Transnational Radicals

Italian Anarchists in Canada and the U.S., 1915–1940

Travis Tomchuk (Author)

Italian anarchism emerged in the latter half of the nineteenth century during that country’s long and bloody unification. Often facing economic hardship and political persecution, many of Italy’s anarchists migrated to North America. Wherever Italian anarchists settled they published journals, engaged in labour and political activism, and attempted to recreate the radical culture of their homeland. Transnational Radicals examines the transnational anarchist movement in Canada and the United States between 1915 and 1940.

Against a backdrop of brutal and open class war, with governments calling upon militias to suppress strikes; radicals thrown in jail for publicly speaking against capitalism and the church; and those of foreign birth being deported and even executed for political activities, Italian anarchism was successfully transplanted. Transnationalism made it more difficult for states to destroy groups spread across wide geographical spaces. In Italy and abroad, the strong anarchist identity informed by class, ethnicity, and gender reinforced the movement’s values, promoted its growth, and helped anarchists mobilize during times of crisis.

In Transnational Radicals, Tomchuk makes use of Italian government security files and Italian-language anarchist newspapers to reconstruct a vibrant and little-studied political movement during a tumultuous period of modern North American history.

Awards

  • CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title (2015)

Reviews

“A groundbreaking contribution to the history of anarchism. Tomchuk brings to life the transnational networks and relationships that were at the heart of this movement among Italian migrant workers. By shedding light on the interwar period in particular, he teaches us a great deal about the continued significance of this movement even amid heightened and coordinated state repression.”

– Jennifer Guglielmo, Department of History, Smith College Massachusetts

“No previous monograph has focused on Italian migrant anarchists, and Tomchuk has made a valuable contribution to both labor history and sociology. After an introduction in which he skillfully (and evenhandedly) surveys the varieties of Italian anarchism, he makes a solid argument that Italian anarchism in its North American home mobilized resources (for declaring strikes, fleeing persecution, or combating deportations), forged an identity, and created a vibrant (but male-dominated) subculture, primarily because of its members’ ability to move across intellectual (through newspapers and journals) or physical borders.”

– R. T. Ingoglia, Caldwell University, CHOICE (Link)

“Travis Tomchuck brings the anarchist movement in Canada and the United States to life from a transnational perspective. By shedding a nationally-bound approach, Tomchuck is able to reconstruct some of the complex and influential international networks and relationships that were at the heart of the movement.”

– Patryk Polec, University of Ottawa, Canadian Journal of History

“An important contribution to seeing the wider picture of the left in Canada, the importance of culture in the maintenance and expansion of political movements and an important contribution to the history of Anarchism in Canada and the U.S.”

– Scott Price, Canadian Dimension

“Captures the entangled local and transnational history of anarchism and is likely to be an essential historical work for years to come.”

– M. Montserrat Feu López, Sam Houston State University, Italian American Review

“Although the book has a typical scholarly structure—historical context, summaries of published studies, data from archives, and lots of footnotes (many of which make for very interesting tangential reading)—Tomchuk has restructured what was originally a thesis and fleshed out a number of narratives and interviews into an engaging story. His straightforward, jargon-free survey of the related literature, demonstrating his broad knowledge of anarchism is one of the book’s delights.”

– Steve Izma, Fifth Estate (Link)

“With these studies, Tomchuk and Zimmer have made significant contributions to the literature that will surely have a profound impact on the study of anarchist history going forward. I cannot recommend them strongly enough.”

– Nathan Jun, Midwestern State University, Centro Altreitalie (Link)

About the Author

Travis Tomchuk is a public historian who lives and works in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

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