State Security in Italy
The Historical & Political Context
of Nine Days in October (1965-1994)
During the mid-1960s, disagreements
between conservatives and leftwing elements resulted
in serious problems for Italy. On March 4, 1965, however,
the parties in the coalition government agreed to set
aside their political differences in order to take
unified action against an economic slump. This government
was headed by Aldo Moro throughout 1965 and 1966.
late 1960s brought social turmoil to Italy. The country experienced
dramatic social, economic, political, and religious developments.
1968 students demanding educational reforms clashed with
police on university campuses in Rome and other cities.
Right: Ottone Rosai
Worker on the Cross
called general strikes to urge an overhaul of the social
security system. They were also concerned with unemployment,
inflation, and rising government deficits, all caused in
part by the country’s huge
oil import bills.
issues also became more important, resulting ultimately
in a divorce law adopted in 1973 and the legalization of
abortion in 1978.
Students, Workers, and Women—were
significant forces in the life of the country at the time.
Left: Christian Vote versus
Divorce and Free Love
Violence and lawlessness, which had
plagued Italian society throughout the 1970s, took
more virulent forms toward the end of the decade. As
Italy's economic problems worsened, a wave of kidnappings
and political violence swept the country.
by the Communists' decision, under Enrico Berlinguer,
to ally themselves with the government, extreme leftwing
terrorists began to attack politicians, police, journalists,
On March 16, 1978 former prime minister
Aldo Moro was kidnapped by the Red Brigades, a leftwing
terrorist group. The Red Brigades made Moro's release
contingent on the freeing of other terrorists from
Italian jails. The government refused to deal with
Moro's captors, and two months later, on May 9, he
was found murdered, with his body left in the trunk
of a car parked halfway between the party headquarters
of the DC (Christian Democrats) and PCI (Italian
Left: Aldo Moro, Via Caetani, Rome,
May 9, 1978
march for the victims of
Piazza Fontana, December,1969
(Piazza of Milan Cathedral)
In time, left-wing violence ("red")
was matched by right-wing extremists ("black"), who
took to bombing as a political tactic, often seeking
to blame the tragedies on the left. This was an aspect
of the so-called
"Strategy of Tension," an effort by reactionary forces
to turn the country toward the right.
Two major "black"
terrorist bombings occurred in Milan and Bologna.
In Piazza Fontana, a bomb exploded in the
National Bank of Agriculture on December 12, 1969,
killing 16 people and
wounding 88. In Bologna, a bomb destroyed part
of the Central Train Station on August 2, 1980.
Eight-five people were killed and over 200 wounded.
Initially, the government tried to blame the Brigate
Rosse but in time several neofascist terrorists were
implicated. Agents connected to the secret intelligence
services, both civilian (Sisde) and military (Sismi), were accused
of trying to throw the investigation off track.
In May 1981,
the Italian press exposed a secret Masonic lodge,
the Propaganda Due (P2), whose members included a large number
of prominent political and military figures. This crisis
resulted in the Christian Democrats agreeing to serve
for the first time in 35 years under a non-Christian
Democrat prime minister. Giovanni Spadolini, a leader
of the small Republican party, became the first post-World
War II prime minister who was not a Christian Democrat.
Another series of cabinet crises in August 1983 led
to the formation of a government under Bettino Craxi, Italy's first
Socialist prime minister since the war. He served until March 1987,
the longest tenure of any postwar leader. During his term, in 1984,
Roman Catholicism lost its status as Italy's state religion, as the
government signed a new concordat with the Vatican to replace the Lateran
Treaty of 1929.
was under Craxi’s administration
that the Achille Lauro crisis occurred in 1985, when
Italy refused to allow the U.S. military to arrest
four Palestinian terrorists involved in the hijacking
of the cruise ship.
The leader of the terrorists—Abu
Abbas—was released by the Italians after negotiating
an end to the hijacking. He was captured by U.S. Special
Forces in the outskirts of Bagdad on April 15, 2003
and died in U.S. custody in March of 2004.
Another aspect of Craxi's term in office
was the beginning of maxi-trials of mafiosi.
The collapse of communism in Eastern
Europe precipitated changes in Italy too. In 1990 the
Italian Communists renamed themselves the Party of
the Democratic Left (Partito Democratico della Sinistra)
[PDS], downplaying their former atheism and emphasis
on class conflict in favor of such issues as the environment,
feminism, and the nagging economic disparity between
the industrial north and the poverty-ridden south.
The Socialist party, still led by
Craxi, tried to unify the Left and renamed itself the Party of Socialist
Voters showed their lack of confidence
in all established parties in the April 1992 elections.
The voter backlash resulted from a combination of factors,
including a poor economy, high unemployment, and the
public revelation of widespread political corruption and high-level Mafia
In the following two years, more than
6000 individuals, including hundreds of politicians
as well as judicial and business leaders, were investigated
or arrested on charges that included taking bribes
and granting political and economic favors. This effort
was called Mani
hands). Every single political party was implicated
in soliciting and receiving bribes. The affair as a
whole is often referred to as Tangentopoli (Bribesville).
As a result of the scandal, Craxi
was forced to resign his position as head of the Socialist
Party in early 1993. Indicted on charges of corruption,
he fled to Tunisia in May 1994. He was later convicted
in absentia and sentenced to more than 26 years in
prison. He died in "exile" (to
use his term) on January 19, 2000.
later prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi,
was tried for having paid bribes to Craxi's political
party in order to facilitate business dealings. This
was only one of several trials in which Berlusconi
was accused of corruption.
Right: Silvio Berlusconi and Bettino Craxi
Car of Judge Giovanni Falcone
May 23, 1992
Salvatore Rina, the mafioso behind
the assassination of Giovanni Falcone,
now serving a life sentence
From June 1992 to April 1993,
under prime minister Giulio Amato, the war against the Mafia continued.
Two key judges in the fight, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino,
along with their escorts, were both assassinated.
Borsellino (†July 19, 1992)
29, 1993, the seven-times former prime minister Guilio
Andreotti came under suspicion of association with
the Mafia. His trial for corruption at the highest
level of the state began in the Fall of 1995. More than a dozen other
prominent Italians committed suicide rather than face trial on bribery
charges. By January 1994, over a third of the members of parliament were
During the mid-90s, in the face of
widespread political scandal, Italy moved from a coalition
system of politics in which a single party had long
dominated to a more splintered system of powerful new
parties and alliances.
January 1994 the Christian Democratic party, a coalition
member of 52 consecutive governments that had ruled
Italy since 1948, was dissolved into two separate
parties, the Popular party (Partito Populare Italiano
[PPI]) and the Christian Democratic Centre party
(Centro Democratico Cristiano [CDC]).
In the reorganization, the Forza
Italia (or “Come on Italy!”) party, a creation of media
magnate Silvio Berlusconi, emerged as a leading political
party, along with the federalist Northern League (Lega
Nord, formerly called the Lombard League), a party
that had advocated dividing Italy up into three separate
republics) and the neo-Fascist
National Alliance (Alleanza Nazionale), with its most
prominent leaders being Gianfranco Fini and Alessandra
These three parties made up the rightwing
Freedom Alliance (or Polo della Libertà),
which won the March 1994 election with 58% of the vote.
In the March 1994 elections, the
leftwing coalition— Alleanza Progressiva—received 34
percent of the vote. This coalition, the second most
popular, was formed from the Democratic Party of the
Left, one of the largest Communist parties in Western
Europe, along with the Refounded Communists (Rifondazione
Comunista) (RC) and several smaller parties.
centrist parties drew only 7 percent in the March 1994
elections. In effect, this election signaled the end
of what is now called the First Republic.