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.

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

This Issue

January 22, 1981