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Who Killed Carlo Tresca

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Tresca had met with representatives of the Foreign Language Division of the Office of War Information to discuss the formation of an Italian Victory Council, part of the attempt to form what was called a united front against Fascism. Tresca made clear to the government agents that he would personally and vigorously oppose the formation and activities of such a council if it were to include either Communists or Fascists, former or otherwise.

Almost before Tresca's corpse had time to cool, representatives of the Office of War Information announced that Tresca had not opposed admission of Communists and former Fascists to the Victory Council. Tresca's supporters immediately denounced these official announcements as flat lies. The controversy grew from this fundamental disagreement.

The fact is, agents of the United States government wished to cooperate with Communists and former Fascists and Carlo Tresca opposed them, stood in their way. The other fish which governmental agencies had to fry and which prevented them from doing "all in their power to extirpate the hideous business of political assassination in America" was the shaping of what we sardonically call the "post-war world," the recent past and the present- a recent past and present in which political assassinations flourish, the black death of our new Dark Age.

I have two main reasons for reissuing this pamphlet now, in commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the murder of Carlo Tresca. First, to let the pamphlet raise again the questions it originally posed. Second, to draw attention to Tresca's remarkable life and work.

Tresca was a specimen of a now extinct species, the human mastodons who roamed the American labor movement before the vastly unnerving and destructive flood of World War I. They were unlike both the slogan-mongering thugs who came to control the Old Left and the grimly comic agents provacateurs who came to dominate the New Left. They made up what might best be called the Antediluvian Left, modern Quixotes in pursuit of justice for the laboring poor- Daniel DeLeon, Eugene Victor Debs, Big Bill Haywood, Emma Goldman, Errico Malatesta, John Reed, Carlo Tresca.

George Orwell once memorably put his finger on what set this breed apart:

In the past, at any rate throughout the Protestant centuries, the idea of rebellian and the idea of intellectual integrity were mixed up. A heretic- political, moral, religious, or aesthetic- was one who refused to outrage his own conscience. His outlook was summed up in the words of the Revivalist hymn:

Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone;
Dare to have a purpose firm,
Dare to make it known.

To bring this hymn up-to-date one would have to add a "Don't" at the beginning of each line. For it is the peculiarity of our age that the rebels against the existing order, at any rate the most numerous and characteristic of them, are also rebelling against the idea of individual integrity.

What makes Tresca's life and work of special interest is that he survived the flood of World War I (and the Red Scare, the Palmer raids) long enough to try to adapt to the new conditions He lived to see the rise of Fascism and Hitler's death camps, the recognition of Communism as a blood relative to Fascism, the Stalinist purges, the Communist decimation of non-Stalinist leftists in Spain, and the increasing domination of the American labor movement by the underworld. But Tresca neither died, nor traveled to Russia, nor became cynical, nor fell silent, nor hysterically defended the soi-divant capitalist status quo. Instead, he became

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