In Stalin’s Russia: where are the anarchists Ghezzi and Petrini?

“Stalin first recognized Badoglio and later Bonomi. Normal diplomatic relations now exist between the ‘liberated’ regions of Italy and the U.S.S.R. The representatives of the former are democrats, socialists and communists. To all of them we put this question which they should transmit to Moscow: What has happened to the Italian Anarchist Francesco Ghezzi who sought [refuge] in Russia? Is he locked up and forgotten in some Russian prison or has he been assassinated by the Ogpu?” The above is a translation of the opening paragraph of an article in a recent issue of the monthly review Mundo published in Mexico dealing with the Ghezzi case. He was a militant in the Italian Anarchist movement from the age of 16 and played a prominent part in the anti-militarist activities of the movement during the last war, as a result of which he was arrested and later was obliged to flee the country. The events which led up to his seeking refuge in Russia are detailed in a letter sent by the International Working Man’s Association to the Russian Government and signed by a number of internationally prominent people such as Romain Rolland, Ernst Toller, Andrée Viollis, Heinrich Mann, Leon Werth:

“On June 24th, 1929, the Secretariat of the I.W.M.A. sent a registered letter to the Soviet of People’s Commissars asking the reason for the arrest of the Italian Anarchist Francesco Ghezzi and urging his release. We hereby call attention to his case and at the same time repeat our demand for his liberation.

“Francesco Ghezzi was prosecuted by the Italian courts on the charge of alleged participation in the Milan explosions in 1920. He was sentenced in his absence to 20 years imprisonment. In 1921 Ghezzi was arrested in Germany, and Italy demanded his extradition. The German Ministry of Justice refused to extradite him on the grounds that the prisoner was a political refugee and the charges against him of a political nature. Ghezzi was freed by the Berlin authorities, but was ordered to leave the country within three days.

“As the Soviet Government had repeatedly declared that it would give refuge to all proletarians persecuted in Capitalist countries, Ghezzi decided to go to Russia. There, he felt, he would be safe from persecution. The Russian embassy in Berlin issued to him official documents of a Russian citizen.

“In Russia Ghezzi lived and worked as one of the proletariat. But he remained true to his Anarchist convictions and that proved his undoing, because in Soviet Russia there is no liberty of thought and free expression of opinion is not tolerated. Like numerous other Anarchists and revolutionists before him, Ghezzi was arrested by the OGPU and condemned administratively (without hearing or trial) to three years’ prison in Suzdal.

“The imprisonment of Francesco Ghezzi is more than an ordinary outrage against the freedom of speech and thought; it is a direct demonstration that the Russian Government has betrayed its solemn promise to give asylum to the proletarian victims of political persecution in bourgeois countries.

“We hereby again voice our demand that the Bolshevik authorities make known the reasons for the arrest of Ghezzi, and that he be liberated at once.

“At the same time we call attention to the fact that the belief of revolutionary workers who are hounded in capitalist countries that they will find refuge in Russia, has been fundamentally shaken by the fate of Ghezzi.

“On this occasion we also repeat our oft-made demand that the Soviet Government cease its persecution of the revolutionary elements and free the thousands of politicals imprisoned and exiled in Russia.”

There is not much to hope from a public conscience which has been brutalized by five years of war and hate but it is not out of place to pause and consider that the leader in the Kremlin is prepared to see Badoglio and his type at large in Italy while proved revolutionists of the stamp of Ghezzi, (not to mention another Italian anarchist prisoner of Stalin: A. Petrini) are languishing in Russian jails. Such is the position after 27 years of Soviet Communism.

From: War Commentary: for anarchism, vol.5, no.24, Mid-October 1944

[This article received the following reply] An Austrian comrade writes […] About the last issue and Francesco Ghezzi; when I was In Russia I tried always to bring the conversation round to his name. But all I got was “Oh he’s somewhere –bloody Anarchist, like Makhno.” War Commentary: for anarchism, vol.6, no.2, 11 November 1944. 

Note on Mundo

The article ‘Revolutionary Italy in need of her men: What Has Become of the Great Anarchist, Ghezzi?’ by J.G.[Most likely Julián Gorkín] From: Mundo, No 9, 19 July 1944, p. 23 is translated at: The original issue is at