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Who Killed Carlo Tresca

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When this pamphlet first appeared nearly forty years ago, it raised two closely related questions. (1) who killed Carlo Tresca and (2) is political murder to be tacitly condoned by the American state? The official silence which descended on the pamphlet left the first of these questions unanswered and, thus, answered the second in the affirmative.

Norman Thomas, one of the moving forces behind the Carlo Tresca memorial committee which originally issued this pamphlet, raised this second, broader question at the memorial service held at Manhattan Center on January 17, 1943, six days after Tresca was gunned down. Thomas said to the more than 5,000 mourners present, "Let us pledge ourselves to extirpate, and to insist that governmental agencies do all in their power to extirpate, the hideous business of political assassinations in America."

It is shameful, but true, that "governmental agencies" would not "do all in their power to extirpate the hideous business of political assassinations in America" despite the insistence of Mr. Thomas and innumerable others. Government agencies had other fish to fry.

What those fish were can at least be glimpsed through a survey of the immediate coverage of the investigation into the political murder of Carlo Tresca by the New York Times. Coverage ran from January 12, 1943, when the report of the assassination appeared in the paper, to January 27, 1943, when the paper carried the last of several reports on a growing controversy between Tresca's supporters and a governmental agency, the U.S. Office of War Information.

Between these dates, the paper carried reports on: a massive and energetic investigation carried out not only by local police but also by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the discovery and follow-up of clues; the collection of testimony on Tresca's leading political enemies, the Communists and the Fascists or so-called former Fascists, supporters of Mussolini who ostensibly saw the democratic light when America waded into the global carnage which we try to reduce to tolerable proportions with the label World War II; an early arrest, the reopening of the investigation into the mysterious disappearance of Juliet Stuart Pointz, the apparent result of a crime which Tresca had persistently placed at the feet of the Stalinists; the debate between Tresca's supporters and the Office of War Information; the evaporation of clues and leads; the silent withdrawal of witnesses; the mysterious disappearance of the FBI from the investigation; and further reports on the controversy between Tresca's supporters and the Office of War Information.

In short, the vigor with which the investigation was conducted dwindled as the controversy between Tresca's supporters and the Office of War Information increased. The nature of that controversy suggests that there may have been a relationship between it and the conduct of the investigation.

It was widely held by officials investigating the murder and Tresca's supporters that either the Communists or the Fascists had killed Tresca. Indeed, every writer who has tried to fill the official vacuum created by this unsolved crime has asserted that either the Communists or the Fascists were responsible for the killing- with the exception of Guenther Reinhardt who, in his Crime Without Punishment, asserted that there had been a kind of collaboration between these parties in the Tresca killing, with the Stalinists hiring gangsters with Fascist ties to perform the assassination. Both groups clearly hated Tresca because of his effective opposition to them and both groups, at various times, had issued veiled or open threats on his life.

Official investigators into the murder learned that, shortly before his death,

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