The ancestry of anarchist antifascism in and around Ragusa

One of the first people to talk about fighting back against the spreading fascist attacks was the anarchist Giorgio Nabita who stated: “The people … have no option left but to answer force with force.” With him as the driving force, an anarcho-communist group was formed in Vittoria and libertarian activity enjoyed a small resurgence in the Modica and Ragusa areas. Towards the end of 1921 the anarchist Giuseppe Alticozzi returned from the USA to Modica. His employers were bullied into letting him go and one of the cafes where he worked as a waiter was shut down in February 1923 on the grounds that it was a den of antifascism. Alticozzi then left for France, only to be frog-marched to the Italian border by French police in late 1926 and he was arrested in Ventimiglia and handed over to the OVRA and charged with complicity in Gino Lucetti’s attempt on Mussolini’s life the previous September: he was shunted from prison to prison before finishing up in prison in Rome and being bound over for 2 years.

In September 1929 an anarchist from Vittoria was deported from France: this was Angelo Ferrarawho was first interned, then sentenced to seven months for insulting the head of state (Mussolini). In August 1930 he got a further 2 years and 7 months plus a 1,666 lire fine for attempting to leave the country by irregular means and was finally committed to a workhouse in June 1934.

Nabita was being kept under close surveillance by the regime. He was held for a fortnight to pre-empt possible attacks marking the wedding of Prince Umberto of Savoy, one of 25,000 “subversives” taken into custody throughout Italy.

In Vittoria a non-denominational antifascist group was founded, one of its members being Tano Biazzo, a libertarian trade unionist and engraver from that town. On 14 August 1931, Nabita wrote: “The people are opposed to the government and there will come an uprising just as soon as circumstances permit.” Because of his hostility towards Socialists and Communists, Nabita rejected overtures from an upcoming younger generation of antifascists. He himself was arrested as part of a general crackdown on antifascists in 1935. That same year, Angelo Ferrara managed to leave Italy, only to be arrested on re-entry. Giuseppe Alticozzifound work in Modica in a bar across from the fascist headquarters and was subjected to verbal abuse and manhandling and was forced to drink castor oil on a regular basis. Tano Biazzo was cautioned by the authorities in 1937. Giuseppe Giurdanella, an anarchist from Comiso, was arrested and interned in 1939.

In Ragusa, anarchist Antonio Calamusabecame a rallying point for antifascist groups made up of Communists, anarchists and socialists until he was interned. A visit to Ragusa by Mussolini led to Nabita and Alticozzi being taken into preventive custody. Nabita died of an illness on 26 January 1940, aged 61. There was a massive turn-out for his secular funeral. In 1941 Alticozzi was arrested again and interned for a year, found work in Comiso on his release in 1942 but was moved on by the authorities.

In 1943 some youngsters from Ragusa who had grown up near Antonio Calamusa set up a revolutionary antifascist group; they were Franco Leggio, Ciccio Dipasquale, Pino Catanese and Mario Perna. Two were arrested while leafleting.

In the Ragusa revolt, anarchists such as Franco Leggio and Mario Perna played a part alongside dissident communists like Erasmo Santangelo and rank and file leftists such as Maria Occhipinti.

Adapted from Sicilia Libertaria.

From: Sicilia Libertaria No 209, May 2002. Translated by: Paul Sharkey.