For two centuries, between the French Revolution and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the model for military mobilization in Europe was associated with the nation-state and conscription. Citizens played a key role in the defence of their state: the nation-state was considered the primary political unit of the international system and citizens were usually expected to fight for their own state. But non-state mobilization did not disappear. As Nir Arielli and Bruce Collins showed, the history of military mobilization does not fit neatly into national boxes. Transnational war volunteers have existed for decades between the 19th and the 20th century and have played a central role in many European wars.
In August 1936 the Italian anarchist Lanciotto Corsi was 43 years old and had been living in France for five years. He had a wife, five children and a precarious job in Marseille. He decided to go to Spain, where a civil war had started a few weeks earlier. In Barcelona, Corsi joined an international group fighting on the Aragonese front. He wrote to his wife that he went to Spain to fight fascism, as, for the moment, it was impossible to do it in Italy.Why did a mature man decide to leave his family and his job to go to fight in a foreign country?
Between WWI and WWII, within the anti-fascist movement, thousands of Europeans were spurred into action by the political struggles in their home societies. The Spanish Civil War represented one of the latest causes because of which many people decided, voluntarily, to fight for. Around 40,000 international volunteers fought against Franco’s troops.
This project’s overall objective is to carry out a transnational study of the legacies and the survival of the myth of the so-called Garibaldinism between the experience of the the Italian unification (1861) and the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Following both a social and cultural history perspective, it will analyse how the legacy of Giuseppe Garibaldi in Southern Europe was very strong and was linked with social and political claims. In our approach Garibaldinism will refer to a political and cultural phenomenon aimed at encouraging a board and consciously “popular” type of aggregation strictly linked to the tradition of armed voluntarism and the attempt to form an ideal homogeneous block that goes beyond the single ideological matrices and political formations of which it is composed. Between 19th and 20th Century several European generations, the last was the antifascist one, claimed for themselves the cultural, political, and ideal heritage of Garibaldinism. There were radical volunteers wearing the traditional red shirt in Poland (1863), at Crete (1866-67), in France (1870-71), in the Balkans (1876), in Greece (1897), in Serbia (1912 and 1914), in France again (1914) and in Spain (1936-39). A significant part of those volunteers were republicans, anarchists or socialists.
There are three main questions addressed by this research project:
- Is it possible to identify a long-term tradition of international armed volunteering linked with political radicalism between the 19th and the 20th Century?
- Is it right to speak about a transnational Garibaldinism?
- Is it possible to identify Garibaldinism as a bridge between different radical political creeds (e.g. Anarchism, Socialism and, later on, Communism)?