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    Camillo Berneri, anarchistCamillo Berneri

    Italian anarchist, born 1877, murdered in Spain, by Communist party members under Moscow's orders.

    Professor of philosophy, anarchist activist, propagandist & theorist. Forced into exile by the Italian fascists when they took power.

    Married to Giovanna Berneri, & father of Maria Luisa Berneri (Marie-Louise), both of whom were also anarchists.


1877 -- Luigi Fabbri lives, Fabriano, Italy. Professor, Italian anarchist, theorist, writer.
Fabbri & Pietro Gori participated in the review "Il pensiero". Contributed to Umanita Nova, an anarchist daily paper published by Errico Malatesta in Milan, along with Gigi Damiani, Camillo Berneri, Nella Giacometti, Armando Borghi, etc. Fabbri escaped the fascist regime in 1926, seeking refuge in France, Belgium, &, finally, after being expelled several times, in Uruguay. In Montevideo he began, in 1930, the review "Studi sociali" (Social Studies), faithfully promulgating the ideas of Malatesta. In addition to writing for many newspapers, he wrote L'organizzazione Operaia e L'anarchia; Dictature et Révolution, etc. Died 1935.

 Les anarchistes ont: "Le devoir de s'opposer, même violemment, à la dictature révolutionnaire qui constitue toujours une régression conservatrice."

1894 -- Italy: Insurrection in Lunigiana as anarchists bands arm themselves in support of Sicilian victims of the State of Siege (beginning of January to repress revolts against increased flour prices.)

A military tribunal condemns Luigi Molinari, on 31 January, to 23 years imprisonment as the instigator of the insurrection. A protest movement was mounted & Molinari was amnestied on 20 September, 1895. Molinari was active with Malatesta & Berneri in the Italian anarchist movement.
  • Molinari, Luigi, Il tramonto del Diritto Penale ( Italy, Vulcano Books)
  • Molinari, Luigi, La baldoria elettorale (Italy, La baldoria elettorale, La Fiaccola)

1895 -- Italy: Francesco Barbieri lives, Briattica. Anarchist militant, fled to Brazil to escape the fascists. Expelled, Barbieri fled to France, which tries to deport him to Italy where authorities would love to get their hands on him. Slipped into Switzerland, then Spain July 25, 1936 where he joined the antifascist Italian column fighting in Huesca. While hospitalized in Barcelona in May 1937 Barbieri was arrested by cops under command of the Communists. The next day his body was found full of bullet holes, along with that of Camillo Berneri.

1897 -- Giovanna Berneri lives (1897-1962). Married to Camillo Berneri the Italian anarchist murdered by the Communists in Spain on this day in 1937 (see below). Mother of Marie Louise Berneri (1918-1949), also an anarchist who fought in Spain & later moved to England & edited "Freedom" newspaper & wrote Neither East Nor West & Journey Through Utopia.

1897 -- Camillo Berneri lives, in Lodé, Italy. Professor of philosophy, propagandist & anarchist activist & theorist. Forced into exile by the Italian fascist government, Berneri organized the first column of Italian volunteers to fight in Spain, where he participated in the battle of Monte Pelado on August 28, 1936, & on September 3 in Huesca. Camillo Berneri was dragged from his home, as was Francesco Barbieri, & executed by Communist Party members, apparently under Moscow's orders.

1905 -- Federica Montseny, major figure of Spanish anarchism, lives, in Madrid.
See Camillo Berneri's "Open letter to comrade Federica Montseny",

1918 -- Marie Louise Berneri (1918-1949) lives, Arezzo, Italy, the elder daughter of Camillo & Giovanna Berneri. Editor of "Freedom", author of Neither East Nor West & Journey Through Utopia.

1920 -- Last appearance of Umanita Nova, anarchist daily paper published in Milan, Italy. Founded by Errico Malatesta, with many contributors: Gigi Damiani, Luigi Fabbri, Camillo Berneri, Nella Giacometti, etc.

In 1919 Malatesta returned for the last time to Italy, landing at Genoa where his arrival was greeted with great enthusiasm.

At once he threw himself into the struggle. Settling in Milan he accepted the editorship of the newly founded daily "Umanità Nova" which soon had a circulation of 50, 000. At the end of 1920 he was arrested along with 80 other militant anarchists & held in prison for almost a year before being brought to trial & acquitted.

Upon release Malatestamoved to Rome & continued to edit "Umanità Nova" until it was forced to close down after Mussolini's 'March' on Rome (during which a portrait of Malatesta was burnt by the fascists in the Plaza Cavour).

1930 -- The situation became more complicated when Carlo Rosselli and Emilio Dolci managed to escape from Italian prisons and reach Paris. A series of bombs exploded in Nice and in bars in Cannes. The responsibility lay with the fascist régime, who expected the anarchists to be blamed, forcing the French government to repatriate them. In the meantime, Camillo Berneri had been preparing an 'attentat' on Alfredo Rocco &endash;the man behind the infamous Rocco Penal Code [13]&endash; during his Brussels visit. Menapace arranged it so that Berneri would be arrested in Belgium, in possession of a pistol and some photographs of the Minister of Justice, Rocco. So, he was captured and Menapace returned to Rome. In court on 22nd February 1930, Berneri's friends were acquitted, but he himself was sentenced to six months in prison, while Menapace was sentenced 'in absentia' to two years, since it was accepted that he instigated the whole thing. Once back on the other side of the Franco-Belgian border, Berneri went through a second trial for the same events and was sentenced to a year and two months. He was given amnesty on 14th July 1931 and expelled from the country, but, as he had already been declared undesirable ('persona non grata') in the surrounding countries, Berneri was again able to stay in Paris.

1936 -- Spain: Camillo Berneri arrives in Catalonia with a cargo of rifles & ammunition.

News of the fascist 'coup d'état' in Spain spread rapidly. With the slogan "Today in Spain, tomorrow in Italy" on their lips, Italian anti-fascists headed to Spain.

When Berneri arrived he was immediately offered a position in the Council of the Economy, but he refused as soon as he realized he was dealing with a sort of ministry. Berneri instead hosted a rally before 100,000 people in Plaza de los Toros, in Barcelona, bringing with him the greetings of the Italian anarchists & their solidarity with the Catalan revolution.


1936 -- So, with Angeloni and de Santillán (from the CNT-FAI), he organized an Italian anarchist column within the Francisco Ascaso formation in the Pedralbes barracks (renamed "Bakunin"), and on 19th August, he left the exultant crowds of Barcelona for the Aragonese front.

On the 21st they arrived at Vicien and occupied the Galocha upland plain, dominating the road between Huesca and Saragossa. On 23rd August he took part in the harsh engagements on the "bare mountain", where the anarchists Angeloni, Perrone and Centrone died, Angeloni singing the Internationale. But the attacking Nationalist troops were completely driven back. Because of problems with his vision and hearing, Berneri was sent back from the front and returned to Barcelona.

In Barcelona, he tried to warn people about the important implications of the imminent fascist landings in the Balearic Isles, did propaganda work, attacked the Madrid government for its politics of compromise which were damaging Catalan autonomy, and criticized the ambiguous behaviour of the French and English governments. He wrote for 'Guerra di Classe' [18], and often visited the 'Amigos de Durruti ' [19].

1936 -- "One group of people really get on my nerves, it is the volunteers who have come as observers (French for the most part). They come here with the airs of priests & got up like cowboys to spend half the time in cafes."

  anarchist Camillo Berneri, Spain, 21st September, 1936

Camillo Berneri, anarchist
1936 -- Anarchist journal "Guerre de classe," appears. Founded by Camillo Berneri. In 1936, Berneri also published the bilingual anarchist & antifascist paper "Italia Libera/Free Italy" in collaboration with Vernon Richards.

His daughter Marie-Louise Berneri was a member of the group that edited "Revolt," "War Commentary" & "Freedom," (still publishing today) which were issued by the Freedom Bookstore (co-founded by Peter Kropotkin) in London.

Condors poster
1936 -- Spain: Four leaders of the anarcho-syndicalist CNT, the largest union in the country, bag their principles during the Spanish Revolution & join the new Republican "Popular Front" government as Cabinet Ministers: Juan Garcia Oliver (Justice), Juan Peiro (Industry) Juan Lopez Sanchez (Trade), Federica Montseny (Health). Actions such as these undermine the Social Revolution, turning it into just another "Civil War".

 See Camillo Berneri's "Open letter to comrade Federica Montseny", & also Vernon Richards' scathing critique, Lessons of the Spanish Revolution (Freedom Press).

Camillo Berneri
1937 -- Spain: This evening, in Barcelona, the Italian anarchist theorist/activist Camillo Berneri & Francesco Barbieri are seized by the Communists, presumably on Moscow's orders. Taken from their homes, their bodies found tomorrow, riddled with bullets. Camillo's eldest daughter, Marie-Louise Berneri, who fought on the front in Aragon, returned to Barcelona for his funeral. There is an excellent collection of articles about Camillo Berneri, as well as by him, at:

1937 -- When clashes with the Communist Party broke out, his house, where he lived with other anarchists, was attacked on 4th May 1937. They were all labelled "counter-revolutionaries", disarmed, deprived of their papers and forbidden to go out into the street. There was still shooting in the streets when, on 5th May 1937, news arrived from Italy of Antonio Gramsci's death in a fascist prison. Then, after writing his last letter home to his daughter &endash; his spiritual final testament, Berneri went out and walked towards Radio Barcelona where they were commemorating the death of the Communist Gramsci, who had written in 'Ordine Nuovo' [20] "We must never permit ourselves to be enemies of the anarchists; enemies have contradictory ideas, not merely different ones [21]". Leaving Radio Barcelona, Berneri set off for the Plaça de la Generalitat [22], where some Stalinists shouted out to him. Before he could turn and look, they opened fire with machine guns, and left his dead body there on the street.

Sims watercolor
1937 -- Spain: Return to "normalization" in Barcelona. The Republican government had sent troops to take over the telephone exchange on May 3, pitting the anarchists & Poumists on one side against the Republican government & the Stalinist Communist Party on the other, in pitched street battles, resulting in 500 anarchists killed. Squads of Communist Party members took to the streets on May 6 to assassinate leading anarchists. Today, among those found murdered, was the Italian anarchist Camillo Berneri, an outspoken anti-communist.

?Chant des journées de mai sur l'air de "¡Ay Carmela!":

La Garde d'assaut marche...
Au Central Téléphonique...
Défi aux prolétaires...
Provocation stalinienne...
On ne peut laisser faire...
Le sang coule dans la ville...
POUM et FAI et CNT...
Avaient seuls pris Barcelone...
La République s'arme...
Mais d'abord contre nous autres...
A Valence et à Moscou.
Le même ordre nous condamne...
Ils ont juré d'abattre...
L'autonomie ouvrière...
Pour le lutte finale...
Que le front d'Aragon vienne...
Camardes-ministres ...
Dernière heure pour comprendre...
Honte à ceux qui choisissent...
L'aliénation étatique...

1949 -- Marie-Louise Berneri, anarchist activist, author, dies. Involved with short lived "Revision," with Luis Mercier Vega. Her father Camillo Berneri, was assassinated in Spain in 1937 by the Communists. Member of the group that edited "Revolt," "War Commentary" & the still publishing "Freedom," issued by the Freedom Bookstore (co-founded by Peter Kropotkin) group in London. Wrote Journey Through Utopia; Neither East Nor West. George Woodcock & Ivan Avacumovic dedicated their biography of Peter Kropotkin, The Anarchist Prince (1950) to Marie-Louise Berneri, "a true disciple of Kropotkin."

In Italian,

1962 -- Giovanna Berneri dies.

1994 -- Spanish anarchist, feminist, educator Federica Montseny (1905-1994) dies, Toulouse, France.

Daughter of Catalan anarchists, she helped re-establish her father's paper "Revista Blanca," & later founded the monthly "Novella ideal" (publishing novels of libertarian propaganda, speaking about antimilitarism, mutual aid, free love, etc). Involved with regional committees of the CNT/FAI, during the Spanish Revolution urging participation in the Republican government. She joined the new republican government with three other CNT members (a source of much bitter debate). As Minister of Health, she helped enact legalized abortion. She & her companion, Germinal Esgleas, fled into exile in France along with thousands of others with the defeat of the Republic.

They continued their anarchist activities opposing Franco & twice landed in French prisons.

See Camillo Berneri's "Open letter to comrade Federica Montseny",

Federica Montseny: An anarchist organizer in Barcelona, Spain, in the Autumn of 1936. Against the advancing nationalists, she agreed to work with Largo Caballero's government (with a position of Minister of Health) at the same time as her fellow-CNT member Garcia Oliver. It has been argued that it was a mistake for some anarchists to work within the government of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, weakening their most basic of principles. See Camillo Berneri's "Open letter to comrade Federica Montseny",

Albert Camus  claimed that all modern revolutions have simply enlarged the power of the state, and he moved on to his last gloomy novel The Fall in 1956. In the 1950s he was drawn ever closer to the struggling journals of the anarchists. His biographer Herbert Lottman comments on his association with Pierre Monatte, who published Révolution Prolétarienne, with Giovanna Berneri of Volontà, Jean Paul Samson who published Témoins, Maurice Joyeux of Le Libertaire and Le Monde Libertaire, and with the Spanish exiles who produced Solidaridad Obrera until, as Lottman explains, "the paper was eventually banned by the de Gaulle government to avoid giving offence to General Franco.''


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