Home > Archives > 05 - 2005 > Remembering Moro
EDITORIAL
from issue no. 05 - 2005

Remembering Moro


On the day of the twenty-seventh anniversary of the assassination of Aldo Moro the authoritative launch took place at the Sturzo Institute of an in-depth study by historian Professor Agostino Giovagnoli entitled Il caso Moro [The Moro case], based on all the possible sources, including the archive of the Institute, that contains among other things a detailed reconstruction from those who had first-hand experience of those long tragic weeks


Giulio Andreotti


Enrico Berlinguer, Secretary of the PCI, shaking hands with Aldo Moro, President of the DC, 20 May 1977

Enrico Berlinguer, Secretary of the PCI, shaking hands with Aldo Moro, President of the DC, 20 May 1977


On the day of the twenty-seventh anniversary of the assassination of Aldo Moro the authoritative launch took place at the Sturzo Institute of an in-depth study by historian Professor Agostino Giovagnoli entitled Il caso Moro [The Moro case], based on all the possible sources, including the archive of the Institute, that contains among other things a detailed reconstruction from those who had first-hand experience of those long tragic weeks.
It re-echoes, though with delicacy, criticism of the government for not being adequately prepared both for preventing the attack by the Brigades and then for dealing with it. Despite the fact that there had already been very tough incidents, with killings and (the term then used) knee-cappings over the whole gamut and at all levels.
It should have been realized that the people responsible for the violence would aim as high as they could. Immediately at the time there was criticism for the fact that Moro was not riding in a bullet-proof car. On that subject I can say that when (on 29 July 1976) I took over from Moro as Prime Minister, my chauffeur refused the heavy bullet-proof car, asserting that it would be awkward to drive in the city. He took it from the garage only on the afternoon of 16 March 1978.
As for the lack of valid information on all citizens and their addresses, let us not forget that not only are we in a genuinely democratic country, but that public opinion resents all limitations on privacy and full liberty. It’s sufficient to recall the reactions when in 1975 the Rumor government passed the Reale Law (taking its name from Oronzo Reale, the Privy Seal) allowing forty-eight hours in police custody before application to a magistrate. I remember the immediate tough attack in the leading article of the Turin La Stampa; and the very small margin with which the referendum in favour of abrogation was defeated despite the political support, rare enough, of Christian democrats and Communists. A margin so small (in the context of the analogous outcome for the law on the financing of parties) that the Honorable Berlinguer got scared and poor President Leone had to pay the price with his resignation.
An analogous criticism about insufficient vigilance was unjustly made in America after the tragic 11 September 2001, with very serious accusations against the police and the secret services because a group of Arab criminals had managed to live undisturbed and take flying lessons.
Tough criticism came, from us, in 1978. About the alleged inadequacy of our intelligence services. Suffice it to recall the political stoning suffered by General De Lorenzo for the existence of what was considered an excessive number of people on file. Perhaps to strike the imagination of us Christian Democrats and provoke the reaction, there was a public outcry because among the people on file there was an Austrian bishop resident in Rome (who had for that matter given lodging to high-ranking Nazis in flight). I am indeed not handing out general testimonials to the efficiency of the secret services, in which among the others there were who considered us let down because we believed the rules of democracy were enough to protect us from the Communist danger.
In the background of the “Moro case” there was without doubt, and first of all, the reaction within (and perhaps outside also) the Communist Party, that in 1976 had let through a single-party government, headed by myself, abandoning the opposition that had lasted unbroken since May 1947. That was this the first concrete form of the Moro-Berlinguer line, better described as of national solidarity, rather than as historic compromise.
I will say on this, that if Berlinguer had to face the reaction from Moscow, Moro was very worried about Washington’s difficulty in understanding the – so to speak – Atlantic orthodoxy of these developments. He did not know (and was never to do so) what had happened previously when he had gone ahead with the centre-left governments and was afraid of incomprehension across the Atlantic (so much so as to implore me to remain as Minister of Defense so as to decrease the impact). Many years later it came to light that the Americans had already had direct dealings with a socialist emissary (the Honorable Pieraccini) even agreeing a concrete aid program aimed at replacing that which, through the Italian Communist Party (PCI), was provided by the Russians.
The suggestion that we overestimated the size of the Brigades because of the spectacular carnage on Via Fani might seem not to lack cogency. Without ever cancelling possible doubts, it later emerged that the high command and its soldiers were fairly few in numbers.
Had they decided right from the start that Moro also would be sacrificed, or did they think that by negotiating they would achieve the liberation of their friends from jail? Moro’s letters help only to reconstruct two moments: at first Moro himself thought of inducing the government to negotiate (which would have meant political recognition of the left fringe challenging the PCI) also through the mediation of the Pope, very close to him because of the years in which Montini had been chaplain of the Federation of Italian University Students. When this outcome was seen not to be on, he tried to convince his jailers that he would be alongside them in punishing the treacherous Christian Democrats (DC) and Berlinguer and friends. There is, in my view, clear evidence to support this version. In one of his last letters he asked the Lower House to transfer him from the DC group to the mixed group. I think that when, on 9 May, they made him put his clothes back on, he believed he was going to be freed. A man sentenced to death doesn’t really worry about belonging to this or that parliamentary group.
The intermediate episode, the fake communiqué indicating the Duchessa lake, was later clarified. Convinced that the government could not agree to negotiations, the Holy Father had arranged the offer of a large sum to be paid in ransom. No obstacle was set in the way by us, indeed we hoped in the result and we breathed again when we learned that a way had been found (through the chaplain of the Milan jail of San Vittore). Afterwards, when the priest was dead and there could be no more fear of constitutional challenge to the secrecy of Confession, it was learned that it was a confidence trick. The “proof” that the Vatican emissary had asked for before concluding negotiations was given with the pre-announcement of a dramatic communiqué (false) according to which Moro’s dead body lay in the waters of lake Duchessa. The BR immediately declared the communiqué false and though a corpse was found in the lake it had nothing to do with the business.
On 9 May – a strange coincidence – when the confidence trickster was to receive the ransom, Moro was killed and arranged to be found behind Botteghe Oscure, [the headquarters of the Communist Party].
The finding of Aldo Moro’s body in Via Caetani,  9 May 1978

The finding of Aldo Moro’s body in Via Caetani, 9 May 1978

Is it true that the liberation of just one member of the Brigades would have been sufficient to save Moro, and that President Leone was ready to pardon Besuschio who was in prison after sentence? No, is the answer, because even if pardoned, she was on remand for another crime, involving a mandate of obligatory arrest, and hence it would have been a useless provocation to pretend to free her.
According to some people the unyielding stance towards the Brigades was mainly due to the Communists, to whom the fragile Christian Democrats were supposed to be subservient. It is not so. And it is in no way true that on that cruel 9 May the Honorable Fanfani was on the point of convincing the DC to change course and agree to the negotiation. Except for a very few discordant voices, the Christian Democrats – government and party – were of the opinion from the beginning, and so remained, not to lower the flag. Apart from everything else, if to save one of ourselves we had shirked our duty, the moral reaction of the families of all the victims of the Brigades would have been overwhelming. One of the women widowed by Via Fani phoned to tell us that she would come and set fire to herself in Piazza del Gesù, [DC headquarters].
The years that pass and all the changes that have since come about do nothing to attenuate the painful dismay of 1978. The DC, contrary to what Aldo Moro had in his time boldly sustained from his member’s bench, let itself be put on trial. And faded into extinction.
Without Moro, the shrewd political project worked out by him was in any case impracticable.



Italiano Español Français Deutsch Português