Fire-bombs and fights scar election run-up

March 8, 1996

As general elections on April 21 draw closer, political tension is mounting among Italian student groups. At Rome's La Sapienza University, a lecturer's home was fire-bombed and there have been several other violent incidents, writes Paul Bompard in Rome.

La Sapienza is close to the sensitive nerve centres of Italian politics and since the 1960s has been a crucible of political activism. Last week Giorgio Tecce, the Rettore Magnifico of La Sapienza, called a special meeting of the academic senate to set rules for political activities in the election run-up.

The general election will be fought by a small army of political parties including extremist groups. Two of the most powerful are the ex-neofascist Alleanza Nazionale and the ex-communists Partito Democratico della Sinistra. Some observ- ers think this is the background to the increasing violence of small extremist groups in the universities.

Last month Renzo De Felice, an eminent historian, had two Molotov cocktails thrown at his home. Professor De Felice is well known for his work on fascism and Mussolini and has often been accused of revisionism. Police investigating the fire-bombing which caused limited damage, said they suspected leftist groups connected to the university.

Professor De Felice recently wrote a book on Italy's second world war capitulation in which the Resistance groups that caught and executed Mussolini were criticised. A few days before the bombing, leaflets attacking Professor De Felice's analysis were distributed at La Sapienza by leftwing students.

Late last month a group of left-wing extremists clashed with police who were trying to keep them apart from extreme rightwingers. Two policemen and three students were afterwards treated in hospital.

Professor Tecce has written to local politicians to remind them that "political debate is certainly desirable, but with respect for the rules".

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