MALATESTA by Guy A. Aldred (from ‘Pioneers of Anti-Parliamentarism’, ‘The Word’ Library — No. 7, 1940. Strickland Press, George Street, Glasgow

“London. July 1896. At the Congress of the Second International Errico Malatesta and Michele Angiolillo met and became firm and lasting friends…” Flavio Costantini, 1969. From ‘The Art of Anarchy‘, Cienfuegos Press, Haverstock Hill, London, 1975.

“Enrico Malatesta, born in Capua, on December 4th, 1853, went to Naples to study pharmacology, and immediately came under the influence of Bakunin, in 1871. His interest for me consists in the fact that he was a direct link between Bakunin and the anti-parliamentary propaganda that I commenced in London in 1906. The story of my association with Malatesta was told in the Herald of Revolt for June 1912, and need not be repeated here. I remember Malatesta listening to one of my meetings at the corner of Garnault Place, Clerkenwell, before I became an Anti-Parliamentarian. As I was going away with my platform, he stopped not and said: “You are a strange person to be English because you are destined to become an Anarchist.” Although I was never personally very intimate with Malatesta, he made a point after that of attending a large number of the meetings that I held in Clerkenwell. When he did speak he stuck to this theory that I was destined to continue the development of Anarchist thought in Britain. Because of this contact at the very beginning of my anti-parliamentary activity, and because of his own association with Bakunin in his own youth but a few years before Bakunin died, I regard him as a natural link between the activity of the great contemporary of Marx and the movement that I have endeavoured to develop in Great Britain, very largely in face of the opposition of the alleged friends of Malatesta and the alleged disciples of Bakunin.

At an early age Malatesta read Mignet’s “History” of the French Revolution. He thrilled at the popular struggle and like most young Italians of that time became an ardent republican. It was Mazzini’s denunciation of the Paris Commune that turned him into a Socialist. He decided to throw in his lot with those who defended the Commune and he joined the Naples section of the International Working Men’s Association. This section was not in the most flourishing condition. Its most conspicuous member was the ill-fated Carlo Cafiero, at that time a wealthy man of boundless enthusiasm and devotion. Cafiero was intimate with Marx and Engels whereas Malatesta was identified with the principles of Bakunin. He undertook to disentangle Cafiero from all Marx’s intrigues and to persuade him and Fanelli to meet Bakunin at Locarno. Malatesta succeeded and both of these Italian comrades stayed with Bakunin one month from May 20th to June 18th, 1872. Bakunin’s diary records their daily discussion and their mapping out of a definite plan of revolutionary organisation.

Malatesta was now in the closest relations with Bakunin and arranged a conference of the Italian sections at Rimini, August 1872, which brought into being what was known as the Italian Federation of the International Working Men’s Association. This was organised during the month of September as a secret alliance at Zurich where Malatesta rejoined Bakunin on September the 7th. He had refused to attend the Hague Conference and went direct to Zurich from Rimini. Four days after his arrival, Cafiero and the Spanish Internationalists arrived from The Hague. On September the 12th and 13th the definite constitution of Bakunin’s secret alliance was evolved. Ten days later Malatesta returned to Naples in order to devote himself to agitation and organisation. He was the youngest member of the circle that assembled at Zurich and was nicknamed Benjamin on that account. To those of us who knew Malatesta in his age, notwithstanding his boundless enthusiasm and energy, the vision of him as Benjamin is one hard to conceive. The attempt to do so brings home to us the tremendous gulf of years that separates us from the time of Bakunin and shows with what patience one must pursue the path of revolution. A revolutionist is sometimes depicted as a man in a hurry. On the contrary, he is the man who survives the ravages of time. It is the reformist who believes in the idea of haste. The revolutionist wants speed.

In March 1873, Malatesta was arrested as a common criminal for being a member of a secret society of Socialists. With him were arrested Cafiero, Alceste Faggioli, and Andrea Costa. The latter was responsible for persuading Bakunin to participate in the abortive Italian insurrection of 1874. Five years after that disastrous activity Costa entered the Italian parliament as a Socialist and repudiated Anarchism.

After fifty-four days, Malatesta and his colleagues were released. Cafiero went to Barletta in order to realise money for the cause. Malatesta proceeded to Locarno where he rejoined Bakunin and then passed on to Barletta to join Cafiero in revolutionary work. He was again arrested and was kept in prison from July 1873, until January 1874, without either charge or trial. He was then released without explanation. The same month the secret appeals of the Italian Committee for the Social Revolution began to be circulated. This activity was largely syndicalist. The economic conditions of the working-class in Italy at this time were terrible. It could not be said that wages followed prices nor yet that prices followed wages, for as the wages fell the price of food rose and the people were plunged into starvation. The result was that working men without any Socialist or Anarchist ideas plundered shops everywhere. The Bakuninists felt they could not disavow these popular acts so they declared their solidarity with them. Malatesta justified this endorsement on the following grounds: “Revolution consists more in facts than in words, and whenever a spontaneous movement of the people takes place, whenever the workers rise in the name of their rights and their dignity, it is the duty of every revolutionary Socialist to declare himself in solidarity with the movement in question.”

It was at this point that Costa persuaded Bakunin to work for a general insurrection to be timed to occur in Italy in the summer of 1874. Bakunin had his bitter experience of Lyons of 1870 to draw upon; he knew that Garibaldi and the Mazzinians had no taste for the Social Revolution: yet he yielded to the persuasions of Costa who was destined to turn parliamentarian of the worst description. Malatesta was not in contact with Bakunin at the time that this decision was arrived at. He was called upon merely to forward the insurrection when it was too late to change the intention. There resulted the arrest of the Mazzinian Conference in the village Ruffi, near Rimini, on 2nd August 1874, and the ill-fated outbreaks near Bologna, Florence and elsewhere, where Bakunin played his part. Bakunin has kept a record of this period of anxiety, distress, and error in his diary from July 13th to October 13th. Malatesta kept no record but he worked in Apulia as a gunrunner. The rifles were sent to Tarent and reposed in the customhouse there as hardware. The intention was to seize the customhouse and so obtain the “wherewithal.” This proved impracticable and the “hardware” was forwarded from customhouse to customhouse all over Apulia. The peasants did not respond to the insurrectionary appeal and finally the internationalists escaped to Naples hidden under the hay in hay carts. Malatesta remained in hiding at Naples for a few days but was arrested at Pesaro, on his journey to Switzerland, in August 1874. He remained in prison, untried, until August 5th, 1875. On that day he was released following his triumphant acquittal at the great trial at Trani. This trial led to acquittals all over Italy and also annulled the ferocious sentences that had been passed on the prisoners at the opening trial of these series of suppressions for internationalist “conspiracies”, at Rome, in May 1875. In some of the trials the Assizes were of monstrous length, the Bologna trial lasting from March 15th to June 17th, 1876. It should be explained that the prisoners had been jailed waiting trial since August 1874. Until this final acquittal was secured the comrades who had been acquitted earlier had to restrain their activity and refrain from propaganda so as not to compromise the case of those in prison. This period of rest prove irksome to Malatesta.

After his release Malatesta went to Locarno and stayed a few days with Cafiero, who was now bitterly opposed to Bakunin. He proceeded to Lugano where he made his last visit to Bakunin. The rupture between Cafiero and Bakunin began in July 1874, and became complete in September of that year, subsiding into a silent animosity after having received definite expression on September 25th. Bakunin’s revolutionary efforts were now at an end owing to his physical sufferings, his terrible poverty, and the resulting intense depression from which he was suffering. Both Bakunin and Cafiero persuaded Malatesta to proceed to Spain to work for the liberation of Alerini, a Marseille comrade who had been in prison there since 1873 owing to his activity in the Barcelona movement. Alerini had helped Bakunin to escape from Marseille to Genoa in the autumn of 1870 and now the service was to be repaid: Malatesta met Morago at Madrid. The latter was the most advanced Spanish internationalist of his time. In Cadiz he was well received and allowed to spend an entire day in the prison with Alerini and thirty or forty of the Cartagena, Alcoy, and Cadiz prisoners of 1873. As I have pointed out in other essays the unreformed prisons in every country in Europe, including Britain, were far superior to the reform prisons that have come into existence since 1832. In some respects the conditions were less clean and there was more brutality. But there was less callousness, more general freedom, and above all greater opportunities of escape. Malatesta visited the town with Alerini and two warders. He had no difficulty in getting permission for this to take place. Here the two warders were made drunk and Alerini could have had escaped but he refused to go away on principle. The result was that he and Malatesta experienced a great deal of trouble in restoring the drunken warders to the prison. The next day Alerini and Malatesta went to town again, this time with only one warder. Malatesta made this warder drunk but Alerini refused to escape. So again they had to take a drunken warder back to prison. This finished Malatesta who decided to leave Alerini to his prison and to proceed to Naples. Here he met Stepniak. He proceeded to Rome where he went into private conference with Cafiero, Grassi, and other former or actual associates of Bakunin. This conference was held in the spring of 1878 and received Bakunin’s last message, which was transmitted by Serafino Mazzoni. The re-organisation of the International along Anarchist lines was decided and a congress was arranged for Florence to take place in October 1876. Malatesta was forced to leave Rome and to live at Naples by order of the government.

That Malatesta was not clear in his Anarchist or Socialist ideas at this time, and that his insurrectionary impulse developed by his association with Bakunin was not absolutely identified with Socialism, are facts made clear by his desire to fight at this period in Serbia against the Turks. In 1875, the Russian revolutionists, Stepniak, Klemmens, and Ross had joined the Herzegovinian insurgents. Despite their revolutionary experiences in Russia, they were primarily intellectuals and in any event, the case of these insurgents however romantically approached had nothing to do with Socialism. It is not surprising to discover that they had no sooner joined the insurgents than they deserted them and returned to their happier exile in Italy. Garibaldi encouraged this movement. Celso Cerretti, who was a link between Garibaldianism and Internationalism, communicated his encouragement to the Socialists. This caused noted internationalists like Alceste Faggioli to take the side of the insurgents. It was very largely a matter of prestige. The Garibaldian fought and would not stay at home; it was the eve of the Russian war and anti-Turkish sentiment ran high; Gladstone had risen to superb heights of oratory in his denunciation of the Turks; Garibaldi had declared against them; it was almost like a day-to-day struggle and the Anarchist-Socialists, quite contrary to common sense and every principle of logic felt that they could not stand out of the fray. They must show that they were at least as brave as other people. Malatesta decided to take up arms against Turkey. It must he confessed that at this time Bakunin kept his head. He communicated the rebuke to Malatesta and all the other Anarchists who were for war on Turkey and declared that such absurd doings reminded him of the good people who made socks for the heathen negroes they never saw and forgot the half-naked and more than starved poor who lived at home in their own city and from time to time cast them on the streets. Malatesta was indignant and replied that whenever war is made on Carthage, Rome is defended. He set out for Trieste, and was turned back. He set out again and was turned back at Neusatz. At Udine he was mistaken for a runaway customs officer and after being imprisoned for a fortnight was returned to Naples. He spent the summer of 1886 here and passed the time in discussion with Cafiero and Emilio CoveIli. They decided to replace the ideas of Collectivist Anarchism with those of Communist Anarchism. The next congress of the International held at Florence on October 21st to 25th, 1876, was the first body to declare for Communist Anarchism in place of Collectivist Anarchism. There was a congress held at Berne on October 26th to 30th, immediately following the congress at Florence. This congress over, Cafiero, then reduced to absolute poverty through having given his fortune to the movement and having been robbed by comrades and others, with Malatesta began to search for work.

The Anarchist movement, disheartened by the failure of insurrectionary tactics, and oppressed by the futility of parliamentarism, now began to consider propaganda by deed. There is no mystery about the origin of such propaganda. I have dealt with this in other essays specially devoted to the subject. It arises quite naturally from the sense of wrong, from the desire to revolt, and from a general feeling of oppressive futility. Not quite in the form that it subsequently assumed in the case of Ravachol and others, but in a kind of transitional expression between insurrection on the one hand and the individual deed on the other. Cafiero and Malatesta now settled upon such an undertaking. In 1869, Bakunin had suggested to some Bulgarian revolutionists who had consulted him at Getters, a local insurrection. Whether the Italians were aware of this advice or not one cannot say, but it is a fact that Malatesta and Cafiero conspired to bring about a small insurrection in the villages of Letino and Gallo. The insurrection took place on April 6th, 1877. Stepniak wrote an insurrectionary manual for them. In all, 300 people were involved. But as the chief local conspirator was a police agent they were all arrested before the insurrection took place. Since Malatesta and Cafiero escaped the peasants mistrusted them. At last the insurrection became a fact. Twenty-eight people in all revolted, burned the official records, and distributed the goods they had confiscated among the common people. Ill course they were surrounded by military and arrested. They remained in preventive imprisonment — that is imprisonment prior to being charged—at Capita, Malatesta’s birthplace for one year. The death of Victor Emmanuel I. caused political changes in April. 1878. They were rearrested and indicted for the manslaughter of two gendarmes who had met their death during the insurrection. They were brought to trial in August 1878, but the jury acquitted them after a week’s hearing. During this imprisonment Cafiero wrote his abbreviation of Marx’s “Capital.” Malatesta explained to Nettlau at a later date that they all, Bakunin included, theoretically fully accepted the criticism that Marx applied to the Capitalist system and were enthusiastic Marxists.

After the trial Malatesta spent a month at Naples and then travelled to Egypt. After Passanante’s attempt on the life of King Umberto, he was arrested with Parini and Alvino and transported to Beirut in Syria. Here he was released, it being understood that he would return to Italy. Instead he worked his way from port to port on a French ship and finally arrived safe at Marseille. The captain of the vessel refused to hand him over to the Italian authorities although they demanded this at Smyrna, Castellmare, and Leghorn. From Marseille he travelled to Geneva and assisted at the founding of Kropotkin’s paper, the Revolte. This was in February 1879. With other Anarchists he was now perpetually expelled from Switzerland, although he subsequently returned there despite this expulsion. He went to Rumania and here found employment but was compelled to leave owing to fever. He returned to Paris and assisted in the development of the Anarchist movement, which had been initiated there in 1877 by some French Anarchist Internationalists who had got in touch with Andrea Costa. Costa was arrested and imprisoned, where his ideas underwent a change on the subject of parliamentarism. Cafiero and Malatesta were expelled from France for Anarchism in 1880. Under a false passport Malatesta travelled to London via Switzerland. He returned to Paris and was sentenced to four-and-a-half months solitary confinement.

On his release Malatesta went to Brussels. Here he challenged Paul Lafargue to a duel because Lafargue had attacked the Spanish Anarchists including Morago. Many of the Spanish comrades had died in struggle and others were in prison. When one considers how the Spanish Anarchists have struggled down the years for freedom in Spain; when one remembers that during the time German and Austrian Social Democrats were pursuing their useless parliamentary fancies the Spanish Anarchists were being jailed and murdered for their cause; and when one realises that when at last the Austrian Social Democrats were driven by circumstance to fight and die heroically for their cause at the barricades and on the streets, the Spanish Anarchists were also fighting and dying in the cause of liberty: then one’s sympathies go out to Malatesta and his protest against Lafargue’s insults. I do not say that one sympathises with his idea of duelling. Quite rightly, Lafargue refused to accept the challenge. But he did not withdraw his attacks on the Spanish Anarchists. It is strange to think that, as pointed out in my essay on Bakunin, Marx was haunted at this time by the imagination that his two sons-in-law, Lafargue and Longuet, were the last Anarchists, whilst both were bitterly opposed to Anarchism, and whilst the Anarchists, inspired by Bakunin and by Cafiero from his prison cell were putting their hearts and souls into the task of explaining and popularising the work of Marx.

Following upon the Lafargue episode, Malatesta was expelled from Belgium and settled in London for about three years dating from the end of 1880. He was a delegate at an International Revolutionary Congress, which was convened in the summer of 1881. Here he associated with Kropotkin, Merlino, John Lane and Frank Kitz. In 1882 the death of Garibaldi caused Malatesta to publish his first signed article in Lothrop Withington’s Democratic Review. With him in exile was Cafiero. Malatesta witnessed the total decline of the latter’s intellect and his passage into imbecility and lunacy.

Malatesta (1970 Peter Lilienthal and Heathcote Williams) from Stuart Christie on Vimeo.

In the Grido del Popolo of July 2Ist 1881, Cafiero published a letter charging Costa with ambition, vanity, and hypocrisy for his parliamentary intrigues and repudiation of Anarchism. He collected materials for the biography of Bakunin and mislaid most valuable documents. He prepared the publication of “God and the State” with Elisée Reclus, and this edition was published from Geneva in 1882. He also put before Malatesta, Ceccarelli and other Anarchists the outlines of a plan of parliamentary tactics whereby the Anarchists and Socialists could unite for the development of the revolutionary movement without compromise and without resorting to any further abortive attempts at insurrection or abortive propaganda by deed. Although his Anarchist comrades were against him at this point, Cafiero declined to he turned from his purpose. He left London in March 1882, and proceeded to Milan where he published the letter proclaiming his policy on October 27th 1882. He was unable to defend his ideas in discussion because soon after he became insane and was placed in an asylum. After several months of horror here the Italian authorities decided to release him and to conduct him to the Swiss frontier. They were anxious that an Anarchist should not die in the asylum in case they should be suspected of maltreating him. At the Swiss frontier he tried to commit suicide but was saved by his comrades and underwent treatment at the hands of Bakunin’s Ticinese friend, E. Bellerio. He recovered slightly but refused to stay outside of Italy. On February 13th 1883, the Italian Government again placed him in an asylum owing to his grave mental condition. He was discharged many years later but his health had been wrecked and he soon died.

The circumstances that caused Cafiero to endeavour to work out some kind of political expression of Anarchism in common with revolutionary Socialism also changed the nature of Malatesta’s propaganda. He gave up the insurrectionary tactics of arms and came forward as the avowed propagandist. He endeavoured to create an anti-parliamentary atmosphere and to develop a proletarian faith in revolutionary Anarchism with arguments and appeals to reason. He went to war with logic and common sense against the fallacies and allurements of parliamentarism. Whether my Anarchist comrades recognise it or not, this was a definite development of what Daniel De Leon terms activity on the civilised plane. Quite definitely in my opinion, such propaganda activity not only comes within the category of political action but it is the most fundamental and most useful form of political action. It changes the outlook of the common people and prepares a social psychology and also an individual psychology that finally breaks down all tyranny and undermines all transient appeals to violence. At the end of the social struggle it is the mind of the people and no mere power of arms that will prevail. Mind has a physical basis but it declines to acknowledge a physical conquest. Mind came after matter in order that mind might conquer matter. This fact is forgotten by all dictators and by most persons who believe in the appeal to violence. I do not disbelieve in the effectiveness of insurrection at certain periods of crisis. I am not opposed to the test of violence on certain critical occasions. But I do protest that when violence decides to act contrary to dictates of reason and to the harmony of the human mind it degenerates the violence in the worst sense of the term and having become disorder is naturally and inevitably overthrown. Nature no more stands for the degradation and the enslavement of the mind of man that it stands for a vacuum.

Malatesta selected Florence for the publication of the paper that expressed this new attitude. He called his paper La Questione Sociale, and it flourished from 1884 to 1885. All previous Anarchist papers had been fighting papers. They were newsy and violent and their news was not always of the greatest importance. But this was a propagandist paper, the first real propagandist paper of the Anarchist and Anti-Parliamentary movement. It initiated a campaign against parliamentary socialism and maintained this campaign consistently and continuously. It created a revolutionary Socialist mind and gave a clear Socialist understanding. It pioneered a movement and one that could not be destroyed. To its columns Malatesta contributed the most popular of his pamphlets, like his “Talk between Two Workers.” Needless to say this continuous propaganda of Anarchism was cut short by prosecution. ‘Malatesta had to choose between imprisonment for alleged offences against the press and speech laws of Italy, or voluntary exile. Feeling that he had spent enough of his youth in prison he decided on exile and left Europe altogether for the Argentine Republic. He lived here from 1885 till 1889 and conducted a vigorous Anarchist propaganda and threw himself into syndicalist activity. Meantime a court in Rome had condemned him, in 1885, during his absence.

He returned to Europe and settled in Nice where on September 6th, 1889, he published L’Associazione, a large paper similar in style to his Questione Sociale. At this time an agent provocateur of the Italian Government, named Carlo Terzaghi, was active under an assumed name. Cafiero had exposed Terzaghi as early as 1872 and Malatesta now recognised the spy’s handwriting. This ended the spy’s activity and must have saved many comrades from imprisonment. But it also ended Malatesta’s activity. After the second number of the paper was published Malatesta was compelled to seek asylum in London. This was in October 1889, where he joined William Morris and Belfort Bax’s Socialist League. He published his paper at Fulham and it survived seven numbers, the last being issued on January 23rd, 1890. Malatesta had collected a printing fund and was arranging for the production of illegal Italian pamphlets. But the printer ran away with the money and this activity came to an end. After this Malatesta contented himself for a time by contributing to the French Anarchist papers.

In describing Malatesta’s career up to this time I omitted to mention that at the end of 1883 Malatesta returned to Italy, notwithstanding the fact that he was liable to imprisonment for so doing. He went to Naples to nurse in a hospital the victims of the terrible epidemic of Cholera that was then raging the country. The Italian Government suspended its charge against him in order that he might render this service to his fellow citizens. Many other Anarchists did the same and of course Socialists also. Costa was among these and also the editor of the Anarchist paper, Proximus Tuns, who met his death as a result of his heroism in this matter.

Malatesta had learned Spanish in Spain but more particularly in South America. In 1891, he suddenly disappeared from London and organised a tour of Anarchist meetings and lectures all over Spain till well into 1892. Then came the Xeres revolt and his lectures were stopped by order of the Spanish Government. He then turned his attention to Italy and was arrested at Lugano by the Swiss Government for endeavouring to organise an Italian movement from Switzerland. He was arrested for transgressing the expulsion decree of 1879 and threatened with extradition to Italy. This raised an outcry and after a few weeks’ imprisonment he was allowed to return to London. Actually, London was his home until the spring of 1894, for his visits to Spain, to Switzerland, and at many periods to France were always made from London. This was actually his permanent domicile.

In 1893, the Sicilian peasants were on the eve of insurrection and the old exiled Anarchists secretly returned to Italy. The ex-lawyer, Merlino, was among these. The authorities discovered him and he was chased by police through the public park of Naples and arrested in an utterly exhausted condition. Malatesta also returned to Italy and at once became the bugbear of the authorities. Rewards were issued for his capture and the press published reports of him being seen everywhere. His adventures of 1893 to 1894 make similar reading to those of the Sinn Feinners in Ireland prior to the establishment of the Irish Free State.

After Italy, Malatesta turned his attention to America. Merlino had emigrated to the United States in 1892 and on June 5th of that year started an Italian paper at New York entitled the Grido degli Oppressi. A fortnight later Edelman founded Solidarity. Malatesta never mastered the English language and was unable to identify himself with the English speaking propaganda. Accordingly, having been driven out of Italy and re-association with Merlino having directed his attention to America, he gave up his London domicile for the time being and migrated to the United. States. Here, during 1895, he identified himself with the Italian and Spanish propaganda. He returned to London after a year’s activity and discovered that he was able to return to Italy through a special amnesty having been granted to him. He took full advantage of this and at once became the life and soul of an intense Anarchist propaganda throughout Italy and established his third propaganda paper. He published L’Agitazione first at Ancona on March 14th, 1897, and afterwards at Rome. A year later he was driven from Italy by a new prosecution and his paper was seized. He was arrested, thrown into prison, and then transported by the Italian Government to an island penitentiary in the Mediterranean. From here he escaped and made his way to London for his third London exile, which lasted from 1899 to the spring of 1913. During this period his Italian comrades continued to publish the journal he had founded. In order to overcome seizure it had to constantly change its name and appeared under various titles, such as Agitatore, Agitiamoci, Pro Agitazione, etc., until 1906.

His life in London was not without adventure. He was menaced with arrest during the Houndsditch affair of 1911, which is better known by its culmination in the Sidney Street siege where Winston Churchill, with the aid of the guards, the fire brigade, Scotland Yard, and the local police, more or less distinguished himself as a battling Home Secretary. It should be mentioned that all the persons arrested in connection with this affair were acquitted after trial. On May 20th, 1912, Malatesta was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for alleged criminal libel with a recommendation for his deportation. In connection with this affair I organised the Malatesta Relief Committee, which was repudiated by a number of the Anarchists who organised an opposition Defence Committee. The Relief Committee, however, organised a tremendous demonstration in Trafalgar Square and the deportation was withdrawn.

In 1913 Malatesta decided that the time had come for another Italian campaign and he returned to Italy where he established his paper Volontà at Ancona on June 8th 1913. The career of this paper ended in June 1914, being cut short by a popular uprising in Ancona and the smaller towns of the Romagna, in which Anarchists, Socialists, Revolutionary Republicans, and anti-Clericals united in street fighting against the Government.

This was a defeat so far as the street fighting was concerned. But this was followed by a rapid propaganda recovery. Malatesta had again to leave Italy in disguise after an amazing number of adventures. His comrades lost sight of him until he turned up in Geneva and soon afterwards reached London. Here the war overtook him, and Malatesta took his stand against Kropotkin and the warmongers in a very clear statement of his anti-Militarist views. In 1919, he determined to return again to Italy and persuaded the Italian Consul to give him a passport. The French Government refused to allow him to travel through France and with great difficulty he discovered a ship that gave him a passage to Genoa where he landed in December 1919, and received an enthusiastic welcome from the Italian workers. He was arrested in Toscana but released as a result of threatened general strike. He established a daily paper, Umanità Nova, in Milan. Fascism finally suppressed this paper.

After the establishment of Fascism in Italy, Malatesta’s life was a tragedy. The supervision of the police with which he was harassed not only affected his material conditions but also reduced him to a state of absolute isolation. Mussolini knew Malatesta well and is said to have expressed considerable respect for him. This respect notwithstanding, the Government certainly made it dangerous for anyone to be known as Malatesta’s friend, or to visit him, to recognise him in the street, or to write to him on any pretext. Whatever citizen of Italy made even the mildest approach to recognition of Malatesta was destined to become a victim of Fascist persecution. Malatesta was allowed to correspond with his foreign friends and even to send them articles. But the answers were opened and if there was any mention of his Italian friends, which again served as an excuse for further imprisonment. All this came to an end when Malatesta died on July 22nd 1932.

In death it is given to us to estimate the worth of a man and to pay tribute to his importance as a revolutionary pioneer. Malatesta represented that rare type whose entire being is a challenge to all the traditions and governing principles of Capitalist society. He subordinated the whole of his being to the furtherance of an idea. He put principle before principal. His interest was life and not money and not power. Born in the bourgeoisie, a student at the University at Naples, he abandoned everything when the moment arrived to choose his way. He cast aside all bonds of family and repudiated his small-inherited properties. He made presents of these to the peasants who occupied them on the ground that they were his neighbours. He abandoned all bourgeois aspirations and gave up all idea of bourgeois welfare and material security. He gave up his medical studies in order to become a mechanic and an electrical engineer. From this time on he earned his living as a worker, often being reduced to the gutter and at times being in absolute want of a meal. When unable to obtain a job he occasionally turned street hawker. All the time he was possessed by this idea, the emancipation of the common people. His entire life offered a distinct contrast to the labour leader and the politician. There is no metaphysical complication, no interested subtlety of thought about his sentiment or his ideas. His life is simple and candid. As far as possible, living under class society, he tried to be governed by the ultimate ideals of Anarchy, Commonweal, and Freedom which can only find expression in a new society of which, from his youth to his old age, he was such a fearless and untiring pioneer.”

See: REVOLUTION AND EVERYDAY STRUGGLE and THE ANARCHIST REVOLUTION. Polemical Articles 1924-1931 by Errico Malatesta. You can also purchase these eBook directly from us (£1.50 each and readable on a Kindle device) from our eBookshelf or by Paypal — payable to