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

By Pietro Di Paola | Go to book overview

7
The First World War: the Crisis of the
London Anarchist Community

After Malatesta’s escape from Ancona, the Italian police frantically sought him for fomenting riots during the Red Week in June 1914. Malatesta safely returned to London on 28 June 1914. The same day, in Sarajevo, the Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip killed the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. The generalised response among people was a failure to foresee the devastating consequences of that event, and the anarchists did not differ. Like the socialists, in the days following the assassination, ‘after the first shock, they turned to the more pressing and interesting problems of domestic politics and scandals’.1 Thus, the Italian anarchists in London focused their attention on the aborted opportunity for revolutionary outbreak in Italy and on Malatesta’s adventurous escape.

Just a few days after Malatesta’s return to England, the correspondent for Giornale d’Italia arranged a meeting with the Italian anarchist leader. In his interview, there was no mention of the assassination in Sarajevo or any allusion to the possibility of war in Europe.2 Three days later, Malatesta and Rocker spoke at a conference organised by the Federation of Jewish Anarchists in the East End. Rocker remembered how ‘Malatesta referred in his speech to what had happened at Sarajevo, saying he feared there would be very serious consequences. But he did not think there would be war’.3 The same month, Malatesta contributed an article to Freedom giving an account of the events of the Red Week, without any comment about the international political situation. Malatesta concluded his article optimistically:

These events have proved that the mass of people hate the present
order; that the workers are disposed to make use of all opportunities to

1 James Joll, The Second International 1889–1914 (London-Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974), p. 161.

2 1 July 1914, Giornale d’Italia, interview with Malatesta.

3 Rocker, The London Years, p. 240.

-184-

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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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