Atlantic Circulation of Italian Anarchist Exiles: Militants and Propaganda between Europe and Río de la Plata (1922-1939)
By María Migueláñez Martínez
Exile as a Political Strategy against Fascism
Ho nel cuore, Bologna, il tuo sorriso
di quando il sole riposa
sui muri rossi delle case antiche,
o sfavilla indeciso
sulla neve recente e vaporosa,
vergine supuma sulle strade amiche.
Or mi separan dalla mia Bologna
il mar che vien qui a frangersi sul lito,
e ancora terra e ancor dell´altro mare...[In my heart I treasure your smile, Bologna / and the sun resting / on the red walls on your ancient homes, / or tentatively shining / upon a fresh, sheer layer of snow / a virgin veil on the ancient streets. (...) / Now I have been separated from my Bologna / by the sea that crashes upon the beach / and by yet more land and yet another sea...], Luce Fabbri, "L´esilio," in I canti dell´attesa (Montevideo: M. O. Bertani Editore, 1932), pp. 28-29.
With these verses, a young Italian anarchist named Luce Fabbri, who had recently arrived in Rio de La Plata, expressed her longing for the city of her childhood and adolescence, Bologna, from which she had been violently expelled as a result of the repression of the fascist regime. Benito Mussolini's rise to power in October 1922 and his establishment of practically inviolable limitations on the freedoms of association and expression destined many libertarian militants to a similar life of exile and nostalgia for their homeland. Press centres were looted and shut down and anarchists found themselves persecuted, imprisoned, placed under house arrest or forced into underground resistance or exile. As a result, “the anarchists probably suffered greater violence proportionate to their numbers than other political opponents of fascism" although they were closely followed by the communists. Their persecution represents continuity with events that been taking place since the 1870's.Carl Levy, ''Italian Anarchism, 1870–1926'', in David Goodway (ed.), For Anarchism: History, Theory and Practice (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 25-78. Cited on p. 73.
There is no question that fascism inflicted a harsh blow on anarchism. However, the movement resisted obliteration, anchoring itself in a few strongholds within Italy and especially abroad, where anarchists established an extensive exile network. Exile, like repression, has been a constant feature of Italian anarchism, from the original groups associated with the I International up until the fall of fascism. "Exile shaped the lives of three generations of leaders and followers; it circulated new ideas and forms of labour organization back home; it allowed Italians to play a major role in the formation of other national socialist and labour movements".Ibid. p. 43. Consequently, the Diaspora experienced various stages of the formation and diffusion of ideas, bringing Italians into a much wider anarchist community: the world's "most widespread transnational movement organized from below and without formal political parties”.José Moya, "Anarchism," in Akira Iriye and Pierre-Yves Saunier (eds.), The Palgrave Dictionary of Transnational History. From the mid-19th Century to the Present Day (Houndmills: Macmillan, 2009), pp. 39-41.
The preferred destinations of Italian exiles included Argentina and Uruguay. This article examines the Italian diaspora to these countries from a transnational perspective, a relatively new historiographical approach that has expanded the spatial and temporal parameters of studies on the anarchist movement, producing innovative interpretations in publications, journals, and academic gatherings. Within this perspective, the methodological approach pioneered by Davide Turcato for Italian anarchism between 1885-1915, which is reprinted in this issue of Zapruder World, is particularly useful. His reflections on exile as a political strategy and as a mechanism to preserve a movement that suffered such intense internal repression are particularly interesting. The anarchists themselves were conscious of the fact that transnational dispersion would allow them to take bigger risks in their action on the Italian peninsula. In this sense, the transnational frame of analysis allows for an emphasis on the instruments that facilitated the cohesiveness of the movement, as well as its survival beyond what appeared to be its natural boundaries. It "reveals new forms of integration, continuity, and organization, based on the mobility of militants, resources, and ideas"; therefore refuting the widespread Marxist interpretation (which national interpretations have not yet been able to refute) that Italian anarchism was an anachronistic and irrational movement, continually subject to advances and setbacks. "The movement did not vanish: it just moved from one sphere to another and historians missed it when it moved from the piazza they were looking at. In fact, Italian anarchism was a transnational movement stretching around the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea".Davide Turcato, "Italian Anarchism as a Transnational Movement, 1885–1915," International Review of Social History, 52 (2007), pp. 407-444. Cited on pp. 407 and 410. For a millenarian interpretation of the anarchist movement, Turcato references Eric Hobsbawn's seminal study, Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement in the 19th and 20th Centuries (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1959).
Taking Turcato's chronology into account, it is reasonable to pose the question of whether his conclusions can be extrapolated to the years of fascist domination. Was the Italian libertarian movement at this time—weaker and more dispersed than it had been previously—able to maintain its transnational strategies of fighting and of survival? Anarchist press and individual trajectories of exiles in Río de la Plata provide an excellent source for examining this question.
The anarchist press was the most universal radical creation, as well as the main organ for the circulation of ideas, information, articles and funding to sustain different causes and solidarity campaigns, among other tasks. Between 1885 and 1940, Italian anarchists edited approximately 43 newspapers, magazines, and one-time publications in Río de la Plata, a formidable number of publications that was only exceeded in France and the United States, the primary destinations of libertarian immigrants. Fourteen of these publications (33%) were printed in the last 18 years (1922-1940), which for now is a good representation of the continuity of the struggle compared to earlier periods.Data from Leonardo Bettini, Bibliografia dell´anarchismo, 2 vols. (Firenze: CP Editrice, 1976), II, pp. 3-26, 269-272; Sergi Pantaleone, "Tra coscienza etnica e coscienza di classe. Giornali italiani anarcocomunisti in Argentina (1885-1935)," Giornale di Storia Contemporanea, 11 (2008), pp. 101-126; and Gaetano Manfredonia, et al., La Resistenza sconosciuta. Gli anarchici e la lotta contro il fascismo (Milano: Zero in condotta, 1995), pp. 13-16. Most of these publications are kept in the International Institute for Social History, Amsterdam (hereafter IISH). Some of these publications, such as L´Avvenire (Buenos Aires, 1923-1925) and Culmine (Buenos Aires, 1925-1928), were circulated widely in Río de la Plata. Others, like the well-known Studi Sociali (Montevideo, 1930-1946), edited by Luigi and Luce Fabbri, were designed for international circulation and hardly circulated at a local level. However, both types of press, as Turcato asserts, "are relevant for the purpose of studying anarchist transnationalism: the former by pointing to areas of numerically strong presence, and the latter by speaking to the movement's transnational disposition".Turcato, "Italian Anarchism," p. 413.
An examination of the trajectories of exiled militants (and the networks they formed part of) at first suggests similar conclusions to those stated above. Hundreds of Italian names appear in correspondence, in newspaper subscriptions, and on the lists of anarchists under police surveillance or deported, among many other documents. However, very little is known about these individuals beyond their participation in the movement. In order to reconstruct their biographies it is necessary to turn to other sources, such as the Dizionario biografico degli anarchici italiani, which is also incomplete but contains information from the personal files kept in the Casellario Politico Centrale del Archivio Centrale dello Stato (Roma).Maurizio Antonioli, et al. (eds), Dizionario biografico degli anarchici italiani, 2 vols. (Pisa: Biblioteca Franco Serantini, 2003-2004). The Casellario Politico Centrale was created at the end of the nineteenth century by the Italian authorities for public order and security with the purpose of strictly monitoring the individuals considered dangerous to the State. This institution was maintained until the end of the Second World War. Among the estimated 2,000 entrees registered in this dictionary, I have located 113 biographies of anarchists who emigrated to Argentina or Uruguay between 1880 and 1940 on one or various occasions and for no less than six months. Fifty-four of these trips occurred or were prolonged during the period 1922 and 1940, which again demonstrates continuity with the links with Río de la Plata.
Table 1: Year of arrival of anarchist exiles registered in Río de la Plata between 1922 and 1940
Number of Arrivals
Source: Dizionario biografico degli anarchici italiani.
As Table 1 indicates, the year of arrival of these last 54 Italian anarchists is also relevant. Thirty-nine percent of them were already in the region before Mussolini's rise to power. Of this group, only one was born in the area (in Buenos Aires) and only two had permanent residency in the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, which indicates that Argentina attracted, in nearly all cases, a higher number of exiles. Forty-one percent arrived between 1922 and 1926, at the height of the Diaspora.Jacques Droz, Historie de l'antifascisme en Europe, 1923-1939 (Paris: La découverte, 1985). There are a variety of reasons for this, certainly one of them being the relative political openness of the south American republics. At least some of the exiles were aware of this political climate (five out of the 21 individuals had made a previous visit to Argentina). Lastly, twenty percent arrived between 1927 and 1931, and more than half of them came to Uruguay and settled there. After 1931 there were no new arrivals.
This last figure is also revealing. At the end of the 1920's social and political freedoms were severely restricted in Argentina, increasingly so up until José Félix Uriburu's coup d'état in 1930. The dictatorship then began cracking down on the anarchist movement (persecution, deportation, torture, the execution of militants by firing squads, close of rotations) which prompted yet another exile strategy: most anarchists in Argentina fled to Uruguay, where they continued their propaganda activities. However, ultimately Uruguay also came under the influence of fascism. From March 1933 onwards, after the coup led by Gabriel Terra, the strategies of oppression were transferred to the Oriental Republic too. Based on the information collected in the Dizionario, it is logical that between 1932 and 1939 there were no new anarchists arriving in Río de la Plata, only exiles moving between the two republics, fleeing persecution from the dictatorships, and exiles going to Europe, mainly deportees or volunteers for the war in Spain (6 of the 54 registered militants—or 11%—were directly involved in the Spanish Civil War).
The trajectories of these exiles show that their transnational experiences were inexorably linked to the political climate of the countries they were moving to and from. In the 1920's, they were able to develop their activities in Argentina in a relatively free and safe political environment, where they were able to remain involved in the struggles of the movement in their home country as well as in the country that had received them. This is the other fundamental contribution that this article seeks to make in terms of transnational analysis, which in this context refers to the circulation of militants and of propaganda across borders. What role did Italian anarchists play in the Argentine and Uruguayan movements and how is their history woven into the events, strikes, forms of propaganda and even factions and rivalries between different groups and local movements? And what was the role of exile communities in the survival of the Italian anarchist movement?The importance of relationships with local movements is something that Turcato himself mentions but does not develop in his study: Turcato, "Italian Anarchism," p. 417. Recently, researchers have been concerned with overcoming the traditional focus on the anarchist movement within Italy, expanding their analyses to relations with the movements of the host regions. See, for example, Kenyon Zimmer: "The Whole World is our country": Immigration and Anarchism in the United States, 1885-1940 (Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh, 2010) and Travis Tomchuk, Transnational Radicals: Italian Anarchist Networks in Southern Ontario and the Northeastern United States, 1915-1940 (Ph.D., Queen's University, 2010). In this sense, the decade of the 1930's presents a different panorama because of the repression of anarchism in Argentina and Uruguay, which demonstrates how the transnational militants were fully immersed in a struggle within an increasingly globalized world. Their commitment to anti-fascism and the hopes they placed in the Spanish Revolution reveal the anarchist tendency towards internationalism and ideological solidarity, regardless of borders. The next sections endeavour to provide a qualitative illustration of some of these general conclusions and quantitative data.
Argentina as an Old Destination for Emigrants and Exiles
Argentina had a tradition of Italian immigration dating from the mid-nineteenth century. Among the hundreds of thousands of Italians arriving in the country in search of better social and economic conditions, there were notable representatives of the Italian political migration such as Errico Malatesta and Pietro Gori, whose time in Argentina (between 1885-1889 and 1898-1902, respectively) was fundamental in terms of their ideological contributions to the Argentine anarchist movement, strengthening its union organisation. The establishment of the Argentine Labour Federation (Federación Obrera Argentina) in 1901 (which became the Argentine Regional Labour Federation—Federación Obrera Regional Argentina or FORA—from 1904 onwardsBoth socialists and anarchists participated in the first labour federation in Argentina. In 1904, with the exit of the socialists, it adopted the term Regional, as a clear rejection of the idea of the nation, and in 1905 the FORA adopted anarchist communism as their ideology of inspiration.) bore the seal of Malatesta and Gori, as well as many other Italian names (not to mention Spanish names): Internationalists Francesco Pezzi, Francesco Natta, Galileo Palla, Luisa Minguzzi, Cesare Agostinelli; the breadmaker leader Ettore Mattei; Fortunato Serantoni, editor and director of the Sociology Bookshop of Buenos Aires, an important centre for the international network of anarchist propaganda between 1895 and 1900. The Residence Law of 1902 was created against them and other propagandists and strike organisers, and for decades it allowed the Argentine government to expel any foreigners who were suspected of seditious activity. Likewise, the fact that in Buenos Aires Malatesta's writings were continually being published and Gori's plays were continually being performed on stage demonstrates the permanent link between the alternative cultural project put forth by the Argentine anarchist movement and the Italian exile community.Iaacov Oved, El anarquismo y el movimiento obrero en Argentina (México, D.F.: Siglo XXI, 1978) and Juan Suriano, Anarquistas. Cultura y política libertaria en Buenos Aires, 1890-1910 (Buenos Aires: Manantial, 2001). Specific studies on Italian influence include the following: María Rosaria Ostuni, "Inmigración política y movimiento obrero argentino," in Fernando Devoto and Gianfausto Rosoli (eds.), La inmigración italiana en la Argentina (Buenos Aires: Biblos, 1985), pp. 105-126; Osvaldo Bayer, "L´influenza dell´immigrazione italiana nel movimento anarchico argentino," in Bruno Bezza (ed.), Gli italiani fuori d´Italia. Gli emigrati italiani nei movimenti operai del paesi d´adozione 1880-1940 (Milano: Angeli, 1983), pp. 531-548; José Luis Moreno, “A propósito de los anarquistas italianos en la Argentina, 1880-1920," Cuadernos de Historia Regional, 4 (1985), pp. 42-63; José Moya, “Italians in Buenos Aires´s Anarchist Movement: Gender Ideology and Women's Participation," in Donna Gabaccia and Franca Iacovetta (eds.), Women, Gender, and Transnational Lives: Italian Women around the World (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), pp. 189-216.
The 1920's continued to see a steady flow of Italian immigrants arriving in Argentina, although the numbers were significantly smaller than they had been during the period of mass migration. With Mussolini in power, the Italian community in Argentina, which had been at its smallest during the First World War (reaching negative numbers for the first time since 1891) was revitalized.Fernando Devoto, Historia de los italianos en la Argentina (Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2006), pp. 317-330. It saw itself divided into fascists and anti-fascists, who struggled to control their institutions and propaganda instruments and create new ones. The political openness of the country and the alliance that had been forged with most of Argentine society (particular with the labour movement) tipped the scales towards anti-fascism, which flourished in the 1920's and succeeded in neutralizing Mussolini´s propaganda produced by the fasci all´estero and the Dopolavoro.The fascists also had a narrow margin of action in Uruguayan civil society, whereas in other countries where Italian immigrants established themselves, such as Brazil, the opposite phenomenon occurred. See Joao Fabio Bertonha, "Fascismo, antifascismo y las comunidades italianas en Brasil, Argentina y Uruguay: una perspectiva comparada," Estudios Migratorios Latinoamericanos, 42 (1999), pp. 111-132. For an analysis of fascist and antifascist activities in Argentina, see, among others: Federico Finchelstein, Fascismo trasatlántico: ideología, violencia y sacralidad en Argentina y en Italia, 1919-1945 (Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2010); Andrés Bisso, El antifascismo argentino (Buenos Aires: Cedinci, 2007); Pietro Rinaldo Fanesi, El exilio antifascista en la Argentina, 2 vols. (Buenos Aires: CEAL, 1994); María Victoria Grillo, "El antifascismo italiano en Francia y Argentina: reorganización política y prensa (1920-1930)," in Judith Casali de Babot and María Victoria Grillo, Fascismo y antifascismo en Europa y Argentina en el siglo XX (Tucumán: Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas, 2002), pp. 73-98; María de Luján Leiva, "Il movimiento antifascista italiano in Argentina 1922-1945," in Bezza, Gli italiani fuori d´Italia, pp. 549-570.
It was in this context that the first symptoms appeared of the renewal of Italian anarchist activity in Argentina. For example, the anarchist groups "L´Avvenire" and "Renzo Novatore" established a presence among the subscribers of the Unione Antifascista Italiana (UAI). This organisation, which was created in June 1925, was the first attempt to unify the antifascist movement, although the UAI did not achieve a significant presence in Argentine society. It was not until 1927 that, at the same time as the antifascist exile movement in France began to mature, politically and organisational relevant antifascist organs also took shape in Argentina. However, the libertarian presence in these movements shows two interesting features. On the one hand, the UAI was the first and last attempt by Italian anarchists to collaborate with other antifascists in Argentina. After that, the libertarian movement withdrew and acted in isolation both from the Alleanza Antifascista Italiana (created in 1927 and dominated from early on by the communist activist group Ordine Nuovo), and from the Argentine branch of the Concentrazione Antifascista (created in 1929 by a socialist and republican majority). On the other hand, two of the most important propagandists of the Italian anarchist movement in Argentina emerged from the UAI's activities: Aldo Aguzzi and Severino Di Giovanni. As respective leaders of "L´Avvenire" and "Renzo Novatore," both delivered passionate speeches at some of the most important UAI events, such as the commemoration of the first of May and the first anniversary of the assassination of the Italian deputy Giacomo Matteotti, both of which took place in Buenos Aires in 1925.See the preceding bibliography. These leaders promoted the main groups and publications that served as a reconstructive basis for the Italian libertarian movement in the 1920's.
Aldo Aguzzi was born in 1902 in Voghera, Pavía, and was exiled to Buenos Aires in 1923. Shortly after, he founded the aforementioned group and the journal with the same name, L´Avvenire, along with Carlo Fontana, Pasquale Caporaletti, Camillo Daleffe, Giacomo Sabbatini, Luigi Tibiletti, Dionisio Di Giustino, Francesco Barbieri, Nicola Recchi and others. The journal produced 33 issues with irregular frequency between December 1923 and November 1925. At the same time it published various special issues in defence of the political victims of fascism and of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, the two Italian anarchists who were sentenced to death in the United States. These issues were Agire! and Libertà (Buenos Aires, February and June 1925, respectively). The editors of L´Avvenire remained the same for Aguzzi's later publications with the exception of a few individuals who left and a few additions. In 1927 the group published 10 issues of the bimonthly Il Pensiero and in 1928, fourteen issues of the monthly L´Allarme. Both were produced in Buenos Aires and shared the ideological inclination of their predecessor, a practical formulation of anarchism in the line of Malatesta's communism, although it was open to dialogue with individualist and expropriationalist anarchists.Marika Bianca Montani, "L´attività dell´anarchico Aldo Aguzzi durante l´esilio in Argentina (1925-1936)" (Graduate Thesis, Universitá di Pisa, 1976- 1977); Antonioli et al. (eds), Dizionario biografico degli anarchici italiani, I, pp. 18-21. In this sense, over the course of the decade, Aguzzi's group connected well with other Malatestian anarchists dispersed across Europe and America. His effort to build a transatlantic anarchist network was noted by the Italian authorities, who denounced his connections with anarchist groups in Marseilles, Geneva, Paris, and “other important centres” and claimed to keep him “under rigorous surveillance."Telegrams from the Italian Minister of External Affairs, General Directorate of Public Safety, Rome, 2 June 1928 and 13 July 1928, Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Roma, Pubblica Sicurezza (hereafter ACS, PS), 1929, file 190.
On the contrary, Severino Di Giovanni developed a very different idea of anarchism, along the lines of the Italian individualist Luigi Galleani. Di Giovanni, who was born in 1901 in the Abruzzi region (east of Rome), emigrated to Argentina with his family in 1923. The same year he co-founded the individualist group "Renzo Novatore" and began to publish articles in L´Avvenire defending violence as the main method to oppose fascism. In addition, he was the main agent of one of the first antifascist demonstrations in Argentina—a protest that took place in the Teatro Colón in June 1925 during the 25th anniversary celebration of the reign of Victor Emmanuel III, which was attended by the Italian ambassador and the president of the Republic. This demonstration led to his first arrest and imprisonment. Soon after, in August 1925, Culmine was published first as a monthly journal for theoretical discussions and subsequently (from February 1926 to April 1928) as a weekly debate newspaper. Along with the edition of Culmine and the pro-liberation campaign for Sacco and Vanzetti, Di Giovanni led a series of actions that had more serious consequences: more than a dozen dead and many more injured. Of course he was not alone. The Italian-Argentines Alejandro and Paulino Scarfó and Italians Silvio Astolfi, Giuseppe Romano, Agostino Cremonesi, Antonio Pieretti and Antonio De Marco, among other Argentine, Chilean, and Spanish revolutionaries, were involved in his bank robberies and assaults on representatives and monuments of Argentine, Italian, and American power structures. At the same time, other Italians were active in the expropriation movement led by Miguel Arcángel Roscigna, including Umberto Lanciotti and the Moretti brothers Antonio and Vincenzo.Osvaldo Bayer, Severino Di Giovanni. El idealista de la violencia (Tafalla, Txalaparta, 2000) and Los anarquistas expropiadores y otros ensayos (Buenos Aires: Booket, 2007).
However, Di Giovanni's more violent side should not overshadow his propagandist and antifascist efforts during these years in Argentina (where he spoke at demonstrations and assemblies, printed and distributed pamphlets and books at low prices, and created an ambulant bookshop and publisher) as well as the rest of the world. From Buenos Aires, Di Giovanni worked as a correspondent for a variety of publications, including L´Adunata dei Refrattari in New York, which Aguzzi also wrote for.Aguzzi wrote meticulous reports on current events and articles on theory, such as: "La Rivolta?," "Qualche appunto sul nostro movimento," "Radowitzky muore," "La dittatura nell´Argentina," L´Adunata dei Refrattari, 7 August 1926, 5 November 1927, 11 February 1928, 1 December 1928, 20 September 1930. Severino Di Giovanni did the same: ("Nemesi," "Agostino Cremonesi è stato assassinato," Ibid., 9 January 1926, 29 March 1930); he also wrote under the pseudomyn of Ninvangio Donisvere ("Nella Scuola di Mussolini," "Dall´Argentina," Ibid., 21 May and 24 September 1927) or Biscuits ("Lettere dall´Argentina," "Le bolge infernali: Ushuaia," Ibid., 6 October, 1928, 12 October 1929). The pages of Culmine—as well as those of L´Avvenire, Il Pensiero and L´Allarme—announced the reception of most Italian newspapers edited abroad, requested collaborators for publications, and published economic figures for the various Committees for Political Victims they had partnered with (in Milan, Paris, Montevideo) as well as other solidarity campaigns, such as the campaign for Gino Lucetti and his family after the attempt to assassinate Mussolini in September 1926. All of this indicates the importance that the press gained as a communication channel for exile communities.For example, through Culmine the following publications could be obtained (at a price of 10 centavos for newspapers and 20 for magazines): L´Adunata and Il Martello from New York, Germinal from Chicago, Il Proletario and L´Umanitá Nova from Brooklyn, Il Risveglio Anarchico from Geneva, Lotta anarchica from Paris, Il Picconiere from Marseilles, Guerra di classe from Brussels, and many others. Culmine, 1 October 1925.
In addition, the press offers interesting insight into the extent of the involvement of Italians in the Argentine anarchist movement. For example, the first issues of L´Avvenire were printed by the graphic press of the anarchist daily La Protesta, on calle Perú 1537, whereas the first issues of Culmine were produced by the publishers of La Antorcha, another one of the most significant libertarian publications in the country, located on calle Rioja 1689. Therefore, the links between local groups and Italian groups were important, and in the case of La Protesta they came from far away. The most significant and influential anarchist organ in Argentina was created in 1897 and was connected from the beginning to the sector of anarchist organisations that led to the formation of FORA in 1904. In the following years, the relationship between protestistas and Italian anarchist organisers strengthened. Malatesta's constant articles, the inclusion of a Pagina in lingua italiana in the daily journal (in 1907, directed by Roberto d´Angió) and the collaboration of Carlo Fontana, who was the administrator of the newspaper and publisher from 1918 onwards, are all good examples of this longstanding link.
This link remained through the fascist period, when La Protesta was particularly in tune to issues taking place in Italy. It showed strong international solidarity by collecting funds to send to the aid committees, the Italian Syndicalist Union (Unione Sindacale Italiana, USI) and its newspaper Guerra di classe (Paris-Brussels, 1927-1931), as well as to other publications that were under threat of disappearing, mainly those that promoted Malatestian ideology such as Pensiero e Volontà (directed by Malatesta himself, Rome, 1924-1926) and Lotta Umana (directed by Luigi Fabbri, París, 1927-1929)."La Unión Sindical Italiana a las centrales sindicalistas revolucionarias de otros países,," "Un llamado a la solidaridad,," "Contra la reacción fascista,," "Lotta Umana,," La Protesta, 3, 28 y 29 December 1922, 19 de June de 1927. This aid had an important intermediary: Diego Abad de Santillán, a Spanish anarchist and adopted Argentine who became a key figure in libertarian internationalism in the interwar period, acting as a bridge between the European and American movements. Between 1922 and 1926 Santillán lived in Berlin where he served as a representative for FORA and for La Protesta in the (re)constituted International Workingmens' Association (IWMA, from 1922 onwards). This position allowed him to interact directly with well-known Italian militants like Luigi Fabbri, Ugo Fedeli, Armando Borghi and Alibrando Giovanetti, who from then on began to collaborate more assiduously with La Protesta and the newly released affiliate Suplemento (an important theoretical publication that was printed on a weekly basis between 1922 and 1926 and on a bi-monthly basis between 1926 and 1930).Rocío Navarro Comas, Propaganda y periodismo político en tiempos de guerra. Diego Abad de Santillán y la afinidad anarquista (1919-1939) (Ph.D., Universidad de Salamanca, 2007). For information on financial aid to Italian organizations and publications, see Santillán's correspondence with the editors of La Protesta and the Federal Committee of FORA: Diego Abad de Santillán Papers, IISH, folders 3, 20, 109, 144, 165, 278. For the Italian contacts, see Diego Abad de Santillán, Memorias, 1897-1936 (Barcelona: Planeta, 1977), pp. 87, 92-93. In fact, this collaboration provided a vital support mechanism for many of these militants exiled in Europe.Luigi Fabbri survived as an exile in France on the meager salary that La Protesta provided for its regular contributors. See Luce Fabbri, Luigi Fabbri. Historia de un hombre libre (Montevideo: Nordan-Comunidad, 1996), pp. 160-161, 165.
However, relations between protestistas and Italian militants were not always harmonious. During these years, Diego Abad de Santillán and Emilio López Arango, both directors of La Protesta, maintained an intense debate with Errico Malatesta and Luigi Fabbri regarding the role of the anarchists in labour unions. The Argentines rejected the pragmatic position of the Italians and reproached them harshly for envisioning the labour movement as “«unitarian», in the most general sense, meaning apolitical and open to all".Luigi Fabbri to Diego Abad de Santillán, Bolonia, 13 February 1924, Diego Abad de Santillán Papers, IISH, folder 303. They considered this labour unity to be a reformist digression and a concession to a neutral form of syndicalism. They contrasted this model to FORA's trabazón model, an organic link between the syndicalist guild and the anarchist movement, which sought anarchist control of labour organisations and declared a preference for a strictly libertarian organisation, even if it left them as a minority. “We desire a labour movement that is purely anarchist,” they concluded.Diego Abad de Santillán, “El congreso sindicalista internacional de Berlín y los anarquistas," La Protesta, 18 March 1923. Other contributions to this debate included: Errico Malatesta, “A propósito del revisionismo anarquista," La Protesta, 12 June 1924 and Luigi Fabbri, “Actualidad del ideal anarquista," "Teoría y práctica del anarquismo” and “La organización obrera según el anarquismo," La Protesta. Suplemento Semanal, 2, 9 and 23 April, respectively. For a summary of FORA's position, see: Diego Abad de Santillán and Emilio López Arango, El anarquismo en el movimiento obrero (Barcelona, Cosmos, 1925). For Malatesta's syndicalist vision, see Mauricio Antonioli (ed.), Azione diretta e organizzazione operaia. Sindacalismo revoluzionario e anarchismo tra le fine dell´Ottocento e il fascismo (Roma etc., Laicata, 1990). Despite this ideological conflict, cooperation continued to be the predominant discourse in the relationship between protestistas and Italians. As Luce Fabbri stated, “between La Protesta and my father there was a serene discussion that did not prevent their agreement on everything or nearly everything else."Fabbri, Luigi Fabbri, p. 178. Contributions continued arriving for the daily journal, the Suplemento and the publishers of La Protesta, as well as for other propaganda efforts such as the publication of a book commemorating the 30th anniversary of the journal.Luigi Fabbri, "Las dictaduras contra la libertad de los pueblos," in Certamen Internacional de La Protesta (Buenos Aires, La Protesta, 1927), pp. 112-121 and Ugo Trene (Ugo Fedeli), "Diez años de reacción en Europa," in Ibid., pp. 122-132. New exiles joined as writers, such as Fosco Falaschi.Santillán mentions him in Memorias, p. 132. At the end of the decade, now from exile in Uruguay, Luigi Fabbri produced a section in La Protesta called Pagina in lingua italiana, which was published bi-monthly between August 1929 and September 1930 in 27 issues. For a time it was published parallel to Sezione italiana (which also formed part of La Protesta), which dealt with colloquial issues in the Italian anarchist community of Rio de La Plata. Around the same time, the important Montevideo journal Studi Sociali also began to be printed at the presses of La Protesta. Both of these were published again under Fabbri's leadership.La Página in lingua italiana, in La Protesta, has a long story behind it. In 1907 it was released thanks to the collaboration of Roberto d´Angió (Antonioli et al. (eds), Dizionario biografico degli anarchici italiani, p. 489). In the 1920's, the proyect was revived under the leadership of Carlo Fontana, the Italian administrator of the newspaper. The first attempt was made under the exile Mario Baldini, and was not succesful. After this, the protestistas established contact with Virgilio Mazzoni, who was suffering difficulties in Italy, and invited him to come to Argentina to take charge of the project. This attempt also failed. La Página was finally launched under the leadership of Fabbri. See the correspondence of Diego Abad de Santillán with Carlo Fontana, Emilio López Arango and Virgilio Mazzoni, Diego Abad de Santillán Papers, IISH, folders 109, 165, 180.
In addition, the Argentine anarchist organization antorchista aligned itself with the plight of the Italians and collaborated closely with them in their propaganda efforts. They produced, among other things, their own Pagina in lingua italiana. It was published as the L´Alba dei Liberi, between July and November 1926, in the newspaper Pampa Libre based in General Pico, La Pampa. In the 1920's Antorchista defined itself against the process of centralisation that it saw occurring through FORA and La Protesta. There was a fear that these organs sought to become the protagonists of the anarchist movement. The antorchistas, centred around a newspaper with the same name (La Antorcha, Buenos Aires, 1921-1932) as well as a range of other publications (such as the aforementioned Pampa Libre, 1922-1930, or Ideas, based in La Plata, 1918-1932), presented themselves as more heterogeneous and open to debate than protestismo. Personal rivalries and the struggle to gain control of the significant financial resources of the editors of La Protesta further widened the chasm between protestistas and antorchistas at this time.Until 1924, antorchistas and protestistas were able to coexist. After 1924, due to the expulsion of FORA from the publications, organizations, and guilds that were associated with antorchismo, they became archenemies. Luciana Anapios traces this process in El movimiento anarquista en Buenos Aires durante el periodo de entreguerras (Ph.D., Universidad de Buenos Aires, 2012). The Argentine poet and playwright Rodolfo González Pacheco was one of the key leaders in this group. His biography, as well as other anarchist antorchista biographies, such as those of Teodoro Antillí and Horacio Badaracco, are addressed in Horacio Tarcús' (dir.), Diccionario Biográfico de la Izquierda Argentina. De los anarquistas a la “nueva izquierda” (1870-1976) (Buenos Aires: Emecé, 2007). They also failed to agree on the role of the Italians in the local anarchist movement. For example, Diego Abad de Santillán from La Protesta refused to concede them autonomy as he claimed that “we can generally say that there is no Italian movement in South America, because the comrades have been absorbed into the general movement and write and speak in Spanish".Diego Abad de Santillán to Ugo Fedeli, Berlin, 6 April 1924, Ugo Fedeli Papers, IISH, folder 3. Horacio Badaracco from La Antorcha claimed precisely the opposite, highlighting the importance of “idiomatic and specific” publications, particularly Italian publications, which “maintained the most valuable and sustained press movement," “revealing that in a cosmopolitan nation like Argentina they provide an almost essential base for the diffusion of our ideas among emigrants”. At the same time, Badaracco criticised the blindness of the protestistas, who had never propelled these efforts.Horacio Badaracco to Ugo Fedeli, Buenos Aires, undated , IISH, Ugo Fedeli Papers, IISH, folder 12.
The underlying question here is whether it was their “ethnic” identity or their “class” identity that prevailed among the Italian anarchists who had settled in Rio de la Plata, and whether they became integrated in the local movement or not. The existing literature on this issue is generally centred on the classical period of Argentine anarchism (1880-1910), and emphasises the fact that it was more tolerant than other ideologies (such as socialism and revolutionary syndicalism, for example) in terms of ethnic expressions at the core of the movement, such as press organs and other cultural activities. This was not incompatible with practical integration into the movement and the struggles of the Argentine people.Ricardo Falcón, "Inmigración, cuestión étnica y movimiento obrero (1870-1931)," in Eduardo José Míguez and Fernando Devoto (eds.), Asociacionismo, trabajo e identidad étnica: los italianos en América Latina en una perspectiva comparada (Buenos Aires: CEMLA etc., 1992), pp. 260-261. The same is true for the interwar period, when compatibility could be considered even greater. There is no doubt that the struggle against Italian fascism made political exiles more radical than they might have been in earlier periods. Many anarchists arrived in Argentina with the intention of continuing the anti-fascist struggle and focused most of their energy on doing so. Of course they always declared themselves in favour of “forming a spiritual connection with the regional anarchist movement,," involving “Italian workers in the Argentine proletariat struggle,," and “establishing an intense and active collaboration between Italian anarchist groups or isolated comrades and the regional anarchist movement,," and “ remembering the Italian workers who had emigrated to Argentina […] that the fatherland is the entire world”."Propositi," Culmine, 20 February 1926. Their involvement in significant battles of Argentine anarchists in this period, such as protesting the 1924 pension legislation or the campaign for the liberation of Simón Radowitzky, between 1927 and 1930, are examples of this activism.Simón Radowitzky (1891-1986), of Ukrainian origin, exiled in Argentina since 1908, was a symbol for the movement. In 1909 he assassinated Colonel Ramón L. Falcón in retaliation for the massacre of workers on May 1st, 1909. From then until 1930 he was imprisoned in Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia). However, it can be claimed that their integration was more sporadic than it had been in earlier periods. As many testimonies reflect, all eyes were on Italy. “At last we have a newspaper of our own,," in Italian, for the Italian community, devoted to “combating the fascist movement that sowed terror in Italy” —proclaimed the first issue of L´Avvenire in 1923."Per la vita del periodico," L´Avvenire, 1 December 1923. Culmine, on their part, insisted on the need to send “copies and packages” of publications to Italy, where “every free voice […] is suppressed”. “Culmine must penetrate Italy like a Torch, like a flag, a messenger of the revolution!""Culmine in Italia," Culmine, 20 February 1926. At the same time, expressions of Italian culture such as theatrical performances designed primarily to raise funds to send to their fellow countrymen in the peninsula, became more frequent."Serata teatrale pro vittime politiche dal Gruppo Libertario Cetrarese" and "Gruppo filodrammatico 'Senza Patria'," L´Avvenire, 1 December 1923 and 1 June 1924.
As a result, Diego Abad de Santillán's aforementioned claims do not reflect the reality of the situation. There was in fact an Italian movement in Argentina, and as we have observed, La Protesta had no qualms about supporting and producing Italian publications. In fact, these affirmations are better understood within the context of the centralising tendencies that the publishers of La Protesta, as well as FORA, tried to impose on the Argentine libertarian movement. They are an expression of the many difficulties faced by the foristas and protestistas in the 1920's. They also form part of a discourse that sought to come to terms with the loss of a leadership role in the labour movement and a bitter rivalry with the antorchistas. This also sheds light on the source of the abovementioned controversy between the protestistas and Malatesta and Fabbri: the internationalisation of these types of ideological disputes and the prestige of the contenders served the purpose of giving their critics more resonance and propagandistic efficiency, with the idea that if La Protesta and FORA appeared externally as a strong movement, they would succeed in revitalising their role internally.
In any case, these references to the rivalries and internal problems in interwar Argentina serve the purpose of pointing towards another very relevant issue. The Italian anarchists who arrived in the 1920's connected with a local movement that was already in decline and deeply divided internally. This division was aggravated by the illegality of the activities of Severino Di Giovanni's group, particularly the assault on the Italian consulate in Buenos Aires in May 1928, which resulted in nine dead and more than thirty wounded. The debates surrounding the acceptance or rejection of propaganda by the deed and the expropriationist movement contributed to the polarisation of the issue. La Protesta labelled Di Giovanni a terrorist, a bandit, and a common delinquent at the service of forces of oppression. It condemned his actions as irresponsible and blind, unjustifiable from the newspaper's perspective as an anarchist act and seriously harmful to the movement, as the bourgeois press took advantage of the opportunity to relate all forms of violence to anarchism. La Antorcha, on the other hand, took a more ambiguous position. Although it did not celebrate the attacks or their terrible consequences in terms of the loss of human life, it did not outright condemn them either, and defended the prisoners associated with the expropriation groups. They discarded the protestistas as police informers for including in their articles the names of the authors of the attacks.Anapios, El movimiento anarquista en Buenos Aires, pp. 41-48, 198-237. The Italian anarchist community of Rio de la Plata also condemned this protestista attitude. Upon arriving to the region in 1929, Luce Fabbri remembers having encountered an Italian anarchist group who maintained a malatestian view of the attacks, considering the violence and the expropriationalist activity to be extremely harmful to the libertarian movement, but who also protested the excesses of the writers of La Protesta for their harsh epithets against the expropriation groups and the censorship that they imposed as a result on the statements and announcements that Italians were attempting to publish in the daily journal. This is also evident in the letters that many of Luce's contemporaries wrote to her father Luigi in these years.Fabbri, Luigi Fabbri, pp. 177-178. Correspondence of Aldo Aguzzi, Lino Barbetti, Salvatore Cortese and Carlo Fontana to Luigi Fabbri, Luigi Fabbri Papers, IISH, folders 52, 55, 69 and 82. The debate can also be followed in Diego Abad de Santillán's correspondence with Luigi Fabbri and Ugo Fedeli, Ibid., folder 51, and Ugo Fedeli Papers, IISH, folder 3.
Ultimately, the division between groups ended up bleeding the libertarian movement. This occurred in a literal sense when Emilio López Arango, the director of La Protesta, was assassinated in October 1929. All evidence indicates that the assassination was carried out by Severino Di Giovanni himself and that it was not the first violent act in the Argentine anarchist movement.By 1924, the conflict between protestitas and antorchistas had led to an act of violence. There was an assault on the printers and publishers of Pampa Libre, perpetrated by members of FORA and La Protesta, which resulted in three wounded and one dead. The violence committed by Severino Di Giovanni's group occurred within an internal framework of an already violent Argentine anarchist movement. Clearly it aggravated the situation in Argentina, but the roots of the conflict were already deeply rooted. At that point, the dispute had spilled over the frontiers of Argentina. Di Giovanni requested and obtained backing from Italians outside of Argentina, who organised an international jury (created in Montevideo and consisting of Luigi Fabbri, Ugo Fedeli and Torquato Gobbi) and ended up censoring the views of La Protesta. The collaborators of La Diana in Paris, L'Emancipazione in San Francisco, and mainly L´Adunata dei Refrattari in New York were particularly critical.L´Adunata published various statements in defense of Di Giovanni (L.R., "In seguito all´articolo di Abad de Santillán" and M.S., "Cosas de Buenos Aires," L´Adunata dei Refrattari, 12 January and 1 June 1929), as well as Di Giovanni's own declarations ("Contro le delazioni," Ibid., 2 March 1929) and Aldo Aguzzi's declarations, another voice in the debate ("A V. Cassio," Ibid., 29 December 1928). Among the many articles published in La Protesta on this issue, the following provide a direct response to L´Adunata: Diego Abad de Santillán, "Nuevamente sobre atentados y terrorismo," "Anarquismo y terrorismo" and "Coincidencias," La Protesta, 14 February, 26 March and 7 April 1929.
It was in this environment of violence and conflict that Italians carried out their activities in Argentina during most of the 1920's. There were many other initiatives, groups, and individuals in addition to those detailed above that appeared during these years and that demonstrate the richness of the exile experience. In December 1925, for example, Camillo Daleffe, who had broken away from "L´Avvenire," began publishing La Rivolta in Buenos Aires, a monthly anarchist journal that survived long enough to publish two issues.Regarding this division, see Carlo Fontana to Diego Abad de Santillán, Buenos Aires, 1 August 1925, Diego Abad de Santillán Papers, IISH, folder 109. In 1928 the group "Umanità Nova" was created, also in Buenos Aires, with the objective of reunifying the Italian movement in Argentina by re-launching the malatestian tendency that "L´Avvenire" had represented but that had been exhausted by internal disputes."Gruppo Umanità Nova," L´Allarme, 20 October 1928. See also the report produced by the Italian embassy to the Minister of Internal Affairs on Luigi Grossutti, Buenos Aires, 7 March 1929, ACS, PS, 1929, folder 195. The group consisted of Giacomo Barca, Salvatore Cortese, Lino Barbetti, Ermacora Cressatti, Pietro Di Cesare, Dionisio Di Giustino, Fosco Falaschi, Luigi Grossutti and many others.See Antonioli et al. (eds.), Dizionario biografico degli anarchici italiani. This group published two issues, both entitled Umanità Nova, in Buenos Aires, on May 1st, 1930 and May 1st, 1932. Some of its members were involved in parallel initiatives, such as Salvatore Cortese, secretary of the "Comitato anarchico pro vittime politiche d´Italia" from 1927 onwards."Comité Pro Víctimas Políticas de Italia," La Protesta, 5 July 1927. See Domenico Cortese, Salvatore Cortese. Un antifascista esbëresh di Lungro (Lungro: Istituto Calabrese per la storia dell´antifascismo e dell´Italia contemporanea, 2007). In 1930, Aldo Aguzzi collaborated with Severino Di Giovanni in the publication of the bi-monthly Anarchia, which published 11 numbers, as well as devoting himself to the publication of the works of Élisée Reclus on the centenary of his birth. An international panorama of anarchists collaborated on this project, including Fabbri, Fedeli, Galleani and Mesnil.Élisée Reclus, Scritti Sociali, 2 vols (Buenos Aires: Libri di Anarchia, 1930). At the same time, outside of Buenos Aires other organizations appeared such as the "Gruppo Anarchico Pietro Gori" from Córdoba or the "Gruppo Pensiero e Volontà" from Bahía Blanca."La Pagina in Lingua Italiana. Corrispondenze," La Protesta, 19 January and 2nd February 1930. Unfortunately we have very little information about these groups. The Italian authorities themselves recognized the existence of a multitude of organizations, “nearly all of them in dispute with each other.” These included the "Società Anarchica pro Regalbuto," "Gruppo Seme," "Gruppo libertario Cetrarese," "L´Armonia," "Gruppo Filodrammatico Senza Patria," "Gruppo Filodrammatico L´Avvenire," "L´Ateneo di Villa Crespo," "L´Ateneo Arte e Cultura," la "Biblioteca libertaria di Villa Urquiza," etc.Italian Embassy report to the Minister of External Affairs, Buenos Aires, 18 May 1926, ACS, PS, 1927, folder 160.
All of these groups and publications suffered the uriburista repression after the September 1930 coup, an event outside of the libertarian movement that paradoxically had the sad benefit of putting an end to internal violence, at least in part. Severino Di Giovanni and Paulino Scarfó were executed on the morning of February 1st 1931 after a swift military trial. Other libertarians suffered the same fate. Mutual aid was imposed in this context of the persecutions and deportations of the dictatorship. What remained of the movement was rebuilt, at least temporarily, in Uruguay.
Reconstruction of the Movement in Uruguay and the Return to the Old World
In the history of Italian emigration in general and anarchist emigration in particular there have been constant connections between Argentina and Uruguay. In the first phase of mass emigration Uruguay often served as a bridge between the ocean and Argentina. Many Italians took advantage of favourable emigration conditions in Uruguay in order to then leave illegally for Argentina, a more promising nation in terms of socio-economic opportunities. Conversely, from the beginning of the twentieth century the political climate and open criteria of migration policies in Uruguay, as well as a lack of regulatory mechanisms on movement between the bordering nations, made Uruguay a refuge for anarchists who were being persecuted by the authorities in Argentina or expelled under the Law of Residency.Carlos Zubillaga, "El aporte de la inmigración italiana en la conformación del movimiento sindical uruguayo," in Míguez and Devoto (eds.), Asociacionismo, trabajo e identidad étnica, pp. 237-238. This ultimately facilitated the circulation of exiles in moments of crisis, such as the beginning of the dictatorship in Argentina.
Already before Uriburu's coup Montevideo had become a hub of international anarchism. In 1929, most of the members of the influential malatestian group "Pensiero e Volontà" established themselves there. The group had been created in Paris in 1926, where it published the influential journal Lotta Umana, mentioned previously for its close relationship with Argentine anarchism. Luigi Fabbri, a disciple and close friend of Malatesta and one of the indisputable leaders and publicists of Italian anarchism in the interwar period who had also played a central role in the factory takeovers in Italy in 1919-1920 and in the creation of the Unione Anarchica Italiana, was the first to arrive in Montevideo with his wife Bianca and daughter Luce. They were followed soon after by Ugo Fedeli (who had gone into exile in 1921, first in Moscow, then Berlin, and finally in Paris, where he helped to found the Antifascist Action Committee and the International Library of Anarchist Editions and participated in writing La Revue Internationale Anarchiste). Torquatto Gobbi also arrived soon after from Paris, where he had been since 1923. These anarchists had been expelled from France because, according to the libertarians, the French police were under Mussolini's control. “We cannot overemphasise—they wrote from Buenos Aires—the opposition in France to Italian, Spanish, Russian, and Italian militants, among others".Quoted in "Ojeada internacional," La Protesta, 1 May 1929. For a study of the Italian anarchist exile movement in France, see Gaetano Manfredonia, "Gli anarchici italiani in Francia nella lotta antifascista," in Manfredonia et al., La Resistenza sconosciuta, pp. 236-254; Gino Cerrito, "L´emigrazione libertaria italiana in Francia nel ventennio fra le due guerre," in Bezza (ed.), Gli italiani fuori d´Italia, pp. 831-992 and [Ugo Fedeli], Un trentennio di attività anarchica (1914-1945) (Cesena: L´Antistato, 1953).
Fabbri, Fedeli, and Gobbi left behind the cosmopolitan atmosphere and cultural effervescence of interwar Paris, a centre for political exiles, for a new city in an unknown continent. However, they were pleasantly surprised from the beginning to find a liberal and progressive climate in the small republic of Uruguay.Margareth Rago, Entre la historia y la libertad. Luce Fabbri y el anarquismo contemporáneo (Montevideo: Nordan Comunidad, 2002), pp. XXX. Together they began to publish Studi Sociali in Montevideo between 1930 and 1946 in three series of 40, 16 and 5 numbers respectively. From 1935 onwards, after the death of Luigi Fabbri, the editing of the journal fell to his daughter Luce and became one of the key publications for the Italian anarchist exile network during the interwar period. Collaborators included the previous editors of Lotta Umana (those mentioned previously, as well as Camillo Berneri, Felice Vezzani and Leonida Mastrodicasa), international colleagues, as well as writers from Argentina (Gastón Leval, Diego Abad de Santillán, Salvatore Cortese, Lino Barbetti), and of course contributions from Malatesta, some of which were previously unpublished. The numerous debates on current issues and historical events published in the journal reached the entire world because of its international distribution. The theoretical reflections of Studi Sociali were primarily focused on the Italian exile movement and associated with the struggle against fascism in Italy. In addition, the journal generated an intense dialogue with the rest of the antifascist exile movement, particularly with Carlo Rosselli's Parisian journal Giustizia e Libertà. Fabbri established a few points of agreement with this publication (including the defence of an active presence in Italy with the objective of preparing the revolution and a broad definition of liberty in the face of a post-revolutionary society in the future) both of which were criticised by other anarchists.Clara Aldrighi, Antifascismo italiano en Montevideo: el diálogo político entre Luigi Fabbri y Carlo Rosselli (Montevideo: Universidad de la República, 1996) and "Luigi Fabbri en Uruguay, 1929-1935," Estudios Migratorios Latinoamericanos, 37 (1997), pp. 389-422.
The writers of Studi Sociali found that Montevideo was a smaller version of Paris. They made connections with Italian anarchists who had been residing there for decades, such as Aurelio Paganelli and Gino Paolo Fabbri, and others who continued to arrive fleeing persecution by the Argentine authorities, including Antonio Destro and Domenico Aratari. Aratari—whom the police knew by the pseudonym of Adario Moscallegra—took on a special role in the creation of the anarchist group "Volontà,," which brought together Italian anarchists in Montevideo from mid-1929 onwards.Regarding the protagonism of Moscallegra and its relationship with Italians in Argentina, see the reports of the Ministry of the Interior, Rome, undated, 17 September and 17 December ACS, PS, 1929, folder 195. The arrival of the expropriationalist fugitives (Miguel Arcángel Roscigna, the Moretti brothers, Emilio Uriondo); Simón Radowizky—who was finally pardoned by the government of Argentina in 1930 under the condition that he would leave the country immediately—as well as Peruvian, Bolivian and Chilean refugees, contributed to the cosmopolitan character of the Latin American capital. This cosmopolitanism was enhanced after September 1930 by the Uriburista exile. New Italian compatriots now arrived in Uruguay by crossing the border illegally or by jumping ships that were deporting them to Europe, which they achieved by coordinating with anarchist militants that awaited them at port. This experience is recorded in a variety of anarchist testimonies. The testimonies show that the anarchists resorted to claiming the protection of an old asylum law and tried to collaborate with the Uruguayan authorities who searched ships suspected of carrying political detainees against their own will. The government of Argentina, who was aware of this strategy, began to send the more “dangerous” deportees in war ships that did not pass through the Uruguayan port to prevent their escape. Although many anarchists managed to escape, many others were caught.Abad de Santillán, Memorias, pp. 143-144; Fabbri, Luigi Fabbri, p. 186 and Alejandro Marti, La biografía del anarquista Simón Radowitzky. Del atentado a Falcón a la Guerra Civil Española (La Plata: De la Campana, 2010), pp. 260-262.
In any case, as Luigi Fabbri stated, "in Montevideo we—the European refugees—found ourselves in a fraternal union with the Argentine refugees, once again under the hospitable and empathetic protection of our Uruguayan comrades".Prologue by Luigi Fabbri for Diego Abad de Santillán, La Bancarrota del capitalismo (Valencia: Biblioteca de Estudios, undated). This fraternal relationship allowed for a certain degree of continuity in propaganda efforts. For example, La Protesta was able to resume publication in Montevideo over the course of four issues, and Anarchia, a journal established in Buenos Aires in 1930, transitioned to Uruguay with Aldo Aguzzi, although it went out of print out soon after. In addition, the libertarian movement was enriched by the new activities of the Italian group "Volontà,," which was closely involved in the local movement and participated in different international conventions that were hosted in Montevideo, such as the Latin American Masters Conference in 1931 and the Antiwar Conference in 1933. The latter was organized by the communists in light of the Chaco war between Bolivia and Paraguay, and raised controversy between anarchists who chose to participate in the Conference and those who did not. Luigi Fabbri and other Italians argued in favour of intervening for the sake of avoiding a greater Bolshevik influence in the region.Luigi Fabbri, "Spunti critici e polemici. Gli assenti hanno sempre torto," Studi Sociali, 1 October 1933; Ermacora Cressatti, "Un Congresso contro la guerra," Sorgiamo, December 1932 and Fabbri, Luigi Fabbri, pp. 191-193.
Soon after this, however, the pro-fascist regime in Uruguay halted the development of the anarchist movement. Fortunately for the libertarians, just before Gabriel Terra's coup in March 1933 constitutional liberties began to be re-established in Argentina, causing the well-known movement of political contingents to the other side of Río de la Plata. Italians in Argentina continued to create their own propaganda institutions and to establish links with the local anarchist movement. For example, the publication of Sorgiamo! in Buenos Aires, directed by Aldo Aguzzi and affiliated with the group with the same name, was created with the intention of reunifying tendencies that had existed previously in Argentina, particularly those of the individualists on the one hand and of "L´Avvenire" and "Umanità Nova" on the other. This publication was maintained until 1934, and seven issues were published during those two years. In 1935, two underground issues of the newspaper La Fiamma were released, apparently also directed by Aguzzi and administered by Di Cesare, although we only have information on this newspaper—the last one that was published in Italian in Argentina during the interwar period—according to external references.Bettini, Bibliografia dell´anarchismo, p. 26. The participation of "Umanità Nova" and "Sorgiamo" (represented by Pietro Favetta and Giacomo Sabbattini respectively) in the II Regional Anarchist Congress in Rosario in 1932 is an example of the links established with the local anarchist movement.Antonioli et al. (eds.), Dizionario biografico degli anarchici italiani, II, p. 470. This encounter deepened the desire to create a unified anarchist organisation—an issue that had been debated the previous year in the First Regional Congress held in the Villa Devoto jail, where more than 300 libertarian militants from different strands of the movement were being held. This umbrella organisation that would coordinate and unify the forces of the movement was ultimately defined in 1935 with the creation of the Anarco-Communist Federation of Argentina (Federación Anarco-Comunista Argentina or FACA).Fernando López Trujillo, Vidas en rojo y negro. Una historia del anarquismo en la "Década Infame" (La Plata: Letra Libre, 2005). As a result, the Italians were involved in the process of unification and reconstruction of the libertarian movement that was initiated in the context of the dictatorship.
However, the political context remained complicated. After a brief period of peace in the first months of the government of Agustín P. Justo, Uriburu's successor, in May 1932 the state resumed its persecution and harassment of the Argentine labour movement, particularly of anarchists and communists. These conditions accelerated the return of libertarian exiles to Europe, a process that had been set in motion at the beginning of the 1930's. The two main venues for this process have already been outlined. The first was deportation. Dozens of militants were sent directly to Mussolini's jails, from the port of Buenos Aires as well as Montevideo. Some of these mass deportations became particularly famous. The "Chaco" boat sent by Uriburu in the final throes of his dictatorship (February 1932) held Salvatore Cortese, Antonio de Marco and Luigi Grossutti, as well as many other Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, and Polish expatriots.List of deportees, in the Recurso de Habeas Corpus in favour of individuals registered on the "Chaco" for deportation, Archivo General del Poder Judicial de la Nación, Buenos Aires, 1932, folder 34. This was also the case with "Oceanía,," which left the port of Montevideo in 1933 carrying the anarchists Giacomo Barca, Ugo Fedeli, Antonio Destro and Giulio Stefani, among others.Fabbri, Luigi Fabbri, p. 197.
The second venue for the return to Europe was Spain. Already in 1931 Barcelona had begun to replace Paris as a centre for anarchist exiles due to the persecution of anarchists in Paris as well as the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic, which was a breath of fresh air in the authoritarian climate of interwar Europe. The hopes that anarchists pinned on the social struggle in Spain revitalised the American exiles' longing to return to the old world. "There we will reassemble our scattered ranks, perhaps with a gun in our hand, let us forget the difference in colours in the anarchist rainbow."Errico Arrigoni to Ugo Fedeli, New York, 10 July 1931, Ugo Fedeli Papers, IISH, folder 10. For a study of the role of Italian anarchists in Spain, see Claudio Venza, "Tra rivoluzione e guerra. Libertari italiani nella Spagna degli anni Trenta," in Manfredonia et al., La Resistenza sconosciuta, pp. 259-278; Giovanni C. Cattini, "Anarquistes italians i l'Espanya republicana. La visió de Giuseppe Ruozi," Afers: fulls de recerca i pensament, 37 (2003), pp. 713-729 and Luigi Di Lembo, Guerra di Classe e Lotta umana. L´anarchismo in Italia dal Biennio rosso alla Guerra di Spagna (1919-1939) (Pisa: Biblioteca Franco Serantini, 2001). Many of the anarchist exiles in Río de la Plata who are mentioned in this article formed part of the intricate system of international solidarity that was woven during the Republic and particularly during the Spanish Civil War. For example, Francesco Barbieri, Nicola Turcinovich and Fosco Falaschi arrived before the conflict exploded. The first two experienced the jails and expulsions of the Republic. Fosco Falaschi was rescued from imprisonment in Italy thanks to the collaboration of the libertarian movement with the ships harboured in Genoa. It was Diego Abad de Santillán that welcomed Falaschi to Barcelona and integrated him into the editorial team of Solidaridad Obrera (the organ of the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo -CNT-) and Tierra y Libertad (the organ of the Federación Anarquista Ibérica -FAI- of Cataluña).Abad de Santillán, Memorias, p. 188. Aldo Aguzzi, Pietro Di Cesare and Federico Fontanive, among others, arrived after the war had started. They also participated in various aspects of the conflict such as the militias, the confrontation with the communists, propaganda efforts, etc. These experiences ultimately reveal the ways in which the old links that had been built in previous decades through transnational propaganda and the circulation of militants were reactivated in the Iberian peninsula. They also show the key role that certain individuals like Diego Abad de Santillán, who had moved from Argentina to Spain in 1934, played in these networks.María Migueláñez Martínez, “Diego Abad de Santillán (1897-1983): los viajes doctrinarios de un anarquista transnacional," in Manuel Pérez Ledesma (ed.), Trayectorias trasatlánticas (Siglo XX): personajes y redes entre España y América (Madrid: Polifemo, 2013), pp. 163-198. There are certain examples that illustrate the multiple connections between Italian libertarian groups and Spanish and Argentine groups between 1936 and 1939.
First of all, these connections with America were built through Studi Sociali, which closely followed the events that were unfolding in Spain and exchanged news items and assessments through its assiduous collaborators. Secondly, most of the Italians who arrived from Río de la Plata enlisted in the Republican militias in the Italian section of the Ascaso Column (Sección Italiana de la Columna Ascaso), which was founded on August 17th, 1936 by Camillo Berneri, Carlo Rosselli and Mario Angeloni and supported by Santillán, who acted as an intermediary between the Italian volunteer forces and the Hispanic anarchist movement.Enrico Acciai, "I primi volontari italiani nella guerra civile spagnola: Genesi e nascita della sezione italiana della Colonna Ascaso," Ebre 38, 13 (2010), pp. 13-28. The Ascaso Column was sent immediately to the front in Aragón, where they participated in the victorious battle of Monte Pelato where Fosco Fallaschi, among many others, lost his life.
A third example of the operation of old networks of transnational militants was the publication of Guerra di Classe (1936-1937) in Barcelona. The main organ of the Italian volunteers in the Spanish Civil War was directed at first by Camillo Berneri until his assassination in Barcelona during the Hechos de Mayo in 1937, during which his friend Francesco Barbieri, long since exiled in Argentina, unfortunately suffered the same fate. Subsequently the chief editor of the publication was Aldo Aguzzi.Giovanni C. Cattini, "Cultura obrera y prensa anarquista: radiografía de Guerra di Classe, plataforma de los anarquistas italianos durante la Guerra Civil en Cataluña, 1936-1938," Cercles: revista d'història cultural, 8 (2005), pp. 150-185. Under both of their leadership, the links with Spanish and Argentine groups were strong and well defined. For example, Guerra di Classe established links with "Nervio,," a group affiliated with the FAI in Catalonia and joined by Diego Abad de Santillán upon his arrival in Spain, which controlled a number of publications that were fundamental to the libertarian movement, such as the aforementioned Solidaridad Obrera and Tiempos Nuevos. Berneri and Aguzzi's connections to these publications were strong, while Santillán and others collaborated assiduously with Guerra di Classe. The Argentines who arrived in Spain, mainly those who had been sent by the FACA (Jacobo Maguid, Jacobo Prince and José Grunfeld), became integrated in the movement through "Nervio": For example, Maguid replaced Santillán as director of Tierra y Libertad; Prince wrote for Solidaridad Obrera and subsequently joined the Exterior Propaganda Office of the CNT-FAI (Oficina de Propaganda Exterior de la CNT-FAI) and Grunfeld took part on various administrative roles in the CNT-FAI organs. This cycle of connections and relationships was completed by the intense collaboration of the FACA delegates with Guerra di Classe, mainly with the director and ex-colleague from the Argentine struggle, Aldo Aguzzi, and with Studi Sociali from Montevideo, to which they sent information and documents on the revolution and the war.An example: Jacobo Prince (from the Exterior Propaganda Office of the CNT-FAI) to Luce Fabbri, Barcelona, 27 December 1937, Centro Documental de la Memoria Histórica, Salamanca, Sección Político Social, folder 1040.
The Manifesto Addressed to all Argentine Anarchists (Manifiesto dirigido a todos los anarquistas dela Argentina), which was edited in Buenos Aires on December 30th, 1937 and signed by the FACA delegates (Maguid, Prince and Grunfeld) and other "comrades who have joined our Iberian brothers in their glorious struggle” (Laureano Riera, Antonio Casanova, Nita Nahuel, Aldo Aguzzi, Pietro Di Cesare and Adolfo Laina), provides a final example of these continuous connections. In this manifesto, Argentine and Italian militants, who shared a past and a present experience of social struggle, agreed to condemn the criticism and lack of empathy expressed by the purist sections of the international libertarian movement towards the Spanish anarchists, and to invite all comrades to act in solidarity with the revolution of the FAI and the CNT.A copy of this manifesto is preserved in the library of IISH.
The defeat of the Republic in the Spanish Civil War was a new milestone in the decline of the libertarian movement that had already begun in the interwar period. However, an examination of the trajectories of Italian exiles in Río de la Plata from 1922 onwards shows that this decline was not absolute. Many of these militants (those who managed to survive persecution and disillusionment) went on to participate in post-WWII struggles and in the anarchist organisations that were rebuilt in Argentina on new foundations (see Luigi Tibiletti, Pietro Di Cesare), Uruguay (Luce Fabbri and his partner Ermarcora Cressati, Torquato Gobbi) and especially Italy (Salvatore Cortese, Giacomo Barca, Umberto Lanciotti, Nicola Recchi, Ugo Fedeli). These experiences demonstrate that, despite multiple internal issues and an international framework of reactionary authoritarianism, Italian anarchism was able to survive due to old strategies of mobilisation across borders, as Davide Turcato has argued for the period before the one examined in this study, mainly through exile and the continued circulation of unifying symbols and ideas through propaganda.
In the first years of fascism, Argentina and Uruguay offered a politically safe environment for the movement to develop. In the 1920's and the beginning of the 1930's, the two South American republics served in many cases as an unique space where frontiers were blurred and where shifting conditions of political opportunity allowed for the movement of militants from one side of Río de la Plata to the other, facilitating in this way the survival of the movement and its continuous connection to the wider exile community on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to this mobility, another factor that facilitated the survival of the movement was the synchronisation of its activities along with those of the Argentine and Uruguayan groups, particularly in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. This also involved participating in the many disputes that occurred between local groups, which meant that the Italian anarchists were connected to a much wider and consequently a radically cosmopolitan movement. Subsequently, the disappearance of politically favourable conditions in this part of South America provoked the return of Italian anarchists to Europe, either by choice or by force, which also provided an opportunity to test the transnational network (of propaganda and militants) that had been previously woven. Lastly, although there is no question that this return caused a great deal of loss of life and of libertarian vocations, collapse was avoided thanks to the many forms of collaboration and solidarity that had been forged in previous decades between Italian militants and American and European militants.