Lotta Continua

   The extraparliamentary left parties or “ultras” of the 1960s and 1970s included the Movimento Studentesco (Student Movement), Servire il popolo (Serve the People), Avanguardia Operaia (Workers’ Vanguard), Potere Operaio (Worker Power), Il Manifesto (The Manifesto), Autonomia Operaia (Worker Autonomy), Lotta Operaia (Workers’ Struggle), and Lotta Continua (Constant Struggle), which was the largest. All of these groups were quick to criticize both the Partito Comunista Italiano/Italian Communist Party (PCI) and national trade unions as being too ready to compromise for the sake of stability and industrial peace. Lotta Continua was founded in the autumn of 1969. The movement’s weekly newspaper was published for the first time in November of the same year. In 1972, its third national conference decided that the movement should press for a “general conflict” with the bourgeois state. What this meant in practice was that some members of the movement robbed banks, incited manual workers to violence against factory foremen and managers, and condoned some of the early outrages of the Brigate Rosse/Red Brigades (BR). Only in October 1972 did the majority faction of Lotta Continua admit that terrorism was a mistaken strategy and that it should be condemned. Lotta Continua was a masculine, even sexist organization, despite its leftist politics. By 1976, women who were dissatisfied with their roles occupied meeting halls and held countermeetings and assemblies; at the Rimini Congress in October 1976 women members openly rejected the movement, obliging the leadership to agree that the basic assumptions of the organization had to be reexamined. Although its newspaper continued to appear, Lotta Continua dissolved. A residual group, joined by the remnants of others in similar straits, drifted into Democrazia Proletaria, a party that held seats in Parliament from the elections of June 1976 until the mid-1990s. However, not all of Lotta Continua’s members chose the left. Several ended up close to Bettino Craxi and have since become court intellectuals for Silvio Berlusconi.
   The memory of Lotta Continua remains a highly contested one because of the movement’s alleged role in the death of a policeman, Luigi Calabresi, whom the movement accused of having killed an anarchist called Giuseppe Pinelli, accused (wrongly, it is now clear) of the 1969 bomb blast at Piazza Fontana in Milan. (Pinelli “fell” out of a fourth floor window; his case is the subject of Dario Fo’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist). Calabresi eventually sued Lotta Continua, but the case was never fully heard because the judge was overheard saying he believed Calabresi to be guilty of murdering Pinelli. In May 1972, Calabresi was gunned down in the street. Lotta Continua celebrated his death as an act of justice. In 1988, two of the movement’s former leaders, Adriano Sofri and Giorgio Pietrostefani, were accused of ordering Calabresi’s murder along with Ovidio Bompressi, a militant in the movement, who was accused of actually pulling the trigger. The chief witness was the driver of the getaway car, one Leonardo Marino.
   Sofri, Pietrostefani, and Bompressi were sentenced to 22 years in prison. The three men were condemned definitively in 1997 and began prison sentences. Marino was given 11 years and did not serve a day in jail. Grave doubts have been expressed by many observers about the validity of Marino’s confession, and Sofri’s confinement has become a major political issue.
   See also Il Sessantotto; Strategia della Tensione.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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