Despite the growing number of terrorist attacks against middle-level Italians, most people here appear determined to live their lives as usual and seem unlikely to succumb to panic as the terrorists wish.
The recent upsurge in shooting attacks by leftist commandos - 10 last month - indicates that the Red Brigades were serious when they said recently that the kidnaping and murder of former premier Aldo Moro was "just one stage" in a long struggle against "the bourgeois Italian state."
Responsibility for the attacks on businessmen, mid-level politicians, and professionals has been claimed by a variety of groups who lebel themselves revolutionary Communists. All of them appear to endorse the Red Brigade's goal of exposing the weakness of the Italian state and the vulnerability of the country's economic and political establishment.
This technique of attempted intimidation began in mid 1975, when three Red Brigades gunmen broke into the Milan law office of Massimo de Carolis, a young conservative Christian Democrat, and shot him in the leg.
The Red Brigades recently have said that they intend to divide their guerrilla activities between "prolonged action" like the Moro kidnaping and "hit and run" actions like shooting politicians, journalists and businessmen in the legs.
By demonstrating that the country's authorities are powerless to protect Italy's citizens, the extremists hope to provoke a wave of police repression that would drive the "masses" into the streets and thereby create genuine revolutionary conditions.
So far, however, the strategy of sowing terrorism does not appear to have worked. Last week the government easily pushed a sweeping antiterrorism decree through parliament over the opposition of a handful of radicals.
Although some people have been buying handguns or taking minimum precautions like leaving home at different times and varying their routes to work, may middle-level Italians say they do not believe that they themselves might be targets.
A top executive at the Fiat automobile company, where 13 executives have been shot and wounded in recent years, said, "There is no more point in worrying about this than about getting hit by a falling brick". A ranking Rome politician scoffed when he was asked if standing in the sun outside party headquarters was really such a good idea.
Most middle-level Italians cannot afford either the private bodyguards or the armored limousines to which the wealthy have been turning increasingly. Police in Milan recently listed about 5,000 persons who could logically become terrorist targets in that city. Thus is is clear that police protection for all is out of the question.
"The only thing one can, therefore, do is to be very careful when leaving or arriving at both our homes and places of business," said an employe of a large northern chemcial firm.
The lack of panic, so far at least, may also reflect the degree to which shooting victims have adapted. Many of them, some still on crutches after a year, seem to have returned, undaunted, to their jobs.
While an official at Fiat, said that several of the company victims were still in shock, at least 10 politicians and journalists who were shot said in interviews that they have not changed their behavior at all.
Some have even become more politically active.
Many observers here believe that traditional Italian cynicism and fatalism is helping them react calmly.
De Carolis, the terrorists' first victim, told how a small group of young men watched him walk down the steps from the parliament recently.
"That's De Carolis," one said gaily to the others. "Lets watch and see if he limps."