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on February 2, 2019 // Last updated: April 23, 2020

Terza Posizione

Terza Posizione ("Third Position," TP) was a short-lived neofascist movement founded in Rome in 1978, ideologically oriented towards traditionalism, nationalism, anti-parliamentarism and militarism. TP rejected both capitalism and communism, pledging instead for a political and economic "Third Position." But despite the conciliatory sounding name, TP was clearly a right-wing extremist organization, drawing its inspiration mainly from fascist ideologues, such as Julius Evola, Pierre Drieu la Rochelle and Cornelio Codreanu.

Terza Posizione was one of the various Italian neofascist groups of the '70s (along with e.g. Lotta di Popolo) that attempted to synthesize reactionary right-wing cultural views and radical left-wing economic views. Borrowing from Strasserism, Terza Posizione supported a social, corporative state, and looked with interest at both Perón's Argentina and the Vietcongs. It saw itself in the tradition of the "original" national socialists, before the "socialist" element was purged, latest with the Night of the Long Knives.

TP grew out of the far-right student organization Lotta Studentesca, founded in 1976 by Gabriele Adinolfi, Giuseppe Dimitri, Roberto Fiore and others, in the bookshop of Walter Spedicato. In 1978 Lotta Studentesca became Terza Posizione.1 The group was composed of ex-members of previously existing neofascist groups, such as Ordine Nuovo, Avanguardia Nazionale, Lotta di Popolo, and Fronte Studentesco. Peppe Dimitri was the leader of the group, while Roberto Fiore and Gabriele Adinolfi were TP's most important ideologues.

The organization was hierarchically structured and was controlled by a clandestine "operative nucleus," led by Dimitri. With some TP members increasingly pledging for an armed struggle, they joined in parallel another group, the Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari (Armed Revolutionary Nuclei, NAR), which turned into the militant arm of TP within a short period.

Terza Posizione did not last long as Dimitri was arrested soon after the movement's founding. On September 23, 1980, Terza Posizione was declared illegal, and arrest warrants were issued against several members for the crime of forming a subversive association.

The movement's motto was "Neither the red nor the reactionary front, for a Third Position" (Nè fronte rosso nè reazione, Terza Posizione). TP's logo was a variation of the Wolfsangel symbol, with the central bar substituted by a fist holding a hammer.

Lotta Studentesca

The loss of consensus among the youth of the neofascist party Movimento Sociale Italiano (Italian Social Movement, MSI), which, around the mid-1970s, clung to generic anti-communist positions, opened a gap in the right-wing arena that gave way to the creation of several extra-parliamentary far-right groupings.

In Rome in those years the youngsters of the Right had practically disappeared from the streets. The Youth Front (Fronte della Gioventù) no longer existed; all of us who had joined right-wing organizations led an almost clandestine life. I remember that in my school, whatever happened at the national political level, in Rome and elsewhere, I became the scapegoat for strikes and massacres, and like me other comrades in other schools. Little by little - in order to resist these circumstances - and considering that [like-minded] extra-parliamentary organizations no longer existed, we tried to organize ourselves on our own within the structures in which we were inserted, [...] and by forming study groups (nuclei scolastici, lit. "school nuclei") we began to walk each in our respective reality. Little by little it became known that there was another group that was running such a study group that was active in another area, and in this climate of desertification of the right-wing youth, we began to get closer, to meet and converse with each other. Thus Lotta Studentesca was born, from a moment of particular crisis in which the younger forces had gathered together and gave life to a new embryo of an organization. - Vincenzo Piso in A destra della destra (From Right to Right)

In 1976, the two most important militant extra-parliamentary groups, Ordine Nuovo (New Order) and Avanguardia Nazionale (National Vanguard), were dissolved by parliamentary decree. Against this background, in February 1976 a series of meetings were held in the Libreria Romana managed by Walter Spedicato, already a militant of the Movimento Studentesco (Student Movement) of the Law Faculty of the Sapienza University, which were attended, among others, by three Roman neo-fascist activists: Gabriele Adinolfi, Giuseppe Dimitri and Roberto Fiore. The result of those meetings was the birth of a new movement, initially established with the intention of recruiting and organizing militants to fight against the two imperialisms - the one of the USA and the one of the USSR (hence "Third Position").23

Halfway between the MSI, bogged down in partisan logic, and the "militant spontaneity" of the Armed Revolutionary Nuclei, Lotta Studentesca entered that generational vacuum and managed to resonate with many right-wing youth. Over time, the need to broaden the horizons of the organization led to the creation of a magazine, Lotta Studentesca, which for the first time mentioned the phrase "Terza Posizione," as subtitle of the magazine .

The political line of Lotta Studentesca was detailed in the second issue of the magazine: "Militancy in the spheres of Third Position means fighting Russian-American imperialism, rejecting and sabotaging the two political, commercial and military fronts linked to the Kremlin and the White House."4

Terza Posizione

In 1978, when the name of the movement was officially changed by its founders into Terza Posizione, the group managed to spread with great speed especially in the capital, but also in the north of Italy: in the Triveneto, Umbria, and Marche regions.

Our logic was that we don't raise the level [of violence] and don't overreact anymore. After all, since we regained control of the streets, firearms have disappeared from the mass clashes. We were prepared for the use of force, which was a vital necessity: in those days you couldn't move for more than fifteen minutes without a fight. Our members were trained to manoeuvre in an organized manner, everyone knew from whom to take orders, how to avoid panic, to control the level of the clashes and to avoid useless victims or violence, which was contrary to our ethics. Two were expelled for beating women, others were punished for the language they used. The issue was not one of style or self-control, but of the political use of violence. It was necessary to keep in mind and offer an image to the outside world: we were not thugs or a street gang [...] We were framed by the military. When we made a patrol or a garrison, eighty people marched in rows of four and we regularly ended up beating up the "coerced" who came with their Vespa to tease the girls. - Marcello De Angelis in Fascisteria5

Organizational structure

Organized vertically, and headed by the three founders, Adinolfi, Fiore and Dimitri, TP was characterized by a militaristic approach. The Roman structure of TP was divided into zones of competence, while each zone comprised one or more districts of the city and was patrolled by a so-called Cuib. Meaning nest in Romanian, the term was used by the Iron Guard of Cornelio Codreanu: groups of militants composed of three or four activists who were also entrusted with the political-military training of the youngest boys. Besides the Cuib, two other internal bodies were created to control TP's military elements: the Operative Nucleus (Nucleo Operativo) and the Legion (Legione).

The Legion was born out of a deep dissatisfaction of mine because TP was ending up following the traditional activist models. It was an elite corps, but even if there was paramilitary training, it was not a militaristic structure. It was an elective community that brought together all those who already lived together twenty-four hours a day to do politics, for the pleasure of being together, of growing together, and it started from a common feeling that bound us on a human level. It was a subtle but very beautiful fact. And there was no way to make the judges understand that. This was the argument we then rationalized in prison." - Peppe Dimitri in Neri! (Black!)6

The consensus towards TP grew over time and, in order to organize the militants for actions on their territory, for the production of flyers, or security services during the marches, also a sort of national board was created, composed of Marcello De Angelis, Giancarlo Laganà, Fabrizio Mottironi, Vincenzo Piso and Roberto Nistri. The latter became more and more important within the movement, until he was considered number four. Nistri was especially valued for his organizational capacity. Among the most active Roman militants were also Nanni De Angelis, Andrea Insabato, Massimo Taddeini, Corrado Bisini, Claudio Lombardi, Gherardo Maria De Carlo and Francesco Buffa, while the first non-Roman group to join TP was from Sicily, led by Francesco Mangiameli.7

Ideology

The ideological apparatus at the base of TP deviated from that of contemporary extra-parliamentary neofascist organizations, both in its self-designation as a movement and, above all, in the claim of holding a position of equidistance from the Marxist Left and the capitalist and conservative Right: the former, according to TP, enslaved to the Soviet Union and the other, enslaved to the United States.

A conceptual approach that inevitably clashed with the line of the Italian Social Movement, dictated by the then Secretary Giorgio Almirante, who was inclined to rebuild an Atlanticist and pro-parliamentarian image of his party in order to break the political isolation of the MSI and win the trust of the constitutional wing. Almirante saw a declining consensus among the young activists who increasingly sought political inspiration in the various extra-parliamentary movements of the radical right.4

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Julius Evola (1889-1974) was an Italian philosopher: an antisemitic conspiracy theorist and occultist. He has been described as a fascist intellectual, a radical traditionalist, antiegalitarian, antiliberal, antidemocratic, antipopular, and as the leading philosopher of Europe’s neofascist movement. [Source: wikipedia.org]

TP's ideology was ultimately built on national socialism, while looking favorably at national liberation movements and the tradition of revolutionary fascism. As is the case for many far-right movements, Julius Evola was among TP's most important ideological references, to whose teachings they adhered on the philosophical and doctrinal level, followed by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle and his idea of a socialist, united, anti-capitalist and anti-bourgeois Europe.8

The TP militants also looked favorably to the nationalist experiences of Juan Perón in Argentina, and to those of the Romanian fascist leader Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, commander of the Iron Guard after the First World War, who, according to TP, still kept intact the revolutionary charge that was lost by Italian fascism during its reign. Besides the Péronist conception of a policy of equidistance (from the USSR and USA), aimed at relaunching the idea of national and popular sovereignty, the TP leaders also drew inspiration from the hierarchical canons of military discipline such as voluntary submission to the rules and hierarchy of command.9

Contrary to the old subversive Right, the founding idea of TP, the aspired equidistance from the Russian and American imperialist blocs, led the movement to take openly sides against certain South American dictatorships such as that of Videla, while showing solidarity with several anti-imperialist and national liberation movements such as the Palestinian, Iraqi and Nicaraguan Sandinista movements, led by the national-socialist Edén Pastora.10

Subversion: the double level

In 1979, the level of political confrontation in Italy reached a peak, and although TP, as a movement, had never been directly involved in fatal attacks, some TP members took up arms and decided to cross the threshold from subversive to armed struggle, above all, by joining the Armed Revolutionary Nuclei.

On the 14th December 1979, in Via Alessandria, in Rome, a ordinary patrol of the State Police noticed three boys carrying boxes from a basement to a car. They were the heads of TP's "Operative Nucleus," Roberto Nistri and Giuseppe Dimitri who, together with Alessandro Montani and Gherardo Maria De Carlo, after a brief shoot-out were cornered by the officers and taken into custody.11

A search of the building that followed revealed a veritable arsenal, consisting of machine guns, pistols, rifles, and TNT. They also found uniforms matching those of officers of the Guardia di Finanza, and in the trunk of a car several boxes with hand grenades. When the three were searched, the police found among Dimitri's documents a report on the KGB in Europe, delivered a few days earlier by the terrorist Stefano Delle Chiaie to Dimitri at a meeting in Paris. It was destined for publication in the magazine Confidentiel, directed by Mario Tilgher (Adriano Tilgher's father), and was also passed on to the P2 member Licio Gelli. Thus, the surfacing of the report revealed links to those coupist and anti-communist circles, from which the new militant TP generation initially had distanced itself.12

Dimitri was in the first instance sentenced to nine years, while Nistri and Montani got away with a sentence of one year and ten months each. Because of these arrests, the movement came into the focus of the Italian judiciary and the investigators hypothesized the existence of an organizational double level within TP, one strictly political and operating in the open, and a second more occult and military one, dedicated to subversive action, with Dimitri, De Carlo and Nistri at its head.

The arrest of the three, however, led to the beginning of a progressive detachment of their operative nucleus from TP and to a loss of militants from the ranks of the movement towards the Armed Revolutionary Nuclei of Giusva Fioravanti, who decided to cross the threshold of legality and to take up arms against the government.

Arrests

The arrest of the two leaders catapulted Giorgio Vale at the head of the operational nucleus of TP who, over time, would draw the nucleus away from the control of Fiore and Adinolfi and contribute to the definitive exit of several militants from TP.

The history of Terza Posizione, however, radically changed its course after the events of August 2, 1980, the day when a bomb explosion caused a massacre at the Bologna train station, killing 85 people and wounding 200. Already in the hours that followed the attack, then Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga saw a fascist matrix behind the massacre, an investigative trail that the magistracy itself would pursue from the beginning. Among the various leads that were followed there was one linked to the statements of Angelo Izzo, one of the three culprits of the Circeo massacre, who divided the responsibilities between Terza Posizione and NAR. According to Izzo, Luigi Ciavardini, Nanni De Angelis and Massimilano Taddeini were the executors, while Valerio Fioravanti and Francesca Mambro were serving as cover-ups.13 His statements were later considered as unreliable in regards to De Angelis and Taddeini, but found credible in the case of Ciavardini.

On August 28, 1980, the Public Prosecutor's Office of Bologna issued twenty-eight arrest warrants, two of which charged the leaders of TP, Fiore and Adinolfi, who, however, escaped arrest by fleeing abroad. On September 23, the Roman judiciary ordered a raid among TP leaders and militants in which ten arrests, one hundred and fifty searches and judicial seizures were made. TP stood accused of

... having, in collaboration with each other and with other people, promoted, organized, established and in any case directed an association called Third Position, aimed at violently subverting the economic and social orders of the State; abolishing the system of parliamentary representations; and carrying out acts of violence with the aim of terrorism and subversion of the democratic order. These include the robbery at the Omnia Sport armory, at the Chase Manhattan Bank, at Di Vecchio Anna, at the Garage Italia in Via Lucrino, at the armory in Piazza Menenio Agrippa; the attempted murder of Roberto Ugolini; the murder of Antonio Leandri; the attack on the homes of Alberto Martiscelli and Franco Mattera, as well as Fernando Cento and the Vigile Urbano Gianfranco Tomassini; the fire in the Induno and Garden cinemas; the attack at the PCI headquarters in Via Rapisardi 44 and at the daily newspaper Paese Sera; and the setting up of clandestine bases where weapons were stored, including the warehouses in Via Alessandria 129, Acilia and the one found buried in the Villa Doria Pamphili; and finally, the spread of ideological beliefs aimed at the violent subversion of institutions. - Arrest warrant of September 23,198014

Among the militants who escaped arrest was also Nanni De Angelis who, together with Luigi Ciavardini, also a fugitive for the Evangelisti murder, went to an appointment on October 3, 1980, to obtain false documents and financial support. Near Piazza Barberini, however, the two were blocked by the police, arrested and, according to some sources, subsequently killed. On October 5, De Angelis was hospitalized but on the same morning he was discharged and returned to the Rebibbia prison where, the same day, he was found hanging in his cell. The police version that was immediately published in the newspapers spoke of suicide.15

At this point, Third Position found itself to be a semi-clandestine organization with about twenty fugitive militants and without the adequate means and logistics to manage such a disaster. Soon the first fugitives began to fall into the hands of justice, while most of TP's leading figures decided to escape abroad. In the spring of 1981, Adinolfi, Fiore, De Angelis, Spedicato and Insabato reached England (via France), while those leaders who had remained in Italy were all arrested.16

In 1981 the activity of TP in Italy was almost exclusively entrusted to underage militants, led by two Cuib chiefs, Luca Olivieri and Nicola Solito, who could only count on the support of veterans, such as Claudio Scotti and Patrizio Nicoletti. The activity of the group was reduced to the editing and diffusion of a small-scale magazine, Gioventù Nuova.

In September of that same year, Enrico Tomaselli, after having spoken at length with the leaders in London, returned to Italy with the intention of reorganizing TP: he formed a national board of leaders and then divided the movement into territorial groups, while also creating a magazine, Settembre, around which he tried to gather new members and old militants.17 Tomaselli's attempt to finance TP with illegal actions soon failed and with it also the ability to revive the movement.18

Terza Posizione and the NAR

Of the Third Position's relationship with other groups of the extra-parliamentary Right in the 70's, the one with the Armed Revolutionary Nuclei (Nuclei Armati Rivoluzionari, NAR) was certainly the most intense and close, even if very conflictual. TP proclaimed hostility towards the old formations of the subversive Right, such as Avanguardia Nazionale (National Vanguard) and Ordine Nuovo (New Order), or even towards direct predecessors, such as Costruiamo l'azione (We do action), whhich were considered enslaved to the coupist and massacre logic of the strategy of tension, which in any case, was the result of an ideological and political distancing. TP was looking for another form of militancy, and the "militant spontaneism" of the NAR seemed initially to provide a common ground with TP.

In 1979, several TP activists, such as Giorgio Vale, Luigi Ciavardini, Stefano Soderini, Gherardo Maria De Carlo and Pasquale Belsito joined Valerio Fioravanti's NAR in his project of armed struggle, while still adhering to TP as well.19

In a second phase, however, the relations between the two organizations were increasingly conflictual, above all, when the NAR began to develop a certain intolerance towards radical Right circles which, in their opinion, had become the protagonists of a double game aimed essentially at the exploitation of the young militants by their superiors: by ordering the young to execute the most dangerous actions, while taking advantage of the fruits. Towards the end of its history, the NAR decided to abandon the primary objective of the armed struggle against the state in favor of a series of vendettas and settlement of accounts completely internal to the subversive Right, directed against those whom the NAR thought of as delinquents, traitors and profiteers.

The escape of the TP executives abroad after the denunciations and arrests of 1980 was deemed cowardly behavior by the NAR towards the other militants, which was also followed by accusations against Fiore and Adinolfi of having taken with them the "cashier" of the movement, letting it be understood that the leaders of Third Position had left the movement in disarray.20 A behavior no longer acceptable by the NAR, which on more than one occasion even tried to kill Fiore and Adinolfi.21

On September 9, 1980, a NAR commando formed by Valerio and Cristiano Fioravanti, Francesca Mambro and Dario Mariani, together with Giorgio Vale, killed Francesco Mangiameli, the Sicilian TP leader, whose body was then disposed of in a small lake near Tor de' Cenci, with weights attached to prevent it from surfacing, but nonetheless re-emerged two days after the murder.

The accusation made by the NAR was that Mangiameli has pocketed the money entrusted to him for organizing the escape of the black terrorist  Pierluigi Concutelli. In a leaflet, Francesca Mambro, wrote that she had "executed the demented profiteer Francesco Mangiameli worth as little as Roberto Fiore and Gabriele Adinolfi, representatives of chronic cowardice."21 The real motives for the murder were never fully clarified and, in the appeal process following the Bologna Massacre, the thesis was postulated that Mangiameli may have been a witness to the agreements made by Valerio Fioravanti with some people, in view of the murder of the Christian Democratic politician Piersanti Mattarella.

On January 6, 1981, the NAR's revenge campaign struck another militant TP member: Luca Perucci was killed at the age of eighteen in Rome with a gunshot to the head by the NAR member Pasquale Belsito. Perrucci had been interrogated by the magistrates leading the Bologna massacre investigation, and stood accused by the NAR of having provided useful information to the investigators. Also in this case, the NAR confessed its crime in a leaflet, stating they "executed the infamous Luca Perucci who had allowed the attack of the Bolognese magistracy against the revolutionary formations."2213

On April 30, 1982 Adinolfi and Spedicato returned to Italy where they found a movement that on the one hand had drifted towards armed struggle, while on the other hands showed signs of an ideological retreat from the radical right, considered by some to be too compromised with power.

Tomaselli's leadership was subsequently blamed for both, pushing the movement towards violence and having introduced politically left-wing positions, going so far as to propose the admission of TP to the Socialist International. With their return, the two leaders also managed to clarify their positions towards the NAR, now dominated by many former TP members.23

In September 1982, after a meeting between Tomaselli, Adinolfi and Spedicato held in Lignano Sabbiadoro, on behalf of the historical group, Adinolfi officially dissolved the organization. On October 17, 1982, Adinolfi and Spedicato, who were both still fugitives, left Italy to settle in Paris.

Investigations into activities

In June 1983, judge Mario Amato, who was investigating the links between the Terza Posizione and neo-fascist terrorism, was assassinated by a commando formed by Gilberto Cavallini and Luigi Ciavardini. The instigators of the killing were NAR members Francesca Mambro and Valerio Fioravanti (both were convicted of other terrorist killings and the 1980 Bologna massacre). The judge had been investigating in isolation from his superiors, like the chief prosecutor Giovanni De Matteo, a member of Propaganda Due, and under heavy attacks from his colleague Antonio Alibrandi, a right-wing sympathizer and father of Alessandro Alibrandi, member of Terza Posizione and NAR.

The trial of the Third Position militants began on September 23, 1984, four years after the issue of the arrest warrants: the movement was essentially accused of subversive acts carried out by former TP militants who in the meantime had changed over to the NAR.

The magistrates accepted the prosecution's thesis that TP represented a potential danger and that a double subversive level had developed within it: the first level involving the national leaders Adinolfi, Fiore and Dimitri together with the other leading figures of the Nucleo Operativo (who were all convicted), and the second level, including exclusively the Roman leaders (many of whom were acquitted).24

Legacy of Terza Posizione

Despite its brief life and ambiguous relationships with terrorist groups, Terza Posizione remains one of the most influential groups of the Italian and European far right. Many of its former members continued to play prominent roles in far-right politics after the disbanding of the original association.

Peppe Dimitri later joined Alleanza Nazionale and became the advisor of Gianni Alemanno. Fiore and Morsello, meanwhile, moved to Great Britain founding the International Third Position along with Nick Griffin and other British nationalists. They then returned some of their ideals to Italian politics with Forza Nuova, albeit with less social-oriented and more strictly anti-immigration overtones. Forza Nuova websites and manifests are still sometimes titled Forza Nuova per la Terza Posizione ("New Force for the Third Position"). Gabriele Adinolfi is not formally involved in politics but he is still active in the Italian far-right scene and one of its most important ideologues.

(This article is based in large parts on the Italian Wikipedia article on Terza Posizione.)