The robberies, kidnappings and murders as justified

The Red Brigades (Brigate Rosse in Italian) was a left-wing terrorist group in Italy during the Cold War. Formed in 1970, the Red Brigades, or BR for short, had two main goals: the first was to remove Italy from the NATO military alliance that had formed among many North American and European countries. The second was to overthrow the democratic Italian state and replace it with a dictatorship of the proletariat similar to that of Marx’s. The BR sought to achieve their “revolutionary state” by targeting symbols of capitalism and the Italian state, especially politicians, police forces, and factory supervisors. The group viewed their violent deeds of sabotage, bank robberies, kidnappings and murders as justified acts of self-defense, on behalf of workers facing oppression from bosses and the government.  The group was founded in 1970 by Renato Curcio, Margherita (Mara) Cagol, and Alberto Franceschini. In 1967, Curcio was part of a group dedicated to figures such as Karl Marx, Mao Zedong, and Che Guevara. This is where he met fellow radical Cagol. They married 2 years later and moved to Milan where they attracted a fair amount of followers. Franceschini was born in Reggio Emilia into a family that supported communist ideas: his father had been arrested in the 1930s for anti-fascist activities and his grandfather was a founding member of the Italian Communist Party. At a young age, he himself became a member of the Italian Communist Youth Federation, a junior version of his grandfather’s party. Former members of this Youth movement thus comprised the Reggio Emilia sect of the Red Brigades. In the beginning, both groups’ operated around the University of Trento and in the industrial factories of Milan, two areas that were rich with potential recruits. Operations were fairly covert: members attacked property instead of people until 1972. Arson against factory owners’ cars was a fairly popular act, as were raids against offices of right-wing organizations and politicians. The group’s first kidnap occurred in 1972; a factory foreman was held hostage while pictures were taken of him declaring him to be a fascist. Post 1972, The Red Brigades carried out targeted killings and kidnappings of factory managers and other individuals in positions of power. One of the Brigade’s more famous attacks was the kidnapping of Genoa magistrate Mario Sossi in April of 1974.  Sossi was the sixth person, and the first state employee, kidnapped by the Red Brigades. While claiming responsibility for the attack, the BR called it “an attack on the heart of the state”. This was an allusion to their 3-phase ideology used to facilitate the rise of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The first phase was armed propaganda, used to increase public awareness of their cause and to gain support. The “attack on the heart of the state” (the kidnapping of Sossi) was the second phase, intended to severely offend the Italian government. The third phase would be a state of “generalized civil war” which would result in the eventual overthrow of the state, and the rise of the oppressed. Following the kidnapping, the Red Brigades expanded their attacks to include politicians and employees of the state, particularly members of the Christian Democratic party. However, in September of ’74 founders Renato Curcio and Alberto Franceschini were arrested and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Curcio was freed breifly by an armed group of the Red Brigades led by his wife Cagol, but was eventually rearrested. A document outlining the organization’s “Strategic Direction” released in 1975 identified the Christian Democratic party as “the principal enemy.” The number of BR-directed attacks, including kidnappings and shootings, thus increased between 1977 and 1979, including the kidnapping and murder of Christian Democratic leader and former prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978. During the attack, members of the Red Brigades killed five of Moro’s bodyguards. Additionally, an announcement released by the BR claimed that Moro had been tried and condemned to death for his role in the counter-revolutionary function of the Christian Democrat party. Moro was held hostage and offered freedom in exchange for 13 imprisoned BR members, including founders Franceschini and Curcio, but the Italian government refused. Police found Moro’s body in a car on May 9, 1978.  The Red Brigades’ activities and violence began to decrease in the 1980s. More members were being arrested and imprisoned; some cooperated with authorities which led to the capture of even more members. One final and significant action committed by the BR was the kidnap and capture of US Army Brigadier General James L. Doizer, NATO Deputy Chief of Staff at the Southern European extension, in December of 1982. The general was held for 42 days before he was rescued by an Italian anti-terrorism team. Although the capture of the general was alarming, it could not postpone the death of the Red Brigades. Italian investigators, with the aid of several former members willing to collaborate, were able to abolish the terrorist group by 1984, when it split into two relatively quiet factions. Although the Red Brigades’ original leaders (many of them in jail) continued to guide the offshoot groups of the BR, they formally declared the armed struggle finished in 1988.In the end, the Red Brigades was a violent and politically motivated terrorist group inspired by Marxist and Leninist ideals, who aimed to overthrow the Italian democracy and give rise to the proletariat. The BR believed in giving power to the workers and the oppressed through the use of violent acts such as kidnapping and murder to get rid of the current administrators. A significant terrorist organization during the Cold War, the Red Brigades were thought by some to have committed around 14,000 acts of violence within their first 10 years of existence. 


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