Wednesday, May 09, 2007
A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
By Howard Zinn, City Lights
Fifty years after the executions of Italian immigrants Sacco and Vanzetti, Governor Dukakis of Massachusetts set up a panel to judge the fairness of the trial, and the conclusion was that the two men had not received a fair trial. This aroused a minor storm in Boston.
One letter, signed John M. Cabot, U.S. Ambassador Retired, declared his "great indignation" and pointed out that Governor Fuller's affirmation of the death sentence was made after a special review by "three of Massachusetts' most distinguished and respected citizens -- President Lowell of Harvard, President Stratton of MIT and retired Judge Grant."
Those three "distinguished and respected citizens" were viewed differently by Heywood Broun, who wrote in his column for the New York World immediately after the Governor's panel made its report. He wrote:
It is not every prisoner who has a President of Harvard University throw on the switch for him .... If this is a lynching, at least the fish peddler and his friend the factory hand may take unction to their souls that they will die at the hands of men in dinner jackets or academic gowns.
Heywood Broun, one of the most distinguished journalists of the twentieth century, did not last long as a columnist for the New York World.
On that fiftieth year after the execution, The New York Times reported that: "Plans by Mayor Beame to proclaim next Tuesday 'Sacco and Vanzetti Day' have been canceled in an effort to avoid controversy, a City Hall spokesman said yesterday."
There must be good reason why a case fifty-years-old, now over seventy-five years old, arouses such emotion. I suggest that it is because to talk about Sacco and Vanzetti inevitably brings up matters that trouble us today -- our system of justice, the relationship between war fever and civil liberties, and most troubling of all, the ideas of anarchism: the obliteration of national b