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Professor Anna Bull
Professor Anna Bull

Press Release - 26 November 2007

Italian right-wingers refuse to face up to neo-fascist role in terrorism, says book

Several right-wing political parties in Italy are refusing to face up to the role of neo-fascist groups in the terrorism that plagued Italy after the Second World War, a new book says.

Professor Anna Bull, of the University of Bath, UK, says that the Alleanza Nazionale (National Alliance) party is not acknowledging neo-fascist groups’ involvement in a series of bomb attacks in Italy, as established by judicial trials. The claim is likely to prove controversial, as the party has now become mainstream.

In her new work, Italian Neofascism: The Strategy of Tension and the Politics of Nonreconciliation, Professor Bull writes that the party sees the neo-fascists as victims of the conspiracies of others.

Speaking just before the book’s publication, she said: “I believe the failure of the right to accept its role in the terrorism that plagued Italy and its persistence in presenting its side as a victim and the other side as the villain, means that there is no guarantee that violence will not resurface, especially if similar sentiments are also present on the left.”

For her book, Professor Bull spoke to a number of representatives of the Alleanza Nazionale, as well as ex-leaders of extreme right-wing groups, for their views on the violence committed by neo-fascist groups from 1969 to 1980, in which hundreds died.

This included the bomb attack on Bologna railway station in 1980, which killed 85 people, including a 21-year-old tourist from Bath and her fiancé.

The Alleanza Nazionale party was formed largely from members of the Italian Social Movement (MSI), the neo-fascist party which had links with extreme groups involved in the right’s “strategy of tension” which included the bombings.

“Even though the Alleanza Nazionale is now a mainstream party, and was part of Silvio Berlusconi’s governing coalition for five years, it has still not faced up to its past,” said Professor Bull, of the University’s Department of European Studies and Modern Languages,

“While its leaders, especially Gianfranco Fini, have clearly distanced themselves from fascism, the party seems unable to adopt a critical attitude towards post-war neo-fascism.

“Many of its members believe that those right wingers who were convicted of terrorist acts were themselves innocent victims of a judiciary biased to the left, and so they feel they are a persecuted group, something I do not accept.

“While it is true that in the second half of the 1970s neo-fascists became the target of a violent campaign carried out by the extreme left, this cannot erase the violence perpetrated by their own side."

Professor Bull, who is the author of numerous books on Italian history and politics, also includes the party Movimento Sociale – Fiamma Tricolore (Italian Social Movement-Tricolour Flame) among the right-wing parties that have not faced up to their past in her view.

“In my book I argue that the country would benefit from a process of truth telling and national reconciliation in relation to the political violence of the late 1960s and 1970s, but I also consider this highly unlikely, since all the parties seem to favour a process of political normalisation through collective amnesia.”

Italian Neofascism: The Strategy of Tension and the Politics of Nonreconciliation, is published in the US on 10 December by Berghahn, and will be available on Amazon and as an e-book, before being shipped to the UK later in the month.

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