Biography of Carlo Cafiero (1846-1892)
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Carlo Cafiero was born in Barletta, in the Apulia region of Italy on September 1st, 1846 from a rich and noble family of Southern Italian landed bourgeoisie. His father was Carbonari in 1821, one of his brothers and a brother-in-law were deputies, while Carlo Cafiero was always considered the 'black sheep' of the family, a squanderer, a wanderer, a revolutionary and an atheist who lived in jail and died in asylum. He was and always felt himself to be a 'son of the South', and it was there in the South of Italy that anarchism spread, thanks to men like Cafiero.

In 1864 he went to Naples, where he got a degree in law. He then went to Florence to embark on a diplomatic career. At the beginning of 1870 he was in Paris, a guest to the painter Giuseppe De Nittis, a fellow townsman who described him as a 'beautiful young man, fascinating for women'. He then went to London, where he matured, renouncing his diplomatic career, his wealth and family, to join the revolution and socialism. It seems that hearing the enthralling rally of a shoemaker caused Cafiero to take conscience of the pitiful working class’ conditions.

There in London Cafiero made contacts with Marx and Engels. He joined the International Working Mens’ Association and was charged to go back to Italy and conquer it to Marx’s ideology, where instead there was the strong influence of Bakunin's anarchism and Mazzini's republicanism. He restored the ancient section of 'L'Internazionale' in Naples, with the help of the young Errico Malatesta. There, during an assembly, he was imprisoned for the first time.

After over a year spent in Italy as a representative of Marx and Engels to hinder the influence of anarchism. However, thanks to the contact he had had with Gambuzzi, Fanelli and Palladino, he passed on to the other side of the barricade, siding with Bakunin and his Italian followers.

In early 1872 came the first issue of the newspaper 'La Campana' and Cafiero wrote for, and gave money towards the publication. In the same year he met Bakunin in Locarno (Switzerland) spending a month with him discussing Bakunin’s ideas and objections to Marx and Engels’ authoritarianism, conquering Cafiero in the end to his cause.

In the summer of 1873, with the help of Cafiero, an old project was realised: to create an international center for the revolution in Italy and the world. Cafiero, selling all his inherited lands, bought a farm in Switzerland where Bakunin could live. This center was called 'La Baronata', would also be a safe shelter for revolutionaries persecuted by their respective governments.

In 1875 Cafiero went to Milan and joined the editorial staff of the first socialist daily paper, ‘La Plebe’, directed by Enrico Bignami.

In April 1877, Cafiero, Malatesta, Ceccarelli, the Russian Stepniak and 30 other comrades began an insurrection in the province of Benevento. They took the village of Letino without a struggle where they were greeted with great enthusiasm. Arms and expropriated goods were distributed amongst the people, tax money was returned and official documents destroyed. Cafiero, in dialect, explained about anarchism, freedom, justice and the new society without the State, without masters, servants, soldiers and owners. His proclamations convinced even the parish priest who explained to his parishioners that the internationalists were 'the true apostles sent by the Lord'. The following day the village of Gallo was taken in a similar fashion. Unfortunately, as they were leaving Gallo the Internationalists were surprised and surrounded by government troops and all were arrested. Held in prison for over a year before being brought to trial all the accused were eventually acquitted in August 1878.

During the imprisonment they never ceased contact with the International and Cafiero wrote his most important work: 'The Compendium of The Capital', later published by 'La Plebe Editions' in Milan. The work was appreciated and praised even by Marx who found it superior to other similar works. The Compendium was written to let the Capital theory be known among students, instructed workmen and little owners.

In 1878, Cafiero was living in Marseilles working as cook and docker. In October he was arrested with Malatesta, then released and expelled from France. He rested in Switzerland, meeting with Kropotkin, and with the collaboration of Elisee Reclus promoted the publication of the Bakunin's essay 'God and the State'.

Andrea Costa, joining legalitary and parliamentary socialism, disappointed Cafiero who had described him as "an apostate, a renegade of the revolutionary faith and the people."

After being arrested and soon released, in 1881 Cafiero went in London, where he remained for a long time. There he was the victim of a strange disease, bringing him to feel persecuted, seeing everywhere spies and being frightened by the telephone, just appeared in the world.

In March 1882 he returned to Italy, expressing the will to take part in the imminent electoral campaign. On April 5th he was arrested without any charge but on May 2nd, while imprisoned, he was the victim of a strong mental crisis cutting himself a vein. The scandal of a man imprisoned without reason and crazy exploded and Cafiero was released with only the choice between forced residence in Barletta, his birth town, or exile to Switzerland.

Emaciated and feverish he choose exile and in Chiasso he again attempted suicide. Emilio Bellerio took Cafiero to his house in Locarno (Switzerland) and Errico Malatesta wrote about him "if his mind is ill, his heart is still healthy..."

In February 1883 Cafiero leave to Florence but he was found in a grotto all chilled and after being assisted by a doctor and by police was transferred to a lunatic asylum in Florence. Olimpia Kutusoff, mate of Cafiero, returned from Russia in September 1883 to assist him in the asylum of Imola. Olimpia leave him after one year and an half because Cafiero in his crises was violent with her. Carlo expressed the will to return in Barletta where arrived in the second half of ’89, but the brothers they don’t wanted to hold him and after living some time in a hotel he was took in house by his brother Pietrantonio, deputy. Carlo’s psychic conditions improves but one day, returning home, he saw a group of peasants eating a piece of black, hard bread so his revolutionary spirit burned up and entered home screaming against his family.

In 1891 following other crisis Carlo Cafiero was confined in the asylum of Nocera Inferiore (SA). ‘Friends, let’s hurry the revolution - said Cafiero to Fanelli’s funeral - because, you see, our friends let themselves die, in jail, in exile, or crazy because strong sorrows’. It’s a tragic destiny to which even himself can’t escape. In a section of Nocera’s asylum Carlo Cafiero passed away on Sunday 17 July 1892.

Errico Malatesta, in a letter to Serafino Mazzotti, remembered the ancient and beloved comrade with these touching words: "Carlo was first of all great for his inner nature, for the affect treasure, for the ingenuousness of his faith. These memories must not be lost, even today that there is the need to elevate the moral level of anarchists, that must react against egoism and brutality that invade us, to return to unselfishness, to sacrificial spirit, to the sentiment of love of what Carlo was a so splendid example".

Giampiero Galzerano, modified, 1992.