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Carlo Tresca: Portrait of a Rebel

category international | history of anarchism | review author Tuesday April 24, 2012 20:37author by Dimitri (MACG - personal capacity) Report this post to the editors

Book review of Nunzio Pernicone «Carlo Tresca: Portrait of a Rebel» (AK Press 2010) published in australian anarchosyndicalist magazine "Rebel Worker" No 213, April-may 2012, p. 14-15.

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Carlo Tresca was one of those revolutionary workers whose memory deserves to be honored and this excellent biography of him by Italian historian Nunzio Pernicone fulfill exactly this purpose. Pernicone is the same author who in the past published an excellent history of the Italian anarchist movement (in English the title was «Italian Anarchism: 1864-1892», which firstly published by Princeton University in 1993 and then by AK Press), but this work is equivalent interesting to anarchists and other radicals.

Carlo Tresca was the son of a middle class family and was born in Italy in 1879. He soon became a socialist and took an active part in the Italian Railway Workers' Federation before emigrating to the U.S.A. when he was 25 years old. Once arrived there he elected secretary of the Italian Socialist Federation of North America and participated actively in various class struggles. During this time his sympathy for social democracy transformed quickly into sympathy with trade unionism, as he soon realised the inherent reformism of social democratic ideas and the importance of immediate action to unionise.

Connected with the IWW, he took an active part in the strikes of Pennsylvania coal miners before been involved in several, important and often episodic strike and other activities. Gradually, his trade union beliefs led him to the adoption of anarcho-syndicalism and he became soon one of the leading anarchists in the U.S., particularly amongst the Italian-American community.

Nunzio Pernicone gives us a picture of a deep lively, vibrant and charismatic figure who played a catalytic role in many struggles for workers' rights.

He was also a prolific articles writer and publisher and edited the Italian-speaking anarchist newspaper «Il Martello» («The Hammer") for over 20 years. It was an excellent and passionate writer, propagandist and organiser as well. He was responding to any call for help in trying to encourage Italian workers to strike and fight back. He played a major role in numerous srikes including the victorious strike in Lawrence (1912), the textile workers' strike in Little Falls, New York (1912), the hotel workers' strike in New York (1913), the strike in Patterson, the silk workers' strike in New Jersey (1913) and the miners' strike in Mesabi Range of Minesota (1916).

Carlo Tresca played also an instrumental role in the unsuccessful struggle to salvation of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. Following World War I, Carlo Tresca turned his fire and efforts against fascism but also stalinist tyranny. He was the first and an ardent opponent of Italian fascism throughout USA. His activities have caused the same hatred of Mussolini and his regime, since Tresca played a key role (both politically and physically) in stopping the spread of fascism between the Italian-American community (this is why he suffered an assassination attempt against him in 1926).

Pernicone brings in great detail how helpful was the "democratic" American state to help fascist Italy by trying to expel Tresca of the country. He tells us also how Tresca sent a telegram to Mussolini on the birthday of the latter. Before emigrating to America, young Tresca had meet Mussolini (who was by then one of the leaders of left socialists in Italy), just to inform him that his stay in U.S.A. will turn (Tresca) in a real rebel. Well, Tresca’s telegram simply reminded Mussolini that he was absolutely right!

Unlike many other militants of that period, Tresca had no illusions about the Soviet Union. He realised that the Lenin regime smashed the real, authentic revolution in Russia and opposed the new "socialist" regime with the same courage that oppose fascism. During the 1920's, however, Tresca tried to work with all opponents of fascism, including even the communists (because he never doubted about the masses’ courage and admit of their willingness to fight against fascism). His efforts to form a single anti-fascist front, as well as the efforts of stalinists to put under their direct control such organisations recounted in detail by Pernicone amongst the pages the book we present here. These stalinist maneuvers, along with their counter-revolutionary during the Spanish Revolution and Civil War, made Tresca to intensify the struggle against leninism during 1930's until he finally opposed to any form of collaboration with the stalinists.

Tresca's struggle for freedom, equality and solidarity continued until his assassination at the age of 63 years. Although no one ever accused for murder, Pernicone presens us here a quite remarkable assessment of data and inter-conflicting theories (as suspects include the stalinists, fascists and the Mafia) before the designation by him of the member of the Mafia, Carmine Galante, as the murderer od Tresca.

This biography is the product of a work lasting more than 30 years. Pernicone shows in this magnificent work the advantages and disadvantages of this tireless and fearless champion of freedom and justice, Carlo Tresca. It's a very good book that not only brings to light the amazing story of Tresca, but also lots of aspects of the radical social movement of this era.

One thing that "hits" the reader is how sectarian was a significant part of the anarchist movement at the time. Because, part fascists and stalinists Tresca gathered also to his face the hatred of anti-organisational anarchists who a the time were following Luigi Galleani and who did not stop the taunts (much to the delight of the fascists during the decades 1920 and 1930). Even the letters of Errico Malatesta, Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman stood unable to stop these personal attacks.

A critical presentation of this book by Anarcho talks for almost a paronoia procedure that is currently developing by the anti-organizational anarchists (such as primitivists) which would allow such attacks. Therefore is important to learn some lessons from the past!

In conclusion, this book by Nunzio Pernicone is a very interesting contribution and we strongly recommend it to the readers. Tresca's memory should be honored today by all anarchist militants for freedom and equality. Pernicone has offered a great service to our movement by writing this biography of an unjustly forgotten pioneer of the struggle for freedom. Lets inspire our todays struggles!

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