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Italy: Terror on the Right

Apart from his academic and juridical credentials, Aldo Semerari was famous for the sumptuous banquets he frequently gave for judges, police chiefs, and industrialists at his luxurious villa outside Rome. After dinner Semerari was accustomed to show his guests what he called his “glorious relics from the past”—a vast collection of Nazi flags, uniforms, and medals, along with photographs of Hitler and his entourage.

With the alleged linking of Semerari to Signorelli and fascist crimes, Amato now had some evidence for what he had long suspected: that the extreme right, in his words, “has connections and branches everywhere,” including the Italian judiciary. And yet, naïvely, Amato immediately presented the information to Giovanni De Matteo with an urgent plea that it be forwarded to the proper authorities. In so doing, he apparently signed his own death warrant. De Matteo sat on the dossier for over a week, supposedly without reading it, as he later claimed under oath. Within that week Amato learned indirectly that its contents had been leaked—to Paolo Signorelli and Aldo Semerari.

On June 13, 1980, Mario Amato took his complaints to the Superior Counsel of the Judiciary. Without mentioning Semerari or Signorelli by name, he revealed the existence of the Massimi dossier, condemned De Matteo’s negligence, and pointed prophetically to evidence of a coming terrorist attack of enormous proportions. He did not tell the Counsel one of the things Massimi had revealed: that Amato himself was next on the hit-list of the fascist assassins. But he did discuss the dangers of his job and the difficulties in obtaining an armored car. In the last weeks Amato had noticed that he was frequently being followed by two youths on a motorbike.

Exactly ten days after his appearance before the Counsel, as he waited for a bus to take him from his home to his office, Mario Amato was approached from behind and shot twice in the head. Last September Giovanni De Matteo was promoted to head of the Appellate Court.4

In view of the disorganization of Italy’s police authorities and the blatant politicization of its judiciary, it seems that convictions in the case of Mario Amato and in the massacre at Bologna—if there are any—lie years in the future. To be sure, there has been some action. Public outrage over De Matteo’s scandalous promotion reached its height last November with the result that he and his adjunct, Raffaele Vessichelli, were suspended pending an investigation, and four neofascist lawyers implicated with them in the leak of the Massimi dossier were arrested. Likewise, Semerari, Signorelli, and a host of neofascist thugs are in jail awaiting trial. But one has the impression that such arrests are somewhat like those at the end of Casablanca. “Round up the usual suspects,” hold them for questioning, and eventually let them free. Eleven years after the bomb explosion that killed sixteen people in Milan, the trial of neofascists Freda and Ventura is still unresolved. Last November Elio Massagrande, a notorious rightist indicted for political crimes in the early Seventies and now in hiding in Paraguay, revealed to a Brazilian magazine that his flight from Italy was aided by a police chief in Bologna.

In 1976 and again in 1978, judges in Rome, Turin, and Milan fell over each other in their haste to absolve 196 neofascists of crimes ranging from murdering a policeman to “reconstituting Fascism.” (After the trial in Turin the neofascists left the courtroom giving the Nazi salute.) The names of many of these exonerated militants, often the children of judges and policemen, continue to show up in more recent investigations. Certainly in the past year the carabinieri, under the controversial General Alberto Dalla Chiesa, have made dramatic strides in crushing the Red Brigades and similar groups on the left. (Last May the police arrested three young men, all of them the sons of journalists, who had murdered one anti-terrorist journalist in Milan and wounded another in Rome. On December 3, in a spectacular sweep through Italy, the carabinieri netted many of the leaders of the group called First Line.) But when it comes to fascist terrorism, Italian authorities seem to be a bit blind in the right eye.

Although the precise structure of Third Position and the Armed Revolutionary Nuclei continues to elude everyone’s grasp, two things are nonetheless clear: first, that they represent a radicalization, at the tactical level, of the political philosophy of the legal neofascist party, the Italian Social Movement (MSI); and, secondly, that this common political philosophy is still inspired by one of the most original and intellectually eccentric of fascist thinkers, the late Julius Evola (1898-1974).

In their political programs the Italian neofascists are not interesting: they have not had a fresh idea since Mussolini’s Republic of Salò went down in the ashes of the Second World War. The MSI, which commands about 7 percent of the Italian electorate, still advocates an organic, corporate state under a charismatic leader who would neither seek nor need an electoral consensus but rather would express the “spirit” of his people. Such a state would be governed by an “aristocracy of quality,” not an old-fashioned nobility of blood but a leadership class that establishes its superiority precisely by seizing power. (“Black” Prince Junio Valerio Borghese, with the cooperation of some high-ranking generals, made a botched attempt at such a coup in the early Seventies.)

Nowadays the parliamentarian fascists of the MSI insist that power will be seized only by legal means. But the extra-parliamentary extremists like the members of Third Position take the MSI’s ideas seriously: they oppose “fascism in a double-breasted suit” and advocate terrorism and violent revolution. If the political programs of the MSI are uninteresting, the violence they seem to spawn is not. And although the MSI, at least officially, has condemned such violence, one cannot help noting the apparent continuity between the content of their political ideals and the incarnation of those ideals in the activities of groups like Third Position.

On the most generous interpretations, the Italian neofascists are caught between the exigencies of living with parliamentary democracy, however much they despise it, and the bizarre “metaphysics” (they call it that) which lies behind their politics and which, at least in theory, advocates violence. Here enters Julius Evola, whom MSI leader Giorgio Almirante has called “our Marcuse, only better.” To read Evola is to take a trip through a weird and fascinating jungle of ancient mythologies, pseudo-ethnology, and transcendental mysticism that is enough to make any southern California consciousness-tripper feel quite at home.5 And the amazing fact is that MSI deputies and Third Position militants take this mythical metaphysics utterly seriously as the basis for their political or terroristic actions. Without reading Evola you can no more understand why MSI Deputy Pino Rauti votes the way he does than you could comprehend Toni Negri’s actions without knowing Karl Marx. Neither, without understanding Evola, could you understand the ideological tension within Eurofascism between the advocates of de Benoist’s New Right and the followers of what is called Traditionalism.

Whereas de Benoist is a Nietzschean nominalist who sees the world as devoid of ontological meaning and who believes that only the will to power establishes norms, Evola declares himself a “spiritualist” who sees reality as hierarchically ordered from the Sacred down in a kind of “great chain of Being.” His sacral, hierarchical vision of the world yields his metaphysical justification of “Empire” as the proper form of governance (in 1972 he proposed a Bismarckian monarchy as a model for Italy), of an updated “caste system” (where “everyone keeps his function in the entire order” because “God assigns each his proper status”) in the economic order, and a “spiritual racism” based on “transcendent virility” as the ideal in the social order. Evola’s Synthesis of the Doctrine of Race (1941), which Mussolini blessed as an official statement of Italian policy and which is still sold in rightist bookstores in Rome, opposes the merely biological racism of Nazism and advocates a further step: the subsumption of the requisite biological material (read: Aryan stock) under a spiritually elevating form which refers it to the Sacred. This philosophical subterfuge scarcely hides Evola’s anti-Semitism: Jews exercise a “corrosive, disintegrating action in social and cultural areas” and “represent the anti-race par excellence.”6

Buttressing his “metaphysics” is a cyclical theory of history modeled on the Four Ages of Hindu mythology. Here we find the theoretical justification for violence, and perhaps terrorism, as a necessary means for destroying the modern and utterly decadent world (represented equally by America and Russia) which has sacrificed the Sacred to the material, the principle of Empire to that of democracy, the caste system to a social chaos where “men may go wherever they want,” and spiritual racism to a pseudo-freedom of “the slave emancipated and the pariah glorified.” In no other contemporary thinker of whom I’m aware is the rejection of history and the modern world so absolute and so virulent. For Evola we live in the Fourth Age, the Kali Yuga, whose only virtue consists in being the prelude to the cataclysmic Pralaya or dissolution that will in turn lead back to the Golden Age of the Satya Yuga. The utterly regressive character of Evola’s “metaphysics of history” is what puts his conservatism light years away from, say, that of William F. Buckley at his most aristocratic and reactionary. Creeping socialism be damned: for Evola the break-up of the modern world began somewhere between the eighth and sixth centuries BC, that is, with the onslaught of the current Kali Yuga.

It may sound exaggerated to say that Pino Rauti votes Evolian metaphysics in Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, but in an interview with me last November he confirmed every suspicion. While he does not hope to reconstitute the Hindu caste system exactly as it was, he does seem to believe that there is a Middle Ages in Italy’s future. In his book The Ideas That Moved the World (which in fact is but a long and very bad retelling of Evola’s Revolt Against the Modern World7 ), ex-journalist Rauti presents the knight of medieval chivalry—in his current incarnation, the SS soldier—as the model of citizenship in the organic state that he would model on the Holy Roman Empire. The challenge today, he tells us, is the same as in the times of Charlemagne and Otto I: “Either Europe surges ahead, acquires land, power, breathing space and greatness by pushing back the Slavic world, or that world will increase its thrust and pressure, perhaps followed closely from behind by the Chinese hordes.”

All of this might ultimately be humorous were it not for the fact that great numbers of Italian youths are buying it. Their Celtic crosses, swastikas, and double-headed axes are painted all over the walls of Rome’s upper-middle-class districts. Last summer, for the third consecutive year, over 3,000 right-wing youths gathered in the Abruzzi mountains at Rauti’s Youth Movement rally, called Camp Hobbit, to discuss politics, metaphysics, and Nordic mythology. (Yes, even Tolkien has been co-opted. His trilogy about those endearing homunculi fighting for Good against Evil is read by young neofascists as a mythological prolegomenon to Mein Kampf.8 ) Rauti can even manage to understand, so he told me, why a youth like Alessandro Alibrandi might carry a pistol with the serial numbers filed off: after all, right-wing youths have to defend themselves in cities like Rome where leftist militants are everywhere. And don’t forget, he went on, that Mario Amato used to vote for the Communist Party.

Italy is living through its worst period since World War II. Inflation has passed 20 percent, young people can find no jobs, the political system is as unstable as the ground which recently shook under the impoverished villages of the south and took thousands of lives, many of which might have been spared if the Italian bureaucracy had simply taken the pains to enact a long-needed civil defense program. The country’s fortieth government, just installed, has already been undermined by the biggest scandal in the history of the republic, a matter involving $2.2 billion of unpaid oil revenues and millions of dollars in kickbacks to government officials.

The swindle goes back to 1974 when Giulio Andreotti, then the minister of defense, helped to get General Raffaele Giudice appointed to the command of Italy’s Finance Guard, the militarized revenue police. Once in office, Giudice conspired with oil magnate Bruno Musselli and scores of others in one of the simplest but most lucrative of tax ripoffs. In Italy the same petroleum product is used both to heat houses and to drive diesel trucks, but the heating oil, which is dyed to distinguish its use, is taxed at a rate fifty times lower than that of the diesel fuel. Bruno Musselli and other oil industrialists doctored the dyes and the paper work on vast quantities of oil in order to get it taxed at the lower rate, and then sold it to gas stations as truck fuel, thereby avoiding the $2.2 billion in taxes. In turn, Musselli and his associates paid out millions of dollars (the exact sum is not known) over some four years to General Giudice, his righthand man General Donato lo Prete, and Sereno Freato, the trusted counselor of the late Aldo Moro, to get them to close an eye to the revenue evasion. (During Moro’s captivity by the Red Brigades, Musselli volunteered to pay a $25 million ransom for the politician’s release.) Giudice may also have been involved in a lucrative scheme to import Libyan oil at lower than OPEC prices in exchange for the sale of Italian arms to Qadhafi.

In 1978 the scandal came to light in a provincial newspaper in northern Italy but was discreetly covered up. Even the chairman of the senate finance committee hid away a police report on the swindle for over seven months. When a muckraking journalist in Rome named Mino Pecorelli got wind of the scandal he began to publish some articles in his magazine, OP, but was apparently bought off by an interested group that included Christian Democrat Senator Claudio Vitalone, Judge Carlo Testi, and General Donato lo Prete of the Finance Guard. Pecorelli, who had excellent sources within the secret services, claimed to know of involvements in the oil scandal that pointed in the direction of Giulio Andreotti and Sereno Freato. After generous payoffs, Pecorelli’s articles stopped. When the money dried up, he again threatened to go public with his information. On March 20, 1979, as he sat in his car in a dark Roman street, he was shot twice in the mouth and died. The murder was in the Mafia style of “sasso in bocca“—a rock in the mouth of the dead man to indicate that he would speak no more. Over one hundred people have been arrested in connection with the scandal, and in early December the minister of industry, Antonio Bisaglia, resigned in the face of sharp accusations that he was involved in it. Bruno Musselli has fled the country. Giulio Andreotti declares his innocence of any crimes. General Raffaele Giudice, who is now in jail, says that he too is innocent. Giudice and Musselli are members of Masonic Lodge P 2.

In politics this sad and beautiful country seems more and more to resemble the Andrea Doria: faultily constructed at the beginning, its defects covered over for reasons of power and money, its potential for destroying innocent lives enormous. Italy is fertile soil for messianic terrorists who would right all its deep-seated wrongs by pulling a trigger or setting a timer. Could it be that Mussolini was right after all? “It’s not impossible to govern the Italians,” he once remarked. “It’s simply useless.”

December 11

  1. 4

    The prime suspect in the murder of Amato, one Francesco Mangiameli, a member of Third Position, was himself murdered on September 9 and dumped into a lake outside Rome. The alleged murderer of Mangiameli, Alberto Volo, was arrested on September 15 and was later caught passing a note to his wife: “Don’t talk about the Secret Services, and don’t say I belong to Third Position.”

  2. 5

    Evola’s major work is Rivolta contro il mondo moderno, 5th ed. (Edizioni Mediterranee, Rome, 1976). For a complete bibliography see Gianfranco de Turris, ed., Omaggio a Julius Evola (Volpe, Rome, 1973). On the differences between Evola and de Benoist see my essay, “Myth and Violence,” in Social Research, Winter 1980-1981.

  3. 6

    Julius Evola, Sintesi di dottrina della razza (Hoepli, Milan, 1941), pp. 118 and 173. Evola’s doctrine of empire is found in J. Evola and Carlo Costamagna, L’idea di stato, 2nd ed. (Ar, Padova, 1977). On the caste system see Rivolta contro il mondo moderno, pp. 120-133.

  4. 7

    In Le idee che mossero il mondo (Europa, Rome, 1976) Rauti incorporates whole paragraphs from Evola on pp. 40, 41, 173, 212f., and 220f., and copies pp. 387-389 outright, never with an acknowledgement.

  5. 8

    See the entire issues of the right-wing journals Dimensione Cosmica (Pescara), May-August, 1979, and Diorama Letterario (Florence), January, 1979. In poster art, rightist youth prefer Frank Frazetta.

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