Radical media, politics and culture.

For Persichetti

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 resignation.

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 country?

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 day.

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)."