Letter and reply re: ‘Joe the Tailor’

Dear Comrade,

As my family is of Italian origin I found the article on The Italian Connection interesting and illuminating. I could never understand why overseas working-class Italians like my grandparents came to support Mussolini, when he was so clearly anti-working-class. It is good to note the Anarchists stood out in opposition.

You mentioned ‘Joe the Tailor’ but gave no further information about him, not even his name (as distinct from everyone else). When I first came to Anarchism my grandfather jokingly called me ‘a Joe the Tailor’: is it an obscure Italian expression or was he someone as famous as (say) Malatesta?


Reply: Not as ‘famous’ as Errico Malatesta in a previous generation, but ‘Joe the Tailor’ spoke at the same London stomping grounds – Finsbury Park speakers corner, Clerkenwell Green, and so on – regularly from the outbreak of the Italo-Abyssinian War, denouncing fascism. He always began, ‘I’m an Italian, an anti-fascist, just Joe the Tailor’. I don’t think he actually was a tailor – at a guess his name, which he concealed, was Giuseppe plus a pun on ‘Taylor’. He was notorious to the fascisti after speaking on a joint platform with Ethiopians, at a meeting organised by Sylvia Pankhurst. Interesting to note his name lived on in some memories as a swearword for ‘anarchist’: he would have liked that.

AM [Albert Meltzer]

Black Flag 179 1988-02-01

[For more information see ‘Is Giuseppe Ressia ‘Joe the Tailor’?’ at https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/w9gm44]