Presto occuperemo il paradiso: The Italian seventies as a period of revolutionary hope (and despair).


Pier Paolo Pasolini- whose death in 1975 – constituted the mid point of an extraordinary decade

Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the murder of Pier Paolo Pasolini. In a way this event is a kind of midway point in an extraordinary decade for Italy. The Italian 1970s are barely known abroad and even in Italy they are remembered badly, if at all. It seems to me that there is, and can not be, a single reading of that decade but multiple readings overlapping and contradicting each other. One can not can extinguish the fact that this was genuinely a period of both joy and despair. Bombs in public locations and on trains, assassinations, Red and Black terrorisms but also the Movimento del ’77, the Metropolitan Indians, the sacrilegious, wicked satire, controcultura, the emergence of strong feminist and gay liberation movements and figures such as Mario Mieli, and a cinema which at the time was accused of being ‘il piu brutto del mondo‘ (the ugliest in the world) but which,in retrospect, produced some truly great masterpieces. What better slogan to symbolize the hopes of the Italian 70s than ‘presto occuperemo il paradiso’ (soon we will occupy paradise). Maybe one can see the 1970s as a kind of spectacular and prolonged death of the very hope for revolution (finally buried in Turin with the defeat of the strike in FIAT and in Bologna on August 2nd,1980 with the massacre at Bologna railway station). It certainly seems as though the 1980s, 1990s and the first decade of 2000 have not brought Italy back the hopes of the 1970s (and perhaps its despair has been dulled too). Instead it seems to have been in a rather comatose state in recent decades (first with the CAF or Pentapartito) dominated years and then with the collapse of craxismo, came the years of Berlusconi). It seems as though the years of riflusso have become permanent.

This short post is a tentative call for an international celebration of the Italian 70s, or at least an attempt to imagine a virtual celebration (most of the videos are in Italian) which could include the following:-

1. The figure of Pier Paolo Pasolini: Obviously here the figure of Pasolini deserves an immense chapter all to himself.

2. The Festival of Proletarian Youth at Parco Lambro in Milan,1976:

Festival of Proletarian Youth at Parco Lambro, Milan, 1976

Here is one of the major figures of the Italian 1970s, Mario Mieli at Parco Lambro

3. The Movement of ’77 One of the most interesting movements which tried to take the revolt of 1968 on to a whole new plane.

4. Cultural aspects of the ‘Movimento’ – From the cartoons of Andrea Pazienza to the Bologna punk rock of Gaznevada.

Fumetto by Andrea Pazienza

Obviously the cultural aspects of the seventies are an immense subject (difficult to reduce to aspects of the ‘movimento’) colouring the whole context of these years.

5. Workers struggle as well as wider social struggles throughout the 70s and starting with the Hot Autumn of 1969. So brilliantly described in Nanni Balestrini’s Vogliamo Tutto (We Want Everything).

Nanni Balestrini’s novel on workers struggles in the late 60s.

6. Stories like the invention of the revolutionary radio station Alice:

In short, stories of the Italian seventies that deserve telling and deserve remembering. Determining what weight these stories have in reading the Italian seventies surely needs to be done someday. Next year while remembering the 40th anniversary of Pasolini’s death one could also attempt to remember those years which came before and after as an epoch yet to be fully rediscovered. An epoch which has still left many of its secrets under wraps.

About afoniya

I am a translator, language teacher, independent film scholar who is interested in many aspects of culture. I have my own blog on Russian and Soviet cinema at and I have also written for journals such as Film Philosophy and Bright Lights as well as Ribbed magazine. Outside of film my interest runs to language, politics, literature and my world is centred around the Meditteranean, Russia, Southern Ukraine as well as the UK.

3 responses »

    • Ciao Nikolay! That’s great! I’ll send you an email in the next day or two- I’m in Russia until mid April and then will be in Italy in late April and early May. It would be good to have a list of ideas- I can also try to contact with and then meet some people when I am in Italy.

  1. Very interesting overview. I’d suggest a consideration of the Italian Section of the Situationist International:

    Surely Gianfranco Sanguinetti’s “Censor” scandal ( merits mention, given how ingeniously it exposed the true machinations behind the Hot Autumn and its subsequent repercussions – namely as examples of state terrorism designed to legitimize further repression, a fact now acknowledged by official history but at the time denied by everyone – Communists included. Everyone except the SI, that is.

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