Jim Fleming on Thu, 5 Sep 2002 21:55:18 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Toni Negri on the recent Persichetti events


hydrarchist writes: Some factual background is useful to grasp the context
of the interview with Toni Negri which follows."

Paolo Persichetti was born in Rome in 1962. He became politically involved
in the wake of the movement of 1977, and was arrested in May 1987 for
involvement in the BR-UCC -- one of the two factions that emerged from a
split in the Red Brigades in the early 1980s. He returned to liberty two
years later, the period of prevetitive detention having run its course.
Convicted in 1991 to twenty two years and six months in prison, he found
refuge in Paris where he was arrested in 1993 and then targetted with an
extradition order. He returned to freedom in January 1995 thanks to a
public campaign in his favour (including hunger strikes by prominent
individuals such as the Abbey Pierre).

In what appears to have been a gift between right-wing regimes, the new
French government of Jean Pierre Rafarin has brought to a swift end the
so-called 'Mitterand policy' which protected political dissidents from
extradition. Persichetti, now a professor of political science in
University of Paris VIII and living openly in Paris, was arrested last
saturday and immediately transported to Turin, Italy. According to sources
in the Minsitry of the Interior, now presided over by Nikolas Sarkozy, he
is only the first. At least fifteen others are believed to be under
threat, including Giorgio Pietrostefani, a former leader of Lotta Continua
sentenced some years ago for the murder of the police Commissioner
Calabrese (central protagonist in the Piazza Fontana investigation,
responsible for the death of Pinelli, the incident that inspired
'Accidental Death of an Anarchist' by Dario Fo).  The Italian Minister for
the Interior Pisanu celebrated Persichetti's involuntary return,
exclaiming that Persichetti was far from being someone of the 'second
rank' and attempting to associate him with the Biagi killing. In fact, to
the extent that the case involves links with the older generation of
Brigadisti, police investigations of the D'Antona and Biagi murders have
centered on the other faction, BR-PCC,.

Persichetti has repeatedly distanced himself from the new Red Brigades -
should such an organisation exist - and has stated that he sees no role
for the armed struggle today. The motivation for Pisanu's brouhaha likely
stems from the scrutiny which the Italian government has been subject to
over the Biagi murder, where attention has now focussed on the governments
refusal to provide him with a escort, despite his repeated requests,
shortly before his shooting near his home in Bologna.A flare-up between
journalists and the former minister for the Interior Scajola concluded
with him stating that Biagi had been a pain in the arse and interested
only in keeping his job. This ill-advised outburst led shortly to his

In addition the government remains under pressure over the Genoa
investigations, particularly now that some of its top cops have been
revealed on video (chuckling to one another!) in the company of the police
officer who shortly afterwards planted the molotov cocktails which served
as retrospective justification for the search and destroy raid on the Diaz
school, leading to twenty hospitalisations, sixty injured and ninety three
arrests, many of which were later deemed to be illegal. Beteween the two
incidents, both the two 'supercops' charged with anti-terrorism in Italy
are under the spotlight.

Persichetti was tried on the basis of an alleged participation in the
murder of an Italian Airforce General, Ligio Giorgieri, on 12 March 1987.
He was convicted five years later, althugh never accused of direct
participation, but rather 'concorso moral: involvement with the group
which carried out the act. Fingered by a supergrass he was accused of
participating in an 'inquest' of the BR-PCC that preceded and determined
the attack. The court also found him guilty of participation in another
attack one year before against Antonio Da Empoli, a former adviser to the
Presidency of the Italian Counsel. At first instance the Italian court
absolved him of the accusations, and afterwards the supergrass withdrew
his testimony, stating that it was a case of mistaken identity.
Unforunately this did not impede an Appeals Court from convicting him to
over twenty years.

Commenting on the story of another refugee, writer Cesare Battisti,
novelist ad former militant Valerio Evangelisti comments: "What should be
understood is that France, in the 1980s, welcomed about a hundred Italian
refugees not out of some preconceived hostility to Italy, but because they
judged absurd the sentences which were being provided for here, under the
pretext of the fight against terrorism. When he was tried in France, the
magistrates were appalled: he had receive two life sentences in abstentia
for two offences committed, at the same time, in two different cities! In
the judgement, which permitted Battisti to remain, was written that he had
been the victim of 'Italian Military Justice.'"

In the late 1970s and early 80s thousands of Italian radicals were
subjected to extra-judicial killings, torture, detention without trial up
to ten years and repeated grotesque simulation of 'justice'. The broad
brush of terrorist demonisation was employed in order to criminalise the
core of the social movement, literally removing key actors from the street
in a form of internment.

Given the current climate in Italy and the nature of the Berlusconi regime
it comes as no surprise that the state should now be exercising its
memory, vengefully.

The following interview was originally published in the French Communist
newspaper L'Humanite on August 28th. 

Interview with Toni Negri 

"This securocrat madness which has taken hold of Europe." 

For the Italian Philosopher, the arrest and extradition of Paolo
Persichettihas the charcteristics of a kind of 'hysteria', aiming to liken
all opposition to terrorism.

An importamnt philosopher of our time, Toni Negri, whose ideas are linked
to 'that great current of modern poliical philosophy that goes from
Machiavelli to Spinoza and Marx', was accused in the '70s, of having
inspired the exactions of the armed wing of 'worker's autonomy', known
under the name of the Red Brigades. Arrested in 1979, he then spent four
and half years in prison - during which he published notably "Marx Beyond
Marx" - before briefly recovering his freedom in 1983, by means of his
election as a deputy of the Radical Party. His parliamentary immunity soon
removed, he fled for Paris, where he taught until 1997 at the univesity of
Paris VIII and the International College of Philosophy. In July of that
year, he decided to return to Rome in order to 'relaunch the debate on
amnesty' for the period of the 'years of lead'. Incarcerated upon his
arrival at the airport, he has been subject, up to recent months, to a
regime entitled 'semi-liberty', which allows him to teach during the day
at the University of Padua, before going each night to 'sleep' in prison.

How do you explain the decision of the french authorities to arrest Paolo
Persichetti, and then to extradite him immediately to Italy? Must one see
in it, in your view, a type of agreement given by Paris to the assertions
of the Berlusconi government, such that there would exist a link between
the assassination of Marco Biagi, on the 19 March last, and certain Red
Brigade militants of the '70s and '80s?

TN: Paolo Persichetti was the only one, among a hundred or so Italian
political refugees living in France, able to be extradited immediately: my
feeling is that he has been expelled, in some way, as an example. or some
time already the Italian authorities have been developing the idea of a
supposed reorganisation of the 'Red Brigades", taking place in interaction
between Italy and foreign countries. The fact that several dozen formed
Brigadisti remain in exile in Paris has without doubt been at the root,
and utterly false conflations and extremely strong pressure by the
Berlusconi governemnt. There is here a thematic that is more than
dangerous: everyone I know who are living in France have all distanced
themselves from what was their political thinking and involvement in the
1970s and 80s. They have been perfectly faithful in regard to the state
and the French authorities, and, to my knowledge, none of them has ever
taken any position in favour of, or in support of, terrorism. The war is
over. And for a long time time now.... Thus I think that the decision of
the French authorities takes place amidst the sort of securitarian madness
which is in the process of turning Europe upside down.

How exactly does this 'securitarian madness' manifest itself today in your

TN: At the moment in Italy there are strong social movements which have
always considered the actions of those who declare themselves the new 'Red
Brigades' as being entirely opposed to their own objectives, and who even
see them as a sort of provocation. Personally, I think that there doesn't
exist any place today for armed actions in the Italian political struggle.
The new Red Brigades are completely isolated, and they express nothing,
not even corporatist or sub-altern interests: there's just a fake
nostalgia, projected backwards in resentment elsewhere. Is it necessary to
underline that Paolo Persichetti, who I knew as a student in Paris VIII at
the time when I was teaching there, has nothing at all to do with these
groups? In reality, the likening of any contestation, whatever it may be,
to terrorism has attained in Italy a level of hsteria that it is difficult
to imagine. Recently the police arrested four Moroccans in a church in
Bologna because they were looking at a fresco depicting Mohamad falling
into hell: they were initially identified as belonging to a cell of al
Qaeda who were prepaing an attack, before being released the following

In July 1997 when you decided to go back to Italy to put a full-stop to
your 'judicial story', you had, and I quote, 'the intention to relaunch
the debate about amnesty' and and to put an end to the state of exception
under which your country has lived since what are called 'the years of
lead'. Where is that at today.

TN: In 1997 we at last managed to speak of an amnesty for the period that
you refer to, even if the process was blocked very quickly: the House of
Deputies had voted for a project with this meaning, but it was rejected in
the month of october that same year by the Senate. Very quickly, it was
explained to us that were we to benefit from an amnesty, it would then be
neccessary to grant it to all those convicted under the common law. I
think the arrest and extradition of Paolo Persichetti should be the moment
to relauch the public debate on this question. Who can accept that he
should be imprisoned for seventeen years, which here means at least twelve
or thirteen without any hope of remission? It's a whole life... That
situation is for me quite simply unimaginable. I think a massive
mobilisation must take place in Italy, but also in all of Europe, so that
a line can at last be drawn under the 'years of lead'.

In Empire(1), you proposed new trails of analysis of the world system of
capitalism defined as a new mode of transnational control, and you
suggested new subversive utopias: soldiarity without frontiers,
'multitudes' as much as 'counter-powers'.. What would you have to add,
briefly, to your analysis following the events of September 11th.

TN: I am convinced that war has become an essential instrument of
legitimation for imperial power. At the same time, I don't think that
there exists an a priori agreement on this point between the different
'elites' of the Empire. There are major divergences, in proportion to the
affirmation of a devestating unilateralism on the part of the United
States, which collides with multiple contradictions, with the imperial
aristocracies and the multinational groups. At the same time, the first
experience of struggles, declared or underground, which have taken place
in the new territory of power, provide some interesting indications.
Firstly, on the demand for a new expression of democracy over the control
of the political conditions of the reproduction of life. Next, in the
development of the movements beyond the national body-politic, which
aspire to the suppression of borders and universal citizenship. Lastly,
these actions involve individuals and multitudes who are trying to
reappropriate the wealth produced thanks to instruments of production
which, by dint of the permanenet technoloical revolution, have become the
property of their subjects. Fundamentally, only the 'common', in the sense
which Spinoza spoke of it, allows a rising against the Empire.

Interiew conducted by 
Jean Paul Monferran
(1) Written with Michael Hardt, 2000 (HUP)." 


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