Showing posts with label Carlo Pisacane. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carlo Pisacane. Show all posts

11 November 2023

Alessandro Mussolini - socialist activist

Father whose politics were Fascist leader’s early inspiration

Mussolini's father, Alessandro, by trade a blacksmith, was an active socialist militant
Mussolini's father, Alessandro, by trade a
blacksmith, was an active socialist militant
Alessandro Mussolini, the father of Italian Fascist founder and leader Benito Mussolini, was born on this day in 1854, in Montemaggiore di Predappio, a hamlet in Emilia-Romagna, then still part of the Papal States in pre-unification Italy.

A blacksmith by profession, he was a revolutionary socialist activist who had a profound influence on his son’s early political leanings.  Although his embrace of nationalism was not as full as that of his son, Mussolini senior nonetheless greatly admired Italian nationalist figures such as Carlo Pisacane, Giuseppe Mazzini, and Giuseppe Garibaldi, whom he perceived as having socialist or humanist tendencies.

Regularly in trouble with the police for acts of criminal damage and sometimes violence against opponents, Alessandro was eventually held under house arrest and granted his release only when he announced he wished to marry his girlfriend, a local schoolteacher who was a devout Catholic.

Alessandro was born in a house in Montemaggiore di Predappio that once hosted Giuseppe and Anita Garibaldi as they made their way towards Venice from San Marino.  Anita, carrying their fifth child, became ill soon after leaving Montemaggiore and died outside Ravenna.

Although Alessandro had distant noble roots on his father’s side, his own politics were firmly on the left. He declared himself to be a socialist revolutionary at the age of 19 and the following year took part in riots in nearby Predappio.

Giuseppe Garibaldi was one of Alessandro Mussolini's heroes
Giuseppe Garibaldi was one of
Alessandro Mussolini's heroes
He acquired a reputation for violence and intimidation against political adversaries and for destroying property, regularly testing the patience of the local authorities. Detained in 1878 after defying police warnings to stop threatening opponents and causing wilful damage to property, he was placed under house arrest.

At the heart of his political philosophy was the belief that the means of production should belong to the State and not be privately owned and that society should be governed by committees of workers. He combined his socialist principles with nationalism, driven by his pride at being Italian. His idealistic vision combined Garibaldi-style militarism with Mazzinian nationalist sentiment and humanitarian socialism.

His notoriety as an activist had an impact on his life in many ways. His in-laws, for example, would not grant their approval to his marriage to Rosa Maltoni after he was released from house arrest in 1882, their view of Alessandro not helped by his undisguised contempt for the Catholic church to which his bride, by contrast, was devoted.

He suffered regular periods out of work, too, because prospective employers, aware of his reputation, feared he would be a disruptive influence who might encourage his fellow workers to stage strikes.  These periods of idleness led him to drink heavily and he would eventually become an alcoholic.

Nonetheless, his marriage to Rosa produced three children, of whom Benito - named Benito Amilcare Andrea in honour of the Mexican politician Benito Juárez and two Italian revolutionaries, Amilcare Cipriani and Andrea Costa - was their first born, in 1893. Subsequently, Benito acquired a brother, Arnaldo, and a sister, Edvige.

Rachele Guidi, who was to become Benito's wife
Rachele Guidi, who was to
become Benito's wife
Meanwhile, Alessandro’s political activity continued. He participated in a successful campaign to have Costa elected to the Chamber as Italy’s first socialist deputy, and was himself elected to serve on the council in Predappio, where he organised the first local cooperative among labourers.

His involvement in local government ended, however, when he was wrongly arrested on suspicion of inciting riots in Predappio at the time of the local elections in 1902. Despite pleading his innocence, he was kept in custody for six months before a court in Forlì finally acquitted him.

The spell in prison damaged his health, and after Rosa died in 1905 he drifted into relative obscurity. He opened a small tavern on the outskirts of Forlì and became reacquainted with Anna Lombardi, whom he had courted many years earlier, before meeting Rosa. Anna was by now a widow with five daughters. One of them, Rachele Guidi, became enamoured with Benito, by then a young man in his 20s, and would later become his long-suffering wife. 

Benito, who had helped his father in the smithy as a boy, listening to Alessandro speak about Karl Marx as well as Pisacane, Mazzini and Garibaldi, at first worked with him too in the inn when his own commitments allowed it. In time, though, Benito was at home less and less and as the work took its toll on Alessandro, who turned increasingly back to the bottle.

He died in 1910, just eight days after his 56th birthday. Almost half a century later, in 1957, members of the Mussolini family arranged for his remains to be moved from their resting place in Forlì to the family mausoleum that Benito had built in 1928 in Predappio, the town of his own birth.

There, Alessandro was reunited with Rosa and Benito himself, who was also buried there in 1957, some 12 years after he was killed by partisans on the shore of Lake Como, when it was agreed the family could hold a funeral. Rachele was interred next to her husband at Predappio following her death in 1979.

The parish church at Montemaggiore was rebuilt on Benito Mussolini's orders
The parish church at Montemaggiore was
rebuilt on Benito Mussolini's orders
Travel tip:

Alessandro’s birthplace, Montemaggiore di Predappio, a hamlet which had 100 residents at the last count, is situated about 10km (six miles) from the town of Predappio in Emilia-Romagna, accessed by a road of many hairpin bends that climbs into the Apennines to the west of Predappio.  It was once the home of a castle built in the 12th century, the last remains of which disappeared in the 1960s. Nowadays, the only building of note is its parish church, dedicated to Santo Cristofero, that Benito Mussolini had rebuilt in 1939. A well-preserved castle can be seen at Predappio Alta, one of the villages on the road to Montemaggiore. The Rocca di Predappio dates back to the early 10th century and was enlarged in the 15th century, when the addition of formidable walls made it almost impregnable. Thanks to its use largely as a garrison rather than a defensive bulwark, its structure remains almost intact.

The Mussolini crypt attracts thousands of visitors
The Mussolini crypt attracts
thousands of visitors
Travel tip:

Predappio, where Benito Mussolini was born in 1883, is a small town situated around 18km (11 miles) south of Forlì.  After a landslide hit the town in the winter of 1923-24, many people were left homeless, prompting the Italian government to build a bigger, more prestigious township to celebrate the birthplace of Mussolini, following the architectural styles favoured by the emerging Fascist regime. Along with the nearby town of Forlì, Predappio was given the title of La Città del Duce. The Mussolini family mausoleum in a cemetery just outside the town has become one of several attractions in the town for the neofascists who visit in their thousands each year. Visitors may be disturbed by the number of businesses in Predappio openly selling memorabilia celebrating the Fascist regime, although plans by a local mayor to open a Museum of Fascism in the town did not reach fruition. 

Also on this day:

1696: The birth of violinist and composer Andrea Zani

1869: The birth of King Victor Emmanuel III

1932: The birth of Germano Mosconi, controversial sports presenter

1961: The birth of actor Luca Zingaretti


12 August 2019

Luigi Galleani - anarchist

Activist who mainly operated in the United States

Luigi Galleani supported anarchist philosophies from a young age
Luigi Galleani supported anarchist
philosophies from a young age
Luigi Galleani, an anarchist active in the United States in the early part of the 20th century, was born on this day in 1861 in Vercelli in Piedmont.

Galleani was an advocate of the philosophy of "propaganda of the deed" first proposed by the 19th century Italian revolutionary Carlo Pisacane. 

The theory was that violence against specific targets identified as representatives of the capitalist system would be a catalyst for the overthrow of government institutions.

Between 1914 and 1932, Galleani's followers in the United States - known as i Galleanisti - carried out a series of bombings and assassination attempts against institutions and perceived “class enemies.”

The Wall Street bombing of 1920, which resulted in the deaths of 38 people, was blamed on followers of Galleani, who had been deported from the United States to Italy the previous year.

The large following he acquired among Italian-speaking workers both in Italy and the United States stemmed from his brilliant oratory.  He also edited a newspaper, Cronaca Sovversiva - Subversive Chronicle - which he published for 15 years until the United States government closed it down in 1918.  At one point Cronaca Sovversiva had 5,000 subscribers.

Born into a middle-class family in Vercelli, he studied law at the University of Torino but he never graduated. The end of the 19th century was a period of social tensions, marked by the creation of workers’ movements and repressive measures by the state.  Galleani was attracted to anarchist ideology and soon found himself sought by the police in Turin.

The aftermath of the Wall Street bombing of 1920, which was blamed on Galleani's supporters in the United States
The aftermath of the Wall Street bombing of 1920, which
was blamed on Galleani's supporters in the United States
He fled first to France in 1880 and then Switzerland. When he returned to Italy in 1893 he was arrested and sent to prison for three years, found guilty of conspiring against the State. On his release he was exiled to the island of Pantelleria, off the coast of Sicily, where he met he met and married a young widow, Maria Rollo, with whom he had four children.

They escaped Pantelleria in 1900, fleeing to Egypt, which at the time had a large expatriate Italian community. He befriended a number of anarchists but his presence became known to the Egyptian authorities and he was informed that they would soon begin proceedings to extradite him to Italy.

Abruptly, he and Maria left Egypt and went to London. They then emigrated to the United States, arriving in 1901.

Soon after arriving in the US, Galleani attracted attention in radical anarchist circles as a charismatic orator. He settled in Paterson, New Jersey, and became the editor of La Questione Sociale, the leading Italian anarchist periodical in the United States.

The textile mills in Paterson, New Jersey, where Galleani found support among the workforce
The textile mills in Paterson, New Jersey, where
Galleani found support among the workforce
In 1902, during a strike by silk workers at a factory in Paterson of which Galleani had been an agitator, police opened fire on the strikers. Galleani was wounded in the face and later indicted for inciting a riot. He fled to Canada but was expelled.

In time, he settled in Barre, near Vermont, where he found more support among the community of Italian stonemasons. It was there that he founded Cronaca Sovversiva.

It was a result largely of the content of Cronaca Sovversiva, which not only contained articles advocating the overthrow of government but in one issue included bomb-making instructions, that Galleani was deported back to Italy in 1919.

He continued to publish Cronaca Sovversiva but after Benito Mussolini’s Fascists came to power in 1922 he was arrested and sentenced to 14 months in prison. For the second time in his life he was exiled to Pantelleria, then the island of Lipari, and finally to Messina.

Eventually he was allowed to return to the Italian mainland and died in 1931 in the village of Caprigliola, in the area of Tuscany known as Lunigiana, at the age of 70.

Before and after Galleani was deported, America was hit with a wave of bombings blamed on his followers, culminating in the Wall Street attack in 1920, which injured 143 in addition to the 38 deaths. Many other attacks resulted in fatalities.

The Piazza Cavour in Vercelli, where Galleani was born
The Piazza Cavour in Vercelli, where Galleani was born.
Travel tip:

Vercelli, where Galleani was born, is a city of around 46,500 inhabitants some 85km (53 miles) west of Milan and about 75km (46 miles) northeast of Turin. It is reckoned to be built on the site of one of the oldest settlements in Italy, dating back to 600BC, and was home to the world's first publicly-funded university, which was opened in 1228 but folded in 1372. The Basilica of Sant'Andrea is regarded as one of the most beautiful and best-preserved Romanesque buildings in Italy.  Since the 15th century, Vercelli has been at the centre of Italy’s rice production industry, with many of the surrounding fields in the vast Po plain submerged under water during the summer months.

The sighting tower in Caprigliola may be almost 700 years old
The sighting tower in Caprigliola may
be almost 700 years old
Travel tip

The village of Caprigliola sits on a sandstone rock on the left bank of the Magra river in Lunigiana, an area of northwestern Tuscany known for its great beauty that was a favourite of the poet Dante Alighieri, who enjoyed the peace and solitude of the mountain regions.  Long-term Caprigliola residents still use a unique dialect that is a mix of Tuscan, Emilian and Ligurian words.  Caprigliola has a fine example of the circular sighting towers that were once a feature of the Lunigiana landscape between the 11th and 15th centuries. This one, which rises to a height of 28.8m (95ft), may have been built in around 1230. It is not open to the public but can be visited by contacting the parish priest.

More reading:

How anarchist Gino Lucetti tried to assassinate Mussolini

Why anarchist Giuseppe Pinelli inspired a Dario Fo play

Gaetano Bresci - the anarchist who killed Umberto I

Also on this day:

1612: The death of composer Giovanni Gabrieli

1943: The death of mountain photographer Vittorio Sella

1990: The birth of footballer Mario Balotelli