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

By Pietro Di Paola | Go to book overview

5
The Surveillance of Italian Anarchists in
London

The Italian authorities were seriously concerned about the danger represented by anarchists living abroad; they regarded the colonies established outside Italy by the Internationalists as dangerous centres of conspiracy. Since the Italian police could not intervene directly in foreign countries, the prosecution of anarchists fell to the discretion of foreign police forces, but collaboration was often problematic. Therefore, the Italian government attached great importance to its own system of surveillance carried out by an intelligence service largely based on informers and secret agents infiltrating the anarchist groups.1 Ambassadors and consuls were key elements in establishing the office known as the ‘International Police’. In 1888, the consul in Geneva, Giuseppe Basso, writing to the Prime Minister Francesco Crispi, declared himself one of the main founders of this system of international surveillance, a sort of pioneer.2

Although the ultimate decision on recruitment belonged to the Ministry of the Interior, consuls and ambassadors enlisted their own informers in loco. Moreover, the Minister of the Interior occasionally recruited his own agents without the interference of the ambassadors, who were kept in the dark about their existence.

The Ministry of the Interior administered the espionage budget and decided upon the estimate of expenditure submitted by consuls and ambassadors. To avoid direct involvement by the Italian authorities, anonymous functionaries maintained contacts between the embassies and their informers. The person who for many years received and delivered the reports to the embassy

1 Stefania Ruggeri, ‘Fonti per la storia del movimento operaio in Italia presenti nell’Archivio Storico Diplomatico del Ministero degli Affari Esteri. Il fondo “Polizia Internazionale”’. In Fabio Grassi and Gianni Dollo (eds), Il movimento socialista e popolare in Puglia dalle origini alla costituzione (1874–1946) (Bari-Lecce: Istituto ‘Vito Mario Stampacchia’, 1986).

2 Consul Basso to Crispi, 8 February 1888, Asdmae, Pol. Int., b. 46, f. (1888).

-122-

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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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