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(en) Barricada October Out Now! Magazine Excerpt Below

From "Barricada Collective" <barricadacollective@hotmail.com>
Date Tue, 9 Oct 2001 07:21:57 -0400 (EDT)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

The October issue of Barricada is now available.  Twenty pages of news, 
commentary, analysis, and anarchist history.  Barricada is North America’s 
only revolutionary anarchist monthly publication.  This issue includes...

-Anti-Activist Police Conference Cancelled
-Police Raid Anarchists in Italy
-Montreal Squat Evicted
-The Third New England Anarchist Bookfair
-First Full Issue of Tute Nere Now Available
-Anti-Capitalist, Anti-War Protests in Washington, DC
-Greek Anarchist Activities in Solidarity with G8 Prisoners
-Connor Cash Charged With Terrorism
-Boston Resists the Coming War
-Boston Anarchists Against Militarism, Points of Unity

Commentary, Analysis, and History
-We Don’t Want Your Bloody Wars, Statement from NEFAC
-Cowering in the Wake: The Left, Anarchism, and Resistance after September 
-News Or Noise, By M. Aman of the Black Radical Congress
-The First Anti-Fascists: The Fight Against Mussolini’s Rise to Power in 
-Anarchism in Early 20th Century Argentina

-B’Nai Brith Attempts to Link Condordia Student Union to Bin Laden and 
-Press Release from B’Nai Brith

-Attack at Their Heart, Statement from Freyheyt (NEFAC) Regarding 0ctober 16 
in Toronto
-Second Statement from Freyheyt Regarding 016 in Toronto

Subscriptions to Barricada are 15$ for 6 issues in the US and Canada, and 
20$ in Western Europe (all other countries please e-mail for prices).

Single issues are 3$ by mail in US and Canada, 5$ in Western Europe.

Payment can be made via postal money order or check (both with the pay to 
field left blank), or cash at your own risk.  Send payment to

PO Box 73
Boston MA 02133

Also available are back issues of Barricada, including our Summer/September 
double issue featuring a section on "Building the Revolutionary Anarchist 
Movement" for 4$ or our April issue featuring a special section on Quebec.

If you are sbuscribed and have not yet received the double issue, don't 
worry!  Because the double issue and the October issue have come out with so 
little time in between, and because we have little money, we are sending 
both out together this week.

The First Anti-Fascists
The Fight Against Mussolini's Rise to Power in Italy

The rise to power of Mussolini and the Fascists in Italy, from 1919 to 1922, 
provides us with important lessons, not just about Fascism but also about 
the tactics & organization necessary to fight it. Equally the critical role 
of the wider working class struggle is thrown into sharp focus. We believe 
the lessons are clear enough that they emerge simply from relating the 

	The first "Combat Group "(Fascio di Combattimento)  was founded on 23rd 
March 1919 by 118 assorted war veterans (especially the "Arditi" or shock 
assault troops); Futurists and ex-Leftists like Mussolini himself, who had 
"gone nationalist" during the war. Their program had many "socialistic" and 
"syndicalistic" elements. At its birth Fascism was thus able to present 
itself as a radical, revolutionary movement to sweep away the status quo by 
any means necessary.

	But by 1921 there should have been no illusions. Mussolini's organisation 
would have collapsed by the summer of 1920 had its potential for 
anti-working class direct action not been recognised. It was the landowners 
of northern and central Italy who welcomed the formation of squads of urban 
blackshirts to go out into the countryside and smash the peasant leagues and 
Left organisations. Soon money and support was flowing in from urban 
industrialists as well.

	This Fascist movement was mostly middle or lower middle class: ex-officers 
and NCOs; white collar workers, students and the self-employed in the towns; 
the sons of tenant farmers, small land owners and estate managers in the 
countryside (ever been to a pub on a Young Farmers night?). Furthermore the 
police and military both turned a blind eye and provided covert assistance, 
encouraging ex-officers to join and train the squads; lending them vehicles 
and weapons and, if necessary, intervening to save their bacon (no pun 

	The decisive involvement and support of these bourgeois elements has a 
simple explanation. Fascism in Italy was a "preventive counter-revolution". 
The Fascist squads were used to stop a working class revolution taking place 
and to wipe out all the reformist gains of the unions and the parliamentary 
movement. The rural and urban capitalists, and those who felt under threat 
from rising working class power, were badly scared by the events of 1919 and 
1920 - the so-called "two red years". These years were marked by the 
cost-of-living riots, strikes, land seizures and factory occupations.

	With the mass factory occupations in September 1920 a defining moment was 
reached. Things had gone so far that turning back was not a real option. As 
Errico Malatesta predicted: "If we do not carry on to the end, we will pay 
with tears of blood for the fear we now instill in the bourgeoisie". But 
there was a loss of nerve, not among those occupying the factories, but 
among the leaders of the Socialist Party (PSI) and the CGL union. Instead of 
expanding the industrial struggle and linking it directly with the various 
community and rural struggles, they negotiated a deal and ordered their 
members back to work. And at the moment that the momentum was lost the 
rattled bourgeoisie were given their moment for revenge. The fascist squads 
were to be the instrument of that revenge.

	 So in one sense Fascism's success began with the failure of the working 
class to consolidate and press forward. And much of the blame for that must 
fall on the reformist Left. As usual the bosses showed a far greater grasp 
of the fundamentals of class warfare. As soon as they had the chance to put 
the boot in they didn't distinguish between the "reasonable" trade unionists 
and socialists, who had settled for concessions in terms of hours, wages and 
conditions and the "extremists" calling for the smashing of capitalism.

	And so from the autumn of 1920 Fascism's reign of terror began - at first 
in rural areas then, with increasing confidence, in the industrialized 
cities of the North. The favored tactic was for squads to target individuals 
or to concentrate squads together and then launch punitive raids, spreading 
general terror and inflicting specific damage on "red" targets, particularly 
organizational buildings. Piece by piece the structure of the socialists; 
unions and peasant leagues was shredded. And yet it was demonstrated on 
numerous occasions that the fascists could be beaten - that when it came to 
it they were no match for determined and organized resistance.
	The problem was that the Socialist Party, as the largest Left grouping, had 
one foot under the table with the capitalist state. So they consistently 
called on the state to deal with Fascism. And of course, because they placed 
themselves within the frame of legalism, state power and "democracy", they 
had to condemn all violence as illegal including that of anti-fascists. This 
"fatal combination of revolutionary rhetoric and reformist practice" 
actively hindered the development of mass working class resistance. And the 
potential for such resistance was by no means an illusion.

	In Livorno, for example, a town in which the Socialist Party had got over 
51% of the vote in the 1919 elections and which had a strong anarchist 
presence, there was continuous unrest throughout 1920. There were strikes in 
January and April and then again in May, following a riot by anarchists and 
football supporters in Viareggio, which resulted in such widespread rioting 
in Livorno that 1000 Carabinieri and Royal Guards had to be brought in to 
control the streets. During the factory occupations in September the workers 
only reluctantly agreed to withdraw after pressure from the FIOM union.

	The first significant Fascist incursion was on the 10th November when 
Fascists and soldiers tried to seize the town hall, following the example of 
successful disruptions of socialist councils elsewhere. However, as news of 
the raid spread, power workers turned out the lights and the working class 
districts mobilized en masse to march into the center and reclaim it. Then 
again on the 16th February 1921 the Fascists attempted to break a strike by 
operating the trams. But they met mass resistance, with one tram load being 
attacked by over 400 people.

	Street fighting in March 1921 resulted in the death of one local Fascist. 
In response they mounted a revenge raid on the Borgo dei Cappuccini, a 
working class area with a very militant history. Suffice to say the 
Blackshirts had to run for it when the entire neighbourhood mobilised 
against them. Again, on April 13th (1921), during the elections, they led an 
attack on one of the Camero del Lavoro (union centre). This was responded to 
by strike action on the 14th and the surrounding of a Fascist squad in the 
Barriera Garibaldi. Police, Carabinieri and Royal Guard were unable to 
restore order, so the army had to be sent in, with the strike and street 
fighting continuing on throughout the next day (15th). On the 17th May 
another Fascist attempt to take the streets was defeated by a mass 

	As can be seen the general militancy of the working class in the industrial 
towns remained high. Moreover, militant socialists, communists, anarchists 
and republicans were organizing together in anti-fascist groupings with a 
clear strategy of taking the Fascists on at their own game. Thus in April in 
Livorno a Comitato di Difensa Proletaria (Workers Defense Committee) was 
formed, uniting the four political groups, the centers of the CGL and USI 
unions; the railway workers union and the LSS (Lega Studentesca Sovversiva 
). The same month also saw a related anti-fascist organization spreading 
rapidly and spontaneously through militant working class areas. Known as the 
"Arditi del Popolo" the organisation originated in Rome and was set up by 
demobbed soldiers. It was to provide a direct working class response to the 
armed Blackshirt gangs. These "Arditi" developed from the tradition of mass 
resistance / insurrection and were, in effect, an armed militia of the 
"Workers Defense Committees" etc. But let us immediately put this into 
context, for the success of this militia in towns like Livorno depended on:

"...their organic connection with the mass movement ... demonstrated by 
their ability to melt back rapidly into the crowds in working class areas 
when pursued by the Fascists and the security forces, and the back up they 
received as a relatively small number of armed men, from the large number of 
men and women who were willing to throw anything that came to hand out of 
the windows of their dwellings on to the Fascists in the street below, or 
giving such practical assistance ... as helping to block the streets".

	Nationally the Arditi del Popolo movement was marked by its autonomous 
structure, i.e. the independence of its local sections. In some areas groups 
were defined in terms of locality or workplace; in others by political 
affiliation (e.g. communist, anarchist etc.). In just one region we see them 
with some 300 militants at Pisa; 500 at Piombino and 800 at Livorno - and 
these are just the "shock troops" of the wider class resistance.

	In Piombino the Arditi del Popolo "battalion" first saw action on July 19th 
1921 after an assassination attempt on a socialist. The fascists meeting 
place was attacked and fascist rounded up from their homes and work places. 
When the Royal Guard intervened to prevent this they too were overwhelmed 
and disarmed. The workers held the streets for several days before the 
forces of law and order could regain control.

	However, events at Sarzana in the same month drew particular attention to 
the resistance being mounted by the Arditi . The fascists had mounted a 
punitive expedition against the town on June 12th 1921 but had met with such 
determined resistance that they had to surrender and their leader Renato 
Ticci was put in custody, for his own safety, by the local authorities. 
Consequently several fascist gangs assembled to try and free him and teach 
the people of Sarzana a lesson.

	However, on 21st July, when 500 fascists arrived at the railway station 
they had the unusual (for them) experience of being fired on by a detachment 
of a dozen Carabinieri and soldiers. As if this unexpected turn of events 
wasn't bad enough they then came under armed attack from the Arditi, 
supported by other Sarzana workers, who had not gone to work that morning in 
anticipation of the attack. As their casualties mounted the fascists were 
forced to flee into the countryside. But they were not safe even here, with 
the Arditi on their heels and the peasants of the area taking an active role 
in their pursuit and capture. Over 20 fascists were killed, although 
unofficial sources put the figure much higher. The fascist "chief of staff" 
for this expedition later commented: "The squadre, so long accustomed to 
defeating an enemy who nearly always ran away or offered feeble resistance, 
could not, and did not know how to, defend themselves".

	Even Mussolini was worried by this willingness to take the fascists on and 
win. But once again, just as a defining moment was reached in the struggle, 
the Left caved in. Whilst thousands of socialist militants were involved in 
fighting the Fascists, the official organs of the Socialist Party were busy 
denouncing or hindering the Arditi del Popolo. Worse still they had been 
trying to arrange a truce with the Fascists since March 1921! Their 
predicament was clear - they were being methodically wiped out, especially 
in the rural areas. Yet a non-aggression treaty was no answer since by this 
time Fascism could clearly be seen as a class enemy, in the pay of the 
bosses, implacably hostile to even reformist socialism. But a "Pact of 
Pacification" was duly signed on August 2nd and, as a condition of that 
pact, the Socialist Party and the CGL disowned the Arditi del Popolo and 
ordered their members to withdraw from its ranks!

	A second blow was not long in coming, care of the Italian Communist Party 
(a distinct entity from the start of 1921). The party leadership was at 
first equivocal about the Arditi del Popolo, despite the fact that many rank 
and file communist militants had involved themselves enthusiastically. Now 
the PCI called into question the class credentials of the movement and 
instructed their members to have nothing to do with it and to form their own 
"pure" communist squads behind which the working class should unite. Pure 
absurdity since that class had already spontaneously evolved its own broad 
organizations of defense, which the PCI was now undermining. Suffice it to 
quote Gramsci: "(the) tactic ... corresponded to the need to prevent the 
party members from being controlled by a leadership that was not the party 
leadership". In effect these acts of class treachery fatally weakened the 
movement, reducing it to some 5,000 militants, mostly anarchists / 
anarcho-syndicalists. Not that resistance was going to end just because some 
wanted to stick their heads in the sand or play political games. But with 
the parliamentary Socialist Party busy condemning militant and armed 
resistance, the forces of the state, already in clear collusion with the 
fascists, could take an even more proactive role.

	 So, in Piombino, following the death of a local anarchist on September 3rd 
in a fire fight with Royal Guards and Fascists, the authorities launched a 
series of raids during the night, arresting and detaining some 200 comrades. 
The fascists immediately seized their opportunity and attacked and burned 
the Socialist Party offices. However, their advance was checked by an 
anarchist patrol, who were soon reinforced by groups of workers. And, as in 
Sarzanza a few months earlier, the fascists had no choice but to surrender 
to the police in order to escape a severe dose of working class justice.

	 The Fascists did not try to take Piombino again until April 25th 1922. Yet 
again they were beaten back by the Arditi. Indeed it was not until the 12th 
June that they were able to make a definitive assault, with the support of 
Royal Guards from Pisa. Even so it took a day and a half of heavy fighting 
before they were able to storm the offices of the USI and the printing press 
of the anarchist paper Il Martello and thus complete their conquest of the 

	Nationally the coup de grace came with the calling of a general strike 
against Fascism, the "strike for legality" of 31st July to 2nd August 1922. 
Although action was demanded by the rank and file, the strike was presented 
by the reformist leadership as a demand for parliament to defend 
constitutional liberties. As with all such demands the presumption was that 
liberal democracy was anything other than a convenient facade. In reality 
the opportunity to build real resistance had already been thrown away. The 
rural areas were lost and although workers in the major industrial cities 
responded the will to resist had been all but broken. The Fascists made sure 
to assist. Public service and railway workers remained at their posts - with 
fascist pistols trained on them.

	With the collapse of the strike the Fascists attacked, massing their 
numbers to deal with the last outposts of resistance. Livorno succumbed to a 
force of 2,000 armed squadristi moving in from the surrounding region. The 
working class districts no longer had the energy or organization to sustain 
the kind of street maintained throughout 1921. As Mussolini was to boast, in 
"48 hours of systematic, war-like violence" the industrial towns of northern 
Italy were taken.

	We can but salute those who fought to the end - the socialists and 
communists of Turin and the anarchists / Arditi del Popolo in Parma, where 
for five days a couple of hundred armed militants supported by the local 
community faced down and totally humiliated thousands of fascists, led by 
Italo Balbo. In the end the fascists had to withdraw and the army was sent 
in to finish off this last bastion of resistance.

	It is not for us to say what might have been. The story speaks for itself. 
>From the experience of the first anti-fascists let us learn: working class 
communities showed that the fascists could be beaten. The most effective 
form of anti-fascist organization was a national "united front" of 
autonomous sections which found its consensus in the undiluted militancy of 
direct physical resistance and which drew its real strength from a 
revolutionary class consciousness and from deep roots in local communities 
and their ongoing struggle - for which anti-fascism was neither a substitute 
nor an optional extra.

Anti-Fascist Action

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