Political subversives IV: Arturo Giovannitti, Carlo Tresca, and their circles


Political subversives IV: Arturo Giovannitti, Carlo Tresca, and their circles


Giovannitti and Tresca stand out as vibrant, charismatic individuals, not unlike Galleani and Borghi but with a broader political and non-political following and personal drama to match.


Arturo Giovannitti immigrated to Montreal at the age of 17, where he became a Protestant pastor. He then moved to Pennsylvania, preaching mostly to miners. He later left the church to join the labor movement after becoming interested in socialist ideas. Participating in the great Bread and Roses strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912, Giovannitti was accused falsely of the homicide of striker Anna Lo Pizzo, and arrested, along with Joseph Ettor and Joseph Caruso. Speaking in his defense while on trial in Salem, he delivered a legendary apologia in English that was subsequently published in both English and Italian under the title “The Walker,” further establishing his charismatic leadership.

After 1920, Giovannitti was among the organizers of the committee for the defense of Sacco and Vanzetti, a major leader of the anti-fascist movement, thus of the Anti-Fascist Alliance of North America (AFANA), and a member of the committee formed to push for the investigation of the assassination of his friend Carlo Tresca. A complex intellectual figure, equally comfortable in both English and Italian, Giovannitti is the rare Italian American writer who, despite the extraordinary reception accorded him within American literary culture, never abandoned the Italian community. His English-language poems were often translated into Italian as well as into Sicilian. Only his Italian-language publications are included here, including especially Quando canta il gallo and several issues of a gorgeous literary-political magazine, Vita, published beginning in 1915, a few issues of which became part of the collection only recently (2021).

Carlo Tresca was the radical left’s most complex, fascinating character, a powerful thinker, charismatic orator and rabble rouser, ladies’ man and a warm friend who never forgot the human dimension of people whatever their politics. By the time fascism began to take serious root in Italy, Italian American radicals for the most part put aside their factionalism to join in the fight against totalitarianism. Along with Giovannitti, Tresca was one of the founding members of AFANA.

However, Tresca’s popularity earned him a lifetime of enmity from Luigi Galleani and his followers. Tresca’s political views evolved over time from a belief in the need for a revolution to destroy the private ownership of property basic to capitalism, to grass-roots union organizing in 1905, when he became its leading Italian proponent and practitioner, to being an anarchist who nevertheless believes in organized unions or syndicates (anarcho-syndicalism) by 1913. His longest-lived newspaper was Il Martello [The Hammer], constantly in financial and political difficulties – for many years of its publication, he had to submit advance translations into English for the Post Office and Justice Department of each issue – and a significant book-publishing venture of the same name – Casa editrice “Il Martello.” In addition to several years of issues of Il Martello, and a couple of works authored by Tresca himself, the collection includes numerous publications of works by others under the Casa editrice "Il Martello" imprint.

Collection Items

Chi uccise Carlo Tresca? [Who Killed Carlo Tresca?] New York: Tresca Memorial Committee, [1947].
The cover of this pamphlet (as well as the English language version, in English) notes “Con prefazioni di Arturo Giovannitti e John Dos Passos.” In the earlier (1945) English language version, also in the collection, the goal is stated: to incite…

L'attentato a Mussolini ovvero Il segreto di Pulcinella [The Attempt on Mussolini: or the Secret of Pulcinella]. New York: Casa Ed. "Il Martello", 1925.
The premiere performance of this play opened at the Central Opera House, located at 205 East 67th Street in New York on Sunday, December 13, 1925. It was based on actual historical circumstances — namely, a staged attentato, or attempt (to…

Manet Immota Fides: Omaggio all memoria imperitura di Carlo Tresca [Our Faith Remains Unshaken: In Tribute to the Everlasting Memory of Carlo Tresca]. New York: Il Martello (Gruppo Carlo Tresca), 1943.
Created in the wake of his assassination in Union Square, this work includes essays honoring Tresca by James T. Farrell, John Dos Passos, Roger Baldwin, Max Eastman, Norman Thomas; and poems by Ted Robinson and Arturo Giovannitti. The work includes a…

Quando canta il gallo [When the Rooster Crows]. Chicago: E. Clemente & Sons, 1957.
This copy was inscribed by Arturo Giovannitti in January 1958, one year before his death, to his good friend, Onorio Ruotolo and his wife, Lucia. Ruotolo was a sculptor, and teacher at and co-founder of the Leonardo Da Vinci Art School in New York…

Pagine scelte [Selected Works]. Brooklyn Libreria dell'I.W.W., 1930.
This work contains Giovannitti’s speech (entitled “Davanti ai Giurati di Salem, Massachusetts” [Before the Jurors of Salem, Mass.]) in 1912 to the jurors in the trial at which he, Joseph Ettor and Joseph Caruso were accused of the murder of Anna Lo…
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