M. R., “Gigi Damiani” (1954)

  • M. R., “Gigi Damiani,” Resistance 11 no. 4 (February, 1954): 5-6.

 

Gigi Damiani

Gigi Damiani, one of the outstanding men of the anarchist movement, died in Rome, Italy, November 16, 1953, at the age of 77. The death of Comrade Damiani is a loss which will be felt throughout the Italian anarchist movement, for he was one of its most outstanding thinkers and writers, especially in the field of journalism, And the loss will be felt in many other countries where his varied writings appeared from time to time in anarchist periodicals, Although self-educated, Damiani was a keen interpreter of social problems and an accomplished journalist. His work, covering nearly half a century, is a massive contribution to anarchist literature and ranges from articles in periodicals to numerous pamphlets and some books.

Damiani was what is sometimes referred to as “an anarchist of the old school,” in the sense that he grew and evolved along with the Italian anarchist movement itself. He went through the mill of persecutions and prosecutions experienced by the movement in Italy from the early 1890s onwards.

Still a youth, Damiani was among the anarchists banished to the penal islands in 1894. He was among those forced, by the increasing reaction and persecutions just before the turn of the century, to take the road of exile. He fled to Brazil where, for almost two decades, he published an anarchist paper and identified himself with the struggle of the people of Brazil to better their conditions and attain their freedom. But republican reaction caught up with him, and because of his vigorous opposition to World War I, he was forcibly returned to Italy through that highly civilized procedure called deportation, Back in Italy with many other repatriated comrades, Damiani gave unstintingly of his energies in the post-war revolutionary period and contributed regularly to Umanita Nova, the first Italian anarchist daily.

When fascist vandalism and terrorism practically destroyed the daily, Damiani tried to resist by published the weekly Fede but nothing and no one could survive the beastly violence of the fascist hordes, which operated with absolute immunity, Once again Damiani was forced to take the road to exile.

After World War II, at the end of nearly two more decades of bitter exile, he returned to Italy and took his place in the struggle to revive the anarchist movement. He edited Umanita Nova, now a weekly, until a year ago when, ailing and almost blind, he could no longer carry on the physical task, But he never stopped writing for the paper. Unbelievably alert in spite of physical handicap, be had comrades read to him and he dictated his articles.

Damiani was a dedicated man. He had chosen a place and a mission for himself. His place was in the anarchist movement, and his mission was to spread the anarchist idea. He lived for that. When someone suggested that he write his memoirs, he refused. During his last months, he decided to write a brief “autobiographical sketch: the result was a chronological evaluation of the movement, and the development of anarchist thought, during. the past fly years, Damiani came to know about what he called “my beautiful anarchy” when he was in his teens, al a time when anarchist action was directed mostly at retaliation for social injustice. It was not long, however, before the anarchist idea took on for him a broader conception of justice and humanity. “This conception,” he wrote, “had no vengeance to propose, rather it aimed to make of justice a living, practicable, self-sufficient thing. It did not propose to set men against men, it aimed to create solidarity among men on the basis of equity. Then I loved anarchy as a noble and pure thing.”

Anarchists were persecuted viciously, but in time—through retaliation, resistance and perseverance—they came to be tolerated and left to live a relatively normal life. “But these new circumstances did not change our hearts, Anarchy had gotten into our blood and remained there,” Answering the objections of critics and skeptics, Damiani closed his autobiographical notes thus: “Anarchy does not want to, and canst, impose itself on anyone, The revolutionary violence which is attributed to it as the only way to gain its ends is not a means of imposition. Revolution in itself is authoritarian; but revolt, insurrection and constant insubordination are a means of defense and of eliminating obstacles to the conquest of freedom of expression and experimentation, Through them anarchy aims not to impose but to propose. Anarchy will not come about es the result of an organized coup, but it shall come about nevertheless. Anarchy is being realized even now. It is being realized in each and everyone of us. By modifying the mentality of its adherents, anarchy modifies the environment. Anarchy predisposes to the acceptance of its postulates and molds both men and environment for the fruitful development of its ethics.”

We hold no cult for the dead, and this hurried, sketchy note is not meant to be a eulogy. It is only a brief informative recapitulation of the activities of a deceased comrade who gave so much of himself to our common cause.

M.R.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2300 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.