Tag Archives: Fascism

Content related to the history of Fascism.

Un Duplice Omicidio: Murder, Politics, and Immigration in the Bronx

Early one Monday morning, less than half a mile from his apartment, a 38-year-old Army veteran named Joseph is stabbed to death in the Bronx. A 22-year-old man, identified as Nicholas, comes to his rescue and is stabbed 8 times in the back. They were both part of a group which had been invited by the American Legion to march in the annual Memorial Day parade downtown. All of this takes place within yards of one of the oldest hospitals in New York City, yet they both perish. Their deaths make it into the New York Times and a world-renowned attorney agrees to defend their accused murderers. He succeeds and no one is ever imprisoned for their deaths. Their funerals draw 10,000 mourners and newspapers as far as Texas and Kentucky publish their obituaries…

So, Anna, here we go again with those weeks-long gaps in writing. Why you’re absolutely right, but I have a good excuse this time: I was researching for this next piece. Now, this one is not going to be an opinion piece and there is going to be no resolution at the end, but if you are interested in history, then I think this might grab your attention. Also, it does have a tangential connection to Donald Trump (just hold your horses-it isn’t commentary on current politics…that’s for another time) and there will be lots of pictures and a few mysteries! Now, let’s get down to it.

Back in the Spring of 2015 I took a required class at NYU and the final assignment was a primary source research paper. Well, if you’ll remember, even my first M.A. thesis was based mostly on secondary sources. So, I had very little experience working with primary sources, outside of some transcription I did for a professor one year. For this paper, I went to two research libraries and a courthouse archive here in the Bronx. The result was a 20+ page primary source research paper about two murders in the Bronx and Italian political history in New York City. A few posts ago I mentioned that I “spider-webbed” a lot of my work in graduate school so that I could expand upon the same topic and do more research on one subject. That semester it was Fascism. I was also enrolled in a Nazi Germany/Fascist Italy dual-taught course. Instead of working on two separate things I wrote this seminar paper for one course and a historiography over a similar topic for the Fascism+Nazism class. I am terrible at writing historiographies so that one didn’t turn out great, but my seminar paper was much better. I got a B on the paper and I was really upset about it, but a few months later a click-bait article from BoingBoing about Donald Trump’s dad being arrested as part of a KKK brawl came across my Facebook timeline.boing-boing I didn’t plan to click, but then I saw the funeral announcement for the two men who were murdered! I clicked and realized their deaths had been a much bigger deal than I initially thought and I also picked up on some inconsistencies from my paper.

I’m not going to summarize 20 pages of writing in this blog, I just want to talk about the two guys who were murdered. If you want to know more about the Italian diaspora just read this. I was researching Fascism in the Italian-American communities in NYC and how Italian’s organized their Fascist groups abroad. In Italian Fascist Activities in North America by Gaetano Salvemini, he mentions the case of two men who were murdered in the Bronx in 1927. Clarence freakin’ Darrow defended the men accused of their murders pro bono and got them off (here is his correspondence from the trial). Despite this, the murders were only discussed in a page or two and the discrepancies regarding the accused and the victims were never addressed. I have been researching for a year and a half now, on and off, and I have yet to find another book or historian who has delved into this case. I obviously can’t travel to Italy and I can’t go back in time to know what really happened, but I will present you with the evidence I’ve found. I have used ancestry.com, the Bronx Country Courthouse, familysearch.org, and a few archival websites in Italy.

Here is the profile I’ve put together of the two victims:

Michele Ambrosoli was born on 9 September 1906 in Rionero in Volture, Potenza, Italy.birth-record His father was a farmer named Giovanni Ambrosoli. He was born at #13 Via Processione. In my research, I found a Via Ambrosoli in Melfi, nearby. When you search the street on Google it’s called Via Michele Ambrosoli, but Google maps only lists it as Via Ambrosoli. I know the Fascist government renamed many streets in Italy, so it would be interesting to know if they named this street after this Michele Ambrosoli, when, and who took Michele off of Google maps and why.

Also, Via Processione no longer exists in Rionero, but I know it existed before because other people traced their relatives to the same street on some genealogy blogs. I have searched and searched for an old map of Rionero with no success, but I will keep trying. Michele immigrated to the United States in July 1920 aboard the S.S.Patria. He was 14, traveled alone, gave no destination, and no relatives back in Italy. He was held by immigration at Ellis Island for 2 days and ultimately released on 2 August around 3:45 PM. Michele Ship.jpgI haven’t been able to track him any further until 7 years later when he is killed on the corner of 183rd and 3rd in the Bronx around 8 AM. He is then misidentified in every newspaper that reports on his death. The court records also misidentify him and the accused are tried for the death of Michele. The Fascists hold a funeral for him in the Bronx and 10,000 people attend. A new Fascist club was created in his honor in Brooklyn under the name Michele Ambrosoli.

While this information may seem trivial, we need to talk about naming and name changes. Initially, Michele Ambrosoli was identified by the New York Times as Nicola Amoroso, then Nicholas Amoruzo, Nicola, Amorosso, then Nicholas Amoruzo D’Ambrosoli. The Ambrosoli was only mentioned in one of the last stories about their funeral in Naples. His death certificate is listed on Ancestry under Michael Ramibrose. I have yet to figure out how or why he was identified as Nichola(s) Amoroso. A new Fascio was commemorated in his honor in Brooklyn and it was called Fascio Michele Ambrosoli, so the Italian community knew his real name. He was also listed as a Fascist martyr as both Michele Ambrosoli and Michele D’Ambrosoli. I am currently trying to get ahold of a funeral announcement from Mt. Carmel Church, but all evidence points to the fact that he was not going by an alias. I believe he lived in Brooklyn and was only visiting the Bronx, but I have no evidence so far. I don’t know where he worked, where he lived, if he ever traveled back to Italy, nothing. The list of Fascist martyrs says that he died trying to help a comrade who had been attacked by “subversives” and I can only assume that was the first victim that day: Giuseppe Carisi.

Now, for the other guy. I’ve had a LOT of success finding information about him. Similarly, his name is listed in various forms: His birth name is Giuseppe Carisi but he signed his name and is listed as George Carisi, Joseph Carisie, Joseph Carrisi, Joseph Carisy, etc.

Giuseppe Carisi was born on 10 February 1889 in Reggio Calabria, Italy. Pietro Carisi was his father. An unnumbered house on Via Santa Caterina is listed and Vittoria Mesiano is also listed on his birth certificate.

I have been able to track him to a home at 124-126 Thompson street in Manhattan in 1910. He was boarding with a Carmelo (twenty years his senior) and Philomena Mesiano, who I can only assume were relatives of Vittoria from back in Calabria. Carlo was making watches in his home and Giuseppe said he was an operator at a coat shop.

652In 1913, Giuseppe moved to the Bronx and according to the 1920 census Carmelo and Giuseppe were living 500 feet from one another at 502 and 552 East 187th Street. Carlo now owned a jewelry store and Giuseppe was a tailor at a factory. Giuseppe was now living with his younger brother Pietro. As of 1918, he was working at Eclipse Cloth(es) Company on 328 Church Street (which now appears to be a Post Office). In 1890 this factory had 22 employees and is listed as specializing in foodstuffs, leather, and general merchandise. During World War I, Joseph (he was signing this name now) was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Fort Hancock, Georgia for six months.

He became a naturalized citizen there. Upon his return from the Army, he applied for a passport in 1919 and traveled back and forth to Italy at least two times in the early 20s. It appears he intended to bring his family back to the United States.

While his brother appears to have been here with him in 1920, his assets were probated in 1928 and all of his family is listed as resident aliens in Staiti, Calabria-including his brother Pietro Jr. I am unsure as of yet if he was able to bring his family back from Italy. Tragically, his father died just 18 days after he was killed. Giuseppe had over $2000 in assets which appear to have been given to his family, although it appears the legal proceedings took over a year to complete.

One of the most interesting things to note is that Carmelo Mesiano moved from 124-126 Thomson street to 502 East 187th street sometime between 1910 and 1920. I do not know when or if any of these men became full-fledged Fascists, nor what that process entailed, but he was living next door to 506 East 187th street which was the headquarters for Fascists in this area and the location of the Fascio Mario Sozini. fascist-meeting-houseThis Fascio is featured in Carlo Tresca’s memoirs as an especially active Fascio and most of the accounts I read said that the men gathered there that morning before leaving to go to the parade. Perhaps Pietro joined the Fascists first, maybe Carmelo invited Giuseppe to join for economic or social reasons. Maybe Giuseppe wasn’t Fascist at all and just hung out with his friend and neighbors regularly. People shifting their identities is nothing new, so it is important that we realize these shifts in the political and national identity of immigrants have existed for centuries.

The two men were murdered here (the train station has since been demolished)

One reason history is so fascinating to me is because we are often able to pin down the exact time and date certain things happened, but other than the occasional diary it is impossible to know how people felt. I will never know how a World War I veteran that died with a $2000 estate in 1927 became a Fascist. I will never know why a 14-year-old boy traveled to a new continent alone, became a Fascist, was murdered while trying to aide Giuseppe, was misidentified by the national media, and doesn’t show up in any extant records. But one thing is for sure, two men who were able to gain the attention of national and international media and drew 10,000 people to the Bronx for their funerals are worth talking a look at.

I think this case is incredibly relevant to current political discourse. Veterans, immigration, Fascism, identity, diaspora, allegiance, and the importance of documentation are all as important today as they were on Memorial Day 1927.

So, this is where I leave it for now. I will probably continue to research this for years to come and hopefully one day I will be able to visit Southern Italy armed with these records. I don’t know what I can do with all this stuff since I’m not in academia anymore, but I’d love to make a vlog of the significant locations, write a biography, or even a historical novel.

**I am in the process of ordering the two men’s death certificates (they are sequentially numbered which really helped with making sure I was researching the right guys) and will update this when/if I find out anything new!

Until next time, y’all!

Connecting Past and Present: Fascism, Marxism, and Corporatism.

Recently, I posted this article on Facebook (don’t have a subscription so I only read the preview) and several of my past colleagues from graduate school commented. In essence, I feel like there is a linguistic divide in connecting the historical “right” to the contemporary “right” and the historical “left” to the contemporary “left”. I believe the contemporary “left” and “right” are very similar, only one promotes a different hierarchy of social identities than the other. Your party allegiance is dictated by which party more closely relates to your personal hierarchy of identities.  Anyway, if you want to read more of my nonsense, please go on:

I am deeply uncomfortable with the equivalency of populism=Fascism=the “right”. Perhaps it’s a philosophical/linguistic (lowercase ‘f’ versus capital ‘F’ and ‘-ist’ versus ‘-ic’) issue that I have. Why must we divorce the “left” from certain adjectives like totalitarian, populist, nationalist, authoritarian, etc.? I completely agree that Stalin’s Russia was very much like Mussolini’s Italy, but I don’t understand why their brutality is described as “right-wing”? In reading many defenses of Stalin and the like, I hear: “When <insert leftist leader here> murdered people en masse, set up systems of repression, and otherwise acted like a dictator he was being a right-wing nut and not being leftist enough, but when he was carrying out his economic policy he was being a good leftist.” If we divorce economics and social/political policy, then that must be done for regimes on both the “left” and the “right”, not one or the other. Would one be as willing to separate the economic policies of Franco or Mussolini from their brutal social/political policies?

When someone calls a politician a Fascist, I expect them to be describing a man or woman who believes in the pursuit of a Corporatist economy above all else.

When someone calls a politician a Communist, I expect them to be describing a man or woman who believes in the pursuit of a Marxist economic plan above all else.

I think one could equate Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Franco, Mussolini et al. using the same adjectives. Each leader promoted different homogeneities (whether race+religion or class+education) in their societies, but the cause and result were the same: the pursuit of a Utopian economic goal using mass murder and repression. I think using “Fascist” to describe one who promotes a Corporatist economy is absolutely useful. Describing a politician/political party and his/her/its campaign tactics, personality, and hierarchy of identities by using Fascist as a synonym for “right-wing”, nationalist, authoritarian, totalitarian, or populist is not. One may be correct in saying Trump and Le Pen’s economic goals are Fascist/Corporatist (I honestly haven’t examined either one close enough to say), but calling them Fascist because they promote homogeneity, are nationalist, appeal to popular fears, and are authoritarian overlooks those on the “left” that use(d) the same tactics to gain+maintain power.

If fasci(sm/st/stic) is to only be used as an adjective to connect the contemporary “right” to the historical “right”, fine and dandy, but then what is the equivalent term to connect the contemporary “left” to the historical “left”? Just as I know of no Fascist economy that can be analyzed apart from the repression that helped put it into and keep it in place, I know of no Marxist economy that can be analyzed apart from the repression that helped put it into and keep it in place. I would argue that using “fascist” and “marxist” to describe historical political tactics should be synonymous. Or, alternatively, “fascist” and “marxist” should be exclusively used to describe historical homogeneities promoted by the “right” and “left” in pursuit of Fascist and Marxist economic policy. The two words denote vastly different economic goals but dictators on both the “left” and “right” used many of the same tactics and tools in their pursuits. I believe it would be most productive to say: regimes on the “right” and “left” use(d) fascistic/marxist tactics/philosophies (militarism, futurism, nationalism, populism, genocide, repression, etc.) to gain and maintain political power over those people in sectors of society deemed to be barriers to the fulfilment of their economic goals and in order to change citizens’ hierarchy of identities.

Leaving the historical context behind and moving to contemporary politics, both sides absolutely use popular fears to gain support:

Candidate A/B: “Candidate B/A is going to take away <insert civil/constitutional right here> if you don’t vote for me.”

Candidate A/B: “You will be personally victimized by the economic goals of Candidate B/A if you don’t vote for me.”

Candidate A/B: “You and the group you most closely identify with will be personally victimized by the social policies of Candidate B/A if you don’t vote for me.”

Candidate A/B: “Candidate B/A is only looking out for  <insert economic class/labor sector/religious group/race/corporate interest> and if you aren’t part of it then I am your only hope.”

Also, just for fun, here is the definition of Corporatism/Corporativism: the sociopolitical organization of a society by major interest groups, or corporate groups, such as agricultural, business, ethnic, labor, military, patronage, or scientific affiliations, on the basis of common interests.

It’s very likely I’ve misunderstood a lot about a lot and I know that in the end none of this matters. Despite how we describe it in discourse, the execution of political philosophy-no matter the flavor-has killed innumerable people and will continue to do so.

If after reading this you think: this woman doesn’t know what she’s talking about, has oversimplified over 100 years of political divisions in the Western hemisphere, doesn’t fully understand Marxism/Fascism, or any other number of complaints about the content of this blog, then guess what? It’s your lucky day because I agree with you!

Drop a comment below if I’ve made an egregious error or if you want to talk to me about my thoughts on any of this.

Until next time!

Addendum:

I put quotes around “left” and “right” because I feel that beyond economic policy and hierarchy of social identities-and within the context of this conversation-it is a false dichotomy.

A fear of Fascism is a perfectly valid one to have, just as a fear of Communism and Capitalism and Socialism are perfectly valid. The pursuit of Fascist, Communist, Capitalist, and Socialist economic policy has killed millions, if not billions, of people. People are justified in fearing each system. That being said, the “right” shouldn’t connect the “left” to its brutal history if it is unwilling to allow the “left” to connect the “right” to its brutal history and vice versa. Of course, millions of people who identify with the contemporary “right” hurl “Commie” and “Socialist” around as haphazardly as the contemporary “left” throws out “Fascist”! There is no denying it.

The difference seems to come when the “right” calls someone on the “left” a Socialist/Communist. The “right” is subsequently deemed ignorant, red-neck, fear mongering, neo-con, populist, Fascist, etc. While when the “left” calls someone on the “right” a Fascist it’s met with encouragement: “Oh, man, maybe you’re right. Maybe this guy really is the next Hitler/Mussolini/Franco!” The fear of Fascism coming from the “left” is a healthy and productive fear to have. Beyond the fringe on both sides, I don’t think anyone really wants to live in a Fascist or Communist country. I don’t know of anyone who would say, “Woo hoo, I hope our next president turns the United States into a Fascist dictatorship!” But on that same note, we must realize that fear of Communism coming from the “right” is a healthy and productive fear to have as well. I don’t think many of us would be happy to live under a Communist dictatorship either.