The Knights Errant of Anarchy: London and the Italian Anarchist Diaspora (1880-1917)

By Pietro Di Paola | Go to book overview

4
The New Century

Everyone remembers the ferocious and shameful cry with which the vile
bourgeoisie of Milan, hiding behind the shutters, incited the soldiers of
King Umberto while they murdered the unarmed workers on the streets:
Pull hard, aim right!

An avenger has arisen who pulled strong, who aimed right.1

The new century opened with a dramatic event that signalled a turning point in Italian history. On the evening of 29 July 1900, the anarchist Gaetano Bresci shot dead Umberto I, nicknamed respectively ‘the good King’ and ‘the machine-gun King’ by the bourgeoisie and the anarchists. Bresci’s act avenged the bloody repression of the ‘bread riot’ in Milan when more than eighty civilians were killed by troops under the command of General Bava-Beccaris in 1898. The king had rewarded Beccaris for the successful operation by decorating him and appointing him senator.

Bresci’s act provoked violent reactions. The conservatives and liberals attacked all anti-monarchist groups–socialists and republicans included. The socialist and republican press also condemned the deed; socialist lawyer Filippo Turati refused the regicide legal advice.2 The assassination stirred Tolstoy to express his views on the ineffectiveness of regicide in the article ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’.3

The anarchist movement seemed deeply shaken by the event, incapable of reacting effectively or assuming a coherent, homogeneous position. Initially,

1 Amilcare Cipriani, Bresci e Savoia, il regicidio (Paterson: Libreria Sociologica, s.d.).

2 Bresci was defended by Francesco Saverio Merlino; he was found hanged in his cell on 22 May 1900. The official version of suicide was rather unconvincing.

3 Tolstoy’s article appeared in ‘Listkì svobodnago slova’, no. 17, 1900. See: Piero Brunello’s introduction to: L. Tolstoi, Per l’Uccisione di re Umberto (Chieti: Centro Studi Libertari, 2003), pp. 7–25.

-92-

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The Knights Errant of Anarchy: London and the Italian Anarchist Diaspora (1880-1917)
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Abbreviations vii
  • List of Illustrations viii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- The Fugitives- Anarchist Pathways toward London 14
  • 2- The Making of the Colony 37
  • 3- The 1890s 59
  • 4- The New Century 92
  • 5- The Surveillance of Italian Anarchists in London 122
  • 6- Politics and Sociability- The Anarchist Clubs 157
  • 7- The First World War- The Crisis of the London Anarchist Community 184
  • Conclusions 202
  • Biographies 211
  • Bibliography 220
  • Index 233
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