Meschi, Alberto 1879-1958

Alberto Meschi.

A short biography of Alberto Meschi, great figure of Italian anarchism and still remembered fondly in Carrara.

Alberto Meschi was born at Borgo San Donnino (Parma) on 27 May 1879. An autodidact, as a boy he rallied to the workers movement in La Spezia. He worked as a bricklayer. From 1899 he wrote political articles in the paper Pro Coatti, the union magazine L'Edilizia and the antimilitarist La Pace.

He decided to emigrate to Argentina in 1905. He stayed there for 4 years, mixing with anarchist and anarchosyndicalist militants. He wrote for several anarchist papers, and organized the local trade union. He was expelled from Argentina in 1909 and returned to Italy. Here he contributed to the anarchist paper Il Libertario. He became a leading light in the Camera del Lavoro (nearest equivalent in Britain would be a trades council) from 1919-1922 which led the struggles of the workers of the region.

The arrival of Meschi in Carrara, and his joint work with Ugo Del Papa, meant that the local working class began to recover from the lock-out of 1905 and its grim aftermath up until 1910. In summer 1911 a two week strike among the quarry workers led to an improvement in conditions. A year later there was a general strike of all workers involved in the marble industry for the right to a pension. In spring 1913 workers in Carrara and Versilia gained the 8 hour day. At the end of the same year and the beginning of 1914 there was a hard fight against another lockout that the marble bosses thought would be as successful as that of 1905. A provocation led to the arrest of Del Papa, Meschi and Riccardo Sacconi on 11th January 1914. The strong reaction of the working class to this led to their liberation on the 31st January, and the end of the lockout, with the local proletariat in a much better position than it had been nine years before.

The First World War split the Unione Sindicale Italiana (USI) the revolutionary syndicalist organisation, which Meschi jhad had a hand in founding.The pro-war minority were thrown out of or left the USI in September 1914, with the passing of a motion by Meschi which expressed "their trust in the proletariat of all countries to rediscover in themselves the spirit of class solidarity and the revolutionary energy required to take advantage of the inevitable weakening of State forces and of the general crisis caused by the war in order to act to sweep away the bourgeois and monarchist states which have been cynically preparing for this war for fifty years".

At the start of World War One he was conscripted to serve on the front and ended up as a prisoner in the Carpathians. He returned to Carrara at the end of the war and rejoined the USI, serving on its General Council. With the fascist repression, Alberto was forced to leave for France in 1922. In Paris he was among the founders of the Antifascist Concentration and of the Italian League of Human Rights, and was a member of the Pietro Gori anarchist group. He founded one of the first exile papers La Voce del Profugo and the magazine Il Momento.

In 1936 he fought in Spain with the Rosselli Column, up to the fall of the Republic. He returned to France where he was interned in a concentration camp. At the end of 1943 after a daring escape, he re-entered Italy. With the Liberation he returned to the Camera del Lavoro in Carrara on which he served until 1947. For the last 20 years of his life he was involved in the publication of Il Cavatore (The Quarry Worker), a libertarian workers newssheet. He died at Carrara on 11th December 1958.

NICK HEATH