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Those Without a Country

Those Without a Country: The Political Culture of Italian American Syndicalists

Michael Miller Topp
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Those Without a Country
    Book Description:

    In the first book-length history of the Italian American syndicalist movement—the Italian Socialist Federation—Michael Miller Topp presents a new way of understanding the Progressive Era labor movement in relation to migration, transnationalism, gender, and class identity. Those without a Country demonstrates that characterizations of "old" (pre-1960s) social movements as predominantly class-based are vastly oversimplified—and contribute to current debates about the implications of identity politics for the American Left and American culture generally.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5303-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Abbreviations for Political Organizations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    In late 1911, just before he became a leader of the famous Lawrence, Massachusetts, textile workers’ strike, Arturo Giovannitti’s eyes were on Italy. His native country had invaded Tripoli earlier that year. Though he had been in the United States for almost eight years, he not only carefully followed events in the country of his birth, he still sought to play an active role there. He was a member of the Federazione Socialista Italiana (FSI), which had just become a syndicalist organization—advocating revolution achieved through increasingly confrontational strikes waged by militant unions. Its members’ first act under the mantle...

  6. PART I The Federazione Socialista Italiana

    • CHAPTER ONE An International Organization of Nationalists
      (pp. 27-57)

      The early history of the Italian American syndicalist movement is that of a transnational community in formation. In its first years, the FSI, like the Italian American Left in general, was an outpost of the Italian Left.¹ Even its intense factionalism was often rooted in conflicts between radicals in their homeland. Its members had contact with various American Leftists, but were wary of affiliating themselves with any of them. By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, the FSI—and syndicalism—had become the dominant force on the Italian American Left. The Federation remained connected to Italian...

    • CHAPTER TWO A Transnational Syndicalist Identity
      (pp. 58-91)

      In October 1889, Italian Prime Minister Francesco Crispi was growing worried about the number of Italians migrating to other countries. Southern Italian immigration to the United States and South America was becoming a national problem. Crispi suggested in a speech that month in Palermo, the capital of his native Sicily, that Africa could be the solution to Italy’s loss of population. He focused on Ethiopia, which he described as a country with “vast zones of cultiv[at]able land which will offer an outlet in the near future to that overflowing Italian fecundity which now goes to other civilized countries . ....

    • CHAPTER THREE The Lawrence Strike of 1912
      (pp. 92-134)

      When Carlo Tresca arrived in Lawrence in May 1912, he was elated by the possibilities that the strike waged by unskilled immigrants and the defense campaign to free imprisoned strike leaders seemed to offer. Tresca, soon known as the “Bull of Lawrence” because of his tenacity and courage, declared, “To me Lawrence was the beginning of a new era; with Lawrence I joined the army of revolutionary workers for a real and greater struggle. With Lawrence I found a better place in the great trench of class war.”¹

      Tresca’s expectations were more than shared by syndicalists in the FSI. Still...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Nationalism and Masculinity Splinter the FSI
      (pp. 135-174)

      In April 1915, Edmondo Rossoni issued a call to action to syndicalists in the FSI. He declared, “[I]n this Springtime of rebirth, there is . . . a more useful activity that calls to us and seems pressing, and it is in this field that we must not be sluggards, lukewarm and barren of enthusiasm and faith, armchair [philosophers].”¹ It was just two years after the syndicalists’ enormous victories in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and the wave of strikes by immigrant workers in the United States showed no signs of abating. But the “more useful activity” Rossoni was referring to was not...

  7. PART II Transnational Syndicalism after the FSI

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Mainstreaming of Italian American Syndicalism
      (pp. 177-218)

      In the summer of 1916, the FSI was eager to put the intervention debate behind it and return to organizing workers. As one Federation member noted, there was ample opportunity to do so—workers everywhere were initiating strikes. He wrote, “[T]he workers have now returned to face their enemy: capitalism. The strikes . . . have been going on in a most unusual manner—assuming a character of open rebellion at times. . . . The agitations are becoming more intense; there is a little discontent everywhere. The time is now—so what are we waiting for”¹ His impatience was...

    • CHAPTER SIX The Italian American Left against the Postwar Reaction
      (pp. 219-255)

      In April 1923, soon after Mussolini rose to power in Italy, Arturo Giovannitti called for unity at a New York meeting hall packed with Italian American radicals and workers. “Supported by the full resources of Italy’s black shirts who control all areas of the Italian government, and encouraged by the instigators of reaction in America,” he entreated the crowd, “the fascists in America can be beaten only by a solid organization of the liberal, radical and constructive work force in America,”¹ At this meeting of Italian American syndicalists, socialists, Communists, and unionists—a room full of former adversaries—Giovannitti articulated...

  8. CONCLUSION. “That Agony Is Our Triumph”: Sacco and Vanzetti and the End of an Era of Italian American Radicalism
    (pp. 256-264)

    The rise of fascism in Italy in 1922 changed the lives of Italian American syndicalists and other radicals irrevocably. From that moment, this generation of Italian American Leftists devoted themselves to battling fascism rather than working toward a more just society. But nothing symbolized the end of this era of Italian American radicalism more clearly than the trial and executions of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in 1927. Their executions were the culmination of the postwar Red Scare and nativism; they showed how dangerous—and how life-threatening—it had become to be an immigrant radical in the United States. In...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 265-270)

    In the years following Sacco and Vanzetti’s executions, former FSI syndicalists, long since splintered from the organization they had joined with such optimism before the war, took a number of different paths. Several had returned to Italy during or just after the war, either by choice or by force. The deportees and return migrants counted both faithful fascists and adamant antifascists. Among those who remained in the United States, some faded out of the movement, weary of fighting or felled by health problems. Most remained committed to the fight against fascism, although they continued to struggle with factionalism in their...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 271-310)
  11. Index
    (pp. 311-320)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 321-321)
  13. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)