The short sketch of Malatesta’s life is based on the exhaustive study of Max Nettlau, published in Italian translation by “Il Martello” in New York under the title Vita e Pensieri di Errico Malatesta, and in German translation issued at Berlin by the publishers of the “Syndicalist.” Max Nettlau, the profound scholar of the Anarchist movement, biographer of Michael Bakunin and author of Bibliographie de l’Anarchie, lives in Vienna, and like so many intellectuals in Europe, in distressing economic condition. May I express here the hope that he will find sufficient encouragement to continue his valuable task in the Anarchist movement? He was in contact with the most remarkable men and women in the revolutionary movement of our time and his own reminiscences should prove of great value to the younger generation.
The American publishers refuse to print the Biography on the pretext that it would not pay. No doubt, should an upheaval occur in Italy and Malatesta’s name appear in the foreground, the same publishers would be only to eager to get hold of the manuscript. Meanwhile our comrades of the Jewish Anarchist Federation offer the short sketch as a homage to Malatesta on his seventieth birthday.
In a very sympathetic review of the Vita e Pensieri in the New York “Nation”, Eugene Lyons states that Malatesta’s life symbolized the romantic age of rebellion. True, but it is not the romance of self-conscious knight-errantry, of adventure for adventure’s sake. It is rather the inevitable unfolding of a character unswerving in its devotion to a philosophy of action. Even at the peaks of his adventures Malatesta has remained kindly, retiring, modest in his habits.
Against the background of a Europe misruled by renegade Millerans, Lloyd Georges, Mussolinis, Eberts, Pilsudskis, and other of the fraternity of ex-idealists, the personality of Errico Malatesta attains an idyllic grandeur. At the age of seventy he can look back upon fifty years of intensive revolutionary work, thirty-six of them spent in busy exile. His life has a consistency, an almost apocalyptic directness which more than explains the adulation with which he is regarded among the comrades. It coincides, moreover, with a concentrated half century of social development. Its threads are woven closely into lives of the leaders during this period — Mazzini, Bakunin, Cafiero, William Morris, the brothers Reclus, James Guillaume, Stepniak, Kropotkin, and many others. It is a life that bridges the time of the Paris Commune and the Russian Revolution. Its course consequently has a tremendous significance.
When Malatesta returned to Italy in October, 1919, after being smuggled out of England on a coal boat by the head of the Italian Seamen’s Federation, all the ships in the port of Genoa saluted his arrival, the city stopped work and turned out to greet him. His arrest soon after and the events in Italy which have forced him temporarily into the background of national life are recent enough to be generally known. Despite his age, Malatesta is still a vigorous social rebel, and the most stirring chapters of his life may still have to be written.