On this day in 1931 Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison for tax evasion. He was later transferred to Alcatraz before being released in 1939 for good behavior. He died in 1947 at age 48, an event which was noted in The Western Socialist of March that year.
As death caught up with Al Capone in Florida, a host of the nation's editorial viewers-with-alarm sharpened their quills and gave forth with a great spate of pious hypocrisy such as only bourgeois journalism's venal hacks can compose.
Pegging their highly moral platitudes on the hackneyed charges of Capone's traffic in beer, brothels and bullets, they labelled his death as marking the end of an era in American history - the Roaring Twenties - the decade when anything could go, and frequently did. The one-way ride, the Sicilian union, the St. Valentine's Day massacre - it was grist for the mill.
The press, in fact, was outdone in sheer hypocrisy only by that past master of the art, the Roman Catholic Church. This usually all-condoning organization (where lucre is concerned) allowed the carcass to be lowered into six feet of "sanctified" earth but couldn't quite see its way clear to perform the sacrament of a requiem mass for the repose of the soul of this man, who, according to the solemn pronouncement of the bishop who read the committal service,had "Sinned." This might well be an indication that Capone died broke.
It should be quite obvious that the capitalist class owes to the memory of Al Capone a debt of gratitude which it might well have paid through the agency of the hireling press, its obedient medium. Aside from the patent fact that the Capone business methods were consistent with those commonly in use today by his fellow capitalists, and in fact Capone might be considered a mentor insofar as his dealings with some of his competitors as well as with his prospective customers are concerned, the bourgeoisie owes to the late "public enemy number one" thanks for others of his activities, if one is to take credence in the words of the master class itself.
We are constantly being told that the capitalists, through their benevolence in employing wage workers, are the benefactors of all mankind, that the more their wage slaves produce, the better off "everyone" is. By those tokens, Capone was supreme among the benefactors of "everyone" of his time. In fact, and not without justification, his name has been mentioned in that respect alongside that of the late utilities magnate, Samuel Insull.
Not only was Capone for many years one of the largest employers of a variety of wage laborers, skilled and unskilled, in Chicago, with an estimated gross business of some $200 million, he was in many instances the very essence of the "paternal" type of boss, in that he not only paid his workers higher than the prevailing wage scale, he also took care of incidental expenses, notably funerals. He may even well be considered as instrumental in saving the system as it tottered on the brink of revolt, for through his free soup kitchens thousands upon thousands of bowls of nourishing soup were served to the depression's destitute workers.
But, withal, Capone did commit the greatest transgression of all. He broke the 11th Commandment:
"Thou shalt not get caught."
Al did get caught...caught doing what every business firm in the country tries to do annually at this time of year...beat the income tax. He may well be considered, if not one of the pioneers of that great sport, at least by not too great a stretch of the imagination, a martyr to that cause.
For here, mind you, was a poor immigrant lad from Brooklyn, a worthy model for Horatio Alger, who through his own business acumen, foresightedness, and the
exercise of the divers civic virtues promulgated and highly regarded by such groups as Rotary International, the Lions' Club, and Kiwanis, pulled himself up by his own boot straps to be the head of a vast sprawling network of transient hotels, entertainment palaces, beverage manufacturies, and a most singular transportation system.
Here was a youth who, though scorners have cast doubts on the story, was scarred for life on the field of battle while serving his country. Here was a man who not only made, but took the most solicitous care of widows and orphans, be they of friend or foe. Here, finally, was a power in politics, a maker of statesmen, a man to whom the law enforcement agencies of the nation's second largest city turned for material support.
While Life magazine editorialized down its nose that Capone executives invented the "handshake" murder whereby the victim surrenders the use of his gun arm to a friend while the latter's companion plugs him, it described his death with the utmost inaccuracy, as being the "end" of an era which this nation does not want 'to see repeated.
Hurling the lie at Life, for one obnoxious example, is the Pan American Airways, which distributes to business firms a thin pamphlet entitled "How to Win Friends and Influence People in Latin America." In this easily read brochure, the budding executive of the postwar era is advised about doing business with his neighbors below the border. He is told to learn a few words of the language and some of the customs so he can butter up to the prospect, put his arm around him, and especially hug his wife and family - before needling him to buy that shipload of celluloid frying pans. As we see it, that marks no new era. That is strictly Capone-style a cacciatore.
To quote the deceased on the very subject in words which should ring down through history:
"They talk about me not being on the legitimate, Nobody's on the legit."