Santandrea, Giovanni (1859-1926)

Giovanni Santandrea
Giovanni Santandrea

A short biography of Italian anarchist rail worker Giovanni Santandrea

Submitted by Battlescarred on March 16, 2022

Giovanni Santandrea was born in Castel Bolognese near Bologna in the Romagna on 3rd August 1859, the son of the railway worker Luigi and his wife Maria. He became an anarchist at an early age and was one of the most active local militants of the First International. In 1880 he started working on the railways himself. He was an influential anarchist in Castel Bolognese, police sources describing him as "very fanatic for the anarchist-socialist party”. He was close to the local anarchists Raffaele Cavalazzi and Michele Fantini, to the republican and Garibaldian Giovanni Emiliani and to Andrea Costa. Later, when he was forced to leave Italy for a while, he kept in contact with them. One of his brothers, Pietro, was also an anarchist and committed suicide in 1890 rather than serve in the Army. He became a symbol of antimilitarism in the Romagna. A third brother, Domenico, was a socialist.

Giovanni’s first job on the railways was as a porter, he then graduated to being a labourer and signalman. He carried out intensive propaganda on the railways, taking part in strikes, and joined the autonomous Italian Railway Union (SFI), in which many anarchists and syndicalists participated. As a result of his activity he was moved from station to station from 1883; from Villa Savio to Ravenna to Montemarciano and finally to Rimini.
During his time in Ravenna he met with the local anarchists, among whom Ludovico Nabruzzi, Antonio Lanzoni, Emanuele Dradi, Caio Ghirardini, Salvatore Cicognani are mentioned. Due to the frequent transfers almost all of his seven children were born in different locations. Four of his sons became anarchists at an early age, three of them, Giuseppe, Pietro and Libero, being extremely active, whilst a fourth, Teo, whilst sharing anarchist ideas, preferred to remain on the margins of the movement.

Giovanni managed to return to Castel Bolognese in 1900. He continued to attend anarchist meetings, but over the years progressively reduced his activity. From 1914 he was no longer considered dangerous by the authorities. After the First World War and the rise to power of the Fascists, his house was subjected to several searches, but this was due more to the activity of his sons. He died in Castel Bolognese on 29th September 1926.

Nick Heath