We consider Sardinia as a sort of modern political laboratory because it appears to us as a country where people debate and discuss. A country where the high level of political culture allows phenomena, (which is too often considered by ‘continentals’ as expressions of popular unrest or crimes punishable by law), to be evaluated and analysed in a wider context, taking into account the historical and cultural roots of the island.
Sardinia is a country where extremism attempts to try the experiment, which has failed on the continent of Italy, of convoying into a single ‘river bed’ the most diverse anti-system instances. These instances all have one thing in common – liberation from the colonizing state of Italy.
Criminals, bandits, kidnappers were our brothers, fathers, cousins, acquaintances, neighbours; they were our people, in other words, our blood and our mentality. We could not consider them equal to the people of the newly constituted power. Neither could we leave them to the mercy of people like anthropologists, sociologists, jurists, let alone trade-unionists, politicians and bureaucrats, who would have perverted their nature and fitted them into frames of expectations, roles and culture-erasing organizations, typical of the projects of the State capital” (1) .
These words of Costantino Cavalleri, historical figure of the Sardinian anarchist movement, help us to understand the particular Sardinian social context, which, strongly conditioned by the insular geographic configuration, gave birth to political movements and ideas, even subversive ones at times, often barely understood by analysts of this sector due to the peculiar mixture of antagonists’and separatists’ demands, which were contaminated by politicized elements of the local criminality
The first embryonic appearance of subversion in Sardinia goes back to the second half of the ’60 s. at the time of Gian Giacomo Feltrinelli’s project wanting to transform Sardinia into a Mediterranean CUBA (2) . To this end, a guerrilla group connected to the “Partisan Action Groups” was established in the region. Such Partisan Action Group was a sort of embryonic military Marxist – Leninist vanguard whose purpose was to convey local autonomist requests towards a revolutionary strategy, with the collaboration of common criminals like Graziano Mesina (3) .
After this attempt, which failed due to scarce interest shown by the Islanders’ interlocutors, the first concrete terrorist activities on the Island follow around the end of 1977, together with the expansion of “Autonomia Operaia” (Workers’ Autonomy) in the province of Nuoro and the transformation of the local jail into the ‘super’ jail of Bad’ e Carros.
The arrival of Red Brigade prisoners and their families in the ‘barbaricino’ main town, (this name is a local code of honour) and the consequent political initiation of the common delinquents already detained there, favours the birth of several spontaneous small rebellious groups which identify themselves with the ideologies and strategies of the major leftist terrorist organizations, and gives way to a phase of diffused ‘micro-terrorism’ with a series of low profile attacks against public offices and Carabinieri barracks in the area.
Among these groups, “Barbargia Rossa” (4) becomes prominent and manages to combine the traditional rules of the criminal culture “barbaricina” with the revolutionary theory and praxis of the Marxist and Leninist matrix. The documents divulged by “Barbagia Rossa” imitate, as far as the graphics are concerned, the leaflets of the “Red Brigades”, propagating, however, an ideological model which is especially applicable to the particular situation of the island.
Among the fundamental points of the projects are:
- the attempt to unify and polarize the Sardinian rebel movements, which are spontaneous and fragmented, and assume their leadership
- objection to the Colonial State held to be responsible for the destruction of the agricultural and pastoral economy through industrial chemical installations
- urging the practice of kidnapping, believing it to be a primary form of rebellion against Power, which they believe belongs to the inherited struggle of the Barbargia proletariat and in this way, they are ‘taxing’ those responsible for the Imperialist exploitation
- hostility and threats against journalists accused of any idiot attempt to speculate on the political substance or on the reality of the social antagonism
- attack against all tangible forms of militarization of the Sardinian territory, such as NATO bases, Special jails, Governmental Forces in general and, in particular, the Carabinieri.
“Barbagia Rossa” represents the nucleus on which the “Red Brigades” have tried, since 1979, to built a “Sardinian Column”, by supplying not only logistic and operative support, but also strategic indications, aimed at freeing the group from its local and provincial character.
However, failure by “Strategic Direction” to understand the particular political and social situation on the Island determines the breakdown of the Red Brigade’s attempt to install themselves (5) .
In an effort to win over Sardinian militants, the Red Brigades had relied, in fact, on the “Central Operation”, a valid ideological reference in the urban fabric of the centre – north continental area, but scarcely understood in a social context which has its roots in an agricultural and pastoral model mainly composed of independent workers such as shepherds, farmers and artisans.
The Sardinian Armed Movement
During 1983, the osmosis between revolutionary aspirations and the interests of the local criminality presents itself, once again, with the experiment of the “ Sardinian Armed Movement” (M.A.S.), responsible for homicides and kidnappings (6) perpetrated for purely criminal reasons. These actions were claimed by the above mentioned group through written documents which, roughly copying the “brigade’s language”, suggest an elementary and approximate re-reading of the “barbaricina” (Sardinian) subversive tradition.
Leaflets, often handwritten and with orthographic errors, urge the struggle for freedom and for the rescue of the Sardinian people against Italian and American colonialism, oppression, tyranny, and social injustice threatening the Island’s magistrates who are mainly involved in the fight against the phenomena of bandits and subversion crime.
The “Solidarity Committee of the
Deported Proletarian Sardinian
Also the anarchists impose themselves with strength on the scene of the Sardinian antagonism, re-reading their own ideological foundations with an ‘independent ‘ interpretation, conveying their traditional aversion towards the Italian State and its institutions in a campaign against “the Italian centralized power”. From their point of view, the Italian State is seen as a Colonial State responsible for the cultural and economic oppression of Sardinia.
In this framework the “repression” activities constitute a privileged “battlefield” for the local anarchist movement which, in the second half of the ‘80s, initiates the so called “ Solidarity Committee for the Deported Proletarian Sardinian Prisoner “. An association which represents the interests of the convicted Sardinians, but fights mainly for the right of the prisoners to serve their sentences in Sardinian jails, instead of being “deported” to the “continent” compelling entire families to periodic “diaspora” across the Tyrrhenian sea, wandering day after day throughout the Italian jails,... to embrace their dear ones who are imprisoned there .
Through the “Committee”, anarchists strengthen ties with prominent bosses of the local criminal community, who, in the Committee’s eyes, represent an important force capable of opposing the position of “colonial subjection” between Sardinian and the Italian peninsula and to put in question all those beliefs and values which, over the course of centuries, have been imposed by various “colonizers”. Certain crimes, such as, “cattle stealing” are considered by Costantino Cavelleri as expressions of a typical cultural heritage:“what, for the (Italian) State, is considered a crime or an offence, cannot be so for the Sardinian culture. Cattle stealing is a common practice for all pastoral societies; according to Italian law, it is a serious crime – on the contrary, for the Sardinian mentality, it does not represent a serious offence at all, so much so, that the common mentality considers it in the everyday normal course of events.
The Union of the Sardinian anarchists
Around the middle of the ‘90s, it was proposed to constitute a Union of the Sardinian Anarchists” (U.A.S.), an insurrectional organization having the scope of operating to stop, block, impede, destroy, the attempt to change the original Sardinian culture and subsequent forced imposition of a new culture (Christianization and Romanization yesterday, Italianization today and so on…).
As far as ‘procedure’ is concerned, this is understood from the anarchists’ active participation in the peoples’ fight for the house, for jobs, their fight against the exploitation of the Island’s natural resources by large multinational foreign companies, against war and against the construction of military bases and installations on the Island.
According to the Anarchists’ ideology, in fact, the annihilation of the “system” is realized through the various “battles” fought by the “masses”- battles rooted in the contexts of exclusion, discrimination and social conflict. It can be likened to the lighting of many small fires which eventually unite to become one large, final fire. Such a strategy is quite different from that of the “Red Brigades”, where “armed vanguards” conduct the “masses” towards the revolution.
The Independence movement
The problem of “autonomy” has been present in the social and political life of Sardinia since the end of World War II, also being fuelled by claims of an ethnic-language, economic and cultural nature.
With the increasing decline of projects based on the creation of a “Sardinian Nation”, the historical independence movements, like the Sardinian Action Party and “Sardigna Natzione” , gradually abandon the more extreme ideas and turn to a type of “federalist line” proposing to solve the question within a European perspective.
Among the most prominent figures of the independent movement, Gavino Sale stands out as a “historical” figure of “Sardigna Natzione”. Ideologically close to the anarchist movements, Gavino Sale becomes the spokesman for the requests of the Sardinian people tied to the tradition and local economy. He also claims responsibility for the fire setting attacks against thermo-electrical production plants, tourist villages, local administration offices, and other “institutional” targets. Furthermore, he also initiates some particularly strong propagandistic actions, such as a “sit-in” (July 1997) at the seat of the Regional Sardinian Council, during the course of which, the Regional Junta members are accused as wanted by the Sardinian people for high treason. In October 1997, he is responsible for the occupation of the Enel production plant of Fiumesanto , protesting against the increased costs of electrical energy on the Island. In May 2001, in Montecitorio square in Rome, he protests against the presence in Sardinia of illegal open-air refuse dumps which also receive dangerous toxic products.
Around the year 2000, Gavino Sale leaves “Sardigna Natzione” because of disagreements with other members on the political line which he considers too soft and he founds “ Indipendentzia Repubrica de Sardigna” (I.R.S.) with the intention to “let everyone know the history which only today we are beginning to recount and which has helped us to open our eyes to ourselves as Sardinians; a history which is only now allowing us to understand the overall meaning of the story of our Nation and which is helping us to trace, with serenity and enthusiasm, the intellectual and practical path towards National Independence. This independence will be achieved by the unity of the Sardinian people who will find again their national conscience because it is there, in that process of transformation and simultaneous union, where the new Sardinian executive class will emerge, it is there that the future framework of the Independent Republic will be formed, where the various actors and political subjects of the future Sardinian society will emerge, with all its shades, diversities and normal internal future conflicts.
As a representative of the “Kuiles committee” Sale fights in defence of the Sardinian shepherds and for the safeguard of the livestock sector by occupying local Administration seats and local Sanitary offices, protesting against the delay in vaccinations and subsequently blocking the transport vehicles which are carrying imported meat.
Together with the I R S, Sale fights against military slavery. In July 2003, three militants of the Organization symbolically occupy a missile launching ram in the Perdasdefogu (NU) experimental inter-force shooting range. When the militants are indicted on charges of “clandestine trespassing on military territory” 400 military colleagues protest by self-accusation of the same crime, against what they define as “discrimination” by the Italian Judicial Powers.
At an international level, the Sardinian leader establishes contacts with representatives of regional European independent movements. Among them are Corsicans, Catalans and Basques , with whom he actively participates in meetings and debates on “the national liberation struggles”. Among them is the traditional Corsican demonstration of the “International Court Days” which, in the 2004 edition of their publication, devotes attention to the question of the “political prisoners”.
It is this attention to “political detainees” and, more in general, to the problems of the jail system in conjunction with the demands of the “class struggle”, that determine a gradual estrangement of the separatists movements, turning towards a form of independence with an end in itself, free from any revolutionary perspective, conferring on it a wider scope which conducts it beyond the narrow confines of the Island.
“A Manca pro s’Indipendentzia”
The commitment to overcome the vision of a strictly territorial struggle without any political projects is made by a group from Sassari called “To the Left for Independence” (7)
, promoters of a Marxist conception, which also recalls independence and theorizes on the class struggle
and becomes conspicuous in 2003 for its strong propaganda activities.
In an article appearing in the political cultural monthly magazine, “Soberania fozzu de A Manca pro s’Indipendentzia” (8)
entitled “The national liberation struggle, the repression and theorems of the preventive counter revolution”, the communist patriots
explain how their vindications, having local character, are strongly connected to the “class struggle”. All State apparatuses, being organized expressions of the bourgeoisie interests, will be employed to suffocate, with any necessary means, the legitimate claims of independence and sovereignty of the Sardinian people. Such knowledge must feed the desire in each patriot, in each communist and independence militant, to fight, with scientific determination, with any means that the fight requires, for independence and socialism.
Since the very beginning of its activity, “ A Manca” aims at placing itself as a “reference pole” for the different bodies of the local dissent. Circulating a leaflet inside of the University of Cagliari, headed, The Italian State reprisal will not stop us,
the authors protest against the “repression” activity, aimed at fighting the growing national conscience and the episodes of popular resistance.
In the same vein, bills are posted in the city centre of Pozzomaggiore (SS) entitled: “Here are the gifts of Italian colonialism”
. The posters report the discovery, on the 18th of August 2003, of an illegal clandestine refuse dump at Porto Torres (SS) and conclude that “luxury tourism” has been found responsible for the exploitation of the Sardinian territory and population. Great attention is also given to the U.S military base in the La Maddalena archipelago (SS), against the inter-forces shooting site at San Lorenzo, holding it responsible for the numerous cases of Leukaemia and genetic alterations among the military and civil population at Quirra, Villaputzu and Perdasdefogu and against the inter-forces shooting range of Teulada (CA), which for a long time has been the centre of a quarrel between the fishing communities and the shooting range authorities for the right to have free use of the fishing waters near the military area.
Furthermore, on the occasion of the festival for “Peoples in Conflict” at Tula (SS) in July 2004, which is an annual rendez-vous of the leftist antagonist movements of the anarchist and separatist sector, the “A Manca” organization presents a document stressing the suffering and deep anxiety experienced by the Sardinian people due to the persistent remnants of the colonial system and launches a proposal for a common struggle
which will unite various groups and movements in common respect for a single objective.
With the diffusion of the monthly “Soberania”, intended as a instrument of liaison among the various movements, “to overcome the dimension of the small communities and committees built on local or town bases”
in order to construct a National Organization founded on the cardinal concepts of sotzialismu and indipendentzia,
“A Manca” presents itself as the ‘spokesman’ also for other “antagonist” movements on the Peninsula, in order that their claims regarding the Island’s insular” situation may reach the Italian Peninsula and be considered part of the “great themes” such as, the jail system, the anti NATO and the anti-war industry campaign, in the hope of establishing relations with the leftist antagonist components at a national level, which are engaged in the same line of struggle.
The “ Revolutionary Independence
Organization” and the “Proletarian
Nuclei for Communism”.
In September 2002, a long series of demonstrative actions of various types against targets of the so defined “local political and economic power” is started (9)
These activities start with two abortive attacks at Nuoro against the Industrial Association and the Civil local government. These actions are claimed simultaneously by the “Proletarian Nucleus for Communism” (NPC) and by “Revolutionary Independence Organization” (O.I.R.). Both organizations, the first one of Marxist Leninist matrix and the second one mainly autonomist, seem to embrace the calls to the “class struggle” and independence, claiming in their propaganda leaflets, the necessity not to weaken the various subversive forces present in the Sardinian context, with sterile and uncoordinated strategies, but to join forces around the neuralgic core of the armed struggle aimed at the Liberation of the Sardinian people for independence and socialism.
The O.I.R, in particular, proposes to intervene with military vanguard actions to support and encourage the claims of the cattle breeders and to reach the fighting unit of the Sardinian working people,
exploiting every occasion offered by local debates regarding labour, employment and environment.
Hence, in the same month of November, at Nuoro, the Organization circulates a leaflet during a meeting organized by the President of the Province, denouncing the “project of the disintegration of the economic fabric of Sardinia”, first,
with the progressive dismantling
of the Industrial chemical and oil sector
and then, of the agricultural and livestock world which has always been the main stay of the Sardinian economy;
a plan which is aimed at reducing the island to an enormous military base
and tourist oasis.
The same themes, although more centred on “class” claims, are met by the “Nuclei”, which keep their distance from the purely nationalistic
logics of struggle and insert the characteristics of the specific Sardinian in the proletarian and internationalist vision.
These “Nuclei” also intervene in the protest against the “elite” tourism. On 20th August 2003, at Porto Cervo (SS), they circulate a document in which Costa Smeralda is defined as the symbol of the exploitation of the proletarian Sardinians,
threatening actions to strike your wellbeing , your police and your military servitude.
Subsequently, with a leaflet found at the faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Cagliari, on 1st October of the same year, the “Nuclei” condemn the war in Iraq, considering it functional to the laws which move ‘capital’
, and also stress the necessity to identify and to strike the bosses of our exploitation.
In November 2003, in the document (10)
claiming responsibility for the attempt, in Nuoro, against Riccardo Devoto, the Regional President of Confindustria, the organization taking advantage of the Sardinian breeders protest against the crisis in their sector, ascribing it to the low cost of milk, to the diffusion of the “blue tongue” epidemic and to the scarce support of cheese production, launch open threats against political and business forces on the Island, accused of scarce attention towards Sardinian proletarians (…shepherds and workers).
The “Armed Independence Movement” therefore, initiates a wide strategy, based, on the one hand, on the necessity of establishing a dialectic relation with the masses, sympathizing with their needs and giving support to their claims, on the other hand to promote a “fighting front” in common with all the different movements and groups which adopt the revolutionary method.
The Island as a programmed and
operative model of the “continent”
Sardinia is an extremely complex subject in which heterogeneous societies and claims are straining to achieve common objectives against the symbols of the central power system. These objectives flow in one single river bed with the intention of obtaining an ideological and operative identity and to reinforce the destabilizing potentials of the Island’s dispute.
We could define it as a “laboratory” where belonging to a specific ethnic-cultural stock has rendered the experiment possible (so far failed on the continent) to make the requests for aggregation prevail over specific ideologies through a cohesion process of the Sardinian Antagonist Front, which could have further developments aimed at the destruction of that phenomenal process of ethnic annihilation, which ha determined in the “damned of the earth” Sardinian the feeling of shame for their culture and origins.