La Strategia della Tensione

   The “strategy of tension” refers to the collective acts of terrorism perpetrated by right-wing groups in Italy between the late 1960s and early 1980s that had the purpose of provoking a climate of fear among the conservative electorate and thus an unwillingness to contemplate political change— although there is also a general consensus that the neofascist groups hoped that terror might provoke a strong government with military involvement. As the term suggests, it has been established by judicial investigation that there is reason to believe that far-right groups consciously plotted their actions and were not conducting random acts of terror. Many investigators in Italy believe that the groups themselves were backed, perhaps even armed, by the Italian secret services and by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The latter assertion has never been proved, but the belief that the secret services were involved is strongly suggested by the evidence. The strategy of tension can be said to have had its onset in December 1969, when a bomb blasted a bank in Piazza Fontana in Milan, killing 16 individuals and wounding nearly a hundred. Two other bombs exploded in Rome on the same day. In the aftermath of the attack an anarchist, Giuseppe Pinelli, “fell” out of a window in the Milan police headquarters, where he was being interrogated by Luigi Calabresi (who was himself murdered in 1972, allegedly by members of Lotta Continua). Asecond anarchist, Pietro Valpreda, was subsequently arrested and charged with planting the bomb. He spent three years under arrest without trial until the pressure of public opinion forced his release. Responsibility for the massacre was eventually attributed, in 2001, to three members of the neofascist group Ordine Nuovo: Delfo Zorzi, the movement’s leader; Carlo Maria Maggi; and Giancarlo Rognoni. In 2004, however, Zorzi, Maggi, and Rognoni were acquitted by the Court of Appeal on grounds of insufficient evidence. This sentence was later confirmed by the Court of Cassation. Nevertheless, these two courts did establish that Ordine Nuovo was without doubt responsible for the massacre.
   Piazza Fontana was only the first of a series of further bomb attacks. In May 1974, a bomb killed eight citizens in Brescia (Lombardy); in August of the same year the Italicus high-speed train was blown up and derailed, causing the deaths of 12 passengers. In both cases, nobody has ever been tried. The worst attack carried out during the strategy of tension occurred in August 1980, when two suitcase bombs planted in Bologna station cost 85 lives. More than 200 people were injured. This attack was subsequently attributed, in November 1995, to two right-wing extremists, Valerio Fioravanti and Francesco Mambro, who have never ceased to proclaim their innocence. The same sentence condemned Licio Gelli, the head of the secret Propaganda Due (P2) masonic lodge, along with two officers of the secret services, for having misled the investigation. In June 2002, three more neofascists, including a secret services officer, were sentenced to prison terms for misleading the investigation. The Bologna blast was not the end of terror bombings in Italy. In December 1984, another high-speed train was blown up in the same place as the Italicusattack: 17 passengers died and 250 were injured. In May and July 1993, at the height of the political crisis provoked by the Mani puliteinvestigations, bombs exploded in Florence, near the Uffizi galleries, in Milan, and in Rome. Ten died and dozens were wounded. These attacks have been attributed to the mafia, which in the same year killed judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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