Leggio, Franco, 1921-2006

Ragusa, summer 1972. Franco Leggio with Brenda Christie, an English anarchist
Ragusa, summer 1972. Franco Leggio with Brenda Christie, an English anarchist

A short biography of Italian miner, Franco resister, publisher and anarchist Franco Leggio.

Submitted by Steven. on March 28, 2007

Franco Leggio was born in Ragusa, Sicily,on 2nd March, 1921.

He first came across anarchism mentioned in a disparaging way for its role in Spain in 1937 during the Civil War, but this only ignited his interest. Working as a sulphur miner he had developed a rebellious outlook.

With contemporaries he began informal antifascist meetings, and nonconformist readings. Working in the mines had put him in contact with hard case rebels.

He had slowly become an anarchist at the end of the 30s, missing the high point of the Italian anarchist movement. He joined the Navy to escape surveillance at home.

He contracted TB in 1944. He slipped out of the Ragusa sanatorium on the 1st January 1945 to lead the revolt against the return of draftees to the Navy - the “non si parte” (we won’t go) movement sparked off by the newssheet issued by young anarchists which led to an armed uprising and the resulting repression lead to hundreds of arrests.

This cost him a year and a half in prison. In 1949 he was deeply involved in the battle against 200 lay-offs in the mines. This led to two months of unrest, with the occupation of the mines and their running by the miners, and thousands of miners and their families confronting the police.

The union bureaucrats sold out the struggle, and Franco was victimised and forced to leave Ragusa between 1949 and 1969. He worked in Naples, Bari, Genoa and Milan, and then in France.

In this period he was involved in giving support to the underground work of the Spanish anarchists under the Franco dictatorship. He worked alongside Cipriano Mera, the “bricklayer general” who had led one of the most formidable anarchist columns during the Civil War. He was one of the Italians in the band of one of the ablest of anarchist guerrillas, Jose Luis Facerias, and managed to escape the trap set by Spanish police in which Facerias was gunned down in 1957.

He founded the publishing house La Fiaccola in 1960. His editing cost him dear, with raids and arrests. He was heavily involved in work around the trial of the anarchist Giovanni Marini, who had defended himself when set upon by a gang of fascists, which led to Franco serving 6 months in Ragusa jail in 1982.

Similarly he was at the forefront of the epic struggle against the installation of cruise missiles at Comiso from 1981 to the end of the 80s.

The magistrates tried to silence Franco for his fierce opposition around the Marini case and Comiso by calling for a psychiatric examination in 1986. He publicly announced that they would have to come to his house to do this. There was widespread outrage throughout Italy because of this, with many demonstrations. The judges were forced to back down.

The Scottish anarchist Stuart Christie in his “Edward Heath made me angry” recalls visiting Leggio in Ragusa and that his publishing efforts so inspired him that he “thought he could do the same” and set up his own Cienfuegos Press.

Franco was a man of solid courage. He seemed invincible when confronting police and fascists on the piazza, judges in court and party and union bureaucrats in the course of struggle. He died on 15th December 2006, in the same hospital from which he had sneaked out in 1945, after a long illness of 12 years and successive strokes.

His funeral the following day was the scene of a large demonstration with many coming not only from Ragusa but from all of Sicily with many red and black flags and the beautiful old anarchist song Addio Bella Lugano sung over the coffin of Franco, where he lay with the latest issue of Sicilia Libertaria, the local anarchist paper, tucked under his arm.

Nick Heath

A version of this obituary appeared in the Guardian newspaper