Errico Malatesta (1853-1932) is, undoubtedly, one of the ” giants ” of the 19th century revolutionary movement— an agitator, man of action and a thought-provoking writer. Malatesta was active in the international anarchist movement both as activist and propagandist for nearly sixty years. As a glance through the archives of the anarchist press of the time will show, he was one of the movement’s most respected members, as well as one of its most controversial. He was active in many parts of the world, as well as the editor of a number of Italian anarchist journals, including the daily Umanita Nova. Half his life was spent in exile and the respect he was accorded by governments is insanely evidenced by the fact that he spent more than ten years in prison, mainly awaiting trial. Juries, by contrast, showed a different respect by almost always acquitting him, recognising that the only galantuomo, that the only honest man, was the one facing them in the prisoners’ cage!
Yet if there is merit in his ideas, it is through his experience in the day-to-day struggle and his identification with the working people as one of them. Malatesta had no illusions about the ” historic role of the masses”; he shared and understood their lives and reactions. But because he also understood how their oppressors “reasoned”, and how the “in-betweeners ” preached what they were too privileged, socially and materially, to practise, he expected more from the organised workers. Nevertheless he directed his propaganda to all men of good-will.
The texts in this anthology — from Gino Cerrito’s 1982 selection, Rivoluzione e lotta quotidiana — have never before been published in English, including in Vernon Richards’ ‘Malatesta. His Life and Ideas’ or, indeed, in David Turcato’s more recent anthology ‘The Complete Works of Malatesta’.