Connecting Our Struggles: Border Politics, Antifascism, and Lessons from the Trials of Ferrero, Sallitto, and Graham, by Hillary Lazar

November 19, 2019 7:09 pm

In January 1940 Marcus Graham, editor of Man!: A Journal of the Anarchist Ideal and Movement, triumphantly declared in a note to the readers that despite six years of routine government harassment and political persecution, “our journal has endured … our modest voice of truth … [has] carried on.”(1) Graham had spoken too soon, as only three additional issues of Man! were to appear. After a seven-year run, the periodical folded under the weight of repression and habitual debt. Even so, throughout its duration Man! served as a vital voice for the “International Group,” an organization with chapters throughout the United States and with ties to several other countries, making it a central connector for a transnational anarchist network involved with antifascist resistance.

Now, close to eighty years later, one of the lesser known moments in anarchist history, the efforts to suppress Man!—including the several-year legal persecution and deportation trials of the editor, Marcus Graham, and his associates Vincenzo Ferrero and Domenic Sallitto—provide an important window into mechanisms of State control by serving as a powerful example of the connections between border politics, immigration policy, and political repression. As their cases show, deportation and the active exclusion or removal of certain populations are among the governmental tools used to quell dissent. Moreover, reactionary nativist fears are easily leveraged—particularly during periods of national crisis or instability—and help to further fuel intensified targeting of immigrants, radicals, and other marginalized people perceived as threatening to the status quo. In essence, then, what we see in these trials is that it is impossible to decouple the racialized, colonial project of determining who qualifies as a desirable or legitimate citizen from efforts to suppress political opposition. Furthermore, it is a stark reminder that what is happening in today’s political climate around immigration policy and the criminalization of dissent, while certainly egregious, is part of a much longer historical pattern.

Man!, the International Group, and the Trials of Ferrero, Sallitto and Graham

Man! first appeared in January 1933 after Vincenzo Ferrero, former editor of the Italian-American anarchist periodical L’Emancipazione, recruited Romanian-born Marcus Graham (née Shmuel Marcus) to help establish it as an English-language version of and successor to the earlier paper.(2) In effect, it was intended to promote the more militant, individualist, and insurrectionary form of Galleanist anarchism—named for Italian-American anarchist, Luigi Galleani (1861–1931), known for his advocacy of “propaganda by the deed” and militant opposition to the State—evident in the contributors’ frequent derisions of more organized forms of resistance such as federative models and syndicalism. As the paper promised in its first issue, Man! offered “no programs, platforms or palliatives on any of the social issues confronting mankind;” rather, it was for “those who are willing to face the truth, and act for themselves” and enable “[m]an to regain confidence in himself, in his great power to achieve liberation from every form of slavery that now encircles him.”(3) The journal was also an important voice for antifascism and was vehemently anti-racist—often including pieces related to racial inequality in its running commentary on local, national, and international news—along with paying attention to labor issues, instances of political repression, and antifascist efforts in Europe.(4) And under Graham’s editorship, it took on a proto-green, primitivist tone in its anti-technology stance as well.(5)

Although Man! was initially only available in California, within two years of its appearance it boasted readership in “every state in the union.” Eventually its circulation extended to locations as far spread as Cuba, the UK, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and Palestine.(6) Published in San Francisco, it eventually came to be the group’s main organ and the heart of very active anarchist communities, which (much akin to anarchist groups today) hosted frequent gatherings such as spaghetti dinners and picnics as fundraisers for political prisoners; radical art, music, and theater performances; and, of course, speaker events and panels, including talks on the rise of fascism and report-backs on anarchist efforts in the Spanish Civil War.(7) Co-founded by Ferrero in 1927, the International Group was meant to be a way to bring together the numerous multi-ethnic anarchist communities in the Bay Area—including Chinese, Mexican, French, Russian, and Italian groups—and was, in part, modeled after the International Group of New York, which had been established to help support publication of the New York–based anarchist paper Road to Freedom (with which Graham had been involved).(8) Again, reflecting the Galleanist anti-organizational stance, it rejected a federative model and favored a looser coalition that provided events and activities, like the publication of Man!, that allowed them to come together more informally.(9) And in fact, within months of the periodical’s launch on New Year’s Eve 1932, it reported that unofficial chapters and friends of the International Group around the country in cities like New York, Chicago, Detroit, Patterson, and Philadelphia were helping to support its publication.(10)

(Art by Esther Forbyn – Justseeds.org)

Little more than a year following its debut, however, the local and federal government began to systematically harass the paper’s subscribers. In the May 1934 issue, Graham reports that readers were sending letters of complaint regarding visits from government agents. The officials had been detaining them at the local justice departments for questioning on their relationship with the periodical, demanding to know “why they read and lent material aid to an Anarchist journal such as Man!.”(11) Sessions ended with threats of deportation against the foreign-born readers and criminal prosecution for those born in America. Meanwhile, a hold had been placed on the journal, preventing the March issue from reaching many of its readers.(12) Despite these attempts to intimidate Man!’s followers and the members of the International Group, their commitment did not waiver. Letters continued to pour in, the gatherings went on, and every month individuals and organizations scraped together money to ensure that the next issue would appear. Yet, the government’s harassment of Man!’s readers and the delays in its distribution were just the beginning.

On April 11, 1934, immigration inspectors and local police led by E. C. Benson forcibly entered the restaurant owned and operated by Vincenzo Ferrero and Domenic Sallitto in Oakland, California, and raided the small space at the back of their business rented to Graham for use as the printing headquarters for Man!.(13) Although Ferrero had been the one to initially suggest that Graham start the paper, neither he nor Sallitto officially contributed to its publication. Both, however, were well known for their ties to the Italian-American anarchist communities in San Francisco and New York, and for their vocal opposition to Mussolini. Consequently, after the inspectors ransacked the backroom to obtain copies of the periodical and materials used for its production, they were both arrested on “telegraphic warrants from Washington to be seized for deportation.”(14) Ferrero was then charged with “causing the publication of Man!,” and Sallitto was picked up for chairing a debate on Dutch antifascist Marinus van der Lubbe the previous March, during which he purportedly advocated the violent overthrow of the government.(15) Each was quickly released on a thousand-dollar bond apiece, secured with help from Rose Pesotta, a New York anarchist who had risen to the position of vice president for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.(16) Only nine days later, however, a squad of detectives returned, allegedly in response to an attempted robbery of the restaurant, and raided the office for a second time. The two men were removed to Angel Island, off the coast of San Francisco—the West Coast version of Ellis Island, where immigrants were often detained prior to deportation proceedings—and it became clear that their charges were not readily going to be dropped.(17)

For a year the cases of Ferrero and Sallitto remained at a standstill as they went in and out of custody, all the while working tirelessly with advocates from the International Group in concert with legal counsel from the American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born (ACPFB), an affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Then in June 1935, when their verdict did finally come in, they were dealt a crushing blow. Even though they were both legal residents of the United States—Ferrero, a thirty-year resident, and Sallitto, a fifteen-year resident and widowed father of a three-year-old daughter born to an American wife—the Bureau of Immigration of the Labor Department ordered their deportation to Italy.(18) On December 10, 1935, the United States’ Labor department issued a formal demand that Ferrero turn himself in to Ellis Island for the sailing of the SS Conte di Savoia to Italy two weeks later. He complied and arrived a day prior to his scheduled departure date. His attorney, however, managed to stay the deportation through a writ of habeas corpus.(19) Sallitto, joined his comrade at Ellis Island shortly thereafter, as he was scheduled to be deported on January eleventh. Like Ferrero, he also secured a writ of habeas corpus, and after three months of detention, both men were released. Nevertheless, their legal persecution was not over.(20)

Ultimately charged with “being a member of an organization advocating the overthrow of government by force and violence,” Sallitto’s ordeal persisted for two additional years. It was not until January 1938, following four years of legal proceedings and several months of detention at both Ellis and Angel Islands—which meant prolonged periods of separation from his young daughter of whom he had sole custody—that his case was dismissed.(21) Ferrero did not fare so well. While the court never directly determined that he was involved with Man! in any official capacity, as the former editor of the Italian anarchist periodical L’Emancipazione, he was charged with “writing or publishing printed material advocating the overthrow of government by force and violence.”(22) And despite his claims that he qualified for political asylum because being sent back to Italy would condemn him to severe punishment for having “written and spoke violently against Mussolini for years,” in February 1937 the Second District Court of Appeals denied his plea.(23) Ferrero, meanwhile, was still slated for deportation in November 1939, but he managed to jump bail and then went off the radar by assuming the alias “Johnny the Cook” back in California.(24)

Throughout the years of Ferrero and Sallitto’s persecution, Graham faced similar tribulations. A few days prior to June 11, 1936, he received a notice from the Bureau of Immigration upholding a mandate for his deportation issued seventeen years earlier. The nearly two-decade-old directive demanded his return to Canada, where he allegedly held citizenship, for the crime of possessing subversive anarchist literature.(25) Denied entry into Canada, and unable to ascertain Graham’s nation of origin, the immigration officials allowed the expulsion to slip through the legal cracks. With pressure on the rise to shut down Man!, Graham felt threatened enough by the renewed interested in his expulsion to go underground. And in the August–September 1936 issue he announced his termination as editor of Man!. He then temporarily entrusted its editorship to Ray Randall and Walter Brooks (pseudonyms for Sallitto and his partner Aurora Alleva, a prominent second-generation anarchist and antifascist from Philadelphia), although under Hippolyte Havel’s name, and for a year the periodical was published out of New York.(26) The following July, Graham came out of hiding and reassumed his role as editor, relocating its headquarters to Los Angeles.(27)

Graham’s return was short lived. It was only two months before the authorities once again took action against him. On October 6, 1937, four plainclothes immigration officers raided the Los Angeles office and seized all materials relating to Man!. Graham was arrested on site and incarcerated in the county jail for eight days.(28) Several months of hearings and appeals followed, and on January 14, 1938, Judge Leon R. Yankovich finally dismissed the seventeen-year-old edict. Nonetheless, Graham did not evade all legal repercussions. Judge Yankovich sentenced him to six months imprisonment on the charge of “criminal contempt” for his persistent refusal to reveal his place of birth to immigration officials, which made it impossible deport him.(29) Again, he managed to temporarily elude his punishment with additional legal appeals, although it was a Pyrrhic victory. By this point, sufficient damage had been done to the stability of Man!’s publication that it was now deeply in debt.(30) With the aid of contributions from supporters, Man! stayed afloat for another year and a half, but in April 1940 the US district attorney “advised” the journal’s printer to immediately suspend the printing of the May issue. When Graham was unable to find an alternate publisher, he was forced to end its run.(31) Two months later he lost his appeal regarding the pending charge of contempt for refusing to cooperate with immigration officials, and was sentenced to serve out his time.(32)

The Bigger Picture: Immigration Policy and Deportation as State Control and Political Repression

Aside from being one of the interesting lesser-known moments in anarchist history, there are critical lessons to be found in the ways these trials and the targeting of Man! elucidate border politics and the racialized, ideological aspects of citizenship and State control. To begin with, this story points not only to a long history of anti-anarchist and anti-immigrant sentiments in the United States (no real shocker here), but more specifically to the connections between them. Immigration policy and deportation are explicitly tied to anti-radical efforts because they serve as one of the primary tools used in political suppression. Furthermore, to make this link is also to underscore how these structures must be understood as reflective of the larger white supremacist, imperial projects of State making, through their determination of who can stay, who goes, and what political views they can hold.

Throughout America’s early history, laws such as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and the Indian Removal Act of 1830 were aimed at the elimination of unwanted groups. Signed into law by President John Adams, the former made naturalization more difficult and allowed for imprisonment and deportation of “dangerous” foreign-born residents or of those critical of the government, while the latter was intended to help clear land for white settlers. It was with the Supreme Court ruling in Fong Yue Ting v. United States in 1893, however, that all constitutional safeguards against the expulsion of immigrants were eliminated, opening the floodgates to the use of deportation as a tool of political repression and social control. It was in this case that deportation was determined to be an “administrative” process rather than a criminal matter—and hence, not subject to due process.

Following this ruling, immigrants were subject to expulsion based on star-chamber examinations and the arbitrary finding that they were somehow “inconsistent with public welfare.”(33) There was also no longer a legal bar against lengthy incarcerations, repeated searches and seizures of their property, high bail, and self-incrimination. Furthermore, the process was now, above all, to be based on expedience. This allowed for practices such as use of the telegraphic warrants, which effectively enabled immigration officers to round up noncitizens on a basis of “guilty until proven innocent.”(34) It was this ruling, in hand with the “Anarchist Act” of 1903 as well as the hyper-patriotic Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917 and 1918—which made anarchists inadmissible for US entry and enabled denaturalization and deportation of any foreign-born resident who opposed the government—that effectively shaped federal policy for nonresident radicals during the first decades of the twentieth century. Together, these paved the way for roundups like the Palmer Raids in 1919 (resulting in the detention of 10,000 suspected radicals, 1,000 of whom were deported to Russia), and two decades later the detention of Ferrero, Sallitto, and Graham.(35)

Immigration policy was also used to curtail potential “foreign threats” by proactively preventing entry of certain ethnic groups or immigrants with suspect political beliefs to the United States. In the decade just preceding the Depression, for example, amid the post–World War I anti-immigrant hysteria and rise of white supremacist nativism, the Immigration Acts of 1921 and 1924, including the National Origins Act of 1924—designed to impede further immigration by Southern and Eastern Europeans and exclude Asians and Africans—instituted a 2 percent cap per country based on their total population in the 1890 census.(36) Then, during World War II (notably, overlapping time wise with Graham’s trial and occurring shortly after the final verdicts came in for Ferrero and Sallitto), the government passed a barrage of anti-immigrant bills including the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, requiring all agents for foreign principles to register with the Secretary of State.37 A few years later, following the war and as anti-Communist Cold War hysteria set in, the United States passed the McCarran-Walter Act, which again seriously capped entry of Asians while establishing ideological criteria for expulsion—any immigrant or foreign-born resident could be expelled for “activities prejudicial to the public interest” or “subversive to national security.”(38)

The political and economic instability of the Great Depression only added to the intensity of the xenophobic and anti-radical sentiment driving the efforts to deport Graham, Ferrero and Sallitto. Tensions ran particularly high in California, where there was a deep history of conservative nativism and vigilantism. It was California, for instance, that served as the heart of the anti-Chinese movement in the late nineteenth century, which eventually led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Then in 1916, anxieties over labor agitation allowed fear to trump justice when radical labor activist Tom Mooney and his assistant, Warren K. Billings, were incarcerated for twenty-three years, despite their obvious innocence, for the bombing of the San Francisco Preparedness Day parade.(40) And of thirty-three states to pass criminal syndicalism acts in the wake of the Palmer Raids, California was one of the only ones to actually keep the law on the books, rounding up some 504 members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) before it was repealed in 1924.(41)

By the 1930s, California not only served as home to one of the most extensive and well-organized radical networks in the United Sates but also had an economy that depended on immigrant labor. With agribusiness the dominant industry, Mexican migrant workers were in many ways the backbone of the state’s financial well-being. Asian Americans were also a major source of labor for the farms. For this reason, the intersection of the radical presence with the large, agricultural workforce, gave rise to a powerful immigrant-based farm workers’ movement.(42) This growth in organized labor, coupled with the established pattern of scapegoating noncitizens and radicals during economic panics, and with California’s propensity for vigilantism, elicited an aggressive nativist and anti-radical response from the local elite: hundreds of thousands of Mexicans were coerced or convinced into repatriating during the 1930s;(43) and, while not all faced deportation, many Southern and Eastern European radicals experienced political persecution and xenophobic harassment along the lines of that endured by the members of the International Group.(44)

It was the longshoremen and maritime worker’s General Strike of July 1934, though, that served as the immediate backdrop for the suppression of Man!. In May 1934 longshoremen had shut down every port along the West Coast, sparking bloody battles and rioting in several of the major cities including San Francisco. This came to a head following the killing of a striker and sympathizer during a clash with local police, which led to a citywide General Strike. Although it lasted only four days, the National Guard, local authorities, and vigilantes responded with a heavy counteroffensive that targeted ethnic radical groups and, in particular, anarchists and communists. It comes as no surprise that only a month before the initial coast-wide walkout by the longshoremen, local officials began rounding up suspected radical immigrants and tightening the reins on the distribution of pro-labor printed materials like Man! (45) As foreign-born anarchists, the successful suppression of Man! and the vigorous efforts to deport these men represented both a desperate attempt to deter further labor agitation and demonstrate the government and local authorities’ abilities to reassert their control during a period of upheaval. As anarchist historian Kenyon Zimmer points out, its supression also reflects the racial dimensions of their political persecution. Critiques of anarchist agitators, he observes, were impossible to disentangle from xenophobic sentiment and the popular perception that their radicalism was due to ethnic and/or biological deficiencies. Effectively, foreign-born radicals, particularly those from Southern and Eastern Europe who were denied full access to “whiteness,” were racialized because of their political beliefs.(46)

Immigration Policy and the Criminalization of Dissent Today

Much of what we see in the story of these trials and the efforts to suppress Man! is mirrored in what is happening today under Trump, both in terms of the leveraging of immigration policy and use of deportation as a way to advance a white supremacist, imperial agenda, and in the ways this is tied to the criminalization of dissent. Indeed, there are even direct parallels in terms of the procedural mechanisms and policies being put into place now that were explicitly used in the 1930s to attack immigrant communities and activist voices, including antifascist resistors such as those involved with Man!.

After coming to power, one of Trump’s first acts was to call for the anti-Muslim travel ban, which like earlier policies barred entry based on racial/ethnic status and country of origin. In this case, the ban targeted anyone from an Islamic-majority country (save from US-friendly Saudi Arabia), and it was justified using the post-9/11 language of anti-terrorism. While, ultimately this effort failed—in no small part due to pressure put on the federal courts by the widespread “airport protests” that erupted in response to the measure—Trump and his supporters continue to advocate for this kind of ban. In fact, Jeff Sessions is on record as praising the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act, which included the National Origins Act (the policy that banned immigrants from Asia entirely and severely curtailed Eastern and Southern European migration, with a specific intent to target Italians, Jews, Africans, and Middle Easterners), as a model to be followed by the Trump administration.

Trump also signed off on changes to a program known as 287(g) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that implemented draconian new policies, which included expedited deportation processes, increased mass detentions, and use of local police and deputies as de facto immigration agents, allowed to arrest and detain any person who may be in violation of immigration laws. Nearly forty law enforcement agencies participate in this program and, according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, nearly all were already unofficially working in collaboration prior to the formalized arrangement.(47) Following its enactment between January and September of 2017, there was 42 percent increase in detention of immigrants living within the United States. Meanwhile, arrests of immigrants with no criminal convictions nearly tripled.(48) It is likely that in 2018, the attack on immigrants will only further intensify, as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) intends to significantly augment the daily population of detainees.(49)

Certainly, this is not to suggest that contemporary efforts to control dissent through determination of who constitutes a “good” citizen are unique to the Trump administration. Despite the liberal misperception that the United States has largely been welcoming to immigrants since it banned caps based on country of origin in the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, it has in fact continued to enact procedures that severely curtail the rights and liberties of residents based on country of origin and legal status, and that operate in ways incongruous with due process. In the wake of 9/11, for instance, it was the Bush administration that first created the 273(g) program and established DHS and ICE. Bush also passed a law allowing for “stipulated removal,” which as of 2011 had enabled the deportation of more than 160,000 noncitizens without hearings before immigration judges.(50) Moreover, whether or not immigrant detainees are granted due process was (and continues to be) largely determined by their ability to afford legal counsel. This class-determinative basis for who has access to legal rights was again recently upheld in a hearing that ruled against the constitutionality of requiring free counsel for immigrant children facing deportation who cannot pay for legal fees.(51) As it stands, more than half the immigrants facing deportation hearings are unrepresented. By denying the right to periodic bond hearings, the US Supreme Court has also backed indefinite detention for immigrants, including both those with permanent legal status and asylum seekers. On average, detainees are held for over a year.(52)

In addition, the United States has one of the largest immigration detention infrastructures in the world and detains more than 400,000 annually, including legal permanent residents, asylum seekers, and victims of human trafficking.(53) Contemporary immigrant detention was first established as a standard procedure in the ’80s but doubled under Clinton with passage of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), and has ballooned in the twenty-first century due to mandatory lockup quotas. More recently, despite Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM) Act, Obama was responsible for some of the largest “return” and “removal” practices—deporting over 3 million during his eight years in office. And in 2010, Arizona passed SB 1070, which has served as a model for numerous states, effectively institutionalizing racial profiling and legitimating police demands for paperwork based on appearance or “suspicion” alone.

At the same time, there has been a dangerous trend toward the criminalization of protest. One of the best-publicized instances of this, of course, was the arrest of 234 people—including medics, legal observers, and journalists—for participating in an anti-capitalist, anti-fascist march during the J20 protests against Trump’s inauguration. Of them, 194 faced multiple felony charges and up to seventy-five years in prison.(54) The attacks on dissent include everything from the labeling of environmental protestors “domestic terrorists,” to governmental surveillance of racial justice activists, to the local anti-protest laws proposed in eighteen states. Much akin to the mass arrests of the J20 protests, on October 22, 2017, over 800 water protectors were arrested near the Standing Rock Reservation while protesting the Dakota Access pipeline. Over 300 remain on trial.(55) And there has also been an explicit linkage across these efforts that has developed as law enforcement and immigration officers have specifically targeted those known as activists and community leaders. In fact, a federal lawsuit has been brought against ICE for unconstitutional surveillance in response to the detention of Jean Montrevil and Ravi Ragbir, leaders of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City. Montrevil was deported to Haiti, while Ragbir’s deportation was stayed by a judge because of ongoing legal proceedings. As was the case for Ferrero, Sallitto, and Graham, however, these trials are only part of a larger effort to suppress the group and silence its member through political harassment such as surveillance, raids, and arrests.

Montrevil and Ragbir are not the only examples—there’s Maru Mora Villalpando, a Mexican national in Washington State who helped to publicize detainees’ hunger strikes; Eliseo Jurado in Boulder, Colorado, who has been public in challenging his wife’s deportation to Peru; Martín Esquivel-Hernandez, an activist and community leader in Pittsburgh, was detained and deported after participating in an immigrant rights May Day rally; the list goes on.(56)

Furthermore, the deputization of police as ICE agents only deepens the potential for racialized profiling of immigrants (in particular, undocumented and queer or trans folks), who are at disproportionate risk for targeting by law enforcement. Again, this is reflected in the numbers: while only 7 percent of noncitizens in the United States are Black, they make up 20 percent of those facing deportation on criminal grounds.(57) Nor is this tie between the criminalization of race and political protest anything new. The very same Riot Act used in the prosecution of the J20 protestors, for instance, was initially passed as a way to quell anti-racist uprisings in 1967 and used to put down the DC rebellion following the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, which resulted in some 6,100 arrests.(58)

Lessons for Today … and a Hopeful Afterword?

Ultimately, the story of Man!’s suppression and the trials of Ferrero, Sallitto, and Graham serve as another reminder of the long, interwoven history of racist, xenophobic, classist, and anti-radical (and even explicitly, anti-anarchist) mechanisms of State control. These include policies that confer or deny legal status to certain populations based on racial or ethnic criteria, political beliefs, or other criteria—along with use of detention, deportation, and denial of due process. And in some cases, there may even be active collusion between civilians and the State through both formal and informal arrangements, such as deputized law enforcement, citizen militias, and other forms of private surveillance. There is also a direct correlation to the carceral State at large—beyond that which applies to immigrants, radicals, and radical immigrants.

While reforms may grant access or “legitimacy” to certain individuals or populations, it will only be through the abolition of the white supremacist imperialism of the nation-state and these interconnected systems of control—from prisons and policing to border imperialism and the national security State—that all peoples will be allowed full status as valued, free individuals in our society. Indeed, as decolonial thinkers like Harsha Walia in Undoing Border Imperialism point out, this means adopting a more liberatory approach to immigrant solidarity—one that shifts attention from ensuring citizenship toward challenging capitalism and settler colonialism, and the settler State itself.(59) As is evident in the story of these trials, doing so also necessitates recognition of the inherent ties between border imperialism and control of political dissent. And more importantly, it means understanding that these mechanisms of domination are expressly tied to all forms of structural oppression, which are at the root of the State-based logic and domination. In essence, then, what we really need is to dismantle the underpinning, interlocking systems of oppression if we’re to see an end to the kind of logic and praxis—including immigration policy and laws tied to the criminalization of protest—that allow for the determination of human value and access to freedom to be based on national origin and on political support for the colonial State.

There is also a welcome message of hope in this story. Despite the rise of fascism in the 1930s and the clear evidence of authoritarian, proto-fascist elements involved in the attack on Man! and those associated with it, there is also evidence of a vital transnational solidarity effort that sprang up in response, which not only helped to cement connections across borders, but energized and empowered anti-fascist resistance.

Ironically, if the goal of Graham, Ferrero, and Sallitto’s persecution was to deter further radical agitation, it instead helped to unite the American Left in one of the largest protest movements of the period. The ACLU, which immediately took on their cases, made sure to spread word on the issue to the wider public. Over barely more than a year following the initial raid, hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals joined protests on their behalf throughout the country. The first public gathering was held on July 2, 1935, at the San Francisco Labor College. Spokesmen at the event represented numerous labor and radical organizations including the ACLU; the IWW; the International Group; the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union; the Non-Partisan Labor Defense; the Proletarian, Workers’ and Socialist Parties; and the Tom Mooney Molders’ Defense Committee.(60) Soon thereafter, on July twenty-second, the Ferrero-Sallitto Defense Conference was established at the Stuyvesant Casino in New York, and six days later the first mass demonstration outside of California was held at Union Square.(61)

Following this demonstration, largely under the coordination of Aurora Alleva (secretary of the Ferrero-Sallitto Defense Conference), along with Rose Pesotta and Italian anarchist Valerio Isca, numerous committees were formed across the country as part of the effort to arrange local demonstrations and inundate Capitol Hill with letters of protest. Another rally held at Irving Plaza in New York City on October 27, 1935, had delegates from some 221 organizations, all of whom signed a declaration “that the traditional right of asylum in America for political and religious refugees from tyrannical governments be preserved.”(62) Copies of the resolution were sent directly to President Roosevelt. Within six months, in addition to New York and San Francisco, major protests were also held in Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland and Los Angeles.(64) Meanwhile, after Graham’s arrest, separate defense committees were formed out of many of the same groups on his behalf.(65)

The movement to see justice for Ferrero, Sallitto, and Graham continued to grow in size and intensity, catching the attention of numerous prominent citizens who joined the defense committees, often taking on coordinating roles for the protests and petitions. Multiple delegations of notable personalities, civil rights advocates, and labor leaders even went so far as to travel to Washington to contest Secretary of Labor Perkins’s sign-off on their deportation. On December 23, 1935, five members of the Conference met with Assistant Secretary of Labor Edward McGrady to no avail. When that failed, another attempt to intercede on their behalf was made by “100 renown[ed] men and women in the realm of Art and Education.”(66) And by January 1938 upward of 40,000 letters of protest representing 500,000 individuals were sent to Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins.(67) Several high-profile individuals, including Sherwood Anderson, Roger Baldwin, Alice Stone Blackwell, John Dewey, Max Eastman, Kate Crane-Gartz, Sinclair Lewis, Scott Nearing, Jon Dos Passos, Upton Sinclair, and Norman Thomas were among them.

It was not only the United States, however, that saw a surge of solidarity on their behalf. Letters continued to pour in from abroad in support of their legal efforts. And along with the defense chapters established in the United States, there was also defense support in France, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland—notably countries where there were large antifascist, anarchist presences. Indeed, as those involved in the efforts maintained, the fact that Ferrero and Sallitto were prominent anti-fascist organizers, along with the trial of Graham’s and the suppression of Man!, was indicative of a nascent fascist element in the United States—thus, work on their behalf was further tied to resistance abroad.

Despite the widespread international attention their trials received, however, during which Ferrero were officially slated for deportation and Graham jailed for half a year, the protests had only met with partial success. The International Group simply could not withstand the weight of the persecution. Man! folded and the network disbanded. Even so, members of the group itself, along with other comrades who had been involved with the defense, went on to do critical work in the years to come—from helping with new journals such as Why?, to radical projects like the Walden School in Berkeley, to serving as mentors for the anti-war activists of the 1960s and beyond. Indeed, the solidarity movement on their behalf had helped to radicalize a new generation of anarchists, some of whom remained active throughout the anti-globalization days. In other words, even in the face of defeat, there were still important strands of hope carried on by the individuals, relationships, and networks that emerged from those trials. And for several years, the trials had served as formative transnational rallying point across the radical and progressive Left, including among those involved in antifascist resistance.

That said, approaching a century later, we’re still seeing the very same mechanisms of control wielded against antifascist, anarchist, and immigrant communities—not to mention against other communities of color and marginalized populations. So, organizers today: take heart in the wins of their story, but also consider it a reminder that our goal should be to learn from histories such as these, and to continue working toward the elimination of the settler, carceral State that determines who is “legitimate” and who is “criminal.” Particularly in moments such as the present one—where reactionary, fascist, white supremacist forces are further emboldened by the State and political climate—it is essential to understand that our struggles are connected, in some cases, even in their historical origins.

Hillary Lazar is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Pittsburgh, where she teaches about social movements, gender, power and resistance through an anarchist lens. She is currently researching personal transformation in prefigurative spaces. Hillary has been published in Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, contributed a chapter to Anarchism: A Conceptual Approach (2018), and has worked on several other book projects including Emma Goldman: A Documentary History of the American Years (2003). She is a collective member of the Big Idea Bookstore, a content editor for Agency: An Anarchist PR Project, instructor for the Institute for Advanced Troublemaking, and is involved in graduate student worker organizing.

Research and writing of this essay was made possible, in part, by a writing grant from the Institute for Anarchist Studies.

This essay is from Perspectives “Beyond the Crisis” issue, available here from AK Press: https://www.akpress.org/perspectivesonanarchisttheorymagazine.html

Notes:

[1] Marcus Graham, “Our Eighth Year,” Man!, A Journal of Anarchist Movement and Ideal (Connecticut: Greenwood Reprint Corporation, 1970).

[2] For two of the best accounts of Man! and the International Group, see: Kenyon Zimmer, Immigrants Against the State: Yiddish and Italian Anarchism in America (Chicago: University of Illinois, 2015), 178218;, and Andrew Cornell, Unruly Equality: US Anarchism in the Twentieth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016), 114-120. Zimmer’s chapter “Positively Stateless: Marcus Graham, the Ferrero-Sallitto Case, and Anarchist Challenges to Race and Deportation,” in Moon-Ho Jung, ed., The Rising Tide of Color: Race, State Violence, and Radical Movements Across the Pacific (University of Washington Press, 2014), 128158. Zimmer argues that not only must we understand these as connected, but specifically that anarchist embracing of “statelessness” was a strategic way to resist State control as it called into question the logic of the nNation-sState and also actively impeded deportation proceedings. For additional biographical information on Ferrero (aka. “Johnny the Cook,) and Sallitto, also seesee the brief oral histories by them in Paul Avrich’s Anarchist Voices: An Oral History of Anarchism in America (Oakland: AK Press, 2005). Graham also provides some additional commentary in his “Autobiographical Note,” in the foreword to his anthology, Man! An Anthology of Anarchist Ideas, Essays, Poetry and Commentaries (London: Cienfuegos Press, 1974).

[3] Man!, January, 1933. Galleanist anarchism was named after Luigi Galleani (18611931), an Italian-American anarchist who founded the anarchist periodical, Cronaca Sovversiva, which ran from 19031920. Galleani and his supporters (including Sacco and Vanzetti) were known for their promotion of “propaganda by the deed,” or direct action and militant opposition to the State. For more on Galleani and Italian-American anarchism, see: Travis Tomchuck, Transnational Radicals: Italian Anarchists in Canada and the U.S., 19151940 (University of Manitoba, 2015). For detailed accounts of Man’s politics, see Cornell, Unruly Equality, 114118 and Zimmer, “Positively Stateless.”

[4] See, for instance, articles in Man!, including: “Onward-People of Spain,” AugustSeptember 1936; “Behind the Lines of Spain,” OctoberNovember 1936; “They Shall Not Pass,” December 1936Janaury 1937; and “Save Spain Save Yourselves,” FebruaryMarch 1937. See Cornell, Unruly Equality, 100118.

[5] Cornell, Unruly Equality, 100118. 

[6] “The Movement Around Man,” Man!, MayJune 1933.  

[7] Man!, March 1934. 

[8] The New York International Group was actually the informal name for the Road to Freedom Group that published the Road to Freedom, a journal edited by Hyppolite Havel from 19271931, which is considered by many to be the successor to Emma Goldman’s periodical Mother Earth. Several of the oral histories in Avrich’s Anarchist Voices (2005) refer to the Road to Freedom Group.  

[9] See Zimmer, Immigrants Against the State, 195; “Positively Stateless,” 128158; Cornell, Unruly Equality, 100118.

[10] “The Movement Around Man,” Man!, May-June 1933.  The International Group was actually the informal name for the Road to Freedom Group, based in New York, that published the Road to Freedom, a journal edited by Hyppolite Havel from 1927-1931, which is considered by many to be the successor to Emma Goldman’s periodical Mother Earth.  Graham had actually been a member of the group in New York, and the International Group he later founded was in part influenced by the former organization. Several of the oral histories in Avrich’s Anarchist Voicesrefer to the Road to Freedom Group.  

[11] “Government’s Foul Conspiracy to Destroy Man!,” Man!, May 1934.

[12] “Government’s Foul Conspiracy to Destroy Man!,” Man!, May 1934.  

[13] Along with Ferrero’s account, there is also a brief oral history by Sallitto in Paul Avrich’s Anarchist Voices: An Oral History, 160–16-67.

[14] “Government’s Foul Conspiracy to Destroy Man!,” Man!, May 1934.

[15] “Government’s Foul Conspiracy to Destroy Man!,” Man!, May 1934.

[16] Cornell, Unruly Equality, 115; Zimmer, Immigrants Against the State, 180183.

[17] “Government’s Foul Conspiracy to Destroy Man!,” Man!, May 1934.

[18] “Alleged Anarchist Fights Deportation,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 5, 1935; “Deportation Order Fought,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 29, 1935; “Resisting Attempt to Throttle Freedom of Thought,” Man!, JulyAugust 1935; “Deportations Hysteria,” Man!, OctoberNovember 1936. 

[19] “The Struggle to Save Ferrero and Sallitto,” Man!, January 1936; “Deportation Order Fought,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 29, 1935. 

[20] “Bay Man Appeals Deportation Order,” in San Francisco Chronicle, October 8, 1936; “The Ferrero and Sallitto Case,” Man!, May 1936. 

[21] “Anarchy on Trial in United States Court,” Man!, January 1938; “Deportations Hysteria,” Man!, OctoberNovember 1936. 

[22] “Deportations Hysteria,” Man!, OctoberNovember 1936; “Another Refugee,” Man!, November 1939.

[23] “Deportations Hysteria,” Man!, OctoberNovember 1936.

[24] Ferrero Loses Deportation Plea,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 2, 1937; “Former Publisher Reported a Refugee,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 21, 1939; “Deportations Hysteria,” Man!, OctoberNovember 1936; “Another Refugee,” Man!, November 1939; author’s iInterview with Audrey Goodfriend, January 4, 2009.

[25] The controversial literature was a copy of A Revolutionary Anthology of Poetry that Graham had edited.

[26] Now virtually unknown, at the time Aurora Alleva was a very prominent anarchist presence in more militant, New York and Philadelphiabased, Italian-American anarchist circuits during the 1920s and 1930s. She was a popular public speaker and contributor to the anti-fascist, Galleanist periodical, L’Adunata dei Refrattari and was also known for her perspectives on anarchist education and parenting. As is well documented, women were often forced into ancillary roles in these anarchist milieus, making her public visibility all the more notable. Even still, and perhaps because of the dismissive historical treatment of anarchist women, there is very little available information about her. Alleva was deeply involved in the defense work, eventually serving as secretary for the Ferrero and Sallitto Defense Conference in New York and Sallitto’s life partner. See Jennifer Guglielmo, Living the Revolution: Italian Women’s Resistance and Radicalism in New York City, 18801945(Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2010), 150; Tomchuck,. Transnational Radicals, 2015; and Zimmer, Immigrants Against the State, 2015, 193194. Hippolyte Havel (18711950) was a famous Czech anarchist who lived in New York and was a close friend, and biographer, of Emma Goldman’s. Ray Randall and Walter Brooks were pen names for Domenick Sallitto and Aurora Alleva, who were both in New York at that time raising funds for his defense. Marcus Graham, “Autobiographical Note,” in Marcus Graham, ed. Man! An Anthology of Anarchist Ideas, Essays, Poetry and Commentaries (London: Cienfuegos Press, 1974), vii.  

[27] “In Retrospect of Current Events: A Statement of Facts,” Man!, AugustSeptember 1936; Man!, JulyAugust 1937. Despite this Graham did not remain overly silent or carefully hidden. Several times in late 1936, his name appears with “Bermuda” next to it in parentheses, as the author of articles in Man!. This suggests that Graham went on the lam and sought refuge in Bermuda. 

[28] “U.S. Government Raids ‘Man!’ and Jails Editor Again,” in Man!, October 1937; “Editor May Evade Deportation Charge,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 9, 1937.

[29] “Anarchy on Trial in United States Court,” Man!, January 1938.

[30] “Writers Assailed by Federal Judge,” New York Times, June 27, 1939; “Marcus Graham Sentenced to Second Six Month Jail Term,” The Challenge, July 22, 1939.  

[31] Marcus Graham, “Autobiographical Note,” xviii.

[32] “Silence About Birth Thwarts His Deportation,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 7, 1940; “A ‘Philosophical’ Anarchist Gets 6 Months in Jug,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 23, 1940.

[33] William Preston, Aliens and Dissenters: Federal Suppression of Radicals, 1903-1933 (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 11.

[34] Preston offers a terrific analysis of the “de-criminalization” of deportation making extradition of unwanted immigrants a bureaucratic process rather than criminal, consequently, not subject to due process and the legal safeguards of a right to trial by jury.  

[35] The Espionage Act made it illegal to make any attempt to interfere with military operations, including recruitment and the Sedition Act of 1918 forbade the use of any language aimed at criticizing the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces. The act also allowed the Postmaster General to refuse to deliver mail that conveyed language deemed to meet these criteria.

[36] Indeed, as Zimmer and other historians and scholars of race observe, in so doing, these policies played formative roles in the construction of whiteness by allowing greater access to citizenship for Europeans, while at the same time, making those from outside of northern and western Europe into second-class citizens.

[37] For a general discussion on American immigration see Roger Daniels’ Guarding the Golden Door: American Immigration Policy and Immigrants Since 1882 (New York: Hill and Wang, 2004). For an analysis of anti-immigrant and anti-radical legislation passed during WWII, see Margaret A. Blanchard, Revolutionary Sparks: Freedom of Expression in Modern America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 159; and Robert Goldstein, Political Repression in Modern America: 1870 to the Present (Cambridge: Schneckman, 1978), 245.

[38] From the foreword by Howard Zinn in Deepa Fernandes, Targeted: Homeland Security and the Business of Immigration (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2007), 15.

[39] See Estolv E. Ward, The Gentle Dynamiter (Palo Alto: Ramparts Press, 1983).

[40] See Estolv E. Ward, The Gentle Dynamiter (Palo Alto: Ramparts Press, 1983).

[41] Zechariah Chafee, Freedom of Speech in the United States (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1941), 327.

[42] Goldstein, Political Repression, 221.

[43] No discussion of immigration and repression in 1930s California would be complete without an examination of Mexican repatriation. For an account of this, see Camille Guerin-Gonzales’s Mexican Workers and the American Dreams: Immigration, Repatriation, and California Farm Labor, 19001939 (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1994).

[44] Goldstein, Political Repression, 220–221.

[45] For a full account of the strike, see Starr’s chapter “Bayonets on the Embarcadero: The San Francisco Waterfront and General Strike of 1934” in Kevin Starr, Endangered Dreams, 84120.

[46] Zimmer, “Positively Stateless,” 128158.

[47]Amanda Sakuma, “Donald Trump’s Plan to Outsource Immigration Enforcement to Local Cops,” The Atlantic, February 18, 2017.

[48] Human Rights Watch, “US: Devastating Impact of Trump’s Immigration Policy,” December 5, 2017. 

[49] John Burnett, “Big Money as Private Immigrant Jails Boom,” NPR—Morning Edition, November 21, 2017.

[50] Jennifer Koh et al., “Deportation without Due Process,” National Immigration Law Center, 2011. 

[51] Ahilan Arulanantham, “Immigrant Children Do Not Have the Right to an Attorney Unless They Can Pay, Rules Appeals,” ACLU.org, February 8, 2018, aclu.org

[52] Adam Liptakfeb, “No Bail Hearings for Detained Immigrants, Supreme Court Rules,” New York Times, February 27, 2018.

[53] EndIsolation.org, “Immigration Detention Fact Sheet,” 2017.

[54] For up-to-date information about the trial or to donate to the defense, see  visit: http://defendj20resistance.org/.

[55] For up-to-date information about the trial or to donate to the defense, see  visit: https://waterprotectorlegal.org/.

[56] Maria Saccetti and David Weigel, “ICE has detained or deported prominent immigration activists,” The Washington Post, January 18, 2018. 

[57] Jeffrey Raff, “The ‘Double Punishment’ for Black Undocumented Immigrants,” The Atlantic, December 30, 2017. 

[58] Sam Adler-Bell, “It’s a Police-State Mentality,” Mask, 2017 

[59] Harsha Walia, Undoing Border Colonialism (Oakland: AK Press, 2013). 

[60] “Resisting Attempt to Throttle Freedom of Thought—First public Protest,” Man!, JulyAugust 1935; Albert Strong, “The Fight Against Deportation of Ferrero and Sallitto,” Class Struggle, January 1936.

[61] Albert Strong, “The Fight Against Deportation of Ferrero and Sallitto,” Class Struggle, January 1936.

[62] “On the Revolutionary Battlefront—In the Land We Live In,” Man!, November-December 1935.

[63] “On the Revolutionary Battlefront—In the Land We Live In,” Man!, November-December 1935.

[64] Strong, Albert, “The Fight Against Deportation of Ferrero and Sallitto,” Class Struggle, January 1936; “Deportation Officials’ Unlimited Perfidies,” Man!, February 1936.  

[65] “U.S. Government Raids ‘Man!’ and Jails Editor Again,” Man!, October 1937; “Editor May Evade Deportation Charge,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 9, 1937; “Stop the Persecution of Graham and Man!,” Man!, March 1938.  

[66] “Two Fight Deportation,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 7, 1937; “Anarchy on Trial in United States Court,” Man!, January 1938; “Deportation of Sallitto Defeated,” Man!, January 1938.

[67] “Anarchy on Trial in United States Court,” Man!, January 1938.[1] “America’s Conscience Speaks Out,” Man!, October 1937; Man!, December 1937. “The Fight Against Deportation of Ferrero and Sallitto,” Class Struggle, January 1936; “Shall These Men and Women be Exiled,” Man!, December 1937; “Stop the Persecution of Graham and Man!,” Man!, March 1938.