A Veil Lifted: Francesco Ghezzi, Prisoner of the GPU

The campaign that was launched pretty much everywhere in pretty much every country, especially in France, where our friend was very well-known and thus well-liked, not just among all revolutionary and free spirits as soon as the news broke that comrade Francesco Ghezzi had been arrested sparked all sort of protests. Among those countless protests, not the least telling was the following, signed by France’s intellectual elite, because it puts in their place those who have used calumny as their weapon of choice and as the safest means of “crushing the adversary”. But this time they have bitten off more than they can chew. For the present let us lend an ear to those who signed up to the afore-mentioned protest:

“It is with the greatest surprise that the undersigned, who have on many occasions expressed their sympathy with the Russian revolution, have learnt of the arrest of Francesco Ghezzi in Moscow. This young Italian, who enjoys the esteem of all who have known him, fought, from his youth on behalf of the emancipation of the proletariat and the achievement of a communist society. While still an adolescent, he was demonstrating against his people’s participation in the war that was even then draining the blood out of Europe and later he refused to be a party to the slaughter. Later he fought against a nascent fascism. When the latter came to power, he was harassed relentlessly and when he was in Germany they sought his extradition. At that point, communist publications everywhere, above all L’Humanité and Rote Fahne, ignorant of his anarchist beliefs, enthusiastically defended him and in order to guarantee his safety the USSR claimed him as one of its own citizens. Which is how he came to move to Russia and was never asked to abjure his beliefs. He toiled actively as a working man, thereby doing his bit for the economic recovery. No doubts were ever raised about the selflessness of this impeccable militant in the revolutionary cause. That being so, no one can understand his being banned from articulating his views on matters relating to tactics and the means of ensuring the success of that cause.

We call for him to be freed immediately and allowed to leave the country should he so wish. There is no doubt but that he will remain what he always was: the comrade of all who fight for the emancipation of the working class and for the attainment of a proletarian society.

Romain Rolland; Edouard Autant, architect; Madame Autant-Lara from the Comedie Francaise; Jean-Richard Bloch; Félicien Challaye; Madame Duchêne; Georges Duhamel; Luc Durtain; G. Grandjouan; Panaït Istrati; Ch. André Durtain; G. Langevin; Marcel Martinet; Franz Masereel; Mathias Morhardt, former secretary of the League of the Rights of Man; Charles Vildrac; Madame Andrée Viollis; Léon Werth.”

In addition, as we shall see the life of this man, this anarchist, will be enough to thwart all the calumnies and show that the intention has been (prompted by a narrow-minded vile sectarianism that has all but destroyed the real fruits of the revolution in Russia) to damage an anarchist militant who, in spite of all the wishful thinking by which they were bedazzled, had the effrontery to remain what he always has been: the sincere and enthusiastic anarchist and, as the protest cited above has said, the comrade of all who fight for the working class’s emancipation.


The last time I saw Francesco Ghezzi, about seven years ago or less, he was just out of German prisons, having been held there pending transfer to Italy, which had applied for his extradition, ultimately halted by the protests from the people and lots of independent thinkers from a range of countries which succeeded in forestalling that crime and securing his release. He was on the brink of leaving for Russia.

We more or less spent the seven days or so that he was able to remain in Berlin, together. Before leaving, he had insisted that I should make another trip to Russia, but more than anything else, I think, that was because he felt lonely, albeit that over there, during his first stay there, he had left the odd good friend behind who would be delighted to set eyes on him again. But I had no interest in any such trip and more than anything else I was keen to witness how things were developing back then in 1922-1923 as it looked as if Germany was embarking on a radical overhaul. We were in the station waiting for the train due to ferry him to Stettin, the north German port from where he would depart for Russia, and I found him downcast and almost undecided. It especially pained him that he was quitting his activity in Europe for Russa where he knew that militant activity was only allowed by the communists if one joined the Party and this he, as an anarchist, could not do. But off he went.

A lot of time went by before we had any news of him, other than the odd greeting or some letter brought back by some mutual friend returning from Russia. He had lots of friends and lots of comrades but it was only very rarely that he put pen to paper and then only when he actually had something to say. Very soon, given his precarious health, he quit Moscow for the Crimea, in which mild climate he was able to rebuild his strength. There, with another comrade, Scarselli, who was also facing a very heavy sentence back in Italy for resisting fascism, they had launched a small farming settlement, from where there was a warm welcome for all revolutionaries, anarchists and even communists who moved to the Crimea – Russia’s Côte d’Azur – for some ease for their lungs. 

Working the land was tough and in order to wrest a few vegetables from the soil, he had to sleep on the ground, but he was happy working alongside some young people, “miraculous survivors”, almost all of whom were facing some sort of heavy sentence back in their homelands.

These men, filled with enthusiasm, were happy to work because, tough though the work was, they mingled dreams for their ideals with a staunch support for the revolution that helped them reclaim the land. Ghezzi spent a lot of time in the company of his friends but later, despite his health not being fully recovered, nostalgia for life in Moscow called him back and he left the tranquillity of the Crimea for the busy and turbulent life of the capital.

Once back in Moscow, his correspondence became more frequent. He was hard at work. Later he was obliged to go around for several weeks from workplace to workplace, even though his union papers were in order, before he could find work that, for some reason or another, was always refused him due to the hurdles put in his way by the GPS [ie GPU], but eventually he found a job with Metallolamp as a lathe-operator, on a decent wage. But all in all the conditions of the workers were wretched and, in many regards, worse than those of workers in the capitalist countries and that certainly niggled with him, as I was told by someone who had seen him a few months prior to his arrest and who knew that he was never afraid to speak the truth if asked.   

Then came a further silence, when in May 1929, our mutual friend and comrade, Nicolas Lazarévitch, briefed me on the grave news: “Francesco was arrested in Moscow a few weeks back by the GPU and the reasons why are unknown.” The news outraged all of us but it came as no surprise to those aware of the lengths to which the Russian government can go in cracking down on real revolutionaries, and those familiar with our comrade’s adamantine stance over many years and that he is not one to kowtow to any government. But as yet we did not know the real reasons until one Italian-language newspaper published in Brussels, Il Riscatto, commenting on a speech by Lazarévitch at a meeting, wrote the following: “In an hysterical rant against the soviet regime, Lazarévitch was wrong to claim that it had supposedly arrested two alleged Italian anarchists, actually counter-revolutionary spies”, the reference being to comrades Ghezzi and Petrini.

That was actually meant to head off the campaign that was just starting to get off the ground, especially in Belgium and France. The day after that allegation was published, a group of comrades showed up at the editorial offices of the communist newspaper, seeking an explanation for its allegations. That delegation of comrades pretty much stated the following: “The charge of spying being mooted by one revolutionary about another is the gravest that can be made and, in the company of honest, though adversarial  revolutionaries, such a charge is not brought unless supported by the requisite evidence, in which light you have failed in your most basic duty, as we are here to remind you. Albeit that whilst we have no illusions, it is plain to us as well as our comrades in detention in Moscow, that you are in cahoots with the policy of the Russian government and its reasons of State.”

And in fact, the response – delivered by a well-known Italian communist, Gorelli,[1] was, literally, this: “Personally we have no evidence of anything that we said. But we have this information from the leadership of our Party and of the International in which we have implicit confidence and we do not query their assertions in any way”. – And the declarant, having known Ghezzi in Russia, added: “If I, personally, were to offer my opinion on Ghezzi the revolutionary, I could only speak well, very well of him.”

All of this was quite enough, being based on reasons unvouchsafed and which the Russian government failed to disclose, not even to the folk who paid the price of supporting it. And the campaign in support of our comrade Francesco Ghezzi which, given the manner and platform on which it was shifted by the communists, could not help spreading and turning more and more harsh. As in Russia there are lots of revolutionaries in the same tragic circumstances as Ghezzi, it can be said that the current campaign ought also to be to defend and show solidarity with the many comrades under arrest and deported by the Bolshevik government for the simple crime of being anarchists. The agitation began spontaneously everywhere, without any preparations, on receipt of the simple news that of our comrade’s arrest and day by day it grew in breadth and depth.

In these parts too, the communists have found the maverick they needed in the shape of the wayward Vidal Mata,[2] professional organizer and from time to time, when he remembers and above all whenever it suits him, a libertarian. But let us leave these folk to wallow in the mire of calumny and let us try to offer a detailed impression of the moral personality of the revolutionary and anarchist Francesco Ghezzi, which will surely earn the sympathy of all workers, because he is a real brother-worker; of all the revolutionaries who understand the revolution, not as a “step down and let me move up” but as a profound upheaval that should radically alter the face of the word and turn this hell for workers around as much as they can; into a society of free equals.


It can be said that Francesco Ghezzi represents the classical anarchist. Kindly, energetic, fervent, indefatigable in the struggle, always the first in actions on the people’s behalf. No abuse could find him indifferent; any battle undertaken on behalf of the people ever saw him falter; However, he knew from experience that that struggle does not always spring from a deep-seated revolutionary, libertarian impulse among the masses, but is, rather, the fruit of unsatisfied needs. But in the life of the people, the economic question counts for a lot; it is, so to speak, everything as far as it is concerned. And our comrade knew too that all the exertions of the suffering masses to capture a morsel of well-being from those who own everything, that all these struggles are, in any event, as many steps in the direction of the path that lead on to success and to the establishment of a free society wherein work, like men, will be afforded freedom and redemption. Francesco Ghezzi came to the anarchist movement very young.  At the age of just seventeen, having received a religious upbringing and having been a regular church-goer and religiously observant, on account of the setting in which he grew up (his father being a gardener in a convent). Endowed with a particuarly open, inquisitive and studious turn of mind, he was soon obliged to leave behind the setting in which he had spent his childhood and where he had received his primary education. It was only after a tough struggle that he was able to commit himself whole-heartedly to the revolutionary movement and study the social question. His extremely sensitive temperament meant that he could not remain indifferent when faced with all the awfulness around him. His own family circumstances impelled him somewhat against his will to try to seek a solution to the social question: poverty was a constant companion in his family, as it was in most Italian homes. There were a lot of mouths to feed at home, as is often the case in Italy (with a new baby every year) and they went short of the essential necessities in spite of the efforts of their father, a tireless worker of genuinely rare integrity. Francesco Ghezzi, from his earliest youth, had to find work and share in the harsh existence of hard-working men who could barely sustain themselves with what their waged labour brought in; it was primarily at this point that he began to take an interest in the social movement generally and in the anarchist movement in particular.

It was primarily down to the friendship of a new-found friend that made him engage actively with the anarchist movement in his native city of Milan.

Augusto Norsa, one-time secretary to Elisée Reclus,[3] was among his earliest friends. When the city’s anarchists charged Norsa with launching a great libertarian weekly paper Il Giornale anarchico in Milan in 1912, Norsa picked Ghezzi as its administrator, even though the lad was only 18 at the time. The paper was very short-lived. Only three issues were produced but it triggered four court proceedings and led to the arrest of the managing editor.

During the years leading up to the World War (1913-1914) Italy was convulsed by a deep-seated and widespread economic and political unrest cause by all of the ills arising out of the conquest of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.

The Italian Syndicalist Union was relentless in its agitational and propaganda efforts. Dispute followed dispute, protest followed protest. Vast general strikes brought the whole of monarchist and bourgeois Italy to its knees. Some cities such as Parma or La Spezia and the whole Mezzogiorno were under the sway of the USI. The peasant organizations in Cerignola and Torre Annunziata and the gas- and metal-workers in Milan went over to the syndicalists and set up the USI. Like many youngsters, Ghezzi took part in all these campaigns even though the police violence targeted the anarchists. The following episode is a good indication of the importance assumed by the anarchist youth (Ghezzi being one of the more active, vigorous and intelligent ones). This happened during the metal-workers’ strike in Milan, which had been going for nearly a month already; a week earlier it had become a general strike throughout Milan city; on this particular day (I don’t recall the date but it was in the summer of 1913) a mass rally organized by the Milanese Syndicalist Union was held in the new park that had opened at the time near the Viale Ludovica where the Milan Syndicalist Union had its headquarters.  As almost all the leaders of the Italian Syndicalist Union had been rounded up by that point, comrade Armando Borghi showed up to speak on behalf of the organization and in addition to messages of support from that body, which was quite strong at that time, he mentioned the solidarity and support coming from the whole Italian revolutionary proletariat for the mass movement that was giving the economic heart of Italy – Milan – a vigorous shock. It was on that very occasion that a general strike was called, covering the whole of Italy.

After the rally, as usual, the crowd, following behind the bunch of anarchists tried to make its way through the city centre streets in order to demonstrate all the more loudly and menacingly to the parasite class; as they reached the Piazza del Duomo, a violent police charge managed to round up the leading group of anarchists and then easily dispersed the remainder of the demonstrators with a violence and brutality that became notorious. There was no bloodshed: the following day all of the city’s newspapers, including Avanti!, the socialist daily then being run by Mussolini, carried the headlines: “No incidents at yesterday’s event, but five dangerous anarchists arrested.” Among these “dangerous anarchists” was Ghezzi, just turned nineteen.

Our comrade’s whole life has been littered with incidents of selflessness, and courage that primarily add up to the moral character of a revolutionary figure who, though still young, has already given twenty years of his life to the spreading of anarchist ideas and propagating among the working people the revolutionary spirit needed to sustain the struggle that leads to the conquest of greater well-being.

And then the war came along: in poor health, he was turned down for service. Not that that diminished his great activity. Those were tough times for our movement. Lawful means of struggle employed hitherto had to be traded for illegal means. Ghezzi was one of the first and best when it came to implementing those methods.

In 1916 when a group of Milan anarchists decided to call a huge women’s demonstration against the war on the important, centrally located Duomo square in Milan for the last Sunday of April (30 April 1916), Ghezzi and some comrades, male and female, give of their best in the demanding and dangerous preparatory work.

The demonstration was arranged for two o’clock in the afternoon, but that morning the police had flooded the square. At the appointed time, a band of young women and men, chanting revolutionary anthems and shouting “Down with the war!” tried to reach the centre of the huge square, the haunt of Milan’s idler class; But the police, employing the violence that has always distinguished them, attacked the demonstrators, manhandling and arresting them.  Some twenty women were arrested and three men (two anarchists and one syndicalist) and Ghezzi was one of them. 

Some time after that, he was called up and pronounced fit for service: with the help of some friends and at risk to his own life he crossed the high mountains between Italy and Switzerland and found refuge in the latter country. In Switzerland, as in every country he went to, and as he did later in France, Germany and latterly in Russia, he engaged with all of the people’s struggles against the host of parasites living off their backs; and it was for this reason too that he was later expelled from “free” Switzerland. 

The vast range of activity designed to end the world war engaged in by foreign anarchists seeking refuge in Switzerland was not viewed kindly by the Swiss government  which was always ready to place itself in the service of Germany or the Allies, depending on which side looked like winning and it reckoned it might be able to rid itself of them at the earliest opportunity, which, as it was slow to arrive, it decided to provoke with the connivance of a number of agents provocateurs and spies working on behalf of several governments at once, by trying to hatch a monstrous plot that ought to have been enough to put paid, for a long time at any rate, to all subversive activity in Switzerland.

In 1918, when Ghezzi was one of the best known and most active militants, he managed to evade arrest along with many another comrade (those arrested numbered upwards of a hundred over the first few days in Zurich alone) and was indicted as part of the notorious so-called “Zurich bombs” affair that was such a topic of conversation in its day, because of either the violence endured by all of the accused or on account of its wretched finale which was the inevitable outcome of the trial. Ghezzi and thirty-odd comrades were in detention for 18 months; the trial was protracted and despicable and even though it ended with an order for the release of all of the accused, two comrades died while it was in progress, mysteriously perishing in the dungeons of the “House of the Dead”, as Zurich’s prison was known at the time.

Shortly after the war ended, Ghezzi was able to flee first to France and later to Italy where he took part in the great revolutionary upheaval in that country between 1919 and 1921. Following the dismal ending of that Italian revolutionary upheaval, after the factories were surrendered by the metal-workers who had been occupying them for two months, Ghezzi, somewhat disappointed, joined a number of other comrades and close friends in launching a newspaper L’Individualista, which did not survive for long. In fact, in March 1921, after the arrest and hunger strike mounted by comrades Malatesta, Borghi and Quaglino, in protest at their arbitrary detention, there was a rash of attentats, arousing the mases which, weary and disappointed, were starting to withdraw from the struggle; there was the bombing at the Diana Theatre; the perpetrators of that attack reckoned that that night, as usual, the reactionary police chief of Milan, one of the most ferocious enemies of the anarchists, would be there, as he usually was. The tragic nature of the outrage allowed the police and the forces of reaction to give free rein to their anti-anarchist phobia. And a veritable terror and harassment targeted our comrades. Those were truly panicked times, times of a man-hunt.  It could be argued that virtually every known anarchist was rounded up in Milan. The fascists wrecked and burned and murdered: The police were jailing and convicting. They beat everybody until they got them to own up to authorship of the ghastliest crimes. Even family members were detained as hostages. In short, an out-and-out anti-revolutionary terror was unleashed. Anyone who as much as dared to voice an opinion that conflicted with the opinion of the police or the fascists was, after a beating, dragged away to prison and given a severe sentence, because even the judiciary were utterly compliant with the reaction.  

The police made a special target of Ghezzi who had, by a stroke of luck, escaped their clutches. He was to be hunted down at all costs: but thanks to the unanimous solidarity from anarchists, Ghezzi managed to slip away with another two comrades and found a refuge far away. 

In 1923, while in Berlin, he was arrested at the request of the Italian police which submitted an application for an extradition order. Many friendly voices spoke out in his defence.  The articles penned by Han Ryner at the time for the Journal du Peuple, the Paris daily, still linger in the memory; the entire revolutionary press (even the communist papers) in Germany and around the world raised objections. It was assuredly as a result of this single-minded campaign by freethinkers the world over that our comrade was rescued; Italy’s extradition application was denied. As he left prison, given his circumstances, he had to leave for Russia where he took his place again in the ranks of the workers, sharing with them in their struggles and their hopes. Meanwhile, he was tried in absentia in Italy: his trial ended with his being convicted as the chief conspirator [sentenced] to sixteen years in prison.


The anarchist activities in which Ghezzi engaged in Russia are primarily what have provoked the hated and wrath of the Bolsheviks and have been exploited as a pretext upon which to blacken the entire life-story of the indefatigable, incorruptible militant in our comrade and drag his name through the mud. 

But his handiwork as well as his profile as a revolutionary remain untouched, because all the many lies peddled about him (lies, errors of fact and dates, as in the case of this wretch Vidal Mata who, in his haste to obey his Bolshevik masters, has stumbled into a series of inescapable contradictions)  and one need only match up the dates to give the lie to them all. In order to discredit him, they have seen fit to accuse him of  having relied on Red Aid [Socorro Rojo] , when he, being hunted like a wild animal by the police in every country in Europe, had fled to Russia at the beginning of 1931, at which time there was no Red Aid. When he was jailed in Russia, he was at all times remembered by the anarchists from the “Anarchist-Communist Federation”, by the comrades from the (syndicalist) Freie Arbeiter Union. It has also been said that a travelling companion and fellow adventurer, having returned from Russia with Ghezzi, and pretty much at his instigation, was arrested in Germany – and then taken Italy where he was shot, whereas the truth is that luckily no such thing happened to anybody, for the simple reason that there was no death penalty in force back then. True, there was the wretched case of comrade Guillermo Boldrini, who, having been arrested in Germany before Ghezzi was unable to get out to Russia, due solely to the indifference and hostility coming from the communists and he was extradited to Italy and given a prison sentence. And allow me to remind you of the name of another late comrade, Ettore Aguggini,  one of the best-loved figures among the young militants from our movement in Milan; he, accused of the Diana outrage,  was sentenced to a “mere” 20 years, being under age. That comrade, an adolescent at the time, died a short while back of consumption in one of Italy’s many prisons.

But there is no point bandying words with ill-intentioned folk and the sort of people capable of insulting a man in no position to defend himself and set the record straight.

Besides, we are pointing all this out in order to bring it to the attention of the people which knows how to understand its brothers; to revolutionaries who are always ready to afford their fraternal support to fellow-fighters and to anarchists who never abandon someone who had fallen into enemy hands. And now let us move on to a look at what brought Ghezzi to Russia and what prompted him first to leave and then to go back there a second time.


After the tragic March of 1921 and the flurry of attentats in Milan, on the night of the 22nd, when Ghezzi, an active and very well known militant, was immediately singled out; when the Italian police hounded him relentlessly, and after he had roamed around France and Switzerland, he managed to get to Berlin, with some prospect of getting out to Russia. During the time he was active in these countries – France and Switzerland – he had made his name not just for his intelligence and liveliness, but on account of his staunch belief in revolution, his daring and his indefatigability in the struggle he had also made himself lots of friends, including inside the left-wing parties. A fugitive from Italy, he was in danger of arrest and of being handed over; some members of the socialist parties and communist youth did all in their power to ensure his safety and to get Russia to welcome him to that end. He actually arrived in Moscow in mid-1921, with credentials as a delegate from the Swiss communist youth. With him were two other Italian political refugees, also wanted in connection with the same affair, an affair which later came to be known as the “Diana” affair.

Once in Russia these three comrades remained anarchists and made to independently investigate the revolution, its causes, its development and its impact  independently, gathering data and documentation not just from the communists but also from all genuinely revolutionary elements (syndicalists and anarchists), thereby arriving at a clear and complete picture of the complex issue of the Russian revolution. And it was also on foot of such knowledge of the facts, personnel and things that, right there in Russia itself in 1921, they set about defending the anarchists already jailed there and right there and then there were around twenty of them in Moscow’s prisons, who had embarked on a hunger strike to protest at their protracted detention.  

That group of hunger-strikers was made up of fine, well-regarded comrades  who had given much to the revolution – people such as Voline, Mark Mratchny, Maximoff, etc., etc. – I recall one particularly heated exchange with Trotsky – in the quarters of the French syndicalist delegate, Sirolle at the Hotel Lux. He was trying to argue that the comrades who had begun the hunger strike around that time were common-or-garden bandits.

Because, like Voline, they had played an active part in the  uprising by the Ukrainian peasants who, banded together into partisan groups, fought under the colours of free soviets, colours hoisted by the anarchist peasant Nestor Makhno, who had turned out to be possessed of a rare mettle and fantastic strength, but whose spirit of freedom and independence had prompted him to despise the Bolsheviks who wanted to have everything under their control, and after they had twice asked him for an alliance and having fought alongside him against the Whites, they had outlawed him and any who were members of his bands were shot out of hand.

Some of the Italian delegates, supported by the odd Spanish delegate like Gaston Level and the odd Frenchman, like Lemoine, Sirolle, etc., mounted a demonstration during the closing session of the first congress of Red Trade Unions, at which Bukharin, surrounded by lots of Red soldiers had, during the closing address of the congress, launched a further poisonous attack on the imprisoned comrades. That address drew an answer from the syndicalist Sirolle and what he stated was published at the time. But the agitation carried on. Our Russian comrades were then suffering the severest crackdown, just a month after the fierce repression of the Kronstadt unrest, and it was utterly impossible for any action to be mounted, so the task of defence and aid had been entrusted to the tiny group of foreign anarchists in Moscow at the time. After lengthy discussion and hesitation, the Russian government and its Cheka decided to release some of the very long list of imprisoned anarchists. The Cheka had been issued with a long list of anarchist prisoners, or rather, its leader, Dzerzhinsky, had and, as ever, he denied that there were any anarchists held in Russian prisons. But after a lot of effort, some small satisfaction was achieved, which is to say, it was agreed that all the hunger-striking anarchists in Moscow’s prisons would be released, on condition that they leave the country immediately. Which they did. But in the midst of all this furore, the circumstances of the Italian comrades had become such that they needed to get out of Russia as they were otherwise facing jail. It was known that they were in jeopardy and above all, in order to be able to bring the message of the anarchist prisoners who had no way of getting out of Russia to the international anarchist congress that had been some years in the making and which had been scheduled for Berlin in late 1921. (Back then, even if Vidal Mata did not know it, there was no IWA yet). 

They left Russia, but their thinking, as critics of the regime in place in the country was common knowledge. Their fates in Europe varied. Having committed himself immediately to active propaganda in defence of our beliefs, whether through contributing to our Italian-language press, or taking part in all the agitations and movements that took place in Germany, once the police there espied him, and under pressure from the Italian government, did all it could to arrest them, in which they were only partly successful in that after some months in Germany, only Ghezzi was detained and made amenable to the Italian government that was pressing for his extradition. 

Every effort was then made to save Ghezzi – regardless of his anarchist beliefs – by means of street campaigns, protests by intellectuals, press campaigns, so much so that the German government was forced to deny the Italian extradition application provided (it having been stated that Ghezzi was no longer an Italian national, but a Russian one) that he quit Germany immediately and go home, meaning home to Russia. And so it was that Ghezzi returned to Russia for a second time. But one thing was very certain and unmistakable, that at no point did Ghezzi and his comrades receive a penny from Red Aid or from the Russian government, other than for their fares, given that they were in no place to be able to cover those costs. In Russia, though, both Ghezzi and his comrades immediately sought work and work they did, enduring the same suffering as the entire Russian people (which was never the case with the delegates of all sorts). On his second stay in Russia, Ghezzi initially worked on the land, before becoming a lathe-operator in Moscow, which is where he was still working at the time he was arrested. It is equally true that the whole of the communist press, during his captivity in Germany, had helped get him released, just as it is also true that the Russian government, by recognizing him as a subject of the soviets helped save him, but they were all clear about what his beliefs were and the character of the man who would never have bent the knee nor ever have agreed to receive favoured treatment of any sort at any time.

And in Russia, on both occasions, he was what he was, the anarchist militant we all knew, the honest revolutionary beloved of all, the zealous, honest propagandist capable of sacrificing himself in order to further those beliefs but at no time of speculating with them. And that may well be where the enigma behind his arrest and administrative banishment to Siberia resides. And it may well be that that has everyone spitting feathers who, by contrast, are always ready, where there is the prospect of reward, to turn their coats and turn their backs on what they regarded as sublime just the day before. But notwithstanding all the mud slung at him, Ghezzi remains the pure idealist and honest revolutionary he has always been, a comrade in the fight for freedom and to secure greater well-being for all, and we shall not cease agitating for his release this time around from prison where he languishes because of his fealty to his beliefs which are our beliefs too. 

There you have it in a few lines, a portrait of the moral, revolutionary figure of our comrade, whom we have known for upwards of twenty years, having fought and worked together with him in nearly every country in Europe in order to affirm and spread our shared anarchist beliefs and to free the working class from the countless parasites sucking its blood. The anarchist militant’s profile is all the more outstanding in that the widespread reaction and presently the one in soviet Russia have set their face against him because of his tireless activity as an authentic anarchist revolutionary; in speaking out on his behalf, we are showing solidarity with him and all of our comrades and revolutionary workers being persecuted in Russia for their authentically revolutionary activities.

Because it stands repeating that instances like those of our comrade Francesco Ghezzi are replicated by the thousands with comrades, anarchists, revolutionary syndicalists and workers languishing in Bolshevik prisons for the sole crime of being honest revolutionaries; for being anarchists, as we are, for being revolutionaries and fighting against exploiters, old and new. But the victim of persecution, tossed into prison for those reasons &&&&& [remainder illegible] 

Hugo Treni


1, The Gorelli in question may have been Aldo Gorelli. If so, ironically he was later executed in the purges in the Soviet Union 1930s, along with 9 other PCI members, for “Bordiguist/Trotskyist” conspiracy and espionage. He was accused under Article 58 of the soviet penal code, sections 6 and 8, of “spying and high treason”.

2, Juan Vidal Mata. Union activist with a career covering Spain, southern Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina (provincial Buenos Aires). Prominent in the Union of Farmworkers in provincial Buenos Aires (1919-1921) he was sympathetic to the revolution in Russia, and part of the so-called “anarcho-bolshevik” faction in the FORA. He was expelled from it and was a co-founder of the ALA (Argentinean Libertarian Alliance). In 1921 he attended the 3rd Congress of the Comintern and wrote a book about what he had experienced, La verdad sobre Rusia [The Truth about Russia] (1930). In 1929 he was granted permission to study in the USSR. Obviously regarded by Treni as a bit of a maverick and a “useful idiot” of the communists. Later operated in Rosario  as a naturopathic physician, sometimes writing as “Dr Lestrong”.

3, Augusto Norsa (1871-1932) Milan-born anarchist and print-worker. In France he seems to have had some sort of association with the illegalists Pini and Parmeggiano. Prosecuted in France for counterfeiting and given an 8-year prison term with a 20-year ban from the country. On his release he moved back to Italy working on Il Grido della Folla newspaper. Re-entered France only to be expelled back to Italy. Launched Il Giornale anarchico in 1912. After that the police noted that he was leading an “honest hard-working life.” In 1920 he joined Umanità Nova as administrator. Acquitted on “conspiracy” charges two days before the Diana Theatre bombing, he withdrew from activism after the fascist take-over and finished up in a poor house. No evidence found that this Norsa had been Reclus’s secretary.

From: La Antorcha (Buenos Aires), 17 May 1930 [issue 300, dated on the cover 31 de mayo de 1930. 17 May is the date on the page.] http://www.antorcha.net/index/hemeroteca/periodico_antorcha/1930/300.pdf