Horst Fantazzini

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...about struggles in prison...


Could you talk about your struggles during this long imprisonment. In the film this aspect is eluded.

To speak of struggles in prison today is like digging up sweet memories from a sarcophagus, so much is the change confirmed, in the last fifteen years in the place and its desperate inhapitants. From the sarcophagus emerge portraits of men who were alive and proud but who have been bent, broken and dispersed. Men who claimed with passion their dignity and sought without mediation their freedom. Men who died on the roof-tops during revolts and who nobody remembers any more. Men that in meeting with the first jailed comrades had discovered that life and struggle can have meanings higher than their little desires and
selfishness. The end of the '60s and the whole of the '70s were seasons of struggle that will never repeat themselves again. Prisons destroyed tunnels to freedom. Personally I participated in scores of struggles, big and small. I saw the destruction of the special section of Asinara, that of Nuoro and that of Trani and these struggles cost me a 'bonus' of more than twenty further years. Today the prison is 'pacified' and the air which one breatehes is that of heavy resignation. The 'population' has changed radically and almsot the entirety made up of drug addicts and samll and medium level drug dealers. Their primordial promblem is that of continuing to obtain or continuing to deal their daily dose. There are hardly any comrades at all. In Alessandria I left three. Here there is no-one. The mafiosi are under the rubric of 41/bis, a rewriting of that which for us, years ago, was article 90, that is an restrictive internal regulation inside a system of rules which are in themselves already strict. Today they are almost all young or really young and the prison is nothing other
than an enormous container of a social unrest that no-one knows or wants to resolve. I have never felt myself such a 'stranger' in jail. I resist by seeking to extract myself from all that surrounds me, taking refuge in my books and speaking with my computer. My relations with the outside and the love I draw from them give me strength....... said dear Eduardo. There
it is, dear comrades, I cannot do anything other than try to resist, waiting for Godot to decide to arrive.

During these struggles you have had to clash not only with the prison administration but also with the 'counterpower'. Do tyou want tot tell us how that happened?

Between the end of the '70s and the middle of the '80s, the jails were full of comrades. There were ten special prisons: Cuneo, Novara, Fossombrone, Trani, Termini Imerese, Favignana, Pianosa, 'l'Asinara and Nuoro. Then there were specials ections in almost all of the other jails. For a decade, we 'differentiated' deatinees did not have contact with the other inmates.
It was normal procedure to hold us in prisons as far away from our homes as possible, so as to make visits extremely difficult, which took place in any case behind glass partitions and through intercoms. Correspondence was subjected to censorship. We weren't allowed to receive packets of food supplies from outside, only books and clothing were allowed. Not all
the prisons were 'specialized' in the same manner: some, like Fossombrone and Cuneo, were softer than Asinara or Novara. I believe that at that time we were treated like guinea pigs, upon which was studied behaviour and reaction with respect to the gradualness of the 'tratment', which ranged from the hours of sociality (space and activities to share during
several hours of the day) to the pure hard isolation of Asinara (two or three to a cell, always the same ones, with periodic rotation at the discretion of the monarch of the period, director Cardullo). Obviously, fictitous 'comrades' and rebel 'sell-outs' were living amongst us, for more effective control, a fact about which we became certain later. belushi said that when the game gets tough, the tough start to play. And it's true. It's incredible the creativity that man manages to unleash in difficult moments. The hard treatment cemented the group and expanded solidarity. We were all united against 'them' end we invented incredible channels of communication to break the physical isolation. In Asinara, for moths, the occupants of one
cell did not managae to see the the occupants of adjacent cells, but every cell communicated with the others. You could write a book on all tricks invented by us to overcome the isolation to which we were subjected, but the argument, now, is another. To
prepare struggles and eventual escapes it was necessary to have a rigid compartmentalization, and thus were born the CUC (Unified Camp Committees). In
Asinara, the brigatisti (trans. from the Red Brigades) were in a majority, and thus the committees, initially an expression of necessity and the situation of us all, would become a political organism stamped with 'democratic centralism' , that lexical pun so dear to uncle lenin. I said the brigatisti that I had nothing against compartmentalized and restricted
organizational forms provided that they were purely provisional and functional to the obtaining of a rersult, but if these CUCs became permanent political organisms , I didn't want to have any part of them. I had participated in every struggle but not to their political management. The first fight (destruction of the intercoms at visits and refusal of all the
prisoners to return to their cells) finished with the massacre of seventy of us. I ended up in a coma and was brought by helicopter to the hospital in Sassari. My recovery was kept secret and after two days I was brought back to Asinara. My partner at that time managed to find out and revealed the news and the third day bounced through the whole media. A delegation of parliamentarians came who could verify the massacre. An inquiry was opened and the management of Asinara found itself in great difficulty. A week later we destroyed the two special wings without the guards even daring to interfene. The wings rendered unusable, we were provisionally posted in varios 'normal' sections of the island, awaiting transfer elsewhere. A few days after this struggle, I managed to pass to my partner an account that was opportunely published in a pamphlet by "Anarchismo" editions. This sent the brigatitis into a raging fury end the most pissed off amused themselves by reminding us anarchists of Kronstadt and Barcelona. My "Open Letter to Comrades on the Outside" was published in all the movement's journals, which then, in 1978, were still alive and thriving. The polemic ricocheted theroughout all the special prisons where, overall, the brigatisti were in a minority and the majority of the prisoners took my side. This polemic, amounted to an otherwise
obvious political weakness of the brigatisti (do you remember the slogan of the movement "With Neither the Red Brigades Nor the State!"?) and ratified the end of the CUC in whose place was born the CUB (United Committees of the Base) an 'open' organization which for a bit represented all prisoners. Also " A Anarchist review" published my letter together with an
naswer from Curcio under the title "Anarchists and Stalinists". I was contacted by various political parties and also by state organs because, derived from the polemic in which I had been involved, some intended to use me to create further divisions between the prisoners. I did not lend myself to this game. Asinara had hardly been rebuilt, and I alone amongst
those who had participated in the revolt, was sent back there from Palmi. Then, after some bust ups with the guards there, I finished up at Nuoro, participating in the revolt that destroyed the special wings there as well. But this was an epilogue. The external weakness of the comrades was reflected inside the prisons. The time of the 'penitents' (trans.
informers) and mass 'disassociation' began. The intellectuals who had played at war, new prodigal sons, would return to their elite Habitat. Always distrust professional intellectuals! They weave webs heavy as chains on the dreams of free men. And since the times of the ancient egyptian scribe, from deflowering to deflowering, they always succeed in rebuilding their virginity. Fifteen years ago, I wrote this epitaph for them:

The existential misery of the intellectual is his being torn apart by the contradiction between the universality of his knowledge and the particularism of the dominant class of which he is the product. And thus he wrestles, embodying the Hegelian 'unhappy consciousness', between referents to abandon and to conquer (win over)... And with this bad conscience, source of his disquiet, he aligns himself first with the proletariat, then with the marginalized, then with the third world, searching for strongholds on which to rebuild his own ruins (to pull himself together again), proposing himself again as the active subject, as an intelligence that, with respect to the phenomena analysed and dissected with the microscope of knowledge, self declare himself as the external avant garde from the heights of that knowledge robbed from his ancient forefathers. Among the ups and downs of life he wrestles in the desperation of being an eternal orphan. Orphan of the bosses abandoned without refusing its privileges. Orphan of the proletariat whom he had always instinctively rejected as a foreign body. Orphan of the third world that doesn't have the time to tune in his intelligent analysis having to resolve, day after day, his urgent problems of survival. From exclusion to exclusion, from elision to elision, from erosion to erosion, he found himself with others in the one ghetto. Then, frightened and implicated by the various craziness produced by their theorizing, they began to negotiate the surrender on the backs of all: to recover their initial position of intelligentsia. Misery in misery, plagiarist plagiarised, but privileged that always found the warm nest of the prodigal son who returns to his origins....
.....

These people, by repenting or through disassociation or therough 'benefits' from the state that they meant to fight 'without respite!', now are almost all out. A handful remain in jail. Less than ten of these, in jail for decades, have closed themselves off in a dignified silence. They ask for nothing, they reject 'benefits' from the state that if asked, would bring about their immediate release. Others, refugees abroad, await an 'amnesty' or a 'political solution'
to come back. And the jails, now governed with the carrot and the baton are more thriving than ever and are bursting with the desperate. Well, I think that's enough.


January, the 30th, 2000. "Umanità Nova" (the heart of Horst Fantazzini's interview about the movie)