ON THE NEED TO REMEMBER ITALIAN MASSACRES
by Carlo Tombola
…even the dead are not safe from their enemies, should they win.
Historical speaking, it is now felt that the many massacres that have taken place in Italy, should finally be recognized as one single event rather than a chain of events. The goal beyond the massacres being to stop, by whatever means possible, any progressive change in the status of the political landscape regarding both internal and external roles.
In normal circumstances this historical view would already be widespread, but it isn’t.
Despite investigations by both the courts and parliamentary commissions, no one was ever held fully accountable, even in the face of un-disputable evidence.
Equally, in normal circumstances “reconciliation” and “confrontation of the truth” would also be possible in Italy, following examples of Chile, Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American countries, or alternatively the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-apartheid South Africa. It is likely that under the guidance of independent individuals, the Italian State would have regained the confidence of the population.
However, this didn’t happen as the State chose an alternative option, preferring to set up a Parliamentary investigation into the reasons why no one was formally charged with the aforementioned terrorist acts. But the ruling class was unable to answer this question satisfactorily because of its intrinsic involvement.
Today it is thought that such a path to the truth would be a clear possibility, but it is well known that generally speaking people are no longer interested in history and the truth of its events. The risk is that memories, like that of Piazza Fontana, begin to disappear. Consequently there is the need for a symbolic first step in the re-opening of a dialogue.
Hence the project dedicated to a memorial of the massacres.
This brings with it the difficult question of how to define appropriate parameters.
Within the legal confines (law no. 206/2004) which takes into account over five hundred victims, the memorial considers only 136, primarily composed of innocent bystanders. Through this memorial the chain of events illustrates that while victims indeed remain victims they cannot all be considered the same.
History prolongs the memory based on evidence and the collective feeling that results. In this case the ruling class, as indicated previously, has to date refused to recognize this position. This can be interpreted as evidence of an ongoing “war against people”, beginning at the end of the sixties and continuing into the seventies.
This so called “war” was taken up following what had been, at least up until November 1969, a non-violent movement. This resulted in a phase of student/union struggle escalating towards armed and terrorist outcomes in the broader sense, particularly after events leading up to the massacre that took place in Piazza Fontana.
All these acts have been subject to political misdirection in that “deviant exponents” of the state, meaning police, secret services, armed forces, judges and government officials, have set out to protect those responsible rather than those innocent casualties of events.
In this sense, the episode of Peteano is worth looking at as it sheds light on a situation where those protecting the neo-fascists, the Carabinieri, were themselves targeted. This being the case because their protection was considered insufficient. On the other hand, however, the bomb in Piazza della Loggia, in Brescia, served as further evidence of misdirection, resulting in victims specifically targeted as participants in an anti-fascist demonstration, coinciding with a general strike: effectively a black bomb of red blood used against its enemies.
To enforce this misdirection the involvement of successive governments was inevitable. This was further coordinated by a masonic fraction operating in the areas of State, political personnel and mass media. One lodge, otherwise known as P2, was found to be responsible for covering up the bombing of “Italicus”, late exposed by the Commission headed by Tina Anselmi. Confirmation of such cover ups is apparent in a long list of events, systematically brushed under the carpet by varied governments over a period of forty years up to the present day. Time also served to cancel proof stored in State Archives, in line with Mr. Cossiga’s doubts regarding authenticity.
Finally, on all occasions the management of all legal processes was influenced by political powers, both in terms of outcome and orchestrated delays, which in turn established without doubt this fact. While all this may, albeit through a tangled web, have helped get to the historical truth of the matter, the fact remains that many culprits continue to enjoy prolonged impunity. This procedural slowness therefore triggered the mechanisms of the sentencing of crimes and amnesty measures, which has contributed to the dilution, fading and the overall confusion of the collective memory.
The “Piazza Fontana model” (first trial 1972 in Rome, moved from Milan and then to Catanzaro; new trial in Bari 1984; new preliminary investigation in Catanzaro 1987; new trial in Milan 2000, concluded in 2005) was repeated without variations in the case of Gioia Tauro massacre (investigation closed without trial in 1974, a new investigation closed in 1995 with general acquittal, reopening and sentenced in 2001, concluded in 2006). In the case of Peteano (first trial concluded in 1987, annulment, proceeding concluded 1993). That of the Questura of Milan (first trial against only one defendant concluded 1976, second trial 2000, concluded 2005). The case relating to Italicus (first acquittal 1982, partial annulment in 1986, successive annulment 1987, final acquittals 1992). Piazza Loggia (five preliminary investigative phases, eight trial phases: first trial 1979, confirmed in 1985, second trial concluded 1989, third trial 2005-2014, fourth trial concluded in 2017: not guilty). Finally Bologna station (first trial 1987-1995, second trial 1997-2007, third trial begun in 2017 that on conclusion could bring into question a sentence passed in 1995).
From this extended historical context, arises some doubt about existing monuments that, could be argued, create ambiguity with regard to the significance of: plaques, tombstones, memorial stones, museums and memorials, functioning to fragment the memory rather than reaffirming the heinous senselessness of inhuman behaviour.
Here we give a brief review of present monuments dedicated to the massacres.
The Piazza Fontana massacre is marked with a plaque placed on the wall of the former headquarters of the National Bank of Agriculture, today a branch of Monte dei Paschi di Siena. Inside, an illuminated glass plate marks the point of explosion, while two memorial tablets can be found in memory of a further victim, anarchist Pino Pinelli.
Regarding the subsequent loss of life in Gioia Tauro, initial research indicates no commemorative artifacts.
In the square of the Peteano bombing, along the provincial road SP8 between Savogna and Sagrado (Friuli), in a stretch now called Via Carabinieri Caduti di Peteano, a memorial stone was placed framed by hedge rows and cypresses. Opposite the ground was painted red (to complete the tricolor).
The attack on the Milan Police Headquarters, in via Fatebenefratelli, is remembered by a bare headstone placed at the site of the explosion, which occurred – it should be remembered – one year after the murder of Commissioner Calabresi, on the occasion of the inauguration of his bust in the courtyard of the Questura. For this reason, today mainly official ceremonies take place inside the courtyard.
In San Benedetto Val di Sambro station, in memory of the massacre, a monument was placed on a stone base, made by railwayman-sculptor Walter Veronesi with a section of carriage number 5 of Italicus, the train Rome-Brenner affected by the bomb. For decades parked on a siding, the carriage was dismantled and the main part melted and used for scrap. At the base of the monument, a simple metal plaque with the following text: «Train 1486 “ITALICUS” 4-VIII-1974 1h23’» (the time when the bomb exploded).
The city of Brescia recalls the massacre of 28 May 1974 with two important monuments. The first by Carlo Scarpa, one of the greatest architects and designers of the twentieth century. In the first instance, the Municipality asked Carlo Scarpa to completely redesign the square but, disturbed by the project, it never came to fruition. Prior to the second anniversary of the attack, Scarpa came up with a temporary solution, a commemorative column engraved with the names of the victims with a light barrier separating the column from the rest of the square, next to the column damaged by the explosion.
The second monument dedicated «to the victims of the partisan struggle and of Piazza della Loggia» is located on the avenue leading to the Vantinian Cemetery. Following several initial proposals from prominent sculptors and architects, the final choice was that of Ignazio Gardella: a «rectangular architectural enclosure isolating, in the tree-lined area inside the Vantinian cemetery, a sacred and commemorative space».
Finally, at the time of writing, we have a further project yet to be completed, proposed by Casa della Memoria consisting of 430 ‘memory stones’ placed along a path running from Piazza della Loggia to the Castle.