The Red Brigades
The Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse in Italian, often abbreviated as the BR) were a terrorist groupocated in Italy and active during the "Years of Lead". Formed in 1970, the Marxist-Leninist Red Brigades sought to create a revolutionary state through armed struggle and to separate Italy from the Western Alliance (NATO). In 1978, the second groups of the BR, headed by Mario Moretti, kidnapped the former Christian Democrat Prime Minister Aldo Moro and murdered him 54 days later. The BR barely survived the end of the Cold War following a split in 1984 and the arrest or flight of the majority of its members. In the 1980's, the group was disbanded by Italian investigators, also due to the fact that several leaders under arrest assisted the authorities in capturing the other members. In the first ten years of the group's existence, the Red Brigades were credited with 14,000 acts of violence, most of which against defenseless people on the street. A majority of such leaders took advantage of a law that gave credits for retracting the doctrine and contributing to the capture of members on the loose.
1970 foundation: the first BR generation
The Red Brigades were founded in August 1970 by Renato Curcio, a student at the University of Trento, his girlfriend Margherita Cagol (Mara Cagol), and Alberto Franceschini. Franceschini described in his 2005 book how he met with Renato Curcio and Corrado Simioni, nicknamed "The English" because of his eccentricity and "international connections".
While the Trento group around Curcio had mainly roots in the Sociology Department of the Catholic University, the Reggio Emilia group (around Franceschini) included mostly members and former members of the Communist Youth movement (FGCI). In the beginning the Red Brigades were mainly active in Reggio Emilia, and in large factories in Milan, (such as Sit-Siemens, Pirelli and Magneti Marelli) and in Turin (Fiat). Members sabotaged factory equipment and broke into factory offices and trade union headquarters. In 1972, they carried out their first kidnapping: a factory foreman who was held for some time but later released .
During this time the Red Brigades' tactics and agenda split from other extreme left political groups, such as Lotta Continua or Potere Operaio (which were closer to the Autonomist movement). The Red Brigades now became far more violent and organized than their contemporaries and began receiving direct and indirect aid from the Czechoslovakian StB. In June 1974, the Red Brigades made its first lethal attack, against two members of the Italian neo-fascist party, Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI). After this it abandoned its non-clandestine political activities among workers
Nonetheless, the 1972 Peteano car-bomb attack, killing three policemen, was blamed for a long time on the BR, though it was later found that neo-fascist activist Vincenzo Vinciguerra was the true culprit.
1974 arrest of BR founders and Corrado Simioni's "superclan"
In September 1974, Red Brigades founders Renato Curcio and Alberto Franceschini were arrested by General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, and sentenced to 18 years in prison. The arrest was made possible by "Frate Mitra," alias Silvano Girotto, a former monk who had infiltrated the BR for the Italian security services . Curcio was freed from prison by an armed commando of the Red Brigades, led by his wife Mara Cagol, but was rearrested some time later.
The Red Brigades then operated some high-profile political kidnappings (e.g. Genoa judge Mario Sossi) as well as kidnapping industrialists (e.g. Vallarino Gancia) in order to obtain ransom money, which was their main source of financing.
According to Franceschini, the death of publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, on March 15th, 1972, who blew himself up accidentally, while trying to dynamite electricity power installations near Milan, had left them like "orphans”, and sparked the more violent nature of the BRs' acts after 1972 . It should be noted, however, that the most violent period in the Red Brigades' activity started in fact years later.
Expansion and radicalization of the BR
After 1974, the Red Brigades expanded into Rome, Genoa, and Venice, and began to kidnap prominent individuals. Its 1975 manifesto stated that its goal was a "concentrated strike against the heart of the State, because the state is an imperialist collection of multinational corporations". The "SIM" (Stato Imperialista delle Multinazionali) became the target of its violent tirades, expressed in classical Marxist-Leninist jargon, which were however incomprehensible to most of public opinion, and often derided for their pretentious but vacuous wording.
In 1975, the Italian police discovered the farmhouse where industrialist Vallarino Gancia was kept prisoner by the Brigades (Cascina Spiotta). In the ensuing gunfight, two police officers were killed, as well as Mara Cagol, Curcio's wife. That following April, the Red Brigades announced that they had set up a Communist Combatant Party to "guide the working class." Terrorist activities, especially against Carabinieri and magistrates, increased considerably, in order to terrorize juries and cause mistrials in cases against imprisoned leaders of the organization. Also,since arrested members of the Brigades refused to be defended by lawyers, lawyers designated by the Courts to defend them ("difensori d' ufficio") were also targeted and killed.
Aldo Moro's Murder
In 1978, the Second BR, headed by Mario Moretti, kidnapped and murdered Christian Democrat Aldo Moro, who was the key figure in negotiations aimed at extending the Government's parliamentary majority, by attaining a Historic Compromise ("compromesso storico") between the Italian Communist Party and the Democrazia Cristiana. A team of Red Brigades members, using stolen Alitalia plane company uniforms, ambushed Moro, killed five of Moro’s bodyguards and took him captive.
Moro's captivity was used by the Brigades in order to try and obtain some kind of recognition by the Italian Government, as an "insurgency" movement. However, the Government refused to negotiate with Moro's captors, while the various Italian political forces took either a hard line ("linea della fermezza") or a more pragmatic approach ("linea del negoziato"). From his captivity, Moro sent desperate letters to his family, to his political friends, to the Pope, pleading for a negotiated outcome.
After holding Moro for 56 days, the Brigades realized that the Government would not negotiate and, fearful of being discovered, decided to kill their prisoner. They placed him in a car and told him to cover himself with a blanket. Mario Moretti then shot him ten times in the chest. Moro's body was left in the trunk of a car in Via Caetani, a site midway between the Christian Democratic Party and the Communist Party headquarters, as a last symbolic challenge to the police, who were keeping the entire nation, and Rome in particular, under strict surveillance. Moretti wrote in Brigate Rosse: una storia italiana that the murder of Moro was the ultimate expression of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary action. Original founder Alberto Franceschini wrote that those imprisoned members did not understand why Moro had been chosen as a target.
Aldo Moro's assassination caused a strong reaction against the Brigades by the Italian law enforcement and security forces. The murder of a popular political figure also drew condemnation from Italian left-wing radicals and even the imprisoned ex-leaders of the Brigades. The Brigades lost much of their (small) social following.
A crucial turning point was also the murder, in 1979, of Guido Rossa, a member of the PCI and a trade union organizer. Rossa had observed the distribution of BR propaganda and had reported those involved to the police; he was shot and killed by the Brigades, but this attack against a popular trade union organizer totally alienated the factory worker base to which the BR propaganda was primarily directed.
Also, Italian police made a large number of arrests in 1980: 12,000 far-left activists were detained while 300 fled to France and 200 to South America; a total of 600 people left Italy. Most leaders arrested (including, e.g., Faranda, Franceschini, Moretti, Morucci) either retracted their doctrine ("dissociati"), or collaborated with investigators in the capture of other BR members ("collaboratori di giustizia"), obtaining important reductions in prison sntences.
The most well-known "collaboratore di giustizia" was Patrizio Peci, one of the leaders of the Turin "column". As a vengeance, the Brigades assassinated, in 1981, his brother Roberto, in a type of retaliation which seemed to emulate mafia procedures. This murder also widely contributed to discrediting the movement.
Aldo Moro's assassination continues to haunt today's Italy, and remains a significant event of the Cold War. In the 1980s-1990s, a Commission headed by senator Giovanni Pellegrino investigated acts of terrorism in Italy during the "years of lead," while various judicial investigations also took place, headed by Guido Salvini and others magistrates .
Red Brigades-PCC and Red Brigades-UCC 1984 split
In 1984, the Red Brigades had split into two factions: the majority faction of the Communist Combatant Party (Red Brigades-PCC) and the minority of the Union of Combatant Communists (Red Brigades-UCC). The same year, four imprisoned leaders, Curcio, Moretti, Iannelli and Bertolazzi, rejected the armed struggle as pointless.
Also in 1984, the Red Brigades claimed responsibility for the murder of Leamon Hunt, US chief of the Sinai Multinational Force and Observer Group.
In the mid-eighties, arrests increased in Italy. In February 1986, the Red Brigades-PCC killed the ex-mayor of Florence Lando Conti . In March 1987, Red Brigades-UCC killed General Licio Giorgieri in Rome. On April 16, 1988, in Forlì, Red Brigades-PCC killed Italian senator Roberto Ruffilli, an advisor of Italian Prime Minister Ciriaco de Mita. After that, the group activities all but ended after massive arrests of its leadership. The BR dissolved themselves in 1988 .
New assassinations by new BR generation
A new group, with few links, if any, with the ancient BR, appeared in the late 1990s. The Red Brigades-PCC murdered in 1999 Massimo D'Antona, an advisor to the cabinet of Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema. In March 20, 2002 the same gun that was used to kill D'Antona was used to kill professor Marco Biagi, an economic advisor to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The Red Brigades-PCC again claimed responsibility. On 3 March 2003 two followers, Mario Galesi and Nadia Desdemona Lioce, started a firefight with a police patrol on a train at Castiglion Fiorentino station, near Arezzo. Galesi and Emanuele Petri (one of the policemen) were killed, Lioce was arrested. In October 23 2003, Italian police arrested six members of the Red Brigades in early-dawn raids in Florence, Sardinia, Rome and Pisa in connection with the murder of Massimo D'Antona. On June 1st, 2005, four members of the Red Brigades-PCC were condemned to life-sentence in Bologna for the murder of Marco Biagi: Nadia Desdemona Lioce, Roberto Morandi, Marco Mezzasalma and Diana Blefari Melazi.
Several figures from the 1970s, including philosopher Antonio Negri who was wrongly accused of being the "mastermind" of the BR, have called for a new, honest analysis of the events which happened during the "years of lead" in Italy. Negri voluntarily returned to Italy in 1997, after living 14 years in France, and was imprisoned several times; his objective was to raise awareness on the situation of hundreds of radical left political activists who had been condemned to prison sentences and/or had fled to foreign countries. Negri was freed in the spring of 2003, having served the remainder of his sentence of 17 years.
On the other hand, BR founder Alberto Franceschini declared after his release from an 18-year prison term that "The BR continue to exist because we never proceeded to their funeral," calling for truth from every involved party in order to be able to turn the page .
LEGALITA' E RIVOLUZIONE
Le Brigate Rosse e la magistratura
Giovanni De Sio Cesari
Di fronte alla richiesta da parte di alcuni di lottare contro il terrorismo islamico con legge e mezzi eccezionali molti ricordano che il terrorismo degli anni di piombo è stato sconfitti senza ricorrere a leggi eccezionali ma con il normale funzionamento degli organi previsti dall’ordinamento democratico: la magistratura e le forze dell’ordine
Formalmente l’affermazione pare indiscutibile: tuttavia se la approfondiamo dal punto di vista non del formalismo giuridico ma da quello della sostanza politica ci rendiamo conto che la tesi ha molti limiti.
In realtà dire che gli anni di piombo finirono perché le indagini giudiziarie riuscirono a individuare e fare arrestare i terroristi sarebbe semplicistico e non corrispondente alla sostanza dei fatti
In effetti il terrorismo. benchè fosse opera di una sparuta minoranza, durò oltre dieci anni senza che polizia e magistratura riuscissero sostanzialmente ad arginare il fenomeno. Esso invece si esaurì per motivi politici: i terroristi di sinistra erano persone che ritenevano di essere l’avanguardia di una classe operaia e proletaria la quale avrebbe realmente fatta la Rivoluzione: bisognava solo svegliarla. A un certo punto risultò assolutamente evidente, anche ai più esaltati, quello che tutti sapevano fin dall’inizio; non c’erano assolutamente le condizioni per la Rivoluzione comunque la si volesse poi giudicare. A questo punto lo Stato varò una legislazione premiale: qualcosa che nei fatti era molto simile all’impunità a tutti quelli che vi avessero partecipato e che si dissociassero,
Tuttora molti si meravigliano che degli assassini si siano reinseriti nella vita comune, qualche volta sono addirittura chiamati a fare da consulenti culturali da qualche organizzazione pubblica o semi pubblica. In realtà il fatto è la conseguenza del tacito patto che lo Stato stipulò coni i terroristi perchè si ponesse temine al pericoloso fenomeno.
D’altra parte quello che poi si è saputo delle Brigate Rosse e di altri simili gruppi è solo quello che gli appartenenti stessi hanno detto, confessando in cambio di pene lievi. C’è chi crede che in effetti questi uomini nascondessero molte cose: noi non siamo inclini alle tesi complottiste: tuttavia dobbiamo riconoscere che i riscontri oggettivi sono praticamente inconsistenti. Non fu certo la magistratura a scoprire gli autori dei delitti e a condannarli. In effetti furono gli autori stessi che, resosi conto della impossibilità di successo, accettarono di rinunciarvi in cambio di pene più che altro simboliche
Prendiamo ad esempio il caso Moro: si è detto tutto e il contrario di tutto: ma in realtà la magistratura non ha accertato nulla di più di quanto gli autori del delitto stesso dichiararono, autori che poi scontarono solo qualche anno si effettivo carcere
La contro prova della inefficienza dell’attività giudiziaria la abbiamo nelle stragi attribuita a formazioni di destra alle quali non fu applicato lo stesso criterio che a quelle di sinistra: le stragi di piazza Fontana, di Brescia dell’Italicus, di Bologna sono state oggetto di indagini e processi durati oltre trenta anni ma una verità definitiva e convincente non è stata mai raggiunta: le tante sentenze si sono contraddette l’un l’altra, la stessa matrice di destra rimane pur sempre più una convinzione politica che un accertamento giudiziario
Anche nel caso di clamoroso di Sofri si sono avuti sette processi: la condanna definitiva al settimo processo non ha fugato per niente i dubbi sulla colpevolezza: si noti poi che l’assassino confesso Marini, in concreto, non ha scontato alcuna pena .
Con questo non vogliamo affatto affermare che la magistratura e le forze dell’ordine italiane non siano all’altezza dei loro compiti: il problema è che esse sono costituite e organizzate per perseguire il crimine, le violazioni delle leggi effettuate per fini personali e non per la lotta politica: possono fermare il ladro, l ‘assassino e ma non il rivoluzionario o il contro rivoluzionario,
Infatti generalmente si scoprono gli autori dei delitti cosiddetti comuni, ( passionali di interesse, rapine ecc): qualche volta capitano casi irrisolti ( delitto di Via Poma) o altri molto dubbi (il caso Cogne) e l’opinione pubblica si appassiona ma si tratta di eccezioni
Ma i fatti politici sono altra cosa Sarebbe una illusione pensare che le leggi diano stabilità e forza a un ordinamento politico mentre in realtà è l’ordinamento politico che da stabilità e forza alle leggi Il mutamento o il mantenimento di qualunque ordinamento non può tessere l’effetto di una legge ma ne sono invece la causa
Non furono le leggi francesi a promuovere o a fermare o a indirizzare Rivoluzione Francese , ma al contrario la Rivoluzione, il Bonapartismo. la Restaurazione crearono le leggi francesi