We do not rejoice in evil

I would like to break through the silence shrouding other facts unknown to historians regarding the preparation and carrying out of the Diana bombing, in that it is my belief that the time has now come for a little light to be cast on this deed and to dispel all of the slights uttered and repeated about us and about myself in particular.

But before I get down to the details of that tragedy I think it is necessary that I should state straight off, even though it may become plainer in subsequent explanation, that but for the arbitrary and prolonged detention of Errico Malatesta in prison, the outrage would not only never have taken place but would never even have been dreamt up.

One thing that may not be equally obvious to everybody, albeit that any honest person can see it straight off, is that the government forces, in concert with the political parties, are forever on the lookout for something that they can use to destroy the standing of a man or movement that stands in the way of their political schemes. Whereas our previous terrorist activities suggest that we are of a mind predisposed to that sort of activity, we also engaged in other sorts of activities that indicated a quite different mind-set: things like our involvement in all the trade union struggles, mass mobilisations and demonstrations and in laying the groundwork for revolution. In March 1921 our determination was galvanised not merely by the fact that Malatesta was under arrest and hitting back by means of a hunger strike, but also by the whole political and social ferment of the time, of which, it could be argued, we were the product and expression. Our conscience was not dimmed, but it cannot be imagined outside of that particular context. We were moved by an active determination that was not merely a reflection of our character but also the expression of a state of exasperation. It is not that people of our political outlook and social consciousness delight in the harm that they may do their neighbours: the revolution to which we look forward and to the ripening of which we give our all, even our lives, forbids random violence and the targeting of innocent victims. Sometimes the determination to prevent threats to the liberty and life of one of our own may prompt us to answer force with force, but violence must never be an end in itself, no matter how much desperation may blind us. So if circumstances, overriding our wishes and intentions, have us sow death where we would rather see peace, we will not mouth the usual cliché with which vulgar historians have always sought to justify the crimes of each and every tyrant: “History will be the judge.” Instead we say, as my poor comrade Aggugini stated during questioning: “We weep for the victims at the Diana, whereas you never shed a tear for all the victims that your social system leaves by the thousand with every day that passes.”

And if the courage of our modest defence argument and proud bearing have led preachy journalists and respectable folk to call us cynics, let me tell them now what was in my mind at the time: on the day when you have the courage to acknowledge us as men every bit as good and as bad as you, as we freely acknowledge ourselves to be, you will deserve to have your opinion taken into consideration.”

From: Memorie di un ex-terrorista (Turin 1953). Translated by: Paul Sharkey.