Archives for posts with tag: Croce Nera Anarchica

Delfo Zorzi (head of Ordine Nuevo in Mestre)

Mestre, June 1968. Early that month a rash of fly-posted bills appeared singing the praises of Mao Tse Tung. Car-owners found their vehicles daubed with slogans extolling the leadership of the Chinese chairman. An act of daring by Venetian Maoists? No. The perpetrators were three young activists from the city’s neo-Nazi Ordine Nuovo group: Delfo Zorzi, Paolo Molin and Martino Siciliano. Siciliano was the one who confessed to the provocations on 6 October 1995 to M Guido Salvini, the Milan magistrate who investigated the Piazza Fontana outrage from 1989 to 1997: ‘we did the graffiti on vehicles parked in the area in order to annoy the residents and take the provocation as far as it would go.’

On 15 May 1969, seven members of the fascist group Giovane Italia were arrested in Palermo charged with attacks that had taken place between April and the day before their arrest. They had attacked the Regina Pacis church, the carabinieri stations in Castellammare and Pretoris, the recruit training barracks and Ucciardone prison. In Legnano, on 15 September 1969, 26-year-old Ettore Alzati, a travelling salesman, and 19-year-old Ermanno Carensuola, a haulage firm employee, were arrested. They confessed to throwing a petrol bomb at the entrance to a club where an Avanti! festival was taking place. But the arson attempt failed as the bottle smashed without exploding. They then tried to set fire to posters advertising the event, but with the same disappointing outcome. Before leaving, and now weaponless apart from some paint, they daubed a huge circled A on a wall.

They stood outside the Club Turati and daubed ‘Long live Mao’ on the wall. Alzati and Carensuola were rightwing extremists, members of the Legnano branch of the MSI.

Three instances from among so many that prompt the question: what was happening? Had even fascists and Nazis been touched by the events of May 1968 in France? What were the origins of these strange groups who described themselves as Nazi-Maoists? Why were rightwing extremists mounting attacks and trying to blame the anarchists? Was this spontaneity or part of some plan?

Croce Nera Anarchica members in Milan, Giuseppe Pinelli for one, favoured the latter explanation. In the first issue of the Anarchist Black Cross Bulletin, published in June 1969, they wrote apropos of the Palermo incidents: ‘Emotionally disturbed though the neo-fascists may be, we are not so naive as to believe in seven of them going ga-ga at the same time. Plainly, their actions were part of some plan.’

The bulletin’s editors explored their hypothesis: ‘For fascists to strike at “anarchist” targets is explicable only if the objective is 1) to whip up a panic about subversive attacks in order to justify a police crackdown and a tightening-up by the authorities, 2) to bring anarchists (and, by extension, the Left) into disrepute.

It is an essential part of the first of these purposes and would suit the second, that some innocent person be injured or, better still (if more dangerously) killed.’  The article ended with a prophecy. ‘What has happened in Palermo bears out what we said immediately after the 25 April attacks in Milan (at the Fair and the railway station): the attackers do not come from our ranks. And the police’s insistence in arresting and detaining anarchists gives rise to grave suspicions.’

After the train bombings on 9 August, the Croce Nera bulletin (No 2, August 1969), stated: ‘Where there is an authoritarian regime in place, in the lead-up to the advent of some important statesman, special checks are carried out and hotheads, subversives and anarchists are detained by the police, some to help with inquiries, some on criminal charges: all as a precautionary measure. So, in this ghastly year of 1969, we wonder: what on earth is going on in Italy?’

The bombs on 12 December 1969 answered that question.

The Croce Nera bulletin editors had an inkling that something was afoot but obviously were not yet in possession of all the facts. For instance, they were not to know that the ‘Chinese manifestos’ operation and the other terrorist operations mounted by fascists which purported to be the work of anarchists or Maoists, represented the prologue to the ‘strategy of tension’.

Federico Umberto D’Amato: strategist of tension — the puppetmaster

They had no way of knowing that the idea of having posters printed up by the tens of thousands and distributed for sticking up by Nazi-fascist groups originated with Federico Umberto D’Amato, head of the Confidential Affairs Bureau of the Interior Ministry (Ufficio Affari Riservati). The details of that strategy had also been worked out in the document Our Political Action, seized by rebel soldiers from the premises of Aginter Press in Lisbon in 1974 during the revolution.

Aginter Press was a rightwing terrorist organisation run by Ralph Guerin Serac (an alias of Yves Félix Marie Guillou, born in France in 1926) and was one of the mainstays of international fascist subversive activity.

The document stated that in addition to infiltrating pro-Chinese groups, propaganda operations should also be mounted that appear to emanate from their political adversaries — all for the purpose of adding to the climate of instability and creating a chaotic situation.

Vincenzo Vinciguerra (former member of Avanguardia Nazionale and Ordine Nuevo. He is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of three policemen)

The Croce Nera people did not know at the time that the provocations and false trails were being overseen personally by D’Amato (holder of masonic membership card No 1643 in lodge P2). This only emerged later following statements to Judge Guido Salvini by Vincenzo Vinciguerra (the person responsible — with Carlo Cicuttini — for the Peteano attack on 31 May 1972 in which three carabinieri were killed and one wounded), a member of both Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale. Vinciguerra, a self-described ‘revolutionary Nazi’, had dissociated himself from his former comrades on the grounds that they were being manipulated by the secret services.

Throughout 1969 the fascists persisted in carrying out attacks or spectacular actions and portraying them as the work of anarchists or leftwing extremists. The practice was to continue for years.

One more example. On the night of 15 October 1971 a bomb exploded outside Milan’s Catholic University in Gemelli Square, causing some exterior damage to the building. Who was behind it? As Martino Siciliano explained to Judge Salvini on 18 October 1994: “It was a spur-of-the-moment thing after a dinner in Marco Foscari’s house at 19 Via Piceno in Milan. Those present were Foscari and his wife, Gianluigi Radice and his wife, Giambattista Cannata aka Tanino, and myself.”

Siciliano arrived from Mestre with a mortar shell with no detonator. After dinner, the group decided to mount an attack that would be blamed on far left groups. Siciliano prepared the bomb using material Fornari had in the house: a detonator, firing powder and a fuse.  He packed the space where the fuse should have been with firing powder, and then fitted the detonator and fuse.

With the technical business over, the group discussed targeting. They decided on the Catholic University as they had the student card stolen from a left-wing student they had mugged at the university in the Piazza Gemelli.

Cannata went with Siciliani in the former’s Fiat 500 while the others stayed behind with the women. The idea was to leave the student card near the site of the explosion, but unfortunately they had forgotten to bring it with them. No matter; the fuse was lit and the device left near the railings as the pair hot-footed it back to the car and fled the scene.  But without the leftist student’s card the action did not have the desired effect. To confuse matters further, there was another bomb attack on the Communist Party’s premises around the same time. As Angelo Angeli was to complain later, in a letter to Giancarlo Esposti (both neo-Nazis) the two incidents were effectively linked in the newspaper reports.

But the neo-Nazi groups did not only mount operations posing as leftists. They had been training for insurgency and attacks on leftwing party premises and leftist militants well before 1969.  Training and ideological indoctrination took place at paramilitary training camps around the country where arms and explosives were collected and stored. It was in one of these camps in Pian del Rascino that Esposti met his death in 1974.

Early in 1965, Siciliano, Piercarlo Montagner and Zorzi were in the car of Triveneto area Ordine Nuovo leader, Carlo Maria Maggi, bound for a marble quarry near Arzignano del Chiampo in Vicenza province, an area well known to Zorzi who had been born there.  They broke into the explosives store and stole nearly 40 kilos of ammonal, detonators and other explosives and slow-burning fuses. It was a major haul, one that was too big to fit all the material into the car, so they hid part of it — well away from the quarry. They then returned to Mestre while Zorzi set about hiding their booty.

A few days later they were back in Arzignano. This time they travelled as far as Vicenza by train, then by Pullman to Arzignano. They hid the explosives and fuses under their coats and made their way back to Venice.

Ordine Nuovo’s Venetian militants grew increasingly active throughout 1969. They trained regularly in the use of gelignite.  The bomb that exploded in Milan on 12 December consisted of a kilo and a half of gelignite.

Zorzi had procured the dark red sticks of explosives through Carlo Digilio who had been sold them by Roberto Rotelli, a Venetian smuggler who specialised in salvaging valuables from shipwrecks. “Rotelli told me he meant to sell the explosives, for which he had paid about 5 million (lire) of the proceeds of his cigarette smuggling. Rotelli came up with Zorzi’s name as a potential buyer and I replied that he seemed to fit the bill”, Digilio told Judge Salvini on 13 January 1996. Ane he added: “Zorzi was very concerned that the purchase should be kept a secret and I reassured him that none of us had anything to gain by talking about it.”

Trieste 3-4 October 1969. Within a few days of this date, Italian president Giuseppe Saragat was due to pay a state visit to Yugoslav president Tito. Zorzi, Siciliano and Giancarlo Vianello met in the Piazzale Roma in Venice where they collected Maggi’s large car from the garage. In the boot were two metal containers each filled with gelignite and attached pre-set timing devices. All that remained was to connect them up to the battery.

The whole operation had been prepared by Digilio, also known to the trio as Otto, a former legionnaire apparently well versed in the use of weapons and explosives. But, unknown to the young Ordine Nuovo members, Digilio had another nickname  — Erodoto (Herodotus). This was his CIA agent code name in the Venice region. It was a name he had inherited when his father Michelangelo — also a man with US intelligence services connections — died in 1967. Zorzi’s team set off for Trieste. Their first target was the Slovene School in the Rione San Giovanni. They planted the first bomb on a widow-sill after connecting up the battery and scattering anti-Slav leaflets. They then headed on to Gorizia and target number two. But forty minutes passed and they heard no boom.  Forensics was to establish that the battery was completely flat: ‘Evidently somebody had had other plans for the operation, because a mistake of that sort strikes me as impossible”, was Siciliano’s comment to Judge Salvini on 18 October 1994.

It was daylight by the time they reached Gorizia. They waited for darkness to fall, then placed their bomb and leaflets by the pillar at the front of the old railway station.  Then it was off to Venice. But the outcome was the same as before: the bomb was discovered, unexploded.

Giancarlo Rognoni: head of Ordine Nuovo's Phoenix Group

This prompted Giancarlo Rognoni — head of Ordine Nuovo in Milan, the La Fenice (Phoenix) Group, to restore the honour of his Venetian comrades and on 27 April 1974 two La Fenice militants blew up the Slovene School.

Fascists and neo-Nazis continued with their outrages for years, virtually right up until the end of the 1980s. Some have left a lasting impression in our collective memories — the Piazza della Loggia bombing in Brescia, the Italicus train bombing in 1974 and the bombing of Bologna railway station in 1980 to name only the most famous of them. But there were others that did not make it into the papers, even though they were important.

Take, for example the Calabrian town of Gioia Tauro, on 22 July 1970, when a TNT charge tore up part of the track outside that town. Six passengers were killed and another 54 injured. Investigators initially indicted four railway workers for culpable homicide, but this was no accident that could be put down to carelessness or negligence. It was an outrage that would be followed by further outrages against Calabrian trains.

According to evidence given in 1993, the perpetrators were allegedly Vito Silverini and Vincenzo Caracciolo (who died in 1987 and 1990 respectively). Apparently they had been paid to commit the outrage by the leaders of the Comitato d’azione per Reggio Capoluogo (‘Make Reggio the Capital Action Committee’), effectively a Calabrian fascist pressure group.

26-27 September 1970: five anarchists die in mysterious circumstance

Two Calabrian anarchists, Angelo Casile and Giovanni Aricò carried out a counter-investigation into this outrage and both men were killed on the night of 26-27 September 1970 — along with three other anarchists — when they skidded into a truck that had braked suddenly on the road from Reggio to Rome. Leftwing counter-investigators published some nonsense about the dynamics behind this incident. One thing they did say was that it was a calculated rightwing murder and it was no coincidence that the crash had taken place on to a stretch of road (about 60 kilometres from Rome) close to one of the estates of Prince Junio Valerio Borghese.

Prince Junio Valerio Borghese (ex-Decima MAS commander and a key figure in the Italian neo-fascist movement). In December 1970 he led a CIA-sponsored coup d'etat (with James Jesus Angleton) against the government of Giuseppe Saragat.

Prince Junio Valerio Borghese (ex-Decima MAS commander and a key figure in the Italian neo-fascist revival). In December 1970 he led a CIA-sponsored coup d'etat (with James Jesus Angleton) against the government of Giuseppe Saragat.

However, on 26 March 1994, Aricò’s cousin, Antonio Perna, presented himself before Judge Salvini and gave a statement that the day before he set off for Rome, Aricò had confided in him that he had taken considerable important documentary evidence about the Gioia Tauro attack to Veraldo Rossi (known as Aldo), a member of the FAI in Rome and editor of the weekly anarchist paper Umanità Nova. Perna claimed that when Aricò set off he had that documentary evidence with him, but no trace of it was found at the scene of the accident, nor were the address books of the five victims ever returned to their families. Furthermore, Angelo Casile, one of the dead youths, had been interrogated that summer by Judge Vittorio Occorsio (investigating the bombings of 12 December 1969) and he had given a deposition that he had seen Giuseppe Schirinzi, an Avanguardia Nazionale member in Reggio Calabria, in Rome immediately after the cenotaph bombing and that in the heat of the moment he had accused him of being the perpetrator of the attack.

On 7 December 1969, only days before Casile ran into him in Rome, Schirinzi was convicted (with Aldo Pardo) for the attack on police headquarters in Reggio Calabria. But Schirinzi was no bomb-maker; he was a prominent member of Avanguardia Nazionale. In April 1968 it was he who went with Mario Merlino (the provocateur who helped Valpreda launch the Circolo 22 Marzo in Rome) on the crucial trip to the colonels’ Greece. He had also tried to ingratiate himself into the Reggio Calabria anarchists’ circle — known, ironically, as the 22 March Circle — in the summer of 1969.

Circolo 22 Marzo: original members

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Licia Pinelli, 20 December 1969

Licia Pinelli, 20 December 1969

Giuseppe Pinelli’s death marked the first deep fracture in a bewildered Italian public opinion. The mountain of charges levelled at Pietro Valpreda and the other anarchists from the Circolo 22 Marzo remained. But Pinelli’s ‘fall’ from the fourth floor at police headquarters  — someone well known and well-respected in leftwing circles in Milan —left many bewildered. The contradictory evidence from the police, the false statements from police chief Marcello Guida and the unlawful detention had not gone unnoticed.

Marcello Giuda (Milan's Police Commissioner)

And when, on 27 December 1969, Licia Pinelli, Giuseppe’s’ widow and mother filed a complaint and sued Guida, some newspapers began back-pedalling over Pinelli’s guilt and suicide. ‘The suit concerns ongoing and aggravated defamation. The complaint relates to breaches of professional confidentiality’.

Police chief Guida allegedly committed both offences immediately after the railwayman’s suicide by issuing statements to the press ‘that he ought not to have done’ and venturing ‘assessments, interpretations and opinions’ which the two Pinelli women regarded as defamatory of the person of their deceased relative” wrote Giampaolo Pansa in La Stampa on 28 December. He went on to say: “The three young criminal lawyers assisting the two women in this matter — Domenico Contestabile, Marcello Gentili and Renato Palmieri — have spoken. The charges brought by the lawyers are based on three points. Namely, that immediately after Pinelli’s death the police chief stated ‘in further press conferences’ that all of the railwayman’s alibis had collapsed.

Marcelo Gentili, a solicitor acting for Licia Pinelli and Pinelli's mother

According to the three lawyers, this involved ‘grave and unfounded’ claims that Guida allegedly repeated several times […] The police chief’s second ‘offence’ — that he was quick to draw a connection between the charges against Pinelli and ‘the alleged suicide’ by telling everyone that Pinelli had killed himself because he was compromised by the police officers’ questioning […] The third ‘charge’ against Guida (and the most serious one in the view of the three lawyers) was that he had named Pinelli as guilty of ‘dynamite attacks’.

Pinelli's funeral, 20 December 1969

Pinelli's funeral, 20 December 1969

In short, many people wondered, if Pinelli were innocent, why did he kill himself? Why did three thousand people walk behind the anarchist’ s coffin on 20 December in spite of the atmosphere of police intimidation? These were questions that ate away at the official ‘truths’ of the police and magistrates. Who had lied about a fellow born in Milan in 1928 in the working class district of Porta Ticinese?

Funeral procession of Giuseppe Pinelli, 20 December 1969

Pinelli's funeral, 20 December 1969

Giuseppe Pinelli

Stockily built, of medium height, black whiskers and goatee, Pinelli left school after elementary level, working first as a waiter and later as a warehouseman. But leaving school early, however, did not mean that he had given up on books: he read them by the hundreds. He was a passionate self-educator. In 1944 he had been a runner for the resistance in Milan, the Brigata Franco where he became involved with a group of anarchist partisans. That meeting left its mark on his life, and his anarchist activism can be traced back to those years.

In 1954 he won a competition and joined the railways as a labourer. The following year, he married and was to father two daughters, Silvia and Claudia.

In 1963 some young people set up the Gioventú libertario (Libertarian Youth) group, which brought a breath of fresh air to the political atmosphere of Milan. Even though he was 35 and the others were little more than 20, Pinelli got on well with them. He became a natural point of contact between newcomers to anarchism and the older militants who had survived fascism.

Then things took a turn for the better. In 1965 he helped found the Circolo Sacco e Vanzetti in the Viale Murillo. Milan’s anarchists hadn’t had their own premises for ten years, but in 1969, the youngsters found premises in the Piazzale Lugano and called it the Circolo Ponte della Ghisolfa, only a few metres away from the bridge of the same name overlooking countless gardens.

The winds of May in France were blowing through Europe at the time. Pinelli lived through the frenzy of those days: students were challenging the authorities and the workers were showing signs of running out of patience with the traditional unions. This atmosphere presented Pinelli with a tremendous opportunity to revive the USI (Unione Sindacale Italiana), the libertarian trade union which, under Armando Borghi’s guidance in the 1920s, included among its membership a young Giuseppe De Vittorio, who was to win fame as the secretary of the CGIL.

The first of the united rank and file committees (CUBs), trade union structures that were independent of the three big trade union centrals, the CGIL, the CISL and the UIL, were coming into being. The most pugnacious of these CUBs was the one at ATM, the Milan tram company. It was led by a fifty-year old who had been active in the anarchist movement in the immediate post-war years.

Ponte Della Ghisolfa (anarchist meeting place. Milan)

There was considerable affinity between the tram worker and Pinelli the railway worker. The CUBs found the Ponte della Ghisolfa premises the most appropriate place to meet (until the bombs of 12 December and the hysterical anti-anarchist campaign prompted the CUB members to look for other premises). Pinelli was forever on the lookout for chances for confrontation, reaching out to those who had lost patience with the official unions. Another circle opened in the Via Scaldasole, a favourite meeting place for students galvanised by the events of May ’68 in Paris. The situation was excitable to say the least, but unlike the ‘chaotic’ structures the newspapers wrote about later, the Milan anarchists (and they were not alone) had well-defined small groups of militants who knew one another well.

In Milan the Gioventù Libertaria (Libertarian Youth) changed its name to Bandiera Nera (Black Flag). This group included, in addition to Pinelli, another worker — Cesare Vurchio, born in Canosa di Puglia in 1931. Pinelli worked closely with Vurchio. They were of a similar age and both had families to support. The rest of the members were youngsters, some of them still students.

One of these youths, Amedeo Bertolo, although only 28 years old, already had some experience inasmuch as he had been involved in a spectacular action in 1962 — the abduction of Franco’s vice-consul in Milan, Isu Elias.  It had been the first political kidnapping since the war.

What was the reason for the abduction? Early in September 1962 Jorge Conill Valls, a young Spanish anarchist, had been sentenced to death for anti-Francoist activities by a court martial in Barcelona. Speed was of the essence.

Bertolo — who had met Cunill in person a month earlier, during a ‘mission’ organised by the clandestine Spanish Federación Ibérica de Juventudes Libertarias (FIJL – Iberian Libertarian Youth Federation) — quickly set the abduction in motion on 29 September, together with a half a dozen anarchists and ‘restless’ socialists.

The kidnapping dominated the front pages of the international press for days and triggered a campaign of anti-Francoist solidarity that brought considerable pressure to bear on the Franco regime at several levels — from street demonstrations to the ‘humanitarian’ intervention by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI (1963-1978). Conill’s death sentence was commuted after three days to one of thirty years imprisonment and Isu Elias was immediately released.

His kidnappers were quickly identified and jailed. The last of these, Bertolo, who had fled to France, spontaneously and quixotically surrendered himself at the courthouse just as the trial in Varese opened. The trial itself was covered by much of the Italian press as an indictment of the Spanish fascist government rather than of the actions of the young Italian anti-Francoists.

Three of the accused following the verdict in the Isu Elia kidnapping trial

On 21 November all the accused were found guilty but received nominal sentences. For Bertolo (who, in April 1969, was to be among the founders of the Croce nera anarchica, dissolved after Valpreda’s release in 1973) the sentence was six months imprisonment for the kidnapping and 20 days for unlawfully bearing arms. In their judgement, the judges, presided over by Judge Eugenio Zumin, recognised that the accused had ‘acted on motives of particular moral and social import’ and all were found blameless and released on parole.


, Socorrorso

Inspector Dr. Luigi Calabresi, anarchist specialist of Milan’s Special Branch

‘Horrific massacre in Milan’ ran the headline in the Corriere della Sera’s edition of 13 December. ‘Foul provocation’, screamed the front page of Il Giorno. ‘Massacre in Milan. A terrorist plan for Italy?’ asked La Stampa. ‘Horrific attack leads to awful massacre in Milan. Fits in with fascist provocations and reactionary intrigues’, suggested L’Unità.

But whereas the major newspapers confined themselves to reporting the facts — on the front page at least, and were not yet venturing any hypotheses, except for the PCI newspaper — there were already clear ideas emerging as to the identity of the perpetrators and brains behind the previous day’s massacre.

On the evening of 12 December itself, the prefect of Milan, Libero Mazza, sent Christian Democrat prime minister Mariano Rumor, a telephone message that did not beat about the bush:

“Credible hypothesis that immediate inquiries should focus on anarchoid groups as well as extremist fringe. Following consultation with the judicial authorities, strenuous steps already underway to identify and arrest those responsible.”

The suggestion was plain. And it certainly would not find the officers in charge of the investigation all at sea. Inspector Dr. Luigi Calabresi, deputy head of Special Branch at the Milan Questura (police headquarters), was already targeting leftwing extremists. Motive? Look at the targets: banks and the war monument.

As far as he was concerned they were a dead giveaway. His immediate superior, Antonino Allegra, was even quicker off the mark. The running of the investigation seemed to be following a ready-made script. Indeed, those arrested were primarily anarchists and members of the extra-parliamentary left, with only a few far right activists.

Paolo Finzi, 1970

THAT 12 DECEMBER Paolo Finzi was in bed with a temperature. A touch of ‘flu. Barely 18 years old he was a student at the Giosuè Carducci liceo (high school) in Milan where he was active in the school anarchist group. Another member was Fabio Treves who was to acquire celebrity several years later as a musician and city councillor.

Shortly before midnight there was a knock on the door of the Finzi household. It was the police. Paolo’s anxious parents, Matilde and Ulisse, were told bluntly: “We are taking your son to the Questura because because he a main suspect in the Piazza Fontana massacre.”

Matilde Bassani Finzi was not the sort of woman to shock easily. She was 51 years old and had been an active antifascist since the late 1930s, as a member of Soccorso Rosso (Red Aid) in her native town, Ferrara. From 1943 she played an active role in the resistance in Rome, working with the Bandiera Rossa (Red Flag) groups. She was a woman tempered by her past.

But that night Matilde Bassani worried for Paolo, the youngest of her three children, who had been taken to the fourth floor in the Via Fatebenefratelli, the offices of  Milan’s Special Branch. The premises were crowded with leftwingers, mostly, except for four fascists who were chatting with the police.

Paolo spotted Giuseppe Pinelli. He knew him as one of the ‘old hands’ from Milan’s Ponte Della Ghisolfa anarchist group and founder of the Croce Nera Anarchica (Anarchist Black Cross). But there was another anarchist there, older even than Pinelli and whom Finzi knew as a friend of his parents: Virgilio Galassi.  Galassi had been a militant in the libertarian movement since the war, but by 1969 he was no longer active. Yet he too was among the suspects rounded up. Why?

Meeting of the Ponte della Ghisolfa anarchist group

The reason is as straightforward as it is laughable: he worked for the training section at the Banca Commerciale Italiana, where the unexploded bomb had been discovered. But he didn’t remain long at the Questura and was released after the bank’s president, Raffaele Mattioli, intervened on his behalf.

The hours passed. The prisoners were summoned into another room, one at a time, where they were interviewed.  It was the usual routine.  Alibis were checked, opinions sought on what had happened and one final question:

“Who do you think it was?”

But the question was superfluous; the police had assumed from the start that the bombing was the work of anarchists.

The detainees were then moved downstairs to the holding cells. By the afternoon of 13 December it was all over and nearly everyone released.

But the police continued with their inquiries — or, rather, arresting leftwing militants.  Unlike Paolo Finzi, Fausto Lupetti was not a boy: he was 26 years old, but was in the frame. A member of the Italian Marxist-Leninist Party which a few years earlier had split into two factions, a black (libertarian) and a red (Marxist), Lupetti, a publisher, belonged to the latter.  What is more, this “pro-Chinese” was unusual inasmuch as he lived in a commune in a large apartment in the Via Mosso, off the Via Padova in Milan.

At 6.00 am. on 13 December the members of the commune were wakened by the arrival of the police. Everyone was taken to the station for questioning. Lupetti also saw Pinelli who was probably the best known anarchist ‘face’ in leftist circles in Milan.

“I remember the ground in front of him was strewn with cigarette butts”, recalled Lupetti who was taken later that evening to the San Vittore prison where he remained until 29 December, along with Pasquale Valitutti known as ‘Lello’, a young anarchist, and Andrea Valcarenghi, the leading light of the Onda Verde (Green Wave) group and, from 1971 onwards, the man in charge of the monthly Re Nudo.

On 15 December the front page of the Corriere della Sera carried the splash headline: ‘Twenty seven extremists held in San Vittore. Most are members of neo-anarchist groups tied to international organisations’. The thrust of the article, written by Arnaldo Giuliani, says much about the climate being created at the time:

“At the end of the first forty hours on inquiries, the investigation into the Piazza Fontana massacre can be summed up as follows: 1) so far, upwards of one hundred and fifty suspects drawn from opposing extremes have been arrested; 2) at 8.00 pm. yesterday, 27 youngsters most of them members of anarchoid groups suspected of connections with international anarchist movements were being held in San Vittore.”

The anarchist trail was explored in greater depth in the inside pages. A headline on page five read: ‘Anarchist old hands from the Diana among those rounded up in extremists’ dens’. The author of this report, Enzo Passanisi, profiled the Milan anarchist movement, as if to familiarise readers with the ambience in which the outrage might have been hatched:

“Italian anarchists are gathered together into a federation, the FAI […] But most of  Milan’s anarchists, numbering up to two thousand — with active members and sympathisers — espouse an autonomous line. They consist of circles and groups, only one of which, the Sacco e Vanzetti group whose members are mostly older anarchists, is affiliated to the FAI. The other dozen groups are broken down according to their respective fields of activity.

“For example, the Lega anarchica Milanese (Milan Anarchist League), which is active in the university sector, has members in eight institutions of higher learning. There is also the anarchist trade union. It is worth stressing that the policy line espoused by the movement […]  preaches subversion of society and the seizure of power by the masses directly through popular assemblies and labour communes, eschewing both government and parliament after the example of the Ukrainian Republic set up during the struggle between the Bolsheviks and the  Russian Whites.”

Having described the ‘likely’ perpetrators, Passanini went on to describe the bomb. But not the one in the Piazza Fontana, but the one at the Diana theatre on 23 March 1921.

As an ‘historical precedent’, Passanisi had raised this matter with some anarchists from the Ponte della Ghisolfa.  The answer he got was:

“A mistake. The intention was to strike at the magistrates staying in the hotel adjoining the theatre: the judges who were holding Malatesta in prison without a trial.  Agents provocateurs from the police managed to get the target altered at the last minute and there was a massacre. A massacre that we have always deplored.”

This left the door open for Passanini to comment:

“There is always a margin for error between the attack that is acceptable to the anarchist line and the one that it repudiates. Could there have been a mistake made last Friday too?”

But the  comparison between the bank bombing and the Diana bombing had been made as early as the evening of 12 December by Alberto Grisolia in the Corriere della Sera, the daily newspaper run by Giovanni Spadolini, who was more of an historian than a journalist.

“It’s akin to the Diana”,  Grisolia told Giulio Polotti, class of 1924, the then secretary of the UIL in Milan a socialist deputy. (In the 14 December edition of the Corriere della Sera  Grisolia wrote: “In terms of the seriousness of the attack, the only precedent in Milan is the Diana attack theatre attack […]”.)

Polotti, chairman of the Fondazione Anna Kuliscioff, recalled that Friday afternoon:

“There was a meeting of the three unions at the CISL premises in the Via Tadino to discuss plans for the strike over renewal of contacts. The news of the explosion reached us at around  5.00 pm.,  and so, in my capacity as a deputy, I made my way immediately to the Piazza Fontana to see what had happened. I stepped into the bank concourse and, horror!, trod on the arm of one victim. Then I climbed to the first floor, where the mayor Aldo Aniasi, prefect Libero Mazza, questore Marcello Guida and Cardinal Giovanni Colombo also arrived. By that point it was unmistakable — there had been a bomb. I telephoned Antonio Giolitti in Rome who told me there had also been explosions in the capital. After my telephone call I bumped into Grisolia who spoke to me of the bombings having an historical precedent in the Diana outrage.”

There was a similar atmosphere in Rome. The Corriere della Informazione wrote in its 14 December afternoon edition:

“Extremists of every hue did not sleep undisturbed last night. Throughout the city, police carried out a massive round-up of extremists of every persuasion, individuals involved in movements that have never made any secret of their subversive intentions.”

Further on the author of the article, Fabrizio De Santis, adjusted his aim: “These are clearly people who will shrink from nothing. They seek not only to strike fear into the population and signal their existence as challenging revolutionary elements. They seek to kill.”

The psychological and social climate was in place.  All that was required was a monster to plaster all over the front pages.