The story of former neo-Fascist terrorist Pierluigi Concutelli has attracted attention on account of his recently published memoirs, although his was already the sort of household name that could not be uttered without evoking feelings of horror. In Italy's terrorist nebula of the 1970s, he is a secondary figure, cited exclusively in connection with the assassination of the judge Vittorio Occorsio,3 which he carried out as a chief operative of the network of the sulfurous neo-Nazi partisan Stefano Delle Chiaie.4
It was not until after he was meted out a life sentence for the judge's murder that he acquired a sinister fame as an implacable jail executioner—i.e., one of those lifers with nothing to lose, who could be counted on to silence "problematic" criminals within the prison walls. Two such incarcerated Fascists, one of whom was implicated in a key bombing episode and was allegedly willing "to squeal," were "casually" transferred to Concutelli's detention place, where he strangled them to death with shoe laces, one in 1981 and the other 1982.5 [End Page 109]
Concutelli matters, for his vicissitudes not only afford a glimpse into the abyss but also shed light on the very trajectory that leads what "in the beginning" seem fully socialized and "normal" people into the most recondite zones of violent transgression. After retracing the biographical stages of Concutelli's political engagement, this article draws on these experiences to sketch out a general outline of the psycho-sociological profile of terrorism's gestational field. In sum, the findings are that, psychologically, the subject is from a green age possessed of a monastic yearning, which, coupled with the fascination for weapons and the "seduction" of violence, conceals more often than not a thirst for self-annihilation. Sociologically, terrorist militancy of any color appears to follow a gradual "decivilizing" process in which the eventual dissolution of the zealot's original grassroots organization is generally the precipitating factor leading him/her to join the germane underground militarized cell. And the pacing of such a progression is inevitably dictated by the "higher" institutional levels of the political confrontation, which at that time in Italy was one of "simulated civil war."6
Pierluigi Concutelli, a Roman, was born in 1944.7 He thus belongs to the very first batch of that contestant cohort that would explode against "the system" in the anni di piombo ("the years of lead," ca. 1969-1979). At bottom, for these soldiers of terror, it is a matter of faith, of creed. Concutelli could not quite explain how it hit him—his uncles had been Fascists but not his father; his was not a politicized family. As a mere boy, he had found himself one day gazing at a nostalgic, pro-Mussolini graffito smeared across a bridge's girder. In that moment he chose: he would stand with the "vanquished" (gli sconfitti), with the black-shirted paladins of "virtue and order," who had lost the war. Yes, they had been defeated, he reasoned, but they were not "losers." He swore he would side with them "with commitment, dedication, and responsibility." And he never turned back.
Like every Italian, he was polarized early on by the Cold War. The chief propagandistic kriegspiel played out during his childhood (the preboom era of 1946-1953) was the rumored threat of a Soviet invasion propitiated by the seditious, illegal réseau of the PCI's8 shadow army.9 In such a clime, [End Page 110] the right-wingers, purportedly with a nod from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,10 set out to counter the "Red menace" by readying— paramilitary and equally unconstitutional—structures of their own.11 To this day, we are given to believe that these super-secret federations of spies, veteran troopers, and master saboteurs, set up by Anglo-American handlers, stood on alert in all member-states of the Atlantic Alliance, all of them religiously convinced that "Red Orchestra" had a mind to subvert the...