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The Catholic Historical Review, Volume 94, Number 3, July 2008, pp. 450-475 (Article)
Published by The Catholic University of America Press DOI: 10.1353/cat.0.0097
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CATHOLICS AND THE ITALIAN REVOLUTIONARY LEFT OF THE 1960S
Radical left-wing Catholics played an important role in Italy’s extraparliamentary revolutionary movement of the 1960s, which took as its starting point the need to fill the void created by the growing moderation of the official Communist party. For guidance in opposing the American-dominated capitalist status quo in Italy, Catholics looked to activist intellectuals, such as the priests Lorenzo Milani at home and Camilo Torres abroad. The vital Catholic component in Lotta Continua, the foremost extraparliamentary left group of the period, illustrates the practical consequences, at their most extreme, of the Catholic-Marxist dialogue in Italy. The Catholic political tradition in Italy consists of every ideology that the modern world either has produced or allowed to remain in existence. Catholic liberals, conservatives, fascists, and communists have been present at the country’s historic turning points in the twentieth century.The protean character of the Catholic political tradition as a general phenomenon arises from the absence of a clear and definite injunction about politics in the New Testament. As voters and activists, Catholics can and do end up at all points on the political compass. The case of each national Catholic tradition, however, has its own particularities. In Italy, the role of the Vatican as a direct institutional protagonist confers upon Catholic politics there a unique intensity, for and against the Church.Throughout the modern era, the institutional church repeatedly expressed itself with antisocialist and anticommunist vehemence in papal encyclicals and other pronouncements, as in a famous 1949 decree: “. . . the faithful who profess the doctrine of materialist and anti-Christian communism, above all if they defend and
* Dr. Drake is chairman of the History Department and teaches modern European history at the University of Montana in Missoula.
I giornali della estrema sinistra: i tranelli e le ambiguità della lingua e dell’ideologia (Milan. She focuses on the issues of war and peace. see Augusto Del Noce.4 To the left of the official Communist party a broad arc of prorevolutionary groups. see Mariateresa Fumagalli Beonio Brocchieri. Scomunica dei comunisti (1949). L’orda d’oro 1968–1977: la grande ondata rivoluzionaria e creativa. the historic pattern of Catholic political eclecticism continued unabated in Italy. Il cattolico comunista (Milan. these groups responded with varying degrees of antagonism to the Communist party’s growing moderation after Nikita Khrushchev’s revelations in 1956 about Stalin as the worst state terrorist of all time. 1977). analisi politici (Rome. 2006). (Milan. 1958–c. 1973). 1974 (New York. 2nd ed.. By and large. 5 For an overview of the extraparliamentary left in Italy. 1997). p. 34. Cristiani in armi: Da Sant’Agostino a Papa Wojtyla (Rome-Bari. 1998). and Nanni Balestrini and Primo Moroni. people still tended to see the institutional Church as an antimodern force. p. France. 4 For an analysis of Rodano’s Catholic-Communist politics. politica ed Esistenziale. see Giuseppe Vettori.5 1 “Suprema Sacra Congregazione del Sant’Offizio. ed. but the implications of her argument extend to politics in a general sense. 300. The second part of the book deals almost entirely with the Italian Catholic Church. in the excommunication procedure especially reserved to the Holy See. emerged during the 1960s. 3 Arthur Marwick reflects this standard perception. and the United States. . Italy.BY RICHARD DRAKE 451 proselytize for it. Socialismo e cristianesimo (1815–1975) (Brescia.” in Paolo Pombeni. documenti.” in The Sixties: Cultural Revolution in Britain. including some of a Catholic provenance. ipso facto will be treated as apostates to the Catholic faith. 2 For a splendid essay on some of the divisions within Christianity between the institutional church and outliers among the faithful. 1977). Patrizia Violi. La sinistra extraparlamentare in Italia: storia.This classic anthology of texts is preceded by a brilliantly illuminating hundred-page introductory essay by Pombeni. c.”1 Nevertheless. Known collectively as the extraparliamentary left. 1981). asserting that the Church “tended to operate as a centre of opposition to all the great movements aiming towards greater freedom of ordinary human beings. the Italian church’s national religious history is rich in examples of controversy over the true political meaning of Christianity. who is one of the great scholarly authorities on the historic clash between Christianity and Marxism.2 During the tumultuous 1960s. Franco Rodano and other Catholic intellectuals who had joined the Communist party (PCI) in the aftermath of World War II went on arguing for a conciliation of Marxism’s socioeconomic truths and the Church’s spiritual truths. but Catholic individuals and groups also were to be found on the left.3 Conservative and reactionary elements certainly existed in the Church.
understaffing. the factories. Catholics entered the extraparliamentary left through the student protests of the mid-1960s against overcrowding. a Jewish socialist and the extraparliamentary left’s most influential intellectual in the early 1960s. 1989). he inspired the generation of 1968.452 CATHOLICS AND THE ITALIAN REVOLUTIONARY LEFT OF THE 1960 S The Hungarian uprising and its bloody suppression by the Soviet Union later that year propelled the party further along a path away from its revolutionary origins. a gain of nearly 200. The movement spread throughout Italian society in the schools.000.6 Panzieri edited the Quaderni rossi. revolutionary Leninism as the proper response to the news about Stalin and the other recent developments behind the Iron Curtain. called for more. but they all believed in the necessity of a revolution against capitalism. A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics 1943–1988 (New York.“Living the Revolution. the pioneering extraparliamentary-left journal. the government had ordered compulsory education for all students to the age of fourteen. but without mandating structural reforms in the schools. and city neighborhoods.Writing a firsthand account of the disturbances in Turin. Demonstrations and sit-ins involving large numbers of disaffected students took place at universities across the country in 1966 and 1967. and low retention rates of working-class students in higher education. By the end of the decade. chap. workers. 3. In 1962. 1990). . not less.7 The ensuing combination of low graduation and high dropout rates produced widespread demoralization. see Richard Drake. Giving voice to amorphous groupings of students. It contained diverse groups and personalities. Raniero Panzieri. the total number of university students in the nation stood at 450. when students no longer had to take entrance examinations. 298 et ff. and dropouts. Italian universities began to undergo uncontrolled growth. These problems had manifested themselves even earlier in the middle and high schools. Proponents of the extraparliamentary left disdainfully thought of PCI leader Palmiro Togliatti as little more than a time-serving reformist. professionals. By 1965. pp. Luigi Bobbio—the son of the eminent philosopher Norberto Bobbio and an important figure on the extraparliamentary left—reported that the breakdown of university institu6 For an analysis of Panzieri’s impact on the extraparliamentary left.000 from 1960.” 7 Paul Ginsborg.The sudden creation of large classes that included many poorly trained pupils overwhelmed the resources of the elitist school system still in place from the Fascist era. The Revolutionary Mystique and Terrorism in Contemporary Italy (Bloomington.
wage hikes.12 Students found it increasingly difficult to obtain adequate training and then to find good jobs. Gianfranco Camboni and Danilo Samsa. Il movimento studentesco: storia e documenti (1968–1973) (Milan. 11 Alessandro Vercelli and Luciano Fiordoni. The specific issues that had engendered the student movement became subsumed in a general critique of the capitalist order.. PCI e movimento degli studenti (1968–1973): ceti medi e strategie delle riforme (Bari. Marxists. when an unprecedented burst of worker strikes. 9 8 . “The Italian Economy after the Bretton Woods Era (1971–2001). Recent research contradicts the standard view that 1963 was the last year of Italy’s economic miracle. but the radicalization of Italian universities had become a major issue even earlier. Il movimento studentesco e le sue lotte (Milan. Walter Tobagi. and Mino Monicelli. 1975). Panzieri and other like-minded Marxist thinkers.BY RICHARD DRAKE 453 tions had produced a rage and disillusionment “radically new. who furnished the political vocabulary for the extraparliamentary left. L’ultrasinistra in Italia. the sectors of the Italian economy on which university students depended for their professional advancement—research and development as well as education—remained notably substandard throughout the 1960s.” ibid. the historically unparalleled evils of multinational capitalism. see Carlo Oliva and Aloisio Rendi.” ibid. Luisa Cortese.10 Productivity remained high until the “hot autumn”of 1969. Storia del movimento studentesco e dei marxisti-leninisti in Italia (Milan. though not in the way commonly understood.11 Nevertheless. 2003). Luigi Bobbio. 10 Massimo Di Matteo. 1968–1978 (Rome-Bari. and price inflation led to a severe downturn. For the origins of the Italian student movement.” in The Italian Economy at the Dawn of the 21st Century.” Quaderni piacentini. UK. 1970). ed. “Italy’s First Phase of Postwar Development: The Role of Aggregate Demand. 30 (April. in their parlance.”8 The spectacular student rebellion of 1968 that erupted in France would make a deep impression in Italy.“Le lotte nell’università. 12 Di Matteo. 1978).“Italy’s First Phase of Postwar Development. such as the University of Padua political science professor Toni Negri. 1973). Massimo Di Matteo and Paolo Piacentini (Aldershot. 1967).They linked every specific university reform issue to. portrayed Italy as a branch office of the multinational empire headquartered in Washington. 3–11. no. 1969). ed.9 The Italian economy also played an important part in radicalizing the student movement. pp. provided the core elements of this extraparliamentary left ideology.The war in Vietnam reinforced the trend in the student movement to see the dysfunction of the university as merely one more symptom of Italy’s subservience to the United States.
1967). they had accepted “the forms of struggle that the university Marxist left had proposed. another important radical of the period.”14 Marxist theory stood firm on the principle that the proletariat alone would bring about the fulfillment of history in communism. The book made a profound impression on the Catholic left by linking Christianity with the revolutionary cause. Luciano Della Mea. Lettera a una professoressa (Letter to a School Mistress. and it frequently reflected in these years on the revolutionary significance of the student movement.16 Extraparliamentary Catholics also gained a hearing at this time. Nuovo impegno.454 CATHOLICS AND THE ITALIAN REVOLUTIONARY LEFT OF THE 1960 S With the university and the capitalist society it served in crisis. nos.15 Moreover. the personnel. nos. 1967–January. the journal drew attention to “the new and in many respects revolutionary aspect that is implicit in the birth of a decidedly Marxist and anti-capitalist student force. 17 Ibid. an extraparliamentary intellectual journal founded by Raniero Panzieri’s close friend and collaborator on the Quaderni rossi.“Cronache e documenti del movimento studentesco. 16 Nuovo Impegno. by understanding “the connections between the authoritarian structures of the school and capitalist structures. 15 Gian Mario Cazzaniga. Marxist radicals found support among the students. 1967).” The effects of capitalism’s failure on the students had turned their movement into a powerful force with implications that threatened “the more general structures of domination and exploitation” in the country. 1967).” Nuovo impegno. . As Guido Viale. Nuovo impegno approvingly noted that even the Catholic segment of the student movement had become identified with illegal methods in opposing the academic status quo.”17 That same year. Don Lorenzo Milani. “Contro la scuola dei padroni. but forever associated with his name. 6–7 (November.” p.. 27. 1968). a radical priest. 1966–April. op. Lettera a 13 Giuseppe Vettori analyzes the founding. later recalled.” Nuovo impegno.” the students had placed their movement in the context of the global struggle against capitalism.13 Commenting on the February 1967 occupation of the University of Pisa. 8 (May–July. no.e. but the student movement could constitute “an important moment in the general movement of the revolutionary struggle.” Nuovo impegno. i. He describes the journal as an essential organ “for anyone who wants to study the history of the revolutionary groups of the 1960s. cit. 14 Umberto Carpi and Romano Luparini. “L’occupazione della Sapienza e il nuovo movimento studentesco. and the ideological viewpoint of Nuovo impegno in La sinistra extraparlamentare in Italia. had enjoyed a huge popular success with a book not of his official authorship. achieved particular prominence in the late 1960s. 9–10 (August.
” See also his S’avanza uno strano soldato (Rome. he became an ordained priest. Instead. Nothing in his childhood and adolescence indicated the likelihood of a church career for him. 1947. in 1943. Milani grew up in the cultivated ease that his family’s wealth made possible. He gave them an even greater shock later that year by entering the seminary. and science. 1923.Their world centered on art. 2nd ed.”18 Don Milani. Don Milani! Chi era costui?. Il Sessantotto: tra rivoluzione e restaurazione (Milan.“Gli Studenti. of a Jewish mother and a gentile father. Vita del prete Lorenzo Milani: Dalla parte dell’ultimo (Milan. Both of his parents professed agnosticism.”19 As a priest in the impoverished community of San Donato di Calenzano near Florence. see the “Scheda bibliografica e tecnica” in Giorgio Pecorini. p. 1998). On July 13. His foremost biographer.BY RICHARD DRAKE 455 una professoressa brought a Catholic dimension to “the class struggle. philosophy. 18 Guido Viale. but he embodied the most implacable Italian Catholic resistance to the status quo. literature. decided not to go to the university. The footnotes in this edition of the Fallaci biography provide a comprehensive overview of the vast scholarly and journalistic literature on Don Milani. he returned to Florence in 1941 and studied painting briefly with the German expatriate artist Hans Joachim Staude. Don Lorenzo Milani (1923–67) Born in Florence on May 27. as in almost all conversions. Milani. 1993). does not fit any political or ideological pattern. He inevitably made numerous enemies among churchmen and local Christian Democratic politicians. 73. 1978). who liked him but correctly surmised that art would not be his life’s calling. 1. He began to comment publicly on the antiChristian character of the socioeconomic system that exploited the poor. Soon he became well known in the area for his activism on their behalf. Milani shocked his family with the decision to convert to Catholicism. Don Milani opened a school for the poor children of the parish. (Milan. Neera Fallaci. but from the message of the Gospel about the evil consequences for mankind of cupidity. pt.Yet she concluded that “what inspired the faith of Lorenzo Milani remains quite mysterious. For the various editions of his own writings. His radical ideas did not originate in Marxist theory. . pursuing his studies desultorily in Milan where the family had relocated in 1930. exhaustively analyzed his motives for turning to the Church and made a case for the initial role of religious art as his probable source of inspiration. an eclectic thinker. 1973). At the age of twenty. 19 Neera Fallaci.
In his vocabulary. p. In Americanstyle consumerism. though. along with the other poor people of the world. he devoted much class time to a critical reading of newspapers. he sensationally declared in the concluding section of the book that “we have fornicated with the liberalism of [Alcide] De Gasperi [and] the Eucharistic congresses of [General Francisco] Franco. the school offered a broad range of courses. He thought that nothing essential had changed since the seventeenth century: the rich. Referring to the paramount Catholic leaders of postwar Italy and Spain. journalism functioned as a synonym for lying. as in San Donato. with the blessing of the Church. . a book of Savonarolian wrath that he wrote in Barbiana about his years in San Donato. 437. Above all. The complete records of the community dated from 1674. Vita del prete.456 CATHOLICS AND THE ITALIAN REVOLUTIONARY LEFT OF THE 1960 S Under pressure to remove Don Milani. Eventually. to defend their interests against the rich. Already an endless 20 21 Cited in Fallaci. but he defended his methods. Esperienze pastorali (Florence. Such was Christian Democracy Italian style. through the collaboration of visiting teachers.20 They had to learn to communicate. Once again. He portrayed his parishioners as prisoners of both the past and the present. 220. which was even more impoverished and backward than San Donato. He could see nothing of the Church’s social justice tradition in the way the present-day system exploited the working-class people in San Donato. claiming that they fit the real needs of the Barbiana students. Don Milani replied to his detractors in Esperienze pastorali (1958). he identified a completely sinister force. still lorded over the poor. these “pariahs of Italy”—as he referred to the barbianesi—had to master the Italian language.”21 Italy’s American future filled Don Milani with dread. The main criticism against him. p. the Church in 1954 sent the thirty-one-year-old priest on an exile assignment to the parish of Sant’Andrea in Barbiana. To accomplish this pedagogical aim. however. a gynecologist taught a course on sex education. he set up a school at no cost to the parents. had to do with his vituperative denunciation of the establishment Christian Democratic party. He wept at the sight of this desolate place. and the archives revealed how the peasants had lived for centuries in servitude to absentee elites. 1958). which only had begun to taint the lives of the sandonatesi. Quite remarkably for the time. Many visitors to the school thought his methods excessively authoritarian and his language shockingly coarse. Don Lorenzo Milani.
sporting events.”23 Perego’s review and others by like-minded critics induced the Church. Writing for the influential Jesuit Civiltà cattolica. to have the book withdrawn from sale and to prohibit its republication or translation. Angelo Perego heatedly faulted Don Milani for his wild mischaracterization of Catholic culture. not to serve them by join22 Angelo Perego. People could read now.As the cancer inexorably destroyed his body. and cinema. but twenty centuries of Christian civilization had not prepared them to understand that they were living in a culture aggressively at odds with the wisdom of the saints. In an open letter to the press. Don Milani’s health began to fail in 1960 with the onset of Hodgkin’s disease. S. 269. the left hailed the book for its honesty and originality. then condemned Esperienze pastorali for promoting class warfare in the manner of the Marxists. He wanted the poor of the world to defend themselves against their exploiters. claiming as decisive evidence for its judgment the widespread support for the book in the Communist press. and they had television. on December 15. Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli.”22 The Patriarch of Venice and soon-to-be Pope John XXIII. L’osservatore romano. a group of military chaplains publicly attacked conscientious objectors for their lack of patriotism. There really were only two nations: the rich and the poor. The author should perform penance for it “as reparation for the great evil that his book certainly will do to many restless and undisciplined spirits [anime irrequiete e poco formate]. Esperienze pastorali produced a scandal in the Italian Catholic intellectual world and made Don Milani a notorious figure overnight. thought that Don Milani “must be a poor deranged unfortunate on the loose from the asylum. 1958. 23 Fallaci. The official organ of the Vatican. Pope John XXIII later came to value Don Milani’s work at Barbiana. he replied that all wars resulted in a tragic waste of human life. “Le Esperienze Pastorali di Don Lorenzo Milani. . In general.J.The cultural servitude of the masses actually had increased during the postwar period. He thought the book almost completely counterproductive. they could ride motor scooters. radio. and marketing ploys had made society almost incapable of comprehending or engaging the spiritual questions of life. p.. Vita del prete. 1958.BY RICHARD DRAKE 457 succession of media entertainments. In 1965. 3:quaderno 2598. heated controversy continued to swirl around him.” Civiltà cattolica. but Catholic conservatives in particular deplored it.
On this point. Mariateresa Fumagalli Beonio Brocchieri writes. as with all political parties. Such a party could talk about the workers and revolution only in the rhetorical way that made Italian Communism a completely unthreatening presence in the country’s political life. . university-educated. his rhetoric echoed that of the emerging extraparliamentary left movement. which persuaded the court to drop all charges against him. His letter of February 15. pp. Also. . The Rinascita-Don Milani coupling seemed perfectly natural to conservatives: like unto like. the parish priest of Barbiana. . not with doing anything 24 In her essay on the historic conflict within Christianity over the true meaning of the scriptural text on the blessedness of peacemakers. which began on October 30. 149–50. He believed that. Ignazio Silone defended the embattled priest for his nonconformist questioning of a status quo ever inclined toward corruption because of the very nature of power. The Communists’ muchpublicized interest in him. middle-class elites controlled it completely. 1965. Although accused by many of being a Marxist. 1966. he added that obedience to the law is not the highest virtue. also revealed the large influence on his thinking of Gandhi’s principles of nonviolence.458 CATHOLICS AND THE ITALIAN REVOLUTIONARY LEFT OF THE 1960 S ing the armies of capitalism. Repeating his earlier arguments about the fundamental class dynamics of all wars. Among the most prominent of them. at about the time of the Rome trial. the clearest and most impassioned voice in favor of peace was without doubt that of Don Lorenzo Milani. he insisted. Don Milani next had to face legal proceedings. His troubles multiplied when the Communist journal Rinascita republished his open letter with approving commentary. the Communist party helped to maintain the evil status quo. he blasted the Communist hierarch Pietro Ingrao in front of the Barbiana students for his party’s immoral substitution of political machinations for the real work of social justice. . as the Nuremberg and Eichmann trials should have made clear to everyone. On one occasion. he wrote “Lettera ai giudici” (Letter to the Judges). opportunistically concerned the magnification of stresses within the Church. in Rome. as with all parties in Italy.24 This assertion sounded enough like Marxism to elicit cries of outrage from conservatives. Barraged by hate mail for his answer to the military chaplains. he often criticized the Communist party.Yet he had his supporters. Don Milani transcended party labels in his politics. Indeed.Too ill to appear in court to answer the charges against him of inciting draft evasion. She highlights the enormous impact that he made with his statement against the military chaplains. “In the Catholic world [of the 1960s].” in Cristiani in armi.
17. In reality. 27 In “Lettera a una professoressa”: Un mito degli anni Sessanta (Milan. and even in the great cities millions of children wait for equality. above all the extraScuola di Barbiana. He turned the letter into a school project. and politics interested him only to the extent of their influence on the spiritual life of the poor. the book presented an analysis of the examination failure as a symptom of the malfunctioning capitalist class system. He wanted nothing to do with parties.” p. with an inexpressive and dogmatic aggressiveness of the small-time political propagandist.27 For the left. Berardi. also made the case for the priest’s exclusive authorship of Lettera a una professoressa. Such students should not be failed. he left Barbiana to live in Florence with his mother. in Latin America. Lettera a una professoressa (Florence. Lettera a una professoressa appeared. the socioeconomic order. they demanded that “the obstacles of the economic and social order” be removed. Citing the Italian Constitution. but given compassionate understanding and additional school time. of which the educational system functioned as an integral part. p. Even more important. 80. in the fields.BY RICHARD DRAKE 459 in a serious way about the tragedy of poverty in Italy. 1992). and as a diabolical perversion of Christianity. Conservatives viewed it as a monstrous attack on the standards of quality in education. The claim for the students’ authorship of this book was “an evident fiction. as a Marxist polemic against a free society.25 Barbiana amounted to no more than a speck in the vast desert made by capitalism:“In Africa. Don Milani passed the last two years of his life in a Calvary of radiation treatments and blood transfusions. Roberto Berardi charged that Don Milani “boasted of liberating his students from the enslavement of the capitalist system. 26 25 .. Ostensibly the work of eight students. In early 1967. and Don Milani began to compose a letter of protest to the examining teacher. in the mountains. 1972). in the Italian South. which quickly grew to the length of a short book. Ibid.” p. The reactions to Lettera a una professoressa split along party lines. 41. in Asia. 61. had to be completely changed in favor of the justice and equality now completely missing from the world. They called for the complete overhaul of Italy’s schools. Some of his students had failed an official examination. p.”26 Poverty had created academic disadvantages impossible for these children to overcome. he only made them uncivil. Six weeks before his death on June 26 of that year at the age of forty-four. who had been the central inspector for the Ministry of Public Instruction and a frequent critic of Don Milani.
” The Review of Politics. and Mario Gozzini. . 1967). 1971.“The Christian-Marxist Dialogue of the 1960s. In 1965. 1 (January. a Christian.” Quaderni piacentini. 1968). had appeared in 1964 under the editorship of Lucio Lombardo Radice. 36 (July–August. MD. 1971 and Giovane critica. 1967–January. ed. a Marxist. encouraged by the “authentic revolutionary violence” in Don Milani’s denunciation of the capitalist status quo. 20–26.28 Nuovo impegno hailed it as the Catholic left’s coming of age. and Dorothee Solle. 1984). 44. 29 “Inchiesta sui gruppi minoritari della sinistra cattolica. Marxists and Christians across Europe had begun to engage in dialogue. Other publications of the extraparliamentary left made numerous inquiries into the relationship between Marxists and Catholics in these years—for example. For a discussion of the exchanges at the conference.29 They hoped to compile an inventory of exactly what the country’s radical Catholic groups aspired to achieve.” Monthly Review. including five from Iron Curtain nations.“Tre interventi sul libro di Don Milani. The Second Vatican Council. attempted to foster a dialogue with Catholic radicals. worthy of comparison with Franz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth. ed. a landmark book of the dialogue in Italy.460 CATHOLICS AND THE ITALIAN REVOLUTIONARY LEFT OF THE 1960 S parliamentary left. and de-Stalinization had created the necessary preconditions for this exchange. 1983). no. Spieker’s article is especially valuable for its insights into the important differences in Italy between the mainstream left of the PCI and the extraparliamentary left: the party looked to the institutional Church for politically effective contacts within the status quo. more than two hundred scholars from sixteen European countries. called by Germany’s Catholic Paulus Gesselschaft and devoted to the theme of “Christianity and Marxism— Today. which had begun two years earlier. 7–26.” in Catholic-Communist Collaboration in Italy.” International Affairs [Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944–]. 1968).” Nuovo impegno (August. Christentum und Marxismus—Heute (Vienna. pp.The journal. Leonard Swidler and Edward James Grace (Lanham. 1988).”31 Among the major Catholic theologians and philosophers at 28 Giovanni Giudici. see Emanuel de Kadt. 31 The papers and a transcript of the papers at the Salzburg conference were published in Erich Kellner..“Christian-Marxist Dialogue:A Historical Overview and Analysis. See also Manfred Spieker. whereas the movement gravitated to the theologians of liberation for the fierceness of their anticapitalism as a step toward revolution. Quaderni piacentini. “Christians and Marxists in a Changing World. The Nuovo Impegno Survey The Nuovo impegno survey was by no means an isolated or unprecedented initiative. 30 Leonard Swidler. attended a seminal conference in Salzburg. the book became a sacred text. “Eurocommunism and Christianity: On the Limits of the Dialogue. no.April.30 Il dialogo alla prova. 31 (July. 3–19. 1 (January. 45. Since 1964. no.Autumn. 63–69. 1966).
1968). Girardi.Also in 1965. he more than anyone else led the Marxist side in its dialogue with Christians. 1–2. in terms of theory. Marxist and left-wing Catholic journals returned again and again to the theme of how these two traditions together could heal an afflicted world. he lectured at the Catholic University of Louvain and at St. who in the following year would publish Marxismo e cristianesimo and become one of the most important left-wing Catholic thinkers of his generation. He called for Catholics and Marxists to show “a sincere desire of mutual comprehension. 1–2. Alternative in Reggio Emilia. 7–8 (July–August. had gone beyond [Marxist] integralism. 35 The Jesuit Aggiornamenti sociali played an especially prominent role on the Catholic side. 1967). also attended. the journal wanted to know what left-wing Catholics thought about the prospects of a socialist revolution against the American-dominated capitalist status quo. the 32 Garaudy’s lecture at the conference appeared later that year in a greatly expanded form as a book. Director of the Center for Marxist Study and Research in Paris.“in the bosom of which individual thinkers. and “Dialogo e rivoluzione. See especially the articles of Don Girardi.The author of the pastoral letter “Camminare insieme”—the foremost document of cattocomunismo—he made a practice of welcoming left-wing Catholics. praised Western communist parties. Oswald von Nell-Breuning. a professor of philosophy at the University of Florence. often criticized by the church hierarchy. nos. 5 (May.”34 Following the conference. “Sviluppo dei popoli e rivoluzione. nos. and José Ramos-Regidor.“Cristiani e marxisti a confronto della pace. two leading Marxist thinkers. Essentially.“Un saggio di dialogo tra cristiani e marxisti. De l’anathème au dialogue.” pts. Note di cultura in Florence. 1968 and September–October. spoke about the need to overcome past differences for the purpose of bringing about a humane society free of the capitalist exploitation that ravaged the contemporary world. nos. Girardi. and professor of philosophy at the University Institute of Poitiers. . pts. nos. 1–2 (January–February. French Communist Party hierarch. received the support of Michele Pellegrino. Roger Garaudy and Cesare Luporini. 33 Rocco Baione.BY RICHARD DRAKE 461 the conference were Karl Rahner and Giulio Girardi. 1966).35 The survey of Nuovo impegno reveals the thinking of late-1960s Catholic radicals in the words of their own intellectual leaders. the archbishop of Turin from 1965 to 1977.The survey then was sent to the leading Catholic groups on the left: Aggiornamenti sociali in Milan.33 Luporini. 1968).” pts.32 Italian Catholics and Marxists played key roles at the conference. Michael’s College of the University of Toronto on the meaning of the dialogue. 11–12 (November–December.”Aggiornamenti sociali.” no. “Chiesa cattolica e critica marxiana del capitalismo. 7–8 (July–August. 1968). 34 Ibid. 1–2.” thereby pairing up in spirit with the ecumenicalism espoused by the post-Vatican II Church.
1968). On the whole. for Christ’s victory could only be brought about through love and forgiveness: “Blessed are the peacemakers” was the only moral foundation for a Christian society. 1967–January. Il gallo alone showed any appreciation for Marxist class theory. the journal declared that a great hope of the future lay in the Catholic students and workers who were fighting as allies beside the Communists and “unambiguously choosing the path of subversive and illegal action. Alternative declared itself to be in complete sympathy with the class war against the exploitative status quo. as Che Guevara justly asserted. who have the right.462 CATHOLICS AND THE ITALIAN REVOLUTIONARY LEFT OF THE 1960 S Circolo Maritain in Rome. Potere sociale went even further in its refusal to express any sympathy for the cause of proletarian violence by pointing to the manifest failure of the Cultural Revolution to produce any observable benefits for China.” Nuovo impegno (August. Nuovo impegno expressed disappointment with the Catholic responses to the questionnaire. Indeed. despite appearances. 36 “Alcune considerazioni sui risultati dell’inchiesta. to react violently to the violence that the exploiters use against them. Conversely. cited Marx approvingly about the need for proletarian revolution to end the inhuman capitalist exploitation of the world’s poor. Note di cultura and the Circolo Maritain essentially expressed the same revolutionary sentiments. Il gallo in Genoa. dismiss the Catholic left. . The other groups all addressed their appeals not to the proletariat but to “civil society. Potere sociale in Cesena. Their extremely diverse answers. appeared verbatim in the August 1967–January 1968 issue of Nuovo impegno. ranging from an enthusiastic acceptance of revolution to a basically reformist outlook. Il gallo. however. leaving Marxists as the real revolutionary mentors of the Catholics.”36 Experiences of this kind would cause them to jettison the unwanted baggage of the Sermon on the Mount. its shared aversion to capitalist consumer society gave Catholics and Marxists some immediate political goals in common. although it did so with the usual rigmarole of the Catholic left about the compatibility. Clearly. of the Sermon on the Mount and The Communist Manifesto.” Nuovo impegno did not.The Aggiornamenti sociali group regarded the questionnaire as ambiguous and devoted its decidedly tepid response to a clarification of concepts. Vita sociale thought that no Christian ever could choose violence except as a last resort. and Vita sociale in Pistoia. the most radical of the respondents.
This document appeared in a special issue devoted to “Imperialismo e Rivoluzione in America Latina. Cent’anni di solitudine. Sprinkling holy water on the legacy of 37 For an overview of this movement. the Feltrinelli firm published other revolutionary books by Latin American authors. no foreign intellectual influenced the extraparliamentary Catholic left as much as he did. Liberazione o morte. an activist Colombian priest who would become an iconic figure of this movement. He mounts a spirited defense of liberation theology as “an interpretation of Christian faith out of the experience of the poor” (p. and to bring about full-scale collaboration with them. see Phillip Berryman. 17–19). his collected works. In 1968. that aspired not merely to have dialogue with Communists but also to assimilate the Marxist social analysis. Giangiacomo Feltrinelli soon would be trying to spark a communist revolution in Italy.37 Camilo Torres.38 He had been killed the previous year in a guerrilla action. as well as Che Guevara’s Diario in Bolivia and three volumes of Opere. He was killed in 1972 near Milan while trying to blow up a power line.” on which Quaderni piacentini had collaborated with Quaderni rossi and Classe e stato.The emergence of Christian nonviolence in recent times as a dominant strain of belief had added more confusion to the Catholic political tradition. 39 In 1968. with the Old Testament God-ordained genocidal massacres standing in the sharpest possible contrast with the New Testament gospel of love. 4). Their original confusion. 38 “Appello di Camillo Torres. a Catholic movement in Latin America.As the incarnation for that generation of the revolutionary priest/martyr who had given soaring expression to the cause of uniting Catholicism and Marxism against the capitalist oppressors of mankind and then had died in battle against them. minus its atheistic philosophy. Nuovo impegno extravagantly praised a book by Torres. Liberation Theology: Essential Facts about the Revolutionary Movement in Latin America and Beyond (New York.39 To Torres belonged the honor of having thoroughly resolved the contradictions of Catholics on the subject of revolutionary violence. then in its early stages. had arisen from the Bible itself. including the huge bestseller by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. with the translation and publication of his “Appeal” for revolutionary violence as the only possible way that the poor could obtain justice in the world. 1967). no. He presents Torres as one of the movement’s icons (pp. 1987). which had just appeared in Italian translation under the imprint of the radical left-wing Feltrinelli publishing house.” Quaderni piacentini. had burst into the consciousness of the Italian extraparliamentary left in 1967. Yet.BY RICHARD DRAKE 463 Help was on the way from the theology of liberation. even the lofty ideals of the New Testament had not prevented the Church from engaging in repression and violence. in the telling of Nuovo impegno. . 31 (July.
but to shackle them more securely to the capitalist status quo that through economic exploitation and unemployment lived and breathed violence. From an initial abstract intellectual concern about social betterment. John D. Broderick. and popular. good-looking.”41 There followed family scenes that recall the bitter disappointment of Don Milani’s parents regarding their son’s decision to enter the seminary. 27. he graduated from high school in 1947 and studied law at the National University in Bogotá. 41 German Guzman. trans. p. He began to attend lectures given by visiting French Dominicans. His friend and future biographer German Guzman once asked him why he had gone to the seminary. Torres came from an upper-class background.They recruited him to the priesthood. Camilo Torres: A Biography of the Priest-Guerrillero (New York. Broderick. 1975). soon drew him to deeper purposes. at this time “he blithely continued to enjoy his own little bogotano version of the dolce vita. 1929. 1969).Walter J. 40 Walter J. Camilo Torres. He answered that after finding God. . he moved with his family to Belgium at the age of three when his pediatrician father began working as a consultant to the League of Nations. but something brand new that would bring about a genuine revolution—he stood out as much as Milani did.464 CATHOLICS AND THE ITALIAN REVOLUTIONARY LEFT OF THE 1960 S Gandhi and King had served not to liberate the masses. Camilo Torres (1929–66) Like Milani. Christian nonviolence ruled out revolutionary class struggle. on February 3.”40 The quickening of his intellectual life at the university. who inspired him with a message of commitment and witness to the poor as the privileged of God. however. In the passionate writings of Torres. the priesthood “seemed to me a total solution. among the Catholic-Communist intellectuals of the day. The family returned to Colombia in 1935.Tall. According to his biographer. Born in Bogotá. although in a way made unique by his heroic death. Colombia. he developed an interest in the plight of the poor in Bogotá. p. For his straightforward proposal of marriage between Catholicism and Communism—not the Togliattian reformist kind of Franco Rodano. Catholics would find guideposts to Marxist revolution. 14. which alone sufficed as an effective means of reaching a just society.Torres had something else in common with Milani: he grew up in a completely secular family and showed no sign in his youth of a priestly vocation or even of any particular interest in religion. Ring (New York. which meant that multinational capitalism could have its way with the world undisturbed.
as well as the priest-worker movement then thriving in France and Belgium. Torres would remain in the seminary for seven years. he generally did well in graduate school and particularly appreciated his encounters with the university’s numerous disciples of Jacques Maritain. thrilled the young Colombian. 1968).” but “Marx had a profound intuition—an intuition that I believe to be the great flash of truth running through his work”: the alienation to which capitalism condemned all mankind.BY RICHARD DRAKE 465 Torres compromised with his parents. He was treated in the beginning like a new convert. 1954. Both young men arrived at the seminary with little or no standard Catholic culture. Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution in Cuba increased his respect for 42 Jacques Maritain. deciding in late 1947 to enter the diocesan seminary instead of the Dominican monastery. p. Maritain had written: “The temporal task of the Christian world is to work on earth for a socio-temporal realization of the Gospel truths. much in the way Don Milani had been.43 Maritain’s ideas. he sought to implement their teachings by ministering to the poor. 46. Much more fully than Don Milani did. Although much of his time went into extracurricular social justice activities.. Ordained on August 29. The ideas of Integral Humanism (1934) about the evils of capitalism and the necessity of dialogue with Communists shaped the Catholic politics of Torres. Rerum novarum and Quadragesimo anno constituted for him the supreme glory of modern Catholicism. After receiving a master’s degree in 1958. p. 43 Ibid.While still a seminarian. 42. a group of Colombian students who shared his concern for the country’s social problems.Torres came to view that culture as the hard external shell concealing Catholicism’s precious moral treasure: the Church’s social justice tradition. . He received high marks in all of his subjects at the seminary and during free study time steeped himself in the papal social justice encyclicals. Torres returned to Colombia as a lecturer and chaplain at Bogotá’s National University.”42 He repeatedly warned against the manifold moral defects and political excesses of Marxism. Integral Humanism:Temporal and Spiritual Problems of a New Christendom (New York.Torres left a few weeks later for graduate work in sociology at the University of Louvain in Belgium.There he helped to found the Colombian Team of Socio-Economic Investigation. above all its “pitiless hardness.
Revolutionary Writings (New York. 1962. He cited Mater et Magistra in a 1962 denunciation of the inexorable loss of “human and Christian criteria” under capitalism. Tragically.” December. succeeding no more than Don Milani in avoiding conflict with Church authorities. but he saw nothing in capitalism worth saving. 107.” p. soon lost his university chaplaincy and teaching post.”46 The concept of justice defined the Christian’s duties on earth. including the future author of the seminal Theology of Liberation (1971).” p. Reassigned to parish duties and to the deanship of a government school for training public servants. he thought that the masses of poor people. Gustavo Gutiérrez. John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris. 185. should inspire Catholics to condemn the bloodsucking exploitation of the poor by the world’s vampire investing 44 Camilo Torres. he began. he met in Buenos Aires with other progressive Catholics. Torres presented a paper whose title revealed the growing radicalization of his politics: “Revolution: Christian Imperative.466 CATHOLICS AND THE ITALIAN REVOLUTIONARY LEFT OF THE 1960 S Marxism. in Torres. in effect.“Revolution: Christian Imperative. he continued to work with the poor and to deepen his commitment to the renewal of the Church as the champion of social justice.Torres gave speeches and attended conferences all over Latin America. he expressed the hope that Colombia would evolve toward socialism without violence. he became an inveterate organizer of schooling projects for poor people. he could travel throughout the country and reach a far larger audience than Don Milani was able to do in San Donato and Barbiana. In August 1962. he thought. Don Milani. Echoing. however.”What is the essence of the Christian apostolate. 197. 46 Torres.“How Pressure Groups Influence the Government. p. if not “to establish and extend the kingdom of God. moreover. should be the uppermost concern of the Church. . Returning to Louvain for a conference in 1964.“the ecclesiastical power in our country is united to the financial and political powers because they possess interests in common. whom he had known since their student days together at the University of Louvain. “Urbanization and Urban Reform. who lay dying in horrifying poverty. 1969). He faulted the Church hierarchy for its obstructionist role in the reform of Colombian politics. 45 Torres. The current socioeconomic arrangements of the world did not meet this definition of the Christian apostolate. Like Don Milani. but the pontificate of John XXIII gave him ample opportunity to present his progressive political arguments in Catholic terms.44 In his early political statements. Torres argued passionately for Catholic alliances with Communists.”45 Torres.As a government school dean.
50 Torres.” July 22. ibid. ibid. he wrote on July 6: “The popular fervor is extraordinary. it comes. in ibid.” p. but he insisted that “in their socioeconomic aspirations the majority of Communists hold precepts not opposed to the Christian faith.. 264. by contrast.49 He specifically cited the Italian Communist leader Palmiro Togliatti as an example of how Marxists could learn to think of Catholics as allies and brothers. and it is necessary to take advantage of it in a truly revolutionary way. 54 Guzman. . 53 “Alfredo Castro” to “Helio.47 The Soviet Union. Torres conceded Marxism’s incompatibilities with Christianity. p. elicited his praise for utilizing “almost in its totality and in a progressive manner the profits of national production for common purposes. .” n. the guerrilla leader of the Fidel Castro and Che Guevara-inspired Army of National Liberation (ELN). 349. he wrote to Luís Concha Córdoba: “When circumstances impede men from devoting themselves to Christ.”51 He added. ibid.. July 6. 298. but believed to be late 1965. He answered:“No.”50 The growing opposition to Torres inside and outside the Church caused him to request laic status.”53 Father Guzman asked him at this time if he were going to join the guerrillas. 52 “Alfredo Castro” (Camilo Torres) to “Helio” (Fabio Vásquez Castano).” in Revolutionary Priest: The Complete Writings and Messages of Camilo Torres.To Fabio Vásquez Castano. . even at the cost of being able to celebrate the Eucharistic rite.“Revolution: Christian Imperative. 1965. p... 1965.”54 47 Torres later observed that the relationship between Colombia and the United States perfectly illustrated the way the American empire worked in Latin America: “North America dominates our economy. 1965. 51 Camilo Torres to Luís Concha Córdoba. But if it comes. Such cooperation would lead to “a better world that will continually draw closer to its ideal of universal love. p.” p. June 24. . 1965. and our oligarchy is content to act as its agent and servant. John Gerassi (New York. 297. 1971).” in “Message to the Unemployed. He thought of the United States as the head vampire. 228. 231. 49 Torres. 49 In a 1965 interview published in La Hora on May 27–28. 1965. 206. On June 24. ed.“Revolution: Christian Imperative. “I feel that the revolutionary struggle is a Christian and priestly struggle.” He spent the summer months agitating nationwide. Camilo Torres. he thought their philosophy better suited than capitalism to a realistic explanation of the way the world worked and should work.”48 While often criticizing Marxists for their dogmatism. 313.”52 Two weeks later Torres told him:“The revolution continues to go forward in a truly stupendous way. the priest’s proper duty is to combat these circumstances. p. p.BY RICHARD DRAKE 467 class.d. Christians should join with the Communists and uplift them with the superior morality of Christianity. p.
” September 2. . In the months that followed. p. (May–October. 1965.“Advice to Students to Join the Workers. 310..“Call to the Colombian People. he claimed that “John XXIII authorizes me to join in unity of action with the Communists when he says in his encyclical Pacem in Terris ‘. Nuovo impegno published reactions to its investigation of Catholics and revolution.” published posthumously on September 21. 56 Torres.’”56 In his last editorial. a leading Catholic student radical. which heretofore were considered entirely useless. Luigi Manconi. 1966.”58 Nuovo impegno thought that this wholly admirable sentiment inevitably had brought Torres into conflict with the Catholic Church. expressed wholehearted agreement with the journal’s position. ibid.” On February 15. ibid. 1965. . . it may sometimes happen that certain contacts in the political order.”55 In an editorial that fall for his revolutionary newspaper Frente Unido. 1968). which lucidly analyzed “the reality of imperial55 Torres. calling upon them to help organize the masses for the seizure of power and to light “the spark of revolution and apply it where it should be.Torres had written. 57 Torres. . In his letter. 1966.”57 He would devote himself to the revolution “even at the risk of death. 1968).. . 316. Now they should regard as equally valid from a moral point of view the concept of a just revolution. Catholics always had accepted the concept of a just war.468 CATHOLICS AND THE ITALIAN REVOLUTIONARY LEFT OF THE 1960 S Torres spoke to university students later that summer. the entire institutional and political weight of which lay on the side of the ruling classes. He had just turned thirty-seven. he wrote:“The task ahead is . “Considerazioni sui cristiani e la violenza. p.”September 12. Nuovo impegno hailed Torres’s theology of liberation ideas as a decisive breakthrough in Catholic thought. 58 Paolo Cristofolini.”59 Marxism. that of creating an authentic revolutionary consciousness for the Catholic proletariat.The journal hoped that the theology of liberation would radicalize Catholics and prepare them for their real mission of class war.“I believe that I am dedicated to the Revolution out of love for my fellow man. 361. ibid. today may on the contrary be advantageous or could become so. he died in a gun battle with government troops.” Nuovo impegno (February–April. p. Revolutionary Writings.“Message to the Communists. he announced his decision to join the Army of National Liberation:“I plan to continue the struggle from the Colombian mountains with a weapon in my hand until power has been won for the people. 59 Luigi Manconi to Nuovo impegno.
”60 Nevertheless. having no limits nor concomitant social obligation. Section 26. He claimed to have reached this conclusion by following the principles set forth in the Second Vatican Council. a world revolution against consumer capitalism had become morally obligatory.BY RICHARD DRAKE 469 ism.” a previously published article by Manconi.“I am not a violent person. Catholic radicals of one kind or another always had existed. he expressed a strong preference for reform over revolution.’” ibid. “Reform not Revolution.“my position is shared by many Catholic comrades who together with me have taken part in the recent struggles of the workers and students. Che Guevara.” in Populorum Progressio. Pope Paul VI quoted this phrase from Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno (1931) in making his own case against “the private ownership of the means of production as an absolute right. the Marxist radicals of Nuovo impegno scoffed at the idea that the Catholic Church ever could be anything but what it always had been: a bulwark of the status quo. “except where there is manifest. No intellectually honest person could conclude that the men responsible for Vatican II seriously wanted a revolution. which had completed its deliberations in 1965. appeared alongside his letter. Despite Manconi’s arguments. Stokely Carmichael. The Council had declared:“It is one thing to avail oneself of arms in order to defend the just rights of peoples and another thing to impose one’s dominion over other nations. his concern in Populorum Progressio (1967) about the “international imperialism of money” notwithstanding.“Per una ‘Teologia della Rivoluzione. had to join forces against the capitalist tormentors of mankind. longstanding tyranny which would do great damage to fundamental personal rights and dangerous harm to the common good of the country. Marxist and Catholic.61 Nuovo impegno asked the following question of Catholic radicals: “up to which point would they continue to interpret the words of the Pope in the most chariManconi. .” Section 30.” In this same encyclical. Catholics had to make distinctions about violence.” would be the means to this end. Manconi thought that all revolutionaries. “Unbridled Liberalism.” http://www. He began. .va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/ documents/hf_ p-vi_enc.” “For a Theology of Revolution. and Mao Zedong were saying the same thing from Marxist viewpoints.” In other words. According to Manconi. 61 60 . . He specifically cited Don Milani and Camilo Torres as Catholics who had championed just-revolution theory.Vatican. but they never had counted for anything in the institutional Church. Just-war theory should have its moral counterpart in just-revolutionary theory. Pope Paul VI’s repeated calls for social peace revealed the true temper of the Catholic Church.
reveals the most extreme practical consequences of the theoretical dialogue between Catholics and Marxists in Italy. il dibattito sull’organizzazione. neighborhoods. in I giornali della estrema sinistra. chap. From the same insider viewpoint. Luciano Pero. 5. Luigi Bobbio examines the entire history of Lotta continua. and Luigi Manconi all came to Lotta continua with long experience as Catholic leaders in the student movement. Sofri today is serving a sentence of twenty-two and a half years for his role as the mastermind of the Calabresi slaying. 1968). Interviewed in 1998. In 1989. by way “Ancora su ‘I cristiani e la violenza. sprang.” See also Vettori. but his sentence still stands. factories. see Romano Luperini. the police arrested Sofri as a co-conspirator along with two other former members of Lotta continua. and prisons. The Catholics thought that Lotta continua would offer them an opportunity to implement the revolutionary word that activists such as Don Milani and Camilo Torres said was implicit in Christianity. 64 A life-threatening illness in late November 2005 entitled Sofri to be released from prison. in Lotta continua: storia di una organizzazione rivoluzionaria (Rome. in the 1972 murder of Luigi Calabresi—a police inspector then employed in the government’s war on nascent terrorism in Italy. he explained that “the line between that which was admissible and that which was not became clear slowly. barracks. “L’altra ipotesi: il Potere operaio pisano. Giorgio Pietrostefani and Ovidio Bompressi. Paolo Sorbi.“Da Potere operaio a Lotta continua: note di cronaca e appunti per un bilancio critico. Sofri has always protested his innocence in the case. A large component of Catholics joined with Adriano Sofri in launching the movement from which an enormously successful newspaper of the same name. dedicated to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.64 Although admitting that he wrote the Lotta continua article celebrating the death of the police commissioner.’” Nuovo impegno (May–October. it rapidly emerged as the most important of the many groups to the left of the PCI.” For a detailed analysis of the origins of Lotta continua by an insider.”Nuovo impegno (August. 1969–January. Francesco Schianchi. 1970). Patrizia Violi analyzes the historical background and journalistic style of Lotta continua.470 CATHOLICS AND THE ITALIAN REVOLUTIONARY LEFT OF THE 1960 S table way without noticing the real impact of those words on the class struggle?”62 Lotta Continua The history of Lotta continua founded in 1969. Amidst furious controversy in Italy. 1979). See “Lotta continua. La sinistra extraparlamentare in Italia. With more than two hundred branch offices honeycombing the country by 1973 and a well-documented presence in the schools. 63 62 .63 Marco Boato.
I ragazzi che volevano fare la rivoluzione 1968–1978. Moreover. 205. errors. who became a director of a major Milanese bank.This book contains invaluable interviews of all the principal Lotta continua figures. . 1972). many of the Catholic alumni of Lotta continua came forward in defense of their former colleague. Manconi. 2006). . Cazzullo. 204. 66 Giovanni Bianconi.66 In a 1998 interview. and he continues to do so today. the adverb only is a misplaced modifier.”65 Following Sofri’s arrest. he denied that Lotta continua ever had been a terrorist organization:“our conception of armed struggle. 67 Cited in Aldo Cazzullo. the newspaper declared. but in the bloody context of that time.“We hold that this action belongs properly to the generalized desire of the masses to conduct the class struggle onto the terrain of violence and illegality. now a senator from the Democratic Left party and an undersecretary in the Justice ministry of the Romano Prodi government. Sperling and Kupfer reissued it in 2006.” Corriere della sera (June 2.”69 The proletariat enjoyed a fundamental right “to exercise their justice against class enemies. In defending the March 3. p. originated in the idea that a gradual radicalization of the struggle would bring about a progressive arming of the popular masses. unanimity did not prevail in Lotta continua 65 Cited in Aldo Cazzullo. i due nemici. Red Brigade kidnapping of business executive Idalgo Macchiarini.The Prodi government lost a vote of confidence in the Senate on January 24. has taken the same position. dirigente alla SitSiemens. but only as a tactical matter. is even “more severe” in his judgment of Lotta continua now than when he originally wrote the book. a journalist for the Corriere della sera. “Violenza politica. 2008 and fell from power. danger. as Guido Viale noted in a 1998 interview.BY RICHARD DRAKE 471 of experience. . Cazzullo. 69 Comunicato di Lotta Continua: il sequestro di Macchiarini. he claimed that the Catholic component on the staff always had spoken out forcefully against any proposals for terrorism.”67 Schianchi. has defended Sofri throughout his ordeal. arguing that Lotta continua only had employed rhetorical violence. instead.68 The record of the Lotta continua newspaper on terrorism abundantly confirms the recollections of Schianchi about rhetorical violence. 1998). . the discovery of the evil effects that betrayed good intentions.” Corriere della sera (November 4.” Lotta continua would thereafter oppose most Red Brigade actions. Moreover. 1972. I ragazzi che volevano fare la rivoluzione 1968–1978: Storia di Lotta continua (Milan. p. 68 Roberto Beretta. 1997).” Avvenire (January 29.“Una croce su Lotta continua. 2006).“L’ex Lc e l’ex missino.” Lotta continua (March 9. not on the basis of moral principle.
Lotta continua was “one of the most violent and pitiless. Some members openly rooted on the Red Brigades. 74 “La violenza e il terrorismo. but in different ways.” ibid. particularly when the victims were American government officials. Lotta continua published inflammatory stories about him and plainly called for his physical elimination:“we have said unmistakably that the proletariat knows who is responsible [for the death of Giuseppe Pinelli] and will know how to exact revenge. 195. Such distinctions meant less at the time than they are made to appear today. 1970). Blaming Calabresi for the death of a left-wing suspect in the Piazza Fontana explosion of December 1969. 4. sei tu l’accusato. according to journalist Michele Brambilla. 103. an act in which the exploited recognize their own desire for justice.”74 The day after his murder. Just as black slavery could only be abolished and not reformed. Lotta continua. (November 12. 72 Michele Brambilla.” 73 Calabresi.”73 The proletariat’s threat against him belonged to “the violence that for every revolutionary struggle is a necessary condition.“Arriva l’ideologia. but Luigi Bobbio—a member of Lotta continua and a leading historian of the group—observes that he and his colleagues had “close ties of origin. storia del sessantotto (Milan. 1972). p. 1970).The Red Brigades saw themselves as the clandestine vanguard of the proletariat in a Leninist sense. 1994). so should the capitalist Cited in Cazzullo. Luigi Bobbio.”75 The murder and maiming of capitalist exploiters abroad brought jubilation to the newsroom of Lotta continua. (May 18.71 Both groups believed in revolutionary violence.” Lotta continua (May 14. 71 70 . 75 “La posizione di Lotta continua. I ragazzi che volevano fare la rivoluzione 1968–1978. history.472 CATHOLICS AND THE ITALIAN REVOLUTIONARY LEFT OF THE 1960 S discussions about Red Brigade terrorism.”72 The coverage that Lotta continua gave to the Luigi Calabresi killing raises even more serious questions about the group’s attitude toward terrorism. p.70 The real differences arising from these tactical considerations became sharper as Red Brigade violence surged in the mid-1970s. and common effort” with the militants of the terrorist underground.” ibid. whereas Lotta continua sought to inspire and encourage proletarian violence rather than to lead it. Of the many left-wing groups that clashed with the police in the protest demonstrations of these terrible years in Italy. pt. Lotta continua announced that it did not view political homicide as the decisive event in the emancipation of the masses: “But these considerations absolutely cannot induce us to deplore the killing of Calabresi. Dieci anni di illusioni.
The Calabresi killing disillusioned many Lotta continua moderates. (May 28. (August 20. government agent Dan. as we have done in the past . Lotta continua declared that it would be a shame if he survived.” ibid. . In the meantime. did not come. 79 “Padroni in lutto per Sallustro giustiziato. (December 23. 78 “Ucciso dai dimostranti l’ambasciatore USA. D.” ibid. this one has been without doubt the best aimed. Lotta continua reacted to the August 1970 kidnapping and murder of U.”79 The value of all human life would only become sacred under socialism. Cypress. Arguing by this kind of historical analogy.BY RICHARD DRAKE 473 system with its headquarters in Washington. brought this reaction:“Of all the bullets and gunshots of the last month in Cypress. has a concrete importance. (April 14. 1972).C. The revolution. Lotta continua praised Communist revolutionaries in Argentina for murdering the capitalist Oberdan Sallustro.” ibid. Perhaps a heavier caliber weapon could be used next time. 81 “La morte di Carrero Blanco. we can only hope and wish that we are nearing the end of this brutal society. (September 2. but “when someone like Calabresi or Wallace is hit. but it suffered increasingly from internal divisions.” ibid. inspired some trademark derisive humor by Lotta continua:“No prime minister was ever raised so high.”81 Sofri and his colleagues could only hope that such acts of violence signaled the coming revolution against capitalism. ambassador Roger Davies in Nicosia. we are not moved.S. such as Luciano Pero. 80 “Sallustro in Italia e la guerra di classe. 1973).”78 All the servants of capitalism deserved Davies’s fate as well. Lotta continua did not want to appear bloodthirsty. Lotta continua remained in existence for several more years. class war imposed this rule on revolutionaries:“When an exploiter croaks. .”80 The death by dynamite of Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco. 1974).” ibid.” ibid. Mitrione in Uruguay by Tupamaros revolutionaries as a legitimate outcome of “a popular revolutionary tribunal.”76 About the wounding of presidential candidate and Alabama governor George Wallace in the spring of 1972. carried out by ETA in Madrid in December 1973. In 1972. who had entered the organization after a long period of militancy at the Catholic University of Milan. 76 77 “L’estate dei revisionisti e dei rivoluzionari.”77 The August 1974 murder of U. 1970). be treated. “Decine di lettere sull’uccisione di Calabresi. (April 12. Slave owners had to be put in their graves prematurely and their vile system overcome and destroyed. 1972).1972).S. the director of Fiat operations there:“To approve now the execution of this type of person. . however.A..
L’Italia nichilista: Il caso di Marco Donat Cattin.84 No one who reads the first years of Lotta continua can be deceived by such amnesiac protestations.” Quaderni piacentini. it appeared as if a portrait of Montesquieu had been hanging on the wall all along. I ragazzi che volevano fare la rivoluzione 1968–1978. of work by informal groups of workers. la rivolta. 85 Cazzullo. abortion. Lotta continua lost its Marxist-Leninist revolutionary identity. As one journalist noted in 1988.83 Gradually. chap. 1982). no.“Contro il terrorismo. and aid for the South. the number-two terrorist group in Italy after the Red Brigades during the mid-1970s. 48–49 (January. 287–91. no. Manconi objected that every revolution is preceded and accompanied by diffuse “forms of clandestine struggle.85 In 1979. Sofri had shut off the light in the room of revolution.The kidnapping of businessman Macchiarini.” He then left the organization. See also Corrado Stajno. settling instead for increasingly generic left-wing positions on the social questions of the day: divorce.” Quaderni piacentini. and peasants or of cells of revolutionary organizations. many of its most extreme members found a home in Prima Linea. contradicted Marxist specifications for revolution. written by Marcello Manconi. which depended for its success entirely on “a clear willingness on the part of the mass of the proletariat to take up arms and to smash the bourgeois state. 47 (July. 1973). pp. he wrote in the Quaderni piacentini that groups such as the Red Brigades did not represent the masses. of partisan and [military] actions.474 CATHOLICS AND THE ITALIAN REVOLUTIONARY LEFT OF THE 1960 S Taking the pseudonym of Giancarlo Abbiati. and when he flipped the switch on again. It is this later progressive and nonviolent image that Lotta continua adherents are presenting to the public today. reform-minded socialist judge Emilio Alessandrini. Quaderni piacentini then published a rebuttal to Pero. sub-proletarians.” Europeo (August 12. Even earlier. 83 82 .”82 The plots and violence of “a few bourgeois intellectuals” could not be interpreted as the equivalent of an authentic revolutionary consciousness and readiness in the working class as a whole.” Genuine revolutionaries should not be wringing their hands over the killing of Calabresi. It offended him even more to read in Lotta continua that “the murder of Calabresi renders justice to the proletariat. for example. a Prima Linea command composed entirely of Lotta continua alumni perpetrated one of the most shocking terrorist attacks of that infernal decade—the slaying of the widely admired. When Lotta continua disbanded in 1976 amidst bitter internal dissensions following a dismal showing in the elections of that year. school reform. il potere (Milan. 1988). homosexual rights. 84 Marina Terragni. 8. 1972).“Gioventù bruciata. and its own reaction to the problem of terrorism:“Il terrorismo oggi: la lettera di un compagno e la nostra risposta. prisonGiancarlo Abbiati.
Although spokesmen for the movement’s other variations now wanted to give the Red Brigades “another history. Later investigations revealed.“Occorre una soluzione per tutti.86 The Italian case confirms the rule about terrorism: to mount a serious long-term threat. In Italy.They included founder and one-time ardent Catholic Renato Curcio and Mario Moretti. 292–93. terrorist groups must find a satisfactory political connection in their societies.“entirely within ‘the critical practice’ of that state of things [quello stato di cose] that vast and varied class strata had developed in a thousand forms. Piero Bertolazzi.” the group had been. that doctors with a Lotta continua background had many Red Brigadists and their sympathizers as patients. he celebrated the idealism to which Catholic radicals had made vital contributions in the 1960s. pp. 87 86 . and Mario Moretti. leading ultimately to position and influence. moreover. Yet this is not all that they did. 1987). Lotta continua alumni provided direct aid to terrorists in the form of recruits and indirect aid in the form of support networks. was more representative of the post-Lotta continua experience for the group’s key leaders. In 1987. in fact. the Nuclei Armati Proletari (NAP). who.”87 The progression from Don Milani and Camilo Torres to Luigi Manconi and Lotta continua illustrates how Catholic radicalism could in particular cases and in different ways become one of these forms in the large gray zone of the Italian extraparliamentary left. had engineered the kidnapping of former prime minister Aldo Moro and then had shot him to death. Cazzullo.BY RICHARD DRAKE 475 ers politicized by Lotta continua joined another major terrorist group. with some members ending up in the Red Brigades. I ragazzi che volevano fare la rivoluzione 1968–1978. In his 1997 interview. four principal members of the Red Brigades made a public declaration about their terrorist past.They said that many thousands of people had belonged to the “movement” in which Red Brigadism constituted one variation. Maurizio Ianelli. Renato Curcio. Radical groups within Lotta continua peeled away from the organization as it became more moderate.” Il manifesto (April 5–6. Schianchi’s itinerary. in 1978. a ‘separate’ history.
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