Rosselli, Carlo and Nello

Carlo (1899–1937) and Nello (1900–1937)
   Antifascist martyrs, the Rosselli brothers were two of the bravest and most intellectually sophisticated leaders of the struggle against Benito Mussolini. Born in Rome to a wealthy Jewish family from Tuscany, the brothers were brought up in Florence, which in the early 1920s was the scene of some of the worst acts of squadrismoin Italy. Greatly influenced by Gaetano Salvemini and Piero Gobetti, Carlo, when a professor of political economy at the University of Genoa, was among the organizers of a “cultural circle” for the propagation of democratic ideas and free thought, which was shut down in Florence by Fascist bullies in December 1924. Beaten—literally—but not bowed, the brothers, together with Salvemini, printed and distributed a subversive leaflet, Non Mollare! (Don’t Give Up!) in 1925 and participated in the escape from Italy of Filippo Turati and Salvemini. Carlo was arrested and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on the island of Lipari in 1927, but he managed to escape in 1929. In 1930 he published, in Paris, his most important work, Il Socialismo liberale (Liberal Socialism), a book that was not only antifascist but critical of the authoritarian tendencies of Soviet communism and a plea for a form of socialism founded on liberal principles of human rights. Socialismo liberale was secretly distributed within Italy and made Carlo the undisputed leader of the clandestine organization known as Giustizia e Liberta. Carlo Rosselli, in fact, can be regarded as the principal influence on the young intellectuals who would later form the Partito d’Azione/Action Party (PdA) and occupy an important place in all the most important parties of the left and center after 1945.
   Carlo did not restrict his antifascist activity to theorizing. In 1936, he organized a column of Italian antifascist volunteers and served in the Spanish Civil War. Struck down by illness, he returned to Paris, where he was joined by Nello, who in the meantime had become a prominent historian of the Risorgimento and had seen the inside of several Fascist jails. In June 1937, the two brothers were stabbed to death by a group of French hoodlums hired by the Fascists; it has since been established that Mussolini gave the order for the brothers’ murder.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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