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Italy: Terror on the Right

Bologna, August 2, 1980. It was a hot Saturday morning, the first weekend of Italy’s traditional holiday month, and thousands of vacationers jostled their way to and from the trains in Bologna’s central railroad station. In the midst of that noisy crowd someone stopped midway between the second-class waiting room and the coffee bar, put down a heavy suitcase, and quickly left the station. The suitcase contained over forty pounds of explosives, perhaps stable nitroglycerine, connected to a timer. At exactly 10:25 AM it exploded, ripping through the crowd, tearing apart the reinforced concrete walls, and bringing the roof crashing down on hundreds of bodies and parts of bodies.

In the bloody aftermath, rescue squads worked for over twelve hours to pull the dead and maimed from the rubble. As they labored, a young neofascist entered a telephone booth across town and dialed Bologna’s leading newspaper. “This is the Armed Revolutionary Nuclei,” he said. “We claim responsibility for the explosion in the railway station.” The final toll: eighty-five dead—the eldest an eighty-six-year-old man, the youngest a three-year-old child—and more than two hundred wounded.

Eight weeks later, on the evening of September 26, a young man, Gundolf Koehler, tried to place six pounds of explosives in a refuse can at the entrance to Munich’s Oktoberfest. The bomb went off, killing him and twelve others, wounding 215 people. On Koehler’s body were found documents linking him to the illegal paramilitary Defense Sport Group of the neo-Nazi Karl-Heinz Hoffmann, who styles himself the “spiritual descendant” of Adolf Hitler and who has organized military maneuvers in southern Germany for his followers. Arrested along with twenty-four of his militants, Hoffmann was later released for lack of evidence.

A week later in Paris a twenty-six pound bomb exploded in front of the rue Copernic synagogue, where hundreds of Jews were gathered for sabbath services. The bomb killed four persons and wounded thirteen; if it had gone off twenty minutes later, when services would have ended, it would have killed scores of worshipers leaving the synagogue. The act was claimed by the European National Fasces (FNE), the same group that had machine-gunned five Jewish buildings in Paris a week earlier.

These latest of neofascist massacres have awakened Europeans to what many of them had managed not to see: the maturation over the last five years of what analysts now call Eurofascism—loosely associated but politically aligned neo-Nazi groups, many of them dedicated to terrorism, all of them intent on saving Europe from the twin evils of capitalism and Marxism. While their membership is relatively small, they are well funded and some have access to training camps in Lebanon. In an interview given eight days before the Munich explosion, the PLO leader Abu Ayad revealed that in late 1979 two members of Hoffmann’s group were captured in Lebanon and confessed to him that they and some thirty other European fascists were training at the Falangist camp at Aquru, northeast of Beirut. The Germans told Ayad that their Italian comrades were about to “begin their operations with a major terrorist attack in the city of Bologna, because it is run by the Left.”1

The Eurofascist groups include the British Movement in England, New Force in Spain, the Flemish Militant Order in Belgium, Third Position and Armed Revolutionary Nuclei in Italy. In Germany there are sixty-nine extreme right groups (about 18,000 members in all), of which twenty-three are armed. In 1979 police raids on these German groups netted sixty-six pounds of explosives, 125 hand grenades, and more than 175 guns. On January 30, 1980, the day Hoffmann’s Defense Sport Group was banded, police broke into his fortress headquarters at Ermreuth castle near Nuremberg and found everything from rifles and handbombs to a fully armed military vehicle.

In France, besides the two rival law-and-order organizations called New Forces Party and the National Front (which together polled some 200,000 votes in the 1978 legislative elections), the radical right is composed of two main “autonomist” groups: Marc Fredricksen’s National European Action Federation (FANE)—one-third of whose membership is allegedly made up of policemen—and the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR) of Jean-Gilles Malliarakis, who seeks to prepare his followers for “the day of the great cleansing” in France. (Mr. Clean’s group has a more nationalistic focus, Fredricksen’s group a more European one.) FANE was dissolved by order of the French government last September, but it immediately reconstituted itself as the European National Fasces (FNE), with the same directorate and members. Fredricksen, who was recently sentenced to eighteen months (twelve suspended) for hate articles in his magazine Notre Europe, denies that FNE is responsible for the synagogue bombing. But he does admit that “the attack could have come from former FANE members who were shocked by the ban on their organization.”

Further to the right of FNE and MNR (some would say: clandestinely connected to them) are assault groups like Honneur de la Police, Delta, Pieper, and Odessa, responsible for over one hundred terrorist attacks in 1980 and at least three murders. Lastly there are “culturalists” like Alain de Benoist and the members of the study group GRECE, who attempt to articulate a new philosophy for the right wing. These decry the synagogue bombing, make every effort to distinguish between “the racist, anti-Semitic extreme right and the New Right,” and seek to put the blame for racism on bourgeoisisme and Christianity. However, de Benoist has allowed that “an intelligent racism, one with a sense of ethnicity, is less harmful than an intemperate, leveling, assimilating antiracism.”2

In Italy the extreme right has long been active and well protected by the authorities, including the Italian Secret Services. A 1969 bomb explosion in Milan (sixteen dead) was at first blamed on anarchists, one of whom, under mysterious circumstances, fell to his death from the sixth-floor window of a police station. Later the massacre was traced to two neofascists, Franco Freda and Giovanni Ventura, and to an agent of the Secret Services (SID) named Guido Giannettini. Giannettini fled the country, but continued to receive checks from SID for a full year. He and three high SID officials were eventually jailed for conspiracy in the massacre, but the question of possible complicity on the part of high-ranking military and political figures has never been adequately clarified.

The recent resurgence of neofascism in Italy involves another scandal, one that reaches to the highest levels of the Italian judiciary. The story revolves around the assistant prosecutor of Rome, Mario Amato, who was murdered by neofascists last June, just five weeks before the Bologna massacre.

From late 1977 until the spring of 1980, Mario Amato was the only Roman magistrate investigating the clandestine reorganization and terrorist acts of the extreme right wing. It was not a safe job (his predecessor in the post was cut down by machine-gun fire in a Roman street) nor was it particularly easy. For one thing, in all of Italy there was and still is no data bank on rightist terrorism. For another, Amato’s efforts received absolutely no cooperation—and in fact a good deal of obstruction—from his superior, the head prosecutor of the Roman judiciary, Giovanni De Matteo.

De Matteo’s reputation as prosecutor was stained by his administrative mismanagement, his alleged collusion with the Caltagirone brothers (indicted embezzlers and friends of Michele Sindona), and his close ties to ex-fascist Licio Gelli, who is the head of the notoriously right-wing Masonic Lodge, Propaganda 2 (P 2), whose membership includes the highest-ranking figures of the secret services, the military, and the judiciary.3 Under De Matteo, investigations of right-wing extremists were constantly thwarted: dossiers on their activities never seemed to get off his desk, any leads that pointed to Lodge P 2 always managed to get bogged down. De Matteo even refused to sign a warrant for the arrest of the young neofascist Alessandro Alibrandi—the son of a Roman magistrate—who had been caught in flagrante with an illegal pistol while resisting arrest, at a time when he was already being investigated for stealing hand grenades. (Amato had him arrested and withdrew his passport. Released soon after on bail, Alibrandi got a new passport with his father’s help and fled the country, probably to Lebanon.) “We’re practically on the threshold of a civil war,” Amato told the Supreme Council of the Judiciary last March, “and we continue to work like this. It’s inconceivable!”

Nonetheless Amato kept digging and began to find alarming new trends on the right. He came across a Secret Service dossier (Protocol 7125, no. 21950, dated August 27, 1976) that revealed the reorganization of the fascist group called New Order, banned in 1973 after several murderous bombing attacks. Those members of New Order who did not flee to Spain had gone further underground and, during an incubation period, began to adopt the tactics and rhetoric of left-wing terrorists. Even more startling, they made attempts to link up with leftist groups in a common effort to destroy the State. As the extreme rightist theoretician Mario Guido Naldi wrote: “A revolutionary of whatever stripe is closer to us than a conservative.”

Amato also found evidence that a long-time fascist militant Paolo Signorelli, a high school teacher in Rome who had been suspected but never convicted of the murder of Amato’s predecessor, was deeply involved in reorganizing the movement. In imitation of the extreme left, the group has both a semi-legal wing called Third Position and a terrorist wing called, among other things, Armed Revolutionary Nuclei (NAR). The name “Third Position” summarizes the movement’s ideology—“neither capitalism nor communism, neither the Reds nor reaction.” Third Position seems to advocate what is called “Nazi-Maoism” and tries to align its politics with characters as diverse as Hitler, Mao, Perón, and Qadhafi. Its slogans include “Long live the Fascist dictatorship of the proletariat” and “Hitler and Mao united in the struggle.”

In 1978 Signorelli’s name began to surface in regard to such NAR crimes as thefts of guns from private stores in Rome and even a raid on a military camp that netted several cases of hand grenades. In 1979 Amato twice had Signorelli arrested in connection with terrorist attacks in Rome: once after a bloody raid on a leftist woman’s radio station, yet again after a series of bombing attacks on symbolic targets—Michelangelo’s Campidoglio, Regina Coeli prison, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a Communist Party headquarters. Signorelli was released both times after questioning.

Then, in the spring of 1980, two months before he was murdered, Amato had a breakthrough. In mid-April a neofascist named Massimi, who was in jail for various crimes, told Amato that he had been present at a meeting at Signorelli’s home on December 9, 1979, when plans were laid to murder a suspected informer. (In fact a week later fascists did attempt to murder the informer but killed an innocent man by mistake.) Present at that meeting were Signorelli, five other fascists—and Professor Aldo Semerari of the University of Rome, a noted criminal psychologist who was on the best of terms with De Matteo and his staff (he and De Matteo are reportedly Masonic brothers in Lodge P 2), and who frequently worked as a consultant to the Roman judiciary.

  1. 1

    Ayad’s remarks appeared in an interview in As Safir (Beirut), September 18, 1980, and were reprinted in Corriere di Ticino (Lugano), September 19, 1980, p. 1. Documents seized from right-wing extremist Mario Guido Naldi last August indicate that neofascists also train in South African camps. For an excellent study of the social roots of violence, both left and right, see Franco Ferrarotti, L’ipnosi della violenza (Rizzoli, Milan, 1980).

  2. 2

    De Benoist’s remark, from an article in Eléments, is quoted in L’Express, October 11, 1980, p. 37. GRECE’s statement on the bombing was made by Michel Marmin, “Les enfants d’Athènes et de Jérusalem,” Le Monde, October 8, 1980, p. 2. A Louis Harris poll taken after the synagogue bombing indicates that one in eight French persons believe there are too many Jews in France.

  3. 3

    Gelli, who is closely linked to Democratic Christian ex-premier Giulio Andreotti and whose financial empire extends from meat packing in South America through oil interests in Texas back to the Banco Financiero in Montevideo, is one of the most powerful private citizens in Italy today and is widely considered by political journalists to be one of the most compromised. The Radical Party has called for a parliamentary investigation of Gelli and other members of Lodge P 2 to determine whether they were involved in most of the major scandals in Italy during the last decade, including the failed coup d’état of fascist Prince Junio Valerio Borghese in the early Seventies, the right-wing bombing of a train in 1974 which left twelve dead, the Lockheed scandal, and the banking swindles of Michele Sindona. Gelli personally testified on Sindona’s behalf last year in New York.

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