Corio, Silvio (1875-1954) aka Crastinus, Qualunque

A short biography of Italian anarchist Silvio Corio, active in London

Silvio Celestino Corio was born on October 28th, 1875, the son of Eugenio Corio and Chiara Domenica , in Turin, Italy. He progressed from the Turin Socialist Club to the anarchist movement and by 1897 was associated with anarchists like Alessandro Clama and Enrico Ricchiero. He worked as a printer and typographer and this became highly useful in the course of his subsequent life. When he was conscripted he immediately began carrying out propaganda, and as a result spent most of his time in the Army (July 1897-December 1898) in a disciplinary battalion.

He fled to France following the repression carried out against anarchists and socialists by the Pelloux government. In Paris he fell in with the anarchists around Felice Vezzani who brought out an anarchist newssheet Vita Nuova (New Life) aimed at Italian exiles in Paris. In 1900, following an expulsion order as a result of the article on the Italian situation he had written in the French anarchist paper Le Libertaire, he went into hiding, helped by, among others, Emma Goldman, who was then in Paris.
After being caught and imprisoned for a short time he moved to London in 1901 and stayed with the anarchist Arturo Campagnoli. He lived a precarious existence for ten years with the anarchist Clelia Alignani, also from Turin.

Working either as a waiter or street trader, he still managed to bring out the fortnightly L’Internazionale (January-May 1901) and with Carlo Frigerio brought out Lo Sciopero Generale (The General Strike). He actively worked for the founding of a popular university, conceived by Malatesta as a way of spreading anarchist ideas. He taught design at the Popular University in Euston Road. The failure of the University in 1905 deeply disappointed Corio, Malatesta, Rudolf Rocker and others.

In late 1902, with twenty others, he signed a press statement about the appearance of a new fortnightly paper La Rivoluzione Sociale. As well as editing this paper with Frigerio, he also contributed, under the name of Crastinus, to the magazine Germinal, run by anti-organisational anarchists.

Two years later the Italian anarchists in London had firmly rejected anti-organisationalism and had rallied to Malatesta’s ideas. They predominantly lived in the West End, and established relations with German, French and English anarchists as well as the Jewish movement in the East End. They were a major component at the international anarchist clubs in London.

Corio attended the International Anarchist Congress in Amsterdam in 1907 and there met Guy Aldred, with whom he shared a critical view of the trade unions. In the same year he assisted with The Voice of Labour, set up by some members of the Freedom group and aimed at agitation among workers. He wrote an article criticising Hyndman, the leader of the Social Democratic Federation, who supported the building up of the British Navy, and this was translated and published in Aldred’s The Herald of Revolt. He also took part in the activities of the Studi Sociali group, formed in London in 1911 to strengthen international anarchist propaganda. He wrote many articles on the war in Libya for many papers. In 1913 he participated in the founding of the new anarchist paper Volonta in Ancona, another initiative of Malatesta, becoming its London correspondent. He also participated in the proceedings of the International Syndicalist Congress in London in the same year.

However, the following year, he took the side of Italy when it entered the First World War on the side of the Allies. He was fiercely criticised by Malatesta and Emidio Recchioni, both resident in London. He had the sense to change his view and by 1916 took an anti-war stance. He began working with Freedom as a printer. He also went on to the editorial board of The Workers Dreadnought, the paper of the Workers Socialist Federation. He began a life-long relationship with Sylvia Pankhurst, its leading light.
His contribution to these papers was shadowy as he was threatened by the Aliens’ Act of 1918, and which could have resulted in deportation.

He attended the peace conference in Paris in 1918 and the international socialist conference in Berne the following year, as well as trips to Italy, where he may well have been carrying out work with Malatesta.
Sylvia and Silvio published an illustrated political-cultural magazine Germinal in 1923, which included fiction, drama and poetry, but this only ran for a few issues.

In 1924 Silvio and Sylvia moved to Woodford Green, living in free union there. They ran a “workers’ tea-room” there at The Red Cottage. Three years later their son, Richard, was born. The fact that Sylvia had given birth at the age of forty-five and outside of marriage caused a scandal in the English press.
He carried on his printing activities during this time, printing off many anti-fascist publications, but moving away from anarchist activity to support Sylvia over her support for Ethiopia against the Italian fascist regime.

He died on January 11th 1954.

Nick Heath

Sources:
Entry in Dizionario Biografico:
http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/silvio-celestino-corio_(Dizionario-Biografico)/
Italian Anarchists in London:
http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/2586/1/Italian_Anarchists_in_London_1870-1914.pdf

Comments

Liz at RaHN
Feb 17 2014 12:58

Some documents relating to Corio’s later life came to light last year, in the form of letters in “Ron’s Collection” of Syndicalist Workers’ Federation material on the Sparrows’ Nest archive website http://thesparrowsnest.org.uk (References for images: RON00471-2, RON00668, RON01914 ). Transcriptions (and in one case translation) were posted on the Radical History Network of NE London blog, http://radicalhistorynetwork.blogspot.com/, 26th and 28th May 2013. Described as “an active militant until the end”, Corio maintained is advocacy of working-class education, and opposition to militarism, supporting his son Richard’s refusal to be conscripted.