On Saturday, August 29th at Boston Common members of the Boston Industrial Workers of the World gathered to remember the tragedy of justice carried out by the State of Massachusetts against two men wrongly accused of committing of robbing a payroll clerk at gunpoint.
Marred by ethnic prejudice, perjured testimony, suspected collusion of the defense counsel with the prosecution, admittance of irrelevant testimony concerning the political activities of both men, conflicts of interest with the judge and other judicial errors, Nicola Sacco and Bartemelo Vanzetti were sentenced to death electrocuted at the Charleston State Prison on August 23, 1927 as innocent men.
The case garnered international attention as the public worldwide noted that the prosecution, for lack of real evidence, made use of the prejudice, racism and red-baiting in American society at the time to convict the two men. To this day the case still conjures up study and debate. No one who studies history can deny that the events leading up to the deaths of these two men, had more to do with their anti-war, anti-capitalist and pro-worker activities than with the crime they were accused of committing.
Most importantly, the case draws a hard lesson about the extreme tension between workers and the unfettered growth of industrial capitalism in America and Europe. Activists who fought for worker justice, who spoke out against World War 1 were actively pursued as what we’d today call “terrorists”, rounded up, beaten, abused and oppressed in an effort to stem the tide of resistance to the newly developing and growing capitalist state.
One would do well to recall that the abuse and corruption of the American judicial system continues to disempower, abuse and control those entities of society that serve the capitalist interest best when exploited.
Click here for further details on the case.
Nicola Sacco’s statement to court after being sentenced to death (9th April, 1927)
I am no orator. It is not very familiar with me the English language, and as I know, as my friend has told me, my comrade Vanzetti will speak more long, so I thought to give him the chance. I never knew, never heard, even read in history anything so cruel as this Court. After seven years prosecuting they still consider us guilty. And these gentle people here are arrayed with us in this court today.
I know the sentence will be between two classes, the oppressed class and the rich class, and there will be always collision between one and the other. We fraternize the people with the books, with the literature. You persecute the people, tyrannize them and kill them. We try the education of people always. You try to put a path between us and some other nationality that hates each other. That is why I am here today on this bench, for having been of the oppressed class. Well, you are the oppressor.
You know it, Judge Thayer – you know all my life, you know why I have been here, and after seven years that you have been persecuting me and my poor wife, and you still today sentence us to death. I would like to tell all my life, but what is the use? You know all about what I say before, that is, my comrade, will be talking, because he is more familiar with the language, and I will give him a chance.
You forget all this population that has been with us for seven years, to sympathize and give us all their energy and all their kindness. You do not care for them. Among that peoples and the comrades and the working class there is a big legion of intellectual people which have been with us for seven years, to not commit the iniquitous sentence, but still the Court goes ahead. And I want to thank you all, you peoples, my comrades who have been with me for seven years, with the Sacco Vanzetti case, and I will give my friend a chance.
Statement of Bartolomeo Vanzetti after sentencing:
“If it had not been for this thing, I might have lived out my life talking at street corners to scorning men. I might have died, unmarked, unknown, a failure. Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph. Never in our full life can we hope to do such work for tolerance, justice, for man’s understanding of man, as now we do by accident. Our words – our lives – our pains – nothing! The taking of our lives – lives of a good shoemaker and a poor fish peddler – all! That last moment belong to us – that agony is our triumph.”
Below, 2007 documentary, lots of original film footage, detailed.