Showing posts with label anarchism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label anarchism. Show all posts

13 October 2020

Mario Buda - anarchist

Prime suspect in Wall Street bombing 

Mario Buda
Mario Buda was suspected of being involved
with several bombings in the United States
Mario Buda, the anarchist suspected but never convicted of the 1920 Wall Street bombing, was born on this day in 1884 in Savignano sul Rubicone, a town in the Emilia-Romagna region, about 90km (56 miles) southeast of Bologna.

Some 38 people were killed, with hundreds more injured, when a horse-drawn cart packed with explosives exploded close to the New York Stock Exchange building on the famous thoroughfare. Buda was identified by a blacksmith who had rented him the horse and Federal agents began an investigation.

The Italian, who had emigrated to the United States in 1907, was known to the police after being arrested previously in connection with a double-murder in the town of Braintree, Massachusetts. He had escaped from custody on that occasion and evaded detection again, boarding a ship to return to Italy before he could be questioned over the bombing.

Born into a family of modest means, Buda led an unsettled youth. He was arrested for robbery at the age of 15 and later served a jail term after being indicted on a charge of noise pollution at night. On his release, he was apprenticed to a shoemaker but remained restless and, like many young Italians in the early 20th century, imagined that moving to America would lead to a more prosperous life.

This proved far from the case. He flitted from one menial job to another amid a climate in New York that was hostile towards immigrants, particularly Italians, who were the victims of racial prejudice.  In 1911, he went back to Italy but, finding his life chances no better than before, decided to make another attempt to settle in the US two years later, this time in Boston, a city with links in the community to Romagna, where he worked in a shoe factory.

Nicola Sacco (left) and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were key figures in the anarchist movement in Boston
Nicola Sacco (left) and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were
key figures in the anarchist movement in Boston
The origins of his interest in the anarchist movements are not clear, although Romagna was a hotbed of such activity in Italy. In America, it is known that he met Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian anarchists, in Massachusetts, where Buda had become involved in the labour movement, often travelling to join protests and support strikes.

He began to attend anarchist meetings and to follow Luigi Galleani, a powerful orator and advocate of anarchist action, who edited a newspaper, Cronaca Sovversiva - Subversive Chronicle - which had 5,000 subscribers before the US Government closed it down in 1918.

In 1916, Buda was arrested for taking part in a demonstration in Boston against American intervention in World War One and sentenced to five months in jail after refusing to swear an oath on the Bible at his trial. On his release, he fled to Mexico with Sacco and Vanzetti to avoid being conscripted.

He was suspected of being a participant in a number of bombings, including an attack on a parade in San Francisco supporting US involvement in WW1 that killed 10 people, and another in Milwaukee, where a bomb placed outside an Italian Evangelical Mission was removed but then exploded inside a police station, killing nine officers and two civilians.  Soon afterwards, a series of further bombings prompted the US Government to draw up the Immigration Act of 1918, which provided the powers for foreigners to be deported even on the basis of mere suspicion of subversive activity.

The 1920 Wall Street attack killed 38 people and wounded hundreds more
The 1920 Wall Street attack killed 38 people
and wounded hundreds more
The double-murder in Braintree, for which Buda was accused but escaped custody, resulted in the indictment of Sacco and Vanzetti on 11 September, 1920, five days before the Wall Street attack. Galleani had been deported the previous year and it is thought that Buda - by then going under the name of Mike Boda - wanted to do something to avenge his friends. 

Whether the Wall Street bomb was his work was never proved, although clearly someone had the motive to leave the horse-drawn wagon and its deadly cargo - some 100lb of dynamite and 500lb of cast-iron sash window weights - between the Stock Exchange building and the headquarters of J P Morgan, with a timing device that caused it to detonate at just after noon on 16 September. Among those who were injured but survived were Junius Spencer Morgan III, the son of J P Morgan, and Joseph P Kennedy, the father of future US president John F Kennedy.

Despite the testimony of the blacksmith, Buda was able to travel to the state of Rhode Island, the tiny state that neighbours Massachusetts and Connecticut, obtaining a passport from the Italian consulate. In October, he left New York on a French ship bound for Naples and by November was back in Savignano, where he resumed his aborted career as a shoemaker.

He kept a low profile initially but again was drawn towards anarchist causes. Arrested during clashes between fascists and anti-fascists in 1921, he was accused along with 15 others of being complicit in the murder of a police sergeant but was acquitted through lack of evidence. However, in August of the following year, a raid on his home turned up letters from anarchists in America and Italy and he was tried and convicted on conspiracy charges.  He was imprisoned on the island of Lipari, where he became reacquainted with Galleani, a fellow prisoner, and then Ponza, before being released in 1932.

After initially moving to Switzerland, he returned to Savignano, where he had a relatively quiet life thereafter, continuing to make shoes.  He died in 1963 at the age of 78, having allegedly admitted to a nephew in 1955 that he was responsible for the Wall Street bomb.

The pretty harbour in the town of Lipari on the island of the same name in the Aeolian Islands
The pretty harbour in the town of Lipari on the
island of the same name in the Aeolian Islands
Travel tip:

With a population of approximately 10,000, Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago off the coast of Sicily. The town of Lipari has picturesque streets reminiscent of Capri, with plenty of bars and restaurants, plus a pretty harbour and an historic castle.  It can be reached by a ferry from Milazzo, on the northeastern coast of Sicily, the journey taking just under an hour, while local boat services link Lipari with the other islands, such as Stromboli, Vulcano and Salina.  Although Lipari has volcanic origins, it is around 1,400 years since the last eruption, with volcanic activity today limited to thermal springs and fumaroles. 

The Roman bridge across the waterway reputed  to be the historical Rubicon river
The Roman bridge across the waterway reputed
 to be the historical Rubicon river
Travel tip:

Savignano sul Rubicone, where Buda was born and died, is a town of some 16,000 inhabitants in the province of Forlì-Cesena, about 30km (19 miles) southeast of Forlì.  It takes its name from the Rubicon, the river famous for Julius Caesar's historic crossing, when he led the army of Cisalpine Gaul, of which he was governor, across the river into territory controlled directly from Rome, thus sparking a civil war.  For centuries the exact location of the original river was unknown, but in 1991, the Fiumicino, a river which passes through Savignano, was identified as the most likely location. Prior to that the town was called Savignano di Romagna.  Along Via Matteotti in the town there is a bridge over the river said to date back to Roman times, marked with a statue of Julius Caesar.

Also on this day:

54: The death of the Roman emperor Claudius

1815: The execution of Joachim Murat, former King of Naples

1899: The birth of racing driver and car-maker Piero Dusio


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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


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6 July 2018

Pietro Valpreda - the ‘bomber’ who never was

Jailed suspect acquitted after 16 years


Pietro Valpreda was charged with the bombing on the testimony of a taxi driver
Pietro Valpreda was charged with the bombing
on the testimony of a taxi driver
Pietro Valpreda, who was arrested following the Piazza Fontana bombing in Milan in December 1969 and was held for 16 years awaiting trial as a terrorist before being acquitted, died on this day in 2002.

The Piazza Fontana bombing killed 17 people and injured 88 others after a device was detonated inside the Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura on Piazza Fontana, which is just a few streets away from the Duomo in the centre of Milan.

Valpreda was an anarchist sympathiser but insisted he was at home on the afternoon of the incident, being cared for by an aunt, who swore under police questioning that her nephew, who was a dancer with a vaudeville company, was suffering from flu.

He was charged, however, on the evidence of a taxi driver, Cornelio Rolandi, who said he dropped a man fitting Valpreda’s description in the vicinity of the bank before the bomb went off and picked him up again afterwards, minus a briefcase he had been carrying when he dropped him.

Despite considering Rolandi’s evidence to be unreliable on the grounds of inconsistencies in his description of events, prosecuting magistrates held Valpreda, along with Giuseppe Pinelli and other known members of anarchist groups.  There was a story in circulation at the time that Valpreda had been trained in the handling and use of explosives while on national service in Gorizia, but this was untrue.

Valpreda during one of his court appearances
Valpreda during one of his court appearances
Valpreda was arrested on the same day that Pinelli fell to his death from a fourth floor window at Milan’s police headquarters, an unexplained event that inspired Dario Fo’s play, Accidental Death of an Anarchist.

Reportedly named by Rolandi in an identity parade, Valpreda was moved to the Regina Coeli prison in the Trastevere district of Rome. He was condemned in the Italian media as if guilty beyond all doubt. The left-wing newspaper L’Unitá described him as ‘the monster of Piazza Fontana’, while others carried his picture with the headline ‘It’s him’, apparently echoing the words of Rolandi when asked to point out the suspect in the ID line-up.

He stayed at Regina Coeli for more than three years before being released to house arrest.

The process of investigating the bombing took many years. Over time, compelling evidence emerged of a plot by a right-wing group within the Italian political system to stage an event likely to destabilise the country and blame it on the left.

Giuseppi Pinelli, the bombing suspect who died in police custody
Giuseppi Pinelli, the bombing suspect
who died in police custody
Even so, it took a further 15 years until a judge decided that Valpreda should be acquitted on the grounds of lack of evidence. The suspicion was that the man the taxi driver identified as Valpreda was actually Nino Sottosanti, a neofascist who bore a close resemblance to him.

After his release, Valpreda campaigned for justice for himself and his friend Pinelli, while continuing to work as a dancer.  He also wrote poetry and published his prison diaries, under the title It's him!.  There were two further trials relating to the explosion, the most recent of which was in 2000, although as in the previous trials, the defendants, who had links to a right-wing terror group Ordine Nuovo, were acquitted for lack of evidence.

For a while, Valpreda ran a bar in Milan’s Corso Garibaldi, which was decorated with posters from campaigns for his release.  It became a meeting place for many of his former anarchist associates.

In time he sold the bar and began to write detective novels, featuring a policeman named Pietro Binda as his main character, all set in Milan and with strong political themes, mostly written with the collaboration of crime journalist Piero Colaprico.  He died at his home in Milan aged 69.

One of the simple memorials to the  bombing suspect Giuseppe Minelli
One of the simple memorials to the
bombing suspect Giuseppe Minelli
Travel tip:

Piazza Fontana can be found behind Milan’s Duomo, a short walk away along via Via Carlo Maria Martini.  There are two simple memorials to Giuseppe Pinelli, the bombing suspect who died in police custody, on a lawn opposite the Banca Nazionale dell’Agricoltura.  On the other side of the piazza is Milan’s 16th-century Archbishop's Palace, partly modified with neoclassical additions in the 18th century, which is the official residence of the Archbishop of Milan. The palace owes its grandeur to archbishop Carlo Borromeo, who wanted to live permanently in the palace and commissioned Pellegrino Tibaldi to undertake a reconstruction project in 1585.

Corso Garibaldi in Milan, looking towards Porta Garibaldi
Corso Garibaldi in Milan, looking
towards Porta Garibaldi
Travel tip:

Corso Garibaldi, which runs from Porta Garibaldi towards the city centre in the direction of the Sforza Castle, is the street on which Valpreda kept a bar after his acquittal. Modern and semi-pedestrianised, it is a pleasant and relatively peaceful thoroughfare with numerous bars and restaurants more frequently used by local residents rather than tourists, although the popularity of the neighbouring Brera district is changing this. The metro station Moscova is situated halfway along the street. The simple church of Santa Maria Incoronata can be found at the Porta Garibaldi end.

More reading:

The Piazza Fontana bombing

Giuseppe Pinelli and the Accidental Death of an Anarchist

How Dario Fo put the spotlight on corruption

Also on this day:

1849: The death of Goffredo Mameli, writer of the Italian national anthem

1942: The death of Sicilian Mafia-buster Cesare Mori






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29 May 2018

Michele Schirru - would-be assassin

Anarchist executed for plotting to kill Mussolini


The anarchist Michele Schirru returned from the United States planning to kill Mussolini
The anarchist Michele Schirru returned from
the United States planning to kill Mussolini
The Sardinian-born anarchist Michele Schirru was executed by firing squad in Rome on this day in 1931.

Schirru, a former socialist revolutionary who had emigrated to the United States, had been arrested on suspicion of plotting to assassinate the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Seized at a hotel in Rome in February 1931, having arrived in the capital about three weeks earlier, he was tried by the Special Fascist Court and after he had loudly declared his hatred of both Fascism and communism was found guilty.

A death sentence was handed down at a further hearing on May 28 and the execution was carried out at first light the following day at the Casal Forte Braschi barracks on the western outskirts of Rome, where 24 Sardinian soldiers had answered the call to volunteer for the firing squad.

Schirru died screaming ‘long live anarchy, long live freedom, down with Fascism’, which bizarrely won posthumous praise from Mussolini, who made reference to Schirru’s distinguished service in Italy’s army during the First World War and applauded his bravery for declaring his unwavering conviction to his cause even as the riflemen were about to squeeze the trigger.

Born in Padria, Sardinia in 1899, Schirru was brought up by his mother in Poggio Maggiore in mountainous southern Piedmont after his father had emigrated to the United States. He attended the Maritime School in La Spezia, while at the same time taking part in demonstrations in Turin that twice saw him jailed.

Mussolini addressing a rally in Milan at around the time Schirru was arriving in Italy
Mussolini addressing a rally in Milan at around
the time Schirru was arriving in Italy
On his release following his second incarceration, he was called up for three years of compulsory military service, 14 months of which he spent on the front line in the First World War, which he hoped might turn into a war of liberation for the oppressed and the prelude to social revolution in Italy.

Demobbed in 1919, he returned to protesting on the streets of Turin, having by then embraced anarchy. He became increasingly disenchanted with the left in Italy, never more so than when the Italian Communist Party (PSI) decided to abandon a two-year programme of factory occupations and, he felt, allowed the bosses to regain control.

This prompted him to follow his father in emigrating to the United States, where he disembarked from an ocean liner filled with Italians seeking a new life on November 2, 1920.

Schirru settled in northern Manhattan and continued to be politically active, often becoming involved in street brawls between socialists and Fascist sympathisers within the Italian community.  He married an American woman, with whom he had two children, and after working for a while as a mechanic started a fruit business in the Bronx.

At the same time he was dismayed, watching from afar, at the Fascist grip on Italy and decided that the only way to release his homeland from Mussolini’s malevolent rule was to kill him.

Schirru considered carrying out his attack in Piazza Venezia, through which Mussolini passed most days
Schirru considered carrying out his attack in Piazza Venezia,
through which Mussolini passed most days
He travelled to Paris, where his association with the anarchist weekly newspaper L'Adunata dei Refrattari opened doors to the kind of people who would support his assassination plan. He arrived in Rome on the evening of January 12, 1931, checking in at the Hotel Royal on Via XX Settembre, with two bombs in his luggage.

Over the next few days, Schirru familiarised himself with the route Mussolini took through Rome on government business on most days, through Villa Torlonia, Porta Pia, the Viminale, Via Nazionale and Piazza Venezia, looking for the best place to carry out an attack.

He was arrested on February 3 at another hotel, the Albergo Colonna, on Via dei Due Macelli, not far from the Spanish Steps, where he was found with Anna Lucovszky, a 24-year-old Hungarian-born dancer he had met not long after arriving in Rome.

Schirru attempted to commit suicide with a pistol but failed while being held at a police station, and it was while he was being treated for his wounds in hospital that bombs and incriminating correspondence were found in his hotel room.

In court he claimed he had abandoned his plan to assassinate Il Duce because of logistical concerns but admitted he had seen it as a way to provoke the collapse of “the dictatorial and bourgeois political order of society”.

The Colli Tortonesi is a wine-growing region in Piedmont.
The Colli Tortonesi is a wine-growing region in Piedmont.
Travel tip:

Poggio Maggiore, where Schirru was brought up by his mother, is a tiny village in the parish of Borghetto di Borbera in Piedmont, about about 110km (68 miles) southeast of Turin and about 35km (22 miles) southeast of Alessandria. There are a few ruined castles, including that at Torre Ratti, but the area is best known for wine production, being part of the Colli Tortonesi region. Look out for Timorasso, Cortese or Croatina wines, and for the area’s own historic cheese, called Montebore. The hills are also notable for fruits and vegetables as well as chestnuts, truffles, honey and salami.

Piazza di Spagna, with Via dei Due Macelli on the left
Piazza di Spagna, with Via dei Due Macelli on the left
Travel tip:

Via dei Due Macelli, where Schirru was arrested at what was then the Albergo Colonna, is the street that connects Via del Tritone - the long thoroughfare that runs from the prime minister’s residence at Palazzo Chigi to the Piazza Barberini - with Piazza di Spagna. Right at the heart of the city on the edge of the elegant Colonna district, it takes its name from the two butchers’ premises that were once located on the street, where livestock was brought before the slaughterhouse at Porta del Popolo was built in 1825.

Also on this day:

1926: The birth in Florence of English TV and radio presenter Katie Boyle

2013: The death of actress and political activist Franca Rame, wife of Dario Fo

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14 December 2016

Errico Malatesta - anarchist

Middle-class boy who became notorious revolutionary


Errico Malatesta in a picture taken in 1890
Errico Malatesta in a picture taken in 1890
Errico Malatesta, one of the most prominent figures in the anarchist movement that flourished in Italy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was born on this day in 1853 in the province of Caserta, in what is now Campania.

A committed revolutionary who was arrested for the first time at the age of 14, he spent more than 10 years of his life in prison and about 35 years in exile.

Apart from his activity in his own country, Malatesta helped organize anarchist revolutionary groups in several European countries, as well as in Egypt, and in North and South America, including Argentina, where he helped bakers form the country's first militant workers' union.

Born into a family of middle-class landowners in Santa Maria Capua Vetere in what was then the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Malatesta was arrested aged 14 for sending an "insolent and threatening letter" to King Victor Emmanuel II.

Although he would become closely associated with the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, Malatesta drew his first inspiration from Giuseppe Mazzini, the Italian revolutionary who was a driving force in the Risorgimento movement that culminated in the unification of Italy in 1871.

He studied medicine at Naples University until he was expelled in 1871 for taking part in a demonstration, after which he joined the Naples section of the International Workingmen's Association, A year later, met Bakunin for the first time at a congress of international socialist, communist and anarchist groups in Switzerland.

Giuseppe Mazzini was an early inspiration for Malatesta
Giuseppe Mazzini was an early
inspiration for Malatesta
Malatesta's ideals were based on the abolition of all government and all organisations that seek to create and impose laws, plus the end of private ownership of land, raw materials and work tools.  He proposed that societies function through the establishment of collective associations of producers and consumers working for the common interest and that patriotic nationalism and rivalries between countries be abolished by the removal of international borders.

To achieve these aims, however, required the overthrow of state rule and capitalism, and Malatesta fervently believed this would be best achieved by armed insurrection, which is why he spent much of his life trying not always successfully to avoid arrest.

After being imprisoned twice for spreading internationalist propaganda, Malatesta joined with fellow Italian anarchist Carlo Cafiero and the Russian Sergius Stepniak and others 1877 in leading an insurrection in the province of Benevento in Campania, which briefly gave them control of two villages, Letino and Gallo, and was greeted with approval by many residents, especially when they made a bonfire of taxation records.

However, they were soon captured by government troops and held in custody for 16 months.  By the time Malatesta was released the state's attitude to anarchism had hardened, particularly after an assassination attempt against King Umberto 1, and after a year of invasive surveillance he decided to live in exile.

He spent time in Egypt, Switzerland, Romania and France before establishing a home in London in 1881, to which he would periodically return for the next 40 years.

Rioters mounted barricades when troops were sent to quell the food riots in Milan in the late 1890s
Rioters mounted barricades when troops were sent
to quell the food riots in Milan in the late 1890s
His periods in Italy were usually terminated by arrest, notably in 1898 when he was drawn to join a growing anarchist movement among dockworkers in Ancona.  During street fights, he was quickly identified by police and spent much of 1898 and 1899 in jail, unable to participate in a period of prolonged social upheaval in Italy characterised by food riots, a massacre of demonstrators by troops in Milan and the beginnings of Fascism.

Malatesta was ultimately sent to a prison on the island of Lampedusa, but escaped and returned to London, where he lived a relatively quiet life as an electrician but gained notoriety by supplying oxyacetylene cutting equipment to a gang of Latvian revolutionaries so that they could break into the safe at a jewellers in Houndsditch.

The Houndsditch robbery, which resulted in the deaths of three policemen, led indirectly to the Siege of Sidney Street, where two of the robbers were tracked down and eventually killed at a house in Stepney.  Malatesta's cutting gear is on permanent display at the City of London Police Museum.

After the First World War, Malatesta returned to Italy for the final time. Soon arrested and imprisones again, he was released just before the Fascists came to power. However, Malatesta then defied Mussolini's ban on independent newspapers by publishing the journal Pensiero e Volontà - Thought and Will.  The publication was closed and Malatesta placed under house arrest.

He spent his final years earning a living as an electrician. He died in Rome from bronchial pneumonia in July, 1932, aged 78.

The remains of the Roman amphitheatre at Santa Maria Capua Vetere, where Malatesta was born
The remains of the Roman amphitheatre at Santa Maria
Capua Vetere, where Malatesta was born
Travel tip:

Santa Maria Capua Vetere, by which the oldest part of the city of Capua, north of Naples, is known, is notable for being the site of the second largest of all known Roman amphitheatres, with a length of 170 metres (560ft) and a width of 140m (460ft). Only the Colosseum in Rome (188m by 156m) is bigger.  Built in the time of Augustus, restored by Hadrian and dedicated by Antoninus Pius, the amphitheatre originally had 80 Doric arcades of four stories each, but only two arches now remain.  The interior is better preserved and beneath the arena is a complex system of subterranean passages.


Travel tip:

The island of Lampedusa, where Malatesta was imprisoned before escaping to London in 1899, is the southernmost part of Italy. It is part of the Sicilian province of Agrigento, although the nearest landfall is Tunisia, about 113km (70 miles) away. It has a historic claim to be part of Malta when that island was a British colony.  Lampedusa's Rabbit Beach was once voted as the world's best beach by the travel website, Tripadvisor. In recent years, Lampedusa has become a primary European entry point for migrants from Africa.



More reading:


Giuseppe Mazzini - hero of the Risorgimento

How Republican activist Giovanni Passannante tried to kill Umberto I

Giuseppe Pinelli - anarchist whose 'accidental death' inspired Dario Fo play


Also on this day:


1784: Birth of Maria Antonia, Neapolitan princess who lived sad, short life

(Photo of amphitheatre by Nicolo d'Orta via Wikimedia Commons)

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