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Merlino, Francesco Saverio (1856–1930)

Jeffrey Shantz


Francesco Saverio Merlino was a militant anarchist activist in Italy and the United States from 1877 to 1897. During the 1890s he was imprisoned by the Italian government for “conspiracy” and spent most of three years in jail. A prolific writer and editor, he produced numerous articles, pamphlets, and books on anarchism , with a particular focus on economic and organizational questions. As a lawyer he defended anarchists throughout his life, including the Matese Band insurgents (which included Carlo Cafiero and Errico Malatesta ) and Gaetano Bresci, the assassin of King Umberto I. Merlino's courageous defense of Bresci argued that his act was a necessary outcome of the state's own cruel repression and violence. Despite this history, Merlino broke with anarchism over what he saw as its turn toward individualism and anti-organizationalism, which he denounced as “atomism” and “amorphism” ( Nettlau 1996 : 171). During the late 1890s, in an ongoing public debate with Malatesta, Merlino had concluded that he no longer saw himself as an anarchist, preferring to call himself a “libertarian socialist” who, furthermore, had come to approve of parliamentarism. Merlino proposed to nominate Luigi Galleani , then imprisoned on the island of Pantellaria, as a Socialist Party candidate as a means to win his release. Galleani refused the offer. Following this break, Merlino joined the Socialist ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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