Amedeo Bertolo: A life in anarchy

In this way, an iridescent and multiform anarchism is invented in which the militant but also the poet is recognised, which includes struggle, struggle but also life.

Amedeo Bertolo

[Anarchy is] neither a means, nor an end … it is rather a method. Anarchy can be understood as a principle which institutes a non-hierarchical society, in the same way that the State is the principle which institutes modern, hierarchical society. However I prefer to see it as an ethical ensemble of values, a constellation of values that can be synthesised with the words freedom, equality, solidarity, diversity. Therefore, it is an anarchy that is not a model of society, or rather, a not very interesting, abstract, utopian model, that can be useful, as the concept of a perfect circle may also be. But it is more useful to see anarchy as a constellation of values which should influence our daily action, individual and collective, personal and social.

Amedeo Bertolo, The Eulogy of Cider

We return to our series grouped under the title, “writers of May 68”, within which we have included Jaime SemprunMiguel Amorós, Eduardo Colombo and Amedeo Bertolo. The reference to “May 68” is a political metaphor in this instance, for aside from Semprun, the other three writers were in their respective countries of origin at the time (Amorós was in spain, Bertolo in italy, and Colombo in argentina), but all four writers would be profoundly marked by the events of May and would endeavour to rethink anarchism in the wake of those events.

Having already presented a selection of essays by Semprun and Amorós, and an introductory piece by Colombo concerned with anarchism in argentina, and an unfinished translation of his El espacio político de la anarquía: Esbozos para una filosofía política del anarquismo (interrupted for unavoidable contingencies), with this post we initiate a translation of a collection of essays by the fourth author of our group, Amedeo Bertolo.

To read Bertolo’s work is to engage with one of the most important anarchist writers of the second half of the 20th century (a writing that was never separable from his active militancy in the movement). If we speak in these terms, it is not however to defend an ideologue – one among others and if that were all, deserving only to be forgotten -, but one of the most careful and penetrating anarchist writers of the period.

In a collection of finely elaborated essays, Bertolo takes up a series of concepts of central importance to anarchist thought. In each case, the concept is examined, turned over, experimented upon, pushed to its limits, until what remains is a clarity of understanding that can continue to animate anarchist thought and practice, or should the concept fail the test, then justifiably re-thought or abandoned.

In the etymology of the term “method”, we find “a traveling, a journey”, literally “a path, track, road,”. Reading Bertolo is very much like setting out on a journey, a journey along paths that led to others, still yet unexplored ways. Bertolo calls to mind a botanical artist who begins with the flower, continues on to the leaves, the branches, the trunk, sinking then deep into the roots, to then better comprehend the flower, and all in great detail. It is a slow, meticulous writing that always reveals something new in what we thought was already understood, in what we took for granted and therefore in fact did not understand.

Our choice of essays is taken from the Italian language collection of Bertolo’s writings, published by Elèutera (a publishing house which he helped to found in 1986) under the title Anarchici e orgogliosi di esserlo (2017) and available online here.

There are French, Spanish and Portuguese language collections of the same, though not necessarily selecting all of the writings that appear in the Elèutera collection. We in turn will make a selection, to be published in different posts, following the pace of translation. Our hope is that the selection will offer an English language public a window onto Bertolo’s life in anarchy.


Three of the essays that we will share in English translation were passed onto us by others. They are: “Authority, Power and Domination”, “Fanatics of Freedom”, “Democracy and Beyond”. We have made changes to the translations only when we believed it was necessary

Our modest effort is dedicated to the memory of Amedeo.


Tomás Ibañez

(This is the Preface to the French language collection of Bertolo’s writings: Anarchistes et fiers de l’être: Six essais et une autobiographie. Lyon/Paris: Atelier de Création Libertaire/Réfractions, 2018)

For those of us who had the chance to take a few steps with Amedeo Bertolo (1941-2016) over the course of his long journey along the paths of anarchy, there is no need to evoke his way of being, for we guard very well with us the precious and warm mark of his presence. If we are resigned to do no more than sketch for others his portrait with a light pencil, a silhouette with barely outlined features, it is because we know that even this brief evocation lies already beyond what his natural sobriety would have tolerated, and this is to already speak of a first quality of Amedeo’s personality.

In truth, it would be madness to pretend to condense in a few lines an exceptional anarchist activitism, unfolding over various fronts and extending with a faultless consistency for more than half a century. We have therefore chosen to limit ourselves to two or three features which illustrate all at once and simultaneously Amedeo’s way of being and his conception of anarchism, without in fact it being possible to separate out in him these two aspects.

A first quality refers us to his concern to always place doing and saying in agreement, to never divide thought and action, without ever confining himself to thinking and acting, but also taking care to construct tools that render these possible. For him, it was not only a matter of joining the idea and practice, but also of keeping at bay the cleavage, unfortunately too frequent, between intellectual and manual labour which leads imperceptibly to the establishment of relations of domination, a sort of veiled hierarchy that plays a role even between comrades, and which Amedeo with all his energy always tried to avert.

It is undoubtedly in response to this exigency for a concordance between what is said and done that he always combined an intense activity of theoretical elaboration and exchange through organising or by participating in numerous colloquia, by animating magazines, publishing articles, even founding a publishing house, and a no less intense militant activity that expressed itself by a participation in various anarchist groups, by the effort to federate them, but also by a personal engagement in eminently dangerous struggles.

It was from the beginning of the 1960s that this concern to fuse thought and action led to his involvement in the creation of a highly theoretical journal, Materialismo e libertà, almost at the same time as he traveled through the Spain of Franco’s dictatorship on a mission of organisation and propaganda, and at the time that he organised the kidnapping of the Spanish vice-consul to Milan to save the life of a young libertarian of Barcelona. If the act of defying power is never without risks, it is obvious that these are amplified to the extreme when this power presents itself with the features of a terrible dictatorship. But Amedeo would not hesitate to take them on when that was part of his desire to unite thought and action, even in dangerous circumstances.

This intense militant activity which was a crucial part of the libertarian struggle against Franco’s dictatorship and which never abated, even when after the death of the dictator it was necessary to reconstruct the Spanish anarchist movement during the 1970s, takes us to a second quality of Amedeo’s personality and activity: the refusal to be confined within a local culture, in a national frame, and the greatest opening possible to the exterior. It is this desire to practice an internationalism as broad as possible that would lead him to establish ties with libertarian militants from numerous countries. And this began quite early, from April of 1966 with his efforts to create relations between young anarchists from various European countries, then with the organisation of international meetings, among which, the truly spectacular meeting of Venice of 1984 that will remain in the history of the anarchist movement.

But let us not be mistaken, this openness to what palpitated beyond the borders bore a significance that exceeds any purely geopolitical dimension. It also symbolised the desire to prevent anarchism from closing in upon itself and instead have it open onto exchanges and influences that would allow for its increasing wealth through self-renewal. Amedeo’s internationalism was at the same time a means of stimulating exchanges between militants living in diverse countries and cultures, and a means to fertilise anarchist thought thanks to sharing different perspectives, and this is something which leads us to speak of a third quality of Amedeo: his conviction that anarchist activity could only take on its full meaning within the framework of a collective activity.

In effect, the colloquia that he organised or that he participated in did not seek only to promote the diversity of contributions and to permit a sharing of perspectives. They were also born of the idea that they created the conditions for a collective labour which could not but come to results that were much better than the sum of individual elaborations, due to the synergy which they generated. More generally, it was the ensemble of his militant activity that was placed under the sign of the collective, and this developed in him, without one knowing what originated from his own personal sensibility and what from his concern for collective action, a particular opening towards the other, an enviable capacity to listen to the other, both patient and attentive; something that could only open the door widely to friendship, solidarity and the creation of a climate marked by affection.

If Amedeo was an anarchist and proud of being so, anarchism can only experience the same pride for having been able to count him among its own. We insist on saying it loud and clear knowing that he would have undoubtedly reproached us for it.

Barcelona, June 2017

The essay that follows is an exercise in demarcation, identification; but as well, of recollection. Anarchism has a history of thought and practice that risks being confused with other political movements – especially in a time of ideological amnesia -, or lost and/or erased. Bertolo then tries to reanimate this extraordinary adventure that was the movement, to somehow serve as the bearer of a patrimony that is far too great to be simply dismissed, inviting those who continue to engage with the struggle for human emancipation to take up this extraordinary wealth. As Bertolo would write elsewhere, if anarchism is in crisis, “it is a crisis of militancy”, for while many abandon the latter, few desert the former. (Amedeo Bertolo, “Let us leave pessimism for better times”).

Some, perhaps many, might criticise the effort at demarcation, for pushing the issue too rigidly: they may dispute his claim of anarchism’s scientific or sociological validity (what Bertolo calls anarchism’s “sociological hypothesis” may not be uniquely “anarchist”, nor is it entirely clear whether such a hypothesis can be “scientifically” verified, and if what it contends, that the State can be placed at the “explanatory centre” of inequality, is entirely true), his defence of its rationality against sentiment and passion (is a political movement, and a utopian one in this instance, ever “rational”?), his contention that anarchism can have nothing to do with Marxism, as both thought and movement (both ideologies and movements have always been porous, and when not struggling to distinguish themselves from each other, they have fed and sustained each other as well – willingly or not -; in sum, the borders dividing the two have often been thresholds as well as enclosures, not to speak of traditions of thought and practice outside these two spheres). Yet leaving these issues and questions aside, it would be equally absurd to have anarchism melt into its historical background. A movement there was, with its enormous variety of ideas, practices, organisations. The difficulty, if such there is, lies perhaps then in trying to reduce this great diversity to one or a small set of simple principles, principles which supposedly and unambiguously structured a social movement, which in turn, is clearly distinguishable from others. Such a reading, if forced, can only end in oversimplification; something that Bertolo will confront directly and criticise over the course of his subsequent writings.

Anarchists … and proudly so

Amedeo Bertolo

(A text published in “A rivista anarchica”, nº 15, October 1972)

In a well known reactionary rag Corrierre della Sera, the equally well known hack journalist Indro Montanelli (I apologise for the double reference), in concluding his unexpected historical-literary-sentimental article about the centenary of the Rimini Conference(1), wrote that, if anything still exists of “the romantic, of the poetic, of the genuine” in the Italian socialist movement, this is due to some vestige that survives its original anarchist nature.

This is a statement that appeals to our sentimental vanity, but which, despite it expressing a modicum of truth, is fundamentally mystifying. It is true that the choice of anarchism, which is a global choice, also implies in large measure (and this much more than with other merely political choices) existential aspects. Only we, anarchists, know how much of the “poetic” (that is, of the search for beauty, for harmony in inter-human relations), of the “romantic” (that is, of the sentimental, of the emotional), of the “genuine” (which goes beyond the immediate interests of the individual or of class) can be found in our initial choice. It is certainly a great deal. More than we wish to admit because of a certain pudicity, a radical aversion to sentimental rhetoric and a well founded mistrust of the “irrational”. These however are not the characteristic features of anarchism. These are the common features of so many human and political choices. Even the old monarchist woman who, upon dying, left four pennies to Umberto di Savoia, saved with great effort from her miserable pension, has something of the romantic, the genuine and, in a certain sense, the poetic.

It is not the passionate and disinterested adherence of so many militants famous and obscure that distinguishes anarchism (and of which anarchism does not possess any great wealth) from other social doctrines and, in particular, from authoritarian socialism, but an ensemble of original scientific hypotheses and proposals of struggle; hypotheses deepened, corrected and enriched.

Anarchism is, at the same time, a social science and a revolutionary project. On the one hand, it is a system of interpretive hypotheses about society and history (or about social changes); a system of analyses which, starting from the recognition of social ills, emphasises the nature of exploitation and oppression, of injustice and inequality, either according to historical evolution, or by identifying their causes. On the other hand, it is also (and above all) a revolutionary project, that is, an organised desire to transform social reality, substituting the hierarchical logic of the powerful (bosses, kings, generals, bishops, presidents, other bureaucrats …) by the egalitarian and libertarian tendency of the dominated classes (proletarians, slaves, serfs and peasants, subjects, citizens …); an organised desire based on operative strategic and tactical choices, derived from scientific hypotheses assumed as fundamental.

If it is from this desire that the possibility of passing from the observation of reality to its practical transformation derives, it is from the validation of the social science employed for the “project” that the possibility of making the means adequate to the ends arises, of obtaining results in conformity with the objectives laid out.

The validation of the hypotheses in the field of the social sciences are not verified in a “laboratory” (unless in circumscribed aspects and in experiences limited in time and space and with results which are more indicative than definitive), but in the “future”, that is, in the confirmation of predictions, in posterior historical verification.

A hundred years have already passed since the anti-authoritarians of the First International (founders of the anarchist movement) enunciated a few basic scientific hypotheses, first in an intuitive and schematic manner, then, with time, in a more complete and articulated form and, in my opinion, these were a hundred years of overwhelming confirmation of their validity and also the condemnation of the alternative authoritarian hypotheses. One hundred years of social struggles, tumults, revolts, revolutions, experiences, sacrifices, realisations, disillusionment, blood, Spain, Russia, parliamentarianism, proletarian dictatorship … which have duly verified the anarchist predictions and refuted the Marxist’s, which verified the anti-authoritarian socialist project and put the lie to the authoritarian’s.

Evident proofs, if only one wants to see; demonstrations woven with facts (and what facts!) and not with mere words; proofs of the fact that if anything scientific, rational, sensible is to be found in socialism, then it lies with anarchism.

Among the scientific hypotheses of the pioneers of anarchism, I want to emphasise one that I consider fundamental and from which, in my opinion, almost all of the others or even all of them may be derived: that of authority. Against the Marxist economic hypothesis, which, by generalising a historically limited form, wished to attribute to the private ownership of the means of production the cause of privileges and exploitation, the anti-authoritarians opposed the sociological hypothesis of the unequal and hierarchical distribution of power as the source of social inequality.

From the Marxist hypothesis was born a revolutionary project which exhausted the essence of the revolution in the abolition of private property (having the abolition of “super-structural” inequalities deriving automatically from this) and which employed authoritarian means to do so (Party, State, etc.). From the anarchist hypothesis was born a revolutionary project which brought together the socialisation of the means of production with the destruction of authority in its most complete and modern social form – the State – and which used libertarian organisational and operational instruments (mutual agreement, federation, etc.) in a scientific coherence between means and ends. Against the distinction between rich and poor, between property owners and the propertyless, the anarchists preferred and, sometimes, even placed first (when they considered economic inequality a particular aspect of social inequality and, in a certain initial historical phase, a phenomena emanating from political power) the distinction between those who govern and the governed, between those who command and those who must obey.

The anarchist sociological hypothesis contained, in its essence, necessary and fecund developments which could go in a thousand directions, enriching the cultural patrimony of the anarchist movement and of humanity as a whole (thanks also to the direct and indirect influences on “progressive” thinkers and “reformers” of the system). Acute criticisms of coercive institutions, pedagogy, religion and the church, the administration of “justice”, sexual repression, the patriarchal family are thereby developed, along with proposals to integrate the city and the countryside, manual and intellectual work … In many the work and practice of many psychiatrists, pedagogues, sexologists, vanguard urbanists today can be found the libertarian inspiration (though diluted in such a way as to lose its character as a rupture with contemporary forms of power) of that explosive and extremely fertile anti-authoritarian hypothesis.

In the more strictly political field, from that hypothesis were born ways about how to destroy power (to be distributed among all by means of a decentralised, federalist organisation, based more on agreements than laws, more on consensuses than on coercion) and predictions about the failure of “State socialism”.

The anarchist sociological hypothesis about the nature of social inequality is a hypothesis which today, at the distance of a hundred years, finds scientific confirmation in its capacity to comprehend and interpret social-economic realities and changing forms of exploitation, whether in the so-called socialist countries, or in the neo, late, post-capitalist countries (according to the preferred terminology) of the West, whereas the Marxist hypothesis explains nothing before systems where private property no longer exists (USSR, etc.) and where power and the privileges inherent therein were substituted by the control exercised in private companies and the state apparatus by techno-bureaucrats.

In effect, the anarchist sociological hypothesis is a global scientific hypothesis, applicable always and everywhere, from the tribe to the super-State, from the pastoral to the post-industrial economy, while the Marxist hypothesis is only applicable (and with some reservations) to classical capitalist society. Accordingly, the nature of classes and class conflict can be reasonably explained, in their current reality and generalised scientifically, by making exclusive reference to the anarchist hypothesis.

Let us consider, almost haphazardly, a Marxist sociologist, the Pole Stanislaw Ossowski, moderately heretical, and the social-democrat Ralf Dahrendorf, a German sociologist and EEC technocrat.(2) The first writes in Struttura di classe e coscienza sociale that: “The insufficiency of the Marxist-Leninist conception of class for the analysis of the social structure of countries with nationalised means of production was revealed, on the one hand, in the Stalinist conception of non-antagonistic classes and, on the other hand, in the discussions about systems of privilege of specific groups of the populations of these countries. But, even in relation to the capitalist countries, the Marxist criterion of class ceased in part to be adequate […]. A conception of class from the 19th century, whether in the Marxist or liberal interpretation, lost in many respects its actuality in the modern world […]. Where political power can, in an open and effective way, change the class structure, where the determining privileges for social positioning, among which the privilege of a greater participation in profit, are conferred by the decisions of political power, where a considerable part, or even the greater part, of the population is framed by hierarchical bureaucratic-type stratification, the 19th century concept of class becomes to a certain extent a greater or lesser anachronism.”

Dahrendorf writes in Classi e conflitto di classe nella società industriale that: “Classes and class conflict always subsist when authority is distributed in an unequal way, according to social position. It may seem of little importance to say that in the communities of post-capitalist society there is an unequal distribution of power; on the contrary, this affirmation serves to sustain the applicability of the theory of classes.”

This is why, a hundred years latter, the hypotheses and project of Bakunin, Malatesta, Cafiero and of the other pioneers of anarchism are still the project and the hypotheses upon which the anarchist movement obstinately moves: the obstinacy of reason and not of sentiment. This is why, at a hundred years distance, the fundamental contradiction between anarchists and Marxists, between authoritarians and anti-authoritarians, is more than ever valid and irremediable (unless by dialectical artifices), not by fidelity to a confrontation between persons (Bakunin and Marx), but by fidelity to a fundamental choice which has shown itself to be factually correct. This was a choice that became a practice of struggle and of organisation for hundreds of thousands of militants and sympathisers, a choice that went from being a popular intuition to a scientific intuition (let us not forget that Bakunin himself said that he learned anarchism with the workers and artisans of the Swiss Jura) and which revealed itself to be a “living” truth in the life and militancy of workers, peasants, artisans, masons, miners, in the revolutionary epics and in the anonymous daily activities of the diffusion of ideas and of agitation, in the factories, schools, prisons, in exile, in city squares, in clandestinity, in military barracks, in the countryside, in avenging gestures and in the humanity of the gestures of daily life, in explosive revolts and in the efforts at education and self-education … No social movement saw so much creativity, so much revolutionary imagination, such a variety of means (in the unity between means and methods): from syndicalism to avenging or protesting assassination (and not terrorist), from pedagogical engagement to agitation of the masses, from propaganda to the founding of experimental communities, from insurrection to non-violence …

The hundred years lived by the Italian and international anarchist movement of the Rimini Conference and of the Saint-Imier Congress to today have imparted to us an invaluable patrimony of thought and experience, an ethical-scientific patrimony unique in its coherence and extension in the history of human emancipation. (This is not an inheritance thanks to which one can live from the rent or profits, or, worse, thanks to which one survives while eagerly exhausting it, but a capital, forgive me the metaphor, to invest in action, in struggle, in study).

The hundred years lived by the anarchist movement were a hundred years of defeats, of bloody repression, of mistakes, but also, and above all, a hundred years of exemplary confirmation of the capacity of anarchism, with a series of extremely harsh tests before which it is already almost a victory to have survived as a movement and as a system of thought.

If, essentially, anarchist social science and the anarchist project are more than ever valid, they also most certainly display, in their development, a poverty and a lag which penalise anarchism; something which can only be overcome in thought and action. But without guilt complexes, because the anarchist movement did what it could, immersed in struggles and acting against repression, without means, without professionals of political thought and without complexes of inferiority. Despite all of the academics’ contempt (which is the contempt for or fear of all that which is simple because it is true), that science and that project reached the highest point ever attained, until today, by the movement of human emancipation over the course of its millennial history of efforts and failures, of attempts and defeats.

For all of this, and even though the anarchist movement is today fragile and contradictory, still recuperating from a crisis that almost saw it disappear from social struggles, and even though the anarchist movement is today, in some of its characteristics, at the same time senile and infantile, let us be anarchists and, damn it, proudly so.


  1. The Rimini Conference took place between the 4th and 6th of August of 1872, with the presence of representatives from the 21 sections of the Italian Federation of the First International, dominated by the anti-authoritarian current associated with the ideas of Bakunin. [T.N.]
  2. “European Economic Community” is the former name of the current European Union. [T.N.]

Biographical Note

(A translation of the Biographical Note that appears in the Italian edition of Bertolo’s writings).

Amedeo Bertolo was born in Milan on September 17, 1941, to a Friulian family. By some curious fate, he grew up in the same public housing buildings where Giuseppe Pinelli and Pietro Valpreda also lived, though he would only meet them years later, and in other contexts. From his father, a mosaicist with whom he worked for a year, Amedeo learned to create designs that, tile after tile, required time, patience and determination to realize.

After his classical studies, he was accepted to the Department of Agriculture at the University of Milan (“it was the shortest registration line,” he admitted), and would remain there even after his graduation as a professor of agricultural economics (perhaps this explains his recurring agronomic metaphors such as the one on anarchism and alcohol content).

But well before starting to teach, his public life began with a clamorous event: the first political kidnapping of the post-war period, that of Isu Elías, the Spanish Vice Consul to Milan. The act was carried out together with a group of young Italian anti-fascists in order to save the life of Jorge Conill Valls, a Spanish anarchist condemned to death by Franco’s regime (a verdict that would later be changed to life in prison).

From there began a militant activity that would accompany his entire existential journey, solidifying towards the end of the Sixties with the formation of the Gruppi Anarchici Federati (GAF). While only one of three national anarchist federations active at the time, the GAF were unique for their youthful composition and their affinity-based organization within the federation. It was a powerful experience for Amedeo that came to an end with the GAF’s self-dissolution in January 1978, an event foreshadowing the transition away from the idea of a movement-party to the idea of movement-community. It was out of this shift that an expansive “brotherhood” would be born, one destined to endure.

Those years made him protagonist of another crucial historical moment, one coinciding with the Italian State’s “strategy of tension” and the resultant counter-information activities adopted by the Crocenera (Anarchist Black Cross), which he and Giuseppe Pinelli had founded in 1968. The two men had met through Bandiera Nera (Black Flag), an anarchic group based in Milan, and the anarchic club Ponte della Ghisolfa, also in Milan. A year later came the Piazza Fontana bombing, falsely attributed to anarchists by important State officials, and then Pinelli’s violent death, tossed from a window at Milan’s police headquarters. These events marked the height of anti-anarchist propaganda, dismantled in the months that followed by a formidable counter-information campaign (the Crocenera, for example, published a book entitled, The Boss’ Bombs: People’s Trial of the Italian State and the Milan Bombing Investigators). At first a solitary campaign – Hysterical Press Conference at Circolo Ponte della Ghisolfa, ran one major headline – it soon became widespread.

Yet the Sixties were not just assassinations, subterfuge, sham trials and “State slaughters.” They were also years of renewed libertarian creativity that led to 1968. It is no coincidence that midway through the decade, young European anarchists invented a symbol to match the new anarchic imagination: the circle-A. Thanks to its simple iconography, the symbol would quickly conquer walls all over the world. While conceptualized in Paris (Tomás Ibáñez used the symbol for the first time in the newsletter “Jeunes Libertaires”), its “graphic debut” was made in Milan, where Amedeo Bertolo, with the help of an upside-down glass, carved it on the stencil for the first mimeographs made by the anarchist group Gioventù Libertaria. This same group opened the first club named after Wilhelm Reich, an obvious nod to the sexual revolution. They also organized the international libertarian “Provotariat” in Milan, deciding to experiment with a kind of “ambrosian rite” similar to the cultural provocations being performed by the Provos movement in the Netherlands.

Added to this militant activity was an editorial one: ancillary at first, it slowly became the priority. While he only released three slim editions of “Materialismo e libertà” (“Materialism and Freedom”) in the Sixties, Bertolo, together with others, founded the monthly “A rivista anarchica” (“A/Anarchic Magazine”) in 1971. The money that gave life to what was (and still is) the best-selling anarchic newspaper in Italy were actually investments intended for another project: an anarchic commune in the Siena countryside. But the idea had trouble taking off amidst the tumultuous events of 1968-1969, and the financiers decided to divert their funds to a magazine “of struggle and reflection” more in line with the times. Remaking himself journalist and graphic designer, Amedeo worked on the monthly until 1974, when he handed it over to the other writers and began collaborating with two other publications: the international quarterly “Interrogations” (in print from 1974 to 1979) and “Volontà”, (“Will”) a journal of theoretical analysis (which he edited from 1980 until its closure in 1996).

With the Centro studi libertari “Giuseppe Pinelli” (“Giuseppe Pinelli” Center for Libertarian Studies), founded in 1976 in Milan and still active, he organized and participated in dozens of conferences, seminars, round tables, conventions and debates, mostly in Italy but also abroad, in a continuous effort to keep up on the libertarian thought and experimentation emerging in different fields across the world. While this undertaking may have had its peak in 1984 with the international anarchist meeting “Venice ‘84,” attended by thousands of people from over thirty countries, Bertolo would continue organizing anarchist-related events for many years to come.

And his editorial and cultural activity did not stop there. Over the years, in fact, his attention moved from periodicals to books. He first joined the publishing house Edizioni Antistato, active from 1975 to 1985; then, in 1986, he founded Elèuthera, giving life to yet another collective adventure that has lasted over thirty years.

 He died in Milan on November 22, 2016.

Amedeo Bertolo (an obituary)

Stuart Christie (kate sharpley library)

Another fine comrade gone! Just heard the news that Amedeo Bertolo, a friend and comrade since May 1968, a pivotal figure in the Italian and international anarchist movement, passed away this morning (22 November [2016]) in Milan. Amedeo was, with others, including Giuseppe Pinelli, a founding member of the Ponte della Ghisolfa anarchist group, the Croce Nera Anarchica and its bulletin which later became the glossy monthly ‘Revista A’, and countless other anarchist and libertarian initiatives and actions over the years. One such spectacular action was the 1962 kidnapping of Franco’s vice-consul in Milan, Isu Elias – the first political kidnapping since the war. The abduction was in response to the sentencing to death in September ’62, in Barcelona, of young Spanish anarchist Jorge Conill Valls for anti-Francoist activities. Earlier that year Amedeo had been involved in Defensa Interior’s actions inside Spain with Conill Valls.

The kidnapping dominated the front pages of the international press for days and triggered a campaign of anti-Francoist solidarity that brought considerable pressure to bear on the Franco regime at several levels — from street demonstrations to the ‘humanitarian’ intervention by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini, the future Pope Paul VI (1963-1978). Conill’s death sentence was commuted after three days to one of thirty years imprisonment and Isu Elias was immediately released.

His kidnappers were quickly identified and jailed. The last of these, Amedeo Bertolo, who had fled to France, spontaneously and quixotically surrendered himself at the courthouse just as the trial in Varese opened. The trial itself was covered by much of the Italian press as an indictment of the Spanish fascist government rather than of the actions of the young Italian anti-Francoists.

On 21 November all the accused were found guilty but received only nominal sentences. For Bertolo (the sentence was six months imprisonment for the kidnapping and 20 days for unlawfully bearing arms). The judges, presided over by Judge Eugenio Zumin, recognised that the accused had ‘acted on motives of particular moral and social import’ and all were found blameless and released on parole.

In the early summer of 1969 Bertolo and Pinelli told me they were concerned about the neo-fascist-false-flag provocations (known as the ‘strategy of tension’) that were then taking place across Italy under the aegis of (although we didn’t know it at the time) of Federico Umberto D’Amato, the head of the Confidential Affairs Bureau of the Italian Interior Ministry and elements within the NATO Intelligence Service and the Greek KYP (Central Service of Information). Leslie Finer, the Observer’s Greek correspondent, had published extracts from a extraordinary secret document he had obtained from his contacts among the exiled Greek opponents of the colonels. These extracts seemed to confirme their worries and I was asked to try to obtain a copy of the full report.

The dossier, compiled in May 1969 by an Italian-based Greek secret service agent of the KYP (the Central Service of Information), was sent originally to Giorgio Papadopolous, then president of the Greek council of ministers (and a CIA asset). It reported on the results of the Greek-funded terrorist campaign mounted in Italy in 1968 with the assistance of various Italian fascist organisations, along with ‘some representatives from the Army and the Carabinieri.’

On 15 May Michail Kottakis, head of the diplomatic office of the Greek foreign ministry forwarded a copy of the document to Pampuras, Greece’s ambassador in Rome. The report speculated on the chances of success of a right-wing coup d’état as a result of the escalation of the ongoing terrorist campaign. It also assessed the activities of Luigi Turchi, an MSI (fascist) deputy and a Mr P, possibly Pino Rauti, but, more sensationally, it referred to the problems they had faced with regard to the bombings at the FIAT stand at the Milan Trade Fair and the central station and why they had been unable to do anything prior to 25 April. It was as clear an admission of guilt as one could hope for; it also referred to a major escalation of terrorist actions should Greece be expelled from the Council of Europe.

The contents of this dossier were obviously of great interest to the Italian Black Cross for the defence case of the six anarchists who had been charged with these offences and were then being held in San Vittorio prison.

Leslie Finer gave me a copy of the entire Greek dossier which I forwarded immediately to Pinelli and Bertolo in Milan. But the magistrate, Antonio Amati, refused to admit the dossier as evidence in the case and the six remained banged up until they were finally acquitted on 28 May 1971 — two full years after their arrest. The real perpetrators of the 25 April bombings — and the August 1969 railway bombings — were Franco Freda and Giovanni Ventura, two neo-fascists and Italian secret service agents both of whom were finally sentenced in 1981. They each received 15-year prison sentences for their part in planning and carrying out the bombings.

On Friday, 12 December 1969, four bombs exploded in Rome and Milan. One of these, planted in the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura in the Piazza Fontana in Milan, exploded a little after 4.30pm, claiming the lives of 16 people and wounding 100. Another, in the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro in Rome, injured 14, while two planted at the cenotaph in the Piazza Venezia wounded 4. It was a day of massacre — a state massacre as it turned out. For Inspector Luigi Calabresi of the Milan Questura and his boss Antonio Allegra there was, again, no doubt that anarchists were responsible.

Of the 100 or so anarchists arrested that night and the following day, 27 were taken to San Vittorio prison, the rest being held for interrogation in Milan police headquarters in the Via Fatebenefratelli. Among those held were a number of Anarchist Black Cross (CNA) members, including its secretary, Giuseppe Pinelli. After more than 48 hours in police custody the 41-year old railwayman was taken to Calabresi’s room for questioning late in the evening of 15 December. The police officers present were Luigi Calabresi, Vito Panessa, Giuseppe Caracuta, Carlo Mainardi, Pietro Mucilli and Carabinieri lieutenant Savino Lograno.

Around midnight, Aldo Palumbo, a journalist from L’Unita was having a smoke in the courtyard when he heard a series of thuds. Something was bouncing off the cornices as it fell from the fourth floor. He raced over to find the body of Pinelli sprawled in the flower bed. According to the duty doctor Nazzareno Fiorenzano he had suffered ‘horrific abdominal injuries and a series of gashes on the head.’ The autopsy showed that he was either dead or unconscious before he hit the ground. A bruise very much like that caused by a karate blow was found on his neck.

Amedeo Bertolo, who was at the Milan Questura that night, was at the forefront of the 25-year campaign to clear Pinelli’s name. On 13 March 1995, after more than 25 years and countless court cases and appeal hearings, 26 Italian neo-fascists and secret service officers were finally indicted for their involvement in the Piazza Fontana massacre.

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