“Lettera da Rebibbia a Metropoli di Oreste Scalzone” (supplement to Metropoli) – May 1979

Following the mass arrests of April 7th, 1979, where militants and intellectuals were arrested on conspiracy, subversion and insurrection charges (tens of thousands would be arrested across the following years). Antonio Negri, famously, was part of the sweeping round-up, having been wrongly accused of being part of the Red Brigades and behind the killing of former prime minister and leader of the Democrazia Cristiana party, Aldo Moro. Many of the prisoners were incarcerated at Rebibbia Prison in Rome.

A May 1979 statement, signed by Mario Dalmaviva, Luciano Ferrari Bravo, Toni Negri, Oreste Scalzone, Emilio Vesce and Lauso Zagato, states:

“We are being tried for a decade of political struggle in Italy, from 1968 to 1979. With this prosecution, State power has spoken out loud and clear — a horrendous alibi for its incapacity to resolve the real underlying problems confronting Italian society in the crisis. This trial is aimed to outlaw the political movement of working class and proletariat autonomy. In order to succeed, State power has to state and prove that “the party of the new social strata of the proletariat” is the same thing as “the armed party” — i.e. the terrorist groups. They have to be made to appear as identical. All of us in the Movement know the motive behind this operation. The State “projects” onto these strata and onto the men and women who have lived the social struggles of the new proletariat, the accusation of being terrorists, “the armed party in Italy”, so that, by criminalizing the Movement, it can resolve its own inability to function. We are militants and intellectuals of the autonomous Left movement. In striking its blow at us, the State is attributing to us a power as “leaders”, a representative role, that we do not possess.”

Oreste Scalzone, a leading militant of Potere Operaio, and a founder of the important journal Metropoli, was one of those arrested (his arrest occurred two months before the publication of the first issue of the journal). This supplement to Metropoli was published before the printing of Metropoli’s first issue in June 1979. The second issue of the journal was published, nearly a year later, in April 1980.

The pamphlet is divided into 3 letters from Scalzone, with one co-written with militant prisoner Lauso Zagato. The first letter is a vivid description of camaraderie on the inside, with Scalzone finding other comrades in the prison before being forcibly transferred to another; the second is an analysis of his interrogation whereby the authorities can only see a conspiracy (and not a diffuse movement); and the third a brief analysis of, and call for struggle on, the terrain of prisons and law.

We were unable to locate a scan online so have uploaded on – here – to Libcom. The publication is rare, we locate only a single institutional holding, which is at Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma.

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