Could the Communists Have Killed Tresca?
Who could possibly have killed Carlo Tresca, or instigated that murder? Who had what might be regarded as a substantial reason to put him out of the way? His friends generally contend that this was a political murder, that Tresca was slain because of his aggressive opposition to one or another of the totalitarian governments or parties, or because he knew too much about one or more persons active in international politics.
Tresca was outspoken in his attacks on Fascism, "ex"-Fascists, and Communists. These attacks were not confined to the columns of his journal. He made them also in speeches, and in conversations in public places.
One of those who attributed his murder to the Fascists was Judge J. Roland Sala, who called a recess in Brooklyn Felony Court next morning, and spoke at length to scores of listeners present about the possible reasons for the crime. Others recalled that Carlo Tresca was put on Mussolini's death list in 1931.
Still others suspected the Communists, or some fanatical group on the edges of the Communist movement, remembering that when Tresca went before a federal grand jury to accuse one of their number in connection with the disappearance of Juliet Stuart Poyntz, ex- secret agent for Soviet Russia, the party press had assailed him as a Fascist spy. It was pointed out, too, that on May 14, 1942, he published a front page attack in Il Martello on Carlos Contreras, also known as Enca Sormenti and as Vittorio Vidali, charging him with being a "commandment of spies, thieves, and assassins," and with being one of a band of killers who committed horrible crimes in Spain in the interest of Stalin.*
Two hours after Carlo's death, the District Attorney's office was informed that two or three weeks earlier he had told various friends that he had lately seen Contreras-Sormenti-Vidalo in New York City and that Tresca had said to them then: "Where he is, I smell murder. I wonder who will be the next victim." The authorities also were told soon after the slaying that two Philadelphia anti-Fascists had reported seeing Sormenti lately on a farm near Landisville, N.J., a few miles from Camden.
At one time Sormenti and Tresca had been friendly. Sormenti, at odds with Mussolini, came here from Italy in 1923 and joined up with the Communists, serving as secretary of the Italian Federation within that party. Four years later, he was ordered deported for illegal entry. In those days, before Tresca had become disillusioned about the Communists, he gave whole-hearted support to Sormenti in his fight against deportation, contending that the man would be shot if sent back to Italy, as so many anti-Fascists had been. Finally, Sormenti was permitted to go to Russia, where (according to the
Herald Tribune) he attended a GPU school and learned "terrorist methods."
For some eight years before his death Tresca had been an implacable
*According to Francis Russell in his The Great Interlude (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964). P. 141, "Vidali is at present to leader of the Communists in Trieste."