Anni di piombo. The Lead Years, 1968-1982.

by Rachel Furnari on Monday, August 11, 2014

in Cultural History,Graphic Design,Labor Unions,Music,Photography,Politics,Recent Acquisitions

Naples, September 1974.

“Anni di piombo” (“The Lead Years”) has little nostalgic resonance in the US. Unlike “Mai ‘68”, which instantly evokes exhilarating scenes of French student occupations, demonstrations, police brutality, wildcat strikes, riots, and barricades. (And perhaps some fervent threesomes if you made it through Bertolucci’s The Dreamers.) While Mai ‘68 appears retrospectively as both the unfulfilled apex and mythic nativity for so many –isms of the late twentieth-century, the tumultuous anni di pombo are largely overlooked despite the radical political and cultural activity maintained by the Italians for a decade after similar movements had withered in France and the United States.

In Italy, the anni di piombo are notorious for shocking acts of violence, including the bombing of the Piazza Fontana in Milan by neofascists, the assassination of the former prime minister Aldo Moro and the deadly bombing of the Bologna train station by leftist paramilitaries, and the deaths of numerous student and worker protestors, but they are also distinguished by a vibrant labor movement with prolonged general strikes and the emergence of a unique, Marxist autonomist movement (best known through the Potere Operaio, Lotta Continua, and Autonomia Operaia political parties), articulated by intellectuals including Antonio Negri as a decentralized alternative to authoritarian and party-based communism; as well as influential cultural movements such as Arte Povera and transavantgarde.


Turin, September 1980. Photograph by Enrico Martino.

From the late 1960s until the early 1980s, the economic crises, class struggles, and violence of the anni di piombo absorbed a generation of Italians, as an impossible number of regional splinter parties and composite political alliances struggled for influence and evolved toward increasingly militarized and radical solutions that severely undermined the left’s national agenda. Several recent acquisitions of rare materials from these years testify to the importance of the Italian autonomist movement as a distinctive example of localized, extraparlimentary and revolutionary political practice. In serials, mimeographed bulletins, and photographs we witness the euphoric expectancy of the psychedelic era, the internecine politics that fragmented the political goals of the left, and the eventual reinvestment in traditional social classes and democratic politics that ended the era.

Controinformazione. Nos. 1 (Oct. 1973) through No. 28 (Jun. 1984) (all published?). 22 issues, incl. double issues and supplements, approx. 32-160 pp. each (most 80-128 pp.), numbered issues and supplements printed on newsprint. Folio. Stapled with color illus. wrpps.; supplements tabloid self-wrpps. Milan 1973-1984. (47977)

Controinformazione began under the editorial direction of Antonio Bellavita, an associate of both Renato Curacio (cofounder of the paramilitary Brigate Rosse) and Toni Negri during the Potere Operaio movement in the early 1970s. Bellavita fled to France after being implicated in the Brigate Rosse assassination of the former Prime Minister Aldo Moro in 1978 (he was eventually cleared of all charges). The journal provides significant and rare documentation of the Marxist autonomist movement as it radicalized, advocating armed military action and combating mainstream Italian communist parties as well as neofascism and the right wing. It includes manifestos and articles related to Brigate Rosse, Nuclei Armati Proletari, and Nuclei Armati per il Potere Operaio, as well as parallel conflicts in Europe, the United States, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle-East. Its distinctive covers are complemented by interior graphics that include photojournalism, political cartoons, and typographic photo-collage.


Lotte Operaie: Bollettino Sindacale dei Comunisti Internazionalisti (La Rivoluzione Comunista). Year 1, No. 1 (May 1968) to Year 10, No. 107/108 (Mar.-Apr. 1977) (all published). 3 vols. containing 108 issues, each issue 2-16 pp., most ca. 12 pp., mimeographed, some illus. with reproductions of photographs depicting demonstrations and strikes, formats vary. Vol. I and II: 4to; Vol. III: Large 4to. Wrpps., issues bound in with orig. covers, some illus. with orig. graphics or photo collage. Milan (Partito Comunista Internazionalista) 1968-1977. (47978)This self-published serial was issued under the auspices of the autonomist splinter group P.C.Int-RC (Partito Comunista Internazionalista – Rivoluzione Comunista), a localized internationalist party that broke with the moderate politics of the national party in 1964 to create a pragmatic alternative to authoritarian socialism through a unified class struggle incorporating the “unwaged”– unpaid laborers, e.g. students and homemakers. The first issues, mimeographed with half-page social realist cover illus., were issued in response to the May ’68 movement and the corresponding strikes that swept Italy from that summer through the “Hot Autumn” of 1969. Though there is an urgent, ad hoc quality to the early presentation, the editors encourage unity and common cause with the unions and the national workers’ federation CGIL (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro).

The paper evolved as a bulletin board for organizational insiders, with statistical and historical analysis alongside party talking points. In keeping with the P.C.Int-RC emphasis on direct action, Lotte Operaie was also intended for distribution within the factories near Milan. Dramatic national and international events during the next nine years were summarized with enthusiasm and rigor, emphasizing solidarity with other autonomist factions, including Lotta Continua. During the 1970s, as CGIL’s power was renewed and the early successes of movements like Potere Operaio faded, the unions’ modest referendums and faith in the democratic process became a frequent target the editors’ criticism.


Collection of 74 Italian Press Photographs of Strikes, Demonstrations, and Marches, 1969-1982.74 photographs, ranging in size from approx. 7 x 5 in. to 13 1/4 x 9 1/4 in., most approx. 12 x 8 in., documenting workers’ strikes, riots, student demonstrations, and protest marches, principally in Rome, Milan, Turin, and Naples, incl. mass general actions at the Pirelli, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, and Montedison factories, violent clashes with police, environmental activism, and Autonomia disruptions of trade union rallies, most with stamps and captions establishing date, location, subject, and publication history, as well as identifying photojournalists, incl. Giancarlo de Bellis, Dino Fracchia, Enrico Martino, Vezio Sabatini et al. (47979)

Turin, May 1974. Mirafiori demonstrations. Photograph by Mauro Raffini.

Turin, July 1969. “Battle of Corso Traiano.”

Turin, October 1980. Demonstration at Fiat by middle-management and foremen under the slogan “work is defended by working” leads to the historic defeat of a five week strike in a decisive compromise between white-collar workers and union leaders.

Together the photographs provide a moving visual account of the anni di piombo and a powerful corollary to the written manifestoes. The affecting human drama captured by photojournalists at the front lines is an important reminder of how the social and political conflicts unfolded publicly, in the street, for more than ten years. Skillfully composed and edited, the images depict the troubling, full range of civil disobedience and violence, from disorderly conduct, student and worker occupations, and police brutality to images of the strikebreakers and trade union compromises that brought an end to the most radical aspects of the struggle. Includes a few international examples of protests in Corsica (led by Edmond Simeoni of Autonomia Operaia), Miami, and Besançon (Affaire LIP).


Comitato Studentesco di Agitazione Rivoluzionaria (ed.). L’Agitatore Comunista. Organo dei Gruppi Studenteschi Internazionalisti (La Rivoluzione Comunista). Year 1, No. 1 (Dec. 1968) through Year 7, No. 34/35 (Dec. 1973-Mar. 1979) (all published). 1 vol. containing 32 issues, some double and incl. supplements, each 4-16 pp., most ca. 12-14 pp., formats vary, most mimeographed. Large 4to. Full leather, orig. self-wrpps. bound in. Milan (Comitato Studentesco di Agitazione Rivoluzionaria) 1968-1979. (47980)


Comprising a complete run of the rare serial published by the student-worker faction of the Partito Comunista Internazionalista – Rivoluzione Comunista (P.C.Int-RC). Student authors, whose articles are attributed by first-name only, report on demonstrations, riots, and university occupations, while promoting the activities and interests of the P.C.Int-RC, particularly radical education reforms and solidarity between students and the working class, with calls to action and criticisms of both the Italian Communist Party (which had not yet fully broken with the Soviet Union) and neofascists accused of the Piazza Fontana bombing and other acts of violence. The Rivoluzione Comunista periodical parses the labyrinthine differences between various internationalist communist splinter groups and other student movements, with significant coverage of the death of Saverio Saltarelli, a leader of CSAR who was killed by a policeman’s tear-gas canister during a Milanese protest in December 1970.


Get Ready: Periodico Fatto a Mano. Nos. 0 through 4 (1972) (all published). [Subtitles vary; Periodico Fatto a Mano; Periodico Alternativo di Musica Rock; Periodico Alternative di Musica.] 5 issues, 36, 24, 24, 24, 24 pp., printed in color on multi-color papers. Tall folio. Color illus. wrpps. Milan (Casa Editrice Lo Spinello) n.d. (1972). (47985)

This outstanding underground music periodical, published by alternative press impresario Marcello Baraghini, with Ines Curatulo and Barnaba Fornasetti (son of renowned designer Piero Fornasetti), focuses on rock n’ roll and other defining countercultural aspects of the Lead Years. One of the most visually ambitious publications of the period, each page is executed with a singular and compelling combination of psychedelic illustration and design by Gianni Sassi’s avant-garde agency La Monzese. The distinctive editorial voice is humorous (the first two issues are bound in the shape of a joint) and sincere about the music, including articles and reviews of Santana, Zappa, Hendrix, Miles Davis, Dylan, Grateful Dead, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones et al., and interviews with Burroughs, Ginsburg, Pete Townshend, and John McLaughlin. Baraghini replaced the standard copyright notice with a “no copyright” claim, rejecting intellectual property as a “bourgeois taboo”.

For more information or to inquire as to availability and price, by all means, please do be in touch.

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