During the 1860s and 1870s, workers in Sicily supported each other through mutual aid societies, which claimed the right to strike and to lobby for wage increases. This precedent of organized labor, along with a recent history of peasant uprisings against feudal aristocracy and the spread of socialist ideology, set the stage for the Fasci Siciliani movement.
One of the most prophetic activists and philosophers from the Western World was Danilo Dolci of Italy. To many he was known as the “Gandhi of Italy” and he devoted the majority of his life’s work to improve the conditions of the impoverished parts of Italy and especially the slums of Sicily. When he was 24 he renounced his middle class heritage, and moved to Western Sicily in order to begin a campaign to ease the poor conditions of southern Italy. He identified the problems that plagued Sicily as: severe unemployment, starvation, poverty, and Mafia influences.
In 1952, Danilo Docli, an Italian activist, moved to Trappeto, a fishermen’s slum in Western Sicily because he wanted to move to the poorest place he had ever heard of. In October, nine months after his arrival, a child died of starvation in the impoverished town. Upon hearing the news, Dolci wrote to his friend Franco Alasia, who lived in Milan, that he was planning on fasting in protest of the poor conditions in Trappeto; Alasia immediately traveled down to Sicily to assist Dolci.
“This is how every worker feels it: with varying degrees of clarity they feel themselves living at a moment that could be decisive for their class, a moment in which all can be staked, everything risked, and perhaps everything lost.