Violence of the State - I Volsci

Graphic from the cover of I Volsci issue 4 May/June 1978

I Volsci (The Volscians) are a group of Autonomists well rooted in the proletarian quarters of Rome. They are considered the “hard" fraction of the movement. I Volsci are known for their political agitation inside the Polyclinic and for their active support of the squatter's movement. Their free radio, Radio Onda Rossa, covers the metropolitan area.

We present this statement to the politicians, the judges, and the journalists of this country, “one of the most free in the world,” asking to be proven wrong.

We are convinced of one thing: the arrest of comrades in Padua, Milan and Rome and the entire investigation opened by the Padua magistracy are the outcome of initiatives taken by democratic people; that is, by men who believe in the institutions, support the multi-party system and who therefore work for the defence of the resultant social order, all of which comprise the existing democracy of our country.

These and many other persons have often alluded, in the newspapers and from the seats of Parliament, to the necessity of putting an end to the organized and diffuse violence, urging us on to the very limits of our constitutional freedoms up to the point of requesting, as La Malta1 did, the institution of the death penalty. Incitement to violence in each one of these forms (except for the death penalty) is manifest in what Leo Valiani2, just to name someone who well symbolizes the institutions, has been capable of writing in the Corriere della Sera from February to April.

HE WHO DOESN’T TERRORIZE BECOMES SICK WITH TERROR

Someone might think that by citing Valiani we wish, as usual, to show that he, like democracy, adopts a double standard. He doesn’t attack the crimes of the powerful with equal vehemence (rather, he acquits them a priori as he did with Baffi, Sarcinelli3, and all the little bureaucrats whom he moreover wants to judge “fiscally” and not penally). Or someone might believe that we wish to show that Valiani complains of the “senseless dismantling of the most severe laws” when to a great extent the Reale law is more “severe” than the Rocco Codex4, and besides, it is still in effect. Someone might even believe that we wish to point out that Valiani doesn’t even hide his pleasure with the arrest of Toni Negri and the other comrades. (By the way, even Pertini5 complimented the Padua magistrates, but there is no evidence that he telegraphed his indignation to the Catanzaro magistrates when Freda and Ventura6 escaped). Anyway, if anyone believes this he is mistaken.

It is not our intention to complain about the non-equality of the law nor to emphasize the non-equidistance of the democracy which we undoubtedly are. Rather we wish to reveal how this state of affairs is inevitable and necessary for the institutions. From the point of view of democrats like Leo Valiani, in fact, it is right that things are this way because it is right that men like him come to the point of calling for the application of violence when it is to be used in the defence of something that exists— democracy, to be exact— and against episodes or persons who in the name of something that doesn’t exist— communism— combat these institutions without excluding violence. From one side, there is the tendency to overthrow it. Whoever defends the first is justified in his use of violence, whoever is for the second, is not.

If it were to be shown that democracy doesn’t exist, in the sense that it has not been fully realized, there would no longer be any legitimacy for the violence of the state, or at least there would be an equal measure of legitimacy for the violence used to overthrow the state.

The idea that democracy doesn’t exist doesn’t even occur to Valiani. He sides with Baffi and Sarcinelli, that is, with the institutions and the multi-party system, starting from their evils and their contradictions (scandals, frauds, killings, etc.) which are erased in one blow by the demon of terrorism, which can only be combated with an increase in the number of police, preventive (which in practice becomes definitive) incarceration, and an ulterior arming of the forces of order. In other words, the generalized application of repression and violence without ever doubting the true basis of its legitimacy.

In order to respond in a practical and non-elusive manner to these positions, and therefore without falling into an ideological debate, it is left to us to examine from a very concrete (even if guarded) point of view what the pulpit of democracy, from which the sermons like those of Valiani are preached, is made of.

Now, it seems to us (and we ask nothing but to be proven wrong) that this democracy denies in principle but in fact allows:

1. The systematic fiscal evasion of the capitalists (in vulgar terms, those who accumulate wealth by taking it from the workers), and therefore, the robbery of the citizens and of the State;

2. Thousands of clandestine abortions done in contempt of the dignity and freedom of women, and therefore, the violation of the laws of the State and robbery of the citizens by the physicians who perform such abortions;

3. Hundreds of deaths, thousands of cripplings and mutilations at the workplace because of the impunity allowed to the capitalists, which therefore transforms the constitutional declaration of the “right to work” into a “condemnation to work";

4. Hundreds of thousands of unemployed to whom neither the right nor the condemnation to work applies, but to whom is recognized the free will to choose between hunger, robbery, drugs, and submerged economy, which would actually be the condemnation to working without the right to work;

5. Tens of homicides by the police or carabinieri caused by their “slipping up” or by invisibility at road blocks, recognized by the Italian State as legal based upon the Reale law;

6. The panic and terror, not counting the damage to health and environment, widespread among the population because of the production of certain materials in plants such as Seveso, Marghera, Manfredonia, Priolo, etc.;

7. The fact that Baffi is not arrested in consideration of his position and his advanced age, while provisional freedom is repeatedly denied to 72 year-old Salvatore Manunta7 who is seriously ill and in prison for over a year.

The conclusion then is that this democracy permits social inequality, homicide and exploitation in perfect harmony with the laws of the State. Democracy, therefore, has not been fully realized (and let’s hope that the usual shithead, who pretends to demonstrate just the opposite by explaining that if it weren’t this way then we wouldn’t even be able to say these things, doesn’t come forward). We would remind him that being able to say from the very beginning that Valpreda8 was innocent served no purpose whatsoever as he remained in prison for over three years and he was released only because the truth was imposed upon the democratic institutions by extra-parliamentary struggle.

If democracy has not yet been fully realized, if it is still as much a utopia as communism, then why is its present form nurtured by violence?

Justice helps us to understand why through the conclusions arrived at by the magistrate Luigi Gennaro in regards to the comrades of the Workers and Students Collective of Castelli9. We present here a few significant passages from the court order for retrial. We do not know in detail the motivations of the accusation formulated by the magistrate Calogero concerning the Padua comrades, but we believe that those made by Gennaro10 several months ago may be illustrative of the pretentiousness and the danger with which one part of the magistracy assumes the duty of “resolving” some problems of social and political nature for the multi-party system.

Gennaro no longer judges only the completed fact or the hypothesis of a crime, but he goes beyond them and arrives at social behavior. From here he continues on to political theories and then on to ideas, setting up a true and personal ideological process. The process moves from mass illegality, exemplified by the forms of auto-reduction (considered a priori to be an underhanded way of legitimizing crime by comrades), to civil war and finally to terrorist militancy for having defined as comrades the militants of the Red Army Fraction.

At this point the discussion becomes extremely clear: it is no longer a matter of answering the arguments raised by a Leo Valiani on the more or less just use of violence. The existence of democracy is no longer in discussion here, not because it is seen as having been already attained but because it is propped up by the Power of the State, which, as Gennaro states, cannot be usurped.

Other than defense of democracy and liberty, here is the established Order that becomes a part among parts, that seriously attacks men and ideas in virtue of an ideology loosened from social matters and conflicts, abstract and narrow as only the ideology of Power can be.

Even a liberal like Locke affirmed as early as 1690 that no reason of State can stand before abuses and prevarications of power, nor are there any motivations for disorders and bloodshed that can stop the just rebellion against the State.

Someone might say that even though our reasoning makes sense, it is still true that we are better off than under Fascism or than the Chileans under Pinochet. For that someone the fact that democracy has not been fully realized becomes still another reason to defend the status quo, even if only to broaden it through struggle.

In principle this would be an acceptable way of reasoning if it had not already been worn out by recent and past history.

The struggle for democracy in Italy began more than thirty years ago and it was an armed struggle: the workers saved the factories from the Germans in order to see them returned safe and sound to the same bosses as before; the Napolitans liberated their city by themselves in order to see it sacked by the Lauros and the Gavas11; Almirante and the other fascists were given their freedom by Togliatti.

After these initial outcomes, the struggle for democracy has had other products such as the banana, the tobacco and the Anas scandals, the secret funds and bribes at Montedison, Sifar, Vajont, and Lockheed, and the killings from Portella della Ginestra to Reggio Emilia, from Avola to Piazza Fontana, from Brescia to the Italicus.

This is the “slow march of democracy” that has brought us to the present state of affairs which we have described.

Translated by Mary Jane Ciccarello

  • 1. Ugo La Malta: Secretary of the Republican Party.
  • 2. Leo Valiani: Historian and Journalist of the Corriere della Sera.
  • 3. Paolo Baffi: ex-governor of the Banca di Italia. Sarcinelli is a public figure involved in financial scandals.
  • 4. Rocco codex: criminal laws of the Fascist period which makes it possible to convict someone for having “dangerous" opinions.
  • 5. Sandro Pertini: President of the Italian Republic.
  • 6. Freda and Ventura: well-known fascists. They instigated the attack of December 12, 1969 against the National Bank of Agriculture in Milan where 15 persons were killed. It marked the beginning of the “Strategy of tension".
  • 7. Salvatore Manunta: unknown to the Editors.
  • 8. Valpreda: anarchist accused of the bombings of the National Bank of Agriculture. He was proved innocent after 4 years in prison.
  • 9. Collective of Castelli: one on the many political collectives of Autonomy.
  • 10. Di Gennaro: Italian magistrate.
  • 11. Both Lauro and Gava belong to the DC.