In Italy, a political amnesty which does not pass

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On June 30th, the French justice should pronounce on the possible
extradition of Cesare Battisti, political refugee in France since 1981 and
on the run of its own country for acts committed in the 70s. The decision
was sent back after a first audience of the chamber of instruction on
April 7th, date which made, for a certain number of us, sad and painful
memories reappear.
April 7th, 7th, 2004, was indeed the 25th anniversary of the arrest of
about sixty intellectuals and workers by the judge Calogero, who was in
the time – and who is even today – the public prosecutor of the city of
Padoue. These workers and these intellectuals were all accused of having
organized a vast movement within factories and universities which pushed
in the ” uprising armed against the State ” (an offence introduced into
the Italian penal code during the fascism, punished by the life
imprisonment, and which was never overruled since), and in particular to
represent the brain of a political organization the official facade of
which would have been named ” Autonomia operaia ” ( labor autonomy ), and
the secret structure of which would have been that of the Red Brigades.
They were besides accused without proofs of being the people in charge of
nineteen murders, and in particular that of the president of the Christian
Democracy, Aldo Moro. After seven years, while the accused persons had
waited in prison for a lawsuit which finally took place, these charges
were totally abandoned, and almost all those who had been imprisoned on
April 7th, 1979 in prisons of high security were set again at liberty
having been totally cleared: they had thus made seven years of prison in
extreme conditions but received neither excuses nor compensation on behalf
of the Italian State.

Both authors of this text were among those whom the judge Calogero
accused: the first one managed supernaturally to avoid the confinement and
lived seven years in France before being totally settled and daring to
return in Italy; the second underwent four and a half years of preventive
confinement, then was afterward elected representative, what allowed himto
go out of prison, and finally took refuge with France during fourteen
years, protected by the doctrine Mitterrand, before returning in Italy
voluntarily in 1997 to purge the last six years of prison which remained
in him to make. It is in the light of this experience that we allow,
today, to speak about the historic and legal problem which puts the
extradition of Cesare Battisti.

We read the indignant letters of certain intellectuals, journalists and
Italian magistrates: unlike what assert numerous French intellectuals,
these write that Italy of the 70s did not live civil war, And what the
State of Italian right did not thus have to use of laws of exception. The
arguments which they use seem to us nevertheless often forgetful, not to
say more ridiculous. Thus let us restart this history which was – so –

The 70s represented an at the same moment vast and deep collective
experiment thanks to which two generations tried to eradicate props –
nevertheless unchanging seemingly – of the Italian society of the post-war
years. It is on this movement that it meant imposing new reports in the
family, in the sexuality, in the work, in the education, in the creation,
in the politics… But, while in the other countries of Europe the wave
provoked by 1968 had been integered inside institutions thanks to reforms
certainly more or less effective but which always took into account
requirements of the new generations, in Italy, on the contrary, an opaque
and corrupt political class, been used since the 50s to repress in the
blood the labor and peasant fights, refused at once everything dialogue
with a student movement which did not besides stop developing, and was
bound more and more in an enormous labor mobilization. Instead of opening
in the reforms for which asked a modern country (let us remember that it
is in these same years when the rights for the divorce and for the
abortion were conquered – against the will of the government in load),
they preferred to repress and to stop the demonstrators; and the custom of
firearms on behalf of police forces provoked of numerous died. At the same
time, Italy underwent what we called ” a terrorism of State “, that is of
numerous murderous attacks organized by certain fringes of secret services
having escaped any control and by extreme right-wing small groups: there
were thus explosions on trains, bombs in banks and during trade-union
meetings, during real acts of terror having for end to generalize the fear
and to force the country to withdraw on moderate positions. We said that
it was a ” strategy of the tension “: to destabilize to re-stabilize – and
the deaths counted by hundreds. In answer to it, a part of the movement
gradually slid towards the armed struggle and committed political murders:
officers and producers, journalists, union activists, politicians,
magistrates… The State then adopted an outfit of special laws which did
not correspond doubtless formally to a real State of exception, but which
nevertheless allowed the arrest and the preventive confinement of thousand
persons during years ( the legal limit was fixed to twelve years ), the
usage of the torture, the summary lawsuits completely built on prisoners’
word to which it had been promised that the freedom in exchange for
confessions and which would have anything invented to go out of prison.
The data are sadly clear: 36 000 orders, 6 000 condemned persons, one
thousand persons taken refuge abroad; and those who think that all this is
not true have only to go to glance at the reports of Amnesty International
of these same years.

Now it is not a question of saying that the 70s were not violent years,
nor to make profession of angelism. But Italy of post-68, it was also the
attempts of putsch, the infiltration of the masonic lodge P2 in the high
spheres of the State and the civil society ( should we remind that
numerous elements of the political class of this time are the same who are
protagonists of the public life of the peninsula today? ), the Atlantic
military structure “Gladio” which had surrouunded in secret the centres of
the power, the enormous scandal “Lockheed” which had soiled not only
several Ministers of the government in responsibility but also the
President of the Republic itself, forcing him to the resignation…

A diffuse and deep corruption, thus, which eventually appeared in full
light at the beginning of the 90s, and which provoked, at least formally,
the disappearance of the big Italian parties: the history of Tangentopoli
is from this point of view only the consequence of decades of dysfunctions
and bribes, subversion and lie, drift and secrets.

The 70s were all this – and not only, as some people want it to persuade,
a metropolitan “jacquerie” in which a small number of delirious fanatics,
totally cut by the reality and manipulated by occult powers, put in danger
a peaceful, quiet and calm democracy.

The repression of the movement of the 70s lasted during years. The time
passed. Many politicians recovered a virginity. The actors of the lead
years purged for their part up to the end, and sometimes excessively,
their condemnation – in prison for the majority of them, in exile for the
others – and only ones those who did not live the exile can deny that it
is also, in spite of appearances, about an exemplary and cruel punishment.

It is not a question here of saying that we were innocent. It is simply a
question of reminding that the laws by virtue of which we were imprisoned
– and, for some, condemned – were not normal laws; and that every man,
whatever it is, is entitled to a just justice. It is on this point that
the doctrine Mitterrand based its thought. In the case of the settled,
certainly: all those who were cleared having undergone the years of
prison, having lost their work and sometimes their family, underwent a
justice tragically grotesque; but in the case of the condemned persons,
the injustice is not less monstrous there.

The case of Adriano Sofri, condemned for twenty two years of prison,
twenty five years after the facts which are blamed him – and although it
continues desperately to proclaim itself innocent-, is the most sad
example. Sofri is innocent, but he was condemned during a lawsuit-river
dotted with contradictory declarations), with ambiguous witnesses, with
proofs which disappear, of uncalled-for or replaced judges, hoarse and
redone judgments. We allow only to add to all this: if Sofri had been
guilty – and it is not him-, this parody of justice to which he was
subjected, and about which the historian Carlo Ginzburg said very exactly
that it looked like a real lawsuit of witchcraft, it would be less

Thirty years passed. The men changed. They recovered with difficulty a
life when they were able to do it. But this history, the history of which
we do not still manage to make, is a wound. After thirty years, while
nothing is more similar to what existed then – neither the persons, nor
the historic situation – has it another sense to want to punish? Is not
there legal prescription when souls and bodies became other, and when all
their existence is the proof? Do not we risk to transform the justice –
the one who was cruelly so lacking to the time – in a vengeance?

A vengeance which made of the eye for eye its creed, but which does not
work in the same way for all. The massacres provoked by the strategy of
the tension lived, for the greater part, unpunished. In the daytime of the
arrest of Battisti, the Italian judiciary decided to refuse, after thirty
years of successive lawsuits, the charges which charged certain extreme
right-wing leaders and people in charge of the secret services of the
attack of the Bank of the agriculture of Milan, in 1969: a bomb had
provoked a real bloodbath. The people in charge can sleep soundly, they do
not need an amnesty, they are already pardoned.

But, for the extreme left, no amnesty. This page of the history will not
be turned, because it would mean exactly that we finally agreed to worry
the real history. The Italian left refuses to make an amnesty by fear that
Berlusconi and his friends take advantage of it. Berlusconi and his
friends do not need it, they are autoamnistiés for a long time.

The intellectuals who make the apology of the State of Italian right
today, who existed according to them in the 70s, are blind, ignorant or
cynical. The doctrine Mitterrand had no big claims. It simply registered a
non-functioning of the justice and the impossibility of the Italian
political class to give political answers to a movement of contesting
pushed bit by bit to the extremism by the choice of the repression. The
doctrine Mitterrand allowed dozens persons to abandon the infernal spiral
of the appeal to weapons and to choose another life, another route. It is
on this base that it was confirmed by the governments of cohabitation
which succeeded one another from 1986, to begin with that in the head of
which was Jacques Chirac, then Prime Minister. In narrow connection with
Italian Caritas, the Church of France has, too, always supported firmly
the commitment which had been taken.

There is a problem of the political amnesty today for lead years. Some
people believe that the forgiveness is a weakness. We think, on the
contrary, that only the forgiveness is the measure of a real political
force, because only the forgiveness can allow Italy today to release
itself from ghosts of the 70s.

But, in Italy, all this is doubtless still impossible, because he(it)
reigns an opaqueness there which does not allow the history(story) to be
made, unless, as today, the direct actors decide – indeed in spite of
them, because there is no other possible solution – to resume(to take
back) the word. Italy of the XXIth century tries(feels) towards the lead
years the difficulty that France towards Vichy or towards the war of
Algeria had for a long time. We ask today that, as in France, this
history(story) is written, so that it stops finally being the taboo of the
memory and the forgiveness.

>From a Translation Italian to French by Judith Revel in Liberation