971 Feltrinelli sort very close contact with the Red Brigades and with the paramilitary wings of some extra parliamentary groups. He wrote to all of them. He sent organizational and military propositions and rough drafts of “joint declarations”. He was convinced that the only way of unifying groups with diverse viewpoints was the bringing about of unity at the military level. Along these lines he proposed a series of projects and programs to representatives from other groups. He held frequent clandestine meetings in Genoa, Milan, Rome and also in his villa in Oberhof in Austria. He wrote to the mysterious “Scietta” (a brigadista or an ex partisan leader from some other group). He also wrote to Curcio (one letter certainly and maybe several more) presenting him with a joint program.(Curcio was a big shot in the Red Brigades –TN). But he received essentially negative replies from the Red Brigades. The Red Brigades did not trust his experience of politics or organizationally and preferred to retain relations on the level of logistics (false documents, cars, bases etc). But they rejected any military alliance.

His proposals for collaborating with the union (Marxist/Leninist), Lotta Continua and Potere Operaio fared no better. With the last named group he came to an understanding at the editorial level producing the magazine “Campagni”: it did not continue after the first number because of a disagreement between the workerist stance (that aimed at “mass illegality”) and the “spark” line of Feltrinelli who put down the creation of small nuclei of guerrillas before all else.

In the meantime Feltrinelli continued to develop his international contacts; above all with the Cubans, the Uruguayan Tupamoros, the German SDS, “Konkret,” the new left periodical and the nascent Baader Meinhof and Arafat and Habbashe’s Palestinians. At the end of 1970 he translated the first German RAF documents on the urban guerrilla called “The elephant and the banana” and circulated them amongst Italian groups. Immediately afterwards he made a journey to Libya (and perhaps Jordan) on the invitation of the Palestinian leaders. In the summer of 1971 he was in Uruguay (via Cuba) where he met the Tupamaros. On his return he held various meetings to report his contacts to Red Brigades leaders, Lotta Continua and the union (Marxist/Leninist). He made several journeys to Czechoslavakia where he got to know some ex members of the Moranini group “exiled” in Prague. He also went to Paris where along with some old artisans who were expert at falsifying documents he frequented Spanish Communist party circles.

All this naturally-------cost money. A lot has been said on the relation the revolutionary Feltrinelli had with money. In reality it was a complex relationship and although he wasn’t mean he continually feared being used and taken into consideration only because of his money. To his closest collaborators in GAP he gave a monthly salary of 200 thousand lira (About a £100 per week – possibly more). He also financially helped in the setting up of other armed groups but firmly believed in the necessity of self-financing by legal or illegal means. He had been one of the first to support expropriations and defended the ‘political’ worth of operations like the kidnapping of Gadolla carried out by the 22nd of October Group with the aid of ordinary criminals. On this issue he wrote a letter to some papers which was not published. He used to help extra parliamentary groups by acquiring thousands of copies of their papers and distributing them free through his firm. Besides the famous account registered in the name of Robinson Crusoe opened in Switzerland and by the Genoa GAP, Feltrinelli had deposited, always in Switzerland another small sum of money to be used by clandestine militants in case of emergency. In Italy he had consigned over to a lawyer the sum of 64 million lira with the aim of restructuring Soccorso Rossa in order to guarantee a defense for “comrades committed to armed struggle”.

--The guerilla/editor was approaching his tragic end. - - - - - - - Feltrinelli had already participated in various operations but he had never personally installed an explosive charge, He had decided that the 14th March was to be his ordeal by fire, he wanted to prove himself - above all to himself - that in future he could do it by himself. In the afternoon in the backroom of a small artisan workshop which he had bought, Feltrinelli with five or six others prepared the explosive devise. Work proceeded cautiously. They finished late as regards the schedule. Three left for Gaggiano. Feltrinelli with three other comrades set off for Segrate in a van and a car. Having arrived at the spot one of them remained in the car whilst the other two helped Feltrinelli to fix the charges on the pylon. They were two youths who had just been enrolled in GAP by an old Communist worker who had been given the name of Gunther and it was Gunter in person who furnished me with this reconstruction of the events. The explosion that tore the editor to pieces gravely wounded one of the two other youths in the leg and punctured the others eardrum. They hurriedly turned towards Milan leaving spots of blood on the seat. The third that had remained in the car believing them all to be dead raced off to Milan to meet the others returning from Gaggiano.

(An article inserted merely inserted for its interesting details, from L’Espresso, 25th February 1979. Translated by Stuart Wise)


See Webs below for the rest of the trilogy:

Part 1. Situ Reorientation Debate. Never work(ing) worker. Mayakovsky.Tatlin

Part 3. Situ Reorientation Debate 1970. Jean's strike