Widespread unrest and political violence shook Italy time and again during the decades following the end of the Second World War, but never as much as during the 1970s and the 1980s. Seeking to counter political enemies - including a conglomerate of right-wing movements, organized crime, and top figures in the economic and political life of the country - in order to create a revolutionary state through an armed struggle, and to remove Italy from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in 1970, leftists in Italy began to form the Brigade Rosse - the Red Brigades.
Organizing themselves following the examples of the Latin American urban guerrilla movements, and also drawing inspiration from the Italian partisan movement of the Second World War, the Brigate Rosse emerged in Trento in 1970. Their early activities were troubled by infighting between 'extremist' and 'moderate' wings of the movement, with the latter accusing some of leaders of having links to the intelligence services of several East European countries.
Nevertheless, the movement spread to Rome, Genoa, and Venice by the mid-1970s, and began to diversify its activities. During the following years, it became famous for several high-profile kidnappings of judges and industrialists: together with bank robberies and drug- and arms trafficking, these became its primary source of income. The most famous operations by the Brigate Rosse included the kidnapping and murder of the Italian statesman Aldo Moro in 1978, and of Brigadier-General James L Dozier, the Deputy Chief-of-Staff Southern European land forces of NATO in 1981.
Such actions caused a rift within the movement, while prompting an intensive investigation and prosecution by the Italian authorities. Many members were arrested and betrayed their comrades under interrogation: others were forced to flee abroad. Ultimately, the Brigate Rosse - credited with no less than 14,000 acts of violence and the murder of 75 people in the first ten years of their existence alone - were destroyed.
Drawing upon decades of research with the help of official documentation and the recollections of participants, Brigate Rosse is a detailed study of a major armed leftist movement that shook the fundaments of the Italian state of the 1970s and the 1980s.