Showing posts with label Ordine Nuovo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ordine Nuovo. Show all posts

19 November 2018

Pino Rauti – politician and journalist

Writer chronicled the story of Fascism in Italy

Pino Rauti was a prominent figure in far-right Italian politics for 64 years
Pino Rauti was a prominent figure in
far-right Italian politics for 64 years
Pino Rauti, leader of the neo-fascist Social Idea Movement, was born Giuseppe Umberto Rauti on this day in 1926 in Cardinale in Calabria.

Rauti was to become a leading figure on the far right of Italian politics from 1948 until his death in 2012.

As a young man he had volunteered for the Guardia Nazionale Repubblicana of Benito Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic and he then went on to join the Spanish Foreign Legion.

After his return to Italy, Rauti joined the post-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI). He became associated with Julius Evola, a leading fascist philosopher, and became editor of his journal, Imperium.

Rauti joined the staff of the Rome-based daily Il Tempo in 1953 and later became the Italian correspondent for the Aginter Press, a fake press agency set up in Portugal in 1966 to combat communism.

In 1954 he established his own group within MSI, the Ordine Nuovo, but he became disillusioned with MSI and his group separated from the party two years later.

Rauti worked as a journalist on the
Rome newspaper Il Tempo
Rauti’s name was linked with a number of terror attacks, including the Piazza Fontana bombing. He was brought to trial in 1972 over this atrocity at a Milan bank, which caused 17 deaths, but he was acquitted through lack of evidence.

There were other claims linking him with terrorist activities but he was never convicted of any offences.

Rauti returned to MSI and was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1972. In the 1980s, he became a leading figure in the European Parliament.

He went up against Gianfranco Fini for leadership of MSI in 1987 but Fini’s more moderate policies won him the biggest share of the vote.  In 1990, he did replace Fini as leader, but the party’s performance in the next regional elections was the worst in its history and he was removed from the leadership in 1991, with Fini taking charge again.

When Fini founded the Alleanza Nazionale in place of MSI, Rauti led a group of militants to form the Fiamma Tricolore, which he saw as continuing the path of Fascism.

Pino Rauti with Gianfranco Fini (left), whom he replaced as  leader of the MSI party in 1990
Pino Rauti with Gianfranco Fini (left), whom he replaced as
leader of the MSI party in 1990
Rauti stood down as leader in 2002 in favour of Luca Romagnoli, who then sought to work with Silvio Berlusconi’s House of Freedoms coalition. Rauti became a strong critic of Romagnoli and was eventually expelled from the party he had founded.  It was then that he established his own party, the Social Idea Movement.

Between 1966 and 1990, Rauti wrote a number of books about the history of Fascism and the policies of Mussolini.

Rauti died in Rome in November 2012, aged 85.

His daughter, Isabella, who also became a journalist, is now a member of Fratelli Italia, a conservative nationalist party formed by former members of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party. She was elected as Senator for Mantua earlier this year. She is the ex-wife of a former Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno.

A view over the rooftops of Cardinale in Calabria
A view over the rooftops of Cardinale in Calabria
Travel tip:

Cardinale in Calabria, where Pino Rauti was born, is a comune in the province of Catanzaro, the capital city of the region. Cardinale was proved to be a Neolithic site in the 19th century, when work was being carried out to reinforce an old iron bridge and axes made from stone were found, establishing the presence of man there as far back as the stone age. These axes can now be seen in the Archaeological Museum in Crotone.

The Palazzo Montecitorio in Rome, seat of the Chamber of Deputies
The Palazzo Montecitorio in Rome, seat
of the Chamber of Deputies
Travel tip:

The Camera dei Deputati - the Chamber of Deputies -  is one of Italy’s houses of parliament, the other being the Senate of the Republic. The Camera dei Deputati meets at Palazzo Montecitorio in Rome, a palace originally designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and completed by Carlo Fontana in 1697, which is to the north of the Pantheon.

More reading:

How Giorgio Almirante tried to make MSI acceptable in mainstream Italian politics

Fini's move away from Fascism

The Piazza Fontana bombing

Also on this day:

1877: The birth of Giuseppe Volpi, founder of the Venice Film Festival

1893: The birth of Giuseppe Curreri, better known as the boxer Johnny Dundee

1907: The birth of Luigi Beccali, winner of Italy's first track gold at the Olympics


2 August 2018

Bologna railway station bombed

Biggest terrorist atrocity in Italy's history killed 85

The scene outside Bologna Railway Station in the aftermath of the explosion on August 2, 1980
The scene outside Bologna railway station in the aftermath
of the explosion on August 2, 1980
Italy suffered the most devastating terrorist outrage in its history on this day in 1980 with the bombing of Bologna's main railway station.

A massive 23kg (51lbs) of explosive packed into a suitcase left in a crowded waiting room was detonated at 10.25am, creating a blast that destroyed much of the main building of the station and badly damaged a train on one of the platforms.

Many people, locals and tourists, Italians and foreign nationals, were caught up in the explosion. Some were killed instantly, others died as a result of the roof of the waiting room collapsing on to the victims. There were 85 deaths and more than 200 other people were wounded.

The bomb was clearly placed to cause mass casualties. It was the first Saturday in the traditional August holiday period, one of the busiest days of the year for rail travel, and the explosive-laden suitcase was left in a room with air conditioning, then still relatively rare in Italy. On a hot day, the room was naturally full of people.

The station clock is now permanently set at the exact time the bomb exploded on that fateful Saturday morning
The station clock is now permanently set at the exact time
the bomb exploded on that fateful Saturday morning
The attack was the deadliest of several during a bleak period of 10-12 years in Italian history that became known as the Years of Lead, when the ideological struggle between the left and right in Italian politics was at its height.

It began with the killing of a Milan policeman in a far-left demonstration in November 1969 followed a few weeks later by a number of bomb attacks in Rome and Milan, the biggest of which killed 17 people in a bank in Piazza Fontana, not far from the Milan cathedral.

There were several more bombings in the years that followed and countless assassinations of policemen, military personnel, government officials and other prominent public figures, the most high profile of which was the kidnap and murder of former prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978. In all, it has been calculated that the Years of Lead claimed the lives of 428 people.

Although the killings continued after the Bologna Massacre, they happened with much less frequency after 1980 than in the three years leading up to the bombing, which has led some commentators to regard the August 2 attack as effectively bringing to an end the darkest period in Italian history since Fascism.

The tangled remains of the waiting room roof after the blast
The tangled remains of the waiting
room roof after the blast
As is almost always the case in Italy, the process of identifying the perpetrators and bringing justice was a long and torturous process.

Although the Ansa news agency received a call within minutes of the bomb going off, purporting to claim responsibility on behalf of a right-wing terrorist group known as Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari (Armed Revolutionary Corps), it was seven years before anyone was brought to trial and 10 more years before a series of trials, appeals, acquittals and retrials finally resulted in the confirmed conviction for murder of two NAR members, Valerio Fioravanti and Francesca Mambro.

Even now, conspiracy theories still persist over who else might have been involved with the planning and execution of the massacre.

In an era when the Italian Communists were as close to winning power, or a share of power, in the government of the country as they have been at any stage in their history, most of the outrages carried out during the Years of Lead were attributed either to extreme left-wing groups such as the Red Brigades and Prima Linea or to far-right organisations such as Ordine Nuovo, Terza Posizione and NAR.

The attack in Bologna was seen as symbolic because it targeted a city with a history of of left-wing politics along with a strong civic culture and a tradition of supporting the Partisans and rejecting Fascism.

Valerio Fioravanti, pictured in police custody, was one of two terrorists eventually jailed for carrying out the attack
Valerio Fioravanti, pictured in police custody, was one of two
terrorists eventually jailed for carrying out the attack
But many commentators have theorised that behind the NAR, darker forces many have been at work, possibly involving the Italian government and its secret services via the secret movement known as Operation Gladio, or even the subversive Masonic organisation labelled Propaganda Due, of which countless civil servants, military personnel, policemen and politicians were secretly members.

It was even suggested that the Israeli secret services might have supported the attack to punish Italy for a perceived sympathetic stance towards the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

The finger of suspicion was pointed at Gladio because of revelations years after the bombing that this was an organisation, in effect a shadow army, that had been put in place at the end of the Second World War, with the tacit backing of the United States, to act initially as a force primed to react to any invasion by forces from the Eastern Bloc, which Italy bordered, but later to prevent, by any means, the Italian Communist Party from forming a government, which it was feared would turn Italy into a de facto Soviet satellite.

None of these theories was ever proven, although three figures connected with Italy’s military intelligence service SISMI, along with P2 grand master Licio Gelli, were convicted during the course of the trials of supplying false information likely to mislead the investigation.

The memorial at Bologna Station to the victims of the 1980 bombing
The memorial at Bologna station to the
victims of the 1980 bombing
Travel tip:

Memorial services at which to remember the 85 victims of the Bologna Massacre are held each year, with a march and a concert in Piazza Maggiore, right at the centre of the city.  There is a plaque carrying the names of all the victims, who ranged from three years old to 86, while the clock inside the station has been stopped at 10.25am as a mark of respect for those killed. The reconstructed wall to which the plaque is attached has a jagged-edged gap left in it.

The beautiful Piazza Maggiore in Bologna
The beautiful Piazza Maggiore in Bologna
Travel tip:

The history of Bologna, one of Italy's most historic cities, can be traced back to 1,000BC or possibly earlier, with a settlement that was developed into an urban area by the Etruscans, the Celts and the Romans.  The University of Bologna, the oldest in the world, was founded in 1088.  Bologna's city centre, which has undergone substantial restoration since the 1970s, is one of the largest and best preserved historical centres in Italy, characterised by 38km (24 miles) of walkways protected by porticoes.  At the heart of the city is the beautiful Piazza Maggiore, dominated by the Gothic Basilica of San Petronio, which at 132m long, 66m wide and with a facade that touches 51m at its tallest, is the 10th largest church in the world and the largest built in brick.

More reading:

December 12, 1969: The Piazza Fontana bombing

How magistrate Felice Casson revealed the existence of Operation Gladio

The kidnapping of ex-prime minister Aldo Moro

Also on this day:

1854: The birth of author Francis Marion Crawford

1945: The death of opera composer Pietro Mascagni


6 July 2018

Pietro Valpreda - the ‘bomber’ who never was

Jailed suspect acquitted after 16 years

Pietro Valpreda was charged with the bombing on the testimony of a taxi driver
Pietro Valpreda was charged with the bombing
on the testimony of a taxi driver
Pietro Valpreda, who was arrested following the Piazza Fontana bombing in Milan in December 1969 and was held for 16 years awaiting trial as a terrorist before being acquitted, died on this day in 2002.

The Piazza Fontana bombing killed 17 people and injured 88 others after a device was detonated inside the Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura on Piazza Fontana, which is just a few streets away from the Duomo in the centre of Milan.

Valpreda was an anarchist sympathiser but insisted he was at home on the afternoon of the incident, being cared for by an aunt, who swore under police questioning that her nephew, who was a dancer with a vaudeville company, was suffering from flu.

He was charged, however, on the evidence of a taxi driver, Cornelio Rolandi, who said he dropped a man fitting Valpreda’s description in the vicinity of the bank before the bomb went off and picked him up again afterwards, minus a briefcase he had been carrying when he dropped him.

Despite considering Rolandi’s evidence to be unreliable on the grounds of inconsistencies in his description of events, prosecuting magistrates held Valpreda, along with Giuseppe Pinelli and other known members of anarchist groups.  There was a story in circulation at the time that Valpreda had been trained in the handling and use of explosives while on national service in Gorizia, but this was untrue.

Valpreda during one of his court appearances
Valpreda during one of his court appearances
Valpreda was arrested on the same day that Pinelli fell to his death from a fourth floor window at Milan’s police headquarters, an unexplained event that inspired Dario Fo’s play, Accidental Death of an Anarchist.

Reportedly named by Rolandi in an identity parade, Valpreda was moved to the Regina Coeli prison in the Trastevere district of Rome. He was condemned in the Italian media as if guilty beyond all doubt. The left-wing newspaper L’Unitá described him as ‘the monster of Piazza Fontana’, while others carried his picture with the headline ‘It’s him’, apparently echoing the words of Rolandi when asked to point out the suspect in the ID line-up.

He stayed at Regina Coeli for more than three years before being released to house arrest.

The process of investigating the bombing took many years. Over time, compelling evidence emerged of a plot by a right-wing group within the Italian political system to stage an event likely to destabilise the country and blame it on the left.

Giuseppi Pinelli, the bombing suspect who died in police custody
Giuseppi Pinelli, the bombing suspect
who died in police custody
Even so, it took a further 15 years until a judge decided that Valpreda should be acquitted on the grounds of lack of evidence. The suspicion was that the man the taxi driver identified as Valpreda was actually Nino Sottosanti, a neofascist who bore a close resemblance to him.

After his release, Valpreda campaigned for justice for himself and his friend Pinelli, while continuing to work as a dancer.  He also wrote poetry and published his prison diaries, under the title It's him!.  There were two further trials relating to the explosion, the most recent of which was in 2000, although as in the previous trials, the defendants, who had links to a right-wing terror group Ordine Nuovo, were acquitted for lack of evidence.

For a while, Valpreda ran a bar in Milan’s Corso Garibaldi, which was decorated with posters from campaigns for his release.  It became a meeting place for many of his former anarchist associates.

In time he sold the bar and began to write detective novels, featuring a policeman named Pietro Binda as his main character, all set in Milan and with strong political themes, mostly written with the collaboration of crime journalist Piero Colaprico.  He died at his home in Milan aged 69.

One of the simple memorials to the  bombing suspect Giuseppe Minelli
One of the simple memorials to the
bombing suspect Giuseppe Minelli
Travel tip:

Piazza Fontana can be found behind Milan’s Duomo, a short walk away along via Via Carlo Maria Martini.  There are two simple memorials to Giuseppe Pinelli, the bombing suspect who died in police custody, on a lawn opposite the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura.  On the other side of the piazza is Milan’s 16th-century Archbishop's Palace, partly modified with neoclassical additions in the 18th century, which is the official residence of the Archbishop of Milan. The palace owes its grandeur to archbishop Carlo Borromeo, who wanted to live permanently in the palace and commissioned Pellegrino Tibaldi to undertake a reconstruction project in 1585.

Corso Garibaldi in Milan, looking towards Porta Garibaldi
Corso Garibaldi in Milan, looking
towards Porta Garibaldi
Travel tip:

Corso Garibaldi, which runs from Porta Garibaldi towards the city centre in the direction of the Sforza Castle, is the street on which Valpreda kept a bar after his acquittal. Modern and semi-pedestrianised, it is a pleasant and relatively peaceful thoroughfare with numerous bars and restaurants more frequently used by local residents rather than tourists, although the popularity of the neighbouring Brera district is changing this. The metro station Moscova is situated halfway along the street. The simple church of Santa Maria Incoronata can be found at the Porta Garibaldi end.

More reading:

The Piazza Fontana bombing

Giuseppe Pinelli and the Accidental Death of an Anarchist

How Dario Fo put the spotlight on corruption

Also on this day:

1849: The death of Goffredo Mameli, writer of the Italian national anthem

1942: The death of Sicilian Mafia-buster Cesare Mori


21 October 2016

Giuseppe Pinelli - anarchist

His 'accidental death' inspired classic Dario Fo play

Giuseppe Pinelli
Giuseppe Pinelli
Giuseppe 'Pino' Pinelli, the railway worker from Milan who inspired Dario Fo to write his classic play, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, was born on this day in 1928.

Pinelli fell to his death from a fourth floor window of the Milan Questura - the main police station - on December 15, 1969, three days after a bomb exploded at a bank in Piazza Fontana in Milan, killing 17 people and wounding 88.  A known anarchist during a period of growing political and social tension in Italy, Pinelli had been picked up for questioning, along with a number of other activists, over the Piazza Fontana bomb.

The story put out first by police was that Pinelli had jumped, willing to take his own life rather than face prosecution. Yet three police officers who had been interrogating Pinelli were put under investigation.

No action was taken against them and later a judge ruled that Pinelli's death had been accidental. This time the suggestion was that he had fainted, lost his balance and fallen through the open window, which seemed to many to be somewhat far-fetched.

It did not convince his supporters and when one of his interrogators, Commissioner Luigi Calabresi, was shot dead on his way to work in May 1972, two left-wing activists were convicted of his murder. Pinelli was posthumously cleared of playing any part in the bombing, which was blamed on far-right extremists.

Plaque commemorating the victims  of the Piazza Fontana bomb
Plaque commemorating the victims
 of the Piazza Fontana bomb
Born in the then working class area of Porta Ticinese, Pinelli left school early to supplement the family income, taking jobs as a waiter and a warehouseman. The opportunity to take a more secure job as a railwayman did not come along until his mid-20s. He was married soon after joining the railway and fathered two children.

Already politically active with anti-Fascist groups, Pinelli became increasingly interested in libertarianism, a philosophy that favours minimal state intervention in the lives of citizens, and in anarchism, whose proponents believe in the abolition of all government and the organisation of society by voluntary co-operation.

Pinelli was a member of a group that eventually evolved into the Ponte della Ghisolfa Anarchist Club, named after a railway viaduct visible from the Porta Garibaldi station, where Pinelli worked.  After the student unrest in France in 1968, such groups saw their memberships swell as young Italians also began to challenge authority and the state.

That period was also the beginning of the so-called Years of Lead in Italy, when social and political tension was frequently punctuated by acts of terrorism, of which the Piazza Fontana bombing, the target of which was the Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura, was the first major incident involving civilian deaths.

Over the next decade or so, organisations at both extremes of the political spectrum, from the Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades) on the left to the far-right Ordine Nuovo (New Order), were responsible for bombings and assassinations, including the kidnap and murder of former prime minister Aldo Moro and the bombing of Bologna railway station.

The plaque honouring Giuseppe
Pinelli placed by friends
The situation was complicated by the existence, admitted only later, of the CIA-sponsored Operation Gladio, a secret network that aimed to manipulate events in a way designed to diminish support for Italy's Communist Party.

The Piazza Fontana incident, which was later established as the work of Ordine Nuovo, was initially blamed on left-wing extremists and sparked a crackdown on such groups, although Pinelli was unaware of this when police turned up at his door within just a few hours of the explosion.

The similar plaque placed by  Milan Council
The similar plaque placed by
Milan Council
He was used to dealing with the police, although it was usually over matters such as licensing of premises and permission to stage public gatherings.  Luigi Calabresi, at it happened, was the officer he dealt with most, and there was no evidence of serious friction between them.  Pinelli did not need to be arrested, voluntarily following the patrol car to the police station on his motorbike.

What he did not expect was to find the station packed with other activists rounded up in a general sweep and to be detained for well over the 48 hours permitted, and subjected to intense questioning.  He certainly did not foresee that he would never return home.

Dario Fo, a playwright, actor and comic entertainer with a reputation for acidic satire, wrote Accidental Death of an Anarchist within a year of Pinelli's fatal fall.

Dario Fo
Dario Fo
In the play, which he presents as a farce, Fo sends up the police as slow and dim-witted, tricked by a fast-talking fraudster known as The Maniac, who employs a series of impersonations to confuse the officers, into contradicting themselves and revealing that there has been a cover-up involving the death of an anarchist.

Still performed today, it is the best known of all Fo's 80-plus plays, certainly outside Italy.  It has been performed in more than 40 countries.  Fo, who received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1997, died earlier this month, aged 90.

Milan's own 'Grand Canal' - part of the now fashionable Navigli district, where Pinelli grew up
Milan's own 'Grand Canal' - part of the now fashionable
Navigli district, where Pinelli grew up
Travel tip:

The area of Milan called Porta Ticinese draws its name from one of the gates in the medieval walls of the city, from which a road led to the Ticino river, which loops around the city to the south and west.  It was rebuilt twice, by the Spanish in the 16th century, and in the 19th century along the current neo-classical lines, comprising massive pillars and columns topped with a triangular decorative tympanum.  The area is part of the Navigli district, once a poor neighbourhood but now very popular for the restaurants and bars that line what remains of Milan's canal system.

Travel tip:

Piazza Fontana is located a short distance from Milan's Duomo, accessible along Via Carlo Maria Martini, behind the cathedral to the right.  As well as a plaque on the wall of the Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura, commemorating the 17 people killed when the bomb exploded inside their building, there are two simple memorials to Giuseppe Pinelli on an area of grass opposite the bank, one erected by the city council, which refers to Pinelli's 'tragic death', the other by friends of Pinelli, who use the word 'killed' in their inscription.

More reading:

How the death of Aldo Moro changed history

(Photos of Pinelli memorials by Piero Montesacro CC BY-SA 4.0)
(Photo of Dario Fo by Garupdebesanez CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo of Navagli by Geobia CC BY-SA 2.0)