Emanuele Granata, a Marsala Man in the Spanish Civil War

Emanuele Martino Granata was born in No 6, Via Domenico Guerrazzi (almost certainly today’s Via Sanita) Marsala (Sicily) on 5 May 1906, the son of Domenico Granata and Francesca Diana. His father, Domenico, was a carter and was away working in Tunisia where little Emanuele and his wife joined him.

The young Emanuele worked in Tunisia as a labourer and embraced anarchist ideas. Harassed by the fascists and the police, he was expelled from every country in Europe and forced to flee Tunisia and relocate under false names to places where his ‘comrades’ were, often under the radar. First he fled to Spain and then on to France: he was arrested in France at the beginning of the 1930s in Briançon along with the anarchists Edmondo Lelli, Ulisse Merli and Amleto Lippi; they were actually caught in possession of a suitcase containing 38 kilos of explosives. In a fast-tracked trial, Emanuele was acquitted but expelled and forced to flee to Spanish Morocco. He was arrested in Melilla during the revolutionary rioting in April 1932 and held for 26 days before being removed to Malaga in the Spanish mainland and then expelled from Spain. 

In 1935 he was detected in Tunisia, associating with the anarchists Giovanni Puccioni and Vincenzo Mazzone and at the beginning of 1936 he was jailed in Marseilles for breach of the order expelling him from France. Release after a few weeks, by the summer of ’36 he was in Algiers where – according to spies working for the OVRA (Mussolini’s secret police) – he and other anarchists were hatching plans for an attempt on the life of the Duce. 

On 12 August 1936 a little under one month after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (19 July 1936) the Marsala anarchist arrived in Barcelona thanks to help from Giuseppe Pasotti and he signed on with the Italian Column (the Italian Section of the Ascaso Column), set up in Barcelona on 17 August that year. The ‘Ascaso Column’ was soon deployed on behalf of the Spanish Republic in the fighting at Monte Pelato on 28 August 1936, in which fighting the Column’s commander, Mario Angeloni and other comrades lost their lives.

After that the Column overran Tardienta and Almudévar, the latter becoming the base of the ‘Ascaso’, severing communications between Huesca and Zaragoza. On 2 September 1936 Emanuele Granata was fighting alongside his comrades in Huesca and would find himself on the Aragon front up until February 1937 when a totally unfounded rumour spread that he had been killed in action.

On 17 October 1936, Police Headquarters in Trapani (Sicily) cited him as residing in Spain, “an anarchist to be arrested”. In May 1937, he was in Barcelona at the time of the Tragic Days with Corrado Perissino and the Argentinean comrade Juan Verde; they took cover with Sanz’s committee in the Plaza de España. Along with the risen people the anarchists mounted resistance against a communist attempted coup; that attempt failed but it ended with the murder of the Italian anarchists Camillo Berneri, Francesco Barbieri and another 500 anarchists and revolutionaries from the POUM.

Back in France by the end of 1938, Granata then moved on to Belgium where he was arrested and jailed in Luxembourg. Returning to Brussels that October, he joined the French army sometime in mid-1940, only to escape to Tunisia where he was arrested and interned the following October in the Le Kef remand camp along with other comrades, including the future mayor of Naples, Maurizio Valenzi.

In March 1942 he was still a prisoner in Tunisia. He went on to take part in the resistance as part of the 28th “Mario Gordini” Garibaldi Brigade in the Ravenna area. After the Liberation, he joined the local CLN (National Liberation Committee) on 4 December on behalf of the anarchists from the newly formed Libertarian Communist Movement.

Years after that, in 1947, Granata was in Milan as a member of the FAI (Italian Anarchist Federation) and a leading light of the Lombard Anarchist Movement, contributing to the libertarian press and taking part in the FAI’s 3rd congress in Livorno in April 1949: he and 30 other anarchists addressed a symposium on relations between the Anarchist Movement and the Workers’ Movement under the rubric “Anarchism and the Workers”. The proceedings of that symposium were to be published in 1950 by the Gruppo Milano I publishing house.

In Milan he associated with the anarchists Marco Pirelli, Alberto Moroni and Ernesta Sacchi and he was to marry Sacchi in Milan on 8 August 1953. Umanità Nova, the prestigious anarchist weekly launched by Errico Malatesta in 1920 devoted an article to Emanuele Granata highlighting his record as a militant: “Comrade Emanuele Granata, after atrocious suffering due to the illness tormenting him, eased by the care of his partner, left us on 13 April last (1966). His strictly secular funeral followed the next day in Milan, followed by comrades and friends and his body was cremated. With Emanuele Granata we have lost a kindly comrade linked to anarchism from his youth, a victim of persecution by fascism and the police […] his life belongs to a tranche of the history of militant anarchism which he lived with intensity and it deserves to be remembered and flagged up, especially to the young, as an example of militant rectitude, tolerance and passionate loyalty to ideas that he spread and championed with dignity and courage” (Umanità Nova, 30 April 1966, p. 4)

And so Emanuele Granata, born in Marsala on 5 May 1906, died in Milan on 13 April 1966, just a few days short of his 60th birthday.

Sicilia Libertaria, July-August 2023 https://www.sicilialibertaria.it/wp-content/uploads/luglio-ago2023_compressed.pdf 

Translated by: Paul Sharkey.