He Died As a Fighter for Freedom
A man is shot down in the streets of Manhattan.
The Murdered man is one of those people whom once met you never forget. He has many friends among politicians and labor leaders, and journalists and among the working people of the great Italian city which is one of the cities that make up New York. The labor unions give him a magnificent funeral. The press is full of interest in his murder. The police show great energy and discover a car which probably was used in the crime. They discover the garage where the car was kept. They discover the name used by the man who bought that car. They pick up a paroled convict on the suspicion that he might have been one of the agents hired for the killing. From the District Attorney's office come rumors of speedy arrests and indictments.
That was in the winter of 1943.
This is the autumn of 1945.
We still don't know who killed Carlo Tresca, nor why he was killed.
The police who started out with such energy have slowed down. The paroled convict has been released. The clues have melted away. The newspapers, distracted by immense events in Europe and the Pacific, have become apathetic. From the District Attorney's office comes nothing new. Efforts to interest the Attorney General in Washington or the Federal Bureau of Investigation have proved unavailing. Just another unsolved Italian killing.
It is impossible not to get the impression that the responsible public officials have failed to understand the national importance of pushing the investigation of Carlo Tresca's murder through to a successful conclusion.
We live in a dangerous time. There is very real danger that in the upheavals of these days the minimum decencies and liberties which all Americans, newspaper editors and labor leaders and politicians and public officials alike, take for granted as the basis of their happiness, may be swept away.
We have been awake to the danger overseas. Our young men have given their lives to overcome it. But victories abroad will be of no avail if through cowardice and stupidity and apathy we lose our liberties at home.
The basis of civilized life as we know it is the personal security of the individual. Freedom of speech is part of the foundation of that security. No matter how freely a man speaks or writes, our system of government protects him. If some other individual feels that he has been libeled or slandered he can go to the courts for protection.
When a murder is allowed to go unpunished, the fabric of society, built out of the personal security of all the individuals which make it up, has been damaged. The rule of law has been weakened. A public official who allowed pressures to block the performance of his duty would be committing a dereliction as grave as that of an officer who ran away on the battlefield. In the case of Carlo Tresca's murder a dereliction of duty would be particularly dangerous because the likelihood is that Tresca was murdered to stop his voice. It was almost certainly a political assassination.