MARINUS VAN DER LUBBE

By Melchior Seele [Raffaele Schiavina]

On the evening of February 27th, 1933, a fire which caused considerable damage developed in the Reichstag building, in Berlin.

A political campaign for the election of a new parliament was in full swing. Since January 30th, a coalition Government was in power, composed of members of the Nazi and Nationalist parties, under the leadership of Chancellor Hitler. the Nazi chief.

The Nazi Party, aspiring to the absolute and exclusive control of the government, seized on the Reichstag fire as a campaign weapon to defeat its opponents who had already been cowed to a large extent by the furious violence of its storm troops. Holding all the keys of power, the police and the press, under their control, the Nazi chief had only to conceive the idea and give adequate orders to crush their enemies. So they did. They elaborately dramatised the Reichstag fire in such a way that they not only won by a slight majority at the polls a few days later – which was a foregone concluusion, since the ballot is for the German Fascists only an empty ceremonial – but they soon succeeded in driving the Social-Democratic and Communist Parties from Parliament and from the country – the sixteen or seventeen million votes cast in their favour by the electorate notwithstanding – and in imposing themselves on the German people, with a semblance of formal lawfulness, as the saviours of the Fatherland from the Marxist-Semite scourge.

As soon as the fire alarm had been given, a young man scantily dressed was arrested on the premises of the Reichstag building. He gave his name as Marinus Van der Lubbe, brick mason from Leyde, Holland. He promptly admitted having caused the fire by the means of ”Kohlenanzuender” (coal-fire-lighter), some curtains found on the premises, and part of his own clothes. He stated that he had no accomplices abd that all by himself had he conceived and executed his act. He added that he was a dissident Communist, expelled from the Party since 1931 and that by destroying the Reichstag he meant to protest against a political institution which was being used as an instrument to submit the workers to the yoke of a fascist dictatorship.

This was enough for the Nazis to attempt to involve the Communist and Social-Democratic Parties in a huge conspiracy to spread revolution over the Reich.

The conspiracy theme was played up to fantastic proportions from the first moment. During the night of February 27th thousands of Communists, Socialists and other revolutionaries were arrested – without warrant, of course. The news was given out that Van der Lubbe was a member of the Communist Party, a party-card – it was said – having been found on him when arrested, that the Reichstag fire had been ordered by the Communists as a signal to start a Bolshevik revolution, that the Social-Democrats had participated in the plot, that Van der Lubbe was but one of the incendaries, the others having succeeded in escaping immediate arrest, that the damaged caused by the fire was so great it was impossible to conceive it as the job of a single person. The discovery of huge quantities of incendiary materials – hundreds of pounds – in the neighbourhood of the destroyed building was announced. The dramatic zeal for speculation was pushed to such an extreme that by the beginning of March a pilgrimage had been organised through the ”ruins” of the Reichstag to give the god-fearing and law-abiding Germans of ”Aryan” blood an opportunity to witness the extent of the disaster and contemplate the unused quantities of incendiary materials which had been ”discovered”.

All this was utterly false. The sensational make-up was perfected in an atmosphere of terror. Thousands upon thousands of subversive suspects or Jewish citizens were being arrested all over the country. Assassinations were taking place by the score-abetted and fostered by the Government itself. Torture was resorted to. Censorship of news made reporting and criticism of acts and deeds by the Government and its partisans dangerous and impossible. The fantastic accusations piled up by the dominating faction against their enemies went unchallenged and were made to appear truthful by means of suppressing all attempts at discussion.

Hitler and his acolytes succeeded in getting a bare majority at the polls – which was a foregone conclusion. Any party in power can fabricate a majority – or make it appear – for itself. But they did not succeed in their attempt to involve the Social-Democrats in the so-called Reichstag fire plot. German Social-Democrats are too well known as ”respectable” politicians of a safe nature to be suspected of complicity in such an ”outrage”. Hitler could impose anything on the gullibility and cowardice of the Germans, except this impossible suspicion. Besides, German capitalists and junkers owed the Social-Democrats, who had saved them from the Revolution in 1918-1919, a debt of gratitude. Hinderburg saved the widow of his Socialist predecessor from the molestations of fanatic Hitlerites. Grateful German capitalism and junkerdom saved Social-Democracy from the Reichstag fire conspiracy frame-up.

German Communism had not so powerful protection. Herr Toergler, horrified by the accusations hurled against his party, went to the police, accompanied by his lawyer, using his parliamentary prestige, to defend it against so intolerable an accusation. He was arrested and later implicated in the conspiracy case. As all the other defendants – Van der Lubbe, a Netherlander; Popoff, Dimitroff and Taneff, three Bulgarian exiles – are all aliens and as such not members of the German Communist Party. Toergler was made into the vital link of the whole frame-up which is now being tried by the Reich’s Supreme Court, in Leipzig and Berlin.

That neither the German Communist Party nor the regular Communists – Toergler, Popoff, Dimitroff and Paneff – had any part whatever in the Reichstag fire, was amply proved: by the fact that Marinus Van der Lubbe consistently affirms he acted alone, that his co-defendants were completely unknown to him and he has had no relation whatever with the Third International Communist Parties since 1931. It is further proved by the alibi that each of these four has produced, and finally, by the character of the deed which was meant to be as much a protest against Nazism as against Parliamentary Communism.

The Communist Party – all its revolutionary verbiage notwithstanding – is at heart a party of law and order. Discipline is its byword; the State its fetish. Communists aim at the conquest of the State through discipline. They abhor individual initiative and action as vehemently as any bourgeois bureaucrat – if not more. They want to conquer power through ordered mass action – which means trade-union pressure, parliamentary politics, peaceful penetration and so forth. They are orthodox Democrats who claim their right to rule in the name of the majority of the people – who belong to the working class. Parliament is one of their means of propaganda and political action. Elections are their most coveted opportunities to reach the people and gather votes. Parliamentary emoluments are one of their sources for financing party leadership. Parliament is as sacred to them as to any other political party in a Parliamentary system. Don’t let yourselves be deluded by the dissolution of the Russian Duma in 1917. When they dissolved the Duma, the Russian Communists – who, by the way, were forced to take that step by the revolution they could not otherwise have controlled – were already in power. No party in power likes to be controlled by Parliament, even though they may be forced to tolerate it.

But the main reason that makes the Communists defendants in the Reichstag fire trial innocent of the deed they are accused of is also the main reason that made their whole party incapable of counteracting the Nazi colossal speculation of that event.

Had Communists been a true revolutionary party, they would have hailed the Reichstag fire as a signal for the German working class to rise against the bloody dictatorship of the Nazis – what it obviously was meant to be. Had they placed human common sense above political strategy, they would at least have pointed at the accusation of the Nazis the fact that the destruction of an empty building was after all a very secondary happening at a time and in a country where the paid agents of the government and of the ruling party were torturing and murdering inoffensive citizens by the hundreds, aoutawing more by the thousands.

Since Communists are not revolutionists but mere politicians, since they are more interested in political strategy than human common sense, they were – or pretended to be – horrified by the profanation of that sacred temple of politics. They joined the Social-Democrats – who have used it for decades to divert the toiling masses from the path of revolution – in deprecating the crime and vied with the Nazis themselves in showing their indignation against the outrage. This means that they played into the hands of Hitler’s gang.

Communists and Social-Democrats resorting to a belated united front, validated all the lies the Hitler government was feeding out to the German public. So it became an undisputed fact that the firing of the Reichstag had been the ”greatest crime of our times”, that Marinus Van der Lubbe was an irresponsible person incapable of sound thinking, a tool in the hands on political intriguers. From this point of view it may be safely said that the ”united front” went beyond the pale of Socialist and Communist politics – it clearly involved the Nazi Government itself in the pursuit of a common purpose: to present Marinus Van der Lubbe as an anti-social individual, a criminal of the basest sort and equally inimical to the German ”Arayan” race and to the working classes, by repudiating his claims to revolutionary ideals as insincere and by divesting his deed of any revolutionary implication.

Social-Democrats, Communists and Anti-Fascists of all descriptions took for granted anything the Nazi press said. So it was taken for granted that Van der Lubbe had qualified himself as a member of the Communist Party; that he had denounced prominent leaders of the same as his accomplices, that the Reichstag fire could not possibly be the work of a single man; that huge quantities of unused incendiary materials had been found on or near the premises… and so on. All of which has been demonstrated to be utterly false by the evidence produced at the trial opened on September 21st in Leipzig. Van der Lubbe has consistently declared from the beginning to the end that he had been expelled from the Dutch Communist Party in 1931; he has never admitted having any accomplice; he has never accused anybody but himself; he has always stated that each and every one of his co-defendants was absolutely unknown to him; no incendiary material has ever been found on the premises or nearby; finally it has been proved that the extent of the damage has been exaggerated and that the job could have been the work of a single person.

Thus, while the Nazis, in their effort to build a case against the Communists, were creating these now totally exposed lies – an easy task under a system of censorship, domesticated press and intimidated public – the Communists and their allies, far from casting any doubt upon the fabricated news stories which the Nazis were giving out, used them as if they were proven facts in their own effort to build a case against Nazidom.

The Nazi frame-up is now crumbling at their own trial in Leipzig and Berlin. The Social Democrat-Communist frame-up is crumbling also before the larger audience of the world, to whose final judgement their lies and perversions are being exposed by friends of Van der Lubbe’s and of the truth.

The Social Democrat-Communist frame-up stands exclusively on the assumption that Marinus Van der Lubbe is an agent provocateur. To prove this assumption the Social Democrats-Communists have sponsored a book written by an English lord* – a member of the most obtusive aristocracy the world has ever known – and a mock trial conducted in London by a body of bourgeois lawyers and politicians prior to the opening of the Leipzig trial. The conclusions arrived at by this body were announced on September 20th and are to the effect that the four regular Communist defendants are wholly innocent of the deed they are accused of, and that Marinus Van der Lubbe is most probably an agent provocateur, a tool of the Nazis.

The main reasons adduced by Communists and their allies to prove that Van der Lubbe is an agent provocateur are the following:

1. Van der Lubbe was expelled from the Dutch Communist Party in 1931 as a suspected police informer.

That this affirmation is not true is proved by the young Dutch mason’s friends and comrades who were the first ones to protest – since last April – against the malicious insinuation spread by regular Communists. They sent then a letter to the Paris Anarchist paper Le Libertaire stating that Van der Lubbe had left the Communist Party for theoretical dissension, that all honest persons who knew him were bound to believe that his deed was the consequence of honest conviction on his part, that he had been persistently persecuted by the police of his native country, that he would never say anything to damage anybody. Van der Lubbe’s behaviour before and during the trial absolutely confirms his comrades’ and friends’ opinion of him. He has said nothing that might in any way damage his co-defendants. He has not even tried an elaborate exposition of his political and social views at the trial, most probably for fear they might be interpreted as akin to those of the four Communists the German government is trying to link to the Reichstag fire – who he wishes in all justice to exonerate. Now, everybody knows that the task of an agent provocateur is to involve others in his deeds. Van der Lubbe not only involves nobody by direct admissions, but shows himself extremely cautious in not damaging his co-defendants by indirect inference – and this to the extent of renouncing an attitude which might best respond to the interests of his moral and legal defence. ”Let facts speak by themselves,” he wrote to one of his friends back in Leyde who was acquainting him the Social Democrat-Communist calumny, ”everything is as clear as crystal.” Everything is so clear in fact that Ernest Togler – his German Communist co-defendant – has not dared to accuse Van der Lubbe of being an agent provocateur in open court, but has simply qualified him as an Anarcho-Syndicalist.

2. Van der Lubbe is an homosexual pervert and as such had been a paid guest of some Nazi chiefs in the Saxe town of Brockwitz between the months of June and August, 1932.

This accusation has been repeated at the London mock trial, but E. Sylvia Pankhurst, after listening to all the evidence there produced, says that she does not believe that the witnesses brought from Holland to testify on this account said the truth. As a matter of fact, the former Socialist mayor of Brockwitz, who is supposed to have been the originator of this story, has denied at the Leipzig trial that any record exists of Van der Lubbe’s having ever been in that town. Dr. Bonhofer, an expert who vidited the prisoner soon after his arrest, said beforethe tribunal that he had not found in him any symptom authorising the presumption that he might be an homosexual. Van der Lubbe’s friends and relatives back in Holland deny it absolutely. What is more, Van der Lubbe was not in Germany at the time he as accused of having been a guest of the Brockwitz Nazi chiefs. From June 12th to October 2nd, 1932 he was in jail in his native land where he had been sentenced to three months for political activity of a seditious nature, as appears from an official document – it being a release from the Utrecht House of Correction – which was published by the French paper Le Semeur in its September 15th issue.

3. The Reichstag fire could not possibly serve any purpose but the Nazis’; therefore the Nazis must be the incendaries and Van der Lubbe their conscious or unconscious tool.

That the fire actually served mostly as a political speculative matter for the furtherance of the German Fascists’ political interests, need not be demonstrated at this late date. But if it served no better purpose – as it was undoubtedly meant to – it is not Van der Lubbe’s fault. Neither is it the fault of the German workers who are said to have received the news of the Reichstag fire with gratification. It is the fault only of the Social Democratic and Communist politicians who refused to take advantage of it, who did even worse; instead of interpreting it as a rallying call for all friends of the republic, of liberty and of the revolutionary cause of the proletariat to make a concerted effort to resist the violent reaction of the fascist hordes, they condemned it as vehemently as the fascists themselves as an anti-social act, and thereby played the latter’s game. It was a pitiful case of devotion to legality at a time when the so-called revolutionary parties – of Social Democracy and Communism – proved themselves to be the only lawful parties. There was no law in Germany on the 27th February 1933. The Weimar Constitution had long since been destroyed by President Hindenburg and the reactionary parties he had called to power of his own choice, against the will of the people and Parliament. The Hitler government was then given a free hand for its private troops which were conquering the country by force of arms. The police at the service of a minority government were aiding and abetting the fascists in violation of all constitutional guarantees. Honest Republicans, honest Social-Democrats and sincere Communists had at that moment no means of defence from the Nazi reaction under the protection of the law, because no such protection or law existed. Social-Democrats and Communists seem to have remained so utterly blind to the real nature of the events which were taking place that they still believed that their political problem could be solved through an electoral campaign. And the electoral campaign absorbed them so completely that they failed to preceive that nothing short of a revolution could possibly save them.

Van der Lubbe – whom they are at pains to describe as an idiot because his acts and words differ so profoundly from their opportunist policies – understood what they proved themselves unable to understand: that the electoral campaign about which they were raving was nothing but an ineffectual exercise destined to give an appearance of popular approval to the Fascist terror, that Parliament is always impotent against the brutal force of the dominating classes; that the workers should have had recource to action to save themselves; that an example was urgently called for, even at the price of life.

This does not mean that Marinus Van der Lubbe is a genius. It means only that he is a real revolutionist at heart, while the Social-Democratic and Communist leaders may well be geniuses – at lying and calumniating – but are at heart merely opportunist politicians.

* The Brown Book of the Hitler Terror, foreword by Lord Marney (Victor Gollancz, 1933) – Editor.

Man! Vol. 1 No. 11
November 1933.

Man! An Anthology of Anarchist Ideas, Essays, Poetry and Commentaries edited by M. Graham. Cienfuegos Press 1974.

A FRAGMENT OF LUIGI GALLEANI’S LIFE

By Melchior Seele [Raffaele Schiavina]

If an Anarchist movement exists today among the Italian immigrants and if such a movement has suffered practically no desertions as a consequence of the Bolshevik incarnation of Socialism, it is due to a large extent to the teachings and example of Luigi Galleani.

Others and foremost Italian apostles of Anarchism have been in this country: F.S. Merlino, the pioneer; Pietro Gori, the poet, Errico Malatesta, Giuseppe Ciancabilla, impressing characters alls of them, clear minds and pure consciences. But their activity here, however intense, was more or less of a short duration. Galleani’s on the contrary, spread over most of twenty years and was marked by the continuous progress of his mind and of the revolutionary movement as well.

When he landed on these shores, in the fall of 1901, shortly after Czolgosz’ execution of president McKinley, Luigi Galleani was in the prime of his life. Ten of his forty years of age he had continuously spent either in jail, in relegation or in exile. His mind had matured through a very thorough education, hard thinking and personal experience. His conscience was clean of opportunistic entanglements. His convictions were deep-rooted. Persecution had steeled him beyond fear and temptation. He had chosen his place in life, and nothing was to lure him away from his purpose. In 1898 he was confined to the island of Pantelleria, when the socialist politicians, who had been intriguing with all sorts of reactionary tools, conceived the idea of subduing the Anarchists to their parliamentary policy. All Italian Anarchists were then either confined to the islands or exiled. Had they consented to give their names to a political campaign and had they been elected, which was all but impossible then, in many cases, they would have been automatically set free. Galleani answered to the socialist manoeuvre for all his comrades in seclusion, saying that prisons, chains and persecutions had not daunted their faith and that, no matter how painful they found it to be severed from the living world, they would rather stay and die, if need be, on the Mediterranean rocks, than lend their names to an electoral circus, which they despised, bow to a flag for which was not theirs. “Manet Immota Fides” – he wrote then on his flag, and his faith remained unchanged to his death.

Of course, although they were absolutely truthful when they said nothing in the world could persuade them to repudiate or soften their Anarchist convictions, neither Galleani nor his comrades expected to die on the Mediterranean rocks. Errico Malatesta had escaped from the Island of Ustica a few months before, Galleani escaped from the Island of Pantelleria a few months later, and all were set free after Bresci’s execution of King Humbert, in 1900.

Following his escape from Pantelleria, Galleani spent some time in Egypt and then, by way of London, came to America.

A deep knowledge of Anarchist philosophy, twenty years of experience at the front of the social war, the firm conviction that the social revolution was at one and the same time what the people want and what they must have if human progress is to continue and civilisation to survive, a powerful mind, a noble character that feared nothing and disdained all compromise, a masterly pen with a touch of classicism, a native and carefully cultivated talent of oratory, which made him an unsurpassed tribune of the people – these were his arms as he plunged himself in the vortex of American life, in the wake of the plutocratic imperialism that was being fostered by the elder Rooseveltian windbag.

Galleani was not assimilated by the American environment. His age was too advanced to permit him to master the English language to his own satisfaction. And you cannot reach a people whose language you don’t know perfectly. Besides, he was too much of an artist, too much of a scrupulous thinker to suffer himself to express his thoughts in less than a masterly way. For this reason, his passage through the American scene remains practically unknown to all but the Italo-American community and to the native police records.

But even though he was not absorbed by the American environment, he certainly had a good grasp of its workings. Holding himself consistently aloof from the ruling cliques and from those who aspire to rule as well he could see the American panorama – its past, its present, its tendencies, from the viewpoint of the underdog – and accordingly elaborate his policies, his doctrine and attitude in a state of absolute independence.

His first stop was in Paterson, N.J., then at its peak as the “hotbead” of Anarchism. Here he became the editor of a weekly paper called “La Questione Sociale.” When the famous textile strike of 1902 broke out, Galleani had the first opportunity to give the measure of himself as an agitator and a fighter. Nothing half-baked in him. If his written word might sound fiery to the mill czars, his spoken word rang as the hymn of resurrection to the hungry strikers. And his actions made good both. He was not an organiser. He called the workers to action for their bread, for their freedom – not for his own good. When the fight was on, he would ask the workers to keep it on, to rely on themselves, on their united effort to force the enemy into submission. He would not ask them to confide their troubles to his ability as a fixer or a mediator. For himself he would ask neither position, nor money, nor even the acceptance of his social philosophy – only to let him fight by their side for the triumph of their cause.

This kind of leadership is not familiar with the professional organisers of labour who are wont to approach the strikers with condescension with the more or less tacit understanding that they should organise under their banners and make a position for them as their paid leader. When, if ever, these organisers take to picketing, they do it for advertising purposes and only provided they are accompanied by the elaborate paraphernalia of loud drums, reel photographers, news reporters, defence counsel and other similar accompaniments. Galleani’s was the kind of leadership that marks the crusader and scares the job-seekers.

On June 18th, while leading picketing strikers, they came into contact with the gunmen of the police force. They fought valiantly. Galleani barely escaped with his life after having received a slash on the forehead and a gun shot on his upper lip. The Paterson police were in an uproar to capture him. But he succeeded in escaping and took refuge in Canada from where he came to Barre, Vt., the following year, under an assumed name. There he founded a weekly paper of Anarchist propaganda called “Cronaca Sovversiva,” which was later transferred to Lynn, Mass. His identity having been publicly revealed by a socialist politician, G. M. Serrati, who lived to succeed Mussolini as editor of the official organ of the Italian revolution of 1919 – Luigi Galleani was arrested in Barre, Vt., on December 30th, 19906, extradited to New Jersey, and tried in Paterson a few months later for his part in the strike of 1902. His case was afterwards dropped following a disagreement of the jury.

From 1903 to 1918 Galleani edited “Cronaca Sovversiva,” a paper which was a constant source of information, enthusiasm, courage and discussion. Into it Galleani transfused his wide knowledge and rare ability. He made it the mirror of his soul, which was itself the mirror of the anguish, torture and hopes of the underdog. For fifteen years this paper had an undisputed influence, not only over the Anarchist movement, but also over the whole revolutionary movement of the Italian community in America. It inspired a movement which was not probably very large in number but was highly select. Its members had a precise notion of what Anarchism should be, what it should do, and endeavoured to act accordingly. They did not waste their time pursuing elusive chimeras of actual realisations in any field. They conceived Anarchism as a militant struggle for the elimination of present-day oppression and exploitations – beyond their personal immediate need of acquiring knowledge. They were not to be found wasting time to conquer or build labour organisations only to be annihilated by them. They aimed, instead, at always being in the first places of the everyday struggle for the defence of liberty and social injustice. The new world could not possibly emerge but from the utter destruction of the old institutions based on privilege and compulsion.

Galleani himself gave the example in words and deeds. His ultimate aim was Anarchist Communism, more or less according to the Kropotkin philosophy. He knew, however, that before the ultimate aim could be realised much was to be done in order to pave the way. So he used to insist more on the details of a social order he very passionately wished for but could hardly hope he would have a hand in shaping. “Our children will see to that,” he used to say. “Our task is to bequeath to them an environment as free as possible from the hindrances of private property and political power. No free construction is possible unless preceded by thorough destruction.”

He toured the country from ocean to ocean several times, generously spreading the good seed of revolt and Anarchism, and ever leaving behind a deep wake of sympathy, solidarity and enthusiasm for the cause. Again, no formal organisation. From all sides people were doing their utmost to create new regimentations and new burdens for the oppressed multitudes in addition to the old ones. Not he. His purpose was to awaken independent minds, to form solid characters, to give consciousness to stern wills. He has no use for formal adherence to his person, or paper or even ideas. He felt that what the movement needed, above all, were men and women of strong convictions, deeply persuaded that the Anarchist ideal is right, that his paper was giving a genuine interpretation of this ideal. He tried to build such characters and consciences, confiding that, had he succeeded, with or without him the Anarchist movement would have recruited new real forces, a firmer hold upon society than any former organisation could ever give. Once Anarchists had been made, co-operation among them, was but a natural inevitable consequence. The doings of such co-operation would almost mechanically spring from the common urge of each and all to action.

Here is briefly sketched Galleani’s conception of Anarchism as an operating force. A movement of highly conscious individuals who knew exactly what they wanted and how to go after it, each always independent in his or her judgement, bound to common action by the singleness of their purpose, co-operating out of a spontaneous impulse and deep conviction that they were acting for the good of the common cause, not for the sake of any discipline – were it even called class discipline. That such a conception was coherent with the Anarchist philosophy is obvious. That it was bound to give good results in practice was proved when the changing circumstances of the American scene brought it to the great test of the struggle against war.

Whatsoever one may think of the Anarchist movement in the United States, this much is true: that, as a movement, it suffered less casualties than any other revolutionary movement on account of the war dementia. The socialists fled “en masse” to the patriotic standards of belligerent democracy. Debs remained at the head of but a handful of his former followers. The A.F. of L., prostituted itself to the federal government. The I.W.W.’s tried to attenuate their position, claiming a political agnosticism which was tantamount to overt opposition to the war, lacking only the audacity to affirm itself as such. All the Anarchists, instead, assumed from the beginning a courageous and open stand against the ghastly butchery.

Galleani, as usual, minced no words. Persecution soon fell upon him and his paper which was denied the freedom of the mail. “Cronaca Sovversiva” continued to appear, being distributed by other means. Never had a paper been the object of such a wave of solidarity. Galleani was arrested. The paper found the means to appear just the same. “Nulla dies sine linea” was then our motto: “Not a day without a word” – against the war. Galleani was sentenced by a domesticated federal court in Boston: he would not fold his flag. He was then arrested again together with fifty of sixty comrades who were supposed to receive the paper all over the U.S., and distribute it to the readers. They were all held by the immigration authority for deportation. It was then springtime, 1918. He was left almost alone in the printing shop, in Lynn. All the younger comrades were either in jail or in hiding. Mr. Palmer’s hounds ran into the printing shop for the last time, stole the forms of the paper, which had just been issued, and Galleani, a sick old man, whose words the mighty government of the U.S., feared, was silenced at last.

The following year, two more issues of “Cronaca Sovversiva” were published in New York. Galleani toured the country as far west as Kansas. May and June of that year had terrible bomb scares – as is always bound to happen when the freedom of speech and press is suppressed, and on the 24th day of June Galleani was torn from his wife and children, and embarked for Italy together with eight of his comrades – all undesirable from the great republic of Wall Street.

But the American government was to remember Galleani’s passage through the American scene for quite a long time. The seeds he had planted on this soil had not fallen on barren ground. The movement he had so prodigally nurtured for so many years remained, however, mutilated. And from this movement sprang Andrea Salsedo, who Mr. Palmer’s assassins threw from a fourteenth story window in New York City, on May 3rd, 1919; from it, too, came Vanzetti whose seven years martyrdom remains as one of the most inspiring facts in modern times, and as a blot of eternal infamy upon the history of this bloody plutocracy.

Galleani’s life in Italy was eventful. In 1920 he revived his paper “Cronaca Sovversiva” only to see it die again after eighteen issues, because the government was after him on account of some objectionable articles, and he had to hide himself to escape preventive arrest. Three days before he was to be tried for this crime, he presented himself to the police, in Turin, and on October 28th, 1922 – the very same day in which the king called Mussolini to preside over the government – Galleani appeared before a jury of twelve good citizens, who condemned him to fourteen months in prison, for the crime of having called the Italian soldiers to the cause of revolution.

In prison, his disease aggravated; so, when he was released, over a year later, he had to go to a hospital. Meanwhile the fascist dictatorship was affirming itself. Freedom of speech and press was confiscated. Being unable to resume active work in Italy, he prepared, in 1925, for publication, a little book on Anarchism, which was published by his comrades in America, under the title of “La fine dell’Anarchismo?” The title: “Is Anarchism at An End?” suggests the polemical form of the book which is a vigorous defence of Anarchist thought against Socialist attacks. Besides this very important work of his, he has left a big volume resuming the chronicles of heroic Anarchism up to 1898: “Faccia a Faccia col nemico” (Face to Face
(With the Enemy) and] a book of pen sketches: “Figure figure” (Men and Mugs), a small volume containing his criticism of the war-like attitude of Kropotkin and other revolutionists, and, finally, pamphlets of various character. Much else of standing value remains to be gathered from the collection of the papers he edited.

In 1927 he was arrested and fined because he had received an Anarchist newspaper enclosed in an envelope from America. Later for the same crime, he was again arrested, then sentenced to ten days in prison and, finally, sent to the Island of Lipari, for three years. A few days after he had landed in his new abode, he was arrested, accused of having said evil things of “il Duce” (Mussolini), and sentenced to six months in the Island’s jail.

In 1930 he was allowed to leave the island. He took residence in a small village in an Appenine valley and there remained under the continuous surveillance of the police, who never left his housedoor and followed him in his solitary walks by the countryside, to the end of his life, which came the evening of November 4th, 1931.

While returning from his usual walk that day, he dropped a few blocks from his home. Taken to his bed by solicitous neighbours – who, although never allowed to approach him, must have sympathised with him – he died half an hour later. As a last outrage, the policeman, who had been following him after his fall, robbed him of his pocket book, which he was known to have in his pocket and which was never found afterwards; and which in the absence of money – as Galleani had always been poor – must have contained tokens of his dear ones living far away and completely unaware of his plight.

To the last moment he remained faithful to the ideals to which he had devoted his life. All those who have met him in the various prisons of the kingdom and on the Island bear witness to the unwavering nature of his convictions, the nobility of his character, the generosity of his heart, and undying hopes for the future.

His last message to his children, which was also meant for his comrades with whom for years he had been unable to correspond directly, contained these words which may be considered as his political testament: “I live all alone, serene, hopeful, certain rather that the era of restaurations which are condemned by reason, by the teachings of history, and by the destiny of progress and liberty.”

From: “Man! An Anthology of Anarchist Ideas, Essays, Poetry and Commentaries”, ed. By Marcus Graham. Cienfuegos Press, London 1974.