On his return from Athens in 1968 Merlino formed the “XXII March Group,” after the Nanterre group of libertarians that sparked the May events in France that year. The pseudo-libertarian group, which appeared in public some days later at a demonstration outside the French Embassy in Rome under a black banner (with the Roman numerals). As the demonstration was dispersed the XXII March group burned two cars with petrol bombs and the following day Il Tempo talked about preordained plans, urban guerrilla tactics and blind violence with which thugs manipulated by the PCI damaged and set fire to the vehicles of private citizens.
However, it had been recognised as a provocation by the left, who had noted the presence of Stefano Delle Chiaie, Serafino di Luia and other well known Italian fascists. A month after its inception, the XXII March Group was abandoned and with it, presumably, any attempt at a Paris-style provocation.
Merlino then made overtures to the Maoist Avanguardia Proletaria to whom he boasted of having contacts with the publishers of L’Etincelle (Aginter), but the Marxist-Leninists were not falling for it. He next tried again with the Maoist Partita Comunista d’ltalia (Linea Rossa) where no one knew him, but he came undone when his name appeared in the papers in connection with a fascist attack on the PCI HQ in Rome. In the autumn and winter of 1968 he reemerged at the Faculty of Education in Rome where he was involved in various provocations.
In May 1969 Merlino approached a member of the Maoist Unione del Comunisti Italiani (which he tried to infiltrate), asking him a favour. It was shortly after the bombing of the Palace of Justice in Rome and he said he was afraid his place would be searched and he needed to hide some compromising material. Would the comrade hold on to it for a bit until the heat died down? The Unione man said he would and Merlino handed over the fuse wire and detonators. Two days later the police raided his house, but the wise comrade had had the good sense to get rid of it the day it was given to him. That finished Merlino so far as the Marxist-Leninist left was concerned.
In September 1969 the only sector in which he was not compromised was that of the anarchists. He passed himself off as a victim of police harassment to a young anarchist and thereby sought an introduction to the Bakunin Group in Rome.
When Merlino arrived at the Bakunin Group, the membership was already split into two factions. The majority, who were under criticism from the younger members such as Pietro Valpreda and Emilio Bagnoli, were confronted with charges of being bureaucrats, elitists and unable to adapt to the new perspectives opened up by the student and workers struggles.
Merlino quickly sided with the enragé faction and his presence was an important factor in the worsening relations between the two groups and the decision to form a new one. He even offered to raise the necessary funds, 150,000 lire, allegedly emanating from some unnamed Catholic group. In late October 1969 the differences were so great that the Bakunin Group split, with Merlino’s faction taking the name 22nd March Group (with arabic numerals this time), again in an attempt to capitalise on the publicity surrounding the name of the 1968 Nanterre student group. With him went Valpreda, Bagnoli and about seventeen other youngsters. Most of these were genuine, but there were at least two state agents (police and security service) among them as well.
(Source: Confession/Statement given by Merlino to police following his arrest on Friday 12 December 1969.)