The Aldo Moro murder case: thirty years later. The Legacy of 1978 in Italian Politics and Culture
I lived in Rome from June 1972 to August 1973, partly on funding that came from the Aldo Moro fellowship for foreign students. This support helped me to complete the research for my Ph.D. dissertation on the emergence of a right-wing secular culture in Italy. Several years later, the dissertation became a book, Byzantium for Rome: The Politics of Nostalgia in Umbertian Italy, 1878-1900. I thought that I would devote my scholarly career to writing about nineteenth-century Italian political and cultural history. While finishing this book in Los Angeles, I learned of Moro’s abduction and death. Although I never had any personal dealings with him, I felt the need as an Aldo Moro fellow to find out why he had been murdered by the Red Brigades.
It took me nine years to produce a preliminary report about the reasons behind Moro’s killing, in The Revolutionary Mystique and Terrorism in Contemporary Italy. In writing this book I had found Eric Hoffer’s point in The True Believer to be well-made: for their ideological and political guidance, men of action depend on men of ideas. The Red Brigades belonged to a revolutionary tradition that originated in the classic Marxist critiques of capitalism. Mario Moretti, one of their leaders, insisted that the Red Brigades always thought of themselves as communist revolutionaries, however haphazardly their particular actions might be related to a Marxist-Leninist theory. Lenin himself was notoriously haphazard in applying Marxist principles to Bolshevik actions and policies. Ample precedent existed for Marxist-Leninists to be as innovative as the circumstances of any given capitalist situation required.