Cavani, Renzo (1901-1966) aka Bruno

Renzo Cavani
Renzo Cavani

a short biography of anarchist bricklayer Renzo Cavani who twice tried to kill Mussolini

Submitted by Battlescarred on June 26, 2015

Renzo Cavani was born in Modena, Italy on the 20th (or 30th?) June 1901, the son of Sperandio Cavani and Marianna Iotti. He joined the anarchist movement almost immediately after the end of World War One in 1919. He became known as a man of action, one ready to meet Fascists head-on. As such he was involved in the activities of the Anarchist Action Committee.

The Fascists Mario and Arrigo Ruini and Giulio Stradi began terrorising working class neighbourhoods. They had taken part in D’ Annunzio’s adventure at Fiume and had started publishing lists of Modena “subversives”. At the head of a Fascist squad they brutally beat an anarchist bricklayer on January 21st, 1921. A few hours later they were confronted by three young anarchists, Cavani, Luigi Evangelisti and Aldo Gilioli, the brother of Rivoluzio. An exchange of fire broke out, two of the Fascists fled, whilst Mario Ruini lay dying on the ground. The anarchists had witnessed the earlier beating and were determined to respond. Ruini was the first Fascist killed in Modena.

Three days later the funeral of Ruini took place in Modena with a large Fascist cortege. Cavani was one of those determined that they should not be allowed to march through Modena and was one of the organisers of an armed response. As the Fascist cortege was passing the Post Office, a Red Squad of anarchists and socialists emerged from a doorway and began firing. In addition others began firing revolvers and rifles from windows and rooftops. The Fascists returned fire. At the end two Fascists were killed and fourteen wounded.
On March 17th Renzo and other anarchists injured a Fascist student, Antonio Gozzi, after the Fascist attacks on the Camera di Lavoro (Chamber of Labour).

On November 11th of the same year Renzo and another anarchist Guido Bucciarelli, were returning home when they were attacked by a group of Fascists. In the ensuing fighting the Fascist Gino Tabaroni was killed and another seriously wounded. The same night Renzo and Guido left the country, and after various adventures met up with Evangelisti in Odessa in the USSR. In their absence Renzo and Guido were sentenced by the Modena court to 30 years imprisonment. Renzo Cavani was now classed as a “dangerous anarchist” and was on the list of the Italian frontier police.

Cavani then moved to Belgium, then Luxembourg, and then later to France where in1928 he came into contact with the Gilioli family of Italian anarchists. He became engaged to Siberia Gilioli and lived in the Gilioli house in Fontenay-sous –Bois. In order to avoid the attention of the Italian secret police and of the French government he went under various aliases (Aldo Rossi, Mario Branchi, Bruno Figuera, and Evelino Eglesias).

He twice made attempts on Mussolini’s life. In 1931, he travelled to Rome via Switzerland. There he was to meet up with two anarchists who were to provide him with bombs and the details of Mussolini’s regular car journeys. However one of the anarchists was arrested. Renzo remained in hiding for eight days hoping to accomplish his task but then had to abort the operation. He again attempted to kill Mussolini. He travelled to Lugano in Switzerland with fellow anarchist De Rosa, where he heard that the Italian Fascist leaders were meeting. Balbo, Teruzzi and other Fascist leaders turned up but there was no sign of Il Duce and the operation was again aborted.

In 1932, he was forced to go underground, moving to Barcelona with Siberia and Rivoluzio Gilioli, hoping to find refuge and a job there. He continued with anarchist propaganda, handing out leaflets to Italian sailors on shore leave as well as putting up posters near Italian ships.

The following year he returned to Paris, working on various building sites as a bricklayer. He continued with his propaganda activities.

In August 1936 with other Modena anarchists, including Equo Gilioli and Luigi Evangelisti, he was among the first to travel to Spain to fight against Franco. He enlisted in the Italian Column, fighting on the Aragon front. He was wounded in the battle of Monte Pelato of 28th August 1936. After his recovery he was sent to the border post of Port-Bou as political commissar of the Iberian Anarchist Federation. During the May Days in 1937, he took part in the fighting in Barcelona alongside fellow Italian anarchists Ernesto Bonomini, Enzo Fantozzi and Virgilio Gozzani.

He returned to France where he lived underground. In 1939 together with Evangelisti he managed to get on a boat at La Rochelle, travelling to Cuba where he spent some time before moving to New York at the end of the year. There he lived under the alias of Sebastiano Poli.

He returned to Italy in the early sixties and became active in the anarchist group "R. Gilioli ". He also helped set up the Collective For The Libertarian Studies of Camillo and Giovanna Berneri, and was involved the publication of the Modena anarchist magazine," L'Avvenire libertarian (1963-1964). He died on 21st January 1966, according to one source taking poison after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Nick Heath