Terrorism in Italy

Report Europe

Terrorism in Italy

March 27, 1978 19 min read Download Report
Vittorfranco Pisano
Policy Analyst

(Archived document, may contain errors)

56 March 27, 1978 TERRORISM IN /TAL Y On March 13, 1978, following a governmental crisis which lasted two months, Italy's relative majority Christian Democratic Party was finally able to form the nation's fortieth government since the fall of Fascism on July.25, 1943, or the nation's thirty-first government under the Republican Constitution of December 22, 1947.

The newly-formed cabinet, which is totally composed of Christian Demo cratic ministers, enjoys the f orma1 parliamentary support of the Italian Communist Party (PCI). This is the first time since May, 1947 that the PCI has afficially backed an Italian cabinet. By granting its vote of confidence in both Chambers of Parliamen t , the PCI has now become a member of the parliamentary majority. Although there have been several instances of cooperation between the Christian Democrats and the Communists since 1944, the entry of the PCI into the parliamentary majority represents a tur n in Italian politics The circumstances and considerations which have led the PCI for the first time in thirty years to grant the vote of confidence to a Christian Democratic cabinet and the latter to accept Communist sup port are varied and complex. Apart from the subjective strategic considerations peculiar to each of these parties, objective conditions of national significance appear to have played a 'considerable role in bringing about this development, which contradicts the logic of con frontation betw e en the traditional Christian Democratic and Communist platforms. These objective conditions include the primary evils with which 'Italy must increasingly contend: political instability, economic crisis, and sociological problems, foremost among which is t h e mounting outburst of common crime and political violence. 2 Although politically.motivated violence is necessarily tied to the political, economic, and social conditions that concur in shaping present-day Italy it is nonetheless the most visible and dis q uieting factor affecting the daily life of every Italian citizen. It may be argued that on a physical and material level not all citizens are equally affected by terrorism; however its psychological consequences are deeply felt by the entire community The feeling of helplessness in the face df a force which aims at striking at the-"heart of the state" is likely to engender a popular belief that only a broad coalition of national forces can combat ter rorism an absolute requirement, its implementation shoul d be carefully studied to foreclose artificial and contradictory political alliances While a national resolve to remove this cancerous growth is Before delving into the impact of terrorism on the Italian politi cal scene, it is worthwhile to examine the na t ure and extent of the terrorist presence in Italy. For this purpose it is sufficient to adopt an elementary. dictionary definition of the term terrorism: the political use of terror and intimidation.l THE INCIDENCE OF TERRORISM On March 16, 1978, several h ours before the present Italian government received parliamentary approval, former Premier and current Chairman of the Christian Democratic Party Aldo Moro was abducted on his way to the Chamber of Deputies, where he was to participate in the vote of conf i dence. His abduction took place after five members of his police escort were shot to death This urban guerrilla operation was conducted with great precision and attention to detail, so much so that even the telephone lines in the immediate area were sabot a ged to facilitate the escape. This professionally executed operation was the work of a leftist revolutionary group which calls itself the Red Brigades. 2 Only a few days earlier, on March 10, the same group had shot and I killed a policeman to protest the trial in the city of Turin of fif- teen members of the Red Brigades, including the group's founder Renato Curcio.3 the Red Brigades on the previous day to the jurors sitting on the trial. 4 The policeman's killing followed a warning given by 1. The Americ an Dictionary of the.Ehglish Language, New York: Dell Publishing Co Inc 1974 2. S. Gilbert Terrorists in Italy Kidnap Moro, Kill Five The Washington Post March 17, 19

78. Also see FBIS Cable Traffic, March 16, 1978 3. Corriere della Sera, March 11, 1978, p . 1 (Milan 4. mrriere della Sera, March 10, 1978 p. 1 (Milan). 3 The abduction of Mor0 is the most recent and perhaps the most spectacular of a long series of episodes of terrorism whose escala tion has reached unprecedented proportions during the last th r ee years. This trend, however, was already predictable in the late 1960's. Not only had the terrorist bombing of a Milan bank caused the death of fourteen persons in 1969, but also, on December 22 of the following year, the Prefect of Milan, who represent s the Ministry of the Interior (responsible for law and order) in the Milan Province had forwarded a classified report to his superiors in Rome indicating that there were twenty thousand potentia1,terrorists in his area of jurisdiction belonging to extremi s t factions of the left and of the right. However, considerations of a political nature caused the Prefect's warning to go unheeded. Moreover, L'Unita, the official daily of the PCI, termed th Prefect's report "provocatory" and called for .his resignation. f As opposed to the 164 separate incidents of terrorism which took place in Italy in 1968, 2,200 were recorded during calendar year 1977.6 political violence and 21 intimidatory shootings in the legs just in the first six months of the year. I January, 19 7 8 alone, there were six politically motivated homicides.q judge was shot and killed by the Red BrigadesO8 The 1977 figures include eighteen killings resultin'g from In February, a Supreme Court During this ten-year time frame, the most common targets of t e rrorist activity in Italy have included politicians, magistrates lawyers, police officials, journalists, professors, executives and supervisors as well as party offices, industrial plants, newspaper off ices and television installations. Bystanders have a l so fallen victim to terrorism. Except for clashes between leftist and rightist extremists or raids conducted by one faction on its counterpart, the vast majority of the victims have been Christian Democrats or indi viduals connected with the "establishmen t . I' There have. been few vic tims from the PCI One report on Italian terrorism points to the work of "115 identifiable extremist political movements, splinter groups, and urban guerrilla commandos, 94 belonging to the, far left and 21 to the neo-Fascist r ight.In9 The more prominent leftist groups are the 5. 11 Temp, December 19, 1976, p. 19 (Rome 6. I1 Setthanale, No. 2, January 18, 1978, pp. 14-16 (Milan 7. K. Withers Italy treads a bloody path toward a '2d Argentina Chicago Tribune, January 28, 1978 8. C orriere della Sera, February 16, 1978, p. 1 (Milan 9. Time, January 23, 1978, p. 35. 4 Red Brigades, the Armed Proletarian Nuclei, First Line, Armed Com bat for Communism, and Armed Wage Earners for Communism.10 Follow ing the forcible dissolution of New Order and National Vanguard, the 11 more 'important groups of the right gravitated around some of the Roman and Milanese party sections of the Italian Social Movement.

All political parties represented in the Parliament have con demned at one time or anoth er the use of political violence. Recently even some of the parties not represented in Parliament have expressed their disapproval. l2 Although the most visible terrorist acts in Italy have entailed homicide, shootings in the legs, and damage to private a nd public property, other criminal acts perpetrated by the terrorists are equally grievous because of the climate of fear generated by them.

In May of last year, for example, the trial of fifty-three indicted terrorists had to be postponed because of the i ntimidation of the jurors by the Red Brigades. This act of intimidation followed the murder during the previous week of the President of the Turin Bar Association by the same terrorist group.13 It is difficult to establish the incidence of political motiv a tion behind kidnappings. Statistics place Italy at the top of the international record. In 1975 and 1976, there were fifty-three and sixty kidnappings respectively. l4 in 1977.15 to the police because of concern over the safety of the kidnapped.

It is be lieved that in addition to proceeds from robberies, ransom from kidnappings is a source of financing for other terrorist acti vities. Evidence of this nature has been introduced at trials of Red Brigades members There were seventy-six kidnappings These st a tistics do not include kidnappings not reported The most recent study on Italian terrorism has apparently been conducted by the PCI. According to a report released by the PCI's section "on State problems there are approximately 700 to 800 terrorists livin g clandestinely and approximately 10,000 individuals who are often..armed and given to violent actions, arson, and pillage.

According to the PCI, "serious violent incidents" nearly doubled in 10. s. e. at 6 11. I1 Settimanale, No. 42, October 19, 1977, p. 14 (Milan 12. I1 Settimanale, No 3, January 25, 1978, pp. 21-22 (Milan 13. S. Gilbert, "Italian Terrorist Group Forces Trial Postponement The Washington Post, May 6, 1977 14. Clandestine Tactics and Technology, Update Report, CTT '76: Issue No. 4 p. 3 15. 2 at 9. 5 1977 as opposed to the previous year. The 1977 figure is set at 2,013 in contrast with 1,198 in 19

76. The PCI reports that 63 per cent of all such episodes took place in the three major cities Rome (29 percent), Milan (24 percent), and Turin 10 percent The report also points out that the terrorist phenomenon is extending to the provinces, since terrorist acts have taken place in sixty-six provinces out of ninety-four .I6 It is perhaps on the basis of such or similar statistics that PCI Senator U go Pecchioli proposed the creation of "citizens commit tees against terrorism" and PCI Deputy Pietro Ingrao, the current President of the Chamber of Deputies, stated that "it is now necessary to proceed with the mobilization of the social organizations 17 These statements are indicative of a change of heart, since the PCI at one time opposed the Christian Democratic proposal for the forma tion of a militia. The PCI and the Socialist Party have a1so"advocated the establishment of an unarmed police force. Th i s attitude has also been subject to change THE BACKGROUND AND CAUSES OF TERRORISM Terrorism in Italy, as well as elsewhere, is explained by some observers as the product of psychological alienation resulting from rapid technological progress unaccompanied by an equal or parallel development in the social structures and installations.

On the surface this theory is easily applicable to Italy insofar as Italy has quickly passed from post-war reconstruction to-the so called economic miracle of the late 1950's and early 1960's. This process has entailed mass migrations from southern to northern Italy as well as from the rural provinces to the industrial cities, which were not equipped in the long run to absorb and provide for the new population, especially with respect to housing, schools, and hospitals criticized as the unenlightened work of the centrist governments the parliamentary and cabinet coalitions made up of Christian Demo crats, Social Democrats, Liberals, and Republicans which governed Italy from 194 8 until 1952 Today the era of the "economic miracle" is being frequently The centrist governments certainly had their shortcomings and limitations. During these years, the Christian Democratic Party did in fact set up a system of patronage accompanied by c o rruption. In deed, more emphasis was given to industrial reconstruction and pro duction than to the social structures and installations referred to 16. Corriere della Sera, February 17, 1978, p. 1 (Milan 17. I1 Setthanale, No. 49, December 7, 1977, pp. 16 - 17 (Milan 6 above period is profoundly unfair, unless the Italian people are to be con demned as a whole However, a blanket condemnation of the governments of this Italy came out of World War I1 badly defeated both spiritually and materially. This defeat, moreover, followed twenty years of dictatorial Fascist rule, which had not only curtailed basic demo cratic liberties, but had also imposed upon the country archaic economic structures including autarchy and colonial expansion. A country such as Italy, wh o se natural resources are scarce and whose large population is out of proportion to its territorial size, can not possibly adopt principles of economic self-sufficiency "mitigated by co.lonia1 possessions, which by definition require a great deal of input before becoming productive.

The policies of the centrist governments were in response to the desires of the vast majority of the Italian people, who wanted to put the evils of Fascism, autarchy, and the war behind them and, at the same time, to reject a co llectivist orientation. Centrism wast there fore, characterized by economic reconstruction ahd foreign trade.

Italy, because of her socio-economic conditions, could hope to achieve industrial reconstruction and expansion only by importing raw materials an d re-exporting the finished products only assets during those years: her best course of action, given these premises was to meet the economic demand of the international market.

At the same time, thepeople'sdesire for a Western style 0.f life was certainly there.

States made the American model of life a source of emulation, includ ing certain aspects of a consumer society.

Stalinism and the Italian pro-Western posture in the Col d War were made clear by the returns of the 1948 parliamentary elections and those that followed public approval were the major opponents of these institutions for several years, have ostensibly reversed their position miracle out adequate industrial pote n tial. 18 It would be more accurate to identify the roots of social up heaval, the most menacing aspect of which is terrorism, in the years that followed the end of centrism and which marked the first opening to the left the country, notwithstanding intern a l differences between the coalition partners, and had been free of mass-scale terrorism Labor and know-how were her The unprecedented world prestige of the United The Italian rejection of Participation in NATO and the EEC also met with Today even the PCI a nd the Socialist Party which Without these centrist choices, there could have been no "economic Nor can social structures and institutions come about with The years of centrism had given relative stability to 18 see D. Bartoli, Gli Italiani nella Terra di Nessuno8 Milan: Mondadori8 1976 For the history of centrism see G.C. Re, Fine di Una Politica, Bologna 1971 For a critical comparison of centrism and subsequent political formulas Cappelli, 7 At the beginning of the 1960's, following a high point in indus trial reconstruction, it was felt that, by bringing the Socialists into the parliamentary and governmental majority, the majority it self would be broadened and greater attention could be devoted at this time to the social structures and institutions in w h ich shortage or insufficiency was being felt. This operation was accomplished, after some hesitation, in 1962-1963 with the withdrawal of the Liberals whose returns doubled in the 1963 national elections because of their stand) and the inclusion of the So cialists who had belatedly renounced theiroppositionto NATO and any formal alliance with the PCI at the national level. In return, as a gesture of good will to ward the Socialists, the electricity sector was nationalized.

The years 1963-1968, commonly refe rred to as the first opening to the left, did not bcing about the desired result. This period was essentially characterized by immobility. Moreover, the nationalization of electric energy turned out to be an economically unsound proposition for both the n a tional administration and the consumer. The Socialists on their part learned how to exploit the spoils system at the national level 19 In 1968, Italy experienced its "cultural revolution" among the youth, first at the university level and later at the hig h school level as well its major victims were, at least initially, traditional family disci pline, which nearly disintegrated, and the academic structure,which was in many ways obsolete but nonetheless a structure. Student demands included "group exams," c h oice of texts and examination questions, and the establishment of political "collectives" in the schools, as well as guaranteed passing grades, diplomas, and degrees. Many of these demands are still being made today, and schools and universities con tinue to be "seized" from time to time by the students This challenge was directed at the entire establishment, but The ''cultural revolution" had its spillover effect on the workers the following year. Up to this time labor had generally been relatively inexpe n sive, and union activities and demands had generally been responsible and moderate. The workers' "hot autumn of 1969 brought about a dramatic reversal. Labor union unrest ranged from demonstrations to unbridled strikes, from industrial sabotage to civil d i sorders and common crimes. The renewal of the collective bar gaining agreementsdid not placate the unions, notwithstanding the, im provement in labor conditions. What began as an often justifiable protest turned into an unreasonable and violent way of lif e aimed at obtaining "everything now" without considering the actual poszibilities of the Italian economy. Such abuses were often aided by labor court 19. For detailed data and an analytical treatmentof Italian affairs since 1968 see D. Bartoli, id. at 18 a nd A. Ronchey 1968-1977 Milan: Garzanti, 1977 political and economic Accadde in Italia 8 judges who, instead of applying the rule of law to labor disputes, rendered their decisions on the basis of a Marxist-oriented "socio logical jurisprudence. The loss o f productivity that started trends that persist to date created socio-economic problems .whose solution is far from clear The fragile nature of the center-left alliance became evident at this time. In the years 1969-1972, while the political behavior of t h e Socialist Party was more radicsl than that of the entire left, in cluding the PCI, labor unions, and extra-parliamentary parties (to the exclusion of terrorist groups the Parliament and the government re sponded to what has been termed "a state of siege " against the insti tutions with the rash passage of ill-conceived social legislation.

The universities, for example, were thrown open to virtually all appli cants regardless of their academic or technical background, while law called the Statute of the Ri ghts of the Workers was passed making labor relations totally one-sided in favor of employees.

Meanwhile, the position of the Socialist Party was becoming more a and more contradictory tion, but would frequently assume positions adverse to the government.

At the same time, notwithstanding the issuance in 1970 of a joint document named the "Forlani Preamble, I' which called for coalitions also at the local level of government between Christian Democrats and Socialists, the latter often coalesced with the P CI, even where was numerically possible to govern with the Christian Democrats It still remained within the cabinet coali The birth of contemporary Italian terrorism took place in this climate of political contradictions, weakness, and permissiveness.

Whatever complementary validity there may be to socio-psychological argumentations, one should not lose sight of this elementary reality.

Moreover, the tendency to distinguish between terrorism of the left and of the right, especially since 1972-1973, and to regard only right ist extremism as dangerous because of "Fascist" connections has created a false and dangerous perception of the phenomenon and has rendered the work of the police more arduous recently condemned this tendency. 21 Even PCI Senator Pecchi o li has AN INTERNATIONAL CONSPIRACY Other observers of the Italian political scene, while not nec essarily denying that various factors are responsible for the Italian terrorist phenomenon, nonetheless see Italian political violence as part of internationa l terrorism aimed at the destabilization of Western Europe in the East-West ideological conflict 20. x. G. at 16 21. I1 Settimanale, No. 47, November 23, 1977, pp. 16-19 (Milan). 9 Circumstantial evidence has been introduced reflecting links between Italia n terrorist groups of the left and the intelligence services of Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and the Soviet Union. 22 References have also been.made to the sojourn and training in Czechoslovakia and Cuba of Italian terrorists and foreign terrorists operat i ng in Italy.23 terrorists often use uncommo weapons and munitions manufactured ex clusively in Eastern Europe. q4 The fact that 147 anti-German acts of political violence took place in Italy last year following the Mogadishu anti-terrorist raid and the St a mmheim prison incident ha Additional contacts appear to exist between the Red Brigades and the Baader-Meinhof gang.26 several occasions comments of various Italian politic-a1 figures who have expressed knowledge of, or belief in, links between Italian ter r orists and foreign powers Notice has been taken of the fact that Italian led observers to note that these are too many to be "spontaneous. 45 Finally, theItalian press has reported on The foregoing comprises circumstantial evidence at best or hearsay at w o rst. However, in the context of international terrorism it is worth noting that Renato Curcio, who is reputed to be the founder of the Red Brigades'and is now standing trial, once stated that "Italy is the weak link of the democratic system of the West. T h e Federal Republic of Germany the strongest On another occasion he went on to say In Germany kidnappings serve the purpose of intimidation in Italy they must give the final push to an aganizing regirne."27 LEGAL ANDPOLITICAL REMEDIES Whereas neither the I t alian Criminal Code nor the complementary criminal statutes make any reference to terrorism, the individual provisions of these laws are so detailed as to discipline any terrorist act. Title V of the Code, entitled Crimes Against Public Order, de fines an d punishes instigation to commit crimes, public instigation to disobey athe laws, conspiracy, destruction and .pillage, public in timidation through explosives, and simple public intimidation. Title VI is likewise applicable to Crimes Against Public Safety , including slaughter, arson, flooding, the causing of landslides, avalanches shipwrecks, the crashing of aircraft, and railroad disasters as well as attempts against transports, the causing of epidemics, and the poisoning of water and food supplies.. Titl e I11 on Crimes Against 22. I1 Settimanale, No. 48, November 30, 1977, pp. 14-15 (Milan and M. Ledeen Italy Awaits Caesar The New Republic, January 7, 1978 23. I1 Settimanale, No. 50, December 14, 1977, p. 15 (Milan and Corrierc della Sera, March 12, 1978, p. 2 (Milan 24 at 21 25. M. Ledeen, z. e. at 22 26. I1 Settimanale, No. 44, November 2, 1977, p. 14-15 (Milan 27. Gentev No. 9, March 4, 1978, pp. 6-8. I 10 the Administration includes violence or threats against a political administrative, or judicial bo dy. Titles XI1 and XIII, entitled Crimes Against Persons and Crimes Against Property, practically cover all remaining possibilities ranging from homicide to kidnapping to robbery, regardless of motivation.

The view has often been expressed (most recently b y the President of Italy's Constitutional Court)28 that ordinary measures such as the ones indicated above are sufficient to combat common and political crime if properly applied. Extraordinary measures are, however, also available for cases of "urgent ne c essity The Council of Ministers the technical name given to the government or cabinet) is empowered in such cases to pass, on its own responsibility, law decrees, though these must be ratified within 60 days by the Parliament. The Prefects who represent t h e government as well as the Ministry of the Interior in the Provinces, are also empowered to adopt special measures in cases of "urgent necessity I Consequently, Italy is not faced by a problem of inadequate legislation or special remedies to combat terro rism. The probl-em is rather one of insufficient governmental stability to lend efficiency to the executive functions.

In accordance with the Republican Constitution of 1947, Italy is a parliamentary system. Therefore, for the government (consisting of the President of the Council of Ministers and of the Ministers to hold and retain office, there must be a favorable "vote of confi dence" in both Chambers of Parliament. The plurality of parties represented in Parliament currently twelve has consistently mad e the formation and duration of each government problematic because of the necessity for a supporting coalition of parties whose pkitforms are usually at odds. The multiparty system in Italy is further aggra simple for most parties to obtain some represent a tion in Parliament vated by the "Proportional electoral laws" which make it relatively Inasmuch as governmental instability affects all executive func tions, it is easy to understand how law enforcement has been hampered notwithstanding the availability o f applicable laws and the recognized professionalism of the police forces. In fact, a recent British study points out that "the Carabinieri (Italy's military police vested with both military and civil jurisdiction) could clean up the terrorism in Italy in w eeks."29 28. Foreign Affairs Research Institute, Paper No. 14/1977, London 29. See G. Andreotti, Intervista su De Gasperi, -ma-Bari: Laterza 1977. 4 11 CONCLUSION: COULD THE COMMUNISTS STOP TERRORISM The PCI has often declared that it is impossible to gov e rn Italy and to bring stability to the country without Communist participation in the government. The PCI has stepped up its demands since the na tional elections of 1976 which gave it 34.4 percent of thg vote and placed it only 4.3 percentage points behi n d the relative majority Christian Democratic Party. The presence of the PCI is also felt at the local level, since it is the most powerful party in 6 out of 20 regions and 45 out of 94 provinces. It also carries much weight in Italy's major labor union, t he CGIL.

The many problems $hat Italy is presently facing, including terrorism, which is the most visible and Shocking, might seem to lend support to the argument that a grand coalition of democratic unity, an emergency government, or even yet an accommoda tion between the Christian Democrats and the PCI is not only desirable, but an'absolute necessity.

However, the reality of Italian politics makes it unlikely that PCI participation in the cabinet would solve Italy's problems. More over, there is still much doubt as to the democratic aspirations of the PCI.

Although there has been collaboration or compromise on frequent occasions between the Christian Democrats and the Communists, these two parties have traditionally been at odds. Even in the period 1944-1947 when the PCI was part of the government, it syste m atical1 attacked the Christian Democrats, who were also in the government 30 Moreover past Christian Democratic-Communist collaboration does not appear to have produced very positive results. The Constitution itself, which is one of the major sources of p o litical instability in Italy, is a monumental example of collaboration between Christian Democrats Socia1is.t and Communists. Much of the questionable legislation passed in recent years with Christian Democratic and Communist sup port (e.g.8 the Workers' Statute referred to above) is also the result of this collaboration.

On the basis of.the past record, it is difficult to see how all of a sudden these two political forces would not only cooperate, but efficiently so, as the two major partners in a governm ental coalition faced by so many urgent problems and whose only parliamentary opposi tion would come from a handful of Liberals, Radicals and ultra leftists and rightists ing questions because of the history and nature of this party. In the 1976 electoral campaign, the PCI ran on a platform committed to democratic liberties, pluralism, free enterprise, NATO, and the EEC.

Still the PCI continues to be internally governed by democratic cen tralism, which is not democratic at all, but authoritarian; the PCI's acceptance of NATO is couched in ambiguous language: several PCI mem bers continue to express admiration for and solidarity with the U.S.S.R Communist participation in the government would also pose disqui,et 12 the PCI's position on foreign policy is ge n erally aligned with that of the U.S.S.R.; and there is no indication of an official break with the Soviet Communist Party. The PCI's apparent conversion to Western ideals is much too recent and its contradictions are still too many to dispel reservations as to its actual intentions.30 After all, the PCI even refuses to be considered a social democratic party.

At the present time, the formation of agovernment,including both Christian Democrats and Communists would be lacking in both viability and credibilit y the Christian Democratic Party must find the strength to carry out its role as the relative majority party and the PCI must muster the courage to support all efforts directed at the well-being of the national com munity. gime, there is still time for th e PCI to win the unequivocal favor of the electorate and to acequire whatever role it desires to carry out in Italian politics. At this time, however, it does not possess that mandate If Italy is to solve its problems democratically As long as the governme nt of Italy remains a democratic re Written by Dr. Vittorfranco S. Pisarm J.S.D University of Rome 30. The position of the PCI on past and present issues is well recorded by A..Rizzo, La Frontiera dell 'Eurocomunismo, ma-Bari: Laterza, 1977.


Vittorfranco Pisano

Policy Analyst