Steven Feld, Alison Leitch, and Alfonso Nicolazzi: Primo Maggio Anarchico 2002 Carrara

Steven Feld, Alison Leitch, and Alfonso Nicolazzi: Primo Maggio Anarchico 2002 Carrara

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Available for Euro 14.00 from La Cooperativa Tipolitografica in Carrara, Italy

 La Cooperativa Tipolitografica CD, 2002

A soundscape CD by Steven Feld of the songs, chants, speeches, and parades of anarchist May Day 2002 in Carrara, Italy, with a bilingual booklet of notes and photographs by Alison Leitch, Steven Feld, and Afonso Nicolazzi.


A Soundscape Documentary of Anarchist May Day Celebrations at Carrara

“Quell’inno veniva di lontano, da tutti gli angoli più appartati del mondo; e passava tra le macchine immote, sui cantieri taciturni, sulle città attonite, come un fremito di voci infinite, di voci varie, in svariati idiomi – uno squillar di speranze, di dolori, d’ideali; qualche cosa che sapeva della dolcezza di un’alba, e dell’approssimarsi di una tempesta”

 “That hymn came from far away, from the most remote corners of the globe. Like the throbbing of an infinite number of voices in different languages, it passed through the motionless machines, the silent workshops and the astonished cities. It was a ring of hope, of pain and idealism. It was something that felt like the sweetness of the breaking dawn and the approach of a coming storm.”

Pietro  Gori, La leggenda del Primo Maggio. (The Legend of May Day).

From its origins in the late 19th century, Primo Maggio or May Day, represented a kind of magic date, a sublime event which symbolised the power of ordinary workers and people to revolutionize the social imaginary. For utopian socialists of the era, it constituted the first real moment of solidarity between all workers of the world. Its symbolic power went far beyond the pressing labour demand for the “ the three eights” ; the division of the day into three eight-hour intervals of work, pleasure and rest. May Day became associated with social renewal and revolution.  It was a day of non-work, a general strike, a carnevalesque space  in which workers asserted their desire to upturn the social order.

Over the last century much of this history has been erased from contemporary consciousness. In countries like the United States and Australia, May Day is no longer even recognized as an official holiday, while in other countries such as Italy, May Day continues to be celebrated, but often as just a holiday. However, for anarchists everywhere, May Day continues to represent a crucial moment in the history of labour internationalism.  On the first of May, anarchists from all over Italy arrive in Carrara to remember this history, to feast, to socialize, and perhaps most importantly, to sing. It is a day of heightened conviviality, of protest and laughter, when songs of struggle and freedom, as well as songs dedicated to the human potential for empathy and solidarity reverberate throughout the city. This sound recording attempts to capture aspects of the spirit of Primo Maggio.  It is dedicated to everyone in Carrara who helped make it possible.

TRACK 1: PRELUDE [6'35] 

At about 10am, people begin to gather in front of the Teatro Animosi, an old opera house in the piazza C. Battisti near the centre of Carrara, for the Primo Maggio Anarchico. At the front of the theatre is a truck, positioned with its rear to the crowd. Surrounded by red and black flags, its flatbed is mounted with an improvised speaker’s podium, a sound system, and a pair of loudspeakers. Across the tailgate, connecting the loudspeakers, is a red and black banner whose large letters proclaim NE SERVI NE PADRONI (“Neither servants nor bosses”). Well-known anarchist songs play from the loudspeakers as friends greet and gather for the day. A table with anarchist cassettes, newspapers, and literature is next to the truck, in front of the local bar, “da Mauro”. People who are not satisfied with this limited display of books are headed just around the corner where, in the Circolo Gogliardo Fiaschi, one can choose from more than five hundred titles on anarchism, as well as all kinds of journals and papers.

This workers’ library is named after a much loved local anarchist, Gogliardo Fiaschi (1930-2000), who for over two decades was a significant presence in the organization of every May Day at Carrara.  As a young boy of 13, Gogliardo fought with other Carrarese anarchist partisans against the German occupation. He later joined the anti-Franco resistance in Spain but was almost immediately captured and subsequently spent over 10 years in more than 40 Spanish prisons. In 1966 the Spanish government granted him an amnesty, however, meanwhile, the Italian courts had imposed another 10-year sentence, allegedly for his involvement in a 1957 bank robbery.  Instead of being released, Gogliardo was smuggled out of Spain by the Italian secret police and taken directly to an Italian prison where he remained for a further 8 years.  After an international campaign, he was finally released from jail in 1974. He returned home to Carrara, where he became a key figure in the local anarchist community, running the bookshop and cultural circle and sending red and black embroidered hearts, as well as postcards decorated with precisely detailed paintings signed with messages of comradeship, to friends all over the globe. Throughout the day the loudspeakers will play songs from the long out-of-print I Dischi del Sole LP anthologies of anarchist songs. The first song heard playing in the background from the sound system is Sacco e Vanzetti. This is an anonymous song about the story of Sacco and Vanzetti, electrocuted in 1927, seven years after being arrested in Boston, and notoriously framed for the assassination of a tax collector in a robbery. The second song heard in the background is La Ballata del Pinelli. This is one of five or more documented versions of this song dedicated to what became known in militant circles as the “state massacre” of 1969 in Milan. After a bomb exploded in Piazza Fontana, several people were arrested including two anarchist militants, Guiseppe Pinelli, a 40-year-old railway worker and Pietro Valpreda, a ballet dancer. Although there was never any proof linking Pinelli to the bombing, he was interrogated for several days within the Milan police station, where he eventually “mysteriously” fell to his death from the fourth floor. Like the case of Sacco and Vanzetti 50 years earlier in the United States, this event and the climate of fear it produced, ignited the passions of an entire generation of leftist Italian youth  in the early 1970s. It also inspired the reflections of numerous journalists and writers, including, most famously, Nobel prize-winning  playwright Dario Fo’s play Accidental Death of an Anarchist.     

After people have gathered, Alfonso Nicolazzi, a local printer and anarchist organizer, welcomes the crowd and recounts the story of Primo Maggio and its roots in the American labour movement’s struggle for the eight-hour day during the 1860s. Following a notorious incident, occurring in 1886 at the Chicago Haymarket where police fired on a crowd demonstrating in favour of a general strike, eight anarchist activists, recent immigrants to the United States, were arrested.  Seven were condemned to death while the eighth was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment.  After a well-publicised trial in 1887, five of the accused men were hanged while a sixth protested the injustice of his sentence by blowing himself up in prison. The campaign for a reduction in working hours was re-energised as a result of the public outcry surrounding these events and in 1889, the international labour movement declared May 1st as a day of solidarity for workers throughout the globe. By the end of the 19th century, May 1st had become a day of non-work in many countries, an international holiday which celebrated the dignity of labour and the demand for workers’ rights to a decent life. Alfonso explains that following two speeches, the group will walk through the city to place wreaths at five public monuments dedicated to memorialising events and people significant to local and international anarchist history.
TRACK 3: URBANO [3’19]
Vincente Taquias Vergara (locally known as “Urbano”) speaks briefly about the current political situation in Latin America. He talks about the legacy of dictatorship in Chile and Argentina’s system of political corruption and the current fiscal crisis.  He speaks about the need for international solidarity with the plight of ordinary Argentinians who have responded to financial ruin by organizing themselves into grass roots citizen’s groups. He also talks about the state repression of the Mapuche Indians in Chile, noting the presence for the first time of self-declared anarchist groups among the Mapuche Indian movement for self-determination.
In the main speech of the day, Natalia Caprili, of the F.A.I. ( Italian Federation of Anarchists) begins by reiterating the significance of May Day as a commemorative holiday for working people. She makes the connection between the labour and liberation movements of the past, in Italy and elsewhere, with those of the current moment. Just as workers struggled to obtain the eight-hour day in the late 19th century, today the labour movement continues to defend hard earned rights in the work place. Similarly, just as police opened fire on innocent demonstrators in the Chicago Haymarket, today democracy and the right to dissent is still under threat as demonstrated in the recent attacks on anti-globalisation activists at Seattle, Nice, Ventimiglia, Naples, Barcelona and Genoa. She speaks of the need to circulate alternate information that exposes the links between the political right in Italy, the police and the judicial system. She talks about the extreme violence witnessed in Naples, where demonstrators clashing with police were beaten with clubs, and at Genoa, where on the 20th July 2001, one anti-globalisation activist, Carlo Giuliani, was shot and killed by the police and many others were beaten, arrested and interrogated for hours in police stations throughout the city. She links these events to other recent demonstrations organized by the Italian labour movement and criticises the role of the official union leaders. She talks about the need for a self-managed union movement and the success of a general strike in Rome on March 23, called in response to Berlusconi’s proposed new Italian labour laws which use the excuse of “flexibility” to make it easer to fire workers. She speaks of the connections between right-wing centrist governments and their privatisation plans in the arena of health and public education, as well as other agendas meant to weaken the strength of labour movements. She also notes the fact the Left dominated government had already set in motion many of these neo-liberal reforms. She explains why anarchists refuse to vote and their objections to elected politicians lack of accountability to their constituents once they are put in government.

She then moves to a discussion of the economy and her own position as a woman and an anarchist. She talks about the exploitation of women workers in the global economy.  She speaks of the need for Europe to take responsibility for the causes of migrations and the torments of workers throughout the globe. She speaks about the situation of women in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Palestine who are suffering in war economies. She talks about the role of the United States and the political economy of oil in theses conflicts. She discusses the Middle East conflict and the impossibility of peace without a withdrawal of Israeli tanks. She speaks of the plight of Palestinian people and the need to recognize their rights to self-determination. She mentions the horror of September 11 in New York, but also the horrors of the American military response and the aerial bombing of Afghanistan. She concludes with a statement on the  relevance of anarchist ideas to the situation of oppressed people everywhere.  “The world is awakening to what anarchists have always maintained, that there is a need for a direct relationship with the people, with the exploited, with immigrants and refugees, with the weak. We need to understand their problems directly. We must never forget that their problems are also our problems. . . Today, more than ever, we must play our part in history. . . Anarchist ideas are not slogans, shouted out in electoral campaigns. When anarchists talk about democracy, they mean direct democracy. When anarchists talk about equality, they mean equality in diversity. When anarchists talk about freedom, they mean freedom of speech, freedom to dissent. When they talk about liberty, they don’t mean liberalism. Freedom means self-management, self-determination, action, anarchy”.


Following these speeches, the truck moves into the street, and people gather behind for a procession through the city to place wreathes at five monuments important to Carrara’s anarchist past and present. As the truck goes from place to place, songs are played on the sound system, and the marchers sing along. The procession takes about an hour. The soundscape collects the moments when the five wreathes are placed, to crowd applause and songs played specific to each site.
The first wreath is for a monument placed in 1902 in the Piazza Alberica to the Caduti di Lavoro, people killed or injured at work.  The monument is sculpted with the words:
O marmo sacro al martirologio operaio de le valli Apuane trasmetti la voce dei lavoratori della Lunigiana ai secoli che avranno per monumento la giustizia sociale.
May this marble sacred to the martyred workers from the Apuane valley convey the voices of  Lunigiana workers  to future generations whose monument will be social justice.
As the wreath is hung, people sing along to the sound system recording of Stornelli d’Esilio ( Stornelli of Exile). The text, attributed to Pietro Gori (1865-1911), a famous anarchist lawyer and poet, was composed on his expulsion from Switzerland, following the knifing assassination of French President Sadi-Carnot in 1894 by the Italian anarchist Sante Caserio.
Then there is a lull as the crowd waits for an undelivered ladder for hanging the remaining wreathes. The ladder is usually on schedule and its absence this year is interpreted by some as a personal act of sabotage by the head of the fire brigade. The ladder never arrives but another small ladder is soon found and a second wreath is hung through the efforts of a couple of enterprising participants who scale the wall with the crowd applauding their efforts.

This second wreath is hung at a monument created in 1946 in Piazza Alberica in honour of Francisco Ferrer. Born in Catalonia in 1859, Ferrer first worked on the railways where he came into contact with the progressive ideas of the era. He later became an influential international pedagogue, noted for founding the modern school movement in Spain. In contrast to the religious and monarchist ideals of the day, this school incorporated principles such as equality of the sexes, mixed gender classes, a ban on corporal punishment and competitive grading, lessons in the open air, the development of rationalist critical thought and the introduction into the curriculum of art, music and sex education. Particularly influential in Spain, Ferrer’s modern school model soon spread to other countries, including the United States

In the context of a popular uprising against sending Spanish troops to Morocco in 1909, Ferrer was accused of sedition against the state and arrested.  Soon after, he was put to death by firing squad. His execution fostered widespread indignation and protests throughout the globe. At Carrara there were massive demonstrations and a general strike with over 5,000 participants.  As a sign of collective mourning, the city’s shops were shut and black funereal banners displayed in the local council chambers, the offices of political parties and in all the dissident workers’ clubs of the area. In 1914, via S. Maria in Carrara was renamed via Francisco Ferrer, though later, under the Fascist regime, it reverted to its original name. After the city’s liberation from the German occupation in 1945, a marble bust of Ferrer was placed on a building in Piazza Alberica with the words:

 Educatore di genti alle civili vendette, il magistero con la vita pagò.
Teaching civil disobedience to the people, the teacher paid with his life.
 As the wreath is hung, the sound system plays l’Inno dell’Internazionale (Hymn of the International), known as well as Inno della Pace (Hymn of Peace), first published in 1874 to the tune of La Marseillaise.  Moving through the streets toward the third monument, the crowd begins a series of chants, “Don’t trust the parliament! To defeat Berlusconi you need a movement!” Other chants name Berlusconi and key government officials as robbers, mafia and assassins, who will come to an end like Mussolini.
The third wreath is placed at a plaque honouring Giordano Bruno. This monument was created by anarchists in Carrara in 2000, the Vatican jubilee year, and placed in Piazza Duomo directly opposite the imposing medieval Cathedral. Giordano Bruno was an influential anticlerical philosopher burned at the stake for his ideas by the pope in 1600. As the wreath is hung, the sound system plays a well-known anti-clerical song “E quando muoio io, non voglio preti. ” (And when I die, I don’t want priests). This song dates to the beginning of the 20th century  from France, where it was a popular dance tune in Provence.

The fourth wreath is placed at a plaque put up by anarchists in 1994 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Lunigiana uprising, an emblematic date for most historical accounts of Carrara anarchism. The demonstration in 1894 had been called in support of the Sicilian peasant workers, the Fasci, who had risen up against the ever-increasing taxes on the prices of basic commodities, such as bread. As two state policemen, or Carabinieri, tried to disperse the crowd, shooting from both sides ensued and one guard was killed while another badly injured. Several demonstrators were also injured and one killed. On the same evening, Saturday January 13th, a tax office in Carrara was set on fire and the main road to the neighbouring city of Massa was barricaded with huge marble blocks. Although the demonstrators had planned to take control of main government offices, by the following morning the city of Carrara was surrounded by soldiers under the command of General Heusch.  A state of siege was proclaimed by the Crispi government and the King, Umberto 1, and soon after a War Tribunal was put in motion. Among those threatened with arrest were many quarry workers, who responded by declaring a general strike. Instead of going to work on the following Monday, they came down from the mountains and gathered around the military barracks where hundreds of prisoners had already been detained. Troops were then ordered to amass and, as soon as the crowd came near enough, they fired. Eleven deaths resulted, as well as numerous other casualties.

For local families this revolt, as well as the subsequent exile of many of the participants remained a potent symbol of injustice and labour exploitation for many years. The plaque honours the eleven workers killed in this affair, whose names are all sculpted on the monument with the words:

Uccisi alla caserma Dogali dalla sbirraglia che coi fucili rispose all’ onda popolare che reclamava giustizia sociale , libertà, eguaglianza ed esigeva la scarcerazione dei detenuti. Sono passati cento anni. Sulla fossa dei martiri oscuri, immutato s’inchina l’appello dei buoni, dei valenti,dei forti.

Killed at the Dogali barracks by police brutes who responded  with open fire to a popular uprising  demanding social justice, liberty,  equality and the release of the prisoners. One hundred years have gone by. Still sorrowful, the good, the valiant and the brave gather together and bow down before the grave of these little known martyrs.
The song that plays is Inno della Rivolta, which dates to 1893, and was sung in 1894 at the time of the Lunigiana uprising. The words to the song are by Luigi Molinari, an anarchist lawyer who was sentenced to 23 years in prison following the Lunigiana uprising, although he was not actually present at any of the events.

The fifth wreath, which is the climax to the procession, is placed at the monument to Alberto Meschi in a square locally known as Piazza d’Armi, officially called Piazza Gramsci. A much-revered figure in Carrara, Meschi led the local labour council from 1911-1921, a period that also coincided with the formation of the powerful national anarcho-syndicalist trade union, Unione Sindacale Italiana or USI. During these ten years, a number of significant labour battles were won in Carrara, including, quite remarkably for the era, the victory of a six and a half hour day for marble workers in 1911. Memories of Meschi continue to reverberate locally and the monument depicts him in socialist realist style as a heroic figure holding out his hand in a gesture of defiance while protecting local workers and their families seen cowering in the background. The song that plays, again, as the truck enters the piazza, and the wreath is laid, is the Hymn of the International.
As the crowd gathers around, and the noon bells toll, Alfonso Nicolazzi speaks about Carrara’s labour history and tells how the monument is a reminder of the power of self-organization and battles for social justice. His speech raises the distinctions between the bureaucratic style of conduct evident in today’s unions and the grass-roots syndicalism which characterized the union movement in Meschi’s era, the early twentieth-century. 
Alfonso Nicolazzi leads the crowd assembled at the Meschi monument in the singing of Vieni o Maggio, composed by Pietro Gori. In 1892 Gori wrote a play while in prison in Milan. It included this text sung to an adaptation of the famous chorus Va pensiero sull’ali dorate, from Guiseppe Verdi’s 1842 opera Nabucco, the story of Jewish captivity.  In the opera this chorus is sung on the banks of the Euphrates by Hebrews longing for their homeland. The song was interpreted as a symbol for the resurgence of Italian unity and Verdi risked going to prison for it. With Gori’s wording the song is reinterpreted as an appeal to the resurgence of workers of the world. 
 As a poet and writer, Pietro Gori was one of the most important anarchists world wide, his songs influencing many strands of the international workers movement at the turn of the 19th century.  This poetic text, about a time of blossom, is a hymn of hope, of ideals and desires, calling for an end to the exploitation of workers, and for the laying of flowers to the fallen – artists and workers – in honour of their struggles and their bravery. In order to avoid imprisonment, in 1895-96 Gori  exiled himself to the United States and Latin America where he participated in labour struggles and introduced the song to Americans at that time.
Germinal is the local office of the F.A.I., the Italian Federations of Anarchists, since 1945. The song the crowd sings along with the truck’s sound system on the way from the Meschi monument is Addio a Lugano, one of the most famous anarchist songs world wide. The poetic text is again by Pietro Gori. He  composed it in a Swiss jail, where he was held after being arrested in 1895, trying to escape Italian media attention in connection with Sante Caserio’s 1884 assassination of the French President in Lyon. Gori was arrested with seventeen other Italian refugees and then expelled from Switzerland. The song is dedicated to them, and tells of looking back at Lake Lugano, both with sadness and hope.
The truck stops at Germinal and the crowd walks up the steps and enters the main hall, where they drink, eat, socialise and sing for the rest of the afternoon.  A cavernous  space, the hall is actually a liberty style ballroom, its walls and ceilings covered with gilded mirrors and fading murals of pastoral scenes. At the lunch table Donato Landini, accompanying himself on the guitar, sings for an hour, enthusiastically drawing a crowd, who respond here to a prison song, the Ballad of Rodolfo Foscati. Collected by Caterina Bueno, one of the most well known Italian folk singers of the 1970s, the song narrates the humiliation of a prisoner condemned to life imprisonment during the first days of his incarceration. Its style is typical of the song traditions of central Italy and there are several versions of the text.
Another song sung by Donato Landini is attributed to the Collettivo del Contropotere and was first recorded in 1976. This is a protest song of memory and defiance that tells the story of Franco Serantini, a Pisa University student who was badly beaten by the police while demonstrating with other students against a fascist rally on the 5th of May 1972. The students assembled calmly but were countered by riot police with tear gas and guns. Serantini was arrested but after two days of police interrogation and lack of medical attention, he went into a coma and later died in the prison’s hospital. Serantini’s death at the hands of the police touched many people not just because he was an orphan who had lived in foster homes and had been institutionalised as a ward of the state for many years. In the context of 1970s radical left politics,  Serantini’s death quickly became a symbol of police violence and the dangers of right wing politics. In 1979, a junior high school was named after him in Turin and in 1982, Piazza S. Silvestro in Pisa was renamed Piazza Serantini with a marble plaque donated by the quarry workers of Carrara in his honour.
TRACK 11: GORIZIA [3’19]
Alfonso Nicolazzi leads Gorizia, an anti-war song from World War 1. Gorizia is in Friuli, at the border between Austria, Slovenia and Italy. During the war a bloody battle occurred here as Italy took control of the region from the ruling Austrians. Since it had already been decided diplomatically that Austria would recognize Italian sovereignty of the area, the large number of soldiers  and peasant conscripts killed in this battle has passed down in popular memory as a useless mass-slaughter. Alfonso is joined by his son Siro, his sister Paola, Franco Bertoli and Donato Landini.
Alfonso Nicolazzi leads a medley of anarchist songs. The song’s actual title and author are unknown, but the medley has become one of the traditional songs of Gragnana, a small village above Carrara. Alfonso is joined by his son Siro, Franco Bertoli and Donato Landini.
At home in the evening, Soledad Nicolazzi plays accordion and sings with her father Alfonso, accompanied by a visiting bird. La Gismonda is a popular Tuscan feminist and anticlerical song, a dialogue of two women. Soledad takes each voice in turn. The first voice is a nun who talks to her cousin Gismonda, telling her to join the convent. The second voice is Gismonda, who responds that she wants to have fun, wants paradise now, not when she dies. In time the nun is won over, her cousin’s words making her heart beat to leave the convent and experience love.
Sung by Soledad Nicolazzi, accompanied by her parents Alfonso and Ruxandra, this song’s text comes from a poem by Belgrado Pedrini (1913-1979), an anarchist and antifascist born in Carrara.  He composed it in Fossombrone jail in 1967. Pedrini was arrested in 1942 for antifascist activities; he was freed by anarchists in 1944, but in 1945 he was arrested again and sentenced to life in prison for armed struggle. His sentence was reduced to 30 years, but three more years were added later. Pedrini’s text was set to music in 1974 by Soledad’s aunt and Alfonso’s sister, the singer Paola Nicolazzi, during a campaign for Pedrini’s release from jail. She recorded the song in 1978. The song’s dark text, inspired by B. Traven’s The Death Ship, evokes ghostly figures, emaciated and anaemic slaves in bloody chains, rowing and waiting for death. The moon rises, stars turn, and a storm comes, like a call to rise up and break the chains, swear justice, vow liberty or death. 



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