Pedrini, Belgrado, 1913-1979

Italian partisans in World War II

A short biography of anarchist Belgrado Pedrini who took part in antifascist resistance and as a result served 30 years in prison in post-Mussolini Italy.

Born at Carrara on 5th May 1913, Belgrado’s mother died when he was nine. His father was a sculptor and had the opportunity to travel to many cities, and he named his son after the Yugoslav city which was still fresh in his memory.

He was not an anarchist, although he was a free-thinker and at Milan he had met famous anarchist Errico Malatesta, who became his friend and whom he esteemed highly for his character.

Belgrado was attracted at the age of 18 to anarchism through reading Bakunin, Kropotkin, Malatesta and Cafiero among others. With other Carrara anarchists he was involved in various actions against the fascist regime which led him to being denounced and sentenced for clandestine propaganda.

He served time in the prison of Pianosa from 1937-38.On his release he once again took up an intense activity in Carrara, taking up the job of a bus clerk.

One evening in 1942, in a bar, Pedrini, with his comrades Giovanni Zava and Gino Giorgi, disarmed and beat up five fascists.

Searched for by the authorities, they went to Milan where in November 1942, they were surprised by a police patrol whilst sticking up posters calling on Italians to rise up against the war. After a long shoot out, the three managed to escape and get to Genoa and then La Spezia.

Now on the wanted list of Mussolini’s secret police, the OVRA, and described in the daily Il Popolo d’Italia as dangerous “criminals and saboteurs of the armed resistance”, Pedrini, Zava and Giorgi were surrounded by the police in a hotel there.

Another shoot out began which lasted several hours and which ended with the arrest of the three anarchists, seriously wounded, and the death of a police officer. Taken to La Spezia jail, Belgrado was transferred in 1943 to the Massa prison, in preparation for a trial and a certain death by firing squad.

In June 1944, partisans of the Elio detachment carried out a spectacular action and managed to free the prisoners of the Massa jail. Belgrado then joined in the guerrilla struggle against the fascists and the Germans.

He took part in much combat and in various acts of sabotage carried out by the partisan detachment.

On the morrow of the Liberation in May 1945, Pedrini was again arrested for the incident at La Spezia, and for other acts from this period which included the expropriation of marble industrialists at Carrara, Milan and La Spezia.

The magistrature turned a blind eye to the political and anti-fascist nature of these acts, preferring to see them as ordinary crimes and sentenced him in May 1949, to life imprisonment, which was then commuted to 30 years imprisonment.

Continually transferred from one prison to another because of his escape attempts and the many prison revolts he had instigated, Pedrini avidly read all the classics of literature and philosophy.

A brilliant autodidact, he wrote many poems in prison, among which Schiavi ("slaves") – written in 1967 at Fossombrone – which, put to music, became celebrated within the anarchist movement under the title of Il Galeone. He was finally let out of jail on the 17th April 1975, thanks to an intensive international campaign with a strong anarchist input.

Pedrini immediately took up anarchist activity again and with other comrades, among whom were Giovanni Mariga, Zava and Gogliardo Fiaschi, set up at Carrara the Circolo Culturale Anarchico and then the Circolo Anarchico Bruno Filippi.

He edited many posters and leaflets, involved himself in the reprinting of the writings of the anarchist Bruno Filippi under the title L’Iconoclasta (1978) and the preparation of a newspaper L’Amico del Popolo, which saw the light a few months before his own death. He died at Carrara on 11th February 1979.

Nick Heath