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Announcement :: Human Rights
Annual Sacco and Vanzetti Award - Community Church - Sunday 27 May 11am - 1:30pm - Copley Square Boston
25 May 2018
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“Paying the Price for Peace: Annual Sacco and Vanzetti Award" with S. Brian Willson
When: Sunday, May 27, 2018, 11:00 am to 1:30 pm Where: Community Church of Boston • 565 Boylston Street, 2nd floor • Boston
Join us live on Facebook for our 11:00 a.m. service!
This Memorial Day Weekend, we honor the deep commitment of S. Brian Willson to peace, anti-militarism and anti-imperialism. Brian Willson is the author of “Blood on the Tracks-The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson” (PM Press, 2011).
Music by CommUnity Voices
Lunch provided after the program.
All Programs are held on the second floor in the Lothrop Auditorium.
Small elevator, wheelchair accessible.
CCB is located near the Orange line-Back Bay or the Green line-Copley T Stops. On Street Parking and at Back Bay Parking Garage, 199 Clarendon Street. Discount Vouchers available for parking in the garage.
Community Church of Boston is located at 565 Boylston St., 2nd fl., Boston, MA 02116. www.communitychurchofboston.org; info (at) communitychurchofboston.org
From 'Workers Vanguard'
Lessons of the Fight to Free Sacco and Vanzetti
Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Free All Class-War Prisoners!
August 23 marked the anniversary of the executions of anarchist workers Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in Massachusetts in 1927. Arrested in May 1920 at the height of the anti-immigrant Red Scare that followed the 1917 Russian Revolution, the two were convicted the next year on frame-up murder and robbery charges. Sacco, a skilled worker in a shoe factory, and Vanzetti, who supported himself as a fish peddler, were singled out because they were Italian immigrants and because they had dedicated their lives to fighting for the emancipation of the working class.
With their executions, Sacco and Vanzetti joined a long list of working-class fighters subjected to the barbaric death penalty or entombed in prison by the rulers of “democratic” American capitalism: the Haymarket martyrs, labor organizers and anarchists executed in 1887; Joe Hill, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) activist framed up on murder charges and killed by a firing squad in Utah in 1915; Tom Mooney and Warren Billings, also framed up on murder charges stemming from a bomb explosion at a 1916 San Francisco “Preparedness” rally that drummed up support for U.S. entry into World War I, an interimperialist war. (Mooney and Billings were released from prison in 1939.) Up to their last breaths, Sacco and Vanzetti remained unbowed. As the guards strapped him in the electric chair, Sacco declared, “Viva l’anarchia.” Moments later, Vanzetti turned to the warden and stated, “I am innocent of all crime, not only of this one, but all. I am an innocent man.” He was electrocuted within minutes.
The story of Sacco and Vanzetti is also one of militant struggle for their lives and freedom led by the International Labor Defense (ILD), associated with the early Communist Party (CP). The U.S. affiliate of the International Red Aid (MOPR), which was established by the Communist International, the ILD blazed a trail of class-struggle defense by mobilizing workers across the U.S. on Sacco and Vanzetti’s behalf, in conjunction with MOPR’s efforts internationally.
Following the executions, ILD secretary James P. Cannon, a leader of the early CP and later of American Trotskyism, drew the lessons of this struggle in an article in the ILD’s Labor Defender (October 1927) titled, “A Living Monument to Sacco and Vanzetti.” Cannon wrote: “In this act of assassination the ruling class of America shows its real face to the world. The mask of ‘democracy’ is thrown aside.” In appealing for workers solidarity, Cannon pointed out, the ILD “endeavored to link up the fight for them with the general defense of the scores of labor prisoners confined in the penitentiaries today and with the broader fight of the toiling masses for liberation from the yoke of capitalism.”
That is the perspective that guides the work of the Partisan Defense Committee—a class-struggle legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League. The work of the ILD provides vital lessons for working-class militants, leftists and radical youth in the struggles of today, in particular the fight for the life and freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal. A Black Panther Party spokesman in his youth, later an award-winning journalist and supporter of the MOVE organization, Mumia was framed up on false charges for the 9 December 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and sentenced to death explicitly for his political views. Mumia’s case is the racist and political frame-up of an innocent man. As we have stressed since the PDC first took up his cause some 20 years ago, the road to his freedom lies in mobilizing the proletariat in the U.S. and internationally, whose social power lies in its numbers, organization and ability to bring production to a halt.
The similarities between the frame-ups of Sacco and Vanzetti and of Mumia are striking. All three were victimized for their political beliefs and activities. Sacco and Vanzetti were among the anarchists targeted for repression by the federal government; Mumia had been targeted by the FBI and Philadelphia cops from the time he was a 15-year-old spokesman for the Black Panthers, also earning their wrath for his later defense of the MOVE organization against brutal cop attacks. Both cases featured jury-rigging, concealment of evidence, coercion of witnesses and phony ballistics, with trials presided over by judges openly biased against the defendants.
In 1924, after denying a motion for a new trial for Sacco and Vanzetti, Judge Webster Thayer told Dartmouth College professor James Richardson, “Did you see what I did with those anarchistic bastards the other day?” (quoted in Herbert Ehrmann, The Case That Will Not Die ). At the time of Mumia’s 1982 trial, Judge Albert Sabo was overheard by a court reporter boasting, “I’m going to help them fry the n----r.” In both cases, another man ultimately confessed, absolving the defendants of any involvement, only to have the courts disregard the confessions. And for Mumia as well as for Sacco and Vanzetti, workers and oppressed around the world rallied to their support, seeing their own struggles in the fight for their freedom.
Of crucial importance is that in the Sacco and Vanzetti case—as in Mumia’s case today—the policy of class-struggle defense was pitted against illusions sown by bourgeois liberals, trade-union misleaders and reformist leftists in the “fairness” of capitalist justice. Up to the day of Sacco and Vanzetti’s execution, the ILD waged a tireless fight for unity in action on their behalf, based on the class struggle. The ILD supported using any legal means available for Sacco and Vanzetti. But as Cannon insisted, the fight for Sacco and Vanzetti had to be taken to the “supreme court of the masses.” At every turn of the legal battle—motions for a new trial, appeal before Massachusetts’ highest court, petitions for clemency or appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court—the ILD fought against those who undermined the struggle by preaching reliance on the black-robed justices or the Massachusetts governor, a policy accompanied by slanders, exclusions and even physical attacks against the ILD and CP.
This work is in the public domain