Accidental Death of An Anarchist - Revision Notes


Accidental Death of an Anarchist

About Play:

Accidental Death of an Anarchist is a form of political theater, written in response to the death of Giuseppi (Pino) Pinelli, an anarchist who died while in police custody for questioning about a bombing in which he played no part. Some of Fo's regular playgoers requested that he write the play to provide counter-information to the misinformation being propagated about the event by the media. He researched the case thoroughly, drawing from two official inquiries as well as facts shared by friendly journalists and lawyers. His aim was to present this counter-information in a way that would be accessible to all. The event took place in Milan, Italy, in December 1969, at the end of a tumultuous decade. The two main political parties in Italy at the time were the Christian Democrats and the Italian Communists, with underground forces conspiring to keep the Communists out of government, or to introduce a non-democratic system (possibly fascist or totalitarian). Two failed attempts at a coup d'etat in 1964 and 1970 added to the sense of unease among the populace. Activists reacted by demanding new politics and advocating for revolution, with students ready to join forces with striking trade unionists. Neo-fascists, meanwhile, began carrying out terrorist attacks blamed on left-wing groups, with the aim of creating a climate of fear in which the public would support a powerful totalitarian regime in order to stop the killing. The "attack on the twenty-fifth" (24) mentioned by the Superintendent in the play refers to two bombings on April 25, 1969 at the Milan Exhibition Center and the railway station, both blamed on left-wing organizations. By blaming the left, this "strategy of tension" was also designed to halt the growth of strength of the working class. On December 12, 1969, a bomb went off in the Banca dell'Agricoltura in Piazza Fontana, located in the center of Milan. 16 people were killed and another 90 were injured. An hour earlier, a bag of explosives had been found at a different bank in Milan, but it did not detonate; the police blew it up rather than disarming it, thus destroying a key piece of evidence. Nobody knows the full truth of what happened that day, but newspapers reported that anarchist groups were responsible. Giuseppe (Pino) Pinelli was one of the first anarchists to be taken in for questioning. He was detained for three days before "falling" out of a fourth-floor window to his death around midnight on December 15. Another anarchist, ballet dancer Pietro Valpreda, was put in jail for three years for his supposed complicity. Neither Pinelli nor Valpreda were actually involved in the attacks, nor, as far as we know, were any members of anarchist groups. 


Inspector Luigi Calabresiwas in charge ofPinelli's interrogation. Calabresi, whom many suspected of being sympathetic to the fascists, had blamed the Piazza Fontana bombings on "left-wing extremists" and was unlikely to have been impartial to Pinelli. There were five additional officers in Calabresi's office


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