The current climate of bomb-threats and police crack-downs have many similarities to the politcal landscape in 1970's Italy. Below is a discussion of Italy's 'Strategy of Tension'.
As in much of the west, the late 1960's in Italy saw a huge upturn in student movements however there was also a huge upturn in political activism throughout other institutions in the country. In 1969, Factory Councils (consigli di fabbrica) emerged. As a result of these councils the statuto dei lavoratori ("workers' statute" or labour laws) were established. This period also saw the legalisation of divorce, the implementation of regional decentralisation, the recognition of conscientious objection and large numbers of legislative innovations. Such changes were a direct result of the direct action that had been unfolding since 1968.
In around 1973-74, things began to change. The parliamentary left in Italy broke and no longer associated with the newly emerging social institutions and the Italian Communist Party (PCI) actually began to compromise with the right-wing Christian Democrats (known as compromesso storico (or "historic compromise")). The four years from 1974 to 1978 saw a progressive tightening of the alliance between the DC and the PCI, an alliance which extended from government and parliament to the whole system of power, including the trade unions, media and even the police. This was all against the economic environment of Italy's monetary deflation policies and industrial restructuring of Italy's systems of manufacture and production. The "historic compromise" was built around these "austerity policies". Simultaneously and as a direct response to the same austerity measures, Italy's broadbased social struggles were becoming more intense and began to break completely from all institutional representations.
Repression by employers in the factories and by police in the general society increased, including the adoption of a whole series of laws. These changes were seen as a drastic move away from the bounds of democracy and saw the social movement begin to arm itself. One such group, The Red Brigades, emerged amongst workers in the large factories in the north, which had been subjected to savage restructuring. There was, during this time, continuous working-class struggles and manifestations of urban violence. It was at this time that the state (with the assistance of the United States) commenced it's own forms of 'terrorism'.
The 'Strategy of Tension' was first formulated in 1965 at the Instituto Polio (Institution of Italian Military) Congress. The strategy involved two steps. Firstly, the infiltration of left groups with fascists and secondly a campaign of bombings. One of the most famous infiltrators was a 'Nazi-Maoist' called Mario Merlino. In 1969 Merlino infiltrated an anarchist organisation. This group was soon accused of detonating a large bomb in Bologna. This was the
first act of 'Tension'. Merlino was accused of being involved in the bombing, however never convicted.
The use of indiscriminate bombing of the public and the threat of a rightwing coup were used to stabilise centre-right political control of the country. Bombings occurred at demonstrations and public meetings, trains and stations. Other bomings occurred on the 'Italicus' train in
1974 and ended with the last 'officially sanctioned' bombing in Brescia where a bomb was detonated in the Piazza della Loggia. Anarcho-syndacilists were blamed for this bombing. Much of the evidence that could have identified the bombers in this last attack, was destroyed by the police. The 1980 bombing in Bologna, although often identified as the peak of the 'Strategy of Tension' was in fact the work of the Mafia and Fascists. Such actions by the state only escalated the Resistance's desire to fight for the right to self-expression.
Numerous other incidents occurred throughout this period including the 'accidental deaths', 'suicides' and 'disappearances' of numerous left-wing activists.
1977 saw a major escalation of the tension. At the end of a
demonstration, a left-wing militant was killed by the police and rioting broke out. The 'communist' mayor and the government sent armoured cars to sweep away the barricades.
In Milan, Turin, Naples, Padova, Rome and Bologne there were huge marches during which, more and more frequently, armed groups began to appear. Among the working class and the urban proletarian movements, the resistance against restructuring was growing irresistibly, within a climate of massive resentment towards what people saw as betrayal by the official left.
From around 1978 the movement began to collapse. Some would argue that the social movements turned too far from their goals and towards senseless acts of violence, however this must be seen against a background of increasing police repression. The introduction of special police, special
prisons, special courts and trials, and special emergency measures, essentially created a state of emergency.
Many of the laws created during the 'Strategy of Tension' period are still on the books. These include prison sentences of between 3-6 years for distributing political literature and up to seven years in prison to 'prevent' possible dangerous acts. Amnesty International reported torture in Italian prisons in 1981. Today there are still over 200 political prisoners in Italy.
Similar attempts to split the movement and create tension amongst the demonstrators appears to be behind the recent spate of 'bombings'. Add to this the decision to have missiles prepared for the Anti-G8 demonstrations, police intimidation of journalists and protestors, denial of the right to freedom of movement through Europe, the police shots fired in Gothenburg and numerous arrests and we are apparently facing an international 'Strategy of Tension'.
What this shows is that the 'State' (Italian, European and
International) are worried. As we have escalated the tension on them they have started to push back. They know that the 'anti-capitalist' movement is growing and in Genoa they face the might of over 100,000 demonstrators on the streets. This reaction by the Italian government is, in a certain way, a positive sign. It shows that the movement is going forward, is gaining momentum and we need to keep strong in the face of initimidation.
So it is important to focus on the issues, keep a clear head and not to panic. The key task in Genoa and internationally is the discussion of our own strategies, analysis of the current economic and social effects of capitalism and our hopes for the future.
For more information on the Strategy of Tension see:
http://www.ecn.org Site of Italian Centri Sociali
http://www.clarence.com/contents/societa/memoria Banca Dati Della Memoria(Memory Bank/ Archive)
http://www.clarence.com/contents/societa/speciali/010702piazzafontana/storia.html La Verita Su Una Strage - Fabrizio Calvi e Frederic Laurent, Mondadori (Book about Piazza Fontana)