From ABC of Anarchism
Tom Mooney had organized the street-car men of San Francisco, a crime for which the traction company could not forgive him. Mooney together with Warren Billings and other workers had also been active in a number of strikes. They were known and admired for their devotion to the union cause. That was enough for the employers and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce to try to get them out of the way. On several occasions they had been arrested on frame-up charges by agents of the traction and other corporations. But the cases against them were of such flimsy nature that they had to be dismissed. The Chamber of Commerce bided its opportunity to 'get' those two labor men, as their agents openly threatened to do.
The opportunity came with the explosion during the Preparedness Parade in San Francisco, July 22, 1916. The labor unions of the city had decided not to participate in the parade, because the latter was merely a show of strength by California capital as against unionized labor which the Chamber of Commerce had set out to crush. The 'open shop' was its frankly proclaimed policy, and it made no secret of its determined and bitter hostility to unions.
It has never been ascertained who placed the infernal machine which exploded during the parade, but the San Francisco police never made any serious effort to find the responsible party or parties. Immediately following the tragic occurrence Thomas Mooney and his wife Rena were arrested, as well as Warren Billings, Edward D. Nolan, member of the machinists' union, and I. Weinberg, of the jitney drivers' union.
The trial of Billings and Mooney proved one of the worst scandals in the history of American courts.
The State witnesses were self-confessed perjurers, bribed and threatened by the police into giving false testimony. Evidence showing the entire innocence of Mooney and Billings was ignored. Mooney was accused of having placed the infernal machine at the very time when he was in the company of friends upon the roof of a house about a mile and a half distant from the scene of the explosion. A photograph taken of the demonstration by a film company during the parade clearly shows Mooney on the roof, and in the background a street clock indicating the time as 2.02 p.m. The explosion having taken place at 2.06 p.m., it would have been a physical impossibility for Mooney to have been at both places at almost the same time.
But it was not a question of evidence, of guilt or innocence. Tom Mooney was bitterly hated by the vested interests of San Francisco. He had to be gotten out of the way. Mooney and Billings were convicted, the former being sentenced to death, the latter receiving a lifetime term.
The outrageous manner in which the trial was conducted, the evident perjury of the State witnesses, and the clear hand of the manufacturers back of the prosecution aroused the country. The matter ultimately was brought up before Congress. The latter passed a resolution ordering the Labor Department to investigate the case. The report of Commissioner John B. Densmore, sent to San Francisco for this purpose, exposed the conspiracy to hang Mooney as one of the methods of the Chamber of Commerce to destroy organized labor in California.
Since then most of the State witnesses, having failed to receive the reward promised them, confessed to having perjured themselves at the instigation of Charles M. Fickert, then District Attorney of San Francisco and known tool of the Chamber of Commerce. Draper Hand and R. W. Smith, police officials of the city, have both declared in sworn affidavits that the evidence against Mooney and Billings was manufactured from beginning to end by the District Attorney and his bribed witnesses from the lowest social dregs of the coast.
The Mooney-Billings case attracted national and even international attention. President Wilson felt induced to wire to the Governor of California twice, asking for a revision of the case. Mooney's death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, but no effort has succeeded in securing him a new trial. The money power of California was bent on keeping Mooney and Billings in the penitentiary. The Supreme Court of the State, obedient to the Chamber of Commerce, steadfastly refused, on technical grounds, to review the trial testimony, the perjured character of which had become a byword in California.
Since then all the surviving jurors have made statements to the effect that if the true facts of the case had been known to them during the trial, they would have never convicted Mooney. Even Judge Fraser, who presided at the trial, has asked for Mooney's pardon, on similar grounds.
Yet both Tom Mooney and Warren Billings still remain in the penitentiary. The Chamber of Commerce of California is determined to keep them there, and their power is supreme with the courts and the government.
Can you still speak of justice? Do you think justice to labor possible under the reign of capitalism?
The judicial murder of the Chicago Anarchists took place many years ago, in 1887. Considerable time has also elapsed since the MooneyBillings case, in 1916-1917. The latter, moreover, happened far away, on the Pacific Coast, at a time of war hysteria. Such rank injustice could take place only in those days, you might say; it could hardly be repeated to-day.
Let us then shift the scene to our own day, to the very heart of America, the proud seat of culture - to Boston, Massachusetts.
It is sufficient to mention Boston to call up the picture of two proletarians, Nicola Sacco and Bartolemeo Vanzetti, one a poor shoemaker, the other a fish peddler, whose names to-day are known and honored in every civilized country the world over.
Martyrs to humanity, if ever there were any; two men who gave up their lives because of their devotion to mankind, because of their loyalty to the ideal of an emancipated and freed working class. Two innocent men who bravely suffered torture during seven long years, and who died a terrible death with a serenity of spirit rarely equaled by the greatest martyrs of all time.
The story of that judicial murder of two of the noblest of men, the crime of Massachusetts that will neither be forgotten nor forgiven as long as the State exists, is too fresh in the memory of every one to need recapitulation here.
But why did Sacco and Vanzetti have to die? This question is of utmost moment; it bears directly upon the matters at issue.
Do you think that if Sacco and Vanzetti had been just a pair of criminals, as the prosecution tried to make you believe, there would have been such ruthless determination to execute them in the face of the appeals, pleadings, and protests of the entire world?
Or if they had been plutocrats actually guilty of murder, with no other issue involved, would they have been executed? Would no appeal to the higher courts of the State have been allowed, would the Federal Supreme Court have refused to consider the case?
You have often heard of some rich fellow killing a man, or of the sons of wealthy parents found guilty of murder in the first degree. But can you name a single one of them ever executed in the United States? Will you even discover many of them in prison? Does not the law always find excuses of 'mental excitation', of 'brain storm', of 'legal irresponsibility in cases of rich men convicted of crime?
But even if Sacco and Vanzetti had been ordinary criminals sentenced to die, would not appeals from prominent men in all walks of life, from charitable societies, and hundreds of thousands of friends and sympathizers have secured clemency for them? Would not doubt of their guilt, expressed by the highest legal authorities, have resulted in a new trial, a revision of the old testimony, and the consideration of new evidence in their behalf?
Why was all this refused to Sacco and Vanzetti? Why did 'law and order', beginning with the local police and Federal detectives, up to the confessedly prejudiced trial judge, all through the Supreme Court of the State, the Governor, and ending with the Federal Supreme Court show such a determination to send them to the electric chair?
Because Sacco and Vanzetti were dangerous to the interests of capital. These men voiced the dissatisfaction of the workers with their condition of servitude. They expressed consciously what the workers mostly feel unconsciously. It is because they were class-conscious men, Anarchists, that they were a greater menace to the security of capitalism than if they had been a whole army of strikers not conscious of the real objects of the class struggle. The masters know that when you strike you demand only higher pay or shorter hours of work. But the class-conscious struggle of labor against capital is a far more serious matter; it means the entire abolition of the wage system and the freeing of labor from the domination of capital. You can readily understand then why the masters saw a greater danger in such men as Sacco and Vanzetti than in the biggest strike for the mere improvement of conditions with in capitalism.
Sacco and Vanzetti threatened the whole structure of capitalism and government. Not those two poor proletarians as individuals. No; rather what those two men represented - the spirit of conscious rebellion against existing conditions of exploitation and oppression.
It is that spirit which capital and government meant to kill in the persons of those men. To kill that spirit and the movement for labor's emancipation by striking terror into the hearts of all who might think and feel like Sacco and Vanzetti; to make an example of those two men that would intimidate the workers and keep them away from the proletarian movement.
This is the reason why neither the courts not the government of Massachusetts could be induced to give Sacco and Vanzetti a new trial. There was danger of their being acquitted in the atmosphere of an aroused public sense of justice; there was the fear that the plot to murder them would be exposed. That is why the Justices of the Federal Supreme Court declined to hear the case, just as the judges of the Supreme Court of the State of Massachusetts refused a new trial in spite of important new evidence. For that reason also the President of the United States did not intercede in the matter, though it was no less his moral than his legal duty to do so. His moral duty, in the interests of justice; his legal obligation because as President he had sworn to uphold the Constitution which guarantees every one a fair trial, which Sacco and Vanzetti did not get.
President Coolidge had sufficient precedents for interceding in behalf of justice, notably the example of Woodrow Wilson, in the case of Mooney. But Coolidge had not the courage to do so, being entirely subsenient to the Big Interests. No doubt the case of Sacco and Vanzetti was also considered of even greater importance and class significance than that of Mooney. At any rate, both capital and government agreed in their resolve to uphold the courts of Massachusetts at all cost and to sacrifice Nicolo Sacco and Bartolemeo Vanzetti.
The masters were determined to uphold the legend of 'justice in the courts', because their whole power rests on the popular belief in such justice. It is not that infallibility is claimed for judges. If that were the attitude, there would be no appeal from the decision of a judge, there would be neither superior nor supreme courts. The fallibility of Justice is admitted, but the fact that the courts and all government institutions serve only to support the rule of the masters over their labor slaves - that their justice is but class justice - that could not be admitted for even an instant. Because if the people found that out, capitalism and government would be doomed. That is exactly why no impartial review of the evidence in the Sacco and Vanzetti case could be permitted, no new trial given them, for such a proceeding would have exposed the motives and objects back of their prosecution.
Therefore there was no appeal and no new trial- only a star chamber hearing behind closed doors in the Governor's mansion, by men whose loyalty to the dominant class was above suspicion; men who by all their training and education, by their tradition and interests were bound to Sustain the courts and clear the Sacco and Vanzetti verdict of any imputation of class justice. Therefore Sacco and Vanzetti had to die.
Governor Fuller of Massachusetts pronounced the final word of their doom. There were, even up to the last moment, thousands who had hoped that the Governor would shrink from committing this coldblooded murder. But they did not know or had forgotten that years before, in 1919, the same Fuller had stated in Congress that every 'radical, socialist, IWW, or anarchist should be exterminated'; that is, that those who seek to free labor should be murdered. Could you reasonably expect such a man to do justice to Sacco and Vanzetti, two avowed Anarchists?
Governor Fuller acted according to his sentiments, in keeping with his attitude and interests as a member of the ruling class, in a manner thoroughly class-conscious. Similarly have acted Judge Thayer and all those involved in the prosecution, no less than the 'respectable gentlemen of the Commission appointed by Fuller to 'review' the case in secret session. All of them class-conscious, they were interested only in sustaining capitalistic 'justice', so as to preserve the 'law and order' by which they live and profit.
Is there justice for labor within capitalism and government? Can there be any as long as the present system exists? Decide for yourself.
The cases I have cited are but a few of the numerous struggles of American labor against capital. The same can be duplicated in every country. They clearly demonstrate the fact that
- (1) there is only class justice in the war of capital against labor; there can be no justice for labor under capitalism.
- (2) law and government, as well as all other capitalist institutions (the press, the school, the church, the police, and courts) are always at the service of capital against labor, whatever the merits of any given case. Capital and government are twins with one common interest.
- (3) capital and government will use any and all means to keep the proletariat in subjection: they will terrorize the working class and ruthlessly murder its most intelligent and devoted members.
It cannot be otherwise, because there is a life-and-death struggle between capital and labor.
Every time that capital and its servant, the law, hang such men as the Chicago Anarchists or electrocute the Saccos and Vanzettis, they proclaim that they have 'freed society from a menace'. They want you to believe that the executed were your enemies, enemies of society. They also want you to believe that their death has settled the matter, that capitalistic justice has been vindicated, and that 'law and orders has triumphed. But the matter is not settled, and the masters' victory is only temporary. The struggle goes on, as it has continued all through the history of man, all through the march of labor and liberty. No matter is ever settled unless it is settled right. You can't suppress the natural yearning of the human heart for freedom and well-being, however much terror and murder governments may resort to. You can't stifle the demand of the toiler for better conditions. The struggle goes on and will continue in spite of everything law, government, and capital may do. But that the workers may not be wasting their energy and efforts in the wrong direction, they must clearly understand that they can no more hope for justice from the courts, from law and government, than they can expect wage slavery to be abolished by their masters.
'What's to be done, then?' you ask. 'How shall the workers get justice?'
ABC of Anarchism Chapter 9