This is the famous last speech of Bartolomeo
Vanzetti, the class-war prisoner who, alongside
Nicola Sacco, both of them anarchists, died in the
electric chair in August 1927, framed by the US
authorities. This speech, despite its broken
English, is so beautiful and moving that it falls
naturally into verse form.
No-one has ever expressed more splendidly and
with such stirring, simple language the aspirations
and hopes of all those who fight for a better world.
Once read, these words form part of every
socialist’s heritage. This typographical
arrangement of Vanzetti’s speech first appeared in
Labor Action, an American socialist weekly.
I have talk a great deal of myself
but I even forget to name Sacco.
Sacco too is a worker,
from his boyhood a skilled worker, lover of work
with a good job and pay,
a bank account, a good and lovely wife,
two beautiful children and a neat little home
at the verge of a wood, near a brook.
Sacco is a heart, a faith, a character, a man;
a man, lover of nature, and mankind.
A man who gave all, who sacrifice all
to the cause of liberty and to his love for mankind:
money, rest, mundane ambition,
his own wife, children, himself
and his own life.
Sacco has never dreamt to steal, never to
He and I have never brought a morsel
of bread to our mouths, from our childhood to
which has not been gained by the sweat of our
Oh yes, I may be more witfull, as some have put it;
I am a better babbler than he is, but many, man
in hearing his heartfull voice ringing forth sublime,
in considering his supreme sacrifice, remembering
I felt small at the presence of his greatness
and found myself compelled to fight back
from my eyes the tears,
and quench my heart
troubling to my throat to not weep before him:
this man called thief and assassin and doomed.
But Sacco’s name will live in the hearts of the people
and in their gratitude when Katzmann’s bones
and yours will be dispersed by time;
when your name, his name, your laws, constitutions
and your false god are but a dim remembering
of a cursed past in which man was wolf
to the man...
If it had not been for these thing
I might have lived out my life
talking at street corners to scorning men.
I might have die, unmarked, unknown, a failure.
Now we are not a failure.
This is our career and our triumph. Never
in our full life could we hope to do such work
for tolerance, for justice, for men’s understanding
of man, as now we do by accident.
Our words, our lives, our pains — nothing!
The taking of our lives — lives of a good shoemaker
and a poor fishpeddler —
all! That last moment belongs to us —
that agony is our triumph.