Anarchism and Anarchy

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

Anarchism in its origins, its aspirations, and its methods of struggle, is not necessarily linked to any philosophical system. Anarchism was born of a moral revolt against social injustice. When men were to be found who felt as if suffocated by the social climate in which they were obliged to live; who felt the pain of others as if it were their own; who were also convinced that a large part of human suffering is not the inevitable consequence of inexorable natural or supernatural laws, but instead, stems from social realities dependent on human will and can be eliminated through human effort – the way was open that had to lead to anarchism.

The specific causes of social ills and the right means to destroy them had to be found. When some thought that the fundamental cause of the disease was the struggle between men which resulted in domination by the conquerors and the oppression and exploitation of the vanquished, and observed that the domination by the former and this subjection of the latter had given rise to capitalistic property and the State, and when they sought to overthrow both State and property – then it was that anarchism was born.[1] Continue reading “Anarchism and Anarchy”

An Anarchist Programme

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

1. Aims and Objectives

We believe that most of the ills that afflict mankind stem from a bad social organisation; and that Man could destroy them if he wished and knew how.

Present society is the result of age-long struggles of man against man. Not understanding the advantages that could accrue for all by cooperation and solidarity; seeing in every other man (with the possible exception of those closest to them by blood ties) a competitor and an enemy, each one of them sought to secure for himself, the greatest number of advantages possible without giving a thought to the interests of others. Continue reading “An Anarchist Programme”

Defence of the Revolution

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

THE REVOLUTION WE WANT CONSISTS IN DEPRIVING THE PRESENT holders of their power and wealth and in putting the land and the means of production and all existing wealth at the disposal of the workers, that is of everybody, since those who are not, will have to become, workers. And the revolutionaries must defend this revolution by seeing to it that no individual, party or class finds the means to constitute a government and restore privilege in favour of new or old bosses….

To defend, to save the revolution there is only one means: that of pushing the revolution as far as it will go. So long as there are those who will be in a position to oblige others to work for them; so long as there are those who are in a position to violate the freedom of others, the revolution will not be complete, and we will be still in a state of legitimate defence and to the violence which oppresses we will oppose the violence that liberates. Continue reading “Defence of the Revolution”


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

TO DESTROY RADICALLY THIS OPPRESSION WITHOUT ANY DANGER of it re-emerging, all people must be convinced of their right to the means of production, and be prepared to exercise this basic right by expropriating the landowners, the industrialists and financiers, and putting all social wealth at the disposal of the people.[1]

[In Teramo] at a meeting of peasants the local secretary of the Trade Unions, the president of the socialist cooperative and two socialist MPs told the peasants: “Keep yourselves ready; when your leaders will tell you to strike, abandon the fields, and if on the other hand they tell you to gather in only your share, obey them and leave the other half unharvested.” Continue reading “Expropriation”

The Insurrection

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


Naturally one must begin with the insurrectionary act which sweeps away the material obstacles, the armed forces of the government which are opposed to any social transformation.

For the insurrection it is desirable, and it may well be indispensable, that all the anti-monarchical forces, since we are living under a monarchist regime, should be united. It is necessary to be as prepared as possible, morally and materially; and it is above all necessary to profit by all agitations and to seek to extend them and transform them into resolutive movements, to avoid the danger that while the organisations are getting ready the popular forces exhaust themselves in isolated actions.[1] Continue reading “The Insurrection”


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

I remember that on the occasion of a much-publicised anarchist attentat a socialist of the first rank just back from fighting in the Greco-Turkish war, shouted from the housetops with the approval of his comrades, that human life is always sacred and must not be threatened, not even in the cause of freedom. It appeared that he excepted the lives of Turks and the cause of Greek independence. Illogicality, or hypocrisy? [1]

Anarchist violence is the only violence that is justifiable, which is not criminal. I am of course speaking of violence which has truly anarchist characteristics, and not of this or that case of blind and unreasoning violence which has been attributed to anarchists, or which perhaps has been committed by real anarchists driven to fury by abominable persecutions, or blinded by over-sensitiveness, uncontrolled by reason, at the sight of social injustices, of suffering for the sufferings of others. Continue reading “Attentats”

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”

Making Sense of Anarchism: Errico Malatesta’s Experiments with Revolution 1889-1900 by Davide Turcato [Book review]

Malatesta’s an interesting figure, a good example of the militant activist and thinker. The fact that he’s mobile (so keeps ‘disappearing’ when historians are writing about anarchism in just one country), involved in insurrections (which means he’s careful what he says in print) and more involved in discussions in the anarchist press than producing weighty tomes (which is where most academics look for theory) mean that he’s not unknown but rather underestimated.

If you look at the subtitle, you’ll see that Turcato’s not aiming to write an account of Malatesta’s life. Instead, Making Sense of Anarchism covers the evolution of his ideas as they developed in step with his revolutionary activities. This is closely tied up with challenging half-baked accounts of anarchism from its ideological opponents – ‘in contrast with marxist historiography, which hastens to toll the bell for anarchism, liberal historiography wishes it a long life as a permanently unsuccessful movement’ (p. 3) – or ‘sympathetic’ writers that repeat the same stereotypes of irrational, spontaneous action. Continue reading “Making Sense of Anarchism: Errico Malatesta’s Experiments with Revolution 1889-1900 by Davide Turcato [Book review]”

At the Café: Conversations on Anarchism by Errico Malatesta [Review]

A great new title from Freedom Press by the celebrated Italian veteran, published here for the first time in an English translation.

This small and stylishly produced volume is composed of a series of short dialogues between Giorgio, a young anarchist, and Cesare, a shopkeeper, Ambrogio, a magistrate, and Prospero, a wealthy businessman. Malatesta is rightly famed for his clear and easily-understood explanations of basic anarchist theory and this attractive little book is a perfect example of his accessible style.

Within the café conversations Malatesta explains the fundamentals of anarchist-communism, describing how a future free society might function and very convincingly countering the most common objections to the libertarian ideal. Anarchists will of course be familiar with these arguments and counter-arguments, but Malatesta writes so lucidly that this book could certainly serve as a useful introduction to anarchist doctrine for beginners.

The actual publishing history of these dialogues is equally fascinating. Begun in 1897 whilst hiding from the police in Ancona, they were interrupted by his eventual arrest, release, house arrest and exile from Italy. The first ten dialogues (of seventeen) were themselves published as a separate pamphlet. It was not until 1913 that Malatesta resumed work on the dialogues whilst working on the new anarchist journal Volontà, which was also based in Ancona. Here he wrote four new dialogues and also introduced some new characters into the cafe discussions.

However, following ‘Red Week’ in 1914 in which he was an enthusiastic participant, Malatesta was to become a political refugee in London and did not return to Italy until 1920.

The final three dialogues were written whilst editing Umanità Nova in Milan, most probably at the prompting of his close comrade Luigi Fabbri. The manuscript of the set of dialogues were miraculously overlooked during a police raid on Malatesta’s apartment in October 1920 and they were to be finally published by as a complete set in 1922 with an introduction by Luigi Fabbri. Overall then, an engaging and accessible read that explains the anarchist position on a range of social and political issues, making it as relevant today as when it was originally written.

At the Café: Conversations on Anarchism by Errico Malatesta, edited translated and introduced by Paul Nursey-Bray
Freedom Press, 2005. ISBN 1-904491-06-5 £7.50
Freedom, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London, E1 7QX