Welcome to the
Errico Malatesta Online Archive.
“We follow ideas and not men, and rebel against this habit of embodying a principle in a man.”
This archive aims to provide an easily-accessible and comprehensive online collection of Errico Malatesta’s writings in English. It comes out of a deep respect for his commitment to the movement, and the clarity and importance of his ideas, even for us today. As Vernon Richards, in his introduction to the third edition of Malatesta: Life & Ideas put it, “…Malatesta’s analysis of the political situation in the Western world and his realistic approach to the role that anarchists could play in changing that society are as valid today as ever they were.” Hopefully, it will provide a useful resource for the movement.
The Errico Malatesta Online Archive is a work in progress, and will take shape as more works are located and added. It is envisaged as an addition and complement to existing online collections, many of which are often incomplete, do not include important works, or do not represent the full range of his ideas. (The Complete Works of Malatesta is becoming available in print – in 10 volumes – edited by Davide Turcado.)
We’d appreciate your support to keep this Archive up to date and to make it more comprehensive! The current collection is based on our own online research, but we are sure there are some texts we have missed. All suggestions for further additions as well as corrections are welcome. If you come across any writings that are not included in this archive, please let us know via the contact page (if the text is online, please include a link).
* * *
Malatesta was an Italian anarchist, born in Santa Maria Capua Vetere, Italy on December 14, 1853. He was a key figure in the international anarchist movement, and a contemporary and acquaintance of Mikhail Bakunin, Piotr Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, Élisée Reclus, and Rudolf Rocker (who he was imprisoned with). He was a member of the Italian section of the International, and helped organize the London Congress of the Second International.
He spent more than half of his life abroad in exile. During this time he participated in many strikes and insurrections (e.g. Arabi Pasha’s anti-European insurrection in Egypt), tirelessly spread anarchist ideas (e.g. in immigrant communities in Buenos Aires), and met up with other anarchist organisations (e.g. Spanish groups in New Jersey). For his political activities he was arrested multiple times, by the British, Italian, Hungarian, and Swiss authorities, charged with (or convicted of) armed conspiracy against the state, criminal association, belonging to a seditious organization, criminal libel, etc. He spent more than 10 years of his life in prison, eventually dying while under house arrest under the Italian Fascist regime in 1932.
Despite identifying early on with insurrectionism, Malatesta later embraced mass anarchist strategies, unionism, and was a key advocate of propaganda by the word. He produced many important radical newspapers and pamphlets and journals over the years, including the anarchist organ La Questione Sociale as early as 1883-1884 and the pamphlet Fra Contadini (Between Peasants) in 1884, addressing rural landless workers.
In 1889, in the Nice-based L’Associazione, he argued against anarchist “terrorism”, advocating an “organized movement committed to pursuing individual freedom and social justice by means of activity that should never to be at odds with its goals”. Later, in his 1897 programme etched out in L’Agitazione (which he edited from Ancona), he asserted the primacy of the human will in the emancipatory project, arguing that “people must see to their own emancipation”.
After a long period of exile, he returned to Italy in 1919, establishing the first anarchist daily, Umanità Nova. Even after the fascist seizure of power Malatesta published Pensiero e Volontà in 1924, until all independent newspapers and magazines were closed down in 1926.
Unlike many socialists at the time, he is important for his outspoken and principled stance that anarchists should not take sides between capitalist imperialist powers in the First World War.
“Il nostro programma”, L’Agitazione, March 14, 1897