Red Brigades

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Image:Brigate Rosse.jpg
Banner of the Red Brigades

The Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse in Italian, often abbreviated as BR) are a militant leftist group located in Italy. Formed in 1970, the Marxist Red Brigades sought to create a revolutionary state through armed struggle and to separate Italy from the Western Alliance. In 1978, they kidnapped and killed former Prime Minister Aldo Moro under obscure circumstances. After 1984's scission, Red Brigades managed with difficulty to survive the official end of the Cold War in 1989, even though it is now a fragile group with no original members. Throughout the 1970’s the Red Brigades were credited with 14,000 acts of violence.


[edit] History

[edit] 1970 foundation

The Red Brigades were founded by Renato Curcio, a student at the University of Trento, his girlfriend Margherita "Mara" Cagol, and Alberto Franceschini in August 1970 in Sheepfold, after the December 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing. Franceschini describes in his 2005 book how he met with Renato Curcio and Corrado Simioni, nicknamed "The English" because of his eccentricity and "international connections". In the beginning the Red Brigade were active mainly in Reggio Emilia, then in Milan and Turin, where they claimed to support labor unions against the far right. Members sabotaged factory equipment and broke into factory offices and trade union headquarters. In 1972 they carried out their first kidnapping, a factory foreman who was held for some time but later released.

Approximately at this point in time, the Red Brigades started differing from other extreme left political groups, such as Lotta Continua or Potere Operaio, in having a much more determined political agenda, freer access to weapons, a propensity for carrying out violent demonstrative acts and funding from the Czech StB, . In June 1974, the Red Brigade made its first lethal attack, against two members of an Italian neo-fascist party, Movimento Sociale Italiano. After this it abandoned its political activities among workers.

In September 1974, Red Brigades founders Renato Curcio and Alberto Franceschini were arrested by General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, and sentenced to 18 years in prison. They were released based on the 1987 law on "dissociation", and wrote a book with Giovanni Fasanella. According to him, the death of editor Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, on March 15th, 1972, left them like "orphans”, and sparked the more violent nature of the RB’s acts post 1972. Franceschini also commented about a bombing against the US Embassy made against the Greek military junta, which Corrado Simioni confessed to having organized. Simioni, to whom the Red Brigades turned after Feltrinelli's death, set up a secret group inside the Red Brigades, a sort of "superclan", which included Mara. Corrado Simioni's trail points toward international connections: thirty years later, Franceschini is aware of having been part of a much greater plan, with international ramifications, of which he was not aware. In his 2005 book, he alleged that Simioni was working on behalf of NATO in a false flag operation, citing Simioni's insistent proposal to assassinate Junio Valerio Borghese in November 1970 or another unattended request to murder to NATO agents.

After 1974, the Red Brigade expanded into Rome, Genoa, and Venice, and began to kidnap prominent figures. Its manifesto in 1975 claimed that its goal was a "concentrated strike against the heart of the State, because the state is an imperialist collection of multinational corporations". It switched its attacks to police and security forces and especially the Italian ruling party, Democrazia Cristiana.

In 1976 Italian police arrested a number of its members and killed one. The following year in April, the Red Brigade announced that they had set up a Communist Combatant Party to "guide the working class." Terrorist activities, especially against carabinieri and magistrates, increased considerably to pressure juries to dismiss cases against the imprisoned leaders of the organization. Membership switched from workers to the dominance of students.

[edit] Aldo Moro's murder, 1978

Image:Moro br 1.jpg
Moro, photographed during his detention by the Red Brigades

In 1978, the Brigade kidnapped and murdered former Prime Minister Aldo Moro, who was trying to conclude a Historic Compromise ("compromesso storico") between Italian Communist Party and Democrazia Cristiana. A team of Red Brigades members, using stolen Italian Air Force uniforms, ambushed Moro, killed five of Moro’s bodyguards and took him captive. After holding Moro for 56 days, they placed him in a car and told him to cover himself with a blanket, After Moro was covered, Mario Moretti shot him ten times in the chest, Moro's body was left in the trunk of a car in Via Caetani, a site midway between the Christian Democratic Party and the Communist Party headquarters, as a last symbolic challenge to the police, who were keeping the entire nation, and Rome in particular, under strict and severe surveillance. Moretti wrote in “Brigate Rosse: una storia Italiana” that the murder of Moro was the ultimate expression of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary action.

The murder of Moro began an all-out assault against the Brigade by the Italian law enforcement and security forces. The murder of a popular political figure also drew condemnation from the Italian left-wing radicals and even the imprisoned ex-leaders of the Brigade. The Brigade lost most of their social support and the public opinion turned strongly against them. Italian police made a large amount of arrests in 1980. The Moro kidnapping has been dramatized in the films "Year Of The Gun" (US, 1991)(dir. William Friedkin) and "Buongiorno, Notte" (Italy, 2003) (dir. Marco Bellocchio), released in 2005 in the US as "Good Morning, Night".

[edit] Kidnapping of James Dozier

In 1981, the Red Brigade kidnapped US Army Brigadier General James Dozier, who was later rescued in a police operation. Italian police arrested a number of members, many of whom gave information about other members, which subsequently led to further arrests.

[edit] Red Brigades-PCC and Red Brigades-UCC split

In 1984, the Red Brigade had split into two factions: the majority faction of the Communist Combatant Party (Red Brigades-PCC) and the minority of the Union of Combatant Communists (Red Brigades-UCC). The same year, four imprisoned leaders, Curcio, Moretti, Ianelli and Bertolucci, rejected the armed struggle as pointless.

Also in 1984, the Red Brigade claimed responsibility for the murder of Leamon Hunt, US chief of the Sinai Multinational Force and Observer Group.

In the mid-eighties, arrests increased in Italy. In February 1986, the Red Brigades-PCC killed the ex-mayor of Florence, and tried to kill Prime Minister's advisor Bettino Craxi. In March 1987, Red Brigades-UCC killed General Licio Giorgieri in Rome. On April 16 1988, in Forlì, Red Brigades-PCC killed Italian senator Roberto Ruffilli, an advisor of Italian Prime Minister Ciriaco de Mita. After that the group activities all but ended after massive arrests of its leadership.

The latest known actions of the Red Brigades-PCC (as of February 2004) are the 1999 murder of Massimo D'Antona, an advisor to the cabinet of near-left Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema. In March 20, 2002 the same gun that was used to kill D'Antona was used to kill professor Marco Biagi, an economic advisor to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The Red Brigades-PCC again claimed responsibility. On 3 March 2003 two followers, Mario Galesi and Nadia Desdemona Lioce, started a firefight with a patrol of police on a train at Terontola Station. Galesi and Emanuele Petri (one of the policemen) were killed, Lioce was arrested. In October 23 2003, Italian police arrested six members of the Red Brigade in early-dawn raids in Florence, Sardinia, Rome and Pisa in connection with the murder of Massimo D'Antona. On June 1st, 2005, four members of the Red Brigades-PCC were condemned to life-sentence in Bologna for the murder of Marco Biagi: Nadia Desdemona Lioce, Roberto Morandi, Marco Mezzasalma and Diana Blefari Melazi.

[edit] Amnesty

In 1985 some Italian members living in France returned to Italy. The same year, French president François Mitterrand would guarantee amnesty to RB's members in exile who had cut with their past and start a new life, and refuse to extradite them to Italy. In 2002, Paris extradited Paolo Persichetti, an ex-member of the Red Brigades who had turned to teaching sociology at university, breaking for the first time with Mitterrand's word. However, in 1998, Bordeaux's appeal court had judged that Sergio Tornaghi could not be extradited to Italy, on the grounds that Italian procedure would not let Sergio Tornaghi be judged again, after a controversial trial during his absence (European Court of Human Rights uphold such a right to a new judgment).

[edit] Activities

The original group concentrated on assassination and kidnapping of Italian government and business leaders. Their usual modus operandi was to shoot their victims when they were leaving home for the office. The group has been largely inactive since Italian and French authorities arrested many of its members in 1989. With limited resources and followers to carry out major terrorist acts, the group is mostly inoperative.

[edit] Strength

Probably fewer than 50.

[edit] Location/area of operation

Based and operates in Italy. Some members probably live clandestinely in other European countries.

[edit] External aid

Primarily external training and funding from the Czechoslovakian StB and the PLO.

[edit] Trivia

Singer Joe Strummer of British punk band, The Clash, attracted some controversy after wearing a Brigate Rosse T-shirt to a 1978 Rock Against Racism event.

[edit] References

  • Giovanni Fasanella and Alberto Franceschini (with a postface from judge Rosario Priore, who investigated on Aldo Moro's death), Che cosa sono le Red Brigades [1] ( "Red BrigadesIGADES ROUGES. L'Histoire secrète des Red Brigades racontée par leur fondateur, Alberto Franceschini. Entretien avec Giovanni Fasanella." Editions Panama, 2005 a review by Le Monde and another review by L'Humanite
  • A Giovanni Fasanella's bibliography
  • Ganser, Daniele: NATO's Secret Armies. Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe. (London: Frank Cass, 2005). ISBN 0-7146-8500-3.
  • Terrorist Group Profiles, Dudley Knox Library, Naval Postgraduate School.

[edit] External links

[edit] See also

ca:Brigades Roges da:Røde Brigader de:Rote Brigaden es:Brigadas Rojas fr:Brigades rouges it:Brigate Rosse ja:赤い旅団 he:הבריגדות האדומות nl:Rode Brigades no:De røde brigader pl:Czerwone Brygady ru:Красные Бригады scn:Brigati Russi sr:Црвене бригаде fi:Punaiset prikaatit sv:Röda brigaderna

Red Brigades

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