Resistance to Nazism
Shattered Armies: How The Working Class
Fought Nazism and Fascism 1933-45
Arditi del Popolo
Anarchist Federation £1.50
Published October 2006
This online edition January 2007
(Free PDF edition with pictures available from www.afed.org.uk)
Young People and the Nazis: The Edelweiss Pirates (Germany), 7
The 43 Group (Britain), 15
The FAUD Underground in the Rhineland (Germany), 16
The Zazous (France), 19
The Arditi del Popolo (Italy), 22
The underground Italian anarchist press inside & outside fascist Italy, 29
This pamphlet brings together a series of articles previously published in Organise!
about anarchist and libertarian resistance to Fascism in the mid-twentieth century.
Other interesting websites with further information include:
Remembering the Anarchist Resistance to fascism, by Andrew - WSM Thursday, Mar 3 2005: http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=87
The Anarchist Resistance To Franco, Francesco Torres, http://www.akpress.org/1996/items/anarchistresistancetofranco
Unknown Heroes: Biographies Of Anarchist Resistance Fighters, Miguel Garcia, http://www.akpress.org/2005/items/unknownheroes
Resisting the Nazis Page 3
In this pamphlet, we explore different forms of resistance
to Nazism in the 1930s and 1940s. Firstly,
the Edelweiss Pirates, thousands of young German
people who combined a thirst for freedom with a
passion for street-fighting and satirical subversion
of the Nazi state. Secondly, the story of the FAUD,
German anarcho-syndicalists who went underground
in 1932 and undertook a long struggle
against fascism while continuing to develop networks
and ideas aimed at a free society through the
general strike against oppression. Finally, the Zazus,
French counter-culturalists and alternative lifestylers
– in our terms – who did much more than
simply celebrate their difference and party. They
fought as well. These stories reveal the power of
the organised working class and the danger to
capitalism and authoritarianism posed by the innate
and ever-present desire for freedom within
every human being. They also reveal the extent of
a resistance hidden within the shadows cast by the corpses of the remembered dead,
the statues of victorious generals and glorious martyrs or distorted by the commercialisation
The Second World War is remembered as a struggle between freedom and oppression
and so it was. But in social terms it was also a struggle between two different
forms of capitalism – authoritarian vs bourgeois – in which progressive forces in society
were almost entirely destroyed. Of the 20 million people who died, many millions
were communists, intellectuals, students, socialists and anarchists; virtually the entire
movement of organised labour, its trade unions and left-wing parties and organisations
were physically eliminated by hanging, shooting, starvation, disease and exile.
This was a crushing blow and has haunted anarchism ever since. Don’t look for organisational
reasons for why anarchism or libertarian communism have been marginal
forces in the development of Europe since 1945. Look for the graves, seek out
the places where its tens of thousands – and the millions of other progressive activists
– went down fighting.
When we think about the resistance to Nazism, three or four images come to mind:
the dour but romantic French maquis blowing up German troop trains, the beautiful
Resisting the Nazis Page 4
SOE operative parachuting into Occupied Europe, the tragic heroism of the student
pacifists pitting wits and bodies against the Gestapo and SS. Their struggles and suffering
are portrayed as a patriotic response to physical occupation and ideological
oppression, a thing that is forced upon them, an unnatural condition which ends with
the liberation until all that is left are grainy photographs and the quiet voices of old
people, remembering. There was the French resistance, the Warsaw uprising, Yugoslav
partisans: native struggles in response to alien occupation, whose only ambition
was liberation and the restoration of the nation-state. But there was more: blows
struck, voices raised that once went unheard but that speak to us still.
This pamphlet is about that other resistance, one involving hundreds of thousands of
people, that began not in 1939 but many years earlier. A resistance not against occupation
but against fascism and for freedom. A resistance that was international,
rejecting the tired slogans of empire and fatherland, not a desperate struggle for survival
against Hitler’s ten year Reich but a war begun on the barricades of 1848:
against tyranny, exploitation and war and for freedom, brotherhood and peace. A
resistance rooted in the organised working class and its understanding that fascism
brings only exploitation, terror and war, that authoritarian and totalitarian governments
of all kinds are good only for one class – the ruling class, the merchants, the
generals and industrialists. These histories remind us of the almost limitless strength
of the aware and self-organising working class, its capacity for struggle and sacrifice,
it’s determination to hold on to its ideals in the face of brutal oppression. There is
another history that we are writing even today.
Before Hitler could build the war machine he needed to acquire power for himself
and lebensraum for the German people – to be built amongst the mass graves of the
ethnically-cleansed east and south – he needed to defeat this powerful and dangerous
resistance. Hitler’s first victims were not the Jews, the intellectuals, the Poles or
Russians. The first victims of Nazism – deliberately so – were communists, trade unionists,
anarchists, working class communities and activists. Hundreds of thousands
of working class people, whole communities, trade union branches, workers’ societies
and leagues were liquidated, their members arrested, imprisoned, exiled or driven
underground, sent to forced labour and re-education camps and later, konzentrationslager:
It is difficult, now, to imagine the strength of that resistance. Hitler is often portrayed
as a progressive campaigner who took to the air to criss-cross Germany, winning the
hearts and minds of its people. It’s not well-known that this was a tactic forced on the
Nazis because it was less dangerous than travelling by road or rail! Just months before
the National Socialists seized power, Goebbels was chased out of Koln – his
home town – ‘like a criminal’ by anarcho-syndicalist protests and mass action. All
over Germany before 1933, vigorous and determined action, taken over the heads of
Resisting the Nazis Page 5
social democratic and trade union leaders, gave the Nazis a very hard time.
Marches by Nazis were often surrounded and had to be protected by the police, their
hit squads often ambushed and beaten up (or killed) by organised workers.
The resistance took its strength from the experiences of workers and the lessons
learned during the period of social upheaval and repression following WWI. Its resilience
and dynamism was rooted in the desire for a socially-just, progressive and
peaceful society, things that millions of people were prepared to struggle, fight and
die for. Its weakness lay in the separate methods of organisation of anarchists, socialists
and communists and competition between them for the loyalty of working people,
rather than co-operation. And as with the period before WWI, nationalism, patriotism
and sectional identities weakened the front for progress and justice. The Second
World War was simply the final phase of a seventy-year struggle between authoritarian
and bourgeois capitalism, a long struggle that decimated progressive
forces in Europe and elsewhere, precluding the possibility of forming any other society
in the ruins of the old except on democracy’s terms.
In the 1930s, the level of repression was so severe that only individualist activities
were possible. In Germany, assassination plots – many against Hitler himself - and
murders were attempted, pamphlets and posters printed and distributed, sabotage in
the factories carried out. An underground network formed by the FAUD – German
anarcho-syndicalists - managed to raise money for anarchists fighting fascism in
Spain during 1936-39 and smuggled technicians across Europe to assist them. But
without a mass base, anarchists and those they worked with were gradually hunted
down, suppressed. Ernest Binder, a FAUD member wrote in 1946: “Since mass resistance
was not feasible in 1933, the finest members of the movement had to squander
their energy in a hopeless guerilla campaign. But if workers will draw from that painful
experiment the lesson that only a truly united defence at the proper time is effective
in the struggle against fascism, their sacrifices will not have been in vain.”
“Hopeless”? Maybe. Squandered? Never.
With the complete collapse of organised labour resistance to Nazism – its leaders in
prison or exile, activists in concentration camps or underground, working class districts
terrorised by SA and Gestapo raids and arrests, its funds and printing presses
seized, its organisations and newspapers declared illegal – anarchist resistance too
had to go underground and gradually lost coherence and the ability to act. This didn’t
just occur in Germany. Italian anarchists continued to fight the fascist gangs
throughout this period, forming their own partisan bands as social struggles became
military but retaining a hard political analysis and edge, continuing their call for social
revolution. The anarchist movement in France – because it was internationalist
and anti-war – was suppressed in 1939-40 for resisting mobilisation, with activists
arrested, imprisoned for refusing to be drafted or forced into hiding. After the
Resisting the Nazis Page 6
occupation in 1939, Polish trade union organisations were proscribed but syndicalists
gathered its militant remnants together in the Polish Syndicalist Union (the ZSP) and
organised both propaganda and overt resistance. An illegal new-sheet, the Syndicalist,
was published and the ZSP actively resisted in co-operation with the National
Army (the AK) and People's Army (AL); ZSP detachments took part in the Warsaw Uprising
Resistance coalesced amongst affinity groups or upon the remains of pre-war political
and industrial networks amongst organised workers. Anarchists who had direct experience
of fascism, for instance in Germany and Italy, retained their internationalist
and revolutionary goals and organised separately, though often co-operating with
resistance groups. They published radical pamphlets and bulletins and continued to
call for social revolution. One example is the Revolutionary Proletarian Group
formed in France in 1941 by revolutionaries of many nationalities and which issued a
manifesto in 1943 calling for an international republic of workers councils. It urged
economic resistance, the disaffection of German soldiers and workers and resistance
to forced labour drafts whilst forming clandestine factory committees and militias.
Thousands of German soldiers did desert but at the cost of hundreds of lives: executed,
starved, shot ‘while escaping’ or simply disappeared. At the same time, a secret
congress of anarchists and libertarians was held under the noses of the Vichy
authorities in Toulouse. It formed the International Revolutionary Syndicalist Federation
and aimed to organise a mass general strike as soon as conditions permitted,
while continuing guerilla resistance and economic sabotage.
Other anarchists were drawn into the struggles against Nazi occupation as an extension
of their long fight against fascism or the hope of social progress with liberation.
In 1940 there were 230,000 Spanish Republican exiles in France, of whom 40,000 –
anarchists, socialists and communists – joined the maquis; perhaps as many as
30,000 died in the struggle. Spanish exile units fought in many battles during the war
and anarchist battalions with names like “Durutti”, “Guernica” and “Guadalajara” on
their vehicles took part in the liberation of Paris while 50 French towns, including
Toulouse, were liberated by Spanish guerilla groups.
Yet, as the post-war settlement proved, democracy is simply a more benign form of
capitalist authoritarianism. National liberation and anti-imperialist struggles – though
ultimately victorious – simply further entrenched capitalist social relations within society.
Some anarchists predicted this. The Friends of Durutti, a radical group during
the Spanish Revolution, argued that anarchists and libertarians who had set aside
revolutionary goals to help the bourgeois Spanish Republic fight fascism had gained
nothing, suffering defeat, exile, death and the destruction of their popular workers
collectives and the other organisations by which people were self-managing society in
the midst of war. Even after victory, oppression continued: anarchists who had
Resisting the Nazis Page 7
refused to be drafted in 1939 or who had carried out ‘illegal’ actions against state targets
were arrested and convicted despite serving in the Resistance.
What this history tells us is the importance of fighting fascism wherever it rears its ugly
head, of the need to put aside sectarian differences. An aware, progressive and mobilised
working class is one of the most powerful forces in the world, strongest when it
acts from its own sense of what is necessary, weakest when badly led. And because
fascism is a facet of capitalism, it cannot be fought except upon the basis of the social
relations capitalism creates. National liberation without social revolution merely
postpones an inevitable struggle and continues an oppressive and deadening life
Anarchist Federation, April 2006
Young People and the Nazis:
The Edelweiss Pirates
Hitler’s power may lay us low,
And keep us locked in chains,
But we will smash the chains one day,
We’ll be free again
We’ve got fists and we can fight,
We’ve got knives and we’ll get them out
We want freedom, don’t we boys?
We’re the fighting Navajos!
Why were the Nazis able to control Germany so easily? Why was there so little active
opposition to them? Why were the old parties of the SPD and KPD unable to offer any
real resistance? How could a totalitarian regime so easily contain what had been the
strongest working class in Europe?
We are taught that the Nazis duped the German population and that it took the
armed might of the Allies to liberate Europe from their enslavement. This article aims
to show how the Nazis were able to contain the working class and to tell some of the
tales of resistance that really took place.
Resisting the Nazis Page 8
Dealing with the opposition
Acting with a ruthlessness that surprised their opponents, the Nazis banned their opponents,
the Social Democrats and the Communists. For the working class this was
far more serious than just the destruction of two state capitalist parties. It was accompanied
by the annihilation of a whole area of social life around working class communities.
Many of the most confident working class militants were arrested and sent to
The repression was carried out legally. The SA (the Brownshirts) now acted in collaboration
with the police. Their brutal activities which once had been illegal but tolerated
now became part of official state activity. In some circumstances this meant simple
actions like beatings. In others, SA groups moved into and took over working class
pubs and centres. The effect was to isolate, intimidate and render powerless the working
Many workers believed that the Nazis would not remain in power forever. They believed
that the next election would see them swept from power and ‘their’ parties returned.
Workers only needed to bind their time. When it became clear that this was
not going to happen, the myth changed. The role for oppositionists became to keep
the party structures intact until such time as the Nazis were defeated. There is no
doubt that even the simple act of distributing Socialist (SPD) or Communist (KPD)
propaganda took an incredible degree of heroism, for the consequences of being
caught were quite clear to all – beatings, torture and death. It meant that families
would be left without breadwinners, subjected to police surveillance and intimidation.
The result was often passivity and inaction.
As early as 1935, workers were aware of
the consequences that ‘subversive’ activity
would have on their families. A blacksmith
in 1943 expressed the problem
simply: “My wife is still alive, that’s all.
It’s only for her sake that I don’t shout it
right in their faces…You know these
blackguards can only do all this because
each of us has a wife or mother at home
that he’s got to think of…people have
too many things to consider. After all, you’re not alone in this world. And these SS
devils exploit the fact.”
Throughout the period of Nazi rule there was industrial unrest, there were strikes and
acts of disobedience and even sabotage. All these, however, attracted the attention of
Resisting the Nazis Page 9
the Gestapo. The Gestapo had the assistance of employers and stooges in the workforce.
The least a striker could expect was arrest. As a consequence, those who were
politically opposed to the Nazi state kept themselves away from industrial struggle. To
be arrested would have led not only to personal sacrifice, but also could have compromised
the political organisations to which he or she belonged. To reinforce the
message to workers, he Gestapo set up special industrial concentration camps attached
to major factories.
To put the intensity of Nazi repression into context, during the period 1933-45, at
least 30,000 German people were executed for opposing the state. This does not
include countless others who died as a result of beatings, of their treatment in camps,
or as a result of the official policy of euthanasia for those deemed mentally ill. Thousands
of children were declared morally or biologically defective because they fell
below the below the Aryan ‘norm’ and were murdered by doctors. This fate also befell
youngsters with mental and physical disabilities as well as many who listened to the
wrong kind of music.
However, Nazi domination of the working class did not rely solely on repression. Nazi
industrial policy aimed to fragment the class, to replace working class solidarity with
Nazi comradeship and solidarity with the state.
To start with, pay rises were forbidden. To strengthen competition, hourly rates were
done away with. Piece rates became the norm. If workers wanted to earn more then
they would have to produce more. Workers’ interests were to be represented by the
German Workers’ Front (DAF), which they were forced to belong to and which of
course represented solely the interests of the state and employers.
Unable to obtain pay rises with their employers it became common in a situation of
full employment for workers to move from one factory to another in search of higher
wages. On the one hand, this defeated the Nazi objectives of limiting pay; on the
other hand it further weakened the bonds of solidarity between workers.
Knowing that they could not rule solely through fear, the Nazis gave ‘welfare’ concessions
to the working class. Family allowances were paid for the first time; organised
holidays and outings were provided at low cost. For many workers this was their first
opportunity to go away on holiday. Social activities were provided through Nazi organisations.
There is little evidence that the Nazis won over the working class ideologically, nonetheless,
this combination of repression and amelioration served to confuse many who
would otherwise have been outright opponents.
Resisting the Nazis Page 10
The spectacles we have all seen of Nazi rallies, book burnings, parades and speeches
are not evidence that workers were convinced of Nazi rule. It was clear to all what the
consequence of not attending, of not carrying a placard or waving a flag would be.
However, they must have increased the sense of isolation and powerlessness of those
who would have liked to resist. As a result there was little open resistance from working
class adults to the Nazis throughout their period in power.
If the Nazi policy towards adults was based on coercion, their policy towards young
people was subtler. Put simply, the intention was to indoctrinate every young person,
to make them a good national socialist citizen proudly upholding the ideals of the
party. The means chosen to do this was the Hitler Youth (HJ).
By the end of 1933, all youth organisations outside the Hitler Youth had been
banned – with the exception of those controlled by the Catholic Church that was busy
cozying up to the Nazis at the time. Boys were to be organised into the Deutsches
Jungvolk between the ages of 10 and 14 and the Hitler Youth proper from 14 to 18.
They quickly incorporated around 40% of boys. Girls were to be enrolled into the
Bund Deutsche Madel (BDM), but the Nazis were much less interested in getting them
to join. The objective was to get all boys into the HJ. When this failed to take place,
laws were passed gradually making it compulsory by 1939.
In the early days, being in the HJ was far from a chore. Boys got to take part in
sports, go camping, hike, play competitive games – as well as being involved in drill
and political indoctrination. Being in the HJ gave youngsters the chance to play one
form of authority off against another. They could avoid schoolwork by claiming to be
involved in HJ work. The HJ provided excuses when dealing with other authority figures
– like parents and priests. On the other hand, they could also blame pressures
from school in order to get out of more unpleasant Hitler Youth tasks! In some parts
of the country the HJ provided the first opportunity to start a sports club, to get away
from parents, to experience some independence.
As the 1930s went on, the function of the HJ and BDM changed. The objectives of
the regime became more obviously military and aimed at conquest. The HJ was seen
as a way recruiting and training young men into the armed forces. As war became
more likely, the emphasis shifted away from leisure activities and into military training,
State policy became of one of forcing all to be in the HJ. T made seemingly harmless
activities, like getting together with your mates for an evening, criminal offences if
they took place outside the HJ of BDM.
The HJ set up its own police squads to supervise young people. These Streifendienst
Resisting the Nazis Page 11
patrols were made up of Hitler Youth members scarcely older than those they were
meant to be policing.
By 1938, reports from Social Democrats in Germany to their leaders in exile were
able to report that: “In the long run young people too are feeling increasingly irritated
by the lack of freedom and the mindless drilling that is customary in the National Socialist
organisations. It is therefore no wonder that symptoms of fatigue are becoming
particularly apparent among their ranks…”
The outbreak of war brought the true nature of the HJ even more sharply into focus.
Older HJ members were called up. More and more time was taken up with drill and
political indoctrination. Bombing led to the destruction of many of the sporting facilities.
The HJ became more and more obviously a means of oppression.
As the demands for fresh recruits to the armed forces became more intense, the divisions
within the HJ became more acute. The German education system at the time
was sharply divided along class lines. Most working class children left school at the
age of 14. A few went on to
secondary or grammar schools
along with the children of middle
class and professional
families. As older HJ members
were called up, the middle
class school students took the
place of the leaders. The rank
and file was increasingly made
up of young workers hardly
likely to take too well to being
ordered about at HJ meetings!
It is not difficult to imagine the scene of a snotty doctor’s kid still in school trying to
give orders to a bunch of young factory workers and having to use the threat of official
punishment to get his own way. Dissatisfaction grew. Initially, the acute labour
shortages of the early war years meant that the Nazis could not resort to the kind of
Nazi terror tactics that they employed against other dissidents. As the war went on,
many of these young people’s fathers died or were sent to the front. Many were
bombed out of their own homes. The only future they could see for themselves was to
wear a uniform and fight for a lost cause.
One teenager said in 1942: “Everything the HJ preaches is a fraud. I know this for
certain, because everything I had to say in the HJ myself was a fraud.”
By the end of the 1930s, thousands of young people were finding ways to avoid the
Resisting the Nazis Page 12
clutches of the Hitler Youth. They were gathering together in their own gangs and
starting to enjoy themselves again. This terrified the Nazis, particularly when the teenagers
started to defend their own social spaces physically. What particularly frightened
the Nazis was that these young people were the products of their own education
system. They had no contact with the old SPD or KPD, knew nothing of Marxism or
the old labour movement. They had been educated by the Nazis in Nazi schools, their
free time had been regimented by the HJ listening to Nazi propaganda and taking
part in officially approved activities and sports.
These gangs went under different names. Their favoured clothes varied from town to
town, as did their badges. In Essen they were called the Farhtenstenze (Travelling
Dudes), in Oberhausen and Dusseldorf the Kittelbach Pirates, in Cologne they were
the Navajos. But all saw themselves as Edelweiss Pirates (named after an edelweiss
flower badge many wore).
Gestapo files in Cologne contain the names of over 3,000 teenagers identified as
Edelweiss Pirates. Clearly, there must have been many more and their numbers must
have been even greater when taken over
Germany as a whole.
Initially, their activities were in themselves
pretty harmless. They hung
around in parks and on street corners,
creating their own social space in the
way teenagers do everywhere (usually to
the annoyance of adults). At weekends
they would take themselves off into the
countryside on hikes and camping trips
in a perverse way mirroring the activities initially provided by the HJ themselves.
Unlike the HJ trips, however, these expeditions comprised boys and girls together, so
adding a different, more exciting and more normal dimension than provided by the
HJ. Whereas the HJ had taken young people away for trips to isolate and indoctrinate
them, the Edelweiss Pirates expeditions got them away from the Party and gave them
the time and space to be themselves.
On their trips they would meet up with Pirates from other towns and cities. Some went
as far as to travel the length and breadth of Germany doing wartime, when to travel
without papers was an illegal action.
Daring to enjoy themselves on their own was a criminal act. They were supposed to
be under Party control. Inevitably they came across HJ Streifendienst patrols. Instead
of running, the Pirates often stood and fought. Reports sent to Gestapo officers
Resisting the Nazis Page 13
suggest that as often as not the Edelweiss Pirates won these fights. “I therefore request
that the police ensure that this riff-raff is dealt with once and for all. The HJ are taking
their lives into their hands when they go out on the streets.”
The activities of the Edelweiss Pirates grew bolder as the war progressed. They engaged
in pranks against the allies, fights against their enemies and moved on to
small acts of sabotage. They were accused of being slackers at work and social parasites.
They began to help Jews, army deserters
and prisoners of war. They painted anti-
Nazi slogans on walls and some started to
collect Allied propaganda leaflets and shove
them through people’s letterboxes.
“There is a suspicion that it is these youths
who have been inscribing the walls of the
pedestrian subway on the Altebbergstrasse
with the slogans ‘Down with Hitler’, ‘The
OKW (Military High Command) is lying’,
‘Medals for Murder’, ‘Down with Nazi Brutality’
etc. However often these inscriptions are removed within a few days new ones
appear on the walls again.” (1943 Dusseldorf-Grafenberg Nazi Party report to the
As time went on, a few grew bolder and even more heroic. They raided army camps
to obtain arms and explosives, made attacks on Nazi figures other than the HJ and
took part in partisan activities. The Head of the Cologne Gestapo was one victim of
the Edelweiss Pirates.
The authorities reacted with their full armoury of repressive measures. These ranged
from individual warnings, round-ups and temporary detention (followed by a head
shaving), to weekend imprisonment, reform school, labour camp, youth concentration
camp or criminal trial. Thousands were caught up in this hunt. For many, the end was
death. The so-called leaders of the Cologne Edelweiss Pirates were publicly hanged
in November 1944.
However, as long as the Nazis needed workers in armament factories and soldiers for
their war, they could not resort to the physical extermination of thousands of young
Germans. Moreover, it is fair to say that the state was confused as to what to do with
these rebels. They came from German stock, the sort of people who should have
been grateful for what the Nazis gave. Unwilling to execute thousands and unable to
comprehend what was happening, the state was equally unable to contain them.
Resisting the Nazis Page 14
Wall of Silence
So why has so little been heard of the Edelweiss Pirates? When researching this article,
it was extremely hard to find information about them. Most seemed to revolve
around the research of the German historian Detlev Peukert, whose writings remain
essential reading. Searches of the internet revealed only two articles.
A number of explanations come to mind. The post-war Allied authorities wanted to
reconstruct Germany into a modern, western, democratic state. To do this, they enforced
strict labour laws including compulsory work. The Edelweiss Pirates had a
strong anti-work ethos, so they came into conflict with the new authorities too. A report
in 1949 spoke of the “widespread phenomenon of unwillingness to work that
was becoming a habit of many young people.” The prosecution of so-called ‘young
idlers’ was sometimes no less rigid under Allied occupation than it was under the Nazis.
A court in 1947 sent one young woman to prison for five months for ‘refusal to
work’. The young became enemies of the new order too.
The political opponents of the Nazis had been either forced into exile, murdered or
hid their politics. Clandestine activity had centred on keeping party structures intact.
They could not afford to acknowledge that physical resistance had been alive and
well and based on young people’s street gangs! To the politicians of the CDU
(Christian Democratic Union) and SPD, the Edelweiss Pirates were just as much riffraff
as they were to the Nazis. The myth of the just war used by the allies relied heavily
on the idea that all Germans had been at least silent during the Nazi period if not
actively supporting the regime. To maintain this fiction the actions of ‘street hooligans’
in fighting the Nazis had to be forgotten.
Fifty-five years on, interest in the Edelweiss Pirates is beginning to resurface. More is
being published on them and a film has been produced in Germany. We need to
make sure that they are never forgotten again. As the producers of the film say: “the
Edelweiss Pirates were no absolute heroes, but rather ordinary people doing extraordinary
things.” It is precisely this that gives us hope for the future.
We march by banks of Ruhr and Rhine
And smash the Hitler Youth in twain.
Our song is freedom, love and life,
We’re the Pirates of the Edelweiss.
Resisting the Nazis Page 15
The 43 Group
The 43 Group was formed by Jewish ex-servicemen and women as a direct action
organization to combat the re-emergence of Britain’s fascists after WW2, firstly on the
streets of London and later throughout the country. It’s history is told in a fascinating
book (see below); a hidden history of working class resistance and a manual of modern-
day direct action campaigning offering many useful insights into organizational
After WW2, Jews were alarmed at the resurgence of Britain’s fascists, aided and abetted
by the Labour Government’s complacency and often the connivance of the police,
town halls, watch committees and local magistrates, who defended the Fascist's
right to free speech but cracked down hard on counter-protests (sound familiar?).
Fascist groups and parties re-formed, newspapers and “book clubs” flourished, candidates
stood and hectored. After bitter and frustrating experiences directly confronting
the fascists only to be met with police strong-arm tactics and court appearances,
43 Jewish ex-servicemen and women met to form a group aimed at destroying the
growing fascist movement.
The group organized from the bottom up and by word-of-mouth with most recruitment
on a personal basis. It formed local cells but with access to the resources of the
whole organization, which grew quickly. Taxi drivers provided transport and a quick
getaway, people with fighting skills organized in flying wedges to drive in and break
up fascist street demos and meetings, others worked in intelligence and counterintelligence
(some even joining fascist groups) and security (looking for moles, moving
equipment). Contact was made with sympathetic policemen and journalists and
local communities mobilized against fascist groups and activities. It was a tough job:
fascism was still an international movement, thuggish Nazi prisoners-of-war had remained
behind in Britain, it could call on the wealth of the lunatic fringes of the aristocracy
and bourgeoisie for money and influence. But the constant pressure of the
43 Group and its supporters and allies, notably the Communist party, paid off.
Fascist groups found they could not organize and were under constant surveillance
and attack, meetings were constantly disrupted, local newspapers began to openly
scorn the fascists and indignantly call on the government to act against them and the
town halls, now aware of the depth of local feelings, began to deny them access to
the school halls and meeting rooms that gave them an air of respectability. By the
Resisting the Nazis Page 16
early 1950s, after years of struggle, the fascist menace was largely defeated – still
present, they were not likely to pose a serious threat and did not again until the
This is a little-known but largely positive history, marred only by the fact that the Jewish
establishment, like many bourgeois liberals, attacked the 43 Group (which had, at
its height, thousands of members and supporters) for being ‘thugs’, ‘heavies’ who
delighted in violence – a sorry accusation leveled at Class War in the 1980s and
1990s and the Black Bloc even today. Any activity the middle classes cannot control
frightens them to death. The book is a good read that repays careful study.
The 43 Group, Morris Beckman, a Centerprise Publication ISBN: 0 903738 75 9
Anarchist Resistance to Nazism-
The FAUD Underground in the Rhineland
The anarcho-syndicalist union the Freie Arbeiter Union (FAUD) had a strong presence
in Duisberg in the Rhineland, with a membership in 1921 of around 5,000 members.
Then this membership fell away and by the time Hitler rose to power there were just a
few little groups. For example, the number of active militants in Duisberg-South was
25, and the Regional Labour Exchange for Rhineland counted 180 to 200 members.
At its last national congress in Erfurt in March 1932, the FAUD decided that if the
Nazis came to power its federal bureau in Berlin would be dissolved, that an underground
bureau would be put in place in Erfurt, and that there should be an immediate
general strike. This last decision was never put into practice, as the FAUD was
decimated by massive arrests.
In April or May 1933, doctor Gerhard Wartenburg, before being forced to leave
Germany, had the locksmith Emil Zehner put in place as his replacement as FAUD
secretary. He fled to Amsterdam, where he was welcomed, with other German refugees,
by Albert de Jong, the Dutch anarcho-syndicalist. At the same time the secretariat
of the International Workers Association (the anarcho-syndicalist international)
was transferred to Holland in 1933, though the Nazis seized its archives and correspondence.
In autumn 1933, Zehner was replaced by Ferdinand Goetze of Saxony, then by Richard
Thiede of Leipzig. Goetze reappeared in western Germany in autumn 1934,
Resisting the Nazis Page 17
already on the run from the Gestapo.
In the meantime, a secret
group of the FAUD was set up,
with the support of the Dutch
section of the IWA, the NSV. A
secretariat of the FAUD in exile
was set up in Holland.
Up to the rise to power of the
Nazis, the worker Franz Bungert
was a leading member of the
Duisberg FAUD. Without even
the pretence of a trial, he was
interned in the concentration
camp of Boegermoor in 1933. After a year he was freed but was put under permanent
surveillance. His successor was Julius Nolden, a metalworker then unemployed
and treasurer of the Labour Exchange for the Rhineland. He was also arrested by the
Gestapo, who suspected that his activity in a Society for the Right to Cremation(!) hid
illegal relations with other members of the FAUD.
In June 1933, a little after he was released, he met Karolus Heber, who was part of
the secret FAUD organisation in Erfurt. He had been part of the General Secretariat
in Berlin, but after many arrests there had to move to Erfurt. They arranged a plan for
the flight of endangered comrades to Holland and the setting up of a resistance organisation
in the Rhineland and the Ruhr.
Nolden and his comrades set up a secret escape route to Amsterdam and distributed
propaganda against the Nazi regime. Albert de Jong visited Germany and via the
FAUD member Fritz Schroeder, met Nolden. De Jong arranged for the sending of
propaganda over the border via the anarchist Hillebrandt. One pamphlet was disguised
with the title Eat German Fruit And You Will Be In Good Health. It became so
popular among the miners that they used to greet each other with: ”Have you eaten
German fruit as well?” As for the escape route, the German-Dutch anarchist Derksen,
who had a very good knowledge of the border zone, was able to get many refugees
to safety. Many of those joined the anarchist columns in Spain.
After 1935, with the improvement of the economic situation in Germany, it was more
and more difficult to maintain a secret organisation. Many members of the FAUD
found jobs again after a long period of unemployment and were reluctant to engage
in active resistance. The terror of the Gestapo did the rest. On top of this, no more
propaganda was sent from Amsterdam.
The outbreak of the Spanish Revolution in 1936 breathed new life into German
Resisting the Nazis Page 18
anarchism. Nolden multiplied his contacts in Duisberg, Düsseldorf
and Cologne, organising meetings and launching
appeals for financial aid to the Spanish anarchists. As a
result of Nolden’s tireless activities, several large groups
were set up. Nolden went everywhere by bike! At the same
time Simon Wehren of Aachen used the network of FAUD
labour exchanges to find volunteer technicians to go to
In December 1936, the Gestapo, thanks to an informer
they had infiltrated, uncovered groups in Moenchengladbach,
Duelken and Viersen. At the start of 1937, 50 anarcho-
syndicalists of Duisberg, Düsseldorf and Cologne
were arrested, including Nolden. A little later other arrests
followed, bringing to 89 the number of FAUD members in
Gestapo hands. The trial lasted a year on charges of
“preparation of acts of high treason”(1). There were 6
acquittals for lack of evidence, the others being condemned to prison sentences from
several months to 6 years in January-February 1938. Nolden was sent to the Luettringhausen
Penitentiary from which the Allies freed him on 19th April 1945. In Whitsun
1947 he was at Darmstadt with other survivors of the Duisberg group to found
the Federation of Libertarian Socialists. In prison, several anarchists were murdered.
Emil Mahnert, a turner of Duisberg, was thrown from a second floor window by a
police torturer. The mason Wilhelm Schmitz died in prison on 29 January 1944 in
obscure circumstances. Ernst Holtznagel was sent to Disciplinary Battalion 999, of
sinister reputation, and murdered there. Michael Delissen of Moenchengladbach was
beaten to death by the Gestapo in December 1936. Anton Rosinke of Düsseldorf was
murdered in February 1937.
The anarcho-syndicalist Ernst Binder of Düsseldorf wrote in August 1946: “A massive
resistance not having been possible in 1933, the best of those at the heart of the
workers movement had to disperse their forces in a guerrilla war without hope. But if,
from this painful experience, the workers movement, the workers will draw from this
the lesson that only united defence at the right moment is effective in the struggle
against fascism, those sacrifices will not have been in vain”.
1) 220,000 Germans were sentenced for the same charges of “Preparation of Acts of
High Treason” from 1933 until the end of the war! German anarchosyndicalist paper
Resisting the Nazis Page 19
In 1940, the Nazis had occupied France. The Vichy regime,
in collaboration with the Nazis and fascist itself in policies
and outlook, had an ultra conservative morality, and
started to use a whole range of laws against a youth that
was restless and disenchanted.
In Paris, young people started meeting in cafes, passing
their time mocking the politics of the time. This spontaneous
development was a sharp response to the deadening
effect on society of the Nazi-Vichy rule. They met in cinemas,
in the cellar clubs and at parties arranged at short
notice. These young people, who called themselves Zazous,
were to be found throughout France, but were most
concentrated in Paris. The two most important meeting
places of the Zazous were the terrace of the Pam Pam café
on the Champs Elysees and the Boul’Mich ( the Boulevard
Saint- Michel near the Sorbonne. The Zazous of the Champs Elysees came from a
more middle class background and were older than the Zazous of the Latin Quarter.
The Champs Elysees Zazous were easily recognisable on the terrace of the Pam Pam
and took afternoon bike rides in the Bois de Boulogne. In the Latin Quarter, the Zazous
met in the cellar clubs of Dupont-Latin or the Capoulade.
The male Zazous wore extra large jackets which hung down to their knees, and which
were fitted out with many pockets and often several half-belts. The amount of material
used was a direct comment on government decrees on the rationing of clothing material.
Their trousers were narrow, gathered at the waist, and so were their ties, which
were cotton or heavy wool. The shirt collars were high and kept in place by a horizontal
pin. They liked thick-soled suede shoes, with white or brightly coloured socks.
Their hairstyles were greased and long . In fact after the government decree of 1942
which authorised the collection of hair from barber-shops to be made into slippers
they grew their hair longer! In a parody of Englishness they carried formal
“Chamberlain” umbrellas, always neatly furled, and never opened in spite of rainy
One fascist magazine commented on the male Zazou :” Here is the specimen of Ultra
Swing 1941: hair hanging down to the neck, teased up into an untidy quiff, little
Resisting the Nazis Page 20
moustache a la Clark Gable,….. shoes with too thick soles, syncopated walk”.
Female Zazous wore their hair in curls falling down to their shoulders or in braids.
Blonde was the favourite colour, and they wore bright red lipstick, as well as sunglasses,
also favoured by some male Zazous. They wore jackets with extremely wide
shoulders and short pleated skirts. Their stockings were striped or sometimes net, and
they wore shoes with thick wooden soles.
The Zazous were big fans of chequered patterns, on jacket, skirt or brolly. They
started appearing in the vegetarian restaurants and developed a passion for grated
carrot salad! They usually drank fruit juice or beer with grenadine syrup, a cocktail
that they seem to have invented.
The zazous were directly inspired by jazz
and swing music. A healthy black jazz
scene had sprung up in Montmartre in
the inter-war years. Black Americans felt
freer in Paris than they did back home,
and the home-grown jazz scene was
greatly reinforced by this emigration.
Manouche Gypsy musicians like Django
Reinhardt started playing swinging jazz
music in the Paris clubs.
The Zazous probably got their name from
a line in a song –Zah Zuh Zah by the
black jazz musician Cab Calloway famous
for his Minnie the Moocher. A
French crooner poular with the Zazous,
Johnny Hess, also had a song Je suis
swing in early 1942, in which he sung the lines “Za zou, za zou, za zou, za zou ze”.
An associate of the Zazous, the anarchist singer-songwriter, jazz trumpeter, poet and
novelist Boris Vian was also extremely fond of z words in his work! The long drape
jacket was also copied from zootsuits worn by the likes of Calloway.
“The zazous were very obviously detested by the Nazis, who on the other side of the
Rhine, had since a long time decimated the German cultural avante garde, forbidden
jazz and all visible signs of…..degenerations of Germanic culture…” Pierre Seel,
who as a young zazou was deported to a German concentration camp because of his
When the yellow star was forced to be worn by Jews, those non-Jews who objected to
this began to wear yellow stars with “Buddhist” “Goy” (Gentile) or “Victory”. Some
Resisting the Nazis Page 21
Zazous took this up, with “Zazou” written below the star. When the French Jews were
removed from the scene, the Vichy regime and their Nazi masters turned on the Zazous.
Vichy had started “Youth Worksites” in July 1940 in an attempt to indoctrinate French
youth. The same year, they set up a Ministry of Youth. They saw the Zazous as a rival
and dangerous influence on youth. By 1942, Vichy high-ups realised that the national
revival that they hoped would be carried out by young people under their guidance
were seriously effected by widespread rejection of the patriotism, work ethic, selfdenial,
asceticism and masculinity this called for. The Zazous were degenerate and
dandified and so weren’t a lot of these scum obviously Jews?
The witch hunt begins
78 anti-Zazou articles were published in the press in 1942 ( as opposed to 9 in 1941
and 38 in 1943). The Vichy papers deplored the moral turpitude and decadence that
was effecting French morality. Zazous were seen as work-shy, egotistical, and Judeo-
Gaullist shirkers. Soon roundups began in bars and zazous were beaten on the
street. They became Enemy Number One of the fascist youth organisation Jeunesse
Populaire Francais. “Scalp the Zazous!” became their slogan. Squads of young JPF
fascists armed with hairclippers attacked Zazous. Many were arrested and sent to the
countryside to work on the harvest. acquiescence,
At this point the Zazous went underground, holing up in their dance halls and basement
clubs. With the Liberation of Paris it appears some zazous joined in the armed
combat to drive out the Nazis – certainly they had a few scores to settle. But the Zazous
were suspected by the official Communist resistance of having a “couldn’t give a
fuck” attitude to the war in general.
The Zazous were to be numbered in the hundreds rather than thousands and were
generally between 17 and 20. There were Zazous from all classes but with apparently
similar outlooks. Working class Zazous used theft of cloth and black market activities
to get their outfits, sometimes stitching their own clothes. Some of the more bohemian
Zazous in the Latin Quarter varied the outfit, with sheepskin jackets and multicoloured
scarves. It was their general attitude of ironic and sarcastic comments on the Nazi/
Vichy rulers, their dandyism and hedonism, their suspicion of the work ethic and their
love of “decadent” jazz that distinguished them as one of the prototype youth movements
that were to question the values of capitalist society .Though they did not suffer
like their contemporaries in Germany, the working class Edelweiss Pirates, some of
whom were hanged by the Nazis, nevertheless in a society of widespread complicity
and acquiescence, their stand was courageous and trail-blazing.
Resisting the Nazis Page 22
The Arditi del Popolo
By the end of World War I, the working class in Italy were in a state of revolutionary
ferment. Not yet ready for the conquest of power themselves, workers and peasants
by 1918 had won a variety of concessions from the state: an improvement of wages,
the 8-hour day, and recognition of collective contracts.
By 1919 a new radicalism had descended upon the labour movement. In that year
alone there were 1,663 strikes across the peninsula, while in August the newly-formed
shop stewards’ movement in Turin (the forerunner of the workers’ councils) underlined
the growth of a new vibrant militancy that drew its strength from the autonomous capacity
of workers to organise themselves along libertarian lines and which had "the
potential objective of preparing men, organizations and ideas, in a continuous prerevolutionary
control operation, so that they are ready to replace employer authority
in the enterprise and impose a new discipline on social life"(1).
In the countryside the peasantry opened up
a second front against the state by occupying
the land that had been promised them
before the war. The Visochi decree of September
1919 merely validated the cooperatives
that had already been set up
while the ‘red leagues’ assisted the formation
of strong unions of day labourers.
1919 also marked the initial signs of capital
defending itself against the growing
onslaught. A meeting of industrialists and
landowners at Genoa in April sealed the first stages of the ‘holy alliance’ against the
rise of labour power. From this meeting were drawn up plans for the formation, in
the following year, of both the General Federation of Industry and the General Federation
of Agriculture, which together worked out a precise strategy for the dismantling
of the labour unions and the nascent councils. Alone, however, the industrialists
and landowners could not undertake the struggle against the labour movement. The
workers themselves had to be cowed into submission, had to have their spirit of revolt
broken on the very streets they walked and the fields they sowed. For this, capital
turned to the armed thuggery of fascism, and its biggest thug of all: Benito Mussolini.
Resisting the Nazis Page 23
Formation of the Fascist squads
Immediately following the end of the war, there was a veritable flowering of antilabour
leagues: Mussolini’s Combat Fasci, the Anti-Bolshevik League, Fasci for Social
Education, Umus, Italy Redeemed etc…At the same time, members of the Arditi, the
war volunteer corps, on being demobilised organised themselves into an elite force of
20,000 shock troops and were immediately put to use by the anti-labour movement.
This movement was mostly comprised of the middle or lower middle class. Ex-officers
and NCOs, white collar workers, students and the self-employed all allied themselves
to the fascist cause in the towns, while in the countryside the sons of tenant farmers,
small land owners and estate managers were willing recruits in the war against the
perceived Red Menace. The police and the army both actively encouraged the fascists,
urging ex-officers to join and train the squads, lending them vehicles and weapons,
even allowing criminals to enroll in them with the promise of benefits and immunity.
Arms permits, refused to workers and peasants, were freely handed over to the
fascist squadrons, while munitions from the state arsenals gave the Blackshirts an immense
military advantage over their enemies. By November 1921 the various hit
squads were welded together into a military organisation known as the Principi with a
hierarchy of sections, cohorts, legions and a special uniform.
The Arditi del Popolo
To compensate for the shortcomings of the Socialist Party (PSI -Partito Socialista Italiana)
and the main trade union, the CGL (see below), militants of various tendencies,
anarcho-syndicalists, left socialists, communists and republicans formed, in June
1921, a people’s militia, the Arditi del Popolo (AdP), to take the fight to the fascists.
While politically diverse, the AdP was a predominantly working class organisation.
Workers were enlisted from factories, farms, railways, shipyards, building sites, ports
and public transport. Some sections of the middle class also got involved in the form
of students, office workers, and other professional types. Structurally, the AdP was run
along military lines with battalions, companies and squads. Squads were comprised
of 10 members and a group leader. 4 squads made up a company with a company
commander, and 3 companies made up a battalion with its own battalion commander.
Cycle squads were used to maintain links between the general command
and the workforce at large. In spite of its structure, the AdP remained elastic enough
to form a rapid reaction force in response to fascist threats. AdP behaviour was dictated
by whatever political group held sway in a particular locale although most sections
were allowed virtual autonomy over their actions.
These sections were quickly set up in all parts of the country, either as new creations
or as part of already existing groups like the Communist Party of Italy (PCdI -Partito
Comunista d'Italia), the paramilitary Arditi Rossi in Trieste, the Children of No-One
Resisting the Nazis Page 24
(Figli di Nessuno) in Genova and Vercelli.or the Proletarian League (Lega Proletaria -
linked to the PSI). Overall, at least 144 sections had been set up by the end of summer
1921 with a total of about 20,000 members. The largest sections were the 12
Lazio sections with about 3,300 members, followed by Tuscany, 18 sections, with a
total of 3,000 members. Other regions were as follows:
Umbria 16 s 2,000 members
Marche 12 s 1,000
Lombardy 17 s 2,100
Tre Venezie 15 s 2,200
Emilia Romagna 18 s 1,400
Liguria 4 b 1,100
Piedmont 8 b 1,300
Sicily 7 s 600
Campania 7 500
Apulia 6 500
Sardinia 2 150
Abruzzo 1 200
Calabria 1 200
The AdP very quickly built up its own cultural identity with individual sections proudly
flaunting their own logos and images of war. While the AdP as a whole was easily
recognisable by a skull surrounded by a laurel wreath with a dagger in its teeth, and
the motto ‘A Noi’ (To Us), the Directorates logo was a dagger surrounded by an oak
and laurel wreath. The ivetavecchia meanwhile didn’t leave much to the imagination
when choosing their banner – an axe smashing the fasces symbol! Although they did
not have, nor want, their own uniform, the average AdP member preferred to dress in
black sweaters, dark-grey trousers, with a red flower in their buttonholes. Their songs
were as direct and confrontational as they themselves were:
"Rintuzziamo la violenza/ del fascismo mercenario./ Tutti
in armi!sul calvario/ dell'umana redenzion./ Questa eterna
giovinezza/ si rinnova nella fede/ per un popolo che chiede/ uguaglianza e
"We curb the violence/of the mercenary fascists/ Everyone
armed on the cavalry/of human redemption/ This eternal youth/is
renewed in the faith/ for the people who demand equality and freedom."
Resisting the Nazis Page 25
The Fascist Offensive
The Italian anarchist, Errico Malatesta, commenting on the massive factory occupations
in northern Italy in September 1920 which involved 600,000 workers, predicted
“if we do not carry on to the end, we will pay with tears of blood for the fears we now
instill in the bourgeoisie”. His words were to be prophetic as both the PSI and CGL,
instead of expanding the struggle from the factories into the community, collaborated
with the state to return the workers to their jobs. It was from this moment onwards
that the state moved onto the offensive, and Mussolini’s ‘revolutionary action’ squads
were supplied with enough arms to take to the streets.
Until the formation of the AdP, the fascists had things mostly their own way. Starting
off with an attack on the town hall in Bologna, the fascist squads swept through the
countryside like a scythe, undertaking ‘punitive expeditions’ against ‘red’ villages.
Following their success there, they began attacking the cities. Labour unions, the offices
of co-operatives and leftist papers were destroyed in Trieste, Modena, and Florence
within the first few months of 1921. As Rossi writes, they had “an immense
advantage over the labour movement in its facilities for transportation and concentration…
The fascists are generally without ties…they can live anywhere…The workers,
on the contrary, are bound to their homes…This system gives the enemy every advantage:
that of the offensive over the defensive, and that of mobile warfare over a war
of position (2).”
However by March 1921 there were growing signs of working class defence structures
being put in place. In Livorno, when a working class district (Borgo dei Cappucini)
came under attack by the fascists, the whole neighbourhood mobilised against
them, routing them from the town. In April, when the fascists launched an assault on
one of the union centres (Camero del Lavoro), the workers held strike action on the
14th and surrounded the fascist squad, only for the army to rush to the fascists’ defence.
By July, the working class had created their own armed militia –the Arditi del
Arditi del Popolo In Action
The AdP first saw action in Piombino on July 19th, when they attacked a fascist meeting
place and rounded up the fascists inside. When the Royal Guard tried to intervene,
they too were forced to surrender. The AdP held the streets for a few days before
the sheer size of police numbers forced them to withdraw. In Sarzana, they went
to the aid of the local population that had managed to capture one the fascists’ most
important leaders, Renato Ticci. When a squad of 500 fascists attempted to rescue
Ticci, the AdP was there to force the fascists into the countryside. 20 fascists
(probably more) were killed and their squadron leader commented: “The squad, so
long accustomed to defeating an enemy who nearly always ran away, or offered feeble
resistance, could not and did not know how to defend themselves”.
Resisting the Nazis Page 26
However, just as the AdP was building
up the momentum on the streets, they
were betrayed by the PSI who were more
interested in signing a pact of nonaggression
with the fascists; this at a
time when the fascists were at their most
vulnerable. Socialist militants were
forced by their leadership to withdraw
from the AdP, while the CGL union ordered
its members to leave the organisation.
One union leader, Matteotti,
confirmed the sell out in the union paper
Battaglia Sindicale: “Stay at home: do not respond to provocations. Even silence,
even cowardice, are sometimes heroic.”
The communists went one step further by forming their own pure ‘class conscious’
squadrons thus decimating the movement further. According to Gramsci, ‘the tactic…
corresponded to the need to prevent the party membership being controlled by a
leadership that was not the party leadership.” Quite soon, only 50 sections of 6000
members remained, supported both by the Unione Sindicale Italiana (USI) and the
Unione Anarchica Italiana (UAI). A number of these sections went into action again
in September in Piombino when the fascists, who had burned down the offices of the
PSI (the same organisation that had sold them out a month before), were intercepted
by an anarchist patrol and forced to flee. Piombino was soon to become the nerve
centre of the defence against fascism, defending itself against a further fascist onslaught
in April 1922, before finally succumbing after 1 ½ days of fierce fighting
when the fascists, aided by the Royal Guard, were able to capture the offices of the
In July 1922, the reformist general strike to defend ‘civil liberties and the constitution’
marked the final disaster for the labour movement, as the work stoppages were
not, and could not be, accompanied by aggressive direct action. The fascists simply
ran public services with scabs and made themselves masters of the streets. With the
strike’s collapse, the fascists mustered their forces to deal with the last remaining outposts
of resistance, one of which, Livorno, succumbed to a force of 2000 squadristi.
So what lessons can we today learn from the arditi del popolo? First of all, we need to
learn the benefits of organisation. Like the AdP, we need to form local anti-fascist
groups, operating autonomously in their own areas, but gelled together in a national
Resisting the Nazis Page 27
network. These groups should not refrain from applying militant direct action tactics
against the likes of the BNP; the only language the fascists understand. We need to
avoid the path of reformism, advocated by the recruiting agents of reformist parties
like the SWP and destroy, once and for all, the nationalist myth that scapegoats our
ethnic communities and which allows governments across Europe to hoodwink large
sections of the working class into the belief the root of their socio-economic woes lies
elsewhere. To do this, we need to tie the fascists’ agenda to that of the state which
supports it, and get across the message that fascism will only ever be destroyed once
the state itself is smashed. Only a society run along the principles of anarchocommunism
can ever hope to achieve this.
1 Williams L. Proletarian Order 1975
2 Rossi, A. The Birth of Fascism 1938
Thanks to Nestor McNab, for his help with translation of parts of this article.
Resisting the Nazis Page 28
The underground Italian anarchist press
inside and outside fascist Italy
Resistance and propaganda to fascism did not begin in 1939, 1936 or 1939. Nor
did it consist simply of slogans hastily painted on walls in the dead of night. A powerful
anarchist underground press operated in Italy throughout the period of fascist dictatorship
and occupation pressing the case for liberation through social revolution.
To gauge the extent of the resistance to fascism and Nazi occupation in Italy, here is
a review of the libertarian underground press at the time
Voci officina (Voice of the factories)
Underground paper put out by workers of the Turin factory councils, among them the
anarchists Michele Guasco and Dante Armanetti. 8 or 9 issues in the first year of fascist
Anarchist review open to all tendencies. Produced monthly in Paris in 1924-5, when
together with the Italian section of Rivista Internazionale Poliglotta (International Polygot
Review) it ceased publication to produce La Tempra
International anarchist review. Monthly from Paris from 1925-6 (lack of information
on his publication in following years)
Lotta anarchica (anarchist struggle)
Published in Paris for distribution in Italy. Subtitled: For armed insurrection against
fascism. The editions specifically for Italy were produced in small format, three column
width on thin paper, with 3 to 4 pages that could be included in a letter. Regular
publication up till end of March 1931.
Ai Lavatori d’Italia (To the Italian workers)
Milan , October 1943. Small format, 4 pages. The programme of the revolutionary
syndicalists of the Unione Sindacale Italiana. For a @socialist republic of syndicates@.
Edited by Aldibrando Giovanetti.
Fronte Unico dei Lavatori (United Workers Front)
First of all in pamphlet form, then a paper. 12 pages. Published in the Romagna with
the support of the anarchists of Liguria, Tuscany, and Romagna after a meeting in
Resisting the Nazis Page 29
L’Adunata dei Libertari: voci dei comunisti libertari (voice of the libertarian
Milan. Underground publication of first 3 numbers., first one appearing 18th June
1944. Small format with 3 columns, 2 pages. Editor was Pietro Bruzzi, arrested, tortured
and shot by the Nazis at Legnano.
Il Comunista libertario.
Milan. Paper of the Federazione Comunista Libertaria Italiana. First appeared December
1944. Small format with 3 columns, 4 pages. In March 1945 its second issue
appeared, and continued regularly until the end of April 1945, with the final fall of
Milan. 5 issues appeared from August to September 1944 in the same format as
above papers, and indeed most of the underground press.
Paper of the Liga dei Consigli Rivoluzionari (League of Revolutionary Councils) From
December 1944 included the programme of the Liga. Composed of communists,
anarchists and sympathizers. Second issue appeared in February 1945.
“Voice of the libertarian communists”. Turin. First issue appeared in October 1944, 2
columns, small format, 4 pages. 2nd issue in November ’44 and third in March ’45.
L’Adunata dei Refrattari.
New York. At the end of ’44 the New York Italian anarchist paper published several
supplements aimed at Italy. Thin paper, small format, 2 columns, 8 pages. It was
distributed above all by soldiers in the American Armed Forces, despite the American
authorities heavily punishing anyone involved in its dissemination. Issue 1 in December
’44 and Issue 3 in March ’45.
Anarchist paper. Genoa. Published just a little before insurrection against the fascist
authorities and in preparation for it, 22 April ’45. Small format, 3 columns, 4 pages.
Continued numbering from when it was a daily paper published in Milan and Rome
and edited by Malatesta in 1920-1922.
Anarchist paper. Florence. Appeared 24th September ’44, without the authorization of
the Allied authorities. The printer Lato Latini was arrested and condemned to 1 year in
Resisting the Nazis Page 30
prison. In February ’45, after a suspension of several months, restarted on a monthly
basis with Umanita Nova; Fiorentina (Florentine)as subtitle and with announcement
that the Federzione Anarchica Italiana was being formed. Prematurely as it happens,
as the FAI was now constituted until the Carrara conference in September 1945
Auf Ruf: Offizere, Unteroffizere und Mannschaften der Deutschen Wehrmacht. Appeal
in German put out by Milanese anarchists to the German armed forces in March
Pamphlets of Risveglio-Reveil.
Published somewh ere in Switzerland. After the suppression of this Swiss paper, small
pamphlets of 16 pages on a monthly basis (half in Italian, half in French) appeared
from September 1940. Changed title several times, but continued with a surprising
regularity up until the end of December 1946 with no.147
La Rivoluzione Libertaria.
Organ of the libertarian groups of southern Italy. Bari. It was the first official anarchist
paper since the fascist takeover. Initially it appeared on 30th June ’44 without Allied
authorization, and was distributed secretly until 16th November ’44 when it was legalized.
Milan. 2,000 copies printed. Edited by Mario Perelli with a vague , gradualist line.
Came out from Autumn ’43, with a short life.
Anarchist paper secretly printed and distributed in Genoa.
Il Seme Libertario
Single issue paper of the Federazione Comunista Libertaria of Livorno. Appearing
semi-clandestinely, because of persistent censorship of Allied authorities in summer
1945, with false indication of its address (Rome)
Libertarian communist (Ravenna). Paper of the Romagna anarchists,; its first 2 issues
Political weekly of the partisans of liberty. Rome. Anti-authoritarian political line , edited
by Carlo Andreoni, libertarian Marxist militant of the Unione “Spartaco”. Underground
publication from ’43, continued up until ’45, probably tolerated by the Allied
authorities because not directly anarchist, but suspended for 4 issues in march ’45,
for “having published forbidden notices of the Allied military censorship”.
Resisting the Nazis Page 31
Libera voce clandestine. Rome. Paper of “a group of partisans of the North” taking
the place of Il Partigiano during its forced suspension. On its list of @friends and
neighbours@ was Umanita Nova.