| by CTEC Staff

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Aftermath of the Bologna train station bombing.

Research and writing on this paper was led by one of CTEC’s Winter Term interns. For safety reasons, we are publishing this piece anonymously. If you are a journalist, researcher, or other professional who would like to speak to the author, contact Alex Newhouse (anewhouse@middlebury.edu).

Italian neofascism developed after the demise of Mussolini’s regime during World War II but peaked in activity during the terrorist period from 1969-1982, with its most violent, radical groups operating in the late 1970s. While neofascists had found inspiration in the radically anti-modern, anti-egalitarian worldview of philosopher Julius Evola since the early postwar days, throughout the 1950s and 1960s they increasingly subscribed to the most radical implications of his thought, finding in it justification for violent struggle against the political system. In combination with the repeated frustration of their efforts to promote neofascism, first through a quickly abandoned effort to work within parliamentary politics and then to manipulate the government and public opinion through a program of terrorism (the “Strategy of Tension”), this produced a set of radical splinter groups by the late 1970s, most notably the Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari (NAR). The NAR differed from earlier groups in their total anti-system stance, refusing to collaborate in any way with what they perceived as an element of the political establishment, including less radical right-wing groups and the MSI, the dominant parliamentary neofascist organization in Italy. They rejected formal organization and strategizing around political goals, instead endorsing  spontaneous acts of violence to express their disaffection from the system. The development of Italian neofascism from its original goal of carrying on the Fascist legacy towards the apolitical, explosively violent strain represented by the NAR sheds light on processes of radicalization and the dynamics of neofascist ideology.

Italian Terrorism and the Years of Lead: Overview

From the late 1960s to the early 1980s, Italy experienced one of most notable outbreaks of political terrorism among all western democracies. Known commonly as the Years of Lead (Anni di Piombo), this roughly fifteen-year long period was marked by thousands of terrorist attacks and over twelve hundred casualties among Italian citizens, and remains at the forefront of the Italian collective memory.[1] Terrorist organizations proliferated across the political spectrum and with a variety of different goals. Communist and leftist groups such as the Red Brigades were responsible for the majority of the violence during the Years of Lead and had the greatest degree of organization and number of adherents.[2] However, the most notable aspect of the Italian terror wave relative to other global phenomena, given the relatively widespread nature of communist violence, was its neofascist component, which was the most well-developed, active, and malignant manifestation of the radical right among the western democracies of its time.[3] Italian neofascism evolved substantially through the the latter half of the 20th century, developing new unifying myths, ideologies, and political goals, and culminating in the terrorist explosion of the Years of Lead.

Italian neofascism itself can be challenging to nail down as a specific set of concepts and beliefs, as neofascist ideology takes on a number of different shapes and degrees of intensity. Italian neofascism’searliest forms grew out of the remnants of the coalition around Mussolini’s Republic of Salò—his attempt to restore a fascist government after the collapse of his regime in 1943—which was defeated by the antifascist elements during the 1943-1945 civil war.[4] In 1946, the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) political party was founded by those who hoped for the restoration of the Fascist regime through parliamentary politics. These earliest neofascists unified primarily around nostalgia for Mussolini’s Fascism and its accompanying ideologies.[5] However, despite consistent efforts, collaborations with other parties, and ideological compromises, the MSI failed to achieve national popularity and its parliamentary strategy faced widespread defections from its more radical members by the early 1950s and 1960s. It was these radical members who began to create groups dedicated to improving neofascism’s political success through the use of violence.[6]

The first sign of splintering within the MSI came in the aftermath of the 1956 national congress, where the MSI agreed upon a formal alliance with more moderate conservative parties in the name of opposition to communism. Already frustrated what they viewed as the MSI’s unwillingness to embrace sufficiently radical tactics, this proved too much to bear for the faction within the MSI most closely linked to the radical anti-modern, anti-establishment thought of the philosopher Julius Evola, discussed in more detail below. Future terrorists like Pino Rauti, Clemente Graziani, and Stefano delle Chiaie withdrew from the party and founded the Ordine Nuovo (ON, “New Order”).[7] In 1960, Delle Chiaie departed the ON and founded his own organization, the Avanguardia Nazionale (AN, “National Vanguard,”) which retained the dedication to Evola’s thought and added a particularly intense strain of anti-communism, viewing the role of his organization as to save Italy from the “Communist menace.”[8] Through the early 1960s, these groups steadily recruited and organized its members into militant squads, engaging in some small-scale acts of violence and political agitation.

The real opening for the ON, AN, and their contemporaries to begin their terrorist acts in earnest came in the late 1960s, with the enormous political unrest prompted by student revolts in 1968 and the “Hot Autumn” workers strikes in 1969. Fearing that the chaos represented a communist or leftist mobilization and the decay of the Italian political system, neofascist groups took it upon themselves to bring Italy “back on track.” Lacking both parliamentary traction and popular support, the neofascist groups embarked on a set of actions at times known as the “Strategy of Tension.”[9] What the “Strategy of Tension” actually entailed, the degree of collaboration with state elements like the military and the police, and the involvement of the MSI itself is a matter of controversy. The interpretation that suggests it originated with MSI leader Georgio Almirante and benefited from substantial facilitation by the Italian authorities sympathetic to the neofascist cause is sometimes considered a conspiracy theory, although most scholars state that evidence suggests at least some level of involvement from some elements of the government, law enforcement, and judiciary.[10] What is generally agreed upon is that the terrorist groups organized a series of violent actions, particularly mass bombings (stragi or stragismo) intended to be blamed on communist organizations to demonstrate the need for radical, authoritarian change within the Italian political system. They hoped that this would undermine faith in the state and drum up popular demand for a far-right coup which would produce a neofascist dictatorship.[11] The deadliest, best-remembered attack of this period is the Piazza Fontana bombing of December 1969, which killed 17 and wounded 84. While the judicial process identifying the culprits was long and drawn out, the courts eventually attributed the massacre to the Ordine Nuovo, including Pino Rauti and Franco Freda.[12]

Accompanied by left-wing terrorism in a mutually amplifying process, these neofascist organizations continued to organize and launch bombing attacks through the early 1970s. However, by 1975, the major organizations had been criminalized and prosecuted for their violence and under statutes prohibiting the reconstitution of the Fascist party. The Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale faced formal dissolution at the hands of the state, and the remaining neofascist leaders recognized the “Strategy of Tension” as a failure, as the hoped-for collapse of public faith in democracy and coup d’etat had not materialized.[13]

However, the neofascist cause was far from over, particularly in the face of ever-growing left-wing violence. With the demise of the initial wave of groups and the perceived need for even more radical tactics, a new generation of neofascist terrorists came to the fore—younger, often in their late teens and early twenties with little memory of Fascism itself and little hope for true political victory. They distanced themselves as much as possible from the MSI and took up direct action against the state and their perceived enemies, including communists and members of the far right they deemed insufficiently radical.14] The events which drove home this generational split were the “Acca Larentia” killings—the murder of several young MSI members by left-wing militants and a policeman in January 1978 in Rome. The subsequent refusal of the MSI itself to damage its relationship with the state by helping prosecute the killers was perceived as a betrayal of the militants by the older, conservative generation. The youth groups, including a number of future Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari (NAR) militants, took to the streets for three days of widespread, outraged violence. Determined to demonstrate their perceived need for armed resistance against left-wing violence and a more radical path forwards for neofascism, these youths demonstrated a final break with the old political tactics and a whole-hearted embrace of armed struggle.[15]

No one group typified this final, explosive phase of neofascist terrorism like the NAR, active from 1978-1982.[16] The NAR broke from the ON and AN’s attempts to manipulate the political system through violence by simply directing violence against all elements of the system that they saw as attempting to suppress their revolution—the state itself, c and left-wing groups, and even the historic neofascist organizations themselves. Violence and armed struggle became goals in themselves, promoting disorder, revolution, and liberation from societal boundaries. As was characteristic of these later groups, the NAR rejected formal organizational structures and allowed any militant who committed a violent act in the name of revolution to claim the NAR label.[17] This anarchistic, unbridled embrace of activity marked the last, most radical and dangerous phase of Italian neofascism, as the neofascist terrorist impulse, begun fifteen years earlier, burned itself out.[18]

The NAR: History, Structure, and Actions

The NAR’s first recorded actions date back to 1978, though it began in earnest in the spring of 1979 as an outgrowth of the MSI-affliated University Front of National Action (FUAN) in Rome, where militants united by an acceptance of violence and a zeal for revolutionary action had begun meeting regularly. Though the group rejected formal leadership structures, its principal figures were Giuseppe Valerio Fioravanti and Francesca Mambro, as well as Fioravanti’s brother Cristiano.[19] Fioravanti, only nineteen himself when he took up arms in the Acca Larentia outrage, sought to “de-hierarchize” the neofascist milieu, seeking instead to use direct action and messaging to encourage individuals themselves to take action such that “rebellion should be as violent and widespread as possible.”[20] The NAR, according to the principles of a style of terrorism that Francesco Farraresi terms spontaneismo armato (armed spontaneity), consisted of a loose collection of overlapping and interacting groups forming for the purpose of a particular action and then disbanding just as quickly, highly violent but impermanent and poorly organized by design.[21] Indeed, the Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari label was coined by Francesca Mambro not to refer exclusively to the group itself, but to serve as an label available to which any militant to attribute a clear anti-system, revolutionary action.[22] Its contemporaries, other late-wave, ultra-militant youth groups with which it overlapped, included Construamo L’Azione and especially Terza Posizione (TP), led by Gabriele Adinolfi.[23]

In two years, the NAR claimed over one hundred terrorist acts. [24] The NAR engaged in the acts of guerilla violence characteristic of this period of Italian terrorism, both on the right and the left, particularly ambush attacks, armed raids, and use of grenades and explosives against government buildings and occasionally public targets. [25] The NAR’s fundamentally anti-system and revolutionary orientation prompted them to attack a diverse array of targets—those representing the state, communist and left-wing organizations, and fellow right-wing groups in the name of “purifying” the movement. The NAR frequently assaulted weapons manufacturers and storage areas, seizing items for combat dress, firearms, and hand grenades, which they turned loose against PCI (Communist Party of Italy) chapters and government buildings, alongside more scattered actions like arsons and holdups.[26] Their most widely touted act was the January 1979  storming of the left-wing radio station Radio Città Futura with machine guns  as revenge for their denigration of the Acca Larentia victims, injuring five announcers.[27] A number of murders were also attributed to the NAR, both of members of the state and of fellow neofascists: In June 1980, a group including Fioravanti assassinated Roman magistrate Mario Amato, who had been investigating neofascist activities.[28] NAR militants murdered Sicilian TP leader Francesco Mangiameli in September 1980 “in a sort of hallucinated collective death ritual,” and are also considered responsible for a dozen or so deaths of other right wing militants.[29]

The NAR’s most notable and destructive act was the bombing of the Bologna railroad station on August 6th, 1980 on the sixth anniversary of a similar bombing massacre perpetuated by the ON. The single-deadliest attack in the history of republican Italy, it killed 85 people and injured over 200.[30] In the aftermath, Bologna’s leading newspaper received a telephone call of NAR claiming responsibility for the massacre.[31] The subsequent investigation by Italian authorities, bolstered by the collaboration of ex-NAR terrorist Cristiano Fioravanti, resulted in the capture of Guiseppe Fioravanti and Francesca Mambro, among other militants, and generally marked the end of major NAR activities.[32] In July 1988, the Italian courts convicted Fioravanti, Mambro, and a number of other hard right militants, including past MSI and ON members and convicted criminals, of responsibility for the bombing, handing down prison sentences. Despite this, Fioravanti and Mambro have consistently maintained their innocence of the affair, and some controversy exists about the justice of their convictions.[33]

Neofascism: Ideological Background

Italian neofascism’s unifying ideological figure was Julius Evola, who wrote prolifically between 1920 and 1974 on subjects spanning idealist and fascist philosophy, esotericism and practices of magic, commentary on Indian and Chinese religion, and Western/Italian political commentary.[34] Although Evola was philosophically active and well-known in right-wing circles during Italy’s Fascist period, his relationship to the regime itself was tenuous, particularly given the esoteric and occult dimensions of his work, and he declined to become an official member of the Fascist party. [35] His pre-1939 works, including his most well-known Rivolta contra il Mondo Moderno (Revolt Against the Modern World), initially enjoyed greater success in Nazi Germany than in Fascist Italy. According to ON leader Pino Rauti, a disciple of Evola himself, Evola began to gain serious popular traction among the Italian hard right in the period immediately after World War II. This is mainly due to the spreading of his works among incarcerated RSI veterans and university students in the void left behind by Mussolini’s regime, quickly becoming the main inspiration in neofascist circles.[36] Especially pertinent to neofascist terrorism were Evola’s later major works, particularly Gli uomini tra le rovine (Men Among the Ruins), published in 1953, and Cavalcando le tigre (Ride the Tiger), published in 1961.[37]

Franco Farraresi characterizes Evola’s thought as “one of the most radical and consistent anti-egalitarian, anti-liberal, anti-democratic, and anti-popular systems in the twentieth century,” derived from the conservative philosophical reaction against the liberal values of the French revolution.[38]Evola viewed history as a process of decay and departure from a spiritual ideal or “absolute,” as material concerns encroached on “Tradition,” which he described as a primordial principle of societal organization where each individual serves his role in a hierarchy dedicated to pursuit of the spiritual realm, a triumph of order over chaos. He viewed a strong, central, unquestioned political authority dedicated to the pursuit of Tradition as necessary to maintain it.[39] Revolt Against the Modern World expressed the depraved conditions of modern society—the disorder, loneliness, and misery produced by pursuit of material concerns.[40]His model for the ideal historical man was the “soldier-male” type, dedicated to the values of inner transcendence, asceticism, courage, and self-sacrifice, offering as historical examples the Greek Spartans, Roman legions, Japanese Samurai code, and others.41] However, his thought was not intended to be universally accessible or to produce mass enlightenment, in keeping with his anti-egalitarian beliefs—he aimed at converting only the few naturally elite individuals he viewed as embodying the historical, traditional man.[42]Therefore, while Mussolini’s Fascism interested him in its exaltation of the Roman tradition and its attempts to impose martial order on the Italian state, he rejected its populist, democratic tendencies to cultivate the support of the masses.[44]

Evola began to actively engage with the neofascist movement, especially its youth groups, in the early postwar years. His 1953 Men Standing Among the Ruins represented an effort to translate his earlier works into encouragement of these forces to rehabilitate Italian society and politics.[45] Here, Evola advocates “counterrevolution,” exalting the remaining few resisting modern, liberal doctrines, though it provides more of a guide to what a future, ideal state would look like based on tradition and authority, rather than a plan of action for how to achieve it.[46] Evola’s most radical and relevant work for the neofascist struggle is his 1961 text Riding the Tiger, an escalation from his political doctrine in Men Standing Among the Ruins. Here, he most vehemently expresses his hatred for the modern condition, condemning contemporary institutions, values, habits, and beliefs as diseased, doomed, and decaying—he viewed history as at the end of its cycle (the ancient Hindu Kaly-Yuga) and the world ripe for destruction.[47] In his apocalyptic turn, he hinted that rather than rehabilitate institutions, it “might be better to contribute to the fall of that which is already wavering,” and began to suggest violent action to the small groups of students and militants who visited him at his apartment.[48] He broached the concept of apoliteia—internal detachment from politics and avoidance of the contamination of modern values—though it did not necessarily require a full practical abstention, only an adjustment of one’s attitude.[49] Evola’s followers split over the appropriate interpretation of apoliteia. Some believed that to follow the doctrine would be to fully withdraw from the political sphere and focus entirely on spiritual and cultural concerns, making no attempt to alter the government or parliamentary politics. On the other hand, some militants held that under apoliteia, they must refuse to engage with the system on its own terms and the “differentiated man” or political warrior would internally stand apart from politics and seek fulfillment through violent action aimed at destroying the system in a kind of “holy war” or “heroic path.”[50]

It was this later, most radical version of Evola with whom the first generation of neofascist terrorists were most involved—Pino Rauti and Georgio Freda of the Ordine Nuovo were considered among his disciples. Freda, a key figure in the ON in the early sixties, embraced the more radical, combative version of apoliteia and used to advocate tactics aimed at hastening the destruction of the Italian political system, even perhaps “the exaltation of anarchy,” as he exclaimed in 1963, several years before the ON’s open embrace of terrorist tactics and the “Strategy of Tension.”[51]  Freda’s interpretations of Evola’s doctrine and his innovations with it came to form the foundation of the terrorist spontaneismo armato era, including the NAR. Freda rejected a top-down revolution involving collaboration with the state in the form of a coup d’etat or military dictatorship, as the “Strategy of Tension” had pursued, instead urging revolution through popular action, laying the groundwork for the NAR’s pursuit of widespread, individually-initiated violence.[52] Freda also expanded on Evola’s militaristic ideal and apoliteia doctrine to create the idealized figure of the “political soldier,” for whom “purity justifies any hardness, disinterest any ruse, while the impersonal character given to the struggle does away with any moralistic concern.”[53] The NAR also directly engaged with Evola’s thought outside of Freda’s lens, though primarily the later, anarcho-nihilist Evola and the apoliteia doctrines of Riding the Tiger. Freda and the militants who followed his example used Evola to justify their personal identification with a warrior-elite, their zeal for combat, and rejection of social norms surrounding violence.[54]

Despite the unifying potential of these common reference points and Evola’s worldview, neofascist ideology in general is fragmented and underdeveloped in comparison to communists and left-wing extremists. Rather than the traditional formula of ideology motivating action, a number of scholars view the neofascists as using ideology to retroactively justify their actions or violent impulses, with their symbols arising of “mere conceptual necessity.”[55] By the period of the NAR and spontaneismo armato, militants had begun to reject ideology in itself as a poor foundation for their movement, elevating instead action as their tool. The late-seventies journal Construma l’Azione (“Let’s Build Action”) rejected all modern values and ideologies, clinging to “combat as an existential duty” as the only surviving action.[56] Though they professed resistance to ideology, their attitudes are clearly underpinned by Evola’s worldview, particularly as expanded on and converted into a plan of action by Freda.

Outside of Evola in particular, Italy’s radical right and the NAR shared a body of mythology and reference figures that reinforced their ideologies, sourced selectively from historical fascism. Given fascism’s decisive defeat in World War II, Roman mythology and its symbols of victory and Italian valor no longer carried the same potency, and the neofascists turned to “defensive versions” and martyrdoms, with violence and struggle as an end in itself, serving heroic values. They adopted an assortment of  “legionary myths,” where troops fought on in the name of the honor of a lost cause—the German Freikorps that refused to concede World War I, Mussolini’s doomed Italian Social Republic (1943-1945), the Spanish Falange, the Codreanu’s Romanian Iron Guard, and the Nazi Third Reich.[57] One odd quirk of the later neofascists was a real admiration for J.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, whose protagonists, engaged in an epic battle between good and evil, they saw as embodying the values of their movement—one 1977 gathering of neofascists labeled themselves “Camp Hobbit.”[58]

The NAR: Goals and Ideology

In many ways, the NAR drew their goals and ideology from the broader neofascist milieu and continued trends set by earlier groups. As previously discussed, Evola’s anti-modern, anti-egalitarian attitudes and conception of a militaristic elite formed the background of the NAR’s professed ambition for revolution and social change. Their conception of themselves as martyrs or servants to a cause did not necessarily run outside the regular bounds of neofascism, with its admiration for RSI veterans and the German Freikorps. The NAR’s elevation of combat and martial values as a tool for social change likewise drew on Evola and mimicked the historic neofascist groups like the ON and their terrorist actions. Their combative attitudes towards communist groups and the radical left also were not far out of step—the “Strategy of Tension” was often justified as a war against the left.

However, the NAR and its contemporaries sharply differed from the earlier generation in their lack of clear political goals and absolute unwillingness to compromise by collaborating with less radical groups or the MSI, even turning their violence towards the right itself. The groups operating in the late 1960s and early 1970s had attempted to camouflage their violence as part of the “Strategy of Tension” and worked with state elements with the clear goal of producing a coup d’etat or other power-seizing opportunity (and with the belief that it was plausible, whether it actually was or not). By contrast, after the sharp break with the MSI produced by the Acca Larentia violence and by a new generation of young militants coming of age, the NAR and other neofascist groups viewed their agency within the political milieu differently. Rather than actively pursuing a political goal, they were “entirely dedicated to the armed struggle” in itself, viewing themselves as victims of left-wing violence and erasure by the state and the MSI.[59]

These changes are evident in the rhetoric of a Francesca Mambro pamphlet from the era:

We are not interested in seizing power nor in educating the masses. What counts for us is our ethic, to kill Enemies and to annihilate traitors. The will to fight keeps us going from day to day, the thirst for revenge is our food. We shall not stop! We are not afraid to die nor to end our days in jail; our only fear is not to be able to clean up everything and everybody, but rest assured, with teeth and nails we’ll be able to go on [Italics added].[60]

Very visible here is the impact of Freda’s conversion of Evola’s apoliteia into a way of life, the political soldier whose internal attitude, their “ethic,” is aimed only at action and internal purity. The martial ideal is fervently expressed, with struggle and revenge as a sole guiding purpose. Indeed, Mambro eschews entirely an overarching goal besides action itself. As Anna Cento Bull characterizes it, this turned the NAR’s activity from political terrorism into “a spiral of violence which was as self-destructive as it as destructive.”[61] Without a clear and achievable objective, the parameters of their actions determined entirely by their own judgments about the state of society and the neofascist movement, the NAR’s activities edged closer to common criminality.

Part of this transition stems from the frustration of the earlier groups’ goals. For example, in 1975 the remaining leaders of the ON and AN had congregated in a series of meetings and concluded the coup d’état was no longer a reasonable strategy and aimed at the less clear goal of “disarticulating” the Italian state through a program of widespread violence, mimicking left-wing tactics. While the police quickly dissolved this strategy as carried out by its original designers, the post-1977 spontaneista groups adopted its broad destructive goals in their own way.[62] Indeed, Weinberg and Eubank conclude that the NAR and its contemporaries could not have reasonably believed their campaigns would lead to any meaningful change in Italy’s regime, arguing that “the second wave of neo-Fascist terrorists were motivated more by expressive than instrumental purposes. By behaving as they did, they were seeking to express certain things about themselves and offering observers a violent commentary on their reactions to modern Italian life rather than pursuing concrete political objectives.”[63] As such, the youths that made up the NAR seem to have adopted the Evolian anti-modern, self-as-soldier worldview as a fundamentally countercultural take, enabled by their milieu and its ideologies to use violent action as commentary rather than any serious, planned attempt at implementing political change. As such, the core of the movement appears relatively hollow but furiously violent, leading to its relatively short and highly active lifespan.

More concerning is the way in which the NAR and its contemporaries enacted the most radical strains of Evola’s thought, particularly the later Riding the Tiger doctrines where he begins to hint that society is beyond repair and its collapse deserves to be accelerated.[64]

A quote from the neofascist journal Quex illustrates the radical potential of the NAR’s use of violence as a cleansing tool“The Legionary’s action is destructive and creative because all that has been generated by this society gets purified by it.”[65] This quote combines traditional legionary mythology with the figure of the self as a warrior purging society of its modern rot through violence. Significantly, they link destruction to future rebuilding, sounding ominously as if they may desire total social collapse, brought about with chaos. In a sense, NAR participants may have aspired to Evola’s model of “men standing among the ruins,” the exalted figures building a new age on the foundation of the old, razed society.

The NAR seems to have turned this doctrine primarily towards their radical right contemporaries who “go on polluting our youth, preaching wait-and-see and the like,” seeking revenge on those who advocated patience and political strategy rather than constant direct action.[66] In their frenzy of violence, amplified by activity on the left wing, the NAR appears to have developed an aggressive, adversarial in-group, out-group mentality against both the left and the state, but especially the MSI and other less radical right-wing groups. In a 2006 interview, Fioravanti addressed the NAR’s actions, stating “it was interpreted as a revolt against the state” but “in reality… our aim was to kill our treacherous father, in a mythological sense, to kill the MSI which had sold us out.” This further speaks to the way this wave of terrorists lost sight of their political goals or any attempt to implement neofascism on the state level, instead motivated primarily by a need to express their group identity and countercultural rage, particularly visible given the aim of their violence against their generational predecessors. Fioravanti expressed similar rage against the ON, AN, and even Terza Posizione, one of the NAR’s closest analogues on the scene, and whose leader Fioravanti and others murdered, as previously mentioned.[67]

Fioravanti’s retrospective interview with professor and author Anna Cento Bull demonstrates his awareness of the rhetorical framework that drove radicalization and participation in the NAR— “our mechanism, the mechanism of the Red Brigades, is similar to that of the Muslim kamikazes: You take a young guy, you convince him that the world is bad and corrupt, and you push him to rebel…creating new martyrs.”[68] While the NAR grew from the specific worldview of Italian neofascism, with its anti-modern, militant reference points, the process that produced these terrorists shared much in common with other terrorist movements, despite the different ideological trappings.

Conclusion and Areas of Further Exploration

The evolution of Italian neofascism from its post-war roots to the terrorist years and “Strategy of Tension” and the final explosion of self-expressive violence by the NAR and its contemporaries is remarkable for the variety of groups and actions produced from the same ideological roots. Italy’s period of terrorism was largely concluded by the early 1980s as authorities at last successfully clamped down and the already extremely loose coalition of terrorists splintered further. Their grand ambitions for heroism and the destruction and renewal of a materialistic society proved unachievable as Italian democracy outlasted the period’s enormous political polarization and violence.[69] While the Years of Lead and the NAR are far behind Italy, neofascism has recently experienced something of a revival in Italian politics. In the 1990s, the MSI, flashing its anti-communist credentials, renamed itself the National Alliance (Alleanza Nazionale) and joined Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right parliamentary coalition. The most notable manifestation of modern Italian fascism is a group-turned-political-party called CasaPound, which arose in the early 2000s and retains many characteristics of the 20th century neofascist groups—militancy, admiration for Mussolini, and adoption of figures like Julius Evola and British fascist Oswald Mosley. CasaPound regularly commemorates the Acca Larentia murders that so galvanized the NAR, and its militants demonstrate a strong insider-outsider mentality and identification with the group. While it does not actively endorse violence, a number of attacks on antifascists and several mass shootings aimed at immigrants and people of color have been perpetrated by individuals with CasaPound links—as in much of Europe today, CasaPound’s ideologies tend to revolve around opposition to immigration.[70]

Future investigation surrounding the NAR and Italian neofascist terrorism could focus on its connections to accelerationist terrorism inspired by Evola’s later doctrines of hastening social collapse. However,the NAR and its fellow groups did not seem to quite reach the point of entirely endorsing the need to burn down Italian society and start anew, though they clearly toyed with it. As Western political circles have increasingly seen a rejection of liberalism and its basic principles—the American militias that surfaced on January 6th, 2021 to storm the Capitol building in protest of Trump’s defeat serving as example—Evola, his comprehensive anti-modern, anti-liberal worldview, and the groups that operate according to his principles provide a dangerous alternative path forward.[71] Accelerationist terrorism has flared up in a number of places across the world, both within the neofascist framework and with other ideological roots, and its proliferation merits a look back at the NAR and the potential lessons surrounding the production of far-right terrorism.


Julius Evola remains one of the key ideological figures within the contemporary neofascist accelerationist movement. Evolian philosophy saturates the posts of neofascists on the now-defunct Iron March web forum, while some users push memes like “read Evola” into less extreme chats associated with the Groypers, Proud Boys, and QAnon. The Years of Lead, too, continues to serve as an animating force within the tactical repertoire of neofascists. The NAR’s example of using near-nihilistic violence in the pursuit of metaphysical rewards has been embraced throughout many hardened accelerationist spaces. Although now several decades in the past, the Years of Lead is still vital to understand: in many ways, it served as the birthplace of contemporary neofascist accelerationism.


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  • Sheehan, Thomas. “Italy: Terror on the Right.” The New York Review, January 22, 1981. Accessed January 19, 2022. https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1981/01/22/italy-terror-on-the-right/.
  • Weinberg, Leonard and William Lee Eubank. The Rise and Fall of Italian Terrorism. Westview Press, 1987.
  • ———. “Neo-Fascist and Far Left Terrorists in Italy: Some Biographical Observations.” British Journal of Political Science 18, no. 4 (Oct. 1988): 531-549. https://www.jstor.org/stable/193884.

[1] Drake, “Italy in the 1960s: A Legacy of Terrorism and Liberation,” 63.

[2] Pisano, “Terrorism and Security: The Italian Experience,” 3, 35.

[3] 1Weinberg and Eubank, The Rise and Fall of Italian Terrorism, 3.

[4] Gregor, The Search for Neofascism, p. 60.

[5]  Farraresi, Threats to Democracy, 15, and Gregor, The Search for Neofascism, 59.

[6] Weinberg and Eubank, “Neo-Fascist and Far Left Terrorists in Italy: Some Biographical Observations,” 534.

[7]  Weinberg and Eubank, Rise and Fall of Italian Terrorism, 35-36.

[8] Ibid, 37.

[9] Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy, 85-87.

[10]  Weinberg and Eubank, Rise and Fall of Italian Terrorism, 9-10 

[11] Bull, Italian Neofascism, 19-20.

[12] Ibid, 21.

[13] Weinberg and Eubank, Rise and Fall of Italian Terrorism, 46.

[14] Bull, Italian Neofascism, 123.

[15] Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy, 155 and Bull, Italian Neofascism, 120.

[16] Bull, Italian Neofascism, 128.

[17] Hof, “From Terrorism to Extremism,” 417.

[18] Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy, 188.

[19] Ibid, 163-167.

[20] Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy, 165.

[21] Ferraresi, Julius Evola and the Radical Right, 139.

[22] Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy, 166.

[23] Bull, Italian Neofascism, 128.  

[24] Hof, “From Terrorism to Extremism,” 417.

[25]  Pisano, “Terrorism and Security: The Italian Experience,” 37.

[26] Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy, 167.

[27] Weinberg and Eubank, Rise and Fall of Italian Terrorism, 48 and  Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy, 166.

[28] Sheehan, “Italy: Terror on the Right,” and Weinberg and Eubank, Rise and Fall of Italian Terrorism, 48.

[29] Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy, 183, Bull, Italian Neofascism, 28.

[30] Weinberg and Eubank, Rise and Fall of Italian Terrorism, 48.

[31] Sheehan, “Italy: Terror on the Right.”

[32] Fioravanti, Threats to Democracy, 188.

[33] Bull, Italian Neofascism, 21.

[34] Furlong, Social and Political Thought of Julius Evola, 24.

[35] Ferraresi, Julius Evola: Tradition, Reaction, and the Radical Right, 107.

[36] Furlong, Social and Political Thought of Julius Evola, 12.

[37] Rose, A World After Liberalism, 54.

[38] Ferraresi, Julius Evola: Tradition, Reaction, and the Radical Right, 109.

[39] Rose, A World After Liberalism, 46-48.

[40] Ibid, 49.

[41] Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy, 45.

[42] Ibid, 33.

[44] Ibid, 46.

[45] Ibid, 48.

[46] Furlong, Social and Political Thought of Julius Evola, 55.

[47] Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy, 49.

[48]  Rose, A World After Liberalism, 58.

[49] Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy, 49.

[50] Ferraresi,  Julius Evola: Tradition, Reaction, and the Radical Right, 138-139.

[51]  Furlong, Social and Political Thought of Julius Evola, 101. 

[52] Weinberg and Eubank, Rise and Fall of Italian Terrorism, 34-35.

[53] Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy, 182.

[54] Ferraresi,  Julius Evola: Tradition, Reaction, and the Radical Right, 140.

[55]  Pisano, “Terrorism and Security: The Italian Experience,” 35.

[56] Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy,

[57] Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy, 36.

[58]  Weinberg and Eubank, Rise and Fall of Italian Terrorism, 47.

[59] Bull, Italian Neofascism, 120.

[60] Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy, 183.

[61] Bull, Italian Neofascism, 123.

[62] Weinberg and Eubank, The Rise and Fall of Italian Terrorism, 46.

[63] Ibid, 50.

[64] Rose, A World After Liberalism, 58.

[65] Ferraresi, Threats to Democracy, 182.

[66] Ibid, 187.

[67] Bull, Italian Neofascism, 147.

[68] Ibid, 153.

[69] Weinberg and Eubank, 139.

[70] Jones, “The Fascist Movement that Has Brought Mussolini Back to the Mainstream,” The Guardian, Feb. 28th, 2018.

[71] Rose, A World After Liberalism, introduction.



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