December 2, 1968. Avola. Two agricultural laborers, Giuseppe Scibilia, and Angelo Sigona are killed, 48 others are injured when the police open fire on demonstrators demanding better salary conditions in Sicily, in what will go down in history as the Avola Massacre (Eccidio d’Avola).
It is a day which would acquire a specific relevance in the history of those eventful years. A day, according to a coeval report by Italian journalist Mauro de Mauro, which would “for a long time remain in the annals of labor struggles in Italy.” More than two kilograms of spent bullet cases are found on-site in the aftermath of the Eccidio, gathered by MP Antonino Piscitello, of the Italian Communist Party (Partito Comunista Italiano, PCI).
Avola, otherwise a small Southern town, is suddenly on the news, and not just on the pages of the national press. Two days after the clashes, on December 4th, Turkish mainstream newspaper Milliyet re-prints on page 3 a dispatch filed from Rome by the Anatolian News Agency (Anadolu Ajansı), reporting that “tension escalated in Italy as a consequence of the the killing of two agricultural laborers on strike.”1A. A., “Grevci 2 Çiftçinin Öldürülmesi İtalya’da Gerginliği Arttırdı,” Milliyet, December 4, 1968. The dispatch briefly comments also on the Italian political situation, informing Turkish readers that the facts have convinced PM candidate Mariano Rumor, of the Christian Democracy (Democrazia Cristiana, DC), to speed up the process to form a new cabinet and avoid a longer political impasse. The dispatch, corroborated by radio reports, is published also in another Turkish newspaper, the left-leaning Cumhuriyet.2A. A. and Radyolar, “İtalya Siyasi Keşmekeş İçinde,” Cumhuriyet, December 4, 1968.
The rush is not unwarranted. On December 7, a student protest in Milan disrupts the highly symbolical opening night of Teatro alla Scala, the world-famous Opera house standing just a few steps away from Duomo square, right in the center of the Northern city. The students target what is traditionally a gathering of the high society, wishing them to “have fun, on behalf of the Avola laborers.” The ‘actors’ are hardly foreign to Turkey. Before the turn of the year, Istanbul University would once again be closed, as a consequence of student occupations that had been making the news since the previous summer.3Zafer Toprak, “1968-1969 İstanbul Ünıversitesi Boykot ve İşgalleri,”Toplumsal Tarih, May 2018.
A few days later, it is a more politically loaded Turkish outlet, the leftist weekly Ant, to once again comment on Avola on its “Weekly Events” column. A brief titled “A Maoist Party,”4“Mao’cu Parti,” Ant Haftalık Dergi, December 10, 1968, Türkiye Sosyal Tarih Araştırma Vakfı (TÜSTAV). informs the journal’s readers on the events. The news of the massacre is reported just in a few lines, at the end of the article, which otherwise focuses on a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party set up in the area of Modica, with the goal of “establishing a revolutionary front to lead the masses of Sicily.” The author, who is not identified, then proceeds to explain that disorders (keşmekeş) in Italy have greatly increased, “due to the sheer impossibility to put together a new cabinet.”
On December 13, the Rumor cabinet is sworn in. As its first act as a minister of Work, Giacomo Brodolini, of the Socialist Party (Partito Socialista Italiano, PSI), meet with the workers in Avola.