Tragedy in Dedham - Ward jackson

IT IS THIRTY-SIX YEARS SINCE NICOLA SACCO AND BARTOLOMEO VANZETTI died in the electric chair in Charleston Jail, Massachusetts, USA, and another book on Sacco and Vanzetti* provides what may seem to some to be an excuse to revive old memories. But the Sacco-Vanzetti case still has its lessons which the disenchanted liberals, tired radicals or scared progressives seem to have missed.

The two crimes at Bridgewater and Braintree in December 1919 and April 1920 were run-of-the- mill crimes no different from all the wave of crime which inevitably follows the great sea of crime — war. As a routine crime, the police should have followed the modus operandi of asking Who? How? What? Mr. Russell attaches very little importance to the answers given to the question Who? The Bridgewater hold-up, which was a failure, was attributed to Frank Silva and his gang. The Braintree job (in which two guards were shot and fifteen thousand dollars taken) was ascribed to the Morelli gang of which Celestino Madieros (executed with a fine irony of justice at the same time as Sacco and Vanzetti) was a member. Confessions were made to this effect and to no avail.† Russell in his piece-meal examination of the case attaches very little importance to these confessions. It is improbable that both robberies were carried out by the same gang. Each bears a different signature. The Bridgewater job was a failure by a small-time unsuccessful gang who had no passion for using fire-

* TRAGEDY IN DEDHAM, by Francis Russell (Longmans, Green 42s.)
† See The Untried Case, by Herbert B. Ehrman (1933).

arms or for killing. The Braintree shooting was well-planned and carried out with a cold-blooded killer.
There seems to have been very little concentration by the police on four of their well-known ploys. Police are not supermen or magicians, as much detective fiction may lead us to imagine. They have their well-known stand-byes which, plus luck, cunning, or even, in some cases, plain brutality, produce a percentage of the results needed. In the Sacco-Vanzetti case none of these techniques were used; they lost themselves in the razzle-dazzle of a witch-hunt, the wild confusions of ballistics experts, and the wilder confoundings of identification amateurs.

The first usual procedure is modus operandi, or who does this kind of a job — and then let him prove he didn't. The Silva and Madeiros gang were well known to the police, they had been associated with robberies at shoe companies for some time, but the police went for a fish peddler and a shoemaker with no knowledge of criminality, firearms, motorcars or the English language. The second approach of the police which was not used, was the use of accomplices. Throughout the cases no one was interested in the other men in the gangs committing the robberies. There were four men in the Bridgwater crime, and four in the Braintree crime. Sacco was acquitted (by an alibi) of the Bridgewater crime but no one seems to have been interested in identifying the other three men, even supposing, as is unlikely, that the gangs were the same. No pressure was put upon Sacco or Vanzetti to divulge who the others were. Boda and Coacci, in spite of all suspicion (they were friends of Sacco and Vanzetti, and Boda was a bootlegger) were never arrested. The police's usual techniques of informers, working off one man against another, bribes and threats, of turning "States", of promises to give lighter sentences were apparently never used, or if so, unsuccessfully. An informer was planted near Vanzetti but no confession was wheedled out of him.

The police and — what is even more strange — the insurance company seem to have been uninterested in what happened to the money. Neither Sacco nor Vanzetti seem to have spent it in riotous living. Indeed they stayed on in Massachusetts selling fish and making shoes as if they had not killed two men and stolen fifteen thousand dollars. The final standby of the police, the fingerprint, was never brought into evidence. Not a single fragment of fingerprint was found in the whole of these investigations, in itself an indication of the professional nature of the criminals.

A final professional word deposed by Fred Weyand, a Boston agent of the Department of Justice shows neither Sacco nor Vanzetti to be the criminals at least in the eyes of the Department of Justice:

From my investigation, combined with the investigation made by the other agents of the Department in Boston, I am convinced not only that these men had violated the Selective Service rules and regulations and evaded the draft, but that they were anarchists, and that they ought to have been deported. By calling these men anarchists I do not mean necessarily that they were inclined to violence, nor do I understand all the different meanings that different people would attach to the word 'anarchist'. What I mean is that I think they did not believe in organized government or in private property. But I am also thoroughly convinced and always have been, and I believe that it is and always has been the opinion of such Boston agents of the Department of Justice as had any knowledge on the subject, that these men had nothing whatever to do with the South Braintree murders, and that their conviction was the result of co-operation between the Boston agents of the Department of Justice and the District Attorney. It was the general opinion of the Boston agents of the Department of Justice having knowledge of the affair that the South Braintree crime was committed by a gang of professional highwaymen.

* * *

Francis Russell writes his book with the artful device of chopping his time-order so as to deprive us of the background of the case. He starts with his own call to jury service to Dedham in 1953 and his resolve to write about the case. He interviews some survivors, then like a Hollywood movie, he flashes back to the Braintree crime (the second in time); then to Bridgewater; then the arrest of Sacco and Vanzetti (three weeks after Braintree); then the flash-back to the lives of Sacco and Vanzetti, some account of the background events between 1919 and 1920; from then on Russell's narrative is the account of the trials and the numberless hearings which marked the path to the death-house. A chapter 'Aftermath' contains Russell's afterthoughts which, unexpectedly, seem to be that Sacco was guilty of the Braintree crime but Vanzetti was innocent. A thoroughly liberal conclusion, one might add: not conservative enough to execute both, and not radical enough to free both.

What does Russell say about the Bridgewater crime of which Vanzetti was found guilty and sentenced and Sacco was acquitted because of an alibi? Nothing significant, despite the fact that the Braintree charge would never have been brought without the Bridgewater proceedings. Mr. Russell's too-clever chronology obscures this fact from the reader and even, it seems, from Mr. Russell himself.

* * *

The whole case seems Kafka-esque, another study in twentieth century obscurity unless one has the clues as to what was Sacco and Vanzetti's real crime, what were the false clues, what were the crimes that were committed upon Sacco and Vanzetti and how these crimes masqueraded as justice.

Sacco and Vanzetti's first crime was to be foreigners, emigrés, Latins, in the Anglo-Saxon stronghold of Boston. Like West Indians in England today their lot was the suspicion of criminality, the poor housing conditions, and the degrading work which is the lot of the 'foreigner' anywhere. The 'melting-pot' of America had not completely melted and 'foreigners' were always looked upon with suspicion. The war of 1914-18 (which America had entered in 1917), was fought with a ballyhoo and rashness of promise which, even by liberals now, it seen to be excessive. Its effect upon America was to make her more xenophobic than usual. Big business had had its taste of power and profit. The Russian Revolution had scared the pants off the rulers of the world.

Seeing Reds under every bed (a phenomenon frequently observed by Americans), the fighting Quaker Attorney General, Mitchell Palmer pushed through in 1920 his raids which preceded what Louis F. Post called 'the Deportations Delirium of the Twenties'. "Lilies that fester smell worse than weeds" and Mitchell Palmer, like ex-Quakers Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon, was particularly odoriferous. He had presidential ambitions, and Woodrow Wilson had been ill and incapacitated for some months so even his mild liberal influence was lacking. In January 1920, 800 aliens were rounded up in New England, half of whom were taken in chains through Boston to Deer Island for deportation. In a subsequent investigation of the 'illegal practices of the United States Department of Justice', US Circuit Judge Anderson said, "A mob is a mob, whether made up of Government officials acting under instructions from the Department of Justice, or of criminals and loafers and the vicious classes." The mob violence of the Palmer raids exercised a decisive influence on the actions of Sacco and Vanzetti.

As if the heady intoxication of war and an anti-Red crusade were enough, the United States had embarked upon the noble experiment of prohibition, and as Andrew Sinclair terms it, the era of excess had begun. The Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted in January 1919 and the Volstead Act screwed (as it thought) down the lid on the demon liquor's coffin in October 1919. This atmosphere made for mystery about Mr. Boda's profession and led to a certain amount of 'covering-up' on the part of Sacco and Vanzetti, not to mention its alleged effects upon the Boston police strike.

It must have seemed like the end of the world in September 1919, when the Boston police, dissatisfied with their pay sought affiliation to the American Federation of Labour. It was said that the Volstead Act had considerably reduced their incomes from bootleggers, but whatever the cause, the day the Cossacks became Bolsheviks seemed the end for the Boston Brahmins. The police went on strike for two days, and Calvin Coolidge, then Governor of Massachusetts made his blow for President by the oratorical profundity which characterised his career when he said, "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, any time." Of the City's 1,544 police, 1,117 left their posts on September the 8th, and what might be called 'anarchy' ensued. A citizen-volunteer police force was called out, and 5,000 soldiers of the State Guard were put on patrolling the streets. The result of this was increased disorder. Riots broke out and three men were killed and several were wounded. The cost to the city of this outbreak of 'Bolshevism' was estimated at $34,000. The Commissioner of Police announced that the striking police would not be reinstated and that a whole new police force would be recruited. The majority of this new force was composed of ex-service men who patrolled for their first few weeks of duty in old army coats and breeches.

On May 1st, 1919, there was a parade in Boston sponsored by the Lettish Workmen's Association in which 1,500 persons participated. As the parade had no permit it was ordered to stop. The parade, as parades will, said, "To hell with the permit" and marched on. A riot ensued, centering round possession of the flags. Three policemen and one civilian were wounded whilst another policeman was killed. News of the riot spread and anti-socialist mobs demolished the Boston socialist headquarters. Others formed vigilante posses to round up Socialists. As a result of these events 116 paraders were arrested, charged with rioting and resisting the police. Fourteen were found guilty and sentenced to terms ranging from six to eighteen months.

* * *

The other crime of Sacco and Vanzetti was literally a crime, the only crime they seem to have committed, and perhaps, when all is sifted down, the crime for which they were executed, that of being anarchists. Congress in 1903 passed an Act with the provision

… That no person who disbelieves in or who is opposed to all organised government, or who is a member of or affiliated with any organization entertaining and teaching such disbelief or in opposition to all organised government, or who advocates or teaches the duty, necessity or propriety of the unlawful assault or killing of any officer or officers, either of specific individuals or officers generally, of the government of the United States, or of any other organized government, because of his or their official character, shall be permitted to enter the United States … also provided that polygamists, anarchists, or persons who believe in or advocated the overthrow by force or violence of the government of the United States or of all government or of all forms of law, or the assassination of public officials, shall be excluded from the United States.

This was the aftermath of the assassination of President McKinley in 1901 by Leon Czolgosz, a self-declared anarchist, but the first to be caught in its net and deported, was John Turner, a union organizer and one-time writer for FREEDOM. The net of this act was wide enough to cover Bertrand Russell, Maxim Gorki, the late John Strachey, Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, but such an erstwhile revolutionary as Ricardo Flores Magon slipped through its meshes. It doubtless would have deported Sacco and Vanzetti but an especial fate was reserved for them.

The United States has always run a particularly vindictive campaign against anarchists. The Chicago anarchists' fate springs to mind, and Pinkerton wrote in the North American Review in 1909 on 'Detective Surveillance of Anarchists':

there are certain conditions that cannot be dealt with from the ordinary point of view, and anarchy is one of them. These people should all be marked and kept under constant surveillance and on the slightest excuse be made harmless.

Violations of the civil liberties of anarchists were common. The Story of Civil Liberties in the United States lists five major incidents between 1906 and 1913 involving anarchists.

* * *

These great events, emigration, war, political persecution, police violence and repression were the backcloth against which the tragedy of prejudice was played out. Sacco and Vanzetti knew of the fate of deportees, they or their friends had seen those who were labelled 'anarchist' marched in chains through Boston, separated from their families and their homes on the slightest pretext. They knew of the mysterious death of Vanzetti's friend Andrea Salsedo, a typesetter who was denounced by a spy and arrested for subsequent deportation. He was transferred for some mysterious reason to the Department of Justice who kept him and his friend Robert Elia incommunicado for two months. One day Salsedo's body was found on the pavement, fourteen floors beneath the window of his room. Russell writes, "It was believed by anarchists at the time, and afterwards by many liberals, that Salsedo had been tortured by Bureau agents and then thrown from the window. Actually, Salsedo was a suicide." Whatever clear evidence Francis Russell has on this point now, it was not available to Vanzetti or Sacco in 1920.

Sacco and Vanzetti knew that their departure for Mexico in 1917 was frowned upon by the respectable citizens of Boston. They did not know possibly or did not care, but then neither did Mr. Katzmann, that, being aliens, they were not liable to the draft which they were accused of dodging. Russell in his books gives two clues to prejudice which he apparently overlooks. He says that Thayer's "greatest regret … was that he had not been young enough to join the army in 1917" and of Katzmann: "Katzmann was sensitive about his name. His mother's maiden name — his own middle one — was Gunn, and he tried to emphasise its Anglican propriety in his signature." A judge who had military ambitions exhorts a jury to behave like soldiers and a hyphenated American preaches on "love of country." Not that Thayer may not have been brave, and Katzmann was undoubtedly loyal but they seemed to cherish too much the virtues of which they had been denied full expression.

Throughout the case the witnesses seemed to be dividing themselves into the Latin versus the Anglo-Saxons. The barriers were not only of race, but of language. The Italians were all for the defence, and the usual viewpoint was that "all these foreigners stick together." This tendency to lump all Latins together made identification difficult even if goodwill was present; where prejudice was in play identification was impossible; in the words of a popular song quoted by Felix Frankfurter "All coons look alike to me."

The only genuine evidence and albeit false clues of Sacco and Vanzetti's involvement in a crime were what Judge Thayer called "consciousness of guilt' and what was known by all policemen, the jury and general public as "the propaganda of the deed". Sacco and Vanzetti were conscious of their guilt in 'draft-dodging', their guilt of being anarchists and their liability to deportation, they were conscious of their guilt in trying to help other comrades in danger of
being deported. They were conscious of the implacable enmity between what they believed and what was believed by the forces of Justice and law and order ranged against them. The propaganda of the deed was the idea that associated firmly in the public mind the concept that men who held to an idea that was also held by people who believed in acts of individual terrorism, were capable of violent acts no matter how tenuous their connection with such a deed was. A man who read Malatesta was obviously capable of two payroll robberies and two murders. In the words of Thayer, "the defendants' ideals are cognate with the crime."

The crimes that were committed against. Sacco and Vanzetti were the crimes that are committed in the name of 'law and order' every day in every land; the crime of prejudice, the crime of justice, the crime of evidence (expert and otherwise), the crime of identification. The victims of these crimes have little redress and no avengers. Their assailants are above the law for they are the law; the brutalized policeman, the self-righteous judge, the super-patriotic juryman, the frightened official, the inefficient expert, the corrupted witness, the deceitful counsel, the stupid and vainglorious witness, the honestly mistaken and deliberately muddled witness, the politically ambitious public men and the office-seeking attorneys, were all accomplices, willing or unwilling, in the crime of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti versus the Commonwealth of Massachusetts .…

As the bodies of Sacco and Vanzetti were lying to public view at the undertaker's, Mary Donovan, one of the Defence Committee workers stood at the head of the coffins with a sign: "Did You See What I Did to Those Anarchistic Bastards? — Judge Webster Thayer". The police, as is their wont tore up the poster. In the report of the incident in the Daily Herald, the wording of the poster was altered to "Did You See What I Did to Those Anarchists". The original remark was too strong for the Daily Herald to print, but it has never been denied that the remark was made by the Judge (outside the Court of course). It was never denied either, that the foreman of the jury (who was involved in some amazing jiggery-pokery with bullets in evidence), said "Damn them they ought to hang anyhow". The foreman, Walter Ripley, described as "slightly deaf and slightly senile" was elected, guesses Russell, because he was the oldest.

In Vanzetti's trial for the Bridgewater crime, his defence counsel was John Vahey, who by the time the Braintree case came up, was law-partner to Katzmann who had, by then, become District Attorney. John Vahey's brother James, was the legal representative of James Mede, who knew of Silva's responsibility for the Bridgewater crime. It was said by Mede that James Vahey didn't wish Mede to intervene in the Sacco-Vanzetti case because it would make things very difficult for Vahey's brother's partner (Katzmann). The interpreter, Joseph Ross, in the Bridgewater case was personal chauffeur to Judge Thayer and was incompetent as an interpreter. In 1926 he was sentenced for attempting to bribe a judge.

Witnesses who gave evidence that they failed to identify Sacco and / or Vanzetti were victimized. Lewis Wade was called by the police on leaving court 'a piker' and told "We're not through with you yet." They weren't; he was dismissed a few weeks later from his job at Slater and Morrill, where the robbery took place. The same thing happened to Brenner and McCullum who were among the few Anglo-Saxons testifying for the defence. The Italians and Spaniards were more simply dealt with. They were not believed.
The Red menace had reached such proportions that witnesses and police were incapable of thinking straight. A police chief swore that a newspaper headline had been printed in red (it was black). The original interpretation of the Braintree crime was that it was committed by Russians

* * *

The whole glorious maze of evidence became detached from reality. Experts swore contradictory facts. Items of evidence were not capable of interpretations made, were unimportant, were irrelevant, or if true, important or relevant, made no difference to the final verdict. Judge Webster Thayer sitting in judgment on Judge Webster Thayer's judgments found them basically impossible. The gun used to shoot the guard was the guard's own gun, yet the robbery was highly organized. A cap found on the scene didn't fit Sacco but it was his since it had a nail hole in it caused presumably by a nail at Sacco's workplace, but in reality the hole was made by a policeman looking for evidence. The bandits spoke good English, but court proceedings needed an interpreter. The cartridges found on the scene were 'consistent with' having been fired from Vanzetti's gun, this is proof that they were fired from that gun. Vanzetti had always a drooping moustache, the bandit at Bridgewater identified as Vanzetti had a toothbrush moustache, obviously it was Vanzetti … "Damn them, they ought to hang anyway."

One of the most consistent crimes in law courts is the unfailing identification. Dr. Morton Prince, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard described one of the Sacco-Vanzetti witnesses' testimony thus:

I do not hesitate to say that the star witness for the government testified, honestly enough, no doubt, to what was psychologically impossible. Miss Splaine testified, though she had only seen Sacco at the time of the shooting from a distance of about 60 feet for 1 to 3 seconds in a motor car going at an increasing rate of speed at about 15 to 18 miles an hour, that she saw and at the end of a year, she remembered and described 16 different details of his person, even to the size of his hand, the length of his hair as being between 2 and 2½ inches long and the shade of his eyebrows! Such perception and memory under such conditions can easily be proved to be psychologically impossible.

To be fair to Miss Splaine, and damning to Mr. Katzmann, it is probable that all these details were elicited in cross-examination. What is certain is that the identification of Sacco and Vanzetti was carried out under conditions which even English law would not regard as foolproof. Sacco and Vanzetti were alone in prison cages and 'witnesses' were conducted into the prison room and asked to identify them. Photographs had previously appeared in the press together with a statement of their suspected connection with the Braintree crime and hints of the Bridgewater crime. Even with this highly suspect method of identification, the human mind is apt to err, as witness the cases of Adolf Beck and Oscar Slater in this country.

* * *

One could write for hours on this case; one sympathises with Russell's friend the corporation lawyer who said the preliminary reading on the case would take two years. This lawyer believed Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty and thought that no publisher would accept a book with such a thesis. His manuscript was in a two foot pile! Felicani, the printer friend of Sacco and Vanzetti said to Russell, "If your lawyer's wrong at the start, it doesn't matter how many files he has."

An explanation of why this crime was committed against Sacco and Vanzetti is the conventional left-wing one that they were framed. It is not possible to subscribe to this theory. Sacco and Vanzetti were listed for deportation. Had the Bridgewater and Braintree crimes never happened they would have been deported anyhow, but the fact that they were hesitant and confused about their movements made it possible to involve them in the Bridgewater charge. The Boston police saw an opportunity of putting another case off their books and incidentally wiping off the terrible pro-radical stain of the Boston police strike. A self-righteous judge, and over-zealous prosecutor, a senile jury foreman, mistaken and muddled witnesses were sufficient to send Sacco and Vanzetti to the chair. They were not martyrs, they fought by every legal trick for six years to keep alive. Even their minds and bodies fought against the circumstances which had involved them. They both went insane on three or four occasions, they fasted and went defiantly to their deaths.

Among the factors that seemed to have contributed to the inevitability of the final verdict was the unfortunate method of their defence counsel, Fred Moore, who was too inclined to do a 'Perry Mason' and go to work on witnesses in the same way that the prosecution did. Many of his tricks were such as would justify the prosecution (in the eyes of judge and jury), in using similar tricks. It may be that Fred Moore, as many lawyers do, looked on the law as a game, and enjoyed playing even though the stakes were men's lives.
[text missing from original] their own funds is admitted now by James P. Cannon. (He was expelled from the Party and became a Trotskyite). The more important factor is that the case was politically exploited by the Communists. Sacco and Vanzetti knew that the Communists were their political enemies and that anarchists were being imprisoned in Russia at the same time that they were imprisoned in Boston. The struggle for control in the Defence Committee went on, and Sacco and Vanzetti were approached to switch their defence to another Committee which would get Clarence Darrow to fight the case. Both Sacco and Vanzetti rejected this. Sacco quarrelled with Fred Moore and refused to have anything to do with him while he was on the case. The insistence on 'frame-ups' and 'martyrdom' is the hall-mark of Communist agitation, a technique taken over into the Mooney, Scottsborough, Reichstag fire-trials and Rosenberg case. Regardless of the guilt or innocence of the accused, they made their propaganda, regardless of the fact that the Party was supporting trials which were equally 'frame-ups' and injustice. It is interesting in retrospect to find that James P. Cannon and Fred Moore both believed that Sacco was guilty.

The crimes of Communism are many, but their crime against Sacco and Vanzetti, and indeed against all politically conscious idealists of the twenties and thirties, was the cynical and systematic destruction by exploitation of their faith and beliefs. Any stick is found good enough to beat the capitalist dog and the Sacco and Vanzetti case was used as just an incident in the class war which is a ludicrous simplification of the issues in the case which, upon analysis, throw light upon the whole apparatus of law and justice which the Communist State, like any other state, has manipulated to its own purpose.

The final crime committed against Sacco and Vanzetti is evidenced in this book. It is the crime of the scared progressive, of the liberal who has lost his nerve. The second-generation American is a curious phenomenon, no one is more American in his insistence. Vance Packard writes of a newly-rich Italian-American who had the family graves moved to a better-class cemetery. For some tired radicals Sacco and Vanzetti have gone down the memory hole. The absolute rejection of all radical ideals is the common attitude, a withdrawal into private life is very usual, the rebound into utter reaction is frequent. A more complex attitude was pointed out by Dachine Rainer who said that ex-communists very often maintained an anti-Anarchist and anti-Trotskyist attitude when their conscious minds had forgotten the Leninist-Trotskyist-Stalinist attitudes to which their subconsciouses had been conditions.

Francis Russell's final 'evidence' of the guilt of Sacco turns out to be the statement of Cannon that he believed Sacco to be guilty. Of Eugene Lyons that he believed this too and he was diverted by anarchists from following some vague line of enquiry. Fred Moore believed Sacco to be involved in the payroll robbery since anarchists believed in "direct action". Upton Sinclair heard this from Fred Moore and Russell adds that Carlo Tresca believed it (this from an interview with Max Eastman). He is reported to have said "Sacco was guilty but Vanzetti was not."

Two things stick out about Sacco. Firstly that he was acquitted of the Bridgewater crime because of an alibi. His alibi for the Braintree crime was almost as watertight, but unfortunately all his witnesses were Italian. On grounds of opportunity, Vanzetti, a free-lance fish-peddler was more likely to be guilty than a shoe-maker / night-watchman with a family, who was planning to return to Italy.

The second thing about Sacco is that he was more emotional, more violently anti-authoritarian, hence anti-communist, and more likely to make enemies of whom Fred Moore was one. Cannon, Lyons and Eastman all worshipped at the shrine of the god that failed and have been busy for years proving what fools they were to believe in Stalinism and / or Communism. But what it can't kill it cripples, and the ghost of anti-anarchism returns to haunt their 1963-type American dreams.

Russell describes Carlo Tresca as "the acknowledged and admired leader of the anarchists in the United States, to whom they turned as a matter of course when they were in trouble". In one sentence Russell packs all his accumulated ignorance of anarchism. Not much more need be said, except that Tresca was an anarcho-syndicalist with distinctly more emphasis on 'syndicalist' whilst Sacco and Vanzetti belonged to the Galleani group which had very little contact with Tresca.

Upton Sinclair's judgment in this matter is quite unreliable. His record shows him to be the most consistently and sincerely mistaken man of his type on all possible subjects.
Finally we come to an intellectual crime which was at the root of all this complex tree of tragedy which shaded the years 1919-27.

It will be remembered that the mysterious comings and goings of Sacco and Vanzetti were motivated by the numerous deportations taking place, and particularly by the death under mysterious circumstances of Andrea Salsedo. Louis F. Post was the Assistant Secretary of Labour at the time. As such, he was the author of the administrative decisions to deport which made so much havoc with so many lives. Writing in 1923 in The Deportations Delirium, Post says, whilst writing of Emma Goldman's deportation:

But I did not have to decide officially what kind of anarchist Emma Goldman was, for all differences between the widely divergent varieties of anarchism, from terroristic to pacific, had been ignored by Acts of Congress by which I was bound. The sole question before me was whether or not she believed that no government would be better for human society than any kind of government. If she did, she was an anarchist. And if she were an anarchist, her deportation (she being an alien) was mandatorily required by the law. As the record of her hearing showed her to be an anarchist, even though she did not disclose her kind of anarchism definitely, I made an administrative decision on behalf of the Secretary of Labour, whose official alter ego I happened at the moment to be, which ordered the Commissioner General of Immigration to deport her.

No question of sympathy on the one hand nor of antipathy on the other was involved. Whether or not I liked the law did not enter in. I was not a maker of laws but an administrator of a law already constitutionally made. To administer it fairly and effectively, though humanely was my only function. And this law was mandatory. I had no choice but to measure by it the facts presented in the record of hearing. In any case in which the recorded facts brought the alien within the manifest intent of the law, my refusal to execute its requirements would have been in violation of my oath of office, treacherous to the Government which I administratively represented, and essentially repugnant to the developing democratic principles of our Republic. Similarly perjured, equally treacherous and quite as undemocratic should I have been had I in any case decided to order deportation without evidence reasonably convincing that the alien was lawfully deportable.

Louis F. Post regarded himself as a radical, but his statement sounds like the defence at Nuremberg or the pleas of an Eichmann.
Sacco and Vanzetti were not martyrs, they were the victims of the machine of which Post, Thayer and Katzmann were equally victims, but they were not in love with the machine which devoured them.

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Apr 1 2018 22:33


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