Threats to Democracy

Threats to Democracy

Threats to Democracy

Threats to Democracy


This book represents the first systematic research by a social scientist on the radical right-wing movements in Italy since 1945. During the heyday of right-wing violence between 1969 and 1980, street aggressions, attacks, and murders were commonplace. These bloody episodes were assumed to be the work of fanatical bands of "political soldiers" and urban warriors loosely controlled by secret services and other covert groups, which used them as part of a "strategy of tension" pursued in domestic and international circles. Franco Ferraresi here acknowledges that these rightist groups were in fact permitted a certain amount of freedom, and even in some cases actually aided in the hope that revulsion at terrorist tactics would have the effect of mobilizing public opinion in favor of existing political arrangements. However, he also studies the extent to which they operated as autonomous units, while he carefully considers the political heritage, the doctrines, and the ideology that motivated them.


This book has a long and intricate story. After the research that I directed on the radical Right was published in 1984,I was asked to translate it into English, making a few necessary adjustments in order to submit it to a non-Italian audience. Upon setting down to work, it was soon apparent that the “few adjustments” amounted to a full rewriting. This was partly because a sizable amount of legal and inquiry materials (investigations, verdicts, and parliamentary committee reports), which had not been available at the time of my first writing, were gradually appearing, adding important elements to the previous picture. These materials, together with the (rather few) research works that were also published in the meantime, required changes in my interpretation and reconstruction. The first English version was ready in 1993. Because it amounted to practically an entirely new book, it made sense to translate it into Italian.

At that point the initial problem emerged in reverse—I now needed to readapt for an Italian audience a book that had originally been conceived for an English-speaking one. That revision was less substantial than the earlier one, but it was still significant because new materials continued to become available. The resulting text was submitted to the Milanese publisher Feltrinelli in 1994 and published in 1995. The present version is a revision of my original English text, taking into account the Italian version, and adding a number of changes and additions necessitated by yet new findings.

Understandably, all this has caused a number of identity problems, not to mention mental confusion, because many times it was not clear whether I was translating, revising, or writing an original text. Tell-tale signs of such confusion, I am afraid, may be evident in this version.

Like most complex projects lasting for a number of years, this one has indebted me to more individuals than can be acknowledged. First I want to thank all those who worked with me and helped at various stages with the collection of materials, especially Giorgio Buso, who provided invaluable assistance with the translations and whose work is partly incorporated in this book. A number of judges and magistrates were most generous with their time and in making available not easily accessible materials. Among them I owe special gratitude to Cesare Borraccetti, Giancarlo Caselli, Loris D'Ambrosio, Maurizio Laudi, Luigi Macchia, Libero Mancuso, Claudio Nunziata, and Piero Vigna. Rosario Minna, Giovanni Salvi, and Guido Salvini read portions of my manuscript and offered invaluable suggestions. My work as a consultant with the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee on . . .

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