The tree of the rule of law and the unequal forest

On December 20, 2022 immediately after the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the Cospito case this blog published an article entitled Alfredo Cospito: not guilty! This title was meant to counter the rhetoric of the state confirming the harshest of convictions against the anarchist guilty of his terrorist actions. Alfredo Cospito’s actions, on the other hand, condensed the impersonal necessity of a movement of rebellion of indistinct individuals against a general system of exploitation and who are crushed by this general impersonal system. So, at the heart of the question was conversely who is the terrorist, whether the anarchist individual or a mode of production based on the exploitation of man against man and against the nature, whose purpose is the accumulation of value in a few hands. And if that is the object, then Cospito is innocent with all the extenuating circumstances, but he is being punished harshly to send a signal of fear to those outside the prison who live in the more general social prison of the 21st century.

A focus on an issue that has turned out to be a drop in the ocean, while the subject matter addressed by the battle waged in support of the imprisoned anarchist Cospito and that travels across the debate in newspapers, in jurists’ statements, intellectuals’s manifestos and in the public squares is going decisively and concretely in an opposite direction.

Alfredo Cospito, aware that he is hard hit by state repression, rightly fights with the means he can – even at the cost of his own life – against the infamous state of punitive detention that is imposed to him, precisely for essentially political reasons. Let us be clear, the attitude of the anarchist militant in prison, who is in total physical and political isolation, is the only possible one given his material condition that separates him from social relations outside the prison, and forces him to lose the general point of view that revolves, in spite of himself, around his affair.

In a recent interview with Radio Onda Rossa, Cospito’s defense lawyer, Flavio Rossi Albertini, reports that when he was allowed to be transferred to Milan’s Opera prison, Alfredo objected to the doctors at Sassari’s Bancali prison <<why are you transferring only me, when there are inmates under the 41bis regime that are in far worse conditions than me, and they can’t get treatment in this prison? And I don’t want to be privileged in treatments just because my case has pierced the hood of media attention>>. Is this how the question arises, would Alfredo enjoy privileged treatment? Does the militant anarchist’s status makes him equal to other prisoners because he is commonly subjected to the same 41-bis prison regime?

Let us repeat, here we do not want to criticize the anarchist’s judgment about his own condition, but we cannot do not reflect that the affair has taken on a political taste and a direction that the State and the impersonal and general interests it represents aims to carry out; and those outside the prison who support Alfredo Cospito’s struggle by assuming the point of view emphasized by his lawyer, slip precisely on the material ground abundantly prepared by the impersonal forces of the exploitative society that overpower us. It no longer denounces the punitive repression by the state of an anarchist activist, which occurs precisely in the most ruthless of ways and for political reasons; instead, it short-circuits into fighting generically for all against 41bis, its abolition and for the defense of the rule of law, as if in regard to the state and in regard to social relations those all, were equal in relation with the state and with the market society, where the equal punishment inflicted on the convicted person resets to zero the social reasons for the crime and the function and role that the action of the offender assumes. In essence in this matter the individual is prevailing while the different function and relationship that the action of the individual has in relation to the capitalist system of social exploitation is disappearing.

That Cospito, by virtue of his isolation, is forced to abdicate this reduction might also be understandable, conversely, those from the outside who allow themselves to be dragged along this slippery slope take the opposite direction to the needs of an anti-capitalist revolutionary critique, its social relations of determined oppression, and retreat behind the totem of liberal democracy that reaffirms that justice is equal for all in a world composed of men who are not equal in the society and whose mode of production determines different social roles and different needs among men.

So, let’s be clear, it is not outlining a variegated battle against an abstract introduction of the death penalty or against the extension of the worst measures of the Penal Code and the Prison Code (in which 41 bis is certainly torture), tending to apply the maximum penalty for all crimes. One cannot be against the jail by considering it as an institution abstracted (i.e., split off) from the bourgeois society and the real capitalism. The jail is the place where a social system based on exploitation discharges blame on the individual who is driven by the needs that determine it: one commits a crime to accumulate wealth in competition with others or out of hunger against private property and the accumulation of wealth that starves; between the two there is a considerable difference!

Prison is the application of punishment against the individual, whose role is always functional to the general system of value production, which enables the progress and preservation of barbarism and violence in society dominated by market values. We express for the latter the utmost solidarity in the perspective of a general anti-system struggle, towards the former, at most, we assume a rational understanding without ever separating the individual from the role he plays in the real society driven by the necessity of profit. Above all, it is a fearful drift to assume-as the state does instrumentally on the opposite side-the viewpoint that all are equal in the face of the barbarity of 41-bis, when the viewpoint should be that of the exploited who are oppressed by this economic, social and political system. Let us ask ourselves, from the point of view of workers, women and immigrants: are all those subjected to detention under the 41-bis regime equal? They are precisely not all equal, so there is no point and no fighting for all indiscriminately.

Affirming and promoting a mobilization for an end to the 41bis prison status for all (where all are mafia adepts) comes politically – through the idealistic denial of the prison – the dialectical affirmation of the lie of democratic liberalism that falsely asserts that all are equal before the law and the clemency of the state, with no regard to the social function performed by individuals who join certain criminal associations. In fact, not everyone is subjected to that prison regime for fighting against the state and society based on the exploitation of man on man. So much so that the State applies the maximum sentence to different individuals for entirely different reasons. Doing so puts on the same level the political militant who ended up in the clutches of the Judiciary and the Mafioso especially in relation to the point of view that interests us most, that of the interest of the exploited, which is a point of view that has nothing to do with the protection of the rule of law to be strengthened and its criteria of legality against which those who are driven by necessity to fight are to be subjugated. The militant anarchist or communist and the mobster (boss or henchman that is) will always be different, because the reasons for their imprisonment are different and opposed, just as their actions represent quite different and opposed social needs.

We know well that the Mafia uses violence to bargain power with the state and its institutions to penetrate economic spaces dominated by the legal market in the regime of capitalist competition. In return to the legal market and economy, Mafia or Camorra-like criminal organizations offer the capillary control of society and of the territory against workers, the exploited and immigrants. The Mafia continues to be an organization that tells its adepts how to behave when they end up in jail depending on the alternating needs of the negotiations it continually has with the legal powers. One cooperates or does not cooperate with the Judiciary, one leaves or remains in the 41bis regime depending on this general bargaining between criminal organizations and democratic institutions. Mafia-like criminal organizations, even when they are traversed by internal fights, always achieve a granitic and centralized aggregate of economic interests, with respect to which each individual adept makes the general Mafia interest prevail over the individual one, both when he is free and when he is in prison.

We know very well that the so-called illegal economy is no other than the market and the so-called legal economy, that between the two distinct features of the market there is an indissoluble intertwining and fully functional to the common general capitalist interest of profit and the general system of relations of oppression of the exploited classes. So the Mafia thug who is in the 41bis regime is there because in this bargaining between the state and the Mafia – which is between distinct competing interests in the market – any means, including institutional and criminal violence, is used to move the power relations between the respective economic competitors. We would be fools, for example, to think that Messina Denaro was captured by the skillful intelligence operation of the Carabinieri and the Judiciary, while his voluntary surrender to the hands of justice is nothing more than a new stage in this long bargaining between economic powers, which takes place at the very moment when the governmental and institutional power arrangements are opening up to a “new,” “uncertain” and “composed of new actors in the field” compared to the established landscape of the last two decades behind them. The purpose of this negotiation between the state and the Mafia is once again the bargaining of economic power to be shared in the competition of the more general market in exchange for the service of social control of the territory against the working classes and immigrants.

That this is the reality is well known by the trade unionists murdered by Mafia enforcers, victims left exposed to their tormentors maliciously by the omertà of the State, the Judiciary and democratic institutions. Peppino Impastato knew it very well, and all those militants of the old communist and socialist parties of the 20th century who met the same end of Peppino – a young movement radio speakers and Democrazia Proletaria activist was slaughtered by the Mafia in May 1978.

The same acts of violence and terrorism in the past, regardless of one’s political judgment of them, are different from each other: bombs in the squares (and among them in workers’ squares enlivened by labor strikes), in stations or on trains in the late 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and acts of terrorism by the neo-fascist right are one thing. Massacres of civilians, trade unionists, workers and magistrates by the Mafia were one thing. Of a different sign vice versa was the armed struggle of the far-left or BR formations, which claimed to represent the needs of an organized struggle of the community of the exploited in a different phase of capitalist society. How does one, by unconditionally pandering to the solidarity for Cospito sustained in this way, not zero in on these substantial differences?

41-bis was instituted to “fight mafia crimes,” then the state – rightly from its point of view and in anticipation of future really hazy social scenarios – extended it to crimes for political association for “subversive” purposes, and that is the only matter that should interest us. Why, instead, should we be interested in how the various market forces – both against the magnum sea of the exploited, workers, women and immigrants – settle their dirty scores with each other?

Some want to convince themselves that a battle is being waged for the release of a political prisoner, punished precisely because he claimed to represent with individual actions the needs of those suffering from the oppression of the capitalist mode of production. Well, in this case the terrain of the struggle should be different from that which is hegemonizing the affair around the Cospito’s affair and which can be summarized as queuing up in the defense of the rule of law.

For this reason, this blog does not join these days cross chorus for an indistinct abolition of the 41bis regime for all.

Because all those subjected to 41-bis are not equal in the role and function they play in relation to capitalism exploitation, just as and only in the subordinate degree they are not equal in their relationship with the State that defends those interests. The other 41-bis inmates, they may “sympathize” with the individual Alfredo, never can they sympathize with the ideal reasons for the struggle against the oppression of a historically determined mode of production, indeed against this necessity they willingly collaborate with the forces of the State.

Already for months essayists, jurists, artists, intellectuals and well-known philosophers, dragged by the objective force of secular attraction of the values of Western economic and democratic liberalism, have played the role assigned to them by capital as singers of the fence within which the battle around the Cospito’s affair would be declined, thus rendering it harmless, pernicious and centered on the issues of criminal and prison law respectful of democratic humanity in defense of the supreme and democratic rule of law. They set about writing manifestos, in which the Cospito’s affair is alienated from its impersonal role and the reasons why it is in punitive imprisonment, deferring it to the clemency of that democratic liberalism, which should be humane and civilized in its face toward all, precisely because justice is equal for all, therefore so should the clemency be.

This is precisely why the state, conversely is determined not to grant any extenuating circumstances to Cospito, not because it actually takes due account of the individual’s <<social dangerousness>> and considers him dangerous as the Mafia. It does so in order that the lie of the rule of law founded on equal right, thus of equal punishment or leniency, prevails in every social actor involved in the affair as the alpha and omega of the matter, but in a world that is profoundly made up of unequals in front of the market that determines everything, where the mechanism of oppression and exploitation is concealed by the lie of declamation all are equal before the law.


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