This essay investigates the considerations with which an important group of the Italian extreme left wing justifi ed the choice for political violence in the Seventies: Potere Operaio (Workers’ Power: an organization founded in 1969, which dissolved in 1973). This issue seems remarkable fi rst of all because of the infl uence exerted by the most important leaders of the group (in particular by Toni Negri and Franco Piperno) on the political debates of those years; moreover, the discussion which opened up within PO would have been carried on beyond the organization’s dissolution: the stands taken in the early Seventies would have continued to affect the debates on the prospects for armed struggle which were to develop in Italy in the following years. Therefore they deserve special attention, and the essay suggests some possible interpretative keys.
The origins of the Partito d’Azione (Action Party), and before that of Giustizia e Libertà (Justice and Freedom), are to be found in a political movement which was characterized by a democratic, mazzinian tradition: this movement had been founded by a small but signifi cant number of young workers and students gathered around Democrazia sociale italiana (Italian Social Democracy), an association active in Trieste, Gorizia and in Istria from January 1907. In the aftermath of the Great War the movement went through a hard break up when a lot of its members joined the antifascist struggle; it was a choice that led them at fi rst to adhere to Giustizia e Libertà, and later to found the Partito d’Azione (Action Party), while still remaining fi rmly committed to the patriotic ideal as for the Trieste and the Julian March questions.
The aim of this essay is to retrace Giuseppe Gueli’s life and career: a police offi cer (member of the P.S., the Italian public safety), who had formed during the last years of the liberal period, and who went through Italian Fascism and its development into a totalitarian regime. Beginning his career alongside Cesare Mori, Gueli fi lled in fact relevant positions within the Italian police as it had been organized by Arturo Bocchini: at fi rst in Alto Adige (South Tyrol) to set up the awkward system of the border police, in the Thirties Gueli moved to Sicily where he led a second repression campaign against the mafi a and fi nally, during the Forties, he became chief of the Special Inspectorate of Public Safety for the Venezia Giulia, established to fi ght against the anti-fascist forces, especially against the Slovene and Croatian partisans. Held responsible for all kinds of violence, the Inspectorate became part of the Triestine SS after September 1943, and Gueli underwent a trial in which he was condemned for collaborationism.