Years of Lead (Italy)
|Years of Lead|
|Part of Cold War|
Attack at the Bologna railway station; it was the deadliest episode of the Years of Lead.
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
|Around 500-1,000 civilians and officer killed|
Part of a series on the
|History of Italy|
The Years of Lead was a period of socio-political turmoil in Italy that lasted from the late 1960s into the early 1980s. This period was marked by a wave of terrorism, initially called "Opposing Extremisms" (Opposti Estremismi) and later renamed as the "Years of Lead" (Anni di piombo). Among the possible origins of the name are a reference to the vast number of bullets fired, or the 1981 film Marianne and Juliane by Margarethe von Trotta, of which Italian title is Anni di piombo.
The left-wing autonomist movement lasted from 1968 until the end of the 1970s. The "years of lead" began with the shooting death of the policeman Antonio Annarumma in 1969 and the Piazza Fontana bombing.
- 1 Widespread unrest of 1960s and 1970s
- 2 Asylum
- 3 Chronology
- 3.1 1969
- 3.2 1970
- 3.3 1971
- 3.4 1972
- 3.5 1973
- 3.6 1974
- 3.7 1976
- 3.8 1977
- 3.9 1978
- 3.10 1979
- 3.11 1980
- 3.12 1981
- 3.13 1982
- 3.14 1984
- 3.15 1987
- 3.16 1988
- 4 Continued violence
- 5 Terrorist organizations in Italy (incomplete list)
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Bibliography
- 9 External links
Widespread unrest of 1960s and 1970s
There was widespread social conflict and unprecedented acts of terrorism carried out by both right- and left-wing paramilitary groups. An attempt to endorse the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI) by the Tambroni Cabinet led to rioting and was short-lived. The Christian Democrats (DC) were instrumental in the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) gaining power in the 1960s and they created a coalition. The assassination of the Christian Democrat leader Aldo Moro in 1978 ended the strategy of historic compromise between the DC and the Italian Communist Party (PCI). The assassination was carried out by the Red Brigades, then led by Mario Moretti. Between 1969 and 1981, nearly 2,000 murders were attributed to political violence in the form of bombings, assassinations, and street warfare between rival militant factions. Although political violence has decreased substantially in Italy since that time, instances of sporadic violent crimes continue because of the re-emergence of anti-immigrant, neo-fascist, and militant communist groups.
In 2000, a Parliamentary Commission report from The Olive Tree (l'Ulivo), a centre-left political coalition, concluded that the strategy of tension had been supported by the United States to "stop the PCI, and to a certain degree also the PSI, from reaching executive power in the country".
On 4 May 2007 the Italian Parliament declared 9 May as a memorial day dedicated to the victims of terrorism.
The Mitterrand doctrine, which was established in 1985 by then French president François Mitterrand, stated that Italian far-left terrorists who fled to France and who were convicted of violent acts in Italy, excluding "active, actual, bloody terrorism" during the "Years of Lead", would receive asylum and would not be subject to extradition to Italy. They would be integrated into French society.
The act was announced on 21 April 1985, at the 65th Congress of the Human Rights League (Ligue des droits de l'homme, LDH), stating that Italian criminals who had given up their violent pasts and had fled to France would be protected from extradition to Italy:
Italian refugees... who took part in terrorist action before 1981... have broken links with the infernal machine in which they participated, have begun a second phase of their lives, have integrated into French society... I told the Italian government that they were safe from any sanction by the means of extradition.
Some Italian citizens accused of terrorist acts have found refuge in Brazil such as Cesare Battisti and others former members of the Armed Proletarians for Communism, a far-left militant and terrorist group which committed acts of illegality and crimes in Italy during the period known as "Years of Lead".
Public protests shook Italy during 1969, with the autonomist student movement being particularly active, leading to the occupation of the Fiat automobile factory in Milan. Mario Capanna of the New Left movement, was prominent at the time, along with members of Potere Operaio and Autonomia Operaia (Antonio Negri, Oreste Scalzone, Franco Piperno), and Lotta Continua (Adriano Sofri).
Death of Antonio Annarumma
On 19 November 1969, Antonio Annarumma, a Milanese policeman, was assassinated during a riot of far-left demonstrators. He was the first public official to die in the ensuing wave of violence referred to as "The Years of Bullets".
Piazza Fontana bombing
Local police arrested 80 or so suspects from left-wing groups, including Giuseppe Pinelli, an anarchist initially blamed for the bombing, and Pietro Valpreda. Their guilt was denied by left-wing members, especially by members of the student movement, then prominent in Milan's universities, as they believed that the bombing was carried out by fascists. Following the death of Giuseppe Pinelli, who died on 15 December while in police custody, the radical left-wing newspaper Lotta Continua started a campaign accusing police officer Luigi Calabresi of Pinelli's murder. The accusation of wrongful death at the hands of the police was eventually determined to be false by the state, but only after many years of investigation.
Meanwhile, the anarchist Valpreda and five others were convicted and jailed for the bombing. They were later released after three years of preventive detention. Over a 36-year period, numerous suspects were investigated, with no convictions. The identity of the perpetrators remains unknown to this day.
The Red Brigades, the most prominent far-left terrorist organization, conducted a secret internal investigation that paralleled the official inquiry. They ordered that the inquiry remain secret, because of the unfavorable light that it could shed on other terrorist organizations. The inquiry was discovered after a fire-fight between Red Brigade forces and Italian police (carabinieri) at Robbiano di Mediglia in October 1974. The cover-up was exposed in 2000, by then Italian President Giovanni Pellegrino.
The Golpe Borghese
In December, a neo-fascist coup, dubbed the Golpe Borghese, was planned by several far-right leaders and supported by members of the Corpo Forestale dello Stato, along with the right-aligned entrepreneurs and industrialists. The "Black Prince", Junio Valerio Borghese, took part in it. The coup, called off at the last moment, was discovered by the press, and publicly released a few months later.
Assassination of Alessandro Floris
On 26 March 1971 Alessandro Floris was assassinated in Genoa, by a unit of the October 22 Group, a far-left terrorist organization. An amateur photographer had taken a photo of the killer that enabled police to identify the terrorists. The group was investigated and more members arrested. Some fled to Milan and joined the "Gruppi di Azione Partigiana" (GAP) and later the Red Brigades.
The Red Brigades considered the group Gruppo XXII Ottobre its predecessor and in April 1974, it kidnapped Judge Mario Sossi in an effort to free the arrested member. The effort was unsuccessful. Years later, the Red Brigades killed the judge Francesco Coco on June 8, 1976 out of revenge, along with his two police escorts, Giovanni Saponara and Antioco Deiana.
Assassination of Luigi Calabresi
On 17 May 1972, police officer Luigi Calabresi, recipient of the gold medal of the Italian Republic for civil valour, was assassinated in Milan. Authorities initially focused on suspects in Lotta Continua, before detaining two neo-fascist activists, Gianni Nardi and Bruno Stefano, along with the German Gudrun Kiess, in 1974. They were ultimately released. Sixteen years later, Adriano Sofri, Giorgio Petrostefani, Ovidio Bompressi, and Leonardo Marino were arrested in Milan following Marino's confession to the murder. Their trial finally established their guilt in the organisation and carrying out the murder.
On 31 May 1972, three Italian Carabinieri were killed in Peteano in a bombing, blamed on Lotta Continua. Officers of the Carabinieri were later indicted and convicted for manipulating the investigation in false directions. Judge Casson identified Ordine Nuovo member Vincenzo Vinciguerra as the culprit who had planted the Peteano bomb.
The neo-fascist terrorist Vincenzo Vinciguerra, arrested in the 1980s for the bombing in Peteano, declared to magistrate Felice Casson that this false flag attack had been intended to force the Italian state to declare a state of emergency and to become more authoritarian. Vinciguerra explained how the SISMI military intelligence agency had protected him, allowing him to escape to Francoist Spain.
Casson's investigation revealed that the right-wing organization Ordine Nuovo had collaborated with the Italian Military Secret Service, SID (Servizio Informazioni Difesa). Together, they had engineered the Peteano terror and then wrongly blamed the militant Italian far-left, the Red Brigades. He confessed and testified that he had been covered by an entire network of sympathizers in Italy and abroad who had ensured that after the attack he could escape. "A whole mechanism came into action", Vinciguerra recalled, "that is, the Carabinieri, the Minister of the Interior, the customs services and the military and civilian intelligence services accepted the ideological reasoning behind the attack." 
The Primavalle Fire
Milan Police command (Questura di Milano) bombing
In 1990, it was discovered that Bertoli, who had been convicted of the bombing, was an SID informant and member of Gladio. The secret services claimed that this was only a coincidence. A magistrate investigating the assassination attempt of Mariano Rumor found that Bertoli's files were incomplete. General Gianadelio Maletti, head of the SID from 1971 to 1975, was convicted in absentia in 1990 for obstruction of justice in the Mariano Rumor case.
Piazza della Loggia bombing
In May 1974, a bomb exploded during an anti-fascist demonstration in Brescia, killing eight and wounding over 90. In 2005, the Court of Cessation issued an arrest warrant against Delfo Zorzi, a former Ordine Nuovo member currently living in Japan.
Planned neo-fascist coup
Count Edgardo Sogno said in his memoirs that in July 1974, he visited the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) station chief in Rome to inform him of preparations for a neo-fascist coup. Asking what the United States (US) government would do in case of such a coup, Sogno wrote that he was told, "the United States would have supported any initiative tending to keep the communists out of government." General Maletti declared, in 2001, that he had not known about Sogno's relationship with the CIA and had not been informed about the coup, known as Golpe bianco (White Coup), led by Randolfo Pacciardi.
Bombing of Italicus train
On August 4, 1974, 12 died and 105 were injured in the bombing of the Italicus Roma-Brennero express at San Benedetto Val di Sambro.
Arrest of Vito Miceli
General Vito Miceli, chief of the SIOS military intelligence agency in 1969, and head of the SID from 1970 to 1974, was arrested in 1974 on charges of "conspiracy against the state." Following his arrest, the Italian secret services were reorganized by a 24 October 1977 law in an attempt to reassert civilian control over the intelligence agencies. The SID was divided into the current SISMI, the SISDE, and the CESIS, which was to directly coordinate with the Prime Minister of Italy. An Italian Parliamentary Committee on Secret services control (Copaco) was created at the same time.
Arrest of Red Brigades leaders
In 1974, some leaders of the Red Brigades, including Renato Curcio and Alberto Franceschini, were arrested, but new leadership continued the war against the Italian right-wing establishment with increased fervor.
The year before, Potere Operaio had disbanded, although Autonomia Operaia carried on in its wake. Lotta Continua also dissolved in 1976, although the magazine struggled on for several years. From remnants of Lotta Continua and similar groups, the terror organization Prima Linea emerged.
Prima Linea: an emerging terrorist organization
On 14 May, in Milan, some activists from a far-left organization pulled out their pistols and began to fire on the police, killing policeman Antonio Custra. A photographer took a photo of an activist shooting at the police. This year was called the time of the "P38", referring to the Walther P38 pistol.
Kidnapping and assassination of Aldo Moro
On 16 March 1978, Aldo Moro was kidnapped by the Red Brigades, and five of his bodyguards killed. The Red Brigades were a militant leftist group, then led by Mario Moretti. Aldo Moro was a left-leaning Christian Democrat who served several times as Prime Minister. Before his murder he was trying to include the Italian Communist Party (PCI), headed by Enrico Berlinguer, in the government through a deal called the Historic Compromise. The PCI was the largest communist party in western Europe. This was largely because of its non-extremist and pragmatic stance, its growing independence from Moscow and its eurocommunist doctrine. The PCI was especially strong in areas such as Emilia Romagna, where it had stable government positions and mature practical experience, which may have contributed to a more pragmatic approach to politics. The Red Brigades were fiercely opposed by the Communist Party and trade unions, a few left-wing politicians even used the condescending expression "comrades who do wrong" (Compagni che sbagliano). The circumstances surrounding Aldo Moro's murder have never been made clear, but the consequences included that fact that PCI did not gain executive power.
Moro's assassination was followed by a large clampdown on the social movement, including the arrest of many members of Autonomia Operaia, including, Oreste Scalzone and political philosopher Toni Negri.
The year with the most assassinations
On 20 March, investigative journalist Mino Pecorelli was gunned down in his car in Rome. Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti and Mafia boss Gaetano Badalamenti were sentenced in 2002 to 24 years in prison for the murder, though the sentences were overturned the following year.
On 12 February, in Rome, at the "La Sapienza" University, Vittorio Bachelet, vice-president of the Superior Council of Magistrates and former president of the Roman Catholic association Azione Cattolica, was killed by the Red Brigades.
The Bologna Massacre
On 2 August, a bomb killed 85 people and wounded more than 200 in Bologna. Known as the Bologna massacre, the blast destroyed a large portion of the city's railway station. This was found to be a fascist bombing, mainly organized by the NAR, who had ties with the Roman criminal organization Banda della Magliana.
On 17 December 1981, James L. Dozier, an American general and the deputy commander of NATO's South European forces based in Verona, was kidnapped by Red Brigades. He was freed in Padua on 28 January 1982 by the Nucleo Operativo Centrale di Sicurezza (NOCS), an Italian police anti-terrorist task force.
The Salerno Massacre
On 26 August 1982, a group of Red Brigades terrorists attacked a military troop convoy, in Salerno. In the attack, Corporal Antonio Palumbo and policemen Antonio Bandiera and Mario De Marco were killed. The terrorists escaped.
On 23 December 1984, a bomb in a train between Florence and Rome killed 16 and wounded more than 200. In 1989, the mafiosi Giuseppe Calo and four others defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment for the bombing. According to prosecutors, the far-right organizations conspired with the mafia and the Camorra to carry out the attack.
On 20 May 1999, Massimo D'Antona, consultant to the Ministry of Labour, was assassinated in an attack by a group of terrorists of the Red Brigade, group BR-PCC, in Rome.
On 19 March 2002, Marco Biagi, consultant to the Ministry of Labour, was assassinated in an attack by a group of terrorists of the Red Brigade, in Bologna.
In 2005 some suspected terrorists were arrested, known as the New Red Brigades (Nuove Brigate Rosse). On 13 June the court in Milan (corte d'Assise) condemned 14 terrorists. The leader was sentenced to 15 years in jail. Three suspected terrorists were found not guilty.
Terrorist organizations in Italy (incomplete list)
- Red Brigades
- Prima Linea
- Gruppo XXII Ottobre
- Ordine Nuovo
- National Vanguard (Italy)
- Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari
- Westcott, Kathryn (January 6, 2004). "Italy's history of terror". BBC News.
- Anni di piombo film review (Italian)
- Les réfugiés italiens (...) qui ont participé à l'action terroriste avant 1981 (...) ont rompu avec la machine infernale dans laquelle ils s'étaient engagés, ont abordé une deuxième phase de leur propre vie, se sont inséré dans la société française (...). J'ai dit au gouvernement italien qu'ils étaient à l'abri de toute sanction par voie d'extradition (...).
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