Fedi, Silvano, 1920-1944

Silvano Fedi

A short biography of Italian anarchist, anti-fascist partisan and local hero Silvano Fedi. Fighting in the Resistance, he was killed in a Nazi ambush in 1944.

Silvano Fedi
Born 25 April 1920 - Pistoia, Italy, died 29 July 1944 - Italy

Anarchist Louise Michel had a metro station in Paris named after her, Peter Kropotkin had a Moscow tube station and street named after him, and Sacco and Vanzetti had many streets named after them in Italy and the Soviet Union. But how many anarchists can have had the perhaps dubious honour of having a school, sports stadium, swimming pool and a main street named after them? Such was the case with Silvano Fedi in his home town of Pistoia.

Born on 25th April 1920, he became politically active at the high school he attended. Here in 1939 along with other students he organised a group to struggle against the fascist regime. He was arrested on the 12th October of that year along with Fabio Fondi, Giovanni La Loggia and Carlo Giovanelli by the secret police OVRA. They were sentenced to a year in prison for communist activity by a Special Tribunal.

Silvano Fedi returned to Pistoia after prison and took up anti-fascist activity again. By now he was calling himself an anarchist or, as he preferred, a libertarian communist, thanks to conversations with other Pistoian anarchists. The older generation of anarchists (Egisto Gori, Archimede Peruzzi, Tito Escini, etc.) made contact with the student group (Fedi, La Loggia, Giovanelli, Filiberto Fedi, Raffaello Baldi, the Bargellini brothers, etc.) and with several workers and technicians of the San Giorgio factory (Tiziano Palandri, Oscar Nesti, Giulio Ambrogi, etc.) and with the group of Bottegone (Sergio Bardelli, Francesco Toni, etc.). The enthusiasm of the high school students galvanised the Pistoian anarchist movement and the Federazione Comunista Libertaria was set up in that city, growing and confronting and competing with the underground Communist Party.

Fedi was again arrested by the police in January 1942. With the fall of fascism and the armistice of Italy with the Allies, he was among the first to go to the main piazza (square) and address the crowds. On the 26th July 1943 he was addressing a factory gate meeting at the San Giorgio factory and called on the workers to strike. He was arrested by the police of Marshal Badoglio. On hearing of his arrest, a large crowd gathered outside the Palace of Justice and demanded his release. The authorities were forced to free him a few hours later.

Fedi now set up the most important partisan unit in Pistoia and its immediate vicinity. It was formed of peasants, workers, students and ex-soldiers, for the most part anarchists or influenced by libertarian ideas. The unit initially consisted of 50 partisans and was called the Squadre Franche Libertarie. It did not hide in the mountains, but moved incessantly between the city and the countryside, carrying out several spectacular actions which relied primarily on surprise. From 17th to 20th October 1943 with just five other partisans (Danilo Betti, Brunello Biagini, Marcello Capecchi, Santino Pratesi and Giulio Vannucchi) he attacked the fascist arms dump at the Santa Barbera Fortress three times, making off with large quantities of arms, ammo and supplies, part of which was to be hidden in the mountains.

Another time he attacked the Ville Sbertoli prison, freeing 54 prisoners, among whom were two Jews, the rest being nearly all political prisoners.

In July and August 1943 anarchists working with Fedi, organised at Piuvica on the Pistoian plain among the local population. Peasants there were persuaded to mill the grain left to rot. Two men worked on an oven and the bread baked was distributed free to the local population.

Fedi made it clear that he was not prepared to disarm when the Anglo-American forces arrived and that the armed resistance must lead on to social revolution.

However his plans were cut short when he was caught in a German ambush on 29th July 1944 and shot. The circumstances of his death are still not clear to this day, and the facts point to a betrayal.

Fedi remains to this day very popular and dear to the population of Pistoia.

Nick Heath