Solidarity spaces raided, presses stolen, and homes invaded – anarchists are feeling the full force of Meloni-era repression after police went after a radical newspaper using anti-mafia and anti-terror legislation.
The below article, adapted from a translation of a piece in Alasbarricadas, looks at what happened in the Tuscany clampdown.
“The silence and censorship that power tries to impose on anarchist solidarity does not prevent it from taking place (…), throughout the world, there is a warm longing that surpasses borders and can generate the avalanche that will overwhelm what exists”
~ Bezmotivny #1
First released in December 2020, Bezmotivny launched as a fortnightly newspaper based in the coastal town of Carrara, around 100km southeast of Genoa. With a focus on direct action and prisoner solidarity, it took a forthright approach to taking on the forces of reaction even as much of Italy’s electorate moved to embrace the far-right. Following 2022’s election of a government led by longtime fascist fellow-traveller Giorgia Meloni, a clash seemed inevitable.
On August 8th of this year, the boot stamped, arriving at the doors of 10 comrades spread across the Italian peninsula who possessed the most dangerous weapon: a printing press. The “anti-terrorist” operation bore a grandiloquent name, “Scripta Scelera,” and the Genoa prosecutor’s office (led by Federico Manotti, a man better known for anti-mafia work), the General Investigations and Special Operations Division (DIGOS) of La Spezia and the Regional Anti-Mafia and Anti-terrorism Directorate (DNA) all participated.
In addition to raids on several private homes, the main target was an anarchist cultural centre and collective, the Gogliardo Fiaschi Anarchist Cultural Circle – a historic venue in Carrara since the 1970s. Magazines, books, pamphlets, posters and computer media were seized.
The detainees, including five who are under house arrest and five who must live under curfew (one application for preventative custody was downgraded at a September 6th hearing), are charged with the crimes of association for the purpose of terrorism (art. 270 of the Penal Code), instigation and apology of terrorism (art. 414 CP) and offences against the honour and prestige of the President of the Republic (art. 278 CP).
The latter is a peculiar type of crime, consisting of attacking the “personality of the State.” This crime of political vilification first appeared in the Penal Code of 1889 and was maintained in the so-called Rocco Code (1930) as part of Mussolini’s fascist State. The advent of democracy failed to get it off the statute books, and the law remains largely unchanged: You can face up to five years in prison for insulting the President of the Republic. Despite abolitionist pressures, the Italian Constitutional Court has declared this criminal law compatible with the system.
But convictions for insulting the head of state are rare. The most famous took place in 2015, when a Bergamo court sentenced Umberto Bossi, the far-right leader of the Northern League, to 18 months in prison after he called then-president Giorgio Napolitano a “terùn” (a pejorative term for southern Italians).
As Italy’s oldest anarchist paper, Umanita Nova notes:
“The will of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which claims to be born from the fight against fascism, is in perfect continuity with the legacy of historical fascism.
“The simple propaganda of ideas not aligned with the government is pursued as terrorism. It is no coincidence that the same treatment is not reserved for the many publications that carry forward fascist, racist and denialist ideas, which support and foment hatred towards the marginalised, the ‘different’, migrants.
“This is an inquisitorial leap forward compared to previous press repression investigations when some specific crimes were also contested: this time, the accusation only relates to the printing methods and the articles’ content.”
All accusations are based on the allegation that the detainees were contributors to Bezmotivny. The prosecutor argues they have engaged in “subversive propaganda activity” through the printing and nationwide dissemination of the newspaper. Unlike in other past investigations where people were accused of committing specific actions (such as setting fires or causing damage), in this case, the anarchists’ supposed crime is exclusively to do with the dissemination of the written word. This is reminiscent of the anti-anarchist laws of 100 years ago, which aimed at silencing rebellious ideas.
Double standards in the dissemination of ideas
Bezmotivny gave a voice to the insurgents by printing demands for action around the world and publishing writings by imprisoned anarchists such as Alfredo Cospito, who, after months of fighting, remains locked in the torture regime that is the 41 bis.
The Prosecutor’s Office says such statements incite the commission of violent crimes. The double standard in this type of case is evident, as some anarchists pointed out in a statement:
“There are many covers of Italian newspapers that incite war, racism, and contempt, generously financed by warmongers – producers of weapons and death. Now more than ever, they are the echo chamber of a particular facet of the dramaturgy of the State and its minions. Historically, it is an expected peculiarity of all governments that, in moments of greatest difficulty, they will generate dynamics of self-preservation aimed at re-establishing or regenerating the production chain, complementing this with targeted repressive campaigns against anyone willing to put a spanner in the works of exploitation. What has been happening to the anarchist movement for years fits perfectly into the defensive practices used by exploiters around the world against the revolutionary struggle.
“What historical era has reserved idyllic moments for anti-authoritarians? We have always been attacked, persecuted by the police of the regimes of capital, slandered, betrayed by authoritarian parties, belittled or isolated by journalism. Only the firmness of the assumptions established by theoretical analysis, together with the consequent quality of the revolutionary response against the Capital, has allowed anarchists to remain, at the level of ideas and practices, an active and conscious part of the proletariat. This is what really scares governments: not having the last word in the conscience of the exploited.”
In a statement, two people working on the defence of the detainees said:
“These are not attacks against “freedom of opinion.” Revolutionaries do not express opinions; they have ideas that find life in attacking practices and vice versa. Freedom of expression, of the press, as well as freedom of movement, of stepping on flowerbeds, make no sense: the word freedom is abused, breaking it down, dividing it into parcels so that it is possible to pretend that it is generously granted like crumbs to pigeons. However, freedom is one and indivisible. We anarchists contemplate it only as integral freedom. These repressive operations are neither a novelty of the times nor a “fascist drift” of democracy. On all occasions in which States have faced the real or potential risk of insurrections, they have quickly taken refuge, hitting subversive individuals and groups as well as revolutionary propaganda in the same way. The State needs its truth to be exclusive; Any other that represents a real danger to its own survival has been quickly eradicated since the State has existed.”
What happens next
Solidarity Fund account details:
Postepay card number: 5333 1711 9250 1035
Holder: Ilaria Ferrario
This article is part-based on a translation of an article that first appeared on alasbarricadas.