Recchioni, Emidio (1864-1934) aka Nemo, Rastignac, Savarin

Recchioni with Vera and Vero

A short biography of the Italian anarchist Emidio Recchioni, father of Vernon Richards

Emidio Recchioni was born in Russi, fourteen kilometres southwest of Ravenna in Italy on 4th October 1864. Starting work as a railway worker, his views changed from Republicanism to an outright anarchism under the influence of Cesare Agostinelli, the Ancona anarchist who was ten years his senior. He was active in anarchist activity in Ancona alongside Agostinelli, Romeo Tombolesi, Ariovisto Pezzotti and Polimanti. The group soon established contact with important anarchists like Malatesta, Pietro Gori and Amilcare Cipriani. He was active in organising railway workers and contributed articles to the Livorno anarchist paper Siempre Avanti ( Forever Forwards) under the pen names of Rastignac and Savarin between 1890 and 1894.

In 1894 he founded and was one of the editors of the weekly Articolo 248 in Ancona alongside Pezzotti. This published Malatesta’s programme Let’s Go To The People. Constantly harassed and seized by the authorities, the paper only lasted 9 issues from 7th January to 11th March 1894.

The police regarded him as the”most active and influential propagandist” and believed that he was involved in three bomb explosions in Ancona in January 1894. Following the repression of the Fasci Siciliana and the Carrara anarchists, involving brutal force and summary executions, the anarchist carpenter Paolo Lega fired on the hated Prime Minister Crispi. Recchioni was arrested as being an accomplice but was acquitted on 30th November 1895. However, two days later he was put under house arrest and then transferred to the prison colony on the Tremiti islands. He organised a protest against the restrictions imposed on the anarchist prisoners by the prison governor and then suffered two months solitary confinement. He was then transferred to another prison in Ancona and then to Ustica. Released on bail at the end of November 1896, he was not allowed to return to his job as a railway worker.

In November 1897 he founded the Anarchist-Socialist newspaper L’Agitazione in Ancona, which ran from March of that year to May of the following year. In September 1897 he was arrested again and sentenced to finish the term he had started in 1895. He was six months in the prison at Favignana, two months at Lampedusa, and was then transferred to Pantellaria where he met the anarchist Luigi Galleani.

Released in May 1899 he left Italy forever, moving to London. Here he contributed in 1901 to the single issue of Cause en Effetti (Cause and Effects) set up by Malatesta. After having worked as a shop assistant, coal merchant and wine seller, in 1909 he opened an Italian grocery in Old Compton Street in Soho called King Bomba.This rapidly became a rendezvous for exiled Italian activists. At the same time he became a co-owner of a business importing marble and granite from Carrara. Profits went to financing anarchist activities and propaganda and to help exiled comrades in dire straits. The shop had been established in 1892 and was already famous for being the first manufacturer of pasta in Britain. The shop became “legendary” for not only supplying Italian exiles with their much desired products from home, but introduced many British people to canned Italian tomatoes, salami, Bel Paese and Parmesan, Panforte and Torroni, and olive oil, as well as French and Italian olives, and French and Italian wine. It was thus a pioneer in the changes in taste that have effected British cooking and eating in the 20th century.

Recchioni married Constanza Benericetti in November 1911 and they had two children, Vera (born 1912) and Vero (born 1915) later famous as Vernon Richards, the editor of War Commentary and Freedom. The family lived above the shop.

In 1913 he helped finance the anarchist paper Volonta in Ancona. He was one of the signatories of the international anarchist anti-war statement The Manifesto of 35 in 1915. With other anarchists like Pietro Gualducci, Calzitta and Enrico Defendi , he carried out a vigorous anti-militarist agitation, which nearly saw him expelled from Britain. He also contributed to the pages of Freedom in this period.

In 1920 under the name of Nemo he wrote for the Italian anarchist paper Umanita Nova , as well as providing it with funds. He also contributed to La Protesta in Buenos Aires and L’Adunata dei Refrattari in New York. At the end of the War, Recchioni moved from anti-militarist work to activity against the Fascist regime in Italy. Together with Silvio Corio, Gualducci, Decio Anzani, Francesco Galasso, and Vittorio Tabarelli, he produced the paper Il Comento which concentrated on anti-fascist agitation. This ran for six issues until 1924. He was also with Anzani and Alessandro Magri, he was most likely behind the founding of the London section of the Italian League for Human Rights. With the end of Il Comento, Recchioni and the others set up a secret grouping to inspire resistance against the Mussolini regime. Recchioni had always argued against socialists, communists and certain anarchists by asserting that fascist violence should be countered with a ferocious armed resistance. The Masonic lodge I Druidi was set up as a cover for this activity.

At the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s he was heavily involved in several attempts on Mussolini’s life. In this period he acquired a British passport, partly to save himself from expulsion, but also to help him with travel abroad in connection with his activities. He obtained such a passport in 1930. However, his application had alerted the British secret state to his activities. Recchioni in this period had assumed great respectability, and this fooled many in Special Branch that he was now a reformed character. Only Superintendent O’Brien was convinced that he was still an anarchist and still involved in agitation against the Mussolini regime. These reports released fairly recently point towards the collusion of Special Branch with the Mussolini regime.

O’Brien’s suspicions about Recchioni were overruled by Pedder, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Home Office. However later in 1929, Carter of the special branch linked Recchioni to the failed attempt on Mussolini by the anarchist Sbardaletto. Revelations were published a few days later in the Daily Telegraph. As a result two Italian fascist thugs visited Recchioni’s shop to threaten him with death. He promptly drew a revolver and saw them off (he went out armed as a matter of course to protect himself from fascist attacks). The London Italian community, heavily under the influence of fascism, denounced Recchioni in its publications.

This brought Recchioni to the edge of bankruptcy. He then took a writ of libel against the Telegraph and won damages of £1, 177 which saved him from insolvency and allowed him to continue to finance anarchist activities. Other activities that he was involved in was the attack organised by Camillo Berneri in Geneva in 1929, in financing the entry into Italy of the anarchist Schirru with the aim of killing Mussolini in 1931, with Berneri again in an attempt by plane on Mussolini’s life at his villa in Rome.
Two years later, following a disease of the vocal cords, he went to Paris to undergo an operation. He died during the course of this operation on March 31st 1934 at Neuilly-sur-Seine.

He is buried in the Kensal Green cemetery . His tomb bears the following inscription: “Only a handful of earth and ashes, but impregnated with the spirit of a man who lived, suffered, and deserved well of mankind. He knew no fatherland but the world, no family but the human race, no religion but love. No tomb can prison his soul. From such rare spirits must spring the roots of a society worthy of memory in which life will be worth living.”
Nick Heath
Walkowitz, J. Nights Out: Life in Cosmopolitan London

Entry in Dictionnaire des Militants anarchistes

The Story of King Bomba at

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May 8 2013 14:52


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