Sacco and Vanzetti

Don’t forget this:

On August 23, 1927, the state of Massachusetts executed two Italian immigrant anarchists by the names of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti for the murder of two men in a 1920 armed robbery in South Braintree. Although the two men may or may not have been involved in the crime, as Italian anarchists, they were on trial for their beliefs as much as the murder. Despite the lack of concrete evidence and international outrage over the miscarriage of justice, the state of Massachusetts railroaded them into the electric chair.

Sacco and Vanzetti were anarchists, men deeply affected by the terrible labor and social conditions of the early 20th century. Both immigrated from Italy in 1908, though they didn’t meet for nearly a decade. The seeming inability for the capitalist system to treat working people with dignity and respect drove many to desperation. By the 1890s, anarchism was a growing threat in the United States, perhaps most personified by Leon Czoglosz’s assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. Although that and other incidents convinced enough upper and middle-class Anglo-Saxons to enact limited reforms during the Progressive Era, the fundamental conditions of working-class urban life had changed little by 1920.

Sacco and Vanzetti both followed the teachings of Luigi Galleani, an anarchist theorist who advocated violence to overthrow the state. The Galleanists did in fact use violence in the United States. They were believed to be the group behind the bombing of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer’s home in 1919. Palmer, already cracking down on radicalism with the help of his young eager assistant by the name of J. Edgar Hoover, built upon this incident to intensify the Red Scare, that nation-wide crackdown on radicalism in all forms during and after American entry into World War I.

It was in this atmosphere that men like Sacco and Vanzetti were suspects in murders like that which took place on April 15, 1920, when armed robbers attacked a company payroll, killing two men. Although the evidence was indirect, the police suspected the greater Boston anarchist community, which was suspected in a series of other robberies to fund their activities. The police also discovered that one anarchist, Mario Buda had worked in two shops subjected to similar robberies. Upon questioning, Buda let slip that the local anarchist community had an automobile under repair, leading police to stake out the repair shop. The police convinced the garage owner to notify them when the anarchists arrived to pick up the car. When 4 men did, including Buda, Sacco, and Vanzetti, they sensed a trap and fled, but Sacco and Vanzetti were soon picked up. Both had guns at their homes; Sacco having a loaded .32 Colt similar to that used in the killings.

and that’s a great series on the history of Labor by Loomis. Check it out.