In coming out of the realms of such sweeping statements as can be found in most anarchist. Literature i.e. "we must destroy the State", into the particular identification of the State in its instruments of repression: "the police, the judiciary, the bosses", Alfredo Bonanno is giving a precise indication of the imperative of today. And so the State retaliates - all forms of opposition to its persistence must be silenced.
That was the start of an article by Jean Weir about the attempt to imprison Bonanno over the publication of a Gioia Armata (Armed Joy), a book arguing for the concept of the destruction of oppression as a liberatory act at the level of the individual and the concept of the revolution as a joyful event. Arguing for the generalisation of the self-managed struggle of the masses and criticising- the concept of the armed vanguard party (e.g. the Red Brigades) for the purposes of using it in an attempt to silence Bonanno it was treated by the prosecution as a defence of such groups. That was two years ago. After two appeals the charges were dismissed and the three year sentence Bonanno had recieved at the first trial quashed. Two years later Jean Weir herself and four others are in Prison in a more concerted effort to silence Bonanno and the group around the review "Anarchismo"..
On their arrival in Bologna Alfredo, Jean and Salvo were split up. Alfredo was sent to Parma prison, Salvo to Ferrara and Jean to the women's wing of Modena prison. With the three who had been selected as "ringleaders" isolated the police struck again. On the Sunday after the first raid, they again raided Bonanno's house arresting the five people who had gathered there (including one K. B. who'd heard of the arrests in London and traveled to Italy only to he arrested himself). Roughly simultaneously a dozen other raids were mounted in Bologna, Forli and Catania. In all 10 people were arrested,
most of them associated with the review "Anarchismo". The publishers of "Edizioni Anarchismo". "Anarchismo" was founded in, Catania in 1975, later the editorial offices were moved to Forli, in Emilia, but the printing was still done in Catania. "Edizioni Anarchismo" published a wide range of books and pamphlets -- the classics as well as recent writings Jean Weir and K. B. were part of the Bratach Dubh group which has published a number of pamphlets in English, including works by Bonanno and translations from Anarchismo ('Workers Autonomy' Armed Struggle in Italy' for example). `Anarchismo' concentrated on struggles in prisons, state repression and armed struggle in Italy and abroad.
The police claimed to have found explosives, munitions and `very interesting' documents. Among the box-loads of Italian material seized were the proofs of five new Bratach Dubh pamphlets. The munitions and explosives were 5 bullets and 50 sticks of dynamite. Sandro Vandini a former editor of Anarchismo was given a 7 month sentence for possession of the former, Massimo Gaspari (22 years old) has been given 4 years, and 10 months for the latter. The second wave of arrests was accompanied by an hysterical press campaign. In contrast to the transport arrangements for the first three arrested, those taken in the second raid on Bonanno's house were made part of a publicity seeking security exercise. Driven to the airport to be flown to Bologna a full scale antiterrorist alert was staged there with machine gun wielding police and snipers. According to the press Bonanno and co. had been transported in an armoured plane; in general the usual shock horror anti-terrorist propaganda - was served up. For example being above such petty distinctions as those between Scots and Irish, Jean and K's arrests were taken as evidence of links with the IRA.
All those arrested in the 'second wave' were put in Bologna prison, except Massimo Gaspari who was sent to Forli Prison, where he's now serving his sentence. Initially all were held in solitary, and the British consul was refused access to the two Britons arrested. After a couple of weeks however those in Bologna were moved into communal cells, with a corresponding improvement in morale.
The plight of those isolated still, especially Jean in Modena, gives great concern to their comrades. It has also exacerbated the problems of legal defence. The tactic is a familiar one in Italy. "The prosecutor has imprisoned and isolated the defendents (without possibility of bail), and only then has he attempted to build his case. This is a dangerous precedent (reminiscent of the West German Kontaktverbot), for it puts the defence lawyers in an extremely difficult position.. It is impossible for them to defend their clients from vague general charges supported by "evidence" that is contradictory and constantly shifting." Written not of this case but of the Negri, Scalzone etc. Potere Operaio case.. Clearly the precedent it speaks of is one the Italian State has taken to heart.
All those arrested were questioned after a few days by an enquiring magistrate, - a few were released, the rest remanded pending investigation. Two and a half months later the 13 still held were questioned by an an 'examining magistrate' to decide whether there was sufficient evidence to go for trial. Pages of charges were produced, but no evidence and most were released. (K. B. was, without legal justification, ordered to leave the country within 5 days). The only ones held were Bonanno, Weir and Marletta, and the two already tried and convicted. There were three basic charges against all 13: firstly constituting and organizing an armed gang, under the name Azione Rivoluzionaria (an anarchist armed struggle group which has claimed responsibility for a number of armed actions since 1977). They are charged that they a) organised and acted across the nation with other persons (presumably an attempt to explain the geographical dispersal of those arrested and the fact that the events the real Azione Rivoluzionaria claimed, in 1977/78 were mainly in Pisa, Milan, Florence, Livorno, Turin, Aosta and Rome - only one in Bologna and none in Sicily or Scotland for that matter). B) that they circulated a theoretical programme (this refers to the fact that 'Edizioni Anarchismo' produced a pamphlet of A/R communiques and statements and a chronology of their actions, like the one on the angry Brigade produced by Bratach Dubh). C) that they planned and executed robberies and kidnappings to finance the band (hence the robberies that the three are charged with so far without any evidence)and d) building deposits of arms, munitions and explosives and distributing the technical know-how, to use them (explains the ill-assorted bullets and explosives found and refers again one assumes to 'Anarchismo's' publishing activities.) Connoisseurs of State Conspiracy Trials will have recognized the standard model conspiracy in use.
A113 were also charged with 'subversive association', that is publishing and distributing documents illustrating the ideology of armed struggle. (This refers to "Anarchismo" and the 'Azione Rivoluzionaria' pamphlet.) This is a charge created in the 1929 Fascist penal code, designed to outlaw left organisation as such. Subversion is vaguely defined and potentially all-inclusive, Rocco, Fascist justice minister said of it: "what is in question
here is a law against political, and only political, associations - its target is only those who disseminate political ideas ...Any State conscious of its own authority - that is, a, Fascist State - cannot tolerate such ideas without renouncing its own raison d'etre". The charge was revived for Negri and the 'Potere Operaio' militants in April last year. Implicit its use is a broadening of the category "terrorist" to include all political activity seen as a subversion of the existing order.
All 13 were also charged with spreading propaganda advocating social and economic disorder. This charge relates to a demonstration of homeless people in Catania in January this year. The demo, outside the town hall, in the centre of the town blocked all the roads to the centre. About 20 or so Anarchists were involved in it including several of those charged. Amongst those vehicles in the traffic jam was an armoured bank van. Though it was stopped some distance from the demo. The following day the press alleged that there had been an anarchist plot to rob it. Warrants were issued for 18 people but never served. There had been a good deal of police violence against the demonstrators - in one incident Bonanno pulled police off an old man they were beating up. (He has now been sentenced to 8 months for assault for this). The further charge pending against those held alleges that they organised the demo in an attempt to deliberately create public disorder and stimulate violence. It will be evident that this set of charges attempts to criminalise all rights to publish or demonstrate where it can be defined as subversive. As stated after questioning by an 'examining magistrate', all but Jean Alfredo and Salvo were released. ( It's not as yet clear whether any further charges are to be pressed against Sandro Vandini or Massimo Gaspari already convicted on possession charges.) Against these three there were further charges, or more accurately, sets of charges. A further set relates to six armed robberies for cash, of notaries (lawyers) in the Emilia area, no evidence has been produced to substantiate these allegations: No money, No guns, No confessions. The robberies appear to have no common thread. The descriptions of the robbers in different cases varies. In some they are supposed to have been small men where Bonanno for example is quite tall. They are supposed to have had central Italian accents, where Bonanno and Marletta are both Sicilian. A woman took part in some of them - the only link with Jean is that the woman didn't speak and therefore must have been foreign! At the time of some of the robberies Jean is known to have been in Scotland and Salvo is understood to have been in Sicily throughout the period in question. Because of the lack of evidence the three agreed to go on Identity parades to establish once and for all that there was no possible case against them. (The parades took place on the 18th June - it's not yet known the result of them.) It's possible these charges may be dropped - if not it will mean a separate series of trials to the first set of charges. And as this was written it was learned that-another entirely separate charge relating to a Bank robbery has been confirmed. No further details are yet known. These three sets of charges which if all pursued means three separate trials for those charged are widely seen as an ongoing attempt to intern those held for as long as the state considers them potentially subversive. This 'internment' was reinstituted with the passing of the Legge Reale In 1975, a set of anti-terrorist' laws modelled on West Germany's severely curtailing personal freedom and allowing the police to kill without repercussions. The initial set were strengthened in a new package introduced by the Christian Democrat/Communist Party 'coalition' last year. Political dissidents could be hold for 12 yearswithout having committed an offence. (There is no bail in Italy and in political cases you can be held for three years before you have to be tried or released there are then statutory periods before you can appeal and if still unsuccessful go on to the Supreme court.) By multiplying and juggling with the sets of charges it is thus possible to extend this internment indefinitely. The case of Valpreda, held for three years only to be released for lack of evidence, will be familiar. But the tradition is an old one in Italy - the well known examples of Malatesta and Gramsci testify to the origins of Italian `social democracy' in Italian Fascism.The charges have been widely recognized in Italy for what they are - an attempt to close down 'Anarchismo' which has been successful now for 3 months (though there are hopes to restart it) and an attempt to get Bonanno in particular out of the way. In addition to the three cases against him above, he faces another 23 trials on different charges and that's just the last count. The State's intentions are clearly the same as they were against Gramsci in 1927: "We must stop this brain working for 20 years". The case against Bonanno over his book 'La Gioia Armata' - three trials until charges dropped - was mentioned above. While that case was proceeding Bonanno and Franco Leggio were tried for blasphemy over Leggio's reprint of Johann Most's The God Plague and the Religious Epidemic. They were acquitted at the second hearing. Two days before the first hearing Bonanno was pulled in on a minor traffic offence. This speedily changed into an attempt at full scale interrogation. His refusal to cooperate led to the police chief bursting into the room roaring a series of threats "we'll shoot you in the head", "we'll kill you all" etc. Bonanno was then passed on to the political police and eventually released. That night the town was fly-posted with details of the threats - posters which had disappeared under official posters by the following morning. One of the trials Bonanno now faces is for slandering the chief of police. 'Anarchismo' and the other workers on it have also been subjected to repeated harassment - regular 'unofficial' visits by the police to their printer to persuade him to cease printing it, etc.
Why this latest and most serious attack on 'Anarchismo' and its workers? At one level it's believed to be a matter of internal police politics. The arrests were carried out by Digos police from Catania with and under instructions from Ucigos officers from Bologna. These are specialist anti-terrorist squads, part of the Public Security police. It's the rival carabinieri who've been making all the big 'anti-terrorist' cases. It's thought that this is an attempt by the PS to save face. There is at the moment in Florence a completely separate trial of people accused of being members of 'Azione Rivoluzionaria'. They include a university professor Gianfranco Fiana, arrested last July and accused of being the head of the group. He is charged with having committed an action claimed by the group, the knee-capping of a CP journalist for 1'Unita in turin in 1977. The police justification for the subsequent arrest of a second 'Azione Rivoluzionaria' is that when Fiana was arrested they say Bonanno took over as leader. This conveniently ignores the polemic conducted with 'Azione Rivoluzionaria' conducted in the pages of 'Anarchismo'.
More broadly, both Christian Democrats and Communists blame the continuing political crisis in Italy on 'terrorism', instead of admitting that it's the result of wideranging economic and social dislocations. There is thus an attempt to criminalize the autonomous movements against capital and the State. The search for 'terrorists' has
concentrated not on the armed groups in isolation, but necessarily on groups and activists who have tried to interpret organizationally and theoretically the various social phenomenona constituting the autonomous resistance. This lies behind the Negri/Potere Operaio cases. Their arrests and detention have served as a model for this case. It's the standard 'anti-terrorist' tactic described by Herold, one of those behind it in West Germany as `Draining the sympathisers' swamp'. The attempt is to drive all direct action into `underground' isolation, while simultaneously criminalizing all remaining `overground' expression of support via anti-subversion laws. (In this country it's achieved by the combination of Official Secrets and conspiracy laws and the PTA. Since struggle here has not developed to the level of generalized autonomous resistance, the British State's attacks are leveled at `subversives' - at one level the ABC trial of information gatherers, at another the Persons Unknown trial of anarchist militants). In West Germany this strategy has been successful. Integral to it is the driving of immovable wedges between the `established' left and direct activists. In Italy the autonomist movement has been forced at best into greater clandestinity, and the left forced into denouncing `terrorism'. The tide of arrests since the Moro kidnapping has turned into a flood since the revelations of political `supergrass' Peci earlier this year. That the State is winning victories and not the war can be seen in the wide-ranging condemnation of the frame up against the `Anarchismo' activists, from `Lotta Continua' to the respectable Radical Party which asked questions in Parliament. Hopefully this account will have made clear the background and significance of the case. That it's not just another trial a long way away, that the issues involved are vitally relevant to the situation here as well is hopefully equally obvious.
A defence committee has been set up and money is urgently needed, to pay lawyers and for minimum comforts for those inside. Write to:
Comitato di difesa Bolognese c/o L' Onagro
Via de Preti Bologna 40100 Italy
This account produced by Box C.11, 182 Upper Street, London N 1, England If it's possible further accounts will be produced.