Carlo Rosselli: Socialist Heretic and Antifascist Exile

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Overview

Carlo Rosselli (1899-1937) was one of the most charismatic and influential of European antifascist intellectuals. Born into a wealthy Jewish family, and abandoning a promising career as a professor of political economics, he devoted his considerable fortune and ultimately his life to the struggle against fascism. In 1925, he was instrumental in establishing the first underground antifascist newspaper. While imprisoned for his subversive political activities, he wrote his magnum opus, Liberal Socialism, arguing that socialism was the logical development of the principle of liberty. After a daring escape, he made his way to Paris and became the driving force behind a new political movement, "Justice and Liberty." Rosselli was among the first to arrive in Barcelona after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, in which he commanded an armed column of volunteers in defense of the Republic. When Italian fascists discovered Rosselli's plot to assassinate Mussolini, they declared him the regime's most dangerous enemy and had him murdered, along with his brother, noted historian Nello Rosselli, on a country road in Normandy.

In this work, the first biography of Rosselli in English, Stanislao Pugliese skillfully interweaves the strands of heresy, exile, and tragedy in Rosselli's life. The drama and drive of his narrative enhance the scholarly contribution that this work makes to modern Italian history and to the study of European antifascism.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review

Carlo Rosselli—one of the most courageous and interesting figures of Italian antifascism—is a rich and overdue subject for a biography...Pugliese has chosen to write a primarily intellectual biography and has done a commendable job of explaining Rosselli's maverick position within European Socialism.
— Alexander Stille

Italian Culture

Stanislao Pugliese has written an outstanding intellectual biography of the political philosopher and antifascist exile Carlo Rosselli (1899-1937). It is superlative on many levels: as a chronicle of Italian leftist political thought in the 1920s and 1930s; as a portrait of a charismatic leader and the movement he founded; and as an exploration of pre-World War II antifascist resistance…this book, a Premio Silone winner, is an essential read for all those with an interest in the Italian left and antifascist movements, and admirably fills the gap in the literature in English on Rosselli…In Carlo Rosselli, Pugliese successfully traces the origins of liberal socialism, putting it within the context of the heated intellectual debates among the socialists, communists, and anarchists of the time. He quotes extensively from Rosselli's writings and also elaborates on and explicates them. The compelling final two thirds of the book, on 'Liberal Socialism,' 'Justice and Liberty' and 'The Tragic Hero,' construct a clear analysis of Rosselli's platform and his actions, and prove the most satisfying reading.
— Risa Sodi

New York Times Book Review - Alexander Stille
Carlo Rosselli--one of the most courageous and interesting figures of Italian antifascism--is a rich and overdue subject for a biography...Pugliese has chosen to write a primarily intellectual biography and has done a commendable job of explaining Rosselli's maverick position within European Socialism.
Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
Thank you for your book which I found interesting to read. I
particularly appreciate the sober style with which you have traced Carlo Rosselli's noble political and human portrait, underlining his extreme refusal to bend to the ideological premises of a regime, and his rejection of its moral and intellectual baseness.
Boston Book Review - Ann Snodgrass
The reception that Stanislao Pugliese's recent biography of the antifascist leader Carlo Rosselli has received makes it apparent that few doubt the subject's importance or its potential contribution to current understanding of oppressive forces and those who resisted them during WWII. It is a biography that revives for the reader not just the few who fought openly for liberty in the fascist years of Italy, but for their leader as well...Pugliese's numerous skills will probably be what strike most readers initially. The most evident of these skills is his capacity for detail and extensive research. The footnotes alone--which include police reports, personal letters, press conferences, and private interviews, as well as locations of foundations and archives that are crucial yet obscure to the general public--are almost varied and engaging enough to be published on their own...Pugliese's attentive scholarship also illuminates, word by word, Rosselli's masterful use of persuasive language.
Philadelphia Inquirer - David Ward
[A] fine intellectual biography...Pugliese's crisp prose delves evenhandedly into every side of Rosselli's life and thought...[It is] available to a general readership while also displaying the utmost academic rigor...In admirable straightforward and chronological manner, Pugliese's crisp prose delves evenhandedly into every side of Rosselli's life and thought--his critical engagements with the two dominant ideologies of his day, liberalism and socialism; the creation of Justice and Liberty; his relationship with the more left-wing communist antifascists; the revolutionary role of the enlightened bourgeoisie; his view of Italian history. It is to be hoped that this study, available to a general readership while also displaying the utmost academic rigor, will once again, as in the 1930s, open the question of the role of liberalism and socialism in the contemporary world that the writings of Carlo Rosselli and other like-minded thinkers raised.
Boston Phoenix - Michael Bronski
By the time of his assassination in 1937, Rosselli had already set the foundations for new ways of imagining modern liberal democracies.
Boston Sunday Globe - Katherine A. Powers
A clearly written account of the life and times of a non-doctrinaire socialist thinker and antifascist hero...through a doctrinal miasma of Marxist orthodoxy, revisionism, and heresy, Pugliese steers with a sure hand and with a lucidity that the subject matter, so vexed and acrimonious, fails to confound. This is, indeed, a scholarly book, but one that is perfectly accessible to the general public...a wonderful exception.
Lingua Franca - Matthew Price
Pugliese's study does much to shore up a forgotten legacy: Rosselli is presented as a significant intellectual and political maverick whose vision of a 'liberal socialism' has much to offer today's dispirited transatlantic left.
Newsday - Dan Cryer
Except for experts in European history, most Americans are no doubt unfamiliar with Carlo Rosselli. This is too bad. For in our age of pseudo-celebrities and worthies famous for being famous, it's salutary to be reminded that real heroes once existed, that they once gave up their lives for great causes...[Pugliese's] account of the Italian scholar and activist martyred by Mussolini's fascist regime is the first biography to appear in English [and is] a welcome addition to our biographical literature.
Antonio Negri
An extremely important book...doesn't surrender to the seductions of the time and the falsifications that followed.
Walter L. Adamson
This largely biographical account of the liberal socialism of Carlo Rosselli reads with the animation of a good detective story and yet is strong as scholarship. Rosselli's life, here presented in a vivid, spirited, and highly accessible narrative, makes for captivating reading, and his political activity is clearly and accurately described.
Charles F. Delzell
Professor Pugliese's carefully researched and objective book is a fine contribution to our understanding of the life and thought of Carlo Rosselli, the brilliant Italian anti-Fascist who founded the 'Justice and Liberty' liberal-socialist movement and courageously fought Mussolini's regime at home and abroad until his brutal assassination during the Spanish Civil War.
John Patrick Diggins
Carlo Rosselli is excellent scholarship on an important subject, handled with discerning intelligence and balanced, reflective judgment, and written in crisp, tight prose.
Italian Culture - Risa Sodi
Stanislao Pugliese has written an outstanding intellectual biography of the political philosopher and antifascist exile Carlo Rosselli (1899-1937). It is superlative on many levels: as a chronicle of Italian leftist political thought in the 1920s and 1930s; as a portrait of a charismatic leader and the movement he founded; and as an exploration of pre-World War II antifascist resistance…this book, a Premio Silone winner, is an essential read for all those with an interest in the Italian left and antifascist movements, and admirably fills the gap in the literature in English on Rosselli…In Carlo Rosselli, Pugliese successfully traces the origins of liberal socialism, putting it within the context of the heated intellectual debates among the socialists, communists, and anarchists of the time. He quotes extensively from Rosselli's writings and also elaborates on and explicates them. The compelling final two thirds of the book, on 'Liberal Socialism,' 'Justice and Liberty' and 'The Tragic Hero,' construct a clear analysis of Rosselli's platform and his actions, and prove the most satisfying reading.
Boston Book Review

The reception that Stanislao Pugliese's recent biography of the antifascist leader Carlo Rosselli has received makes it apparent that few doubt the subject's importance or its potential contribution to current understanding of oppressive forces and those who resisted them during WWII. It is a biography that revives for the reader not just the few who fought openly for liberty in the fascist years of Italy, but for their leader as well...Pugliese's numerous skills will probably be what strike most readers initially. The most evident of these skills is his capacity for detail and extensive research. The footnotes alone—which include police reports, personal letters, press conferences, and private interviews, as well as locations of foundations and archives that are crucial yet obscure to the general public—are almost varied and engaging enough to be published on their own...Pugliese's attentive scholarship also illuminates, word by word, Rosselli's masterful use of persuasive language.
— Ann Snodgrass

Philadelphia Inquirer

[A] fine intellectual biography...Pugliese's crisp prose delves evenhandedly into every side of Rosselli's life and thought...[It is] available to a general readership while also displaying the utmost academic rigor...In admirable straightforward and chronological manner, Pugliese's crisp prose delves evenhandedly into every side of Rosselli's life and thought—his critical engagements with the two dominant ideologies of his day, liberalism and socialism; the creation of Justice and Liberty; his relationship with the more left-wing communist antifascists; the revolutionary role of the enlightened bourgeoisie; his view of Italian history. It is to be hoped that this study, available to a general readership while also displaying the utmost academic rigor, will once again, as in the 1930s, open the question of the role of liberalism and socialism in the contemporary world that the writings of Carlo Rosselli and other like-minded thinkers raised.
— David Ward

Boston Phoenix

By the time of his assassination in 1937, Rosselli had already set the foundations for new ways of imagining modern liberal democracies.
— Michael Bronski

Boston Sunday Globe

A clearly written account of the life and times of a non-doctrinaire socialist thinker and antifascist hero...through a doctrinal miasma of Marxist orthodoxy, revisionism, and heresy, Pugliese steers with a sure hand and with a lucidity that the subject matter, so vexed and acrimonious, fails to confound. This is, indeed, a scholarly book, but one that is perfectly accessible to the general public...a wonderful exception.
— Katherine A. Powers

Lingua Franca

Pugliese's study does much to shore up a forgotten legacy: Rosselli is presented as a significant intellectual and political maverick whose vision of a 'liberal socialism' has much to offer today's dispirited transatlantic left.
— Matthew Price

Newsday

Except for experts in European history, most Americans are no doubt unfamiliar with Carlo Rosselli. This is too bad. For in our age of pseudo-celebrities and worthies famous for being famous, it's salutary to be reminded that real heroes once existed, that they once gave up their lives for great causes...[Pugliese's] account of the Italian scholar and activist martyred by Mussolini's fascist regime is the first biography to appear in English [and is] a welcome addition to our biographical literature.
— Dan Cryer

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Carlo Rosselli 1899-1937 was arguably the leading Italian antifascist figure of the 1930s until his assassination. Pugliese, an assistant professor of history at Hofstra University, does an excellent job of showing how Rosselli took his responsibility as a public intellectual seriously. Rosselli was among the first to organize troops supporting the Spanish Republic against Franco; the organization he founded, Justice and Liberty, stood alone in taking fascism seriously and refusing to explain the phenomenon in terms of prefascist assumptions; his major work, Liberal Socialism, rejected Marxist "scientific socialism," arguing that "Socialism, grasped in its essential aspect, is the progressive actualization of the idea of liberty and justice among men.... It is the progressive effort to ensure an equal chance of living the only life worthy of the name to all humans." Attacked by orthodox thinkers on all sides, his ideas--mostly articulated in underground periodicals--were fresh, and were responsive to new developments. Rosselli attacked the ideological rigidity and blindness of orthodox Communists, the confusion of reformist socialists and the sterility of classical liberals who excused widespread poverty. He saw fascism as a moral sickness threatening all classes, and he aligned himself with the working class without ever romanticizing it. Pugliese provides a lucid account of political events, ideological disputes and clandestine resistance and brings the context of Rosselli's thinking to life. Illus. not seen by PW. Dec. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Pugliese's is the first English-language biography of this charismatic leader of the Italian antifascist movement. Born into a wealthy Jewish family in Rome in 1899, Rosselli was an ardent nationalist before World War I. After the war, he became involved with the Socialist movement and developed his own ideas of a "humanitarian socialism"--a socialism that took the individual into account. Jailed for his subversive political activities, he escaped and went into exile in France. At the outbreak of the Civil War in Spain, he went to Barcelona to command an armed corps of volunteers. Eventually, the Italian government declared him an enemy of the regime and had him murdered. Drawing from letters and archives, Pugliese (history, Hofstra) reconstructs this important life capably. Recommended for academic collections with an interest in Italian history or a history of the Socialist movement.--Roseanne Castellino, Arthur D. Little, Cambridge, MA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674000537
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1999
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.43 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Stanislao G. Pugliese is Professor of Modern European History at Hofstra University.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Younger Brothers

Autocritica

Liberal Socialism

Justice and Liberty

The Tragic Hero

Conclusion

Abbreviations

Notes

Select Bibliography

Index

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