Martin Glaberman

Terror in Italy

(April 1980)

From The New York Review of Books, Vol.27, No.6, April 17th, 1980.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

To the Editors:

There is an American postscript to Thomas Sheehan’s review of Negri and Acquaviva. The only “evidence” connecting Toni Negri and Giuseppe Nicotri to the Moro assassination was a tape recording of a conversation between one of the kidnappers and Moro’s widow. A German police technician announced that the voice on the tape was Negri’s. The hue and cry that followed, questioning the possibility that a German cop was able to distinguish between Italian dialects, etc., forced the Italian prosecution to back off and try another tack. They employed a voice print expert at Michigan State University, Oscar Tosi, to attempt to make the identification. An Italian judge and a prosecutor were sent to East Lansing, Michigan, to supervise the tests.

Together with Toni Negri, I brought suit, as a citizen of Michigan, to enjoin the tests (Antonio Negri and Martin Glaberman vs. Rosario Priore and Oscar Tosi). The reasons were that the procedures being followed by the Italian government were in violation of Italian law, of international law, and of American law. The tests would have been conducted in a manner which would have left Tosi free of any restraints, since they were not under the supervision directly of any court. The normal procedure, required both by Italian and American law, is that when testimony is required to be taken in a foreign country, the courts of that country are formally requested to take jurisdiction over the testimony, so that it can be given under oath. The United States has just followed that procedure in Romania in a case against someone being charged with falsifying their past connection with Nazi war crimes in Romania.

We have won this case. Thomas L. Brown, Judge of the Circuit Court of Ingham County, Michigan, has granted an injunction prohibiting Tosi “from transmitting, sending, mailing, or otherwise revealing directly or indirectly to any person or court the final evaluation, judgment or report ... pertaining to the pending criminal charges against the Plaintiff ANTONIO NEGRI in the Roman Court.”

I understand that the charges against Nicotri have been dropped for lack of evidence – although the only evidence was the tape which has yet to be analyzed. I was also informed that the Italian government is requesting Tosi to conduct his tests on equipment available at the University of Padua. All of this seems to confirm the shaky nature of the evidence and the unwillingness of the prosecution to conduct the voice print tests in a legal manner, preserving the rights of the defense, in the first place.

I have known Toni Negri since 1964, when we met at the University of Padua. I have many disagreements with his theories and his formulations. But I am certain that he is innocent of any complicity with the Moro assassination and/or the Red Brigades. And I am also certain that he deserves a trial that is fairer than the Italian government seems to be willing to give him.

It was unfortunate that Sheehan’s article blurred the distinction between violence and terror. There is a long list of revolutionaries, going back beyond Marx, who accepted the need or the inevitability of violence during the course of social revolution. No serious student of politics or of history would call them terrorists. The charges against the “Autonomistas” [sic] are largely based on the written and spoken word – that is, acts which would be protected by the Bill of Rights under American law. That is not to say, of course, that those acts would be protected against McCarthyite witchhunts here any more than in Italy. The defense against the current Italian witchhunt, in the United States, is being organized by the Committee Against Repression in Italy, 159 West 33rd Street, Room 1010, New York, NY 10001.


Martin Glaberman
Wayne State University
Detroit, Michigan


Last updated on 9.7.2004