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(en) Sicilia Libertaria: The missed ransom. Journey through Southern and Sicilian affairs - 7 - THE DEFEAT OF THE FASCI AND ITS CAUSES (ca, de, it, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Sat, 11 Mar 2023 09:37:00 +0200

In the autumn of 1893 the struggle of the fasci exploded throughout the island, especially in the peasant sphere; the Giolitti government resists the requests of the reactionary agrarian bloc to outlaw them; the demands of the peasants are also considered just by sectors of the liberal world. ---- On 5 October in Casteltermini there is a peasant strike, with the arrest of managers and the charge of the military to women. On 10 October in Syracuse, the crowd devastates the town hall against taxes. On 22 October in Cattolica Eraclea the leaders of the striking farmers were arrested; on 25 October in Caltabellotta the president of the bundle was arrested with 8 members, but an agreement was reached with the bosses immediately afterwards. Arrests also in Acquaviva Platani and Milocca on the 27th, here with an assault on the barracks and disarmament of the carabinieri. On the 28th the agreement is reached in Partanna; on the 29th, arrests in Paceco; on November 2nd in Valledolmo you occupied the lands, while on the 5th in Bisaquino and on the 6th in Contessa Entellina the strike won and the peasants took possession of the lands. But in Giardinello on December 10 during the protest against municipal taxes, soldiers fired on the crowd causing 11 deaths; City hall stormed, two dead. Clashes and arrests take place in dozens and dozens of locations following the massacre. On 20 December in Lercara, soldiers fired again on demonstrators: 11 dead, dozens and dozens injured.

In this phase of maximum effort, which sees more than 50,000 settlers on strike and hundreds of demonstrations, land and town hall occupations and a harsh reaction from the army, the agrarian bloc of the south, united with the agrarian-industrial one of the north, succeeds, the 15 December, to bring down Giolitti and put the Sicilian Francesco Crispi in his place, a figure who, knowing the situation on the island, could have managed the fiery situation. In vain on December 25 he will invite the mayors to abolish or lower municipal taxes. On 1 January in Mazara the town hall was devastated but in Pietraperzia the troops killed 8; on the 2nd in Gibellina there were 20 dead and in Belmonte Mezzagno there were 2; on the 3rd, 18 died in Marineo; on the same day General Morra di Lavriano, sent to Sicily with full powers, declared a state of siege on the island, the dissolution of the Fasci and the arrest of their leaders. Again on the 5th in S. Caterina Villarmosa 14 deaths and numerous injuries and arrests were recorded. (1)

This explosion of rebellion and the state of siege displace the insurrectional plans that were being made, especially in the Catania and Trapani areas, thanks also to the work in this sense developed by anarchists exiled and clandestinely returned to Italy (Malatesta, Merlino, Cipriani). With General Morra, thousands more soldiers arrive in Sicily, bringing the number of troops to about 40.00: a real colonial occupation force.

However, as Renda will point out, "Before that by General Morra's soldiers, the Workers' Fasci were suffocated in their profound raison d'être by the deliberations, even if not formal, of the congresses of Zurich and Reggio Emilia. Even if Crispi had not proclaimed a state of siege, the Sicilian movement would hardly have overcome the crisis. Unless the movement itself, which was highly improbable, had not played a hegemonic role in the development of Italian socialism". (2)

The Socialist Party had disavowed the fascism in the name of Marxist orthodoxy which saw only the laborers as the only proletarians worthy of being organized, excluding the peasants, who in Sicily, in reality, had become the protagonists of history, attempting to fight against a enemy in the service of the castes and the privileged, and beginning to conquer land from the landowners. The socialist blindness manifested in the application of the same analysis to completely different realities, will have harmful consequences on the development of the class struggle and of the revolutionary and emancipatory movements in Sicily, Italy and internationally. This dogmatism will lead to the cancellation of the history of the Sicilian fascism. Renda himself, while correctly framing the relations between the Fasci and the Socialist Party, let slip, as a good Marxist, that the Sicilian peasants had placed themselves under the banner of Marxism and under the guidance of the industrial proletariat (3). In reality, the other major element of rupture between the socialist party and the Fasci was certainly given by the fact that many had placed themselves outside its influence, especially when the rebellion was rampant on the island and an insurrectionary project was being planned. (4)

In about 70 Sicilian cities and towns, over 3,500 executives and associates were arrested on charges of conspiring against the powers of the state and inciting civil war, massacre and looting. Many of the most active militants, especially the anarchists, had been arrested or rendered harmless by repression in the previous months. The effects of the reactionary swerve will have repercussions in Italy for several more years, defining the end of the century with their repressive and totalitarian essence and with the Milanese cannon fire of Bava Beccaris.

Since the autumn of 1983, about eighty fascism had been forming on the continent, mainly from anarchist, republican or revolutionary socialist areas, external to the influence of the PSLI; they should have assisted and imitated the Sicilian movement and given life to solidarity motions towards a national general strike which would have made the Sicilian revolt flare up throughout the country, laying the foundations for the revolution. In fact, when the state of siege broke out in Sicily, numerous protests were carried out in mainland Italy, in Calabria, Puglia and in particular in Lunigiana (the area around Carrara), where between 12 and 14 January the the only insurrectionary attempt in the hope that the example of Sicily would have induced the plebs of Italy to rise up in the name of the revolution. The anarchist and republican spirit of these populations was expressed generously even if naively, here too disavowed by the socialists. In a manifesto circulated in the first ten days of January, and printed in London, one could read: "Our Sicilian brothers have resisted and fought - and they resist and fight with the heroism of the great historical periods. But this struggle, which would be unequal if we remained indifferent spectators, would in that case end through our fault with the sacrifice of entire populations. On the contrary, if we know how to do our duty, it will end with the complete victory of the workers".(5)

After six months of harsh repression, protests will reappear in Sicilian squares in support of prisoners and managers on trial; the socialists will maintain their distance from the Fasci, with the exception of a text by Turati condemning the arrests and violence; the disaster of the Eritrean countryside will decree the end of the Crispi government and the advent of the government of the Marquis di Rudinì which will be clear on 7 July 1896: he would not have allowed the establishment, in Italy, and especially in Sicily, of associations with the aim of provoking the class struggle. Thus the defeated and disillusioned peasants and workers will only have the emigration card to the Americas, where they can place their dreams of redemption and the hopes, for the most part vain, of a future return to their land.

But, as Renda recalls: "In the specific conditions of Sicily and the South, the Workers' Fasci also had a southern and Sicilian connotation, so much so that it was then that the expressions 'Sicilian question', 'Southern question' were coined". (6).

Pippo Gurrieri
7 - continue
Francesco Renda, The Sicilian bundles, 1892-94, Einaudi, Turin 1977, p. 350-357.
Renda, cit., p. 334.
Renda, cit., p. 332
Musarra, The currents..., cit.
Gino Vatteroni, "Down with duties, long live Sicily". History of the Carrara insurrection of 1894, edited by the author, Carrara 1993; the document is on p. 103.
Renda, cit., p. 331.

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