Remember Justice Crucified

How many times must time must Jesus be crucified before his words of peace and love are truly heard? How many martyrs does freedom require? These are the questions that came to mind when I learned of the Sacco and Vanzetti affair.

Niccola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian anarchists living in Boston, Massachusetts in the early 1900s. They lived their lives fighting for justice, liberty, equality and freedom. For this they were murdered by the ruling class of Massachusetts, which had no interest in providing those concessions.

Having read up on the details of their case and their trial, I commented to a friend, “you could take any Mumia Abu Jamal or Leonard Peltier pamphlet, change the names to Sacco and Vanzetti and have an accurate idea of what happened.” Sacco and Vanzetti, like Leonard and Mumia, were targeted for their political beliefs and actions, framed for a crime they did not commit, subjected to a trial ridden with lies and misinformation, coerced witnesses, fabricated evidence, falsified court records, an openly biased judge, nationalistic patriotism and manufactured paranoia for the jurors, and a very intricate system I call pass the judicial buck, which enables every individual involved to escape blame and responsibility.

Few people in Sacco and Vanzetti’s Boston understood this frame-up for what it was, just as few people understand the plight of contemporary political prisoners. None understood the situation better than Sacco and Vanzetti themselves. They were conscious of the fact that their frame-up had little to do with them in particular, but rather understood it as a battle in a continuing class war that this country has been engaged in since its inception. The Sacco and Vanzetti affair was no more an affair than the Vietnam War was a mere action. It was a battle between the upper class and the lower class, between the workers and the beneficiaries of the workers’ toil. Not only did they understand their persecution as such, they also understood their position in the class war as defined by their persecution. They were being made into martyrs by their executioners, and they realized, even as the state failed to realize, that with every martyr the movement grows stronger. “Now we are not a failure. This is our career and our triumph.” – Vanzetti upon being sentenced to death.