Notes on the life of Francesco Ghezzi (mainly in Switzerland)

Entry for Ghezzi in Cantiere biografico degli Anarchici in Svizzera (online)

[I have picked out  only the additional info included in this entry.]

“Arrested and subsequently held in Zurich on 29.11.1918 as a suspect in a bombing incident along with Castagna, Magni, Macchi, Pozzi and Restelli (“individualist anarchists from Seebach” – see Castagna* or Monanni*) but was freed a few days before the trial date on 13 June 1919, albeit told to hold himself available to the courts: he was to be acquitted on all charges, was given a 600 franc compensation award and then, in all likelihood, expelled.”

“(…) He moved to France and then, following an amnesty, re-entered Italy in early 1920 where he remained active within the USI, working as a type-setter on Umanita Nova in Milan, and serving as secretary of the Modern School in Clivio in 1920-1921. Wrongly suspected of involvement in the Diana Theatre bombing (…)”

“In winter 1921 Ghezzi arrived back in Berlin, bringing with him the snapshots of Kropotkin’s funeral which were then published by Fritz Kater’s imprint as an album in 1922.”

After a time held in Moabit prison in Berlin due to the Italian government’s application to have him extradited, Germany expelled him to the USSR by prior arrangement with the Narkomindel (Soviet Foreign Affairs Bureau).


*Carlo Castagna (aka Paolo BERTAZZI) (1878-1955) Founder of the Cesole branch of the Italian Socialist Party, moved to Switzerland on the outbreak of WW1, implicated in the bombs incident in Zurich 1918. Classed among the “individualist” anarchists.

*Giuseppe MONNANNI (sometimes MONANNI) (1887-1952) Individualist anarchist associated with Leda Rafanelli in Milan and involved in the publications Sciarpa nera, La Questione sociale, La Rivolta. Moved to Switzerland to dodge conscription, contributing from there to L’Avvenire anarchico, Avanti! And Il Risveglio. Member of the Il Risveglio group. 


The Zurich insurrection

Ghezzi reported (to the soviet political police in 1937) “In 1918, I was arrested by the Swiss police and after an eight month investigation I was accused of having had a hand in the preparations for the Zurich uprising, in cahoots with the communist faction within the Social Democratic Party.” 

It looks as if there may be some overlap/conflation between the “insurrection”, the “Zurich bombs plot” and the Swiss general strike. 

Italy entered the war on the side of the Entente in 1915. In April 1917, Ghezzi, Pietro Bruzzi and Ugo Fedeli were in the crowd that waved Lenin off in the “sealed train” as he returned to Russia. A lot of Italians refused the draft and by 1918 there were around 100 Italian anarchists/anti-militarists/draft-dodgers in the Zurich area. In late 1917 the Swiss government – the Federal Council – made civilian service obligatory for all citizens aged between 14 and 60. This was unpopular and there were strikes and demonstrations in protest.

17 November 1917: the Swiss government ordered any foreign deserters on Swiss soil to be mobilized and sent to concentration camps and used on drainage schemes. Italian deserters and draft-dodgers sent to the Niederweninger camp launched a protest strike in February 1918. The Swiss press reported that they were to be arrested and moved to the Anet camp. 

 In Il Risveglio, Luigi Bertoni called in March for solidarity with the deserters and draft-dodgers who were refusing to carry out hard labour in concentration camps. 

On 29 April 1918, the Swiss police in Zurich arrested lots of Italian anarchists; arms had been found in some of their homes. 

On 9 May, there was a nationwide round-up of Italian anarchists across Switzerland. One of those arrested – Cavadini - was found dead in his cell. There were arrests made in Zurich, Berne, Geneva, Orbe, Turgi, etc.  

On 15 May, the Zurich court authorities stated: “All that can be said at present is that all the culprits are deserters and draft-dodgers, Italian nationals belonging to an anarchist group in Zurich. According to statements made by one of the accused, the explosives found were to have been used for revolutionary purposes right here in Zurich.”

20 May: Luigi Bertoni, from Le Réveil/Il Risveglio newspaper was charged in connection with this “Zurich plot”. Also arrested was the young anarchist Jeanne Pridoux, taken to Zurich although sick and in the advanced stages of pregnancy, against doctor’s advice.

4 June: Protest rally in the Plainpalais hall in Geneva to protest at the arrests linked to the “Zurich plot”.

“ June 1919: Trial opens in Zurich of the Italian anarchists arrested 14 months earlier. Luigi Bertoni spent 2 hours defending himself and all of the accused were acquitted.

On the Swiss general strike:

The government introduced a mobilization order, plainly directed at the “enemy within” In response the Olten Action Committee orchestrated a nationwide general strike in 1918, centred on the munitions plants in Zurich. The police were deployed, a general strike was called and the government deployed the army.

Translated by: Paul Sharkey.