Bernardino Verro
Bernardino Verro was a Sicilian sindicalist and politician. He was involved in the Fasci Siciliani
Fasci Siciliani
The Fasci Siciliani, short for Fasci Siciliani dei Lavoratori , were a popular movement of democratic and socialist inspiration, which arose in Sicily in the years between 1889 and 1894...

 (Sicilian Leagues) a popular movement of democratic and socialist inspiration in 1891-1894, and became the first socialist mayor of Corleone
Corleone is a small town and comune of approximately 12,000 inhabitants in the Province of Palermo in Sicily, Italy....

. He was killed by the Mafia
The Mafia is a criminal syndicate that emerged in the mid-nineteenth century in Sicily, Italy. It is a loose association of criminal groups that share a common organizational structure and code of conduct, and whose common enterprise is protection racketeering...


Fasci Siciliani

Verro was involved in the foundation of the Fascio dei lavoratori of Corleone on September 8, 1892. At the age of 26, Verro became its president. "Our Fascio has about six thousand members," he told the journalist Adolfo Rossi, in an interview for La Tribuna from Rome in the autumn of 1893. "Our women have understood the advantages of union among the poor, and now teach their children socialism."

At the Congress of the Fasci in Palermo on May 21-22, 1893, Verro was elected a member of the new Central Committee.

In July 1893, he hosted a conference at Corleone that drafted model agrarian contracts for labourers, sharecroppers and tenants and presented them to the landowners. When those refused to negotiate a strike against landowners and against state taxes broke out over a large part of western Sicily. The so-called Patti di Corleone, are considered by historians to be the first trade union collective contract in capitalist Italy.

Involvement with the Mafia

In the summer of 1893, Corleone became the strategic center of the peasant movement and the epicenter of the strike wave, thanks to Verro’s charisma and to his hard-nosed choices, including a strategic alliance with a Mafia
The Mafia is a criminal syndicate that emerged in the mid-nineteenth century in Sicily, Italy. It is a loose association of criminal groups that share a common organizational structure and code of conduct, and whose common enterprise is protection racketeering...

 clan in Corleone and alliances with prominent Mafiosi in outlying towns, most notably Vito Cascioferro and Nunzio Giaimo in Bisacquino
Bisacquino is a town and comune in the Province of Palermo in Sicily, Italy. It is located 82 kmfrom Agrigento and currently has approximately 5,215 inhabitants. The small town rises on an inner hill zone and is 663 metres above sea-level...

. The Mafiosi were sometimes needed to enforce flying pickets with credible threats of violence and to make the strike costly to landowners by destroying their property.

In order to give the strike teeth and to protect himself from harm, Verro became a member of a Mafia group in Corleone, the Fratuzzi (Little Brothers). In a memoir written many years later, he describes the initiation ritual he underwent in the spring of 1893: "[I] was invited to take part in a secret meeting of the Fratuzzi. I entered a mysterious room where there were many men armed with guns sitting around a table. In the center of the table there was a skull drawn on a piece of paper and a knife. In order to be admitted to the Fratuzzi, [I] had to undergo an initiation consisting of some trials of loyalty and the pricking of the lower lip with the tip of the knife: the blood from the wound soaked the skull."

However, during the great strike of the Fasci in September 1893, the Fratuzzi mobilized to boycott it, providing the necessary manpower to work on the lands that the peasants refused to cultivate. Since then Verro broke away from the mafiosi, and – according to police reports – became their most bitter enemy.

Arrests and convictions

Verro was arrested in January 1894 when Prime Minister Francesco Crispi
Francesco Crispi
Francesco Crispi was a 19th-century Italian politician of Arbëreshë ancestry. He was instrumental in the unification of Italy and was its 17th and 20th Prime Minister from 1887 until 1891 and again from 1893 until 1896.-Sicily:Crispi’s paternal family came originally from the small agricultural...

 ordered a crackdown of the Fasci. He was sentenced to 12 years of prison on May 30, 1894. After two years, in March 1896, he was released as the result of a pardon recognizing the excessive brutality of the repression.

In June 1896, just released from prison by the amnesty, he formed a consumer cooperative, part of 'La Terra' (The Earth), a federation bringing together all the farmers in the area of Corleone. It was. But in September, the federation was dissolved by the prefect, because it is considered a surreptitious way to revive the Fasci. Verro was sentenced to six months' imprisonment and fined 100,000 lire for unlawful association. Convinced that in Sicily there was more space for political action, he decided to emigrate to United States, to propagate socialism overseas. He only stayed two years and in the spring of 1898 he returned to Sicily, where he had to serve the six months in jail to which he had been convicted.

In 1903, facing jail again for political reasons, Verro left Sicily for Marseilles. One year later he went to Tunis, where a Sicilian community existed. There, he started Il Socialista, as the organ of the Federation of Socialist Sicilian Workers. He finally returned to Sicily in 1906.

Mayor of Corleone

Verro kept on organizing peasants and promoted the system of "collective renting" with other peasant leaders such as Lorenzo Panepinto
Lorenzo Panepinto
Lorenzo Panepinto was an Italian politician and teacher. He was the founder of the Fascio dei lavoratori in his hometown Santo Stefano Quisquina, editor of the newspaper La Plebe and member of the Comitato della Federazione Regionale Socialista...

 from Santo Stefano Quisquina
Santo Stefano Quisquina
Santo Stefano Quisquina is a comune in the Province of Agrigento in the Italian region Sicily, located about 60 km south of Palermo and about 35 km north of Agrigento...

 and Nicola Alongi
Nicola Alongi
Nicola Alongi , was a Sicilian socialist leader, involved in the Fasci Siciliani a popular movement of democratic and socialist inspiration in 1891-1894...

 from Prizzi
Prizzi is a town and comune of 5,711 inhabitants in the Italian province of Palermo, on the island of Sicily. It is located south of the city of Palermo at an altitude of 696 m above sea level on a hill in the upper valley of the River Sosio...

 which snatched landholdings from the gabelloti
In Sicily, a gabelloto was a person who rented farmland for short-term use. They were rural entrepreneurs who leased the lands from aristocrats more attracted to the comforts of the city.Many gabelloti were associated with, if not members of, the Mafia...

– large scale land lease-holders – and the Mafia. Relations between Verro, landowners and his former allies from the Fratuzzi became ever more strained and on November 6, 1910, he survived an attempt on his life. Two gunshots grazed his left wrist and made fly his hat.

He became the Socialist candidate on the list for the June 1914 municipal elections. Verro achieved a resounding success: he was elected in and the Socialist Party won 24 seats out of 30 of the city council. He became the first Socialist mayor of Corleone. But it would not last long. On November 3, 1915, a killer of the Mafia killed him with 11 shots, while he was returning home. The material killer was never identified.
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