The secret workings of the Italian state

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The first part of this article[1] dealt with the general framework for understanding that in decadent capitalism the state develops towards a totalitarian way of functioning even when it has a democratic form. The second part is an illustration of the fact using the example of Italy.

For the last few years recurrent scandals have tainted the political life of the ruling class in Italy. The affairs referred to as the P2 Lodge[2] and the Gladio network and the links with the Mafia in particular have lifted a corner of the virtuous veil that covers the bourgeois state and given a glimpse of the sordid and criminal reality of its workings. The bloody succession of terrorist and Mafia attacks, of "suicides" motivated by financial bankruptcy, traces its origins to the very heart of the state, to its tortuous maneuvers to safe-guard its hegemony. One "affair" follows hard on the heels of another and the ruling class knows exactly how to use the apparent uniqueness of each scandal to make us forget the previous ones. Today the other big western "democracies" point an accusing finger at the Italian bourgeoisie that is guilty of such crimes in an attempt to make us believe that the situation there is peculiar to that country. Aren't Machiavelli and the Mafia as typically Italian as Chianti and Parmesan cheese? In reality the whole scandalous history of the Italian bourgeoisie and all its ramifications demonstrates just the reverse. What is specific to Italy is that its democratic covering is more fragile historically than in the other democracies. A closer inspection shows that what the Italian scandals unveil is not at all peculiar to Italy. On the contrary it's an expression of decadent capitalism's general tendency towards state totalitarianism and of the imperialist antagonisms that have marked the twentieth century in every part of the world.

The history of Italy since the beginning of the century is an ample demonstration.

The Mafia at the heart of the state and of imperialist strategy

In the middle of the 1920s Mussolini declared war on the Mafia: "I'll drain them dry the way I drained the Pontin marshes", he stated. In Sicily this task was assigned to the chief of police Mori and his men. But the years passed and the Cosa Nostra held out. When the prospect of the Second World War loomed the Mafia became an important strategic weapon for the future belligerents as it was firmly implanted both in the south of Italy and in the USA. Mussolini was interested in increasing his influence among Italo-Americans and so forming a "fifth column" in enemy territory. For this reason in 1937 he welcomed with open arms Vito Genovese, nick-named Lucky Luciano, who was the boss of the American Mafia and had a somewhat delicate relationship with US law. Genovese became a protégé of the fascist regime and was invited on more than one occasion to eat a friendly plate of spaghetti at the table of Il Duce in the company of such celebrities as Count Ciano (Mussolini's son-in-law and minister for foreign affairs) and Hermann Goering. In 1943 he received the highest distinction of the fascist regime; Il Duce himself pinned the Ordine di Commendatore on his breast. Genovese carried out little services for the fascist regime. He eliminated members of the Mafia who hadn't understood the new rules of the game; in New York he arranged for the assassination of an Italo-American journalist, Carlo Tresca, who ran an influential anti-fascist newspaper, Il Martello. But more important still, the help he gave put Lucky Luciano in a privileged position which enabled him to set up a network for all kinds of trafficking and also to enlarge his sphere of influence. The chief of police in Naples, Albini, became his man and in 1943 Genovese managed to get him named deputy secretary of state for the Ministry of the Interior. Ciano too was under Genovese's control because, as a drug addict, he depended upon him for his supply of drugs.

During this period the USA, which had entered the war in 1941, was quite aware of the strategic importance of the Mafia. On its home ground the US had to prevent a front being created among immigrants of Italian origin within the US. This meant that it became indispensable for the American state to negotiate with the Mafia as among other things they controlled the dockers' and lorry drivers' unions, sectors that were vital for army transportation and supplies. To reinforce their credibility the Mafia organized the sabotage of the liner The Normandy; it was set alight in February 1942 in the port of New York while being refitted to transport troops. Shortly afterwards a general dock strike, instigated by the Mafia-controlled union, brought the port to a standstill. In the end the American Navy asked Washington for permission to negotiate with the Mafia and its boss, Luciano, although he was in prison at the time, and Roosevelt eagerly agreed. The American state has always denied this and the details of Operation Underworld (as it was called) have always been classified. Lucky Luciano too insisted right up to his death that all this was no more than "bullshit and tall stories made up for idiots"[3]. However after decades of silence on the question it's now generally recognized that the American state negotiated an alliance with the Mafia. In accordance with their promise Luciano was freed after the war and "exiled" to Italy. As public prosecutor Thomas Dewey had arranged for the arrest and sentencing of Luciano ten years earlier and by virtue of the ensuing publicity had become governor of the state of New York in the intervening period. In an interview with the New York Post, he justified Genovese's release in these words: "An exhaustive enquiry has established that the help given by Luciano to the Navy during the war was considerable and valuable".

In fact the Mafia did help the American state a great deal during the war. Initially it placed a foot in both camps but in the middle of 1942 when the balance of forces tipped more clearly in favor of the Allies, the Mafia put its forces at the disposal of the USA. Within the US it did so by committing its unions to the war effort but it was most clearly illustrated in Italy. When American troops disembarked in Sicily in 1943 the support they received from the Mafia there was efficient and of great assistance to them. The disembarkation on 10th July was more like a day's outing; the American soldiers encountered little opposition and only seven days later Palermo was under their control. At the same time the British 8th army, which probably didn't receive the same degree of support from the Mafia, was forced to fight for five weeks and sustained numerous losses just to attain part of its objectives. According to some historians this alliance with the Mafia saved the lives of 50,000 American soldiers. From that time onwards General Patton called the Sicilian godfather, Don Calogero Vizzini, who organized the rout of the Italian-German forces, the "Mafia General". As a reward the latter, who up to then had spent many a year in prison, was elected Mayor of his town Villalba under the benevolent eye of the Allies. On 25th July, a week after the fall of Palermo, the fascist Grand Council removed Mussolini and one month later Italy capitulated. The sphere of influence established by Genovese was to be very important in the events following the disembarkation in Sicily. Ciano helped Badoglio to remove Mussolini. The black market structure set up in the Naples region worked in complete harmony with the Allied forces to their mutual benefit. Vito Genovese became the right hand man of Charlie Poletti, the American military governor of the whole of occupied Italy. Afterwards when he returned to the US Genovese became the most important Mafia boss there in the post-war period.

The alliance between the American state and the Mafia that was born during the war was not to be dissolved when the war ended. The Honorata Societa had proved itself such an efficient and useful partner that the American state couldn't run the risk that its services might be exploited by other interests especially when a new rival imperialist bloc emerged at the end of the Second World War: the USSR.

The Gladio affair: a manipulative structure for the strategic interests of the US bloc

In October 1990 Prime minister Giulio Andreotti revealed the existence of a clandestine organization that was run in parallel with the official secret services, financed by the CIA and integrated into NATO; its function was to counter-attack in the event of a Russian invasion and by extension to fight against Communist influence. This was the Gladio network. The revelation provoked a huge outcry; not only in Italy but internationally as a similar structure had been constituted in every country of the western bloc under the control of the USA.

"Officially" the Gladio network was constituted in 1956 but its real origin goes back to the end of the war. Even before the Second World War was over, once the fate of the Axis forces was sealed, the new rivalry developing between the USA and the USSR was monopolizing the attention of the most important states and their secret services. War crimes and those responsible for them were forgotten in the face of the new war that was beginning against the influence of the new Russian adversary. Throughout Europe the allied services, especially the American ones, were recruiting old fascists and Nazis in abundance, executioners and adventurers of all kinds, all in the name of the holy struggle against "Communism". For the "losers" this was an excellent opportunity to renew their virginity at little cost.

In Italy the situation was particularly delicate as far as western interests were concerned. It had the strongest Stalinist party in Western Europe which came out of the war covered in glory because of the decisive role it had played in the resistance against fascism. During the run up to the 1948 election, held in accordance with the new constitution set up after the Liberation, concern grew among western strategists because they were not at all sure what the result would be, and a victory for the Italian Communist Party (PCI) would be catastrophic. Given that Greece was plunged in civil war and the CP was threatening to take power by force, and that Yugoslavia was still within the Russian orbit, if Italy fell under the influence of the USSR it would represent a strategic disaster of the highest order for western interests. The danger was of losing control over the Mediterranean and therefore over access to the Middle East.

In the face of this danger the Italian bourgeoisie quickly forgot their old wartime divisions. In March 1946 they dissolved the High Commission which had been given the task of purging the state of those who had been too committed to supporting Mussolini. They demobilized the partisans. They replaced those who had been given positions of responsibility by the Liberation Committees, especially at the head of the police, by those who had been chosen by Mussolini in the past. From 1944 to 1948 an estimated 90% of personnel who had formed part of the state apparatus under the fascist regime were reinstated.

The electoral campaign that was supposed to christen the new democratic republic was in full swing. Financial and industrial establishments, the army, the police, all of whom had formed the bulwark of the fascist regime, began trumpeting the virtues of their old enemy, western democracy, and warning of the danger of "Communism". The Vatican, which is an important fraction of the Italian bourgeoisie, had initially supported Mussolini's regime; during the war it played a double game (as it is wont to do). It now threw itself into the electoral campaign. In front of 300,000 believers gathered in Saint Paul's Square the Pope declared that, "whoever offered their assistance to a party that didn't accept the existence of God was a traitor and a deserter". In the south of Italy the Mafia was active in the electoral campaign, financing Christian Democracy and instructing their contacts to vote for them.

All this took place under the benevolent eye and active support of the USA. In fact the American state spared no effort. In the USA the "letter to Italy" campaign was mounted urging Italo-Americans to send letters to their family in Italy advising them to vote the "right" way. The Voice of America radio station, which had vilified the wrong-doings of the fascist regime during the war, now denounced, day after day, the dangers of Communism. Two weeks before the elections the Marshall Plan was approved but the USA had not waited until then to inundate the Italian government with dollars; a few weeks earlier an aid package of $227 million was voted by Congress. Parties and organizations hostile to the PCI and to the Democratic Front which it was part of received aid in hard cash; the American press estimates the sum spent in this way at $20 million.

But, in case all this failed to prevent the PCI's Democratic Front from winning, the USA set in motion a secret strategy that would go into action in the event of a government dominated by the Stalinists coming to power. The American secret services contacted and coordinated the activity of the various clans within the Italian bourgeoisie who were opposed to the PCI, those at the head of the state apparatus, the army, the police, the big industrialists and financiers, the Vatican, the Mafia godfathers. They set up a clandestine resistance network that was to go into action if the "Communists" seized power and which recruited its members from among the "old" fascists, the army, the police, the Mafia milieu and generally among committed "anti-communists". The re-emergence of fascist groups was encouraged in the name of the defense of "liberty". Weapons were distributed secretly. The feasibility of a military coup d'état was considered and it was no accident that a few days before the election 20,000 police carried out maneuvers with armored weapons and that Mario Scelba, minister for the Home Office, announced that he'd set up a structure able to deal with armed insurrection. The decision was made that, in the event of the PCI winning, Sicily would secede. The USA was able to count on the Cosa Nostra to see to this as they supported the "independence" struggle of Salvatore Giuliano for this reason. In the meantime the American general staff would make serious plans for the occupation of Sicily and Sardinia by its armed forces.

In the end, on 16th April 1948 Christian Democracy with 48% of the votes carried the majority with 40 seats. The PCI was relegated to the opposition and Western interests were safe. But the first elections of the new Italian democratic republic that came out of the liberation were not at all democratic. They were the result of enormous manipulation. Anyway even if the result had gone the wrong way the "democratic" forces of the west were ready to organize a coup d'état, to sow disorder, to stir up civil war in order to re-establish their control over Italy. It was under these auspices and in these conditions, which couldn't have been any less democratic, that the Italian republic was born. It carries the marks to this day.

In order to achieve this electoral result a clandestine structure (a far cry from the official framework of how "democracy" functions) was set up under the leadership of the USA. It regrouped those sectors of the bourgeoisie who were most favorable to western interests and who thus formed the dominant clan within the Italian state. This was later to be called the Gladio network. In secret it regrouped a political nerve center (the summit), an economic body, various interest groups who profited from financing it, an armed wing, a rank-and-file who were recruited by the secret services and were responsible for low level tasks. This structure proved effective. It was maintained because the development of imperialist antagonisms in what's called the "cold war" period and the fact that the PCI continued to be a powerful party in Italy means that what was useful for western strategic interests post war remains so today.

However manipulating the election results by means of a tight control over the political parties, the main state organs, the media and the heart of the economy wasn't enough; there remained the danger that the situation would turn to the advantage of the PCI. In order to deal with "Communist subversion" the Gladio organization (or its equivalent under another name) has been preparing a prospective military coup d'état since the end of the war in order to preserve the foundations of western bloc domination:

- in 1967, L'Expresso denounced in its columns the putchist preparations organized three years earlier by the police and secret services. In the subsequent enquiry legal representatives came up against state secrets, the secret services tampering with evidence, obstruction from ministers and influential political figures and a series of mysterious deaths among those involved in the affair.

- on the night of 7/8 December 1970 commandos of the extreme right occupied the Home Office in Rome. But the plot failed and the several hundred armed men who paraded around in the Roman night went home at dawn. An escapade on the part of a few fascist elements? The preliminary investigations that went on for seven years showed that the plot was organised by Prince Valerio Borghese, that the military were involved at the highest level, that politicians within Christian Democracy and the Social Democratic Party were involved, that the military attaché to the American Embassy was in close liaison with those who initiated the coup. From then on the enquiry was gradually stifled, although Admiral Miceli, head of the secret services, was dismissed in 1974 following the issue of a warrant for his arrest which accused him of "having promoted, formed and organized together with others a secret association of military and civil personnel with the aim of stirring up armed insurrection".

- in 1973 another plot to instigate a coup d'état was uncovered by the Italian police. This one was organized by Eduardo Sogno, formerly Italian Ambassador to Rangoon. Once again the enquiry was impeded in the name of preserving "state secrets".

However if you look closely these plots have more the appearance of political maneuvers to maintain a certain political atmosphere than real attempted coups that failed. In fact in 1969 Italy experienced a wave of strikes, the "hot autumn", which marked the re-awakening of the class struggle and which revived the fear in the minds of NATO strategists that the social situation in Italy would be destabilized. After 1969 a strategy was to be developed that was intended to re-establish order and strengthen the state: the strategy of social tension.

The strategy of social tension: provocation as a method of government

In 1974 Roberto Caballero, a bureaucrat in the fascist union Cisnal, stated in an interview with L'Europeo: "When trouble arises in the country (disturbances, union unrest, violence) the Organization goes into action to create the conditions to restore order. If such trouble doesn't arise it's created by the Organization itself through the intermediary of all those groups of the extreme right (if not the groups of the extreme left) who are now involved in black subversion". He also goes on to say that the group of people controlling this organization "who include representatives of the Italian and American secret services as well as influential multinational companies, have chosen a strategy of disorder and tensions which serve as a justification for restoring order".

In 1969, 145 attacks were carried out. The climax that year was reached on 12th December with the bloody explosions in Rome and Milan which left 16 dead and about a hundred injured. The inquiry into these bombings was to spend three years on a false trail in pursuit of anarchists before discovering, in spite of all the obstacles placed in its path, the black trail: that of the extreme right and the secret services. 1974 was marked by two bloody attacks at Brescia (7 dead, 90 injured) and in a train, The Italicus (12 dead, 48 wounded). Once again the trail led to black terrorism. However from 1974 the "black" terrorism of the extreme right gave place to the terrorism of the Red Brigades. This reached its height with the kidnapping and assassination of the Prime Minister Aldo Moro. Then in 1980 the extreme right made a violent come-back with the bloody attack at Bologna station (90 dead) which was finally attributed to them. Once more the preliminary investigations implicated the secret services and once more the general heads of these services escaped trial.

The "strategy of social tension" was set up cynically and efficiently to create a climate of terror in order to justify a strengthening of the state's means of repression and control over society. The link between the terrorism of the extreme right and the secret services emerged clearly from the inquiries conducted even if these were suppressed. On the other hand such links weren't clearly shown by the police inquiries in relation to the terrorism of the extreme left as carried out by groups such as the Red Brigades and Prima Linea. However here too, with the benefit of hindsight, the facts and evidence gathered tend to show that "red" terrorism was encouraged, manipulated, used, if not directly instigated by the state and its parallel services.

It is already evident that the Red Brigade attacks had the same result as those of the neo-fascists: they created a climate of insecurity that served the state's ideological campaigns to justify the strengthening of the forces of repression. In the second half of the 1970s they helped to make the public forget what the earlier enquiries had begun to show: that the bombs from 1969 to 1971 were not the work of anarchists but of fascist elements used by the secret services. Because the perpetrators justified the "red" bombings in terms of a revolutionary phraseology they were more effective in confusing the process of developing consciousness that was taking place within the working class, and they increased the weight of repression that fell upon the most advanced elements of the proletariat and the revolutionary milieu who were lumped together with terrorism. In short, from the point of view of the state it was much more useful than "black" terrorism. That's why the bourgeois media that serves the state's interests attributed the earlier bombings that were carried out by the extreme right to anarchists. That was the whole point of the maneuver, to act as a provocation.

"The situation could arise in which allied countries show themselves to be passive or indecisive when confronted with communist subversion. The military espionage of the United States must be furnished with the means to mount special operations able to convince the governments of allied countries and public opinion that the danger of insurrection is a real one. The military espionage of the United States must try to infiltrate the seats of insurrection by means of agents on special mission with the task of forming action groups within the most radical movements." This quotation is an extract from the US Intelligence Field Manual, the campaign manual for American spies, and the intelligence leaders in Washington claim that it's false. But it's been authenticated by Colonel Oswald Le Winter, an ex-CIA agent and liaison officer in Europe, in a television documentary about Gladio. He also gave a concrete demonstration of what it means when he stated during the interview, "The Red Brigades as well as Baader-Meinhof and Action Directe were also infiltrated. Several of these left-wing terrorist organisations were infiltrated and controlled". He goes on to say that "reports and documents from our bureau in Rome testified that the Red Brigades had been infiltrated and that their nucleus received its orders from Santovito". General Santovito was the head of the Italian secret services (SISMI) at the time. A more reliable source, Frederico Umberto d'Amato, ex-chief of the political police and minister of the Home Office from 1972 and 1974 proudly relates that "The Red Brigades were infiltrated. This was difficult because they had furnished themselves with a very rigid and efficient structure. Nevertheless they were infiltrated spectacularly and with optimum results".

More than any other act committed by the Red Brigades, kidnapping Aldo Moro, killing his escort, holding him in captivity and finally executing him in 1978 arouses suspicion of a maneuver of some clan within the state and the secret services. It's amazing that the Red Brigades who were composed of young elements in revolt, highly motivated and committed but with little experience of clandestine war, were able to carry out an operation of such scope and so well. The enquiry brought to light many disturbing elements: a member of the secret services was present at the place where he was snatched, the bullets found on the scene had been treated in a particular way used by the special services, etc. The scandal provoked by the discovery that the state had had a hand in the bombings from 1969 to 1974, which had been wrongly attributed to the anarchists, had been forgotten. Even so the suspicion reigned within public opinion in Italy that state manipulation had lain behind the Red Brigade attacks. In fact Aldo Moro was kidnapped just before he was due to sign the "historic compromise" which was to seal a governmental alliance between Christian Democracy and the PCI. It was Moro who had master-minded the idea. His widow said that "I learnt from my husband or someone else that around 1975 he had been warned that his attempts to bring together the various political forces to govern for the good of the country had displeased certain groups and individuals. He'd been told that if he persisted with this political project he was likely to pay very dearly for his stubbornness". The "historic compromise" might have opened the doors of government to the PCI. As Prime Minister Moro was aware of the existence of Gladio. He probably thought that the infiltration of the PCI that it had carried out over the years in order to lessen the east's influence, and the fact that the party was distancing itself increasingly from Russian political choices, made it acceptable in the eyes of his western allies. But the way that the state abandoned him when he'd been seized shows that this was not the case. In the end the "historic compromise" wasn't signed. So the death of Moro corresponds perfectly with the interests that Gladio defended, and when D'Amato speaks of the "optimum results" obtained from the infiltration of the Red Brigades one wonders whether he is thinking of Moro's assassination.

The various enquiries have always been obstructed by certain state sectors, administrative delaying tactics and the sacred "secret d'état" but the discovery of the P2 Lodge in 1981 confirmed the suspicions of the judiciary as to the existence of a secret government, a parallel structure that was pulling the strings from the shadows and organizing the "strategy of social tension".

The P2 Lodge: the real hidden power of the state

In 1981 customs officials discovered a list of 963 "brother" members of the P2 Lodge. This list contained the cream of the Italian bourgeoisie: 6 current ministers; 63 high ranking civil servants in government ministries; 60 politicians including Andreotti and Cossiga; 18 judges and prosecutors; 83 big industrialists including Agnelli, Pirelli, Falk, Crespi; bankers such as Calvi and Sindona; members of the Vatican such as Cardinal Caseroli; important figures from the communications sector such as Rizzoli, owner of Corriere de la Sera or Berlusconi, owner of numerous television channels; practically all the heads of the secret services over the years among whom the generals Allavena, the head of SIFAR from June 1965 to June 1966, Miceli, named as head of the secret services in 1970, Admiral Casardi who succeeded him, General Santovito then patron of SISMI; 14 army generals; 9 admirals; 9 police chiefs; 4 air force generals and 4 top customs officials. This is just to mention those in the most prominent positions although names could also be cited from the universities, among trade unionists, the leaders of extreme right wing groups. Apart from radicals, leftists and the PCI the whole Italian political spectrum is represented. This list is certainly not complete however. A number of other names were mentioned at the time of the scandal without any proof being given. Among the rumours that were never substantiated it was even suggested that influential members of the PCI belonged to the P2.

However you can say that there's nothing very unusual in all this. In fact it's quite usual to find within the Freemasons a number of well-known figures who practice rituals and find this a good way to cultivate contacts and fill their address books. Even so the personality of the Grand Master, Licio Gelli, is disturbing.

Gelli was the head of this Lodge and unknown to the general public. However the course of the enquiry and subsequent revelations were to show the determinant influence that he's had over Italian politics over the years. His personal history is edifying. Gelli began his career as a member of the fascist party; at 18 he joined the Black Shirts who were to fight in Spain; during the war he actively collaborated with the Nazis to whom he handed over dozens of partisans and deserters. It seems that from 1943 he started to play both sides. He contacted the Resistance and the American secret services. After the war he fled to Argentina and returned to Italy with no difficulty in 1948. At the beginning of the 60s he joined the Freemasons, was active in the Propaganda Two Lodge, of which he rapidly became Grand Master and where he was joined by the most important heads of the secret services. There are a number of proofs of his subsequent power. When one of his children got married such prominent personalities as Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani and apparently Pope Paul VI sent sumptuous gifts. According to the enquiries Agnelli offered him a telephone in solid gold as a token of friendship. At the beginning of the 1980s, Gelli telephoned almost every day to the prime minister, the minister of trade and industry, the minister for foreign affairs, to the leaders of the main Italian political parties (Christian-Democrat, Socialist, Social-Democrat, Republican, Liberal and neo-Fascist). The cream of the Italian establishment filed to his residence near Florence and his private rooms at the luxury hotel Excelsior. The most noteworthy of these is Andreotti who is in fact his official political representative, his tool.

The conclusion of the commission of enquiry on the P2 Lodge is interesting. It considers that Gelli "belongs to the secret services of which he's the head; the P2 Lodge and Gelli are the expression of an influence exerted by the American masons and the CIA over the Giustiniani Palace since it reopened after the war; an influence that is evidence of the economic dependence on the American masons and its head Frank Gigliotti". Gigliotti is himself a CIA agent. In 1990 an ex-CIA agent, Richard Brenneke, stated, in a television interview that caused a scandal, "The United States government financed P2 to the tune of 10 million dollars a month". Look how clear it is. P2 and Gladio are one and the same. The charge sheet of 14th June 1986 refers to "the existence in Italy of a secret structure composed of military and civil elements whose final goal is to govern the existing political balance by controlling the democratic evolution of the country and who have used various means to realize this objective, including the use of attacks committed by neo-fascist organizations". It also speaks of "a sort of invisible government in which P2, deviant sectors of the secret services, organized crime and terrorism are tightly bound together".

However this lucid opinion of the judiciary will not change the way the Italian state functions to any great extent. Suspected of complicity in the Bologna bombing, Gelli left the country, was arrested in a Swiss bank on 14th September 1982 while he was drawing out 120 million dollars from a numbered account. On 10th August 1983 the old man carried out an incredible escape from his Genevan prison and disappeared into thin air until four years later when he gave himself up to the Swiss authorities. The Swiss extradited him to Italy. But although in 1988 he'd been condemned in his absence to ten years imprisonment, he was re-tried in 1990 and finally acquitted. The P2 scandal was banalised and forgotten. The P2 Lodge has disappeared but no doubt another secret structure, equally efficient, has replaced it. In 1990 Cossiga, ex-member of P2 and then prime minister, could say with satisfaction of Gladio that, "he's proud that the secret was kept for 45 years". The dozens killed in attacks are forgotten; forgotten too the countless murders. New scandals arrive in the nick of time to make us forget the old ones.

Some lessons

All these events, in which Italian history and crime are fused together, have not had much echo outside the country. It's all been presented as an "Italian business", with no link to what happens in the other big western democracies. In Italy itself, the role of the Mafia has been portrayed as a regional product of the south of Italy; the "strategy of tension" as the work of bent sectors of the secret services, and political scandals as the simple product of the corruption of certain politicians. In short, the real lessons have been glossed over and, with all the scandals, revelations, televised trials and resignations of statesmen, the illusion that the state is fighting against these affronts to democratic order has been kept up. However, this brief history of the "affairs" that have shaken the Italian republic since the 1930s shows something quite different:

- these affairs are not a specifically Italian product, but the result of the international activity of the bourgeoisie, in a context of sharpening imperialist rivalries. In these conditions, this means that Italy, far from being an exception, is an example of what's going on everywhere;

- they are not the expression of a corrupt minority of the ruling class, but of the totalitarian operation of the state in decadent capitalism, even if it hides behind the democratic mask.

Both the history of the rise of the Cosa Nostra and the revelations about the Gladio and P2 networks show that these are international, not just Italian affairs.

This is particularly obvious with the Gladio affair. The Gladio network, by definition, was a secret structure of NATO, and so an international one. It was the secret transmission belt for the USA's control over the countries of its bloc, whose function was to oppose by all available means both the maneuvers of the other bloc and the dangers of social instability. This is why it was secret. In the same way as it existed and acted in Italy, it existed and acted in other countries of the western bloc. There is no reason for it to have been otherwise: from the same causes, the same effects.

With this clarification, we can understand more easily the forces at work behind the colonels' coup d'état in Greece in 1967, Pinochet's in 1973, and all the others that followed in Latin America in the 70s. Similarly, it is not only in Italy that, from the end of the 60s, we have seen a wave of terrorist attacks, allowing the state to wage intense ideological campaigns aimed at disorienting a working class that was returning to the path of struggle, and at justifying the reinforcement of its weapons of repression. In Germany, in France, in Britain, in Japan, in Spain, in Belgium, in the USA, we can in the light of Italian events reckon that, behind the actions of terrorist groups of the far right, the far left, or the nationalist ones, lies the hand of the state and the secret services, and an organized international strategy under the auspices of the bloc.

Again, the edifying example of the role of the Mafia in Italy is not something recent, nor a specifically local product. The integration of the Mafia into the heart of the Italian state is not a new phenomenon: it goes back more than 50 years. It is not the product of a slow gangrene affecting only the most corrupt politicians: it is the result of the overturning of alliances that took place during the Second World War. The Mafia, acting on behalf of the Allies, played a decisive role in the fall of Mussolini's regime and, as payment for these services, gained a central place in the state. The alliance formed during the war didn't end with the war. The Mafia remained, as a clique within the Italian bourgeoisie, the USA's main source of support within the Italian state. The weight and role of the Mafia within the Italian state is thus above all the result of American imperialist strategy.

Is this an unnatural alliance between the US champion of democracy and the symbol of crime, dictated by the imperatives of world strategy? Alliance yes, unnatural no. Italian reality simply highlights a worldwide phenomenon of decadent capitalism: in the name of the sacrosanct imperatives of the state and imperialist interests, the great powers which, in front of the media, trumpet their democratic convictions, are behind the scenes engaged in all kinds of alliances which show that their official discourse is nothing but lies. It's a banality to note that the numerous dictators who reign in the peripheries of capitalism do so thanks to the patronage of one great power or another. The same goes for the various mafia-type clans around the world: their activity can only develop with impunity because they render such important services to the dominant imperialisms who have carved up the planet.

These mafia are very often an integral part of the ruling fractions of the bourgeoisie. This is obvious for a whole series of countries where the production and export of drugs is the essential economic activity, thus facilitating the ascent, within the ruling class, of the gangs which control this increasingly important sector of the capitalist economy. But this reality is not limited to the underdeveloped countries and we can find examples in the upper echelons of world capitalism. Thus, the alliance between the American state and the Italian Mafia during the Second World War extended into the USA itself, where at the same time the American branch of the Cosa Nostra was invited to participate in the affairs of state. The situation in Japan is quite similar to that in Italy and the recent scandals that have broken there show the omnipresent links between the politicians and the local mafia. The Italian example is thus also valid for the two biggest economic powers in the world, where a mafia has conquered a choice place within the state. This is not only due to the latter's economic weight, thanks to its control over extremely lucrative economic sectors - drugs, gambling, prostitution, rackets of all kinds - but also to the 'specialized' services that these cliques of gangsters can provide, services that correspond perfectly to the needs of the state in decadent capitalism.

It is true that the most 'respectable' bourgeoisies have always used the services of special agents when this was necessary, or those of its shadier fractions for 'unofficial' (i.e. illegal, according to its laws) activities. There are plenty of examples in the 19th century: espionage of course, but also the resort to criminal strong-arm elements to break strikes or the use of local mafia in the penetration of the colonies. But at this time this aspect of the life of capitalism was limited and circumstantial. Since it entered its phase of decadence at the beginning of the century, capitalism has been in permanent crisis. In order to ensure its domination, it can no longer rely on the progress it used to bring about. Unable to do that anymore, it can only base its power on lies and manipulation. What's more, during the course of the 20th century, which has been marked by two world wars, the exacerbation of imperialist tensions has become a preponderant factor in the life of capitalism. In the free-for-all that reigns all over the planet, everything is permitted, even the lowest blows. In order to respond to such requirements, the functioning of the state has had to adapt. To the extent that lies and manipulation, whether for the needs of imperialist defense or of social control, have become essential to the survival of the system, secrecy has become a central part of the capitalist state; the kind of classical democratic functioning of the bourgeoisie and its state which we saw in the 19th century are no longer possible. It is only kept up as an illusion aimed at hiding the reality of state totalitarianism, which has nothing democratic about it. The realities of power have been hidden because they are so inadmissible. Not only has power been concentrated in the executive, at the expense of the legislative, whose representative, parliament, has become a screen feeding the campaigns of the media; even within the executive, power has become concentrated in the hands of specialists in secrecy and all kinds of manipulations. In these conditions, not only has the state had to recruit an abundance of specialized manpower, creating a multitude of special services, each one more secret than the next; within the state, the result has been the ascent of those cliques of the bourgeoisie most experienced in secrecy and 'illegal' activity. In this process, the totalitarian state has extended its grip to the whole of society, including the underworld, culminating in a symbiosis in which it has become difficult to distinguish a politician from a businessman, a secret agent or a gangster.

This is the basic reason for the growing role of mafia-type bodies in the life of capital. But the Mafia isn't the only example. The P2 Lodge affair shows that Freemasonry, because of its occult functioning and its international affiliations, is an ideal instrument for use as a network of influence by secret services for the needs of imperialist policy. The different Masonic groupings in the world have been used for a long time by the state and the various western imperialist powers. The same is probably true for all the other important secret societies.

But the P2 Lodge was not only a tool of American imperialist policy. It was first of all part of Italian capital and it shows the reality of state totalitarianism behind all the democratic blather. It regrouped within itself bourgeois clans which have been dominating the state in a hidden manner for years. This does not mean that it regrouped the whole Italian bourgeoisie. The PCI was excluded since it represented another fraction whose foreign orientation was directed towards the east. It is also probable that other cliques exist within the Italian bourgeoisie, which could explain why the scandal broke. Furthermore, within the P2 Lodge several clans cohabited, linked by convergent interests under the American aegis and faced with the common danger of Russian imperialism and 'Communist' subversion. The list found at Gelli's house makes it possible to identify certain of these clans: the big industrialists of the north, the Vatican, a very important sector of the state apparatus, notably the upper echelons of the army and secret services, and, in a more discrete manner, the Mafia. The links between the latter and the P2 Lodge appears with the bankers Sindona and Calvi: the first one died of poisoning in prison, the second was found hanging from a bridge in London. Both of them had been involved in financial scandals when they were managing the funds of the Vatican and the Mafia. Strange alliances perfectly typical of contemporary capitalism. The P2 Lodge is a sulphurous cocktail which shows us that reality often outdoes the most outlandish fiction: occult societies, secret services, the Vatican, political parties, the milieux of business, industry and finance, the Mafia, journalists, trade unionists, academics, etc.

In fact, the exposure of the P2 Lodge revealed the veritable center of hidden decision-making which has presided over the destinies of Italian capitalism since the war. Gelli called himself, with cynical humor, "the grand puppet-master", the one who pulled the strings from behind the scenes, and whose "puppets" were the politicians. The great democratic process of the Italian state was thus no more than a skillful bit of stage-management. The most important decisions were taken elsewhere than in the official structures (national assemblies, ministries, presidency, etc) of the Italian state. This secret structure of power was maintained no matter what the result of the numerous electoral consultations which took place over these years. What's more, the P2 Lodge had all the cards it needed to manipulate the elections and keep the PCI out of power, as in 1948. Virtually all the leaders of the Christian Democratic, Socialist and Republican parties were under its thumb and the democratic game of "alternatives" was just sleight of hand. The reality of power did not change. Behind the scenes, Gelli and his P2 Lodge continued to control the state.

Here again, there is no reason why this should be an Italian specificity, even if elsewhere the occult decision-making center may not take the rather romantic form of a Masonic Lodge. For a number of years, the brutal aggravation of the crisis and the overturning of imperialist alignments resulting from the disappearance of the eastern bloc has provoked a shift in alliances between the various cliques within each national capital. Far from being the expression of a sudden desire to restore a more democratic way of operating, the present campaigns developing in a number of countries, stressing the need to clean out the most rotten apples from the state, are no more than a settling of scores between different cliques vying for control over the state. The manipulation of the media, the use of compromising dossiers is the weapons in this struggle, which can also take bloodier forms.

In fact, all this shows, in hindsight, that Italy, far being an exception with its succession of political scandals, is an edifying example and harbinger of what is now happening everywhere.


Some references:

On the Mafia: Le Syndicat de Crime by J M Charlier and J Marcilly, Presse de la Cite, Paris 1980. On Gladio and the P2 Lodge: Intelligences secretes, by F Calvi and O Schmidt, Hachette, Paris 1988; Gladio, EPO, Bruxelles 1991; as well as the documentary televised in three parts, Gladio, BBC, 1992. On the strategy of tension in Italy: Il partito del golpe, G Flamini, Ferrara, Boloventa, 1981.

[1] See International Review no 76

[2] P2 means "Propaganda Due" - Propaganda Two

[3] Testimony of Lucky Luciano


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