Archives for posts with tag: Delfo Zorzi

Judge Francesco Morelli

Rome, 3 May 2005. In a monotonous drone, in the courthouse in the Piazzale Clodio, the chairman of the second criminal section of the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court), Francesco Morelli, reads out a historic verdict: and turns down the appeals against the verdicts brought in  by the Appeal Court in relation to the Piazza Fontana massacre. Acquittals all round, the TV and newspaper headlines read. In fact, the Court of Cassation endorsed the verdicts acquitting Carlo Maria Maggi, Giancarlo Rognoni and Delfo Zorzi, all three of them characters (and, at the time, members of the neo-Nazi Ordine Nuovo organisation) in the never-ending story that began on the afternoon of 12 December 1969. A historic verdict in two senses: because that massacre was carried out thirty six years earlier and because it rings down the curtain on an affair that has (by altering it) written Italy’s history in the blood of its sixteen dead (to which number must be added one more who passed away years later as a result of injuries received) and the almost one hundred injured (the eighty-six officially recorded, plus another ten or so who opted to leave the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura and seek treatment elsewhere).

The “State massacre” has reached the end of the line. From now on no magistrate is going to dare delve any further into that undergrowth. Back in 1989, Milan’s investigating magistrate Guido Salvini took us to task for lifting the lid off that “state mystery”. That year he inherited a very superficial investigation into rightwing subversion from within (eversione). He probed. Questioned. Listened. Ordered inspections of the records of the police, study centres and state administrations. Singling out individuals who up until that point had never been mentioned in investigations into the 12 December 1969 outrage. An unprecedented and yet at the same time tired old vista took shape.

A gang from the Venezia-Mestre Ordine Nuovo, headed by Zorzi, and with Carlo Digilio serving serving as its “quartermaster” (under the supervision of Maggi), can be linked to the activities of another, Padua-based neo-Nazi group, the gang of Franco Freda and Giovanni Ventura. A body blow! Yes, because Freda and Ventura were acquitted back in 1985 and again in 1987 of all charges relating to the Piazza Fontana but given fifteen year terms for two attacks (on 25 April in Milan and the train bombings of 9 August) that amounted to “dummy runs” for the 12 December bombing.

Acquitted in those two verdicts, Freda and Ventura, together with SID informant Guido Giannettini, were nevertheless sentenced on 23 February 19790 by the Court of Assizes in Catanzaro to life imprisonment for the Piazza Fontana outrage. A body blow, then. Pigeons coming home to roost. Investigations by a Treviso magistrate, Giancarlo Stiz, had, way back in the early 70s, identified those truly responsible for the massacre. Making nonsense of the charges framed by two Rome magistrates – Vittorio Occorsio and Ernesto Cudillo – who were “resolutely convinced” that the outrage had been carried out by Pietro Valpreda, an anarchist, and a dancer to boot. The perfect culprit.

At which point, on foot of the Salvini inquiry, they had merely to proceed to trial and, the trail of evidence gathered from confessions obtained could not have helped but lead to conviction of the neo-Nazis and the placing of a legal seal in the halls of justice upon what many people – so very many people – already knew.

In fact, on 30 June 2001, the Milan Court of Assizes, chaired by Luigi Martino, passed life sentences on Maggi, Rognoni and Zorzi, plus a three year term for Stefano Tringali for aiding and abetting Zorzi.

But there is a but. The judges of lower court convicted them in spite of prosecuting attorneys Grazia Pradella and Massimo Meroni. Put simply, the pair of them were ill-prepared for trials of such intricacy: nothing more was to e heard from them and they returned to the limbo from which they had been sourced. It looks as it Pradella and Meroni were chosen in order to hobble the Salvini investigation. In which they were successful.

On 12 March 2004 the Milan Court of Appeal in fact acquitted Maggi, Rognoni and Zorzi. With this curious footnote: it slashed Tringali’s sentence from three years to one year, he having been found guilty of aiding and abetting Zorzi. A detail that only some “hair-splitting” jurist could explain, logic dictating that where there was no offence committed there could not have been any aiding and abetting.

In essence, the judges in Milan held that the pentito Carlo Digilio (whose role as pentito earned him immunity from prosecution for his activities as quartermaster to the Venezia-Meste Ordine Nuovo group) is an unreliable witness in that he repeatedly contradicted himself and made mistakes. True, he made them after having suffered a stroke that left him somewhat impaired (albeit that his medical reports, which were not taken under consideration, insisted that he was fully in control of his mental faculties). The other pentito, Martino Siciliano, on the other hand, is a credible witness but offers “hearsay” evidence unusable in a trial context. It was not enough that Zorzi (a very wealthy clothing industrialist-turned-Japanese citizen whose initial defence counsel was Gaetano Pecorella, a deputy for Forza Italia and subsequently for the PDL, a man who was also defence counsel to Silvio Berlusconi), had repeatedly threatened Siciliano and offered him loads of money to get him to retract. And, to be sure, Siciliano has been a “wobbly” pentito but, in he end, inside the courtroom, he has stood by all of his accusations. Not enough. The acquittal of the trio hammered home the old formula about insufficiency of the evidence, a formula that has now been formally done away with.

The Milan judges then tossed in a real “gem” by way of a grounding for their acquittal decision. Reconstructing the sequence of attacks in 1969, they acknowledged that Giovanni Ventura and Franco Freda were responsible for the Piazza Fontana and not just for the bombings in Milan on 25 April and the 9 August 1969 train bombings: “The acquittal of Freda and Ventura is a mistake, the result of a state of familiarity with the facts superseded by the matters adduced in this trial.”

In short, the ultimate hoax was mounted in Milan. The two culprits singled out by Stiz (see Chapter XVI: On the Trail of the Fascists) are supposedly the people responsible for the massacre, but, as to their relations with the Ordine Nuovo members from Venezia-Mestre and Milan, there is insufficient proof. Also closing off any involvement by Stefano Delle Chiaie, the then leader of Avanguardia Nazionale in Rome, which is to say, of the group that provided the logistical back-up (and not just logistical back-up) for the bombings on 12 December 1969, of the Cenotaph (four dead) and the Banca Nazionale el Lavoro in the Via Veneto (fourteen dead). After years as a fugitive from justice, Delle Chiaie returned to Italy and was finally acquitted in 1991.

Then again (many a long year ago) the upper reaches of the Italian state … those Christian Democrats and Social Democrats who effectively acted in cahoots with the Italian and US secret services (and with rightwing extremist henchmen) .., in order to uphold the status quo in Italy, bombs and massacres or no bombs and massacres, have finally been cleared.

What both the right and (albeit for different reasons) the left want is for us all to forget or to be left bewildered. Through a strategy mounted on the basis of reports from the Massacres Commission released towards the end of 2000. First came the report from the DS (Democratic Left) parliamentary group. A reading (or re-reading) of the years of the bombings, outrages and coup attempts. The DS has come up with what seems at first glance to be a reconstruction sufficiently under-pinned by facts and verdicts and scrutiny. The upshot is that the spotlight focuses on the role of neo-Nazi and neo-fascist organisations, on the protection they enjoyed from the machinery of state, the courts, the secret services and on the prominent role played by the CIA and NATO secret services. The novelty in all this was the spotless image that the Italian Communist Party (PCI) donned in the 60s and 70s: the party of Luigi Longo and Enrico Berlinguer is depicted as the great stalwart, standing by democracy in Italy. In short, the highest self-praise.

Then came the retort from the parliamentarians Alfredo Mantica and Vincenzo Fragalà back in the days of Alleanza Nazionale. In two brief but fantastic reports they turned the spotlight back on to the anarchists. “In the investigation into the Piazza Fontana there was more and worse to come: any clue that might have pointed to the anarchist line of inquiry was simply ignored.” According to Mantica and Fragalà, in fact, the real culprit behind the 12 December 1969 massacre in Milan was Pietro Valpreda. And Giuseppe Pinelli, entangled in the matter (and maybe even a police informer) supposedly took his own life after the screws were put on him. Furthermore, in relation to bombs, the Milan anarchists allegedly had a history which, they argue, reaches right back into the early 1960s. It is therefore only reasonable that those responsible for the strategy of tension should be sought in those quarters. All under the aegis of the Soviet secret service: the KGB.

A cack-handed gambit, not even seriously documented and replete with contradictory inferences, but which has a specific political purpose: to show that the history of those years is open to diametrically opposite interpretations. And if none of them is wrong, then none of them is right. Better therefore to let it go and resort to the all too Italian practice of starting with a clean slate.

The aim was clear: to wind up the Massacres Commission following the 2001 elections (in which the centre-right were the victors). Thereby conceding that the 1960s and 1970s had been dire. But now we need to leave them behind and send everybody home again, all blameless.

That past is a hot potato for both political camps. The right is involved in it up to its neck, so much so that it wiped its hands of an electoral pact with Pino Rauti and his MSI-Fiamma tricolore. He would have proved an unduly uneasy ally on account of his having been heavily involved in the era of outrages: Ordine Nuovo, of which Rauti was the leader back then, was in many instances the sword arm of that strategy. To say nothing of Giorgio Almirante’s Movimento Sociale and their dalliances with black terrorism. And the Gianfranco Fini who was Almirante’s ultra-loyal young admirer back then, would have us forget his past. In 2005, in fact, the Alleanza Nazionale rebranded itself as the “democratic right”. So extremist posturing has to be left behind. Hence the centre right’s need to lay to rest an uncomfortable and decidedly unpalatable past.

In a way it is a similar story with the centre-left, especially its main component part, the DS (Democratic Left, these days known as the PD, Democratic Party). Its fore-runner, the PCI, used (to adopt a more schematic viewpoint) the facts about the state massacre (which it knew) to boost its own own access to power. In practice, it put a price on its silence. How? By putting the squeeze on the Christian Democrats, a huge political melting-pot wherein pro-coup elements lived cheek by jowl with “democratically more presentable” personnel. The famous tactic of “I am in the know but I’ll say nothing if we can come to some arrangement”. A tactic that also prospered in part because – in the PSDI {Italian Social Democratic Party) –  the Christian Democrats had an ally committed to drawing a veil over the role of the US secret services. The “American party” operating in the Italy of the 1960s and 1970s (it being no accident that it came into being in 1947 with substantial funding from the CIA via the AFL-CIO union conduit).

Again in 2000, there were other magistrates on the same wave-length. Libero Mancuso, a public prosecutor in Bologna,  was something of a prophet: in fact he argued that dwelling on the Piazza Fontana amounted to indulgence in “judicial archaeology” in that nothing would ever come of it.

It was no coincidence that Judge Salvini was forced to defend himself against charges levelled by fellow magistrates, especially by his Venetian colleague Felice Casson, with help from the reporter Giorgio Cecchetti from La Nuova Venezia and La Repubblica, the source of a number of scoops relating to news that was still top secret. In the end, Salvini was cleared both by the Higher Bench Council and by the Court of Cassation. He had been charged with “contextual compatibility” (i.e. the charge was that he ought never to have worked for the court in Milan and with violating the obligations of the bench (having used SISMI agents to unearth information about Martino Siciliano). The entire affair throwing up a far from irrelevant issue: anybody who looks into the Piazza Fontana and raises questions about the “official version” is an irritant.

In 2000, in September to be exact, senator-for-life Paolo Emilio Taviani made significant statements following those he made in 1997 to the Massacres Commission. In May 1974,  he had been Interior minister and it was Taviani, no less, who dismantled Federico Umberto D’Amato’s Confidential Affairs Bureau (Ufficio Affari Riservati). This was a significant move, for D’Amato had been one of the leading elements directing inquiries away from rightwing subversives and the 12 December massacre (not only that, but he was indeed the puppet-master of certain schemes). The senator-for-life told members of the carabinieri ROS that he had learned in 1974 that the bomb planted in Milan had not been meant to claim any lives and that a SID agent, Rome lawyer Mateo Fusco di Ravello, had been on the brink of leaving Fiumicino airport for Milan with the mission of preventing the attacks. He was about to board his plane when he heard that the bomb had already gone off. Fusco’s daughter Anna (Fusco died in 1985) confirms that her father had long been working for the SIFAR and then for the SID and that he had, on several occasions, spoken to his daughter about the abortive attempt to prevent the Piazza Fontana massacre. Which is yet another morsel showing how the most mportant state agencies were au fait with the planning of the attacks and had tried only at the eleventh hour to soften their impact. In that regard Fusco, whose daughter has stated that he was very close to Rauti, was one high level contact between the military and the secret services and Ordine Nuovo. But Taviani did not stop there. He said that among the institutional officials actively shifting the blame towards the left was an officer in Padua, Manlio Del Gaudio. And who might this gentleman be? Why, Lieutenant-Colonel Del Gaudio, the then commander of the Padua carabinieri, allegedly the serviceman to whom the SID’s General Gianadelio Maletti entrusted the task in 1975 of “shutting off the Turkish tap”, i.e. source Gianni Casalini, an Ordine Nuovo member and SID informant who intended to “unburden his conscience” and lift the lid on everything he knew about the group’s responsibilities in relation to the train bombings of 8 and 9 August 1969. But the Milian Assize Court refused to listen to Taviani in April 2001 (Taviani then died on 17 June) or Fusco di Ravello. How come? Their evidence had surfaced at a point when the proceedings were close to a conclusion: and anyway, it was not regarded as “absolutely necessary”. Just one of many things that highlight the state provenance of the many outrages that punctuated the 60s and 70s. And many another could be mentioned. All pointing in the same direction.

http://espresso.repubblica.it/multimedia/24226612/1/2

Nowadays the climate is better suited to letting an issue as bothersome as the Piazza Fontana fade into oblivion. Pietro Valpreda died on 7 July 2002. So many of the other protagonists are also dead, just as so many of their confederates have also left the stage. And the verdict handed down by the Court of Cassation has set the seal on a de facto situation: no one is to be held to blame for that slaughter.

So how did this tangled tale, starting with anarchists only to arrive at Nazifascists, Italian and American secret services, and now closed up with “acquittals all round” all begin? Plainly, we need to turn back to that notorious 12 December 1969.

NOTE: List of fascists who travelled to Greece as guests of the Greek Junta’s secret services


On 5 December 1969 the Piazza del Duomo was packed with left-wingers, rather than the expected fascists

Mariano Rumor wasted no time. The day after the bombings of 12 December 1969, the prime minister called a meeting of the secretaries of the Christian Democrats, the Socialist Party, the Unified Socialist Party (the name used by the social democrats after the socialist split on 2 July 1969) and Republican Party. His aim was to rebuild a four-party coalition cabinet.

It was to take them over three months to come up with a new government line-up. The overall impression was that although the socio-political situation might be dramatic, in the palaces of Rome they were still using the same old alchemy in the allocation of ministerial portfolios likely to assuage the various political camps.

Mauro Ferri and Mario Tanassi, the two leaders of the new social democratic party, were behind a strong government that — riding the wave of emotion triggered by the bombs — sought to impose an authoritarian stamp on the country. They spoke for that “American party” (as it was known) which vehemently opposed Italy’s progressive drift leftwards.

Rumor’s real intention was to establish a centre government of Christian Democrats and the Unified Socialist Party that would crown, at policy level, the strategy that had led to the Piazza Fontana carnage. But the enormous turnout of trade unionists and left-wingers at the funerals in Milan forced him to think again.

The situation that had developed since 1968 was worrying to broad sections of the middle and entrepreneurial classes. First the student unrest and then the labour unrest had fuelled their paranoia about the “red menace”. The traditional unions had for many months been unsuccessful at keeping their members’ struggles within the parameters of the usual demands. So much so that on 3 July 1969 a general strike called to press for a rent freeze witnessed the FIAT workers in Turin’s Mirafiori plant chanting an ironic slogan that had a threatening ring as far as the ruling class was concerned: “What do we want? Everything!

Striking workers at the FIAT Mirafiori plant (1969)

That slogan had immediately taken off. Soon it was being chanted with growing insistence on marches. And in fact 1969 recorded 300,000 hours lost to strikes as compared with the 116,000 average for the 1960s.  Labour costs were on the rise, from 15.8 per cent (or 19.8 per cent in industry), increasing the wages component of the gross national product from 56.7 up to 59 per cent. A discernible shift in earnings was under way. A threat to the privileged classes of society and to those who only a few short years before had been the beneficiaries of the “economic miracle”.

A seemingly pre-revolutionary situation existed in the country. Even though the revolution for which most students and a segment of the workers yearned for was not merely a distant prospect, but a practical impossibility, but what did that matter? Many honestly believed it was just around the corner, and many more were afraid that that was the case.

Even though the advocates of the radical transformation of society were a tiny minority compared with the total population, the nation’s political axis was shifting to the left. Although harshly criticised by the extremist fringe, the Communist Party was preparing to expand into new areas. Caught on the hop by the student demonstrations at the start of 1968, the Communist Party leaders from the Via Botteghe Oscure quickly deployed to make up the lost ground, especially in the field of institutional politics — parliament. So much so that on 28 April 1969 the debate began on disarming the Italian police in an attempt to turn them into British “bobbies”. It only took the bombs in Milan on 25 April to consign that scheme to utopia.

The strategy of tension was under way. This phase involved a revamping and synthesis of what had already been devised in theory and put into practice since the mid-1960s by leaders of the far-right and important elements in the armed forces. Italian Nazis and fascists were eager to eradicate the “communist contagion” and in this they were aided, abetted, monitored and, ultimately, directed by the Italian and American secret services.

The CIA had been operating in Italy since the end of World War Two. In 1947 it had funded — through the AFL-CIO — the breakaway socialist party led by Giuseppe Saragat and helped by anti-Stalinist revolutionaries, the Iniziativa Socialista, led by Mario Zagari.  Apart from the ideological motives that drove Saragat and Zagari, the CIA’s dollars successfully undermined the Popular Front and facilitated the victory of the Christian Democrats on 18 April 1948 when they took 48.5 per cent of the votes and won an absolute majority in the Chamber of Deputies.

That victory had almost been written off. On 20 March 1948, George Marshall, the US Secretary of State, had warned Italians that in the event of a communist victory all US aid to Italy would dry up. In 1969 the CIA found its activities facilitated — the Italian president, Saragat, was a man who owed them a favour.

April 21, 1967: The Greek Colonels launch their US-led coup d'état

The CIA had one great foe — communism, just as the KGB used every method available to it to combat the West. But whereas in the Third World the two agencies fought on almost equal terms — with the KGB having the edge — in the west the CIA brooked no interference. So much so that in 1967 it came up with a brilliant resolution to the Greek crisis by installing its own man, George Papadopoulos in power by means of a coup d’état. From this point on the “coup-makers” held the upper hand in the Agency in Europe — and would continue to do so right up until the mid-1970s.

The three leaders of the US-backed Greek Revolutionary Junta: Papadopoulos (left), Pattakos (centre), Makarezos (right)

After Greece it was Italy’s turn and within the US-dependent SID the coup-maker faction was in the ascendant. From 1966  — the year he took office — Admiral Eugenio Henke led the SID and D Bureau was headed by Federico Gasca Queirazza, one of those who had been briefed in 1966 by agent Guido Giannettini on what the Venetian Nazis Franco Freda, Giovanni Ventura and Delfo Zorzi were planning.

Gasca Queirazza passed this information on to his superior, Henke, who in turn forwarded the information to Interior Minister Franco Restivo. Did Restivo pass on this information to his party colleague and prime minister, Mariano Rumor? No? That takes some swallowing, if only because the repeated unbelievable attacks of amnesia suffered by Rumor during the first trial in Catanzaro provoked such hilarity, in spite of the dramatic setting.

When Vito Miceli took over from Henke in 1970, the coup-maker faction was no longer simply diligently coordinating the attacks mounted by the far-right, it had taken the initiative as a direct organiser and Junio Valerio ’s coup attempt was part and parcel of this new dynamic. Miceli was also to stand trial for this later, but, as ever, nothing came of it.

When they struck on the night of 7 December 1970’s men were not nostalgic old codgers. They had substantial cover and assistance.  Miceli briefed Defence Minister Tanassi on what was happening, as did the chief of staff, Enzo Marchesi. In fact, Restivo knew everything even before the plotters held part of his ministry for a few hours.  But when questioned in parliament on 18 March 1971, after the news had broken, Restivo denied everything. Naturally.

The history of the coup in Italy remains unfinished business, as is the case of Piazza Fontana. History repeated itself in April 1973 with the Rosa dei Venti conspiracy, which involved even greater heavyweights who were much better prepared than Borghese had been — officers such as Colonel Amos Spiazzi (who had been around the block earlier, on 7 December 1970).

The man who oversaw this proliferation of attacks and coup preparations was a leading engineer by the name of Hung Fendwich whose office was based in Rome’s Via Tiburtina. But it was not located in the sort of secret lair that one might imagine; it was in the offices of the Selenia Company, part of the STET-IRI group, for which he worked.

Fendwich was the typical eminence grise who studied and refined plans, drew up analyses of the socioeconomic and political situation, but left the operational work — the “dirty work” — to men of more modest rank, men such as Captain David Carrett attached to the FTASE base (NATO command in Verona from 1969 to 1974), or his successor (up until 1978), Captain Theodore Richard based in Vicenza.

Sergio Minetto, one of the CIA’s top Italian informants, led these men. Minetto was the man to whom Carlo Digilio, their plant inside the Ordine Nuovo group in Venice, would have been reporting. As an operator it was he who prepared the explosives and trained Delfo Zorzi and Giovanni Ventura in the group’s powder magazine — an isolated house in the Paese district near Treviso.

The bomb attacks that erupted in Italy between 1969 and the mid-1970s (although they continued after that date) were regarded as overtures to a coup d’état. Indeed, although the coup never happened, it was always in the air and indeed had a precise function. It sent out a clear and menacing message to the opposition — i.e. the Communist Party.

But it was no coincidence that following the coup in Chile in September 1973 — which brought the number of military regimes around the globe to 47 — PCI secretary Enrico Berlinguer floated the idea (from the columns of the review Rinascita) of an “historic compromise” — i.e. for a government agreement between the Christian Democrats, the Italian Communist Party and the Italian Socialist Party.  But it was to take another 23 years before the Democratic Left Party, the PCI’s heir, entered the government as part of a centre-left coalition.

The bombings crystallised the institutional political situation and in response the left presented the prospect of armed struggle. The ongoing outrages and the threat of a coup, among other things, drove many extra-parliamentary militants underground, including people such as the publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli.

All this gave rise to a vicious circle, which, to some extent, served as an a posteriori excuse for the theory of “opposing extremisms’. The only hope was to trust whoever was in power at the time — that is, the men who were rubber-stamping and providing the cover for what the Interior Ministry’s Bureau of Confidential Affairs and the SID were doing under instruction from the CIA.

From the ministers came the directives and the secret services carried them out — and added more than a little initiative in the process. It was no coincidence in 1974, when SID officers brought Defence Minister Giulio Andreotti (in the fifth Rumor government) the recordings made by Captain Antonio Labruna with industrialist Remo Orlandini, a man who had been caught up in the coup attempt. Andreotti’s advice was that they “do a bit of pruning”. Translation? Purge the tapes of the most important names, which is to say the names of high-ranking military personnel implicated in the failed coup attempt.

This behaviour was similar to that of his predecessor, Mario Tanassi (defence minister with the fourth Rumor government). In the summer of 1974 Judge Giovanni Tamburino asked the SID for information about the pro-coup activities of General Ugo Ricci whom he considered one of the men behind the Rosa dei Venti. The SID, who knew all about Ricci’s activities, reported that the general was a man of unshakable democratic beliefs. But before forwarding that report the SID chief forwarded the judge’s request to Tanassi who returned it with the annotation: “Always say as little as possible.”

The practice of saying nothing or telling lies continued through the years. On 13 October 1985 the weekly Panorama published extracts from a document by Bettino Craxi, the prime minister, inviting the men of the secret services “to abide by a policy of noncooperation” with the magistrates questioning him.

Craxi never denied the veracity of that report. How could he? But he did bring pressures to bear on the judges to ignore it. So the politicians knew all about the secret service plots — and were often the prime movers behind it. They knew that the fascists were being used to further the strategy of tension and they were either jointly responsible for this or direct promoters of it, like Restivo.

So there was raison d’état behind the 12 December 1969 bombs — a matter of opting for terrorism as a means of holding on to power.

12 December 1969 signalled a watershed in the history of the republic, in the history of the left, in the history of movements […] because in effect on that date, along with 16 ordinary individuals there perished a significant portion of the first republic — a substantial portion of the machinery of state consciously plumped for illegality. It set itself up as a criminal power while continuing to man essential institutions and was permitted to do so (the ‘State servants’, policemen, judges, secret agents, politicians, secretaries, ministers, pen-pushers and henchmen who cooperated in the implementation of this crime and its cover-up by the laying of false trails, obstruction and ensuring the crime remained unpunished are numbered in the thousands). Since then, Italy has ceased to represent a constitutional democracy in the fullest sense”, wrote the political scientist Marco Revelli in his book Le due destre.

That political analysis is borne out and documented in the investigation carried out by Judge Guido Salvini: ”The protection afforded members of the Venice cell […] was absolutely vital, insofar as the caving-in of even one of the accused would have led the investigators, level after level, right to the highest powers who had made the operation on 12 December feasible, and the repercussions from that might well have proved incompatible with the maintenance of the country’s political status quo.”

Such widespread collusion also raises doubts. How much did the main opposition party — the Italian Communist Party, now the Democratic Left Party — know about the Piazza Fontana massacre? A lot, to be sure. But how much? And to what extent did the fear of bombs and coup d’états taint the PCI’s positions? To what extent was it induced by such fear to propose its historic compromise and then embrace coexistence? The answer to that can be found only in the archives in the Via Botteghe Oscure, which are as impenetrable as the Vatican’s.

But we can offer one answer, an answer which — given the guilt that lies at the highest levels — can only be that the massacre of Piazza Fontana was a State massacre. And the State was, moreover, the mother of all the massacres.


Puppetmaster: Federico Umberto D'Amato

When the Milan anarchists from the Ponte Della Ghisolfa circle accused the Interior Ministry of covering up for those guilty of the Piazza Fontana massacre at their press conference on 17 December 1969, the reporters present were incredulous and scoffed. They wrote about “youngsters reeling from the shock of recent days”. But the facts have shown that that accusation was not without foundation.

In fact, we need to take a much closer look at what was being done in the 1960s and 1970s by the Interior Ministry’s Bureau of Confidential Affairs, a powerful security-cum-espionage centre run by Federico Umberto D’Amato. Born in Marseilles in 1919 of a Piedmontese father and Neapolitan mother, D’Amato had risen to prominence in his youth when, in 1945, he had handled contacts with the intelligence services of the Salò Republic to recover the archives of the OVRA (Organization for Vigilance and Repression of Anti-Fascism), Benito Mussolini’s secret service.  He joined the Viminale in 1957 as an ordinary official and rose through its ranks to head the Bureau of Confidential Affairs.

D’Amato was replaced on 30 May 1974, following the slaughter in Brescia, but he stayed on at the Viminale and in fact still controlled the bureau — just as he did when his formal superiors, Elvio Catenacci and Ariberto Vigevano were the directors.

D'Amato was replaced following the May 1974 Brescia outrage

He was obliged to retire in the mid-1980s, moving a lot of important secret files built up over decades abroad. These were tangible evidence of the power he had wielded over many Italian politicians, entrepreneurs, senior managers and intellectuals. But D’Amato was not just a super-spy — he was a man who appreciated the delights of the table and it was in that capacity he edited the weekly food column ‘La tavola’ in L’Espresso and the Guide to the Inns and Restaurants of Italy, published by the same paper.  His passion for wine and good food caused his cirrhosis of the liver, and he died in August 1996.

When the student revolts erupted in 1968, D’Amato — who described himself as a sbirro (a plod) but was in fact a skilled double- and even triple-dealer and never let an opportunity go a-begging — was not worried about “students playing at revolution”. His target was, as ever, the Communist Party.

Stefano Delle Chiaie (D'Amato's facilitator in Avanguardia Nazionale)

It was his idea to commission the publishing of thousands upon thousands of pro-Chinese leaflets, which he entrusted to Stefano Delle Chiaie for distribution through Avanguardia Nazionale and Ordine Nuovo members. The latter stuck them up on walls in nearly every town in Italy. By providing a helping hand to the PCI’s main competition on the left, D’Amato’s aim was to stir up problems for the largest Communist party in the western world.

But D’Amato’s activities did not stop there. Through his connections with Delle Chiaie and many other Nazi-fascist leaders, he was well placed to manipulate the far-right groups. In practice, D’Amato remotely controlled Delle Chiaie, the Avanguardia Nazionale leader.

The man from the Viminale was also Italy’s representative in the Atlantic Alliance Security Office — NATO’s espionage wing, and was therefore able to control the activities of men such as Carlo Digilio, the quartermaster of Ordine Nuovo’s Venice group and an agent of the CIA and NATO’s security service. It was Digilio who fed Delfo Zorzi with the explosives that were used in the bombs on 12 December 1969. Digilio, a conscientious fellow, reported back regularly to his superiors, as was his duty. D’Amato was, therefore, constantly informed as to the activities of Zorzi, Franco Freda and Giovanni Ventura — as well as being a sleeping partner in them.

So who was ultimately responsible for the Piazza Fontana massacre? And if D’Amato controlled Delle Chiaie, is it conceivable that he was unaware of the latter’s part in the bombings in Rome on 12 December 1969? The idea that D’Amato was implicated is anything but a fantasy, given that the Bureau of Confidential Affairs stepped in to protect the activities of the Freda-Ventura group.

An answer in the affirmative seems convincing. It was Catenacci, who posted flying squad boss Pasquale Juliano far from Padua just as he was about to arrest Freda, before Pasquale could complete his task. It was also Catenacci who immediately after Giuseppe Pinelli’s death — having been promoted to deputy chief of police — conducted a secret inquiry in Milan police headquarters and took evidence from the police officers present at Pinelli’s “flight”.

Then, having given them absolution, he prepared the groundwork for Judge Giovanni Caizzi’s dismissal of the charges against the police. Finally, it was D’Amato, the protector, who allowed Delle Chiaie to go on the run for 17 years.

D’Amato was one of the most powerful men in Italy and it may not have been a coincidence that the famous 150,000 files uncovered towards the end of 1996 came to light after his death.

In its strategy of chasing political wild geese and conjuring up false evidence or mounting provocations, the Bureau of Confidential Affairs had a sound ally, but one with whom it had serious differences, as happens in the world of espionage. That partner occupied the Palazzo Barachini, the headquarters of the SID.

General Vito Miceli (SID chief 1970)

General Vito Miceli held the top job at the SID on 18 October 1970, having taken over from Admiral Eugenio Henke who went on to become army chief of staff. In June 1971 General Gianadelio Maletti arrived to take over D Bureau at the SID — its most sensitive department — from Colonel Federico Gasca Queirazza. For top secret operations he established a base under the cover of the Turris Film Company at 235 Via Cecilia, a street off the famous Via Veneto, and it was from these offices that one of his men, Antonio Labruna, head of the NOD, the SID’s operational wing, operated.

General Gianadelio Maletti (head of SID's 'D' Bureau)

When a discernable fascist lead surfaced in connection with the Piazza Fontana massacre and it become increasingly less concealable, the new bosses of the Italian secret services played their role well as misleaders and provocateurs. First they came up with false documents, which they fed to the judges in dribs and drabs. They then cobbled together a larger-scale operation. The carabinieri in Camerino, under Maletti’s supervision, discovered a huge arms dump near that town on 10 November 1972.

SID Captain Antonio Labruna (left) with lawyer.

The dump contained three categories of weapon: World War Two matériel; a second category intended to give a left-wing signature to the dump — catapults, glass marbles, spray cans, bottles, cork stoppers, paraffin and sulphuric acid — the ingredients for making Molotov cocktails. The last category comprised 25 MK2 pineapple-style hand grenades (US-made), TNT, high-powered explosives (pentrite), an anti-tank mine and detonators, fuses and German-made timers. All accompanied by upwards of 600 blank identity cards and a coded card index.

The day after the discovery an article appeared in the daily Il Resto del Carlino — a newspaper belonging to the Attilio Monti group — over the by-line of Guido Paglia, an Avanguardia Nazionale member who had recently become a journalist. The article claimed that the coded card index discovered in the cache was “incontrovertible proof of the subversive and paramilitary activities of certain leftwing extremist groups”.

But Paglia did not stop there. Even although the coded documents had yet to be examined and deciphered, the reporter seemed to know already that the arsenal belonged to leftwing extremists from Rome, Perugia, Trento, Bolzano and Macerata. On 3 January 1973 four left-wingers from these places were charged. The only one missing was the terrorist from Rome.

What was it that led the Carabinieri to these four individuals? The answer was simple, if bewildering. The coded pages (every page was topped by an explanatory key) contained a list of 31 activists from the extra-parliamentary left. But Paglia, however, in a frantic hurry to get his scoop as well as complete his provocation, had jumped the gun somewhat. And knew about things that even the carabinieri were not yet in a position to disclose to him. Furthermore, the owner of the isolated house where the cache had been found had been there only a few days prior to the discovery — and there had been no weapons there at the time.

Briefly, this was the sort of set-up that would collapse even while the charges were being prepared. However, it took until 28 April 1976, three years later, for the matter to be brought to closure, with a postscript in the Macerata Court of Assizes when the Ancona prosecutor-general challenged the dropping of the charges. The accused’s dealings with the courts finally ended on 7 December 1977 when they were cleared on all counts.

Meanwhile, light was being shed on the roles of Labruna and especially of Captain Giancarlo D’Ovidio, commander of the Camerino carabinieri who was to move on to the SID’s D Bureau. They were put in the frame by secret service Colonel Antonio Viezzer, a P2 member, on trial for passing secret material to Licio Gelli.

The Labruna-D’Ovidio trail came to nothing, the examining magistrates having dropped the charges on the basis of legal arguments that many other jurists regarded as irrational.

But, in 1993 further significant evidence came to light regarding D’Ovidio’s role as the organiser of this provocation and the part played by Guelfo Osmani, an SID “asset”. The Camerino affair, while it failed to have the effect the secret services had been looking for, it at least generated serious differences and divisions within far left groups with, for example, Italian Maoists being accused of “adventurism”. General Maletti jotted down, in his own hand, in the margins of the report on Camerino the comment: “Good result”.

Soon afterwards, Maletti’s men faced even more taxing missions because their involvement in the 12 December 1969 bombings; lots of other terrorist activities were about to emerge into the harsh light of day.

Marco Pozzan (Freda loyalist)

In January 1973, Freda loyalist Marco Pozzan fled to avoid an arrest warrant issued by the Treviso magistrates. Massimiliano Fachini, who had overseen so many operations on behalf of his comrade Freda, contacted D Bureau. Fachini was well known and Pozzan vouched for him and accompanied the fugitive to the offices of the Turris Film Company in Rome where he was met by Labruna and Guido Giannettini.

Labruna took Pozzan under his wing and had a false passport made out for him in the name of Mario Zanella (a name that turns up in the list of members of the P2 masonic lodge). On 15 January, Labruna escorted Pozzan to Fiumicino airport where he handed him over to maresciallo Mario Esposito and the pair travelled to Madrid. On arrival in the Spanish capital, Esposito took back the false passport and flew back to Italy.

Giovanni Ventura

In March 1973, Giovanni Ventura was in Monza prison being questioned by the Milan judges Gerardo D’Ambrosio and Emilio Alessandrini. Ventura was looking for a way out and was beginning to confess. The easiest solution was an escape, something Maletti left to Giannettini to organise. Delfo Zorzi told Carlo Digilio to help Giannettini arrange Ventura’s escape: “Arrange for him to escape. Otherwise Ventura is going to talk.”

Agent Zeta, Giannettini’s code name, contacted Ventura’s sister, Mariangela and his fiancée, Pierangela Baretto and persuaded them his escape plan would work. He gave them two keys that — as was later established in court — opened the prison doors. He also gave them two cans of spray, which the D Bureau had obtained from a firm in Berne to dope the guards.

Once out of prison, Ventura was to be smuggled out to Spain, but he did not trust Giannetini, fearing perhaps that his real destination was not Madrid but that he was to be eliminated once and for all during the breakout. But that was not the end of it; he would escape later, on 16 January 1979, during a stay in Catanzaro, when things were better organised.

Guido Giannettini (journalist and SID agent)

Giannettini’s turn came in April 1973.  Agent Zeta, a SID officer since 1966 who operated under the cover of journalist, was now firmly in the sights of Judge D’Ambrosio who had been pressing the SID, unsuccessfully, for information about Giannettini. The latter, a key contact between the secret services and the Freda-Ventura group could not afford the luxury of answering questions that would hold his role up to scrutiny, so he chose to go on the run.

Using the SID’s “travel bureau” he slept overnight in the Turris film company’s apartment and was escorted out of the country the following day by the ubiquitous maresciallo Esposito. But with one difference, on 9 April the pair stopped off in Paris where Giannettini was due to fly on to Madrid, and from there to Buenos Aires.

He escaped just in time. The Milan magistrates had Giannettini’s Rome apartment searched in May and a warrant was issued for the arrest of Agent Zeta in January 1974.

Before leaving France, Giannettini gave an interview to journalist Mario Scialoja from L’Espresso in the spring of 1974 to let his bosses know how loyal he was (in case they abandoned him to his fate). He stated: “The sole aim behind naming me as a SID agent is to implicate military circles, especially the SID, in the Freda case. I will have no truck with this gambit.”

But events were moving quickly. In an interview published in the 20 June edition of Il Mondo, Giulio Andreotti told journalist Massimo Caprara that Giannettini was an SID agent and that Corriere della Sera reporter Giorgio Zicari was an established informant. That was a direct signal to Giannettini that he should no longer feel safe — not even in Buenos Aires.

Giulio Andreotti giving evidence in the Piazza Fontana case

On 8 August Giuseppe Derege Thesauro was made Italy’s ambassador to Argentina. At the Catanzaro trial the diplomat declared: “Giannettini did not hide it from anybody at the embassy that he was running scared and required protection.” Brought back to Italy, Giannettini stuck to his tactics to the end and refused to talk. He made vague allusions by way of signals to his superiors that he would keep mum as long as they stood by him. Hence the statements and depositions from SID chiefs and ministers hell bent on playing down Agent Zeta’s record — the man who had kept them informed about the terrorist activities in which he participated along with Freda and Ventura.

The gamble paid off and the puppet-masters behind the outrages threw Giannettini a few crumbs to stop him talking.  He was rewarded for his silence when the Court of Cassation finally dropped proceedings against him in 1982. But he was not left unemployed for long, being taken on by the rightwing financier and publisher Giuseppe Ciarrapico.


1975, Catanzaro: Franco Freda and Giovanni Ventura arrive to be tried for their role in the Piazza Fontana bombing

BACK TO THE BOMBING, that is, back to 1969. The Milan bombs on 25 April 1969 injured only a few people. The same was true of the train bombing on 9 August. These devices had all used the same sort of Ruhla brand timer. The same brand, which a strange fellow had bought in batches of, three and four from the Standa store in Treviso. But the first one put to the test had failed.

On 24 July a bomb in Milan’s Palace of Justice failed to explode so the terrorists called in an expert. Franco Freda had an electrician Tullio Fabris (who had installed some chandeliers for Freda in his studio in the Via San Biagio in Padua) explain to him how to connect up an alarm clock to a resistor that would then light storm lamps. Fabris gave Freda a technical run-down, which he tested out on the trains. The experiment worked: eight out of ten bombs exploded. The two, which failed to explode, had used Ruhla timepieces.

The next step was to switch to timers. Freda, through Fabris, ordered 50 60-minute timers from Elettrocontrolli in Bologna. On 19 September Freda travelled to the Bologna with Fabris to collect the Junghan-Diehl timers.

New gear, new trials. Lesson one: Fabris showed Freda (even prior to buying the timers) how to connect the battery, chromium-nickel wire and storm lamp to a timing device. Having seen the results for himself, Freda had Fabris buy a length of the wire. Lesson two: after collecting the timers, the electrician gave Freda and Ventura a quick run-down on timing devices and their use. Freda studiously took notes. Lesson three: Under Fabris’s supervision, Freda and Ventura twice assembled a device. The trial went perfectly. Everything was now ready for the big one. In fact the bag containing the unexploded bomb left at the Banca Commerciale Italiana in Milan’s Piazza della Scala was found to contain the dial from a Junghans-Diehl timing device. The bag was one of a batch made by the German firm of Mosbach-Gruber and imported into Italy. The bags used in the bombings were of two sorts: the brown City 2131 and the black Peraso 2131 models, and in Italy only three firms sold both sorts — Biagini in Milan, Protto in Cuneo and Al Duomo in Padua.

When the owner of the Al Duomo luggage shop, Fausto Giuriati, saw the photo of the bag in the newspapers and on television, he rang police headquarters. It took a few days before someone from the police called at his shop. Loretta Galeazzo, his shop assistant, said she had sold four bags of that sort to a well-dressed young man on the evening of 10 December. The Padua police forwarded a report to Milan police headquarters and to the confidential affairs bureau at the Interior Ministry, but it was three years before anyone called back to the Padua city centre shop. Even then it was not on any instructions from Milan or Rome. Who came to call? It was Carabinieri Alvise Munari, making inquiries on behalf of examining magistrate Giancarlo Stiz in Treviso.

Let us remain in Padua — the day before the bombings. Here is a reasonable reconstruction of events based on what we know so far. Freda, by now an expert thanks to Fabris’ training, put the explosive devices using the gelignite obtained by Delfo Zorzi, and wired them up to the Junghans-Diehl timers. He placed them in the bags bought from the Al Duomo shop in Padua and in another bag. He then passed the bags to the people whose job it was to transport them. Zorzi then left for Milan where members of Giancarlo Rognoni’s La Fenice were waiting for him. They were to provide the operational base, a flat near the Piazza Fontana. Ventura on the other hand travelled to Rome to deliver his device to comrades from the Avanguardia Nazionale, answerable to Stefano Delle Chiaie.

On the afternoon of 12 December 1969 two bags containing two gelignite bombs wired up to Junghans-Diehl timers were planted in the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura in the Piazza Fontana and the Banca Commerciale Italiana in the Piazza della Scala. A further device was planted in the underpass at the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro in Rome and two more at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Piazza Venezia. The Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale members had carried out their mission almost to the point of perfection.

The only hitch was the failure of the device left at the Banca Commerciale in Milan, but lo and behold, along came expert Teonesto Cerri, as we have seen, who destroyed the incriminating evidence. But not completely. In the confusion he forgot to blow up the dial of the timer left behind in the bag.

It was that timer that would betray the Freda group and its partners. Only five were ever used, the others were passed to Cristiano De Eccher to hide them.

Cristiano De Eccher

De Eccher, a descendant of a noble family of the Holy Roman Empire, had a castle in Calavino near Trento. In 1969 he was 19 years old, a member of Avanguardia Nazionale, a Padua University student and in close contact with Freda.  He was one of the few people with whom the aristocratic Freda used the familiar form of address, perhaps because of De Eccher’s ancient aristocratic lineage. So De Eccher was a point of contact between the two Nazi groups. De Eccher hid the timers, but he was more loyal to Delle Chiaie than to Freda and was never to hand the timers over again. So much so that he provoked fury in the Paduan prosecution counsel who complained to a fascist colleague, Sergio Calore, “about being let down by a baron of the Holy Roman Empire”.

Since Freda could not deny having bought the timers, he claimed that he had passed them to a certain Captain Hamid from the Algerian secret services that supposedly asked for them to use in attacks on Zionist targets. Spectacularly, the judges believed this, not at all disturbed by the fact that the Israeli secret service, Mossad, stated that no Captain Hamid existed. The judges appeared to believe that it was perfectly plausible that an Algerian agent should have approached a law officer in Padua to obtain timing devices.

Meanwhile the electrician Fabris made only partial admissions to the court. Why? He had been threatened three times into keeping his mouth shut — twice by Massimiliano Fachini and again by Massimiliano Fachini in the presence of Pino Rauti.

In fact the timers had not gone to Algeria. They remained in the care of De Eccher who was under the protection of carabinieri Colonel Michele Santoro. Some ended up with the La Fenice group in Milan and some with Avanguardia Nazionale in Rome, which had used a few in the attacks on the Reggio Calabria express trains on the night of 21-22 October 1972.

Giangiacomo Feltrinelli (1926-1972 - probably murdered!)

In 1973 La Fenice group militants prepared a plan to plant a few of these timers in a house belonging to Giangiacomo Feltrinelli (found dead in Segrate in March 1972) The house — in fact it was a chateau in Villadeati in the Monferrato— was the property of the Feltrinelli family who scarcely ever used it. A few militants from Giancarlo Rognoni’s group were to break into the chateau and hide the timers before tipping off the carabinieri.  The purpose of all this was to steer the Piazza Fontana investigations back to the “red trail”, at a time when D’Ambrosio was zeroing in on the fascists. But the scheme had to be shelved because Rognoni found it too far-fetched.

Two years earlier, Martino Siciliano and Marco Foscari from the Venice Ordine Nuovo had turned their attentions to Feltrinelli. Foscari had a family home in Paternion in Carinthia (Austria), not far from a chalet belonging to Sibilla Melega. Feltrinelli, whose was on the run at the time, often hid out in the chalet and it occurred to the two Ordine Nuovo members that they might kidnap him, ferry him back to Italy and leave him for the police to find.

So, armed with hunting rifles, behind the wheel of an off-road vehicle and accompanied by Foscari’s gamekeeper, a former Waffen SS member, off they went to grab Feltrinelli. They also had a bottle of ether to help them subdue the publisher, rope to tie him and a trunk in which to ferry him over the border.

But their plan was improvised and they were out of luck: “We had no problems locating the property where the chalet was, but Feltrinelli was nowhere to be seen and, anyway, the chalet appeared locked up. So we abandoned the plan as readily as we conceived it”, Siciliano recalled.

So much for the timers. Now to the gelignite. The bombings on 12 December 1969 did not use all the explosives; some were used later by the Venice Ordine Nuovo group.

Mestre, 27 October 1970. Siciliano was putting together a time bomb, but unsure as to whether or not he had primed it correctly, it occurred to him to connect to a shared fuse wired to the gelignite.  Piero Andreatta planted the device, which exploded, outside the Coin store in the Piazza Barche.

But the gelignite was used also in more telling and more lethal bombings. Delfo Zorzi handed Marcello Soffiati from the Verona group a bomb assembled using some of the explosive which he took to Milan where he handed it over to members of the Milanese Squadre d’azione Mussolini (SAM) (Mussolini Action Squads) who, in turn, sent it on to Brescia.

Piazza della Loggia. Brescia, 8 May 1974: bomb explodes during a demonstration sponsored by the Brescia United Antifascist Committee and local trade unions

This bomb exploded at 10.20 am on 28 May 1974, during a demonstration sponsored by the Brescia United Antifascist Committee and the trade unions in the Piazza della Loggia in Brescia. It went off during a speech by Franco Castrezzati the provincial secretary of the FIM-CISL. Eight people died and nearly a hundred people were injured. This incident triggered a falling-out in Ordine Nuovo ranks and relations between Zorzi and Soffiati deteriorated to the point where they became enemies. Soffiati could not forgive his Venetian colleague for implicating him in an operation of such significance, especially one that departed from the strategy adopted hitherto — planting bombs that could be blamed on the left.


Francesco Restivo (1911-1976): Christian Democrat MP, President of the Regional Council of Sicily (1949-1955), and Minister of the Interior (1968 1972)

Two of the protagonists in our tale, Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale, were important and leading players.  Why? According to the most recent evidence it was members of these organisations that carried out the outrages in Milan and Rome on 12 December 1969. But they were not merely the operatives of terror. The relationship between the executors and the masterminds was more complicated than that. It was not a simple case of “Take this bomb and go and blow the thing to kingdom come”. There was a web of complicities, promptings, assistance and mutual blackmail that added up to some of the most poisonous pages in Italian history. A history that witnessed the Interior Ministry itself, in the shape of the man in charge at the ministry, Franco Restivo and many of his successors, especially Federico Umberto D’Amato, head of the Confidential Affairs Bureau (disbanded in 1978) as puppet-masters of the strategy of tension.

Federico Umberto D'Amato (Bureau of Reserved Affairs, Ministry of the Interior)

The bottom dropped out D’Amato’s world (who died on 1 August 1996) when, at the end of that year, 150,000 or so uncatalogued files (from which some of the most compromising documents may well have been removed) were discovered in a villa in the Via Appia on the outskirts of Rome — and not just documents either.  There was, for example, the dial of the timer used in the 9 August 1969 bombing of the Pescara-Rome train (the one carried out by Franco Freda himself).

Aldo Gianulli

This documentation, uncovered on 4 October 1996, after D’Amato’s demise, by Aldo Giannuli, an expert appointed by Judge Salvini, added up to an alternative record of the goings-on at the Viminale Palace. They contained information on many of the stories bound up with domestic espionage activity.  It was a secret archive that had never been shredded, simply deposited higgledy-piggledy in a dump— perhaps for possible future use.

At this point we need to go back forty years or so when, in 1956, Giuseppe Rauti, known as Pino, began to display signs of intolerance towards the “petit bourgeois and legalitarian” policy of Arturo Michelini, the secretary of his party, the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI).  Michelini had been elected supreme leader of the Italian neofascists in 1954 and was regarded as too soft in the parliamentary confrontations between the Christian Democratic right and the “hard-liners” from Giorgio Almirante’s faction.

Giorgio Almirante (left) and Pino Rauti (right) in 1956

Rauti was one of the hardest of hard-liners. He broke away from the MSI to set up the Ordine Nuovo study centre with Clemente Graziani, Paolo Signorelli, Stefano Serpieri and Stefano Delle Chiaie. In the autumn of 1969, when Giorgio Almirante became secretary of the MSI, Rauti returned to the party and dissolved the study centre.  This was only a formality as the Ordine Nuovo groups and organisation continued operating for several more years.

In 1958 Delle Chiaie began to cut loose from Rauti’s apron strings and in 1960 this led to his launching Avanguardia Nazionale. This latter organisation was formally disbanded in 1966 to allow many of its members to rejoin the MSI, but in 1968 Delle Chiaie formally refloated the never disbanded organisation.

Julius Evola

Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale were substantially the same ideologically. Their main theoretical reference point was the philosopher Julius Evola, whom Rauti had known in the later 1940s. Their programmes were based on the struggle against communism and capitalism and in support of a corporatist State, following the model of the 28 August 1919 revolutionary nationalist programme of the Fasci di Combattimento established in the Piazza San Sepolcro in Milan on 23 March 1919. That programme had been refined (in its presentation at least) by the Salò Republic (the volunteers of which had included the then 17 year old Rauti). The fight was also directed against the parliamentary system and all forms of democracy, in order to bring about an aristocratic and organic State, borrowing the ideas of Nazi Germany. The ultimate goal was a New European Order.

In practice, both organisations shared Italian territory: Ordine Nuovo’s groups were located primarily in the North, whereas those of Avanguardia Nazionale were based mainly in Rome and the South.

Carlo Maria Maggi

By the spring of 1969 they began to operate jointly. The Venetian leadership of Ordine Nuovo met the Rome-based leaders of Avanguardia Nazionale on 18 April 1969 in Padua, in the home of Ivano Toniolo, one of Freda’s most loyal lieutenants. With the blessing of Carlo Maria Maggi, the boss of Ordine Nuovo in the Triveneto area and of the national leadership, Signorelli and Rauti. From then on the two organisations were to operate in concert with each other, at least in large-scale operations. On 25 April the bombs exploded in Milan (at the Fair and at Central Station).

An operational axis had been formed stretching from Venice through Padua to Milan, down to the capital and as far as Reggio Calabria. And the personnel? Venice was represented by Delfo Zorzi, Martino Siciliano, Giancarlo Vianello (who infiltrated Lotta Continua in 1970, fell in love with a member of that group and eventually parted company with his fascist colleagues), Paolo Molin and Piercarlo Montagner — with “technical” backup from Carlo Digilio.

In Padua, under Freda’s leadership, there were Giovanni Ventura, Massimiliano Fachini and Marco Pozzan. Giancarlo Rognoni was the acknowledged leader of the La Fenice group in Milan. In Rome, Delle Chiaie presided over Avanguardia Nazionale, while in Reggio Calabria its bulwark was the Marchese Felice Genoese Zerbi who could call on a sizable band of determined militants such as Carmine Dominici, Giuseppe Schirinzi and Aldo Pardo.

These were characters with chequered pasts. Freda and Ventura were eventually to be convicted of 17 attacks mounted between 15 April and 9 August 1969 (including the bombings in Milan on 25 April and the train bombings on 9 April). Rognoni was spared 23 years in prison by going on the run, primarily to Spain, and was in fact sentenced in his absence for an attack mounted by his lieutenant, Nico Azzi.

Nico Azzi (the Turin-Rome train bomber)

On 7 April 1973 a bomb exploded in a toilet on the Turin-Rome train, but the bomber, Azzi, however, did not get away unscathed. The device had exploded while he was handling it — or rather it went off between his legs. He was injured, arrested, tried and sentenced to 20 years. Two other La Fenice members — Mauro Marzorati and Francisco De Min — ended up in jail with him.

Paulo Signorelli

The attack, planned in the presence of Ordine Nuovo ideologue Paolo Signorelli, was intended to distract the Milan magistrates’ inquiries into the Piazza Fontana bombing — and as a focus for a maggioranza silenziosa (silent majority) demonstration planned for Milan on 12 April. Following the bombing someone was to have made a telephone call claiming responsibility on behalf of a leftwing organisation.

A strong character, tough, quick to use his fists, his face frequently marked by wounds, he was not impressed by the sight of blood and inflicted punishments personally on errant colleagues. But at the same time he was introverted and fascinated with both Buddhism and Evola’s ideas. This was how Siciliano described his leader, Zorzi. This was the man who would confess on at least two occasions that he had had a hand in the 12 December 1969 bombing in Milan.

On 31 December 1969, Zorzi, Siciliano and Vianello were celebrating New Year’s Eve with a visit to prostitutes in the Corso del Popolo in Mestre. “This was a cameratesca (comradely) practice linked to the fascist notion of virility”, Siciliano noted. They then went to Vianello’s home for a meal, a drink and to sing fascist songs.  The conversation then turned to the bombings of a few days earlier.

Delfo Zorzi (1969)

Siciliano told Judge Salvini on 8 June 1996: “Zorzi reminded us that according to our greatest theorists even blood can serve as a trigger for a national revolution which, launched in Italy, could be the salvation of Europe by rescuing it from communism. He picked up on the line that had already been given out in Padua — that the common people, stricken and defenceless, would clamour for a strong State, especially since the strategy anticipated that such serious incidents would be laid at the door of the far left.”

According to Siciliano, Zorzi’s closing remarks were: “He gave us clearly to understand that the anarchists had had no hand or part in anything and that they had been used as scapegoats simply because of their history — that sort of charge levelled against them was believable — and that in reality the Milan and Rome attacks had even thought up and commissioned at the highest levels and actually carried out by the Triveneto Ordine Nuovo.”

In January 1996 Digilio told Judge Salvini what Zorzi told him in Mestre in 1973: “Listen, I was personally involved in the operation to plant the bomb at the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura”. And, Digilio continued: “That was what he said, word for word and I remember it well, not least because of the seriousness of the words. Zorzi never mentioned those killed in the bombing but he did use the term ‘operation’ as if it had been a war-time operation.”

At this point Zorzi explained to Digilio: “I dealt with things personally and it was no easy undertaking. I had help from the son of a bank director.”

Delfo Zorzi (now)

Zorzi moved to Japan after Judges Giancarlo Stizin Treviso, Pietro Calogero in Padua, Gerardo D’Ambrosio and Emilio Alessandrini in Milan began chasing up the fascist trail in connection with the Piazza Fontana outrage.

In Tokyo, where he now lives, having married a Japanese woman by whom he has had a daughter, Zorzi runs an import-export firm which has made him a (lire) multi-millionaire; so much so that in 1993 he was able to make Maurizio Gucci a loan of 30,000 million lire — a fortune some suspect he amassed thanks to the protection of the Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia, and of the Italian and US secret services.  His Italian defence counsel is Gaetano Pecorella who denies his client had any involvement in the Piazza Fontana carnage. This is the same Pecorella who in the 1970s concentrated on defending leftwing activists before switching in the 1990s to a mixture of clients ranging from Zorzi to Ovidio Bompressi, the former Lotta Continua member sentenced to 22 years for the murder of Inspector Luigi Calabresi.

“I was in Naples attending the oriental university, in which I enrolled in 1968”, Zorzi stated apropos of 12 December 1969 in an interview carried by Il Giornale on 14 November 1995. That alibi has yet to be confirmed.

Another name, another fugitive. At the time he was being questioned by Judge Salvini, Digilio already had one ten year sentenced passed against him in his absence. In 1983 while a clerk at the Venice firing range, Digilio had been arrested for unlawful possession of ammunition. Although he had been freed after a few days, he realised other more serious charges could follow so he fled to an isolated house in Villa d’Adda in Bergamo province, moving on to Santo Domingo in 1985, on forged papers. He was arrested by Interpol in the autumn of 1992 and returned to Italy to serve his sentence: for resurrecting Ordine Nuovo, possession of detonators, dealing in weapons, possession of machinery for repairing and converting weapons and for forging documents.

Then we have the most famous fugitive of all: Delle Chiaie, known in Rome as “il caccola” (“the little man”) before he was re-dubbed “the black primrose”. During questioning at the Palace of Justice in Rome, he asked to use the toilet and vanished. That was on 9 July 1970.

Even though he was seen in the capital for several months thereafter the police never managed to recapture him.

After the failure of the coup, Delle Chiaie moved to Madrid where he could count on protection from the leading lights of Francoism, but in February 1977, by which time the Franco regime was no more, Delle Chiaie moved to the greater safety of Latin America.

On his return to Italy he refused to discuss this, even though Giorgio Pisanò, publisher of the fascist weekly Il Candido, sent him a clear message through his newspaper column. In an open letter published on 9 January 1975, Pisanò wrote: “Stay where you are and keep silent. If you return there are many things you need to explain: the arms dealing; the disappearance of funds entrusted to your care, your connections with Mario Merlino, or indeed your dealings with the Ministry of the Interior’s Confidential Affairs Bureau.” Delle Chiaie kept on the run — through Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Chile.

He adopted a new identity, calling himself Alfredo Di Stefano, but in 1987 he was arrested in Caracas and his 17 years as a fugitive from justice was brought to an end.

An international warrant had been issued for his arrest. On what charges? The Italicus bombing, theft, conspiracy to subvert, aiding and abetting the Piazza Fontana massacre, membership of an armed gang. He went on trial in October 1987 with Massimiliano Fachini before the Court of Assizes in Catanzaro (the last trials relating to the Piazza Fontana incident). On 20 February 1989, both men were cleared on all counts after 90 court sittings, a finding that was confirmed on appeal on 5 July 1991.

Catanzaro Trial


Pino Rauti (Founder of Ordine Nuevo) - click for more information

THE FACT THAT from the mid-1960 onwards fascists and Nazis stepped up their efforts to obtain arms and explosives was no casual matter.  The strategy of tension theory was being elaborated— and elaborated openly. In Rome from 3 to 5 April 1965 leading exponents of the right gathered in the Parco dei Principi hotel for a symposium on “Revolutionary Warfare”, organised by the Alberto Pollio Institute of Military History.

Prominent figures who attended included Ordine Nuovo founder, Pino Rauti; Guido Giannettini, journalist and SID agent; and Edgardo Beltrametti and Enrico De Boccard, two journalists who went on to set up the Nuclei di Difesa dello Stato (State Defence Nuclei). Twenty or so students had also been invited. Among these were two whose names would crop up over and over again throughout those years: Stefano Delle Chiaie (the head of Avanguardia Nazionale) and his pupil, Mario Merlino. [See La Storia Siamo Noi – L’inchiesta su Ordine Nuovo – Piazza Fontana]

Guido Giannettini with Franco Freda (at the Catanzaro Piazza Fontana bomb trial)

While Rauti and Giannettini’s contributions drew applause, it was the university lecturer and Orientalist, Pio Filippani Ronconi, a cryptographer with the Defence Ministry and the SID who electrified the audience. The papers read at the symposium were published later that year as La guerra rivoluzionaria by the Gioacchino Volpe publishing house. The book enjoyed what was essentially a “militant” readership among the various far right groups. For instance, Paolo Molin from took a copy to show to Ordine Nuovo activists in Venice, including the members of the cell run by Delfo Zorzi.

Pio Filippani Ronconi

The topic of the Parco dei Principe symposium was the appropriate short-term strategy to be adopted in the face of perceived communist advances and to keep Italy within the western orbit. In his paper “Hypothesis for a Revolution”, Filippani Ronconi suggested a security organisation structured on various levels — operational as well as hierarchical. The grassroots would be professionals — teachers and small industrialists — people capable of carrying out only wholly passive and non-risky activities, but the sort of people in a position to boycott communist promoted initiatives.

The next level consisted of people capable of “bringing pressure to bear” through lawful demonstrations: these were people who would rally to the defence of the State and of the laws.

At the third, more skilled and professionally specialised level” Filippani Ronconi argued, “would be the very select and hand-picked units (set up anonymously and immediately) trained to carry out counter-terror and possible ‘upsets’ at times of crisis to bring about a different realignment of forces in power. These units, each unknown to each other, but coordinated by a leadership committee, could be recruited, partly, from among those youngsters who were currently squandering their energies to no effect in noble demonstrative ventures.”

With regard to the senior level of the organisation, Ronconi added: “A Council should be established above these levels on a ‘vertical’ basis to coordinate activities as part of an all-out war against subversion by communists and their allies. These represent the nightmare which looms over the modern world and prevents its natural development.”

Texts on the threat of communism were nothing new, but here was something that was qualitatively new — and it was not just a theoretical essay. The organisation outlined by Filippani Ronconi was already being set up and would shortly become operational.

In 1966 2,000 or so army officers received a leaflet through the post from the Nuclei di Difesa dello Stato. Its authors aimed to play on the servicemen’s pride: “Officers! The perilous state of Italian politics demands your decisive intervention. The task of eliminating the infection before it becomes deadly is one for the Armed Forces. There is no time to lose: delay and inertia represents cowardice. To suffer the vulgar rabble who would govern us would be tantamount to kowtowing to subversion and a betrayal of the State. Loyal servicemen of considerable prestige have already formed the Nuclei di Difesa dello Stato within the Armed Forces. You too should join the NDS. Either you join the victorious struggle against subversion or subversion will raise its gallows for you. In which case it will be the just deserts of traitors.”

Nuclei di Difesa dello Stato

The authors and distributors of this leaflet were Franco Freda and Giovanni Ventura, two of the main protagonists of the outrages.

Another individual of some note in this tale appeared on the scene at this time: Guido Lorenzon who was an officer on the establishment of the base in Aviano at the time and who was among those who received the leaflet. He mentioned it to his friend Ventura and — surprise, surprise — Ventura admitted that he was one of the authors of the document. He would eventually be convicted with Freda in 1987 of incitement to crime.

Gladio emblem

Along with the Freda and Ventura, someone else was working to set up the Nuclei di Difesa dello Stato network — which shadowed the better known, but more dangerous ‘stay-behind’ secret army organisation, Gladio.

After a refresher course with the Third Army Corps in Milan in the autumn and winter of 1966-1967, Major (now colonel) Amos Spiazzi, in charge of the army’s I (Intelligence) Bureau in Verona was tasked by his superiors “individually and by word of mouth” to shadow Gladio’s structure in his home city. As Spiazza told Guido Salvini on 2 June 1994: “I was also informed that, on a region by region basis and province by province, personnel with similar characteristics needed to be recruited, in units as water-tight as possible and trained in three man teams […] using the services of instructors from the local units […] These Nuclei adopted the designation of Legions […]. In this way I set up the Fifth Legion with 50 hand-picked people “.

Spiazza, who had been front-page news in 1974 over his involvement with the Rosa dei Venti subversive network, continued: “At meetings […] there was pressure for ever closer collaboration with the Corps, with existing political associations such as the Friends of the Armed Forces, the Pollio Institute, Combattentismo attivo, in order to bind our efforts into active endeavour to defend, support and make propaganda on behalf of the Armed Forces and the values for which they stand.”

Spiazzi’s involvement was not limited to training: he organised conferences and debates, contributed to the journal of General Francesco Nardella‘s Movimento di Opinione Publica (Nardello was a member of Licio Gelli’s P2) and was in touch with Adamo Degli Occhi, a Milan lawyer who led the demonstrations of the alleged Maggioranza Silenziosa (Silent Majority), and with Junio Valerio Borghese’s National Front (Borghese had been commander of the Decima MAS and had defected to the Salò Republic in 1943).

He stated: “Every single thing I did outside the service within the context of these activities was known to my I Bureau superiors.”

From the Veneto region to Lombardy, and, more precisely, to the Valtellina, Carlo Fumagalli was a mythic figure as far as his men were concerned.  As a commander during the resistance, he had headed a non-aligned unit, I Gufi, made up of “white” partisans. His group had worked closely with the American wartime clandestine service, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, later the CIA), for which he received the Bronze Star at the end of the war. Fumagelli maintained his links with the American intelligence services and at the end of the 1960s he was ready to help influence the Italian political system towards a presidential structure with an even more emphatically pro-NATO stance.

Fumagalli had set up the Movimento di Azione Rivoluzionaria (MAR) and to provide cover for its illegal activities, he ran a garage, which specialised in off-the-road vehicles and associated activities. He wholeheartedly adopted the strategy of provocation through attacks intended to be blamed on the left, but the coup d’état for which he yearned had none of the pro-Nazi connotations of his “allies”. Not that this stopped him from mounting spectacular operations.

A fire started in the Pirelli-Bicocca tarpaulin depot in the Viale Sarca took ten hours to burn out. The damage was estimated at a thousand million lire at the time. During the fire a 30-year-old worker, Gianfranco Carminati, lost his life. Years later Gaetano Orlando, the man regarded as the MAR’s ideologue admitted: “The MAR group’s plan was that the attack should be put down to the Red Brigades which were on the rise at the time”.

I remember the Pirelli attacks at the beginning of 1971 and can confirm that our organisation had nothing to do with big fire at the Pirelli-Bicocca tarpaulin depot” was the claim made on 23 July 1991 by Roberto Franceschini, the then leader of the Red Brigades in Milan, who has since severed all ties with terrorism.

Exactly one month earlier, on 7 December 1970, a number of armed columns led by Prince Borghese from the Fronte Nazionale entered Rome. Among the main financial backers of the operation were Remo Orlandi, a Rome builder and Borghese’s right hand man, and Attilio Lercari, from Genoa, the administrator with Piaggio. The objective was to seize the main political headquarters, the RAI TV station and the airport, while Stefano Delle Chiaie’s men (Avanguardia Nazionale [AN] — personnel) were to seize control of the operations centre at the Interior Ministry.  The ministry would be handed over to the carabinieri while the AN people rounded up political opponents for internment on the Aeolian Islands. Ships provided by Genoa shipping magnate Cameli were on stand-by to transport them.

It was a classic coup d’état. But something went awry, or somebody backed out. After a frantic round of phone calls the would-be coup-makers pulled out of Rome.  Roberto Palotto and Saverio Ghiacci who, with other Avanguardia Nazionale militants, had succeeded in getting inside the Interior Ministry (with the help of Salvatore Drago, the duty physician at the ministry and P2 member), had to evacuate the building at speed. But the coup attempt was not confined to the capital.

The Major told us to wear civilian clothes and maintain a state of readiness”, remembered Enzo Ferro one of Spiazza’s junior officers doing his army service in the Montorio barracks in Verona in December 1970. “We were due to be brought to the Porta Bra district in Verona, to the premises of the Associazione mutilati e invalidi di guerra, where the Movimento di Opinione Pubblica bulletin was published. […] We were told that we were to step in and could not back out and that, on reaching the muster-point, we would be armed and taken into the area where we would be providing back up for the coup d’état. Every civilian and military cell would be involved. But Major Spiazzi told us in person around 1.30am that orders standing-down the operation had been received from Milan.”

In Venice too […] on the night of 7 December, arrangements had been made for people to muster at specific points. Muster they did, but shortly after that the stand-down orders arrived, much to the disappointment of all those present […] The rendezvous point was the Naval Dockyard — that is the area outside the Naval Command. In connection with these initiatives I reported regularly to Verona (to the FTASE NATO Intelligence Service), which I then briefed on various developments” explained Carlo Digilio, who was linked with the Venice Ordine Nuovo group and had been a CIA asset since 1967. The agent to whom Digilio reported was Sergio Minetto, head of the CIA network in the Triveneto area. Minetto, of course, denied his part in the affair. The FTASE to which Digilio alludes was the general command of the Atlantic Alliance in Southern Europe.

In Reggio Calabria,” recalled Carmine Dominici, a member of Avanguardia Nazionale — led in that city by the Marchese Felice Genoese Zerbi — “we were all mobilised and ready to do our bit. Zerbi said he had been given carabinieri uniforms and that we would be going on patrol with them, also in connection with the drive to arrest political opponents named on certain lists which had been drawn up. We remained in a state of readiness almost until 2.00 am. but then we were all told to go home.”

Other evidence, again collected by Judge Salvini, revealed that in many places around Italy, servicemen, civilians and carabinieri were on stand-by to act in support of the coup d’état in Rome.

The man who called a halt to the operation was in fact its mastermind, Licio Gelli who was also to have supervised the kidnapping of Giuseppe Saragat, Italy’s president. Gelli was later to exploit the involvement in the coup of a number of high-ranking officers for his own blackmail purposes and long-term intrigues.

[NB – Borghese’s plot was closely modelled on the 1964 Plan Solo coup — which was to conclude with the assasination of prime minister Aldo Moro — planned by carabinieri general Giovanni De Lorenzo]

But the verdicts handed down in November 1978, November 1984 and finally by the Court of Cassation in March 1986 cleared the conspirators of all charges. As for Gelli and the conspiratorial activity of the members of lodge P2 over many years, a definitive ruling from the Court of Cassation on 21 November 1996 found that Gelli should be sentenced to — but not serve— 8 years, solely for the offence of procuring sensitive intelligence, thereby closing the case begun in 1981, when the Guardia di Finanza discovered a list of 962 names of P2 lodge members in Gelli’s home, the Villa Wanda, in Castiglion Fibocchi.

That investigation had been taken from Milan magistrates Gherardo Colombo and Giuliano Turone and transferred to Rome.  The prosecutors in the capital had done their duty and stymied the investigation.

The Night of the Republic


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