Updated: Jan 17
Note: A different logo is usually found on the internet, but after the merger with the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire, the FAI decided to use a variation of the CCF logo. This image is from the letter sent to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera by Alfredo Cospito and Nicola Gai of the Olga nuclei/FAI in which they claim the responsibility for the Roberto Adinolfi knecapping.
The Informal Anarchist Federation (also known as Federazione Anarchica Informale – FAI) (1) is an insurrectionary anarchist network composed of various and independent groups, extremely fluid and devoid of hierarchies and roles, operating through a plurality of ‘lone-wolf’ militants. The organisation was born in December 2003, after it claimed the responsibility – by sending an open letter to an Italian newspaper (2) – for two rudimentary bombs placed in Bologna, Italy, near the house of the then President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi. The FAI, which in 2011 became known as FAI/IRF (International Revolutionary Front), declares the necessity of the revolutionary armed struggle against nation-states and “The Fortress Europe” (3). It underlines the concept of propaganda of the deed and direct action. The cells of its organisation are against nationalism, capitalism, and Marxism, all concepts they consider to be modern forms of exploitation.
History & Foundations
The Informal Anarchist Federation officially appeared in December 2003 with the attack against Romano Prodi, the then President of the European Commission – which started the FAI’s Operation Santa Claus, a letter bomb campaign carried out against European Union representatives, officials, and institutions. Besides Prodi, they targeted the president of the European Central Bank, Europol, Eurojust, the European People’s Party and a British member of the European Parliament (4). In its early days, the network was composed of four known Italian cells: Cooperative of Hand-Made Fire and Related Items, July 20 Brigade, Five C’s, and International Solidarity. Some of them were already active in the late 1990s (5).
After nine years of activity, in 2012 for the first time a cell affiliated with the FAI – called Olga Nuclei, in honour of the Greek anarchist Olga Ikonomidou (6) – shot a person. On May 12, 2012, two masked men kneecapped Roberto Adinolfi, the chief executive of Ansaldo Nucleare. The latter is an Italian nuclear power company controlled by the aerospace and defence conglomerate, Finmeccanica (7). Following the attack, two suspects were captured and convicted – Nicola Gai and Alfredo Cospito. Both attackers declared they acted alone. Cospito is currently held in a prison in Sassari, Sardinia (Italy), at the regime of 41bis, a detention measure of isolation usually used for mafia bosses (8). Since its foundation, the group’s composition has varied, but its network has grown in numbers and has spread through cells around the world – even after the imprisonment of some of its members.
Objectives & Ideology
This insurrectionary anarchist movement combines different nihilist radical causes, including anti-authoritarianism, anti-capitalism, anti-militarism, anti-clericalism, anti-Marxism, the harsh critics against the prison system and the judiciary, and even radical environmentalism. They are anti-democratic and focused both on international, national, and local issues. The fight against the State, in their views, would also correspond to a struggle for equality and their beliefs can be traced back to the views of some classical individual-anarchist ideologies, such as those of Max Stirner, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and Henry David Thoreau.
One of the most influential ideological components of contemporary insurrectionary anarchism can be traced back to the Italian activist Alfredo Maria Bonanno. Bonanno is best known for his essay The Armed Joy (La gioia armata), an incendiary pamphlet written in Italy in 1977 during the so-called “Years of Lead” marked by left-wing and right-wing terrorism. In the early 1990s, Bonanno proposed the coordination between Mediterranean insurrectionary anarchists, especially from Italy, Greece and Spain (9). The FAI emerged from this tradition with a similar project, extending the objective of affiliation to the rest of the world and emphasizing the practice of revolutionary insurrection through illegal and violent direct action.
The main motivation of the FAI to establish its network is “to go beyond the limits of single projects and experiment the potentialities of informal organization” (10). The ultimate goal is to have an organization reflecting the view of the anarchist society that they struggle to create. Both a method of action and an objective are the mutual support between members and revolutionary solidarity (11).
Military & Political Ability
Since 2003, the FAI has claimed responsibility for around sixty international activities, which include threatening actions, bombs and letter bombs against political and economic institutions, diplomatic offices, military bases, police stations, corporations, banks, tax collection agencies, newspaper offices, universities, immigration centres and more ‘capitalist institutions’ (12). The members of the FAI/IRF communicate mainly through their actions or informal channels (13).
The FAI/IRF and its constituent groups’ attacks include sabotage, arson, bombings, assaults and kneecappings, and their tactics are relatively simple and inexpensive, involve low risk, but can cause significant damage. In its numerous communiques, group members encourage their followers/comrades to conduct decentralized attacks. The network has yet to cause any death.
Approach to Resistance
The organization practises armed struggle but has no base, regular or irregular members. Conversely, it has a horizontal structure, composed by a loose network of individuals and small temporary affinity groups based on personal relationships. This is a core tactic of the FAI/IRF as it is an attempt to prevent being infiltrated by informants and the authorities. They mainly act against the symbols of the state, banks and international organizations and high-profile targets.
The networks aim at the "destruction of the State and capital" by targeting the structures of "domination”. For this purpose, they “recruit” sympathizers by using propaganda which highlights such narratives (14) and by sharing its motivations through open letters and claims, even from prison if members become incarcerated. They underline revolutionary solidarity between each group, to be shown to comrades arrested with armed action; revolutionary campaigns with different methods and time to be implemented after a group takes the action and claim the responsibility; informal communication between groups carried out through the channels of the movement without knowing one another directly (15).
International Relations & Potential Alliances
Since its formation as a federation in Italy, other groups across the world claimed to be affiliated with FAI/IRF by using its brand name to take the responsibility for their actions. According to a FAI letter dated January 2004, they have affiliates in Spain, Greece, the UK, Russia, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Indonesia and other countries (16). The most prominent and active of the network was the Greek Conspiracy of Cells of Fire (CCF), an anarcho-individualist group that emerged in 2008 (17). Since the alliance between FAI and CCF, the informal anarchist movement recognizes itself under the acronym of the FAI/IRF (International Revolutionary Front) (18), by which they underline and promote international coordination. Contemporary insurrectionary anarchists have been critical of other nonviolent anarchists, who they accuse of being weak in waiting for utopian freedom.
Considering the loose nature of the organization, individuals and small cells can easily become “members” of it. Nevertheless, the nature of the FAI is constantly transforming in its numbers and members. One of the latest emerging cells is the Carlo Giuliani Revenge Nuclei, who claimed responsibility for the December 2022 arson attack against two cars of the First Counselor of the Italian Embassy in Athens Susanna Schlein, in solidarity with FAI’s imprisoned member Alfredo Cospito (19).
Works Cited (Chicago-style)
(1) - Not to be confused with the Italian Anarchist Federation, also known as FAI, founded in 1945 and still active, marked by a cultural activism inspired by the prominent anarchist intellectual Errico Malatesta. This group distance itself from the informal FAI. See: “Comunicato diffuso dalla Commissione di Corrispondenza della Federazione Anarchica Italiana”, 28 Decembre, 2003. https://federazioneanarchica.org/archivio/archivio_2003/20031228cdc.html
(2) - FAI, “Open Letter To The Anarchist & Anti-Authoritarian Movement”, December 2003. https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/informal-anarchist-federation-open-letter-to-the-anarchist-anti-authoritarian-movement. Original version: FAI, “Lettera aperta al movimento anarchico ed antiautoritario”. https://archive.autistici.org/ai/20210620161937/http://www.italy.indymedia.org/news/2003/12/452964.php.
(3) - Ibid.
(4) – To have examples of their attacks worldwide see: Hanrahan, Jake. “Meet the Nihilist-Anarchist Network Bringing Chaos to a Town Near You”, Vice, February 13, 2013. https://www.vice.com/en/article/mvpyyy/the-fai-are-the-worlds-true-anarchists. And: Marone, Francesco. “A Profile of the Informal Anarchist Federation in Italy”, CTC, March 2014. https://ctc.usma.edu/a-profile-of-the-informal-anarchist-federation-in-italy/.
(5) - Boschi, Marco, Criminologia del terrorismo anarco-insurrezionalista, Rome, Aracne, 2005, pp. 33-40, 112-113.
(6) - Olga Ikonomidou is an anarchist militant active in the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire, a Greek insurrectional anarchist group.
(7) - “The Mark of Life. Toward an Imaginative Way to Destroy the Existent” (“Il marchio della vita. Cercando una via immaginifica alla distruzione dell’esistente. http://media2.corriere.it/corriere/pdf/2012/olga_110512.pdf Cited by https://www.corriere.it/cronache/12_maggio_11/rivendicazione-adinolfi-olga_838d0846-9b54-11e1-81bc-34fceaba092f.shtml
(8) - Cospito is currently on hunger strike as he is protesting the measure of 41bis. See: ANSA, “Jailed anarchist leader 'has lost 35kg' during hunger strike”, December 30, 2022. https://www.ansa.it/english/news/general_news/2022/12/30/jailed-anarchist-leader-has-lost-35kg-during-hunger-strike_8f17b0c9-1bb0-40bc-a2ba-76f009aaab1f.html
(9) - In 1999 Bonanno faced a trial as he was allegedly part of the “Insurrectionary Anarchist” group. See: “Trial against the terrorist group ‘insurrectionary anarchists’” - “Processo contro il Gruppo terroristico anarchici insurrezionalisti” (Bonanno + 53) - “7 depositions of Alfredo Bonanno, Radio Radicale, 1999. https://www.radioradicale.it/soggetti/92240/alfredo-maria-bonanno.
(10) - FAI, “Open Letter To The Anarchist & Anti-Authoritarian Movement”, December 2003, p. 4.
(11) – Ibid.
(12) - Marone, Francesco. “A Profile of the Informal Anarchist Federation in Italy”, CTC, March 2014. https://ctc.usma.edu/a-profile-of-the-informal-anarchist-federation-in-italy/.
(13) – To have an example of internal communications and discussions see: FAI, “Four years… December 2006. Document-meeting informal anarchist federation 4 years after its birth”, (“Quattro anni… dicembre 2006. Documento-incontro federazione anarchica informale a 4 anni dalla nascita”), Decembre 2006. http://www.sebbenchesiamodonne.it/quattro-anni-dicembre-2006-documento-incontro-federazione-anarchica-informale-a-4-anni-dalla-nascita/
(14) – A tactic based on individual actions and on the visibility of exemplary acts of rupture with the existing power.
(15) – FAI, “Open Letter To The Anarchist & Anti-Authoritarian Movement”, December 2003, p. 4.
(16) – FAI, “Don’t Say We Are Few” (“Non dite che siamo pochi”), January 2004. https://culmine.noblogs.org/2011/12/20/fai-irf-do-not-say-that-we-are-few-non-dite-che-siamo-pochi/
(17) – See: CCP, “The Sun Still Rises”, 2011; CCP, “Our Trials Will Turn Into a Conviction of the State”, 2016. https://theanarchistlibrary.org/category/author/conspiracy-of-cells-of-fire; George Kassimeris, “Greece’s New Generation of Terrorists, Part 2: The Conspiracy of Cells of Fire (CCF),” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 35:9, 2012.
(18) – Presidency of the Council of Ministers, “Report on Information Security Policy, Information System for the Security of the Republic”, 2016 (“Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri, Relazione sulla Politica dell'Informazione per la Sicurezza, Sistema di Informazione per la Sicurezza della Repubblica, 2016”). https://www.sicurezzanazionale.gov.it/sisr.nsf/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/relazione-2016.pdf (19) – ANSA, “Schlein attack, claim of Greek anarchists” (“Attentato Schlein, rivendicazione degli anarchici greci”), December 8, 2022. https://www.ansa.it/sito/notizie/mondo/2022/12/08/attentato-schlein-rivendicazione-degli-anarchici-greci_fae25e36-0f4d-401b-b2e1-d5ed6410a0eb.html