Chapter 4: It is never good to merely defend oneself, because victory only belongs to the attacker

Before the wars of the French Revolution, this way of seeing things was rather dominant in the sphere of theory. But when these wars, in a single blow, opened up an entirely new world of warlike phenomena . . . one put aside the old models and one concluded that everything was the consequence of new discoveries, great ideas, etc., but also transformed social conditions. Thus one estimated one no longer had any need of that which belonged to the methods of an older time (…) But because, in such reversals of opinion, two parties arise in opposition, the old conceptions find their knights and defenders, who consider recent phenomena to be shocks of brutal force that cause a general decadence in the art of war, and who precisely support the idea that a stalemate – deprived of results, empty – must be the goal (…) This way of seeing things so lacks logical and philosophical basis that one cannot define it other than a pitiful conceptual confusion. But the opposed opinion, according to which everything that happened in the past will not happen again, is also not well considered. A very small number of new phenomena in the field of the art of war must be attributed to new discoveries or new concepts; the majority of these new phenomena should be attributed to new circumstances and social conditions (…) The natural course of war is to begin by defending and to end by attacking.

Carl von Clausewitz, On War.

We know that the truth is that much harder to understand the longer it has been suppressed. On the other hand, we have too much experience with the interplay of real forces at the heart of human societies, present and past, to be counted among those who claim, either due to ingenuity or hypocrisy, that one can govern a State without there being secrets or deception. If we thus reject this utopia, we reject no less and just as resolutely the pretention of governing a modern democratic country by founding it exclusively on lies and the systematic use of the bluff [English in original], as ex-President Nixon, who repented at the end, believed he could do with impunity. Quite the contrary, we have always firmly believed that the people, when they say they want the truth (which the democratic Constitutions give them the right to have), really want nothing other than explanations. And why not give them? Why lead them astray in the impasse of the most maladroit lies, as one has done, for example, concerning the bombing of the Piazza Fontana? Our governors, our judges, and those in charge of law and order too easily forget that there is nothing in the world more noxious to power than producing in the mind of the democratic citizen the feeling that he is continually taken to be an imbecile, because this, at bottom, is the spring that unavoidably puts into action the subtle gears of human passions and resentments, by virtue of which even the most timid of petit-bourgeois will rebel and accept and nourish radical ideas. The citizen will then feel he or she is right to demand “justice,” less due to a love of justice than the fear of being subjected to injustice in his or her turn.

Today our class politics are in the process of perceiving how costly all the embarrassed and stupid justifications that have accumulated (and always at the wrong moment) on the crucial question of the bombs of 1969 are beginning to be. If there’s never been a good politics that has been principally founded on the truth, the worst politics would be exclusively founded on the unbelievable, and this because such a politics would incite the citizen to doubt everything, to engage in conjecture, to want to penetrate into all of the State’s secrets with a great abundance of casual suppositions and chimerical fantasies. From then on, any imposter would have the keys to the city and could operate with complete freedom and, from the moment that everyone has taken on the figure of shameless artifice, the voter – who habitually contents himself with the plausible – would express with great cries the pretention to know all of the truth about everything, thus hurling a menacing hic Rhodus, hic salta[1] at political power. At that point, everyone would be bold and full of courage in the face of the cowardice with which they would reproach the State, which would be locked into a vicious circle in which it had to successively deny all the preceding official versions of the facts. And it would thus be that a State would inevitably wear out, to the point of losing the strength – we don’t want to say the strength to correct its errors, but simply the strength to admit them. Thus, to regain that strength, it would have to expose itself to finally telling the truth, because power in Italy is in one of those situations, always dangerous to any State, in which it is no longer possible to say anything other than the truth. And the truth, when it finally comes out, after all the lies have been refuted, will be strong enough – although this might also seem unbelievable – to confront all kinds of suspicions and prevail over the general distrust.

To that truth that has the look of falsehood
A man should always close his lips, if he can,
Because he incurs shame where there is no fault:

But I cannot be silence here; and swear,
Reader, by the verses of this Comedy (…)[2]

Goethe was convinced that “writing history is a way of disencumbering us from the past,” and we will add that we must immediately and definitively disencumber ourselves from the phantom of the Piazza Fontana, whatever the costs, because the moment has come in which it is infinitely more costly to keep that phantom alive artificially. Moreover, we have wanted this Report to be truthful, and we wish that the healthy forces in Italy will benefit from the bitter lesson that we must teach ourselves.

Previously [in Chapter III], we detailed the social situation in Italy towards the end of 1969: the workers, without any leaders to obey, were freely acting outside of and against democratic legality; they were refusing work and their own union representatives; they did not want (in sum) to renew the tacit social contract on which any State based on rights is founded and especially our republic, which is, according to the first Article of its Constitution, “founded on work.” Every day, and everywhere, the workers were effectively violating this Constitution in a hundred different ways. What had been the dramatic choice that our republic found itself confronted with? The choice had been nothing more and nothing less than this: put constitutional legality and civil order back into force, or disappear. Who could the State count on to impose the return to law and order at the moment that the forces of Public Safety and the unions were powerless, and the formation of a government with Communist participation was a hypothesis that was rejected as blasphemy by all the other political parties? After the riot of 19 November, the State could no longer count on anything other than its secret security forces and on the effects that their means of information and propaganda could have on public opinion, that is, once public opinion had been sufficiently shaken up by the “unforeseeable and traumatic” bombs of 12 December.

Was the recourse to bombs an error or salvation? It was both at the same time or, rather, the provisional salvation of society’s institutions as well as a permanent source of successive errors. This is why we are persuaded that that we can never criticize the operation of 12 December enough, because the bombing of the Piazza Fontana – at the same time that it was intended to be the last warning shot against the menace of proletarian subversion – was already the first cannonball of the civil war, and the manner in which this shot was fired showed the incapacity of our forces in a civil war. The burlesque quality of the successive failed putches of our extreme Right was already contained in that manifestation of great incompetence.

We wouldn’t dream of denying the utility for any of the modern countries of similar emergency initiatives, which the necessity of a particular critical moment could impose, just as we would not deny that the bombing of the Piazza Fontana had, in its way, an obviously salutary effect by completely disorienting the workers and the country, and by permitting the Communist Party to rally the workers behind it in the democratic “vigilance” against a ghostly fascist danger, while the unions could finally quickly and efficiently conclude the last and most laborious of the contract negotiations. On the contrary, what we resolutely deny is the idea that these positive effects were assured of or only made foreseeable with a margin of suitable security, that is to say, the idea that we hadn’t had recourse to a remedy that was worse and more dangerous than the illness itself when we engaged in an unofficial action in such an inexact way, and this from a double point of view. Above all, too many people were familiar with operations of this type, even before 12 December. Here we will limit ourselves to advancing a single consideration. If just one of the representatives of the Left among all those who knew about it had gone public with the truth that today is on the lips of everyone, even if only as a private person, immediately after the bomb exploded. . . .[3] Well! The television could have said whatever it wanted, but civil war would have exploded immediately, and nothing would have been able to prevent it. We can say that it was a real stroke of luck that this didn’t happen and at a moment that the political class was surrounded by a sealed but closely watched grouping of murmurs. Moreover, we can reveal that, due to the worst possible choice of guilty parties – someone like Valpreda[4] wasn’t believable as the perpetrator of the attack, even if a hundred taxi drivers had, before dying, given a hundred statements for subsequent public display – as well as due to the manner in which the police and the magistrates behaved during the affair, we made this operation into a grotesque farce of misunderstanding and gloom that was more worthy of a South American dictatorship than a European democracy.

Despite all this, how can the operation of 12 December be considered a success? The bombs succeeded in imposing the desired effects to the extent that all of the sources of information put forth, instead of the single true meaning, a variety of labels – anarchist or fascist supporters and outcomes – and these sources of information were at first believed, despite or even precisely because of the contradictory versions. On the other hand, the attack also succeeded because one had never seen such reciprocal support by all the institutional forces, such great solidarity between the political parties and the government, between the government and the forces of law and order, and between the forces of law and order and the unions. Thus, what might have appeared to public opinion as an act of parliament “against” the government, the government “against” the bombs, and the bombs “against” the Republic, wasn’t obviously a conflict between one constitutional power and another, between the legislative and executive powers, but was well and truly the State itself that, in extreme peril, found itself led to use (as best as it could) certain extreme instruments against itself and for its own support, so as to show everyone that, when the State is in peril, everyone is.

Several years currently separate us from the events that were dangerous to all and sad for some, and that we now criticize publicly. Nevertheless, we must not underestimate what was admirable about this “lyrical expression of history in action” (as Don Raffaele called it) in which the State, reduced to the role of deus ex machina, put onstage its own terrorist negation to reaffirm its power, because the ruse of reason[5] that governs and moves forward universal history is present in each of its contingent and decisive episodes, even if men do not perceive it immediately, because they are too dominated by the particular passions that serve as pretexts for the permanent conflict that sets them in opposition to each other. Anyone courageous enough to not fear being accused of ingenuity would today be astonished to see how well the expedient of the bombs obtained good effects on the masses, but this hypothetical naïve person [French in original] would be deceived, because, as Machiavelli says, “the majority of men feed upon what appears as much as what exists; very often they are set in motion more by things as they appear than things as they are.”[6] But – and here’s the negative limit of similar expedients, also formulated by Machiavelli – “such methods and extraordinary recourses render the Prince himself unfortunate and badly assured, because, to the extent he uses cruelty, his government becomes weak.”[7]

Though this might be incomprehensible or terrifying to some people, it is no longer possible to deny the new reality. Beginning in 1969, Italy had a revolutionary “party” that was informal but, consequently, more difficult to strike at. Here, of course, we are not alluding to the para-parliamentary student groups, which wouldn’t even frighten the most fearful provincial employee, but all those who, in the factories and the streets, individually or collectively, demonstrated a total refusal of the current organization of work, and even work itself, which in truth was already the [total] refusal of the society that is based upon such an organization. Since 1969, all the acts, failures and successes of our domestic and economic policies are not even comprehensible if one does not put them into relation with the sometimes open, sometimes hidden conflict that opposes this new reality to all of the traditional institutions, which are now in crisis.

Deprived of leaders, as well as a coherent politics, the workers, young people, women, homosexuals, prisoners, high-school students and mentally ill people unexpectedly decided to want everything that had been prohibited to them, at the same time that they rejected en bloc all the goals that our society permitted them to pursue. They refused work, the family, school, morality, the army, the State and even the very idea of any kind of hierarchy.[8] This heterogeneous, violent, uncultivated and clumsy “party” wanted to impose itself everywhere with brutality, and it became, so to speak, the measure of all things: that which takes place, since no one can any longer prevent anything from happening; and that which doesn’t take place, since our institutions are no longer in a position to make anyone obey them.

To say that this situation has been produced by errors in the management of Italian society would be even more false than unjust – and the Communists know this well – from the moment that such situations can be found in every industrial country, whether they are bourgeois or socialist (as in Poland) – and this the Communists also know well. But such a fact assuredly cannot console us. On the contrary, it is just to say that, in Italy, the virus of rebellion found, more than elsewhere, a cultural broth that was particularly propitious for its development, that is to say, a syndrome of pathological infirmities with which our institutions were already chronically afflicted, as we saw in the second chapter of this Report.

How have we in Italy reacted to the new revolutionary threat? At first, our politicians simply denied its existence, finding it more convenient to regard the actions of the workers in 1969 in the same manner that they regarded the students of 1968: little more than a phenomenon of morals, a kind of “fashion” that would pass as do all the others. One neglected to consider the fact that a State can temporarily do without universities, which have since then ceased to exist as universities, but cannot do without factories. Later, when the daily and measurable reality of the damage caused by the social conflict had become striking, our ruling class awoke from its comfortable sleep, believed and judged itself to be besieged by an enemy who was everywhere and that, for this very reason, was difficult to control and define, and from that moment it entrenched itself in a policy of absolute defense.

In our youth, when we took a course in military strategy, the lieutenant colonel who was in charge gave us a copy of a beautiful book that we still have and that is little known among the men currently in power: Carl von Clausewitz’ On War. (We should note that the lieutenant colonel’s only weakness was being too much of an expert in military questions and too distant from the politics of the regime at the time to have a career in the Italian Army, and the fact is that we haven’t heard anything about him since then.) In the 1930s, our own Benedetto Croce[9] deplored the Italian neglect of this work. “It is only the poor and unilateral culture of those who ordinarily study philosophy, their unintelligent specialization, and the provincialism of their social manners that keep them at a distance from books such as the one by Clausewitz, whom they estimate to be foreign or inferior to their discipline.” As for us, who, from the moment that this book was offered to us, judged that it was no less important than The Prince to a man of power, we would like to quote a passage from it here so as to critique the political strategy of absolute defense that our governments have adopted these past few years.

What is the fundamental idea of defense? To ward off a blow. What is its characteristic? To wait for the blow that one must ward off (…) But an absolute defense would be in complete contradiction with the idea of war, because it rests on the supposition that one of the adversaries commits an act of war; consequently, defense can only be relative (…) The defensive form of the conduct of war thus isn’t limited to warding off blows, but also includes the skillful use of counter-blows. What is the goal of the defensive? To conserve.

And he goes on, a little later, to say that,

The goal of the defensive is negative, it is conservation, while the goal of the attack, conquest, is positive, and thus conquest tends to increase the means of warfare, while conservation doesn’t (…) The result is that (the defensive) must only be employed to the extent one has need of it, because one is too weak, and that, on the contrary, it is fitting to abandon it as soon as one becomes strong enough to be able to attempt a positive goal.

Quite the contrary, to anyone who has observed it with a minimum amount of attention, Italian domestic policy in its entirety, from 1969 until today, appears to be an absolute defense, that is, with the sole exception of the use of the counter-attack of 12 December (and we have seen its degree of skillfulness). We would like to specify our thinking here, because it goes to the heart of our critique. All during that year, until its last few months, we had expected (and we could only expect) the aggravation of the crisis. Since the end of June, only the leaders of FIAT – thus proving their foresight – had sought a “global solution” in the negotiations, which nevertheless remained insufficient because one could not hope to resolve a general crisis through an agreement in one sector. What does “to expect” mean? One quickly sees that it means leaving to the workers (who launched the offensive) the time necessary to act in concert, to unite, to reinforce and tighten their ranks. It means letting the unions wear themselves out in a thousand conflicts, during the course of which they were tested daily by the working classes. We do not quite know, and knowing such things now is of little importance, if the roots of the government’s excessive wait-and-see attitude were in its conscious and erroneous choice or, more precisely, a pure and simple refusal to choose. Nevertheless, we know that this refusal produced almost all of the subsequent errors in political conduct and that, at its basis, there was a crude error of evaluation or, what’s worse, a crass ignorance in matters of revolution. In reality, none of the men who were then in government (and who are still there now) believed that it was possible that the workers – without leaders, means or apparent coordination – were capable of constituting a real danger to the security of the State and the very survival of our society order. They simply worried about the economic damages caused by the strikes, which were considered to be enormous, while in fact, in their entirety, they only constituted the least damage, because at that moment our economic situation was rosy when compared to the one of today.

On the contrary, we were in one of those circumstances in which the most serious error precisely consisted in not fearing such an adversarial “party” because it had no leaders. One hardly kept this “party” in mind because it was informal and the State was armed, and yet we have always been persuaded (and history only offers us too many examples) that it is fitting to heed populations every time that they take themselves for everything, because “the misfortune is that their force lies in their imagination and one can truthfully say that, unlike all the other kinds of power, they can do anything they want to do when they have come to a certain point” [French in original], as Cardinal de Retz once said of the Fronde. Moreover, all revolutions in history have begun without leaders and they have ended when they have gotten them.

Thus this absolute defense presupposed that only the workers could carry out “acts of war,” to keep to Clausewitz’s schema, and this attitude on the part of power gave the workers their principal encouragement. One waited, almost with resignation, and did almost nothing other than wait. Or, more precisely, what one did to justify this attitude led to several laughable episodes of an artificial and useless pseudo-offensive represented by the attacks carried out in April and August. We might admire this monument to political irrationality: these attacks, according to one’s calculations or hopes, had won over at least a part of public opinion to the party of law and order at a time when public opinion was generally favorable to the strikers. In that way, one hoped to win the war with the weapon of public opinion, joyously forgetting the simple truth that public opinion, when it is hostile to power, harms it, and when public opinion is favorable to power, it does nothing for it as an ally. This was precisely because, at first, one didn’t want to understand the nature of the conflict and then because one underestimated the danger, with the result that insurrectional episodes such as 19 November took place. The great fear created by 19 November was thus necessary and sufficient for the change of course in thinking that led to the operation of 12 December, which – having been conducted with such fury – had to be hurried and approximate. In fact, we can say that the time that elapsed between 19 November and 12 December was dominated by the anxiety caused by the approach of an imminent event, which the majority of people imagined would be a riot with much worse consequences than the one in Milan. Every day new authentic or artificial alarms served to put pressure on this or that sector of power or public opinion. A friend whose offices were at Montecitorio[10] reported to us that the entirety of Parliament was so obsessed by the idea of open social conflict, which appeared unavoidable and for which the State was apparently unprepared, that one said that it could read the words civil war written on the walls of the auditorium. Following the customs of parliamentary assemblies, what was the most troubling in the depths of their minds was that which one spoke of the least, but they implicitly proved that they didn’t forget about it for an instant. Added to this was the fact that the unshakeable tranquility of the leader of the government [Mariano Rumor] was a preoccupation for those who didn’t know the reasons for his tranquility and they regarded it as a kind of unconsciousness. For those who knew the real reason for it, his tranquility was an even greater preoccupation. One knew that the High Commander of our Army, if he was incapable of fighting a classic war, was even more incapable of fighting a civil war and, as for the Army itself, we can say – making use of a recent and welcome expression from a book of “political fiction,” written anonymously – “although no one ever speaks about it, our divisions aren’t any less disorganized than our postal services.”

As we have always found the personality of Admiral Henke to be the least disconcerting, we believed we were authorized at the time to discretely advise him to be prudent and keep himself far above the fray that some politicians had long created around him, so that he would not uselessly compromise either his person or his reputation in the forthcoming chaos, which is always good advice to give to a man so impassioned by action, but so little accustomed to act before having been provided with truly useful and even the most necessary reasons to do so that he always seemed to us ready to undertake noxious and dangerous actions rather than do nothing at all, but this advice wasn’t heeded, like all advice that goes against human nature! What followed confirmed this.

It is precisely because one did not foresee the situation in which the operation of 12 December became necessary, and because one then conducted it in such a maladroit fashion, that we have imperceptibly made it a habit here in Italy to confront all the critical situations in the years that followed with the false card of artificial terrorism, which has been lacking believability and especially usefulness. Because the expedient of bombs obtained good results the first time, one has – without posing other questions – made this tactic into a unique strategy, which has since become known under the names “the strategy of tension” or “the strategy of opposed extremisms.” Perpetually continuing to defend itself against ghostly enemies – sometimes red, sometimes black, according to the mood of the moment, but always badly constructed – our State has never wanted to confront the problems posed by the real enemy of the society that is founded on private property and work, and has wasted its time combating the phantasms that it has created and thus creating an alibi that would clear it of its real desertion. The result of this has been that the State hasn’t even obtained the people’s support for its hardly believable battles. On the contrary, the following has been the result: para-Statist emergency practices have become completely ridiculous and, as one says, “burned.” Once the game became too obvious, the State was even obligated to put its own secret services chief into prison. No one believed that General Miceli would remain in prison any longer than the time necessary to release him. The insolent hypocrisy with which one has accused him was only a prelude to the hypocrisy with which one released him from detention. Great result! The Servizio Informazioni Difesa [Defense Information Service] has become the worst scandal in our country. So we will say this clearly, and once and for all: it is time to end the uncontrollable use of unofficial action, which is brutal, useless and dangerous for law and order, even when it shows itself able to safeguard law and order with the most efficient procedures. More particularly, we would like to ask, What have been the actual fruits and the practical utility of each of the acts of terrorism that followed the one committed on 12 December 1969? What was the usefulness of the pre-electoral attack on the publisher named Feltrinelli,[11] who was an inoffensive Leftist industrialist? What was the usefulness of the elimination of Commissioner Calabresi,[12] when today every citizen knows more about the attacks of those years than he did?

Our secret services’ alternation between ineffectiveness and hyper-effectiveness over the course of the last few years reveals a worrisome equivocation: those who can remove it don’t want to, and those who want to do so cannot. In this matter, the more one knows about the suspicious maneuvers that take place between the scenes, the less one takes the risk of denouncing them, either because the people who have proof of their existence are personally implicated in this vicious circle or because they fear dying like so many witnesses whom one hasn’t wanted to call to testify in the trials of the last few years. Moreover, it is well known that every modern secret service is in a position to greatly abuse its secret character and thus its power, arbitrarily enjoying that which goes well beyond what is necessary for the defense of the general interests of society and forcing silence (by one means or another) upon anyone who advances some well-founded suspicion about the practices that are certainly not above suspicion, but then “is there any hope for justice when the criminals have the power to condemn their critics?”[13]

The paradox resides in the fact that these are not the means by which public order (blanketed by military secrecy) is maintained, but the means by which it hasn’t been maintained, because everyone has seen how these methods have generally exacerbated the disorder, that is, when they haven’t deliberately created it.

In all the States of the world, a secret service receives its orders from the executive power, but the executive power is (fortunately) not administered in all the other States of the world as it is in our country. Thus, isn’t it permitted to conclude that the Italian secret service has become the two-edged sword in the hands of a fool[14] of which the Latins spoke? By dint of [too many] helping hands and dramatic turns of events, the majority of the population has become drugged and habituated to learning about some new carnage at the same time as the recall to Rome of the inquest into the preceding massacre, or the “recusal from office” of a magistrate who came dangerously close to the truth, with the result that one can no longer hope that the healthy forces of this country are capable of obligating the State to make a radical purification by applying pressure from below. Such a purification is urgent, but it must come from the top, and our own public intervention marks the beginning of it, at the same time that it shows the necessity of such an intervention: “there where everything is bad, it is a good thing to know the worst.”

The magistracy itself, in which men of great value preside, is governed in such a manner that it currently resembles a poor troupe of traveling actors from long ago that, booed in one place, is always hopeful (always in vain) of finally being successful in another town. If this troupe no longer performs the plays that the public in Northern Italy finds obscene or that Rome finds too audacious, it tasks Catanzaro[15] with constituting a Court of Justice that will restage those plays using the same libretti, but they are inevitably suspended shortly after the contrasting prologue because the renown of the preceding failures have preceded the show. A humorist from another century said that one of the principal differences between a cat and a lie is that the cat has nine lives.

After doing something stupid, men ordinarily do a hundred other stupid things to hide it. Our State, still dominated by the same men, doesn’t behave like a State, but like men: it seeks to limit the damage of one error by making another, more serious one, and it finally arrives at a situation in which it is no longer possible to do anything other than make errors. As one knows, the defense of a bad cause has always been worse than the cause itself, but the defense of a just cause – and we have the weakness of believing that our world merits being defended –, when this defense is conducted without dignity and maladroitly, is in every case a crime that obtains effects that are, on all points, the opposite of what was desired.

On the question of “the strategy of tension” and the unofficial services, it is necessary and fitting that, from now on, we be more radical than the Communists themselves, and it pleases us to summarize our thinking on this question with phrases that are not ours.

It appears to me that we have come to the extreme point of a great danger when there is no other course of action than choosing between enlightening the people and preparing oneself for combat with them (…) If trouble with the plebeians is to be feared, we do not fear popular disgust any less, and we guard against all the steps and proceedings that could excite them. They could lead to greater evils and not exclusive of more serious and more reasonable troubles.

(Thus wrote Francesco-Maria Gianni, former State advisor to the Grand Duke Pierre-Léopold, in a work from 1792 evocatively entitled The fears that I feel and the disorders that I dread due to the circumstances that the country is currently in.)

To conclude, we will say that the dramatic turn of events (that decadent theatrical trick) – and its chronic politics in Italy – have sufficiently demonstrated the impotence of the governors, as well as a general desire to change the scene, the plot and the actors. All the serious problems of 1969 are still before us and, if one speaks less of them today, this is only because other, no less serious problems have been added since then, while the men who have not resolved them are still in power and, at the very moment that we are writing, they are in the process of quibbling at length over the collapse, while it is our very Republic that is failing. Frailty, thy name is Italy! [English in original].


[1] This Latin expression (a translation of a line in Aesop’s fable “The Boastful Athlete”) literally means, “Here is Rhodes, jump here.” In his preface to The Philosophy of Right, Hegel – in an apparent reference to the Rosicrucians – offered an altered translation: Hier ist die Rose, hier tanze (“Here is the Rose, dance here”). According to Marx, writing in The 18the Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, “a situation is created which makes all turning back impossible,
and the conditions themselves call out: Here is the rose, here dance!”

[2] Dante, Inferno, XVI, 124-128.

[3] On 19 December 1969, the Italian section of the Situationist International wrote, printed and posted all over Milan a text entitled Is the Reichstag Burning?

[4] Pietro Valpreda, an anarchist who was initially (and falsely) accused of perpetrating the bombing at the Piazza Fontana.

[5] Cf. Hegel, The Philosophy of Right.

[6] An alternative translation of the same passage in Chapter XVIII of The Prince reads as follows: “Men in general judge more by their eyes than by their hands, because everyone can see, but only a few can feel. Everyone see how you appear, but few feel what you are.”

[7] An alternative translation of the same passage in Chapter XVII of The Prince reads as follows: “The Prince must make himself feared in such a way that, if he does not obtain love, he may escape hatred, because being feared and not hated can go together very well, which he will always manage to do when he keeps himself away from the possessions of his citizens and subjects, and their women.”

[8] Taken from Thesis 12 of “Theses on the SI and Its Time,” The Veritable Split in the International (1972).

[9] An Italian philosopher, author and politician (1866-1952). His comments on Clausewitz appeared in an essay titled “Succès et Jugement dans le ‘Vom Kriege’ de Clausewitz,” Revue de Metaphysique et de Morale, Vol. 42, 1935.

[10] The meeting place of the House of Deputies.

[11] Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, murdered on 14 March 1972. The circumstances of his death were made to look like he’d blown himself up trying to dynamite an electrical tower.

[12] Luigi Calabresi, the officer in charge of investigating the attack on the Piazza Fontana, was murdered on 17 May 1972.

[13] Slightly modified quotation from Saint-Just. French in original.

[14] The Latin expression employed here, gladium ancipitem in manu stulti, seems to include an allusion to “Operation Gladio,” which was the Italian code name for the secret NATO plan in which armed groups prepared to either overthrow Communist governments after they’d been formed or before they had seized power.

[15] Not only a politically “neutral” area, but one in which the geography served to aid security procedures.