Avanguardia Nazionale ("National Vanguard"), established in its nucleus in 1958 by the Neofascist Stefano delle Chiaie, was a group involved in domestic false-flag terrorism in Italy, supported by elements of American and European secret services. Although outlawed in 1976, there seems to be a resurgence of the group in recent years, including some of its former members.1
Early Phase (1958-1965)
In 1956, the neo-Fascist Stefano Delle Chiaie, later implicated in a series of domestic terrorist attacks, abandoned the Italian Social Movement and together with other secessionists joined Pino Rauti's Centro Studi Ordine Nuovo (CSON) ("New Order Research Center"). In the course of a growing dissatisfaction with CSON's leaders, the Gruppi Armati Rivoluzionari ("Revolutionary Armed Groups"; GAR) formed around Delle Chiaie in 1958. About two years later, in 1959, a definitive split from the CSON took place, based on a controversy with Rauti who did not want to set up the CSON as a political movement,2 with GAR changing its name to Avanguardia Nazionale Giovanile ("Young National Vanguard"; ANG).
ANG rejected the parliamentary route of the Italian neo-Fascist party Movimento Sociale Italiano ("Italian Social Movement"), preferring instead to work outside the political system to subvert democracy, and bring about a return to fascism. A leaflet produced by the group described them as in favour of "man-to-man engagements" in which their members were encouraged to be as ruthless as possible.3
Soon the group was recruited by secret service elements to break up leftist meetings.4 This resulted in constant clashes with young people from the Italian Communist Party (PCI) and the student movement Movimento studentesco.5 On April 25, 1964, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Italian liberation, the militants of Avanguardia Nazionale were shouting "On 25 April a whore was born", and assaulted a student center in Rome, causing two people to be injured.5 In the summer of 1964, Delle Chiaie was contacted by presumed emissaries of General Giovanni De Lorenzo, then Commander General of the Carabinieri Corps intent on launching the coup known as Piano Solo but Avanguardia Nazionale, according to Nicola Rao, due to a lack of trust rejected a participation.6
The Piano Solo was a Fascist coup plot to be executed in the case of a communist election victory, supported by American intelligence. The plan was drawn up mainly by General de Lorenzo, formerly the head of the Italian secret service SIFAR, but then head the Carabinieri.
It was to be carried out on May 25 1964, entailing a series of strategic measures: to occupy certain institutions, such as the Quirinal Palace in Rom, and essential media infrastructures (television, radio); to take over the premises of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), the Italian Socialist Party (PSI), the Italian Socialist Party of Proletarian Unity (PSIUP) and the newspaper L'Unità; as well as the neutralization of the communist and socialist parties mainly by detention of Italian Communist Party (PCI) cadres.
It was also planned to deport the political cadres of the PCI to a secret base in Sardinia, likely the premises at Capo Marrargiu used by the Italian Gladio network.78 The list of people to be deported also included intellectuals, such as Pier Paolo Pasolini.
On the American side, one of the most important people on the spot in the run-up to the previewed coup date was CIA Chief of Station in Rome Thomas Karamessines. During his time as Chief of Station in Rome (1959-1963), and in the course of the ongoing anti-communist operations of the CIA in Italy, he became strongly involved in operations linked to the Piano Solo. These involved blackmail of political leaders from the Left, especially those linked to Aldo Moro.9 Under De Lorenzo's leadership of the SIFAR (1955-1962), the agency had opened dossiers on a total of 157,000 people, including mostly innocent citizens and politicians. Allegedly, de Lorenzo gave Karamessines two copies of each file, one for the CIA station in Rome, the other to be sent on to the CIA's headquarters in Langley.10
The secret was badly guarded, since as early as summer rumors of a coup were circulating during the difficult negotiations that led to the formation of Aldo Moro's government (June 26–July 17 1964).
In 1965 the AN, under pressure of a police investigation including several raids,11 decided to disband formally, but its members remained in contact.
Operation Chinese Posters
In February 1966, AN militants were involved in the Operazione manifesti cinesi ("Operation Chinese Posters"), a false flag operation which consisted in putting up posters, which in spite of the name they became known under, were actually praising the Stalinist Soviet Union. The posters were signed by invented Italian Stalinist Communist groups. These posters were designed by the journalist Giuseppe Bonanni, contributor to the neo-Fascist Il Borghese.
The plan was implemented under the responsibility of Federico Umberto D'Amato, head of the Confidential Affairs Office of the Interior Ministry and entrusted to the Counter Intelligence Corps agent Mario Tedeschi, using the manforce of the Avanguardia Nazionale under Delle Chiaie.
On March 1, 1968, in the course of one of the first large student demonstrations in Rome, Delle Chiaie was marching at the head of the Roman group of the dissolved Avanguardia Nazionale, together with members of FUAN-Caravella and Primula Goliardica. When the procession arrived at Valle Giulia the road was blocked by a police cordon. The situation quickly escalated and Delle Chiaie led the ensuing clashes with the police, which became known as the Battle of Valle Giulia.12 Avanguardia Nazionale was also supported by some members of the FUAN and the MSI.1314 Famous still today, the picture published by Feltrinelli of the first clashes that occurred in front of the faculty of architecture and law, in which the first rows are constituted by militants of Avanguardia Nazionale, still not officially reconstituted. Amongst them Stefano Delle Chiaie, the brothers Di Luia and Mario Merlino with many other members and militants of Primula Goliardica.
False-flag bomb attacks
The first in a series of bomb attacks occured on December 12th, 1969, in a bank on Piazza Fontana in Milan, where 17 people died, and many more were injured. The objective of the operation was to blame the attack on Italian communists. The Italian neo-fascists Guido Giannettini as well as Aginter agent and Avanguardia Nazionale member Stefano delle Chiaie are considered to be the masterminds behind the devastating attack.
"We found unambiguous reports and evidence that reveal a collaboration of Giannettini and delle Chaie with several Italian secret services and reveal their joint responsibility for the attack in Milan. According to that, Giannettini was delle Chiaie's liaison with the secret services, who helped him escape after the attack on Piazza Fontana."15 Massimo Theodore – Member of the Parliamentary Investigation Committee
Giannettini was also working with the CIA and BND. Italian magistrate Guido Salvini, in charge of the investigations concerning the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing, explained to the Italian senators that:16
"In these investigations data has emerged which confirmed the links between Aginter Press, Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale... It has emerged that Guido Giannettini (one of the neo-fascists responsible for the bombing) had contacts with Guérin-Sérac in Portugal ever since 1964. It has emerged that instructors of Aginter Press... came to Rome between 1967 and 1968 and instructed the militant members of Avanguardia Nazionale in the use of explosives."
On 16 December 1969, Mario Merlino, a former militant of AN who became an anarchist, was arrested along with five other militants of the Anarchist Circle 22 March, accused of having participated in the Piazza Fontana massacre.17 In 1970, fearing the same fate, Delle Chiaie decided to escape to Spain.
Twenty years later, questioned by the investigation commission, Delle Chiaie revealed that AN had been implicitly involved in an operation ordered by an organization linked to the CIA and some Italian anti-communist circles.18
One of the key persons on the American side during that period was Graham Martin, who was appointed US ambassador to Italy on 30 October 1969 and left this post on 10 February 1973. He was sent by Nixon to change direction in Rome away from the opening to the Left (l’apertura a sinistra) that had brought the PS Socialist party closer to the government.19 In doing so Martin tended to ignore CIA advice and followed the decision of the 40 Committee, an arm of the National Security Council in charge of approving covert intelligence operations.1920 He channeled at least $800 000 to unknown destinations, much of it through the Head of SID (Italian secret service), Vito Miceli, who was arrested in October 1974 on charges of "political conspiracy" in the course of investigations of the Golpo Borghese "coup" attempt. Martin's few chosen advisors in Rome included Michele Sindona and Bishop Marcinkus.
The refoundation of 1970 and the Borghese coup
Avanguardia Nazionale Giovanile was reconstituted in 1970, initially under the guidance of Sandro Pisano, then Adriano Tilgher, partially absorbing members of the Ordine Nuovo within the MSI, assuming the new name of "Avanguardia Nazionale"21, but soon was outlawed, and Tilgher given a prison sentence for what was judged an attempt to refound the Fascist Party.22
The same year the AN and delle Chiaie were accused of taking part in the attempted Borghese coup of 1970.
"With the support of the Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale, an Action Committee for National Awakening and a group calling itself "Avengers of Italy" (Justiceiros da Itália) are preparing to seize power. Their program: the one of the Republic of Salo (the same one Mussolini tried to establish when the country was occupied by the allies). For its execution, they had four commandos of 250 men, plus the support of sectors of the army and the carabinieri."23
According to Athos De Luca,24 a member of the official commission dealing with the massacres, on the night of 7 December 1970 Delle Chiaie commanded the unit composed of AN militants that managed to get inside the Ministry of the Interior. Called to court, he claimed to be abroad in those days, namely in Barcelona2526: in reality, as established in the report by Guido Paglia, Delle Chiaie had presided over the operations of the AN:
On December 7, Delle Chaie finished the last details. He split up the responsibilities and entrusted Flavio Campo with the handling of the dynamite, himself planning the course of action at the Viminale. By 6 p.m. on the 7th the most faithful members of the Avanguardia would be summoned to the headquarters. There must have been about fifty, and probably have been informed of their tasks at the last moment because only very few of them were part of the clandestine apparatus.27
According to Adriano Tilgher that day some groups of the AN had managed to penetrate the Viminale and remained hidden in the bathrooms, waiting for the offices to close. At that point they had opened the doors from inside, and helped a larger group coming from the Quadraro quarter that had been equipped with weapons of the type MAB 38 to get in. But at that point a counter-order called the operation off.28
Between 1970 and 1971, many AN militants took part in the Moti di Reggio, a popular uprising in Reggio Calabria from July 1970 to February 1971, following the decision to make Catanzaro the regional capital, which brought the AN in correlation with the Calabrian organized crime. In the north of Italy many AN members came in contact with the Movimento di Azione Rivoluzionaria (Revolutionary Action Movement) of Carlo Fumagalli, which many joined.29 On November 4, 1973, several AN members in Brescia destroyed the headquarters of the Italian Socialist Party and were arrested.30 After the attack, Tilgher resolved to close several offices in Lombardy.31
"The opportunity arose that promised system change and arms to the already battered down boys, because they live in a state of perpetual civil war, and many of them took them. After the attack in Brescia we realized that the situation had gotten out of hand, so we decided to close some offices in Lombardy."32 Adriano Tilgher
On June 5, 1976, the court of Rome condemned most of the leaders and activists of the AN for trying to re-establish the dissolved Fascist party.33 Adriano Tilgher tried to exonerate the activists in court, arguing that most of the AN sections had dissolved already more than a year ago, and that the only militants still active were himself, Delle Chiaie, Cesare Perri and Stefano Migrone.34 Of the sixty-four suspects, thirty-one received sentences lower than those requested by the Public Prosecutor, while others were acquitted.35 Almost all of them were immediately released. On 7 June 1976, Tilgher, after having convened a press conference, dissolved the movement, anticipating the decision of the Ministry of the Interior that outlawed the AN the following day.36
Assassination of Argala
Avanguardia Nazionale member Mario Ricci participated in the 1978 assassination of José Miguel Beñaran Ordeñana alias Argala, an Etarra who had taken part, five years before, in the assassination of Francisco Franco's prime minister, Luis Carrero Blanco.37
When Stefano delle Chiaie returned to Italy at the end of the 1980s, he went right back into politics:
"First, with the [party] Lega Nazionale Populare, which failed miserably at the polls in the early '90s. Then with a press agency, Publicondor, specialized in politics. In more recent times he used the name Punto Zenith (Zenith Point), with initiatives organized in the municipal premises of Via Marco Dino Rossi [Delle Chiaie's HQ]. Meetings between chamber music, nostalgia, and dark memories of Salò. A few years ago came the turning point, with the return of the historic Avanguardia Nazionale."38
1990s - Involvement with the ‘ndrangheta
In the nineties, following the depositions of the Commissione Stragi, and other state-initiated investigations, as well as of the 'ndrangheta repentants Giacomo Lauro and Carmine Dominici, the group, along with the Comitato d'azione per Reggio Capoluogo (“Action Committee for Reggio Capoluogo”) led by Ciccio Franco39 stood accused of having commissioned the ‘ndrangheta to carry out subversive actions including the Massacre of Gioia Tauro. Lauro's words also implicated some former members of the local MSI chapters, such as Fortunato Aloi and the Senator Renato Meduri of the Alleanza Nazionale39 having drawn up a precise plan to destabilize the country from the south, a process that with the Strategy of tension had begun already in the north. All the characters involved in the investigation, were found innocent, and were already acquitted during the investigation phase with the exception of Giacomo Lauro himself, who had been initially acquitted on 27 February 2001 on grounds of a lack of malice. In January 2006, it was established that Giacomo Lauro was guilty of an anomalous complicity in multiple homicides, a crime now penalised.39
Resurgence in the 2010s
In the mid-2010s there were several reports that established the reformation of Avanguardia Nazionale. According to an article originally published in the Italian Il Manifesto in 2016 (see translated article by Saverio Ferrari), it has been already several years that the AN had been reforming under the same banner and with some of the leading figures active at the time (e.g. Mario Merlino).
On January 7, 2019, the Italian reporter Federico Marconi and the photographer Paolo Marchetti "were 'hit and kicked' by members of ... 'Avanguardia Nazionale' and the head of Forza Nuova Roma, the Roman chapter of the far-right party."42
According to research by the Italian journalist Federico Gervasoni, despite being still outlawed AN holds regular meeting, such as in Brescia on February 9, 2019. The blog "Comunita Avanguardia Bergamo", which announced the event exists since 2015.43
Particularly active seem the newly founded chapters in Northern Italy (Milan, Bergamo, Trieste, Brescia), regularly announcing events they organize on their Facebook page44 and their blog45. On ads for events by the AN Bergamo chapter appears also a “Gruppa Unione Diffesa” (GUD), the Italian translation of “Groupe Union Defense”, the French fascist student organisation founded in 1968 to smash leftist student uprisings. As the French GUD, its Italian counterpart is sporting the logo of the Celtic cross, or alternatively the three words “Gruppo Unione Diffesa” written below each other.
A neofascist magazine entitled Avanguardia continues to be published monthly. While the movement remains illegal in Italy, it claims to be the official organ of AN. Yet, the official movement to which Avanguardia is connected appears the Comunità Politica di Avanguardia ("Political Vanguard Community").
The symbol of the National Avant-garde is the rune oþalan ("of Odal"): contrary to what is erroneously divulged, it is a rhombus with its lower sides elongated, and not elongated and twisted as was the symbol of the division SS-Gebirgs-Division "Prinz Eugen".
AN's hymn is inspired by the song Sui monti e sui mar ("On the mountains and on the seas"), which in turn musically takes up the notes of Panzerlied, one of the hymns of the Wehrmacht.
- 1. Federico Gervasoni, " Arriva la “spaghettata fascista” a Brescia e Roma Scoppiano le polemiche," La Stampa, 27 September 2017, https://www.lastampa.it/2017/09/27/milano/arriva-la-spaghettata-fascista-a-brescia-e-roma-scoppiano-le-polemiche-MvxyofiJLwF0InQz8M0xYI/pagina.html. Archived version: https://web.archive.org/web/*/https://www.lastampa.it/2017/09/27/milano/arriva-la-spaghettata-fascista-a-brescia-e-roma-scoppiano-le-polemiche-MvxyofiJLwF0InQz8M0xYI/pagina.html.
- 2. Nicola Rao, La fiamma e la celtica, Sperling & Kupfer, 2009, 47 ff.
- 3. Magnus Linklater, Isabel Hilton & Neal Ascherson, The Fourth Reich: Klaus Barbie and the Neo-Fascist Connection, Hodder & Stoughton, 1984, p. 205.
- 4. Geoffrey Harris, The Dark Side of Europe, Edinburgh University Press, 1994, p. 115.
- 5. a. b. Mario Caprara and Gianluca Semprini, "Destra estrema e criminale" (Rome: Edizioni tascabili Newton, 2009), 27.
- 6. Nicola Rao, La fiamma e la celtica, Sperling & Kupfer, 2009, p. 58.
- 7. G. Pellegrino, G. Fasanella, C. Sestieri, Segreto di Stato, Sperling & Kupfer, 2008, p. 53.
- 8. Veronica Bortolussi, I rapporti tra l’estrema destra italiana e l’Organisation de l’Armée Secrète francese, Thesis, Università Ca’ Foscari, Venice, 2016 / 2017, p. 36, http://dspace.unive.it/bitstream/handle/10579/12182/857843-1208195.pdf.
- 9. Faenza, R., Il Malaffiare. Mondadori, Milan, 1978: "Thomas Karamessines […] asked General de Lorenzo to probe into the curricula of political leaders favorable to opening to the Left, in order to find out which could be blackmailed. He specifically requested that detailed records to be kept of Aldo Moro's collaborators."
- 10. Giuseppe De Lutiis, I servizi segreti in Italia, Rome, 1991.
- 11. Nicola Rao, La fiamma e la celtica, 54.
- 12. Nicola Rao, La fiamma e la celtica, 126: "Interestingly the fascists attacked the police first, with members of Avanguardia Nazionale, led by Delle Chiaie, forming the vanguard."
- 13. Mario Caprara and Gianluca Semprini, Neri, la storia mai raccontata della destra radicale, eversiva e terrorista, Edizioni tascabili (Rome: Newton, 2011), 223.
- 14. Piero Ignazi, Il polo escluso. Profilo del Movimento Sociale Italiano (Bologna, il Mulino, 1989), 132.
- 15. "Kennzeichen D: BND-Schmiergeld," documentary by Egmont Koch and Oliver Schröm, ZDF, 16 February 2000.
- 16. Judge Guido Salvini hearing before the Italian Parliamentary Commission of investigation on terrorism in Italy, 9th session of 12 February 1997 (9ª SEDUTA - MERCOLEDI 12 FEBBRAIO 1997, Presidenza del Presidente PELLEGRINO), https://web.archive.org/web/20160303175430/http://www.parlamento.it/parlam/bicam/terror/stenografici/steno9.htm, quoted in Ganser, Natos Secret Armies, 120.
- 17. Livio Zanotti, "A Roma mandato d'arresto per 5 fermati, l'accusa per tutti è di concorso in strage," La Stampa, 20 dicembre 1969, http://www.archiviolastampa.it/component/option,com_lastampa/task,search/action,viewer/Itemid,3/page,0001/articleid,0128_01_1969_0292_0001_4983681/.
- 18. Nicola Rao, La fiamma e la celtica, 57.
- 19. a. b. Quote: "Mr. Karamessines: The President told Martin to stop the slide to the left.” “221. Memorandum for the Record,“ Washington, March 7, 1972, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume XLI, Western Europe; NATO, 1969–1972, https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1969-76v41/d221.
- 20. “Report CIA faught payment to Italian aid,” Chicago Tribune, 30 Jan 1976, https://web.archive.org/web/20160410230845/http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1976/01/30/page/2/article/report-cia-fought-payment-to-italian-aide.
- 21. "Biografia," Blog of Adriano Tilgher, 28 December 2009, https://web.archive.org/web/20130725040300/http://adrianotilgher.it/biografia.html.
- 22. Alfio Bernabei, "Berlusconi Paves the Way For Extreme Right to Enter Government," Searchlight, No. 370, April 2006, p. 34.
- 23. René Backmann, “OLÊ, OLÁ, O MUSSOLINI TÁ BOTANDO PRÁ QUEBRAR,” EX-, No 8, December 1974, https://www.scribd.com/document/166613605/Jornal-EX-n8-Dezembro-1974. Translated by FOIA Research, http://www.foiaresearch.net/document/rene-backmannole-ola-o-mussolini-ta-botando-pra-quebrar-1974.
- 24. Mario Caprara and Gianluca Semprini, "Destra estrema e criminale," (Rome: Newton Compton, April 2010), 30.
- 25. Mario Caprara, Gianluca Semprini, Neri! La storia mai raccontata della destra radicale, eversiva e terrorista (Rome: Newton Compton 2009), 350, ISBN 978-88-541-1163-9.
- 26. Nicola Rao, Il sangue e la celtica, 375.
- 27. "Relazione di Guido Paglia su A.N. e il Golpe Boghese – documento trovato presso la sede di OP," https://4agosto1974.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/relazione-di-guido-paglia-su-a-n-e-il-golpe-boghese-documento-trovato-presso-la-sede-di-op/.
- 28. Nicola Rao, Il sangue e la celtica, 379-380.
- 29. Nicola Rao, Il piombo e la celtica, 233
- 30. Nicola Rao, Il piombo e la celtica, 238.
- 31. Nicola Rao, Il piombo e la celtica, 239.
- 32. Nicola Rao, Il sangue e la celtica, 239.
- 33. Nicola Rao, Il piombo e la celtica, 101.
- 34. Nicola Rao, Il piombo e la celtica, 103.
- 35. Nicola Rao, Il piombo e la celtica, 10.
- 36. Nicola Rao, La fiamma e la celtica, 103-104.
- 37. Antonio Rubio, «Yo maté al asesino de Carrero Blanco», El Mundo, December 21, 2003, www.elmundo.es/cronica/2003/427/1072098707.html (in Spanish); English account of the El Mundo article, Vicky Short, “Spain: Ex-Army official claims responsibility for killing leading Basque separatist”, World Socialist Web Site, 15 January 2004, www.wsws.org/articles/2004/jan2004/spai-j15.shtml.
- 38. Andrea Palladino, "La sede dei fascisti di Avanguardia Nazionale è in uno stabile del Comune di Roma," L'Espresso, January 11, 2019, espresso.repubblica.it/attualita/2019/01/11/news/la-sede-dei-fascisti-di-avanguardia-nazionale-e-in-uno-stabile-del-comune-di-roma-1.330394.
- 39. a. b. c. Saverio Ferrari, “Le strage di Gioia Tauro il 22 giuglio 1970,” 18 July 2006, https://web.archive.org/web/20150322113552/http://www.osservatoriodemocratico.org/page.asp?ID=2853&Class_ID=1001.
- 40. Saverio Ferrari, "Avanguardia Nazionale, ritorno in nero," Contropiano, 1o July 2016, http://contropiano.org/news/politica-news/2016/07/10/avanguardia-nazionale-ritorno-nero-081511.
- 41. Giuseppe Scarpa, "Roma, Fiore: 'Servizi dietro Militia. Delle Chiaie regista dell'asse CasaPound-Lega'," La Repubblica, 13 December 2017, https://roma.repubblica.it/cronaca/2017/12/13/news/fiore_servizi_dietro_militia_casapound_e_con_la_lega_ci_ha_lavorato_delle_chiaie_-183971971/.
- 42. "Two journalists attacked by far-right extremists in Rome," The Local, 8 January 2019, https://www.thelocal.it/20190108/two-journalists-attacked-by-far-right-extremists-in-rome.
- 43. https://avanguardiaberghem.blogspot.com
- 44. Avanguardia Norditalia Milano Bergamo Brescia Trieste on Facebook, https://m.facebook.com/Avanguardia-Norditalia-Milano-Bergamo-Brescia-Trieste-2240664522840030/
- 45. http://avanguardiaberghem.blogspot.com/