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’.
Though complete in itself this volume of Malatesta’s writings is intended as a ‘supplementary’ to the Errico Malatesta: His Life and Ideas which I compiled and edited in 1965 and of which the fourth reprint appeared in 1993. That volume is 311 pages long and includes more than 200 pages of Malatesta’s writings, mostly translated for the first time. But in order to present as complete a picture of Malatesta’s life as an agitator and as a propagandist for nearly sixty years, it was impossible to do so within 200-odd pages and at the same time print complete articles by him. Instead what I did was to make a list of topics that he dealt with constantly in his propaganda and so arrived at the 27 selections which comprise the main volume. I feel it is important to explain how that volume developed in order to ‘justify’ (if I have to) the publication of the latest Malatesta volume. And I quote from Life and Ideas:
Juicio Contra Franco by Victor García (in Spanish). First published in 1963 by ‘Ruta’, Venezuela. This eBook (Kindle edition) is published by ChristieBooks in conjunction with the Grupo Cultural de Estudios Sociales de Melbourne and Acracia Publications —
On 29 and 30 June 1962 three bombs exploded in Barcelona, one at the local Falange headquarters, another at the Monterols College — linked in those years to the far-right Opus Dei movement — the third in the National Insurance Institute. There were no casualties and damage was minimal.
On 19 September 1962 three young libertarian members of the local anti-fascist resistance were arrested and charged with carrying out these attacks: Jorge Conill, a chemistry student at the University of Barcelona; Marcelino Jiménez and Antonio Mur Peirón Cubas, both workers. On 22 September, the three youths were tried by a court martial on charges of terrorism and banditry and one of whom, Conill, was sentenced to death. In Milan, the Libertarian Youth Group attempted to prevent his execution by kidnapping Spain’s vice consul in the city.
The subject of this booklet is the 1962 trial, in Varese, Italy, of these libertarian activists and several supporters involved in the kidnapping— a trial that ended in a resounding condemnation of the Franco regime. The so-called democracies ignored the protest and continued supporting Franco’s clerico-fascist regime in Spain. And why not? After all, it provided them with a good, cheap, tourist destination, cheaper labour and, to complete the picture, all the military bases they so desperately needed to maintain the East-West balance of power in Europe.
Meanwhile, to save itself from impending economic collapse, Francoism saw only one possible salvation, entry into the European Common Market.
For this reason the regime turned all its diplomats, its influence and propaganda efforts to reinventing Francoism in a feverish PR exercise to convince democratic countries of the EC that the regime was changing and had had democratic aspirations.
Hence the easing of restrictions on the press, the election of trade union officials within the fascist syndicates (unions), the introduction into the Spanish political scene of an unusual vice-president of the Council — and the anticipation of the regency and the coronation of a Bourbon king.
Hence, too, the tiresome mantra spread by many deluded and some paid-for agents that “In Spain there are no political prisoners”.
The most dramatic rejection of this slogan was pronounced in the small Italian town of Varese during the trial of the young libertarians accused of kidnapping the vice-consul in Milan.
As witnesses and accused appeared in the Varese courtroom, it became clear that the principal accused was not among the defendants in the dock: Francisco Franco, Caudillo of Spain by the Grace of God.
On 16 November La Stampa’s Turin correspondent Gigi Ghirotti wrote: “Behind the accused in the dock looms the shadow of a dictatorship that subjects defendants of all political beliefs to closed trials without lawyers, sentences that are not subject to appeal, and courts that lack the courage to announce their verdicts to the condemned…”
In the world of today, any defiance of political oppression, any mass resistance to economic madness, any direct action to defend or regain living standards is all too often met with assault by the boss class’s lickspittle legal machine. This book provides a useful and heartening account of how the full force of the law was challenged and derailed in court to provide an exemplary victory for natural justice, with the defendants triumphantly acquitted outright of any wrongdoing, while instead the mask of innocence was torn away from the ultimate oppressors, who were themselves indicted with many of the grossest of crimes.
Carrara-born Gino Lucetti was an Italian anarchist who, on September 11 1926, unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini by throwing a bomb at his car in Rome’s Porta Pia Square. Arrested and tried in June 1927 Lucetti was sentenced to 30-years imprisonment, as was his fellow anti-fascist Vincenzo Baldazzi. Lucetti escaped in 1943, having spent 16 years in jail but, unfortunately, he was killed soon after during a German bombardment of Ischia.
The career of Luigi Galleani involves a paradox. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, he was the leading Italian anarchist in the United States, one of the greatest anarchist orators of his time, in a class with Emma Goldman and Johann Most, editor of the foremost Italian-American anarchist periodical, La Cronaca Sovversiva (The Subversive Chronicle), which ran for fifteen years before its supression by the American government, and inspirer of a movement that included Sacco and Vanzettiamong its adherents.
Yet Galleani has fallen into oblivion. He is virtually unknown in the United States, outside of a small circle of scholars and of personal associates and disciples, whose ranks are rapidly dwindling. No biography in English has been devoted to him, nor is he mentioned in the general histories of anarchism by George Woodcock and James Joll or in the comprehensive history of American anarchism by William Reichert. His writings, moreover, had remained untranslated until the appearance of the work under review, which, distilling the essence of his radical beliefs, his credo of revolutionary anarchism, fills a conspicuous gap in the literature of anarchism available to English readers and restores a major figure in the movement to his proper historical place.