Socialist Perspective on Sacco and Vanzetti

Presentation by Kevin Dwire, Socialist Workers Party candidate for City Council At-Large, at the Sacco and Vanzetti Rally, August 21, 2011

Sacco and Vanzetti were victims of the frame-up system, which is an established part of American police methods, insofar as labor prisoners are concerned. The Sacco-Vanzetti case was a repetition of the many legal lynchings of labor leaders that have taken place in the past and a forerunner of others which will inevitably follow in the future. It was not simply an extraordinary "miscarriage of justice" as many apologists for the capitalist order attempt to maintain. It is an issue of the class struggle."

James Cannon, leader of the International Labor Defense, which campaigned on behalf of Sacco and Vanzetti and all class war prisoners, wrote those words 84 years ago for the ILD paper The Labor Defender, following the murder of those fighters by the powers that rule Massachusetts.

We are here today not to mourn, but to honor Sacco and Vanzetti. The history of the struggles of working men and women here and around the world is one that the capitalist class hopes we will forget, and their hired hands work overtime to cover it up and "educate" us that their history is our history.

But it is not only the events of 1927 that brings us here today. It is the living class struggle of 2011 — the growing economic depression and the continuing war by the owners of capital to make working people pay for their crisis. It is a war being waged in factory and field, a campaign against working people wherever we toil, to drive down our wages and so called benefits, to take away those few extra crumbs we have been able to wrestle from them over the years. It is a war on our democratic rights as they field an army of cops and snoops against our class, our unions, and our political organizations.

They want us to believe that other workers are the problem. They use programs like Secure Communities to divide the working class, to scapegoat workers from other countries, and in so doing to drive down the value of the labor of the class as a whole.

They use their legislatures and courts to attack a woman's right to control her own body, to restrict or eliminate abortion.

And as always, they want us to fight and die for them in their wars against toilers around the world.

But there is resistance to their attacks. From the picket lines of the just ended Verizon strike, to workers in the upper Midwest standing up to the lockout be American Crystal Sugar, and hotel workers on strike in Montreal, to the women and men who turned out to defend Dr. Leroy Carhart's clinic in Germantown, Maryland against opponents of women's rights.

From his prison cell Vanzetti sent a letter to the International Labor Defense in 1926. He wrote, "It is a long time that I wanted to write to you to tell you that I appreciate your solidarity. I am one of the old guard who appreciate and approve the solidarity and have been solidarity with all." To the bosses, solidarity is a dirty word. More than that, it is a crime. In the class battles of today, we need to be part of the old guard with Vanzetti and have solidarity with all. Because the capitalist frame-up machinery is still churning out victims. We need to stand up for all of them. From Tarek Mahanna, to the political and labor activists in Minneapolis, Chicago and California being attacked by the FBI and the federal courts, to the prisoners in California who stood up and said we are human beings.

And we need to support the Cuban Five, Gerardo Hern�ndez, Ram�n Laba�ino, Ren� Gonz�lez, Antonio Guerrero and Fernando Gonz�lez. The five have been in federal prison for 13 years. They were gathering information on groups in Florida that were carrying out armed actions against the Cuban Revolution. Hern�ndez is serving a double-life plus 15-year sentence on charges of "conspiracy to commit espionage" and "conspiracy to commit murder." The latter is based on the government's wild accusation that Hern�ndez bears responsibility for the Cuban military's shootdown in 1996 of two hostile aircraft�flown by the counterrevolutionary outfit Brothers to the Rescue�that invaded Cuban airspace. The other four have sentences ranging from 15 years to 30 years. Ren� Gonz�lez is scheduled to be released in October. The truth is the Cuban Five are being held hostage to punish the Cuban people for their refusal to surrender to Washington's imperial demands that they "change."

James Cannon said that the names of Sacco and Vanzetti will live forever. After their execution he wrote that "their miserable executioners will be buried in oblivion while the names and struggles of Sacco and Vanzetti will remain a shining guide to the masses, and inspiration to the oppressed everywhere."

Out of the struggles of today and those that are coming, a new layer of vanguard workers is coming forward. Joining these battles, going to where the action is, is part of building the kind of revolutionary working-class movement that can fight for workers power, opening the road to battles to end, once and for all, the exploitation, oppression, and wars spawned by the crisis-ridden dictatorship of capital. And Sacco and Vanzetti will be right there with us.