The a junior version of his grandfather’s party.

The Red Brigades (Brigate
Rosse in Italian) was a left-wing terrorist group in Italy during the Cold War.
Formed in 1970, the Red Brigades, or BR for short, had two main goals: the
first was to remove Italy from the NATO military alliance that had formed among
many North American and European countries. The second was to overthrow the democratic
Italian state and replace it with a dictatorship of the proletariat. The BR
sought to achieve their “revolutionary state” by targeting symbols of
capitalism and the Italian state, especially politicians, police forces, and factory
bosses. The group viewed their violent deeds of sabotage, bank robberies, kidnappings
and murders as justified acts of self-defense, on behalf of workers facing oppression
from bosses and the government.

            The group was founded in 1970 by Renato Curcio, Margherita
(Mara) Cagol, and Alberto Franceschini. In 1967, Curcio set up a leftist “study group” at the University of
Trento dedicated to figures such as Karl Marx, Mao Zedong, and Che Guevara. This is where he met fellow
radical Cagol. They married 2 years later and moved to Milan where they
attracted a fair amount of followers. Franceschini was born in Reggio Emilia into
a family that supported communist ideas: his father had been arrested in the
1930s for anti-fascist activities and his grandfather was a founding member of
the Italian Communist Party. At a young age, he himself became a
member of the Italian Communist Youth Federation, a junior version of
his grandfather’s party. Former members of this Youth movement thus comprised the
Reggio Emilia sect of the Red Brigades. In the beginning, both groups’ areas of
operations were around the University of Trento and in the industrial factories
of Milan, locations rich with potential recruits. Operations were fairly
covert: members attacked property instead than people until 1972. Arson against
factory owners’ cars was fairly popular, as were raids against offices of
right-wing organizations and politicians. The group’s first kidnap occurred in
1972; a factory foreman was held for hostage while pictures were taken of him declaring
him to be a fascist. Post 1972, The Red Brigades carried out targeted killings
and kidnappings of factory managers and other individuals in positions of power. One of the Brigade’s more
famous attacks against the Christian Democratic party was the kidnapping of Genoa
magistrate Mario Sossi in April of 1974.  Sossi was the sixth person, and the first
state employee, kidnapped by the Red Brigades. While claiming responsibility
for the attack, the BR called it “an attack on the heart of the state”. This
was an allusion to their 3-phase ideology used to facilitate the rise of the
dictatorship of the proletariat. The first phase was armed propaganda, used to
increase public awareness of their cause and to gain support. The “attack on
the heart of the state” (the kidnapping of Sossi) was the second phase, intended
to severely offend the Italian government. The third phase would be a state of “generalized
civil war” which would result in the eventual overthrow of the state, and the
rise of the oppressed. Following the kidnapping, the Red Brigades expanded
their attacks to include politicians and employees of the state, particularly
members of the Christian Democratic party. However, in September of ’74
founders Renato Curcio and Alberto Franceschini were arrested and sentenced to
18 years in prison. Curcio was freed breifly by an armed commando of the Red
Brigades led by his wife Cagol, but was eventually rearrested. A document outlining the organization’s
“Strategic Direction” released in 1975 identified the Christian
Democratic party as “the principal enemy.” The number of
BR-directed attacks, including kidnappings and shootings, spiked between 1977
and 1979, including the kidnapping and murder of Christian Democratic leader
and former prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978. During the attack, members of the
Red Brigades killed five of Moro’s bodyguards. Additionally, an announcement released
by the BR claimed that Moro had been tried and condemned to death for his role
in the counter-revolutionary function of the Christian Democrat party. Moro was
held hostage and offered freedom in exchange for 13 imprisoned BR members,
including founders Franceschini and Curcio, but the Italian government refused.
Police found Moro’s body in a car on May 9, 1978.

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            The Red Brigades’ activities and violence began to
decrease in the 1980s. More members were being arrested and imprisoned; some
even cooperated with authorities which led to the capture of even more members.
One final significant action was the kidnap and capture of US Army Brigadier
General James L. Doizer, NATO Deputy Chief of Staff at the Southern European extension,
in December of 1982. The general was held for 42 days before he was rescued by
an Italian anti-terrorism team. Although the capture of the general was
alarming, it could not prevent the death of the Red Brigades. Italian
investigators, with the aid of several former members willing to collaborate,
were able to abolish the terrorist group by 1984, when it split into two relatively
quiet factions. Although the Red Brigades’
original leaders (many of them in jail) continued to guide the offshoot of the
BR, they formally declared the armed struggle finished in 1988.