The Testament of Michael Schirru

I was born thirty-one years ago, in a small village of the Sardinian province of Sassari.

My infanvy was not one of privation and misery; my father was then a clerk and earned money enough to care for the fammily, although it was a large one.

From my childhood I revealed a vivacious temperament; I did not like to be imposed upon and the arrogance of strong people enraged me. I must have been ten years old, when I began to read with genuine eagerness Podrecca’s L’Asino and another little paper called Il Seme. The dialogues in ”Salinzucca” and ”Masticabrodo” impressed so deeply my young spirit, that I soon begot a marked aversion for priests and church.

Thus, like so many of the young of our island, I grew up a dischevelled and savage youngster. I did not frequent many schools. In Sardinia, more than in any other section of Italy, school is a privilege of the rich. Its smaller villages cannot afford more than the third elementary grade. Anyone willing to further pursue his studies must go either to Cagliari och Sassari. In no part of Italy, and less so in Sardinia, can poor people subsisting on their work, afford to pay board and tuition for their childred in distant and expensive cities.

Yet, though I could not budge, the word of hope in human redemption and liberty traversed seas and mountains, reaching also our small village.

Whenever a lecturer came our way to speak about socialism, ant-clericalism and human emancipation from all the injustices that all the privileged classes have from ancient times imposed upon the disinherited of the world, I would go and listen to him. My young mind understood little of their arguments, but nevertheless Iadmired them; I almost adored their saints.

I felt an urge for knowledge and read a great deal. I became enthused with socialism which became my first creed.

However, this was not for long. At fifteen I left Sardinia for the mainland where I met workers who had mature political consciousness.

Their companionship and their discussions were very interesting to me – they were the spiritual bread I had been longing for. Then I came to know the Anarchist ideal, its beauty and loftiness. Soon, Socialism with its political aspirations, its electoral affrays, its fear of disturbing the laborious digestions of the powerful, appeared a very vulgar thing to me. My temperament was that of a rebel; my conscience, although in the formative stage, was stretched towards the absolute ideal of liberty and justice; and through the pages of anarchist books and pamphlets, so full of enthusiasm, I found the words and thoughts that best expressed my frame of mind and my hopes.

In this way I became an Anarchist. What attracted me was not only the great ideal of liberty and integral justice that Anarchy embodies, but also the ardour and the disinterestedness with which Anarchy engaged in the fight for destruction of the existing social system. I believe that Anarchists are the only true defenders of liberty, and are ready to sacrifice everything for it, because it means everything to them.

Then came the war. In August, 1917, I was in Turin. The city was ablaze with revolt against the war. Amongst the many arrested I was picked by a carabinero, a certain Dore who was also a Sardinian and who I think was later killed in a clash with workers during the Factory Occupation of 1920. When my turn came to serve as a soldier, I served for three years, fourteen months of which was during the war period.

When the workers, submitting to the cowardly betrayal of the Socialist Party and General Confederation of Labour leadership, returned the factories to their legal owners, I was one of those who felt disgusted and humiliated at the missed opportunity and for the precious energies that had been squandered in vain. So I decided to expatriate, feeling that there was nothing more to be done in Italy.

I went first to Paris then to New York. For ten years I made my home in the United States, where I continued to take part in the fight against the nefarious doings of priesthood, as well as against the fascist infiltration among Italian resident communities.

In Pittsfield, Mass., in March 1921, I was assaulted and stabbed by an emissary of the local Italian priest. I was wounded in the shoulder and left side of my body, while my assailant was shot in his foot. I was arrested and charged with assault with intent to kill. Subsequently released under $300 bail, I escaped trial by moving out of the State, more than ever convinced that no matter where Anarchists go, they are considered the culprit, while my assailant, only because he served as the tool of a priest, became the accuser. State justice is the same the world over.

I took part in the movement to save our two great martyrs Sacco and Vanzetti. In my pursuit of my anti-fascist activities, to which I feel I have brought a contribution not easily to be forgotten by fascists in America, I was again arrested.

For fascism as well as for all dictatorships and tyrannies, I have always felt nothing but deep-rooted horror. Mussolini, delighting in cynical brutalities and atrocious persecutions, aiming at nothing else but to preserve his power, I have always considered a reptile most dangerous to humanity. In his Neronian attitudes, the role of hangman for the Italian people and their liberty, in which he prides, have always inspired hatred in me – hatred and revulsion, not so much for the man who is little over half a quintal of flaccid and damaged flesh, as for the despot, the murderer of my comrades, the betrayer of those poor workers who, up to a few years ago, had nourished him. Years of meditation have only accumulated and compressed this hatred into my heart: the day must come when it will explode.

Since 1923 I have found myself thinking at times that in order to suppress tyranny the tyrant must be suppressed. Liberty is not a rotten corpse that can be trampled upon with impunity. History teaches us that outraged liberty has found ardent upholders at all times. While tyranny hires venal assassins, liberty inspires generous avengers and heroes. And no army of hired assassins has ever succeeded in chaining the will or in stopping the hand of the vindicator.

I came to Europe at the beginning of this year purposely to meet this torturer and remind him that the spirit of liberty is still more alive than ever, that it still inspires rebels and urges them on to the greatest sacrifice: to further remind him that the good old stock of Anarchist avengers of the cruelties and tortures inflicted upon their kind is not extinguished.

During this month of May, when the despot was travelling glamourously in Northern Italy, particularly in Milan, I tried in vain to execute my plan. I was compelled to realise that a resolute will is not enough; one must have also adequate means to succeed. So I took to the frontier again to have time and means to more adequately prepare myself.

Now I am going to try again. I feel certain of success: revenge, inexorable and deserved, shall fall upon the monster who has not only inflicted martyrdom upon forty million Italians, but who, always to satisfy his thirst for power, and, with the complicity of the coward and traitorous Savoyard Dynasty, and of all other European fascisms, will soon break loose upon the human kind the scourge of another war.

My gesture will not be a crime, for it shall avenge numberless atrocities and prevent even more and worse iniquities; it will not be murder, for it aims at a brute whose appearance only is human; it will be a service to mankind such as every liberty-loving individual, and every Anarchist should render.

But should I fail and fall, I feel sure that others will take my place. Tyrants should never be pardoned or given respite. Let us adopt the tyrant’s own motto: ”Make life impossible to your enemy.” For no man, more than he, (Mussolini) is an enemy to mankind. We must do all in our power to make life impossible to him and his accomplicies everywhere and by all means. So dictates the necessity of war. Tyranny wages a savage and pitiless war against liberty. It is not only our right but our duty to fight for the liberty and higher destinies of humanity. In order to win we must accept tyranny’s challenge.

Should a merit be deserved by the vindicator, if the memory of him is to be glorified, if I succeed in my design, let such merit fall not upon me, but upon the Ideal that urges me and gives me courage and daring, that teaches me how deeply freedom should be loved and tyranny hated. Unassisted by this Ideal, I should be but one of the many sheep in the fold that gives all the wool it can; uninspired by it, I should be nothing but one of the crowd that lives day by day in resignation to all oppressions. To it then, all the honour and glorifications.

The Anarchist Ideal initiates man in the sublime beauty of universal love, social solidarity, justice and liberty; it is also an inspiration of hatred against evil and of destruction of all that is opprobrious and infamous. Fascism, with its bloody leader and its treacherous monarchy, is at one time all the infamy and all the opprobrium of our age.

The noble Anarchist Ideal, which is so great a part of myself, has given many martyrs and heroes. I do not doubt that it will now administer justice to the sinister despot in Rome.

Should I succeed, I enteat all Anarchists to be vigilant so that political demagogy, always on the alert to exploit the sacrifice of others, be not allowed to deceive the merits of the act I am about to accomplish, which is purely anarchic. Let them be vigilant so that no one be allowed to attempt to deprive it of its honour and glory, the lofty Ideal by which it is inspired and which, in this last lap of my journey, is the only viaticum of my conscience: Anarchy!


Man! Vol. 1 Nos. 5-6
May-June 1933
From ”Man! An anthology of anarchist ideas, essays, poetry amd commentaries”, ed. by Marcus Graham. Cienfuegos Press, London 1974.


Ett svar

  1. (from France) I apologize for not being able to write in a fluent English… An interesting point is that this translation, which was published in may-june 1933 in San Francisco’s ”Man!”, was edited by Melchior Seele a/k/a Raffaele Schiavina, the editor of the outstanding italo-american weekly ”L’Adunata dei Refrattari”. A question is : why did this italophone editor suddenly write in an anglophone monthly ? And also : why now in 1933, two years after Mike Schirru’s death ?
    Though I have no prove my impression is that it was also for him a way to protest against a propaganda which presented the recently arrested Marinus Van der Lubbe as a… Nazi agent : this was nothing but stalinist propaganda, of course, but it also found some echo inside the anarchist movement ; Rocker himself is said to have been misled.
    Any comparison between Mike Schirru and Marinus had its limits : the former was an anarchist, not the latter ; the former had a good position, a happy family life, etc. ; the latter was a young unemployed. But through recalling Schirru, who was not much known outside italophone circles, Schiavina wanted to recall that some men do exist who are able to give their life against tyranny -without having been pushed to do so by the tyrant himself…


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