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Marie-Louise Berneri

Daughter of Camillo & Giovanna Berneri,
both of whom were also anarchists.

"It is from an anarchist point of view & without being hampered by false loyalty or opportunist considerations, but also with modesty & comprehension that we should try to draw the lessons of the Spanish Revolution. I am convinced that our movement will be more demoralised & weakened by blind & uncritical admiration than by frank admission of past mistakes."

Editor of "Freedom", author of Neither East Nor West & Journey Through Utopia.

Born in Arezzo, Italy, the elder daughter of Camillo & Giovanna Berneri. Her father was a very popular and at times controversial figure in the Italian anarchist movement of the 1920s, and he and his family went into exile in 1926 for resisting Mussolini.

Maria Luisa Berneri took on the French version of her name and went to study psychology at the Sorbonne in the mid-1930s. She soon became involved in the anarchist movement and produced the short-lived paper Revision, with Luis Mercier Vega.

At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War her father went to Spain, fought on the Aragon front, moved to Barcelona, and edited the prestigious Italian language revolutionary anarchist paper Guerra di Classe. Marie went twice to Barcelona, the second time after her father's assassination by Communists in May, 1937.

She subsequently moved to England and took an active part in the production of the English anarchist paper Freedom. Projects Berneri worked on included Spain and the World, Revolt! (the successor to Spain and the World) and being part of one of the small groups which started War Commentary. Her wide contacts in and knowledge of the international movement gave her great authority among anarchists, but her libertarian principles and personal modesty prevented her from misusing it.

In April 1945 she was one of the four editors of War Commentary who were tried for incitement to disaffection, but she was acquitted on a legal technicality (a wife cannot conspire with her husband, in this case, the anarchist Vernon Richards), and when her three comrades were imprisoned she took on the main responsibility for maintaining the paper into the postwar period.

After her death in 1949 from a viral infection, several of her works were published posthumously by Freedom Press; Neither East Nor West & Journey Through Utopia, as well as various contributions to Freedom Press periodicals.

At the first post-war international anarchist conference (Paris, 1948) it was found that coincidentally the Italian, British & French delgations each contained one member of the same family. Who were they? *See bottom for answer

Timeline / Notes:


*Answer: Giovanni Berneri (Italy), Giliane Berneri (France) & Marie-Louise Berneri (Britain). The mother & two daughters, respectively, all were active in their respective movements.

Source: The Anarcho Quiz Book (1976), compiled by Albert Meltzer

Page updated July 2001; Feb 2002, Feb 2003

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