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Angelica Balabanoff

November 25, 2017

International socialist activist Angelica Balabanoff died in Rome on this date in 1965. She was born in 1878 to a wealthy, privileged Jewish family in Chernigov, near Kiev, in Ukraine, but found the privilege unbearable and rejected it to become a social activist in Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, and Russia. Balabanoff was fluent in several languages and held a doctorate in philosophy. She served on the central committee of the Italian socialist movement, where she helped to cultivate the influence of Benito Mussolini before his decisive turn to fascism; she also served on the Comintern in Bolshevik Russia, but was expelled and slandered by Lenin after about a year due to her opposition to his accumulating power. She came to the U.S. during World War II and became friends with Norman Thomas while publishing The Traitor: Benito Mussolini and His “Conquest” of Power, as well as her autobiography, My Life as a Rebel. After the war, Balabanoff returned to Italy and became active in the PSLI, the Socialist Party of Italian Workers, which ultimately became the PSDI, the Italian Democratic Socialist Party.

“My belief in the necessity for the social changes advocated by that [international labor] movement and for the realization of its ideals has never been more complete than it is now when victory seems so remote . . . The experience of over forty years has only intensified my socialist convictions, and if I had my life to live over again, I would dedicate it to the same objective.” —Angelica Balabanoff