Life of Malatesta

Life of Malatesta
Cover of Life of Malatesta. Christie Books edition

by Luigi Fabbri


  • Introduction: How I met Errico Malatesta
  • The Man
  • His goodness
  • Legend and reality
  • The orator and the writer
  • Lenin of Italy?
  • Man of action
  • The intellectual
  • Laborer
  • The complete anarchist
  • The Life
  • The Student. – From Republican to Internationalist. — First Arrests. — Meeting Bakunin.
  • The Movements of 1874. — International Congresses in Florence and Bern (1876).
  • The Benevento Uprising (1877).
  • In Egypt, France and England. — The International Congress in London.
  • In Egypt Again. — Return to Italy. — The trial of Rome and La Questione Sociale of Florence. With those Sick from Cholera in Naples (1884).
  • A Refugee in South America. — La Questione Sociale of Buenos Aires (1885). In Search of Gold — Return to Europe (1889).
  • L’Associazione in Nice and London (1889-90). — Congress in Capolago. In Switzerland, France, Belgium and Spain. — The Italian Movements of 1891 and 1894. — International Socialist Workers’ Congress in London. — L’Anarchia (1896).
  • Underground in Italy. — L’Agitazione of Ancona (1897-98). — The Italian Movements of 1898. — Arrest, Trial, and Conviction. — Jail and “domicilio coatto.” — Escape. — La Questione Sociale of Paterson (1899-1900).
  • A Worker’s life in London (1900-13). – Papers and Pamphlets. Anarchist Congress in Amsterdam (1907). — Imprisoned in London. — Return to Italy (1913).
  • Volontà of Ancona (1913-14). — The “Red Week” Mutinies. — Escape to London (1914).
  • The World War. — Arguments against the War and Interventionism. — Return to Italy (1919).
  • Umanità Nova of Milan (1920). — Committees, Conferences and Congresses. Occupation of the factories. — Arrest (1920).
  • In prison (1920-21). — Hunger strike. — Trial and Acquittal. The Fight against Fascism. — The “March on Rome” (1922).
  • A Year of Manual Labor (1923). — Pensiero e Volontà of Rome (1924-26). — Persecutions.
  • An Unseen Prison. — Life under Tyranny. — Writing for the Foreign Anarchist Press. — Sickness and Death (1932).

Appendix A: Biographical Notes

Errico Malatesta: The Biography of an Anarchist

Cover of Errico Malatesta: The Biography of an Anarchist

Errico Malatesta

The Biography of an Anarchist

A Condensed Sketch of Malatesta from the book written by

Max Nettlau

Published by the Jewish Anarchist Federation
New York City. 1924


The short sketch of Malatesta’s life is based on the exhaustive study of Max Nettlau, published in Italian translation by “Il Martello” in New York under the title Vita e Pensieri di Errico Malatesta, and in German translation issued at Berlin by the publishers of the “Syndicalist.” Max Nettlau, the profound scholar of the Anarchist movement, biographer of Michael Bakunin and author of Bibliographie de l’Anarchie, lives in Vienna, and like so many intellectuals in Europe, in distressing economic condition. May I express here the hope that he will find sufficient encouragement to continue his valuable task in the Anarchist movement? He was in contact with the most remarkable men and women in the revolutionary movement of our time and his own reminiscences should prove of great value to the younger generation.

The American publishers refuse to print the Biography on the pretext that it would not pay. No doubt, should an upheaval occur in Italy and Malatesta’s name appear in the foreground, the same publishers would be only to eager to get hold of the manuscript. Meanwhile our comrades of the Jewish Anarchist Federation offer the short sketch as a homage to Malatesta on his seventieth birthday. Continue reading “Errico Malatesta: The Biography of an Anarchist”

What is to be done?

Reply to an article by “Outcast”, Umanità Nova, No. 185, August 26, 1922

“What is to be done?” is the question that, more or less intensely, always troubles the minds of all men struggling for an ideal, and urgently comes back in moments of crisis, when a failure, a disillusionment induces one to re-examine the tactics adopted, to criticize possible errors and to seek more effective means. Comrade Outcast is right to bring up the question again and invite the comrades to think and decide about what to do.

Today our situation is difficult, and even dreadful in some areas. However, he who was anarchist before, remains anarchist after all; although we have been weakened by many defeats, we have also gained a valuable experience, which will increase our effectiveness, if only we are able to treasure it. The defections occurred on our side, which were actually rare, help us after all, because they rid us of weak and unreliable persons.

So, what is to be done? Continue reading “What is to be done?”

Towards Anarchism

Towards Anarchism by Errico Malatesta (1853-1932) first appeared in English in the Depression era periodical MAN!.

It is a general opinion that we, because we call ourselves revolutionists, expect Anarchism to come with one stroke – as the immediate result of an insurrection which violently attacks all that which exists and which replaces all with institutions that are really new. And to tell the truth this idea is not lacking among some comrades who also conceive the revolution in such a manner.

This prejudice explains why so many honest opponents believe Anarchism a thing impossible; and it also explains why some comrades, disgusted with the present moral condition of the people and seeing that Anarchism cannot come about soon, waver between an extreme dogmatism which blinds them to the realities of life and an opportunism which practically makes them forget that they are Anarchists and that for Anarchism they should struggle. Continue reading “Towards Anarchism”

The Idea of Good Government

Umanità Nova, September 11, 1920

None can judge with certainty who is right and who is wrong, who is nearest the truth, or which is the best way to achieve the greatest good for each and everyone. Freedom coupled with experience, is the only way of discovering the truth and what is best; and there can be no freedom if there is a denial of the freedom to err.

But when one talks of freedom politically, and not philosophically, nobody thinks of the metaphysical bogey of abstract man who exists outside the cosmic and social environment and who, like some god, “could do what he wishes” in the absolute sense of the word.

When one talks of freedom one is speaking of a society in which no one could constrain his fellow beings without meeting with vigorous resistance, in which, above all, nobody could seize and use the collective force to impose his wishes on others and on the very groups which are the source of power. Continue reading “The Idea of Good Government”

Revolution in Practice

Umanità Nova, No. 191, October 7, 1922

At the meeting held in Bienne (Switzerland) on the fiftieth anniversary of the Saint Imier Congress, comrade Bertoni and I expressed some ideas that comrade Colomer did not like. So much so that he wrote on the Paris Libertaire that he is sure those ideas contrast the most lively tendencies of the contemporary anarchist movement. Had the comrades of Germany, Spain, Russia, America, etc. been present at that meeting, he writes, they would have got moved and nearly indignant (“émus et presque indigné”), as he himself did.

In my opinion, comrade Colomer slightly overstates his knowledge of the real tendencies of anarchism. In any case, it is an improper use of language, at the least, to talk about “indignation” when the matter is a discussion where everyone honestly tries to contribute to the clarification of ideas in the best interest of the common goal. Anyway, it is better to keep discussing in a friendly manner, as we did in Bienne. Continue reading “Revolution in Practice”

The Revolutionary “Haste”

Umanità Nova, No. 125, September 6, 1921

Let us deal again with G. Valenti’s article republished by the Reggio Emilia newspaper Giustizia.

Valenti dwells on enumerating all the masses that are indifferent or hostile to subversive propaganda. Writing about the United States, he claims that there are 60 (?) million Catholics organized in religious associations who go to church and pray God, and he invites the anarchists to go and make propaganda among those 60 millions, if they want to speed up the revolution. He claims that only 4 and a half million producers out of 40 million are organized in organizations, the majority of which, as a matter of fact, are still opposed to socialism; he also invites trade unionists to start working at organizing workers in unions, if they really want to speed up the revolution. He claims that only one million voters out of twenty-five million voted for Debs in the last polls, he recalls that in the South socialist speakers get beaten and driven out of towns by mobs intoxicated with patriotism; finally, he invites communists to go and propagandize their 21 points in the South, instead of “bugging socialists into accepting them”. Continue reading “The Revolutionary “Haste””

Note on Individualism and Anarchism

Note to the article Individualism and Anarchism by Adamas. Pensiero e Volontà, No. 15, August 1, 1924

Adamas’ reply to my article in n. 13 shows that I did not express my thought well, and induces me to add some clarifications.

I claimed that “individualist anarchism and communist anarchism are the same, or nearly so, in terms of moral motivations and ultimate goals”.

I know that one could counter my claim with hundreds of texts and plenty of deeds of self-proclaimed individualist anarchists, which would demonstrate that individualist anarchist and communist anarchist are separated by something of a moral abyss.

However, I deny that that kind of individualists can be included among anarchists, despite their liking for calling themselves so. Continue reading “Note on Individualism and Anarchism”

Mutual Aid

Various publications and dates (see footnotes).
Published in Vernon Richards (ed.), Malatesta: Life and Ideas, Freedom Press, 1965.

Since it is a fact that man is a social animal whose existence depends on the continued physical and spiritual relations between human beings, these relations must be based either on affinity, solidarity and love, or on hostility and struggle. If each individual thinks only of his well being, or perhaps that of his small consanguinary or territorial group, he will obviously find himself in conflict with others, and will emerge as victor or vanquished; as the oppressor if he wins, as the oppressed if he loses. Natural harmony, the natural marriage of the good of each with that of all, is the invention of human laziness, which rather than struggle to achieve what it wants assumes that it will be achieved spontaneously, by natural law. In reality, however, natural Man is in a state of continuous conflict with his fellows in his quest for the best, and healthiest site, the most fertile land, and in time, to exploit the many and varied opportunities that social life creates for some or for others. For this reason human history is full of violence, wars, carnage (besides the ruthless exploitation of the labour of others) and innumerable tyrannies and slavery.

If in the human spirit there had only existed this harsh instinct of wanting to predominate and to profit at the expense of others, humanity would have remained in its barbarous state and the development of order as recorded in history, or in our own times, would not have been possible. This order even at its worst, always represents a kind of tempering of the tyrannical spirit with a minimum of social solidarity, indispensable for a more civilised and progressive life. Continue reading “Mutual Aid”


ORGANISATION which is, after all, only the practice of co-operation and solidarity, is a natural and necessary condition of social life; it is an inescapable fact which forces itself on everybody, as much on human society in general as on any group of people who are working towards a common objective. Since man neither wishes to, nor can, live in isolation-indeed being unable to develop his personality, and satisfy his physical and moral needs outside society and without the co-operation of his fellow beings-it is inevitable that those people who have neither the means nor a sufficiently developed social conscience to permit them to associate freely with those of a like mind and with common interests, are subjected to organisation by others, generally constituted in a class or as a ruling group, with the aim of exploiting the labour of others for their personal advantage. And the age-long oppression of the masses by a small privileged group has always been the result of the inability of most workers to agree among themselves to organise with others for production, for enjoyment and for the possible needs of defence against whoever might wish to exploit and oppress them. Anarchism exists to remedy this state of affairs….[1]

There are two factions among those who call themselves anarchists, with or without adjectives: supporters and opponents of organisation. If we cannot succeed in agreeing, let us, at least, try to understand each other. Continue reading “Organisation”