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Who Killed Carlo Tresca

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Carlo Tresca was assassinated on January 11, 1943. World events at the time of the murder increase its significance and the significance of the fact that the crime has gone unsolved.

The government of the United States of America, with its allies, primarily England and Russia, was then engaged in a war against Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and the Japanese Empire. Carlo Tresca, long before America entered that war, had engaged in a constant struggle against Fascism in America- only to be jailed by American law enforcement agencies acting in behalf of Mussolini, the dictator of Italy. Tresca also struggled constantly against the adherents of Russian Communism once it became clear that, despite their humanitarian slogans, their tactics and aims were fundamentally the same as those of the fascists.

Asearly as 1928, in Philadelphia, Tresca "argued that all revolutionary movements against tyranny generally ended with the seizure of power by new forces of oppression. Tresca remarked that Italian Communists would seek to establish an equally repressive regime once Mussolini fell from power. Predicting the fall of Fascism, Tresca noted that the anarchists would continue their agitation against all authority, including that of the Italian Communists" (Luciano J. Iorizzo and Salvatore Mondello, The Italian-Americans, New York, 1971, p. 201). Although he called himself an anarchist, Tresca held to his dictum: "I seek only freedom, not anarchy."

In America, too, what might best be called Statism, was on the increase. Throughout the vast Depression of the 1930's, government bureaucracies blossomed, frequently identified by three-letter acronyms. As if to prove the validity of Randolph Bourne's mordant refrain to America's involvement in World War I, "War is the health of the state," America's bureaucracy grew to include new kinds of agencies in the early days of World War II: the Coordinator of Information (COI) gave way to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), an agency devoted to espionage, and the Office of War Information (OWI), an agency devoted to propaganda.

More and more, Tresca was a man of principle active in a world dominated by power politics. He insisted that democratic forces could not prevail through cooperation with and support of dictators, whether they were avowedly of the left or the right. The government of the United States did not agree.

Perhaps Norman Thomas, the man who seems to have done more than any other to try and keep the Tresca case open, best summed up the loss that Tresca's death meant to America:

In a very real sense, Carlo Tresca was the last of the line of "old school" radicals or revolutionaries. As such we shall miss him sorely. He loved men better than the abstraction, mankind. He loved life too much to be forced into any Procrustean bed of dogma. He had a great faith without bitter intolerance. He was a fighter of courage, incapable of the sustained cruelty which has marred the communist as well as the fascist movement. He was equally incapable of the communist type of duplicity.

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