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Flag of the Arditi del Popolo.
The Arditi del Popolo (People's Squads) was an Italian militant anti-fascist group founded at the end of June 1921 to resist the rise of Benito Mussolini's National Fascist Party and the violence of the Blackshirts (squadristi) paramilitaries. It grouped revolutionary trade-unionists, socialists, communists, republicans, etc., as well as some former military officers, and was co-founded by Mingrino, Argo Secondari, Gino Lucetti – who tried to assassinate Mussolini on 11 September 1926 – the deputy Guido Picelli and others. The Arditi del Popolo were an offshoot of the Arditi elite troops, who had previously occupied Fiumemarker in 1919 behind the poet Gabriele d'Annunzio, who proclaimed the Italian Regency of Carnaro. Those who split to form the Arditi del Popolo were close to the anarchist Argo Secondari and were supported by Mario Carli. The formazioni di difesa proletaria (Proletarian Defense Formations) later merged with them. The Arditi gathered approximately 20,000 members in summer 1921.

Relations with the workers' movement and organized parties

Composed of socialists, anarchists and communists, the Arditi del Popolo was not supported by the socialist parties (neither by the Italian Socialist Party, PSI, nor by the Communist Party of Italy, PCI). The Arditi were criticized by the socialist newspaper Avanti! on July 7, 1921, following a demonstration in Romemarker the previous day.

On July 10, 1921, Lenin wrote in the Pravda an article praising the Arditi and criticizing the Bordigan tendency of the PCI which opposed militant anti-fascism . On August 3, 1921, the PSI signed a "pacification pact" (patto di pacificazione) with the National Fascist Party, while the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) and the PSI refused to officially recognize the anti-fascist militia. Furthermore, the PCI ordered its members to quit the organization because of the presence of non-communists in its ranks. The PCI organized by themselves some militant groups (the Squadre comuniste d'azione), but their actions were relatively minor and the party kept a non-violent, legalist strategy.

The Bordigan tendency was opposed by the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, and many communist activists, who supported the Arditi. In October 1921, the Comintern criticized the "sectarian policy" of the PCI, who threatened those of its members who supported the Arditi with disciplinary measures. However, after the alignement of Gramsci and of L'Ordine Nuovo to the PCI's direction, the anarchist Umanità Nova newspaper remained the sole mouthpiece of the workers' movement which supported the Arditi del Popolo.

Parma and dismantlement of the group

One of the Arditi's most important successes was in Parmamarker in August 1922, when 350 arditi, directed by the World War I veterans Antonio Cieri and Guido Picelli, successfully defended the city against a 20,000-man fascist offensive headed by Roberto Farinacci, who would join the Grand Council of Fascism in 1935, and Italo Balbo, one of the four main planners of the March on Rome. The Arditi benefitted from massive popular support in this task.

But with complicity of state security forces, the fascists assassinated and detained most of the leaders of the anti-fascist movement, which was completely dismantled by 1924.


Many Arditi del Popolo later joined the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). The name was also re-used by Resistants during World War II. The communists Antonello Trombadori and Luigi Longo created an organization thus named on July 25, 1943.

List of members

See also



  • Tom Behan, The Resistible Rise of Benito Mussolini, Bookmarks, 2003, ISBN 978-1898876908 ( account of the book in Socialist Worker review)

  • Iain McKay The Irresistible Correctness of anarchism ( a review of Behan's book from an anarchist perspective)

Italian language

  • Balsamini, Luigi, Gli Arditi del Popolo. Dalla guerra alla difesa del popolo contro le violenze fasciste, Casalvelino Scalo, Galzerano, 2002.
  • Cordova, Ferdinando, Arditi e legionari dannunziani, Padova, Marsilio, 1969.
  • Francescangeli, Eros, Arditi del Popolo. Argo Secondari e la prima organizzazione antifascista (1917-1922), Roma, Odradek, 2000.
  • Fuschini, Ivan, Gli Arditi del Popolo, prefazione di Arrigo Boldrini, Ravenna, Longo, 1994.
  • Rossi, Marco, Arditi, non gendarmi! Dall’arditismo di guerra agli arditi del popolo 1917-1922, Pisa, BFS, 1997.

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