Pietro Gori

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Pietro Gori
Pietro Gori.jpg
Born(1865-08-01)August 1, 1865
DiedJanuary 8, 1911(1911-01-08) (aged 45)
OrganizationFederación Obrera Regional Argentina
MovementAnarchist Movement

Pietro Gori (14 August 1865 – 8 January 1911) was an Italian lawyer, journalist, intellectual and anarchist poet. He is known for his political activities,[1] and as author of some of the most famous anarchist songs of the late 19th century, including Addio a Lugano ("Farewell to Lugano"), Stornelli d'esilio ("Exile Songs"), Ballata per Sante Caserio ("Ballad for Sante Geronimo Caserio"), Inno del Primo Maggio ("May, 1 Anthem").

Early years[edit]

Born in Messina of Tuscan parents in 1865, he moved with his family to Livorno. At a young age he joined a Monarchist Association but was expelled for dishonourable conduct. Gori then began writing for a moderate journal La Riforma. In 1886, he enrolled in the University of Pisa. He soon joined the Anarchist movement there and quickly becoming one of its most influential figures. In 1887, Gori was arrested for having written about the Chicago protesters killed in the Haymarket Square Riot, and having protested the presence of United States ships in the port of Livorno.

The next year, as secretary of the students' union, he organized a memorial for philosopher Giordano Bruno. Gori received a law degree in 1889 with a thesis called La miseria e il delitto ("Poverty and Crime"). In November, under the pseudonym Rigo (an anagram of his last name), he published the texts of his first conferences in a booklet called Pensieri ribelli ("Rebel Thoughts"), resulting in his arrest for "inciting class hatred". A legal team composed of his professors and fellow students defended him; he was cleared of the charges and released.

On May 13, 1890, he was arrested again, this time for helping to organize May Day demonstrations in Livorno. He was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison (later reduced in appeal), remaining in jail until November 10, first in Livorno, then in Lucca.

In Milan[edit]

After prison, Gori moved to Milan and worked as a lawyer with Filippo Turati. In January 1891, he was a supporter of Errico Malatesta in the Congress of Capolago during which the Socialist Revolutionary Anarchist Party (Partito Socialista Anarchico Rivoluzionario) was founded. That year he also attended the Italian Workers' Party Congress in Milan. He translated Karl Marx' and Friedrich Engels' Communist Manifesto into Italian for the Popular Socialist Library. Towards the end of that year, he began publishing L'amico del popolo, a "Socialist-Anarchist" periodical. He published 27 issues, all of which were seized by the authorities, which netted him more arrests and trials.

On April 4, 1892, he attended the Legal Socialism and Anarchist Socialism conference, at the "Labor Embassy" in Milan. There he presented Socialist views strongly critical of the reformist Socialism, which he considered authoritarian and parliamentarian. The August 14 of that year he attended the National Congress of Worker's and Socialist Organizations in Genoa where, unsurprisingly, he was among the strongest opponents to the majority of reformers who decided to create the Italian Workers' Party.

By then Gori was well known to the police: a secret memorandum from the Luigi Pelloux's Ministry of the Interior of November 22, 1891, sent to all the Italian regions, requested that he be kept under special surveillance. As a precaution, authorities regularly arrested him just before demonstrations each May Day. During one of these detentions, in 1892, in San Vittore prison, he wrote the lyrics for one of his best known songs: Inno del primo maggio ("Hymn to the 1st of May"). Gori published his first poetry books in the following months: Alla conquista dell’Avvenire ("Conquering the Future") and Prigioni e Battaglie ("Jails and Battles"). Despite a print run of 9,000 copies, they quickly sold out. In the meantime he continued legal work, defending his political comrades.

In August 1893 he attended the Socialist Congress in Zürich, from which he was expelled. He then founded Lotta Sociale magazine, but because it was constantly seized by the authorities it was short-lived.

First exile[edit]

The Italian government of Francesco Crispi passed three anti-anarchist laws limiting civil rights in July 1894. Afterwards, the middle-class press accused Gori of inspiring the murder of French president Sadi Carnot. To avoid a five-year jail term, he escaped to Lugano, in Switzerland. In January 1895, he was arrested there, along with 17 other political exiles, all of whom were expelled after two weeks in jail. These events inspired him to compose the lyrics of the best known Italian anarchist song: Addio a Lugano.

After traveling through Germany and Belgium, he arrived in London, where he met the foremost representatives of the international anarchist movement. After a short while, he traveled to New York City, and from there went on a speaking tour (more than 400 engagements in one year) in Canada and in the United States. During this time he wrote for La Questione Sociale magazine.

In the summer of 1896, he returned to London to attend the Fourth Congress of the Second International, as a representative of the United States trade unions, and presented it with his anarchist ideas. In London, he became severely ill, and recovered at the National Hospital.

Due to the intervention of some members of Italian Parliament, the government there allowed him to end his exile, though initially he was restricted to the island of Elba. Back in Italy, he reestablished contact with anarchists, again worked as a lawyer defending comrades, and resumed contributing to anarchist publications, among which L'Agitazione in Ancona.

Second exile and return[edit]

A sudden increase in the price of bread in 1898 led to riots throughout Italy. The government responded with a crackdown; in Milan, General Fiorenzo Bava Beccaris ordered his troops to fire into the crowds, and somewhere between 80 and 300 people were killed (depending on the account). The concomitant repression of leftist political organizations and unions was even more fierce, and Gori was forced to flee again, after which he was condemned in absentia to 12 years in prison.

From Marseille, he sailed to Argentina. There, he became known not only for his political activities, but also for his scientific work. He was a union organizer, taught courses in criminology at the University of Buenos Aires in Buenos Aires and started the magazine Modern Criminology.

Thanks to an amnesty, and for family and health reasons, he was able to return to Italy in 1902. The next year, he founded the magazine Il pensiero with Luigi Fabbri. Other than a trip to Egypt and Palestine in 1904, he spent his remaining years in Italy, pursuing his usual activities: political activism, writing, and providing legal support for his jailed comrades. He died 8 January 1911 in Portoferraio, leaving behind a large body of literary work, ranging from the political essays to theater, from criminology to poetry, from harangues to conferences.


  1. ^ Nick Heath. "1862-1999: Revolutionary song in Italy". libcom.org. Retrieved 28 October 2010.
  • Maurizio Binaghi: Addio, Lugano bella. Gli esuli politici nella Svizzera italiana di fine Ottocento. Dadò editore. Locarno, 2002.
  • Maurizio Antonioli: Pietro Gori il cavaliere errante dell'anarchia. Studi e testi, Seconda edizione riveduta e ampliata. Biblioteca di storia dell'anarchismo 5. Biblioteca Franco Serantini. Pisa 1996. ISBN 88-86389-23-X

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