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Who Killed Carlo Tresca

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Witnesses, passers-by, the police presumably got their description of the killer as a man between 35 and 40 years old and about 5 feet 5 inches tall.

Life of a Fighter

Carlo Tresca's life was a turbulent one, filled with innumerable battles for justice, for free speech, the rights of the underdog, the interests of the working class.

He was born in 1879 in Sulmona, an ancient town in the Abruzzi, set in a high and fertile valley in the Appenines. Although the son of a wealthy land-owner, he never had much sympathy with his own class. It was the peasants and industrial workers whose hard life aroused him to action. By the time he was twenty, he was a Socialist agitator, secretary of the new Railway Workers' Union, and publisher of a revolutionary journal called Il Germe (The Seed.) In that paper he exposed the crooked actions of men in high places, and for this was convicted of libel. Proof of the truth of his allegations was not sufficient. Facing prison or exile at twenty-four, he took refuge in Switzerland, where he met, among other exiled Italian radicals, a noiscy talker named Benito Mussolini. Tresca thought him a poseur and a charlatan, and that future traitor to Socialism told Tresca he was not radical enough.

In 1904 Carlo emigrated to the United States, where he soon found plenty of scope for his talents as a leader and organizer. Pittsburgh and the problems of the steel workers and coal miners in that area challenged him, and he began to publish an Italian-language paper, La Plebe (The Common People.) When in the following year the Industrial Workers of the World, with a revolutionary syndicalist program, was founded in Chicago by Big Bill Haywood, Eugene V. Debs, Daniel De Leon, and others, young Tresca was naturally drawn to it.* He became a stormy Petrel in the American labor movement, organizing Italian workers in many sections of the country, leading strikes, playing a large part in the great 1912 textile conflict in Lawrence, Mass., in the march of New York City unemployed on the churches, demanding food and shelter, in 1915, and in the historic Mesaba Iron Range strike in Minnesota, where he was indicted with others for "conspiracy to commit murder." In 1917, L'Avenire (The Future), a paper he was then publishing in New York,

*This is an error. The original IWW of 1905 to which Tresca was drawn did not have "a revolutionary syndicalist program." Under the influence of Daniel DeLeon's thought, the original IWW espoused a program which combined economic action- the strike, including the general strike or, perhaps more accurately, what Jack London called "the dream of the general stike," conducted along industrial, rather than craft, lines, and political action- agitation, education and, eventually, voting the rascals out. The ultimate goal toward which the organization aimed took the shape of DeLeon's concrete visions of a republican Industrial Commonwealth, a conception which owed more to James Madison and Lewis Henry Morgan, with their tradition of liberty as embodied in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, than to Karl Marx, with his dedication to dictatorship.

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