Few clear words on Cospito’s affair

By Michele Castaldo – Original Italian writing

“To the objection, “But we aspire to a society without jails,” this is certainly a noble but abstract sentiment, while we are called to respond resolutely to the fact that we are not arguing about one abstract idea against another abstract idea, but about a historically determined society that discriminates and criminalizes those who fight against poverty and injustice and that uses the equal right to safeguard the powerful”.

Michele Castaldo –

The so-called Cospito case is making a lot of noise: the powers of the State are bouncing responsibilities around, the political parties are at each other’s throats, the center-right or right-wing government is compacting, the so-called left is going into disarray and with it the so-called left-wing extremism, while the anarchists tend to coalesce. The issue that is causing so much discussion is the condition of the 41bis hard prison. In such a cackle to be able to pick up anything is quite difficult for those who would like to keep the straight rudder of an anti-capitalist vision, which means anti-system, in a very complicated phase in itself. But, as it were, it is history that dictates divides.

Let us therefore clarify from the outset that if the question were posed in the terms of taking sides, with the State or with anarchists, there would be no doubt whatsoever to stand against the State that interprets the laws of capital against the exploited, the marginalized and immigrants in order to safeguard accumulation. This is in the first place, in the second place since time immemorial oppression and exploitation has provoked splinters of individual rebellion that have often been theorized as an anarchist conception. So on the one hand there is the constituted power and on the other hand the reflex agent expressions to a domination rightly considered oppressive. Therefore those who do not see themselves in the established order are immediately attracted to those who in one way or another fight it. Obviously – this is a diriment point – one is always willing to support the cause of those who are repressed, as in the case of Sacco and Vanzetti in the U.S. or Pinelli in ’69, while one is hesitant in the face of so-called terrorist acts and gestures, that is, of small attacks that are, however, magnified and used by the constituted power to discourage any kind of social mobilization on the problem that causes the “terrorist” or anarchist act. This is the case of Alfredo Cospito, who in his vision as an anarchist has the exemplary action to call attention to problems such as nuclear power, war or the 41 bis hard prison.

The question we ask is: but would an Alfredo Cospito really fear a democratic State? And what kind of democratic state would it be if it feared attacks like those committed by Alfredo Cospito? Come on, be serious. Would his indications to other anarchists outside the prison to carry out attacks be so frightening that they would lock him up in 41bis? With all the tools of control of a modern state, would an individual like Cospitos be so powerful as to evade and stir up who knows what riots and attacks? Something does not add up, gentlemen.

WHEREAS, no one can advise another how to behave, because the individual is moved by needs and feelings, thus permeated by what surrounds him, according to his own sensitivities, so that only the presumptuous can think of developing or changing people’s consciousness through so-called ideology, a metaphysical abstraction that is utterly vacuous and insignificant. Let us then enter the specific terrain of what is happening to Cospito and his just fight against the 41bis detention status. 

It should be remembered that the further restrictive detention measure such as 41bis was instituted as a provisional measure against Mafia leaders following massacres they carried out against magistrates and statesmen. This, it was said, was to prevent Mafia leaders from communicating with the outside world and induce them to cooperate with the powers of the judiciary. Then the state, in anticipation of future really bleak social scenarios, extended it to crimes for political association for “subversive” purposes.

  Now Alfredo Cospito was and is light years away from Mafia circles and apparatuses, but the State is treating him in the same way not for what he is responsible for, but for what his exhortations addressed to anarchists outside prison “might cause.” In short, the democratic state, which brags about the strength of democracy, the Constitution, its laws, because at its base would be a productive system that would guarantee prosperity, is at some point afraid of possible prison-inspired attacks by Cospito and places him in 41bis. Cospito rebels, and rightly so, and having no mobilizing force on the outside capable of supporting his cause, he decides to begin a hunger strike. A noble action, an extreme gesture of self-destruction against an ignoble measure.

  At one point Alfredo Cospito claims the elimination of 41bis, as an inhumane measure, for every inmate in this state. And in his claim he is supported and encouraged by the mobsters held at 41bis. The Government catches the ball and equates the nobility of Cospito’s claim with the encouragement that comes to him from very unnoble circles, and finds in this reason to support its own repressive action against the anarchist and anarchists. In short, with one stone the State gets two birds. There is then something that does not add up. 

  The state instrumentally uses its power to defend the reasons of the strongest against the weakest, but we cannot behave in the same way as the state, equating the same right for different crimes. Not least because while the big mafiosi have plenty of lawyers and opportunities to bribe politicians and circumvent laws, we do not.

So true is this that no Mafioso went on hunger strike to support the abolition of 41bis together with Alfredo Cospito, while the latter also took on their condition. This is not good, because we do not want to be used as useful idiots by the powers of the state and by the mafiosi. It is right and necessary to fight for Alfredo Cospito to be taken out of 41bis, but if the mobsters want to fight for this to be eliminated, let them go on hunger strike or other struggle actions, without using our anti-system struggle.

  Now, if Alfredo Cospito, being in solitary confinement without any mobilization worthy of the name developing outside the prisons, takes up a common battle against 41bis, from outside the prisons the rest of us who are at liberty cannot pick up his claim, because we are talking about different crimes for different purposes and an equal right should not be applied for unequal conditions. Let me clarify further: even the most criminal of terrorist crimes against the capitalist system cannot be put on the same level as pro-system or system-integrating crimes. And to be more explicitly precise: the kidnapping of Aldo Moro is a completely different episode from the 1969 Piazza Fontana massacre in Milan at the Banca dell’Agricoltura, the 1974 Piazza della Loggia in Brescia, or the 1980 Bologna station, or even the killing of Judges Falcone and Borsellino.  All criminal acts, but motivated by completely different causes and objectives. 

One, the kidnapping of Aldo Moro and the killing of his armed escort, moved from intentions of a community that sees itself in the needs of the oppressed and exploited, while all others move from interests in defense of the system of capital and therefore against the oppressed and exploited. The State defends the status quo, thus is not impartial, but defends equal right among unequal conditions. The mobster moves from particular and individual interests, the anarchist or leftist terrorist is moved by a common cause, that is, of a community that feels oppressed by the system of capital.

It is no coincidence that the militants of the Red Brigades all ended up arrested and rotting in jail, while of state massacres, and not only the most egregious ones, but also those that pass for fortuitous disasters, the accountables are never found. This is the State’s way of applying the equal rule of law.

  Just not to be abstract, in Sicily the Mafia-since the days of Giuliano and Pisciotta-had been shooting and killing communists who defended poor peasants fighting for the land. And Peppino Impastato was atrociously murdered, then placed on the tracks and run over by the train even to make it look like a suicide. Not only a heinous crime, but a signal sent to those who were fighting against the Mafia. 

How can we demand to apply the same principle of freedom for one another, anarchists and leftist “terrorists” on the one hand, and for mobsters on the other hand, as we read these days on ” Liberi tutti ” / “ free all “ signs carried in processions by some compañeros? Wake up guys! We are entering a very complicated phase of the capitalist mode of production that divides more and more. And more and more we are called upon to defend our side, our convictions, our claims, abandoning mystifying expressions and empty, bombastic big words.

To the objection, “But we aspire to a society without jails,” this is certainly a noble but abstract sentiment, while we are called to respond resolutely to the fact that we are not arguing about one abstract idea against another abstract idea, but about a historically determined society that discriminates and criminalizes those who fight against poverty and injustice and that uses the equal right to safeguard the powerful. Mafiosi fight to become powerful; it is therefore “unfair” competition against economic potentates deemed “loyal,” who are protected by the equal right interpreted by state institutions. It is a war between gangs, but nothing to do with the needs of poor people and especially immigrants who are treated below how one treats beasts, and often behind farms that exploit black labor is the organized underworld, as happened in Logistics Industry. This is the reality to which we must relate and not the defense of the constitutionally guaranteed equal rights.

If the historical left, because of the shattering of the Western proletariat, has now adjusted to the bourgeois rule of law, that is, to the fact that inequalities are part of human history and cannot in any way be overcome, let them do so, but those who are aligned against this system cannot in any way claim the equal right in the face of such marked disparities.

Do we not have the strength to oppose a mass movement to have poor Alfredo Cospito or other comrades removed from 41bis tomorrow? We take note, we cannot always win. But we certainly cannot also take up the cause of individuals in criminal organizations concerning, as is the case here, the 41bis applied to them. They would take it up with the State.


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