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A Revolutionary Life: Errico Malatesta

A short study on the life and times of Italian Anarchist Errico Malatesta by G. A. Aldred, first published in 1940.

Errico Malatesta was an Italian anarchist theorist. He spent much of his life exiled from Italy and in total spent more than ten years in prison. Malatesta wrote and edited a number of radical newspapers and was also a friend of Mikhail Bakunin. He was an enormously popular figure in his time.

Ερρίκο Μαλατέστα – Χωρίς εξουσία

«Τι είναι κυβέρνηση; Υπάρχει μια αρρώστια του ανθρώπινου μυαλού που ονομάζεται μεταφυσική τάση, η οποία κάνει τον άνθρωπο, αφού αφαιρέσει την ποιότητα από ένα αντικείμενο με λογική διαδικασία, να υπόκειται σ’ ένα είδος παραίσθησης του τον κάνει να συγχέει την αφαίρεση με το πραγματικό πράγμα». αναρωτιέται ο Ιταλός αναρχικός, εξηγώντας πώς η θεώρηση αυτή παρά του ότι έχει δεχθεί πλήγματα από τη θετικιστική σκέψη και την επιστήμη, παραμένει ακόμα γερά ριζωμένη στο μυαλό της ευρύτερης πλειοψηφίας των σημερινών ανθρώπων. Η ιδέα αυτή περί αναγκαιότητας του κράτους και της ποινικής καταστολής έχει τέτοια επιρροή (για το Μαλατέστα η εξουσία είναι συνώνυμη ακριβώς με την ύπαρξη των θεσμών αυτών, σε αντίθεση με άλλες πιο σύγχρονες προσεγγίσεις), που αρκετοί θεωρούν την κυβέρνηση σαν μια ηθική και πραγματική οντότητα, με ιδιότητες λογικής, δικαιοσύνης, ανεξάρτητα απ’ τους ανθρώπους που τη συγκροτούν.

Italian anarchists in London, 1870-1914 – Pietro Dipaola

This thesis is a study of the colony of Italian anarchists who found refuge in London in the years between the Paris Commune and the outbreak of the First World War. The first chapter is an introduction to the sources and to the main problems analysed. The second chapter reconstructs the settlement of the Italian anarchists in London and their relationship with the colony of Italian emigrants. Chapter three deals with the activities that the Italian anarchists organised in London, such as demonstrations, conferences, and meetings. It likewise examines the ideological differences that characterised the two main groups in which the anarchists were divided: organisationalists and anti-organisationalists.

Italian authorities were extremely concerned about the danger represented by the anarchists. The fourth chapter of the thesis provides a detailed investigation of the surveillance of the anarchists that the Italian embassy and the Italian Minster of Interior organised in London by using spies and informers. At the same time, it describes the contradictory attitude held by British police forces toward political refugees. The following two chapters are dedicated to the analysis of the main instruments of propaganda used by the Italian anarchists: chapter five reviews the newspapers they published in those years, and chapter six reconstructs social and political activities that were organised in their clubs.

Chapter seven examines the impact that the outbreak of First World Word had on the anarchist movement, particularly in dividing it between interventionists and anti-interventionists; a split that destroyed the network of international solidarity that had been hitherto the core of the experience of political exile. Chapter eight summarises the main arguments of the dissertation.

Errico Malatesta,The Biography of an Anarchist – Max Nettlau

MALATESTAThe 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.

Errico Malatesta: His Life and Ideas

Errico Malatesta: His Life and Ideas, ed. Vernon Richards, London, Freedom Press, 1965

Italian anarchist-communist, militant, and critic of syndicalism, Errico Malatesta is one of the most influential figures in the history of anarchism. Now available online, Errico Malatesta: His Life & Ideas includes both a collection of his writings taken from various Italian periodicals, and a biographical sketch from the editor, Vernon Richards.