6 – The Last Gasps of Anarchism in the United States
By the 1880s, anarchists promoted the idea of ‘propaganda by the deed.’ It was a term used to describe acts of murder in the name of anarchism. One of the most infamous anarchist deeds took place on September 6, 1901, when Leon Gzolgosz assassinated President William McKinley in Buffalo. One of the most significant voices of the movement was Luigi Galleani who was active in America from 1901 to 1919. Even after his deportation, he left behind a number of fanatical followers.
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were committed anarchists and were the subject of a sensational trial in 1920. On April 15, 1920, security guard, Alessandro Berardelli and payroll clerk, Frederick Parmenter, were shot dead and $15,000 was stolen from the Slater and Morrill shoe factory in Massachusetts. Eyewitnesses claimed that two men carried out the crime and escaped in a car with two or three other men. Vanzetti and Sacco were arrested, and both men were carrying guns.
They were tried and convicted of the murders although there is sufficient doubt as to their guilt. While both men were avowed anarchists, the evidence against them was purely circumstantial. Nonetheless, they were sentenced to die, and Sacco and Vanzetti were executed via the electric chair on August 23, 1927. Their deaths were marked by protests in London and Paris while bombs were set off in Philadelphia and New York. To make matters worse, a man had confessed to the crime in 1925 (claiming he did it with his gang) but the Supreme Court would not overrule the verdict.
One of the last acts of anarchism at the time was the Wall Street Bombing on September 16, 1920. It resulted in the deaths of 38 people and was probably carried out by supporters of Galleani, known as ‘Galleanists.’ One of the prime suspects was an anarchist called Mario Buda, who was an associate of Sacco and Vanzetti. Although he was in the city at the time of the bombing, Buda was never questioned, and he used the opportunity to flee to Naples. While anarchists were known to be violent, murder was also committed by less likely culprits.