WE WERE THE REBELS, WE WERE THE MARAUDERS. Fragments of an Outlaw Autobiography by Belgrado Pedrini (Translated by Paul Sharkey). eBook £1.50 (see eBookshelf)

BelgradoCoverWe were the Rebels, We were the Marauders. Fragments of an Outlaw Autobiography. Translated by Paul Sharkey. 

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This is the story of Belgrado Pedrini, a self-educated 18-year-old who, in the early 1930s, threw himself into the revolutionary struggle at the height of Italian fascism’s hold on the state. It is about an anarchist who took up arms against fascism long before 1943, the year of the Anglo-American landings in Sicily, of Mussolini’s brief fall from power and of the official beginnings of the Resistance. Well before the end of the truce between brown and red fascism; the red fascism that prompted the Italian Communist Party, the fiefdom of Togliatti, to urge its militants to infiltrate the vital mass structures set up by the fascists so that they might some day use them for their own purposes.

Belgrado Pedrini (b. Carrara 5/5/1913— d. Carrara 11/2/1979)

It is the tale of a convict who, awaiting execution in prison in Massa with his comrades for having killed fascists, was released along with all the rest by a group of partisans in June 1944. The tale of a fighter who did not lay down his arms come the liberation of the national territory. The tale of a 32-year-old former partisan arrested in May 1945 and sentenced four years later to 30 years in prison, accused of killing a police officer and expropriating fascist industrialists in Carrara, Milan and La Spezia, criminal offences despite having been carried out prior to 1943. Convicted like hundreds of other ex-partisans not disposed to embrace the perverted democracy imposed by the Communist Party and the Christian bourgeois or reformist parties, his is the story of a prisoner who, through escape attempts and mass mutinies, did not emerge from the hell of imprisonment until the mid-1970s, having served his full 30-year sentence. It is, finally, the story of a rebel who, after his release ,continued using every weapon in the armoury of criticism, from establishing a people’s library, to his articles for L’Amico del Popolo, not forgetting his support for the libertarian armed struggle group, Azione Rivoluzionaria (1976-1979).

Belgrado Pedrini (prison photo) n.d.

Orphaned at the age of 9, Belgrado was named after the Serbian capital by his freethinking father, a friend and admirer of Errico Malatesta, a sculptor who had spent time in that city. A convert to anarchism at the age of 18 (through reading the anarchist classics), Belgrado was involved in a number of anti-fascist actions by Carrara’s libertarian groups, which eventually resulted in his arrest and imprisonment on the penal island of Pianosa in 1937-’38. On his release he returned to Carrara — and anarchist activism — where he worked as a bus conductor. In 1942 Pedrini and his close friends and fellow anarchists Giovanni Zava and Gino Giorgio were involved in a bar brawl with five fascists, whom they disarmed, beat up, and then fled to Milan where, in November that year they were challenged by police while flyposting anti-fascist leaflets. Shooting their way out of the predicament, the three escaped to Genoa then to La Spezia where they were finally cornered in a hotel by Mussolini’s secret police (OVRA). During this standoff a policeman was killed and all three comrades, seriously wounded, were arrested and taken to La Spezia jail, and then to Massa di Carrara to await trial and certain death by firing squad. Fortunately, however, they were released in June 1944 when partisans attacked Massa jail. Many of then, including Belgrado, then joined the guerrillas in the war against the Nazis and fascists of the Salò Republic. Soon after the Liberation in May 1945, Belgrado was re-arrested on charges relating to the earlier La Spezia incident and other actions from this period, including expropriations of a number of marble industrialists in Carrara, La Spezia and Milan. The trial judges treated Belgrado’s case as criminal, ignoring the political and anti-fascist nature of his actions and, in May 1949, sentenced him to life, which was commuted to 30 years imprisonment. His many escape attempts and the prison mutinies he instigated led to his being constantly moved around the Italian prison system from one jail to another. During his years of incarceration Belgrado read avidly and widely — classics, history and philosophy — and wrote many poems, one of which ‘Schiavi’ (slaves), written in 1967 at Fossombrone prison, was set to music and became a celebrated protest song entitled ‘Il Galeone. Released on April 17 1975 following an intensive international campaign (led largely by the Anarchist Black Cross), Belgrado threw himself anew into the Carrara anarchist milieu with old comrades such as Giovanni Mariga, Giovanni Zavva and Goliardo Fiaschi, setting up the Carrara-based Circulo Culturale Anarchico and the Circulo Anarchico Bruno Filippi, and publishing, posters, leaflets and booklets, particularly the works of Bruno Filippi under the title ‘L’Iconoclasta (1978) and a newspaper — L’Amico del Popolo — the first issue of which was published in February 1978; the last only a month after his death on 11 February 1979.

Il Galeone

Siamo la ciurma anemica
d’una galera infame
su cui ratta la morte
miete per lenta fame.

Mai orizzonti limpidi
schiude la nostra aurora
e sulla tolda squallida
urla la scolta ognora.

I nostri dì si involano
fra fetide carene
siam magri smunti schiavi
stretti in ferro catene.

Sorge sul mar la luna
ruotan le stelle in cielo
ma sulle nostre luci
steso è un funereo velo.

Torme di schiavi adusti
chini a gemer sul remo
spezziam queste catene
o chini a remar morremo!

Cos’è gementi schiavi
questo remar remare?
Meglio morir tra i flutti
sul biancheggiar del mare.

Remiam finché la nave
si schianti sui frangenti
alte le rossonere
fra il sibilar dei venti!

E sia pietosa coltrice
l’onda spumosa e ria
ma sorga un dì sui martiri
il sol dell’anarchia.

Su schiavi all’armi all’armi!
L’onda gorgoglia e sale
tuoni baleni e fulmini
sul galeon fatale.

Su schiavi all’armi all’armi!
Pugnam col braccio forte!
Giuriam giuriam giustizia!
O libertà o morte!

Giuriam giuriam giustizia!
O libertà o morte!

The Galleon

We’re the crew aenemic,
of an infamous prison
on which the quick death
rages with slow hunger.

Never clear horizonts
unclenchs our dawn
and over the sleazy blanket
screams the guide every hour.

Our days fly
between stinky keels
we’re thin, pallid, slaves
tied with iron chains.

The moon rises above the see
revolve the stars in the sky
but over our lights
lied a funeral veil.

Crew of waterless slaves
bent to suffer on the oar
broke these chains
or bent to row we’ll die!

Suffering slaves
what is this rowing?
Better to die between the waves
on the whitening see.

We row until the ship
crashed the reefs
highs the black and reds**
between winds hiss!

And be pitiful bed
the scummy and wicked wave
but rises a day over the martyrs
the sun of the anarchy.

Come now slaves to arms, to arms!
Fight with the strong arm!
Swear, swear justice!
Freedom or death!

Swear, swear justice!
Freedom or death!