June 30 saw the release of Alfredo Bonanno and Jean Weir after 100 day’s detention, leaving in prison leaving only one of the original 19 anarchist comrades arrested in the ‘blitz’ operation carried out by various sectors of the Italian police in Sicily and North Italy at the end of March. The comrade still in prison (now in the ‘special’ prison Fossombrone in Pesaro) is Massimo Gaspari, sentenced to 4 years 10 months for possession of explosives after 50 sticks of gelignite were found in his home.
So the most recent attempt by the Italian state to frame anarchist militants tries to sink miserably into oblivion after one of the most spectacularly displayed ‘anti-terrorist’ scoops enacted by the DIGOS, UCIGOS, the judiciary and the mass media. The overzealous attempt to draw well-known members of the anarchist movement under the spectre of criminalisation was immediately recognised by all sectors of the anarchist movement for what it was – a clumsy, hastily put together construction with no real foundations. A movement which is traditionally marked by very strong ideological and organisational differences found spontaneous unity in the work of denouncing the frame-up and the advance attack of State terrorism.
The accusations against all 19 comrades carried multiple life sentences, and under the new anti-terrorist laws they could have been kept inside for up to 6 years without trial. Here is a list of the ‘offences’:
A) Having in concourse formed and organised an armed group operating under the name of ‘Azione Rivoluzionaria’ which can be taken as one associative structure with one ideological matrix, with the aim of violently subverting the economic and social order constituted by the State.
To such an end they elaborated a theoretical plan and realised an operative strategy in particular directed at:
a) the diffusion over the national territory of armed struggle through aggregation with other people;
b) the diffusion of the theoretical programme and techniques of realisation of the same;
c) carrying out armed robberies, thefts, kidnappings for the financing and supplying of the group;
d) the constitution of arms depots, ammunition and explosives, indispensible elements for the group’s activity and for the diffusion of the techniques supplied by them;
B) Of the offence of having in concourse publicly instigated to commit crimes of subversive association in the form of armed groups, for publicly having condoned such offences through the editing and diffusion of documents illustrating the ideology of the armed group to which they belong.
C) Of having in concourse and with actions carrying out the same criminal plan put out propaganda in State territory for the violent subversion of the economic and social order, documents illustrating the ideology of the armed group to which they belong.
Of all the comrades arrested only Alfredo Bonanno is now charged with ‘propaganda against the state’. He and Salvo Marletta are confined to residence in Catania, and have to sign at police headquarters every second day. No legal justification has been given for this measure demonstrating a continuing repression, especially in the case of Salvo who has been cleared of all charges.
What follows is part of an article written by the Bologna Defence Committee, published in ‘Umanita Nova’ while the comrades were still in prison. It gives a fair analysis of the frame up.
WHY A FRAME UP
It is obvious that there was a precise plan to draw well known members of the anarchist movement into the ‘terroristic’ goings on in the country.
Already with the arrest of Gianfranco Fiana (whom police and judiciary maintain is the ‘leader’ of Azione Rivoluzionaria) they want to draw in the anarchist movement as supporter and cover for this clandestine grouping. The procurator Monti, boasting that he has arrested Faina, is striving to ‘close the case’. In the face of the impossibility of discovering real links between Faina and the anarchist movement, they go towards the construction of a frame up. Elements of this provocatory design are: a) seeking the political inheritors of Faina; b) seeking the political reasons for coupling anarchist militants and Azione Rivoluzionaria; c) seeking evidence to support the thesis that sectors of the anarchist movement are concealing the programme of a clandestine party. What road do they take:
Alfredo Bonanno, well known member of the anarchist movement, writer and editor with over 20 imputations for ‘Anarchismo’ editions (that publishes classics of the revolutionary workers’ movement, historical documents and documents of counter-information), is perhaps the person most suited to the investiture of ‘ideologist’ by the judiciary in search of a successor to Faina.
Bonanno was chosen as he is responsible for the review ANARCHISMO, a review that has always been open to every type of debate within the revolutionary left, including debates on the present situation and on armed struggle, bearing a theoretical contribution aimed at building a real class opposition.
Azione Rivoluzionaria is characterised by its actions and documents as being a combattent group of anarchist-communist inspiration.
In order to build a link between this group and the anarchist movement the judiciary are trying to invent a political-ideological-organisational continuity between the debate in course in the review and certain unclaimed practises of illegality or some which could be attributed to AR. The occasion for carrying the whole operation to Bologna (where Faina was arrested) is given by 6 unsolved robberies of notaries in Bologna.
The Bologna judiciary uses these episodes to issue arrest warrants against the comrades of the publishing house Anarchismo.
It matters little to the magistrates that the witnesses to the events described different persons in each case, for example of ‘two very young robbers… both little taller than 1 metre 60, dressed in jeans and jerkins, with north Italian accents’ or ‘the bandits, two men and a woman, were elegantly dressed, had the decisive way of professionists, and had no particular regional accent’; while Alfredo, Salvo and Jean (accused of these robberies) are anything but all small and have accents quite different to the central or north Italian ones: the important thing was to have a pretext in order to begin the operation.
Once the comrades associated with ANARCHISMO had been singled out as a group ideologically akin to AR, and once the system had succeeded in issuing an arrest warrant against the ‘first link in the chain’, they continued, following the editorial itinerary of the review. The first was Catania (where the review was edited until 1977), then Bologna (where Sandro Vandini was editor during 1977), then Forli (which followed Bologna, and where Franco Lombardi is now editor responsible for Anarchismo).
From this itinerary the judges are seeking elements to support the original axiom: money from robberies, documents to prove subversive association, arms to prove the constitution of an armed group, but especially documents in order to link up this ‘criminalised’ area with the whole national and international anarchist movement.
They try to use the five bullets found in the possession of one comrade (Sandro Vandini, sentenced to 7 months for the same), and the 50 sticks of gelignite Massimo Gaspari, sentenced to 5 years and at present in the special prison of Fossombrone) as concrete evidence of the existence of an armed group, use the fact that these comrades belong to the anarchist movement (most of them, not all of them) and the political debate developed in the review to contest them with subversive association which could link the anarchist movement to the clandestine groups external to the declaredly marxist-leninist associations.
After the demonisation of the Autonomy movement, they pass on to the criminalisation of other members of the revolutionary movement which, although not considering the practice of armed struggle the sole revolutionary instrument, keep alive their open antagonism to the State.
Already on other occasions the anarchist movement has been crossed by repressive actions of the State: raids, arrests, murders, political manipulation. Never before though has the attack taken the form of sirectly criminalising anarchist ideas. Up until today ‘criminalised’ comrades have been attacked in the context of the social movements in which they participated, or because ‘caught in the act’ of arming themselves. Some cases stood out over others, demonstrating the beginning of a more inclusive attack: the provocatory raids at the Anarchist Federation of Empola, the frame up around the ‘den’ at via delle Tovaglie in Bologna, the arrests of the anarchist comrades in Biella and Turin (because of absenteeism and counter-information activities), the haul at the meeting about prisons at Radio Proletaria, the arrests in Genoa, etc. etc.
We are not trying to imply that persecution is aimed only at anarchists: the repressive plan of the State is wider, strikes all political practice, the political and organisational points of reference which proletarian conflictuality can recognise as its own, regardless of their ideological composition. So the Autonomy movement, the anarchist movement, and the marxist sectors which go beyond the strictly political and are affirming their revolutionary involvement directly.
The repressive plan of the State covers not only the criminalisation of antagonistic behaviour, but of the very idea which can give this behaviour a strategic or programmatic body. The objective is to destroy the revolutionary identity which has matured in these areas during the past ten years, to make the militants who have come from the vast movement of contestation begun in ’68 deny their own history, their own experiences and the ideas that they have matured.
This is the hysterical response of a state which is in deep crisis, no longer capable of guaranteeing the ‘democratic spaces’ vital to the legitimisation of capitalist bureaucratic domination.
This plan cannot avoid including the history of anarchism, which has permeated all the revolutionary movements, not the least those which from the 1968 to the 1969 of the workers reached the insurrectional attempt of the ‘non-guaranteed’ young unemployed and students.
They need to extracate the social element from anarchist practice, put the libertarian militants on the defensive and into the purely political field of contrast with the State which ‘violates’ its laws, make them lose their social identity and reduce them to bandits fighting a war which the proletariat have not yet declared.
This is the provocatory nature of the frame up against the comrades of the review Anarchismo and those other comrades drawn into this affair (more or less by chance?): to induce them to measure themselves in the contestation of an event completely invented by the police to form an identity (which has never denied illegal practice) and illegal actions completely eradicated from a social praxis involving the mass. This is the crux of the matter as far as we anarchists are concerned.
We are not asking, through ‘a sense of justice’ for the laws of the State to be applied, because we know that these laws are functional only to the ends of power and the negation of every alternative moment. But we are defining our political identity, saying what is ours and what is not, denouncing when they try to build an image of us which is not ours: that of the terrorist against society, violent by ideology, when our practice is for and in society, when our violence is always justified by the defence of the political conquests of the movement, the defence of the freedom, even partial, which the history of emancipationis conquering day after day.
We have no problem therefore in saying, as we have always done, that we claim the right for every proletarian to give hiself whatever means necessary to express his own revolutionary potential, nor are we contradicting ourselves when we affirm that we are quite against and external to the political practice which considers the armed encounter of specific groups a field in which wider spaces of social emancipation can be opened up.
Evidently the Minister for Internal Affairs and his forces, when they enacted this frame-up against the review Anarchismo, hoped that the (although existing) contradictions (and the dialectic) within the anarchist movement would split open in the face of the blackmail of repression, cause ‘excommunications’ and take a distance and manifest various forms of opportunism.
The meeting of the anarchist movement on March 28 1980 demonstrated quite the contrary: it detected the frame-up, expressed full solidarity with the comrades struck by it, claimed their own political identity, of which this document is one instrument, in an unequivocal response to the will of repression.
Bologna Defence Committee.
Published in Umaniat Nova, no. 14 of April 20, 1980