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Vanni Buscemi Montana was an Italian immigrant who worked as a publicist for Local 89 of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union and the Italian American Labor Council, and as editor of Giustizia (ILGWU) and Sindacalismo Libero (AFL-CIO). This collection documents Montana's activities as an Italian-American labor leader and socialist with a keen interest in Italian labor and politics. Types of materials include correspondence, manuscripts, clippings, photographs, and audiotapes.
Materials are in English and Italian.
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The Vanni Buscemi Montana Collection contains a portion of Montana's records for the years he worked as publicist for Local 89 and the Italian American Labor Council (IALC) and as editor of Giustizia (ILGWU) and Sindacalismo Libero (AFL-CIO). The collection papers consists mostly of correspondence and writings, but also it contains clippings, photographs, and audiotapes. Approximately half of the correspondence and political essays are in Italian. The records document Vanni Montana's activities as an Italian-American labor leader and socialist who had a keen interest in Italian labor and politics.
Although these records were created through his activities with Local 89, Giustizia, the Mazzini Society, IALC, and the Italian Socialist Federation, Montana brought together this collection for the purpose of writing his political autobiography, Amarostico (Italian version) or The Shambles: Broken Bridges Over the Seas (English version), in typescript only.
The collection is of interest for research on the anti-Communist and antifascist movements in America and Italy, development of Italian-American nationalism, Cold War labor activities in Italy, Locals 48 and 89 (ILGWU), Local 63 (ACWA), the Italian American Labor Council, Italian labor confederations (CGIL, FIL, CISL, UIL), Italian political parties PCI, PSI, PSLI), Italian political and labor leaders, and the U.S. State Department's involvement in Italian affairs.
The collection contains correspondence that relates to several controversies that occurred in the State Department, Italian Section. Montana accused several members, including Arthur Goldberg, Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and former labor lawyer for the CIO, of aiding Communist policies in fascist-controlled Italy. Additionally, Montana complained that persons in the Office of War Information (OWI) prevented him from receiving correspondence from Italy and blocked his broadcasts to Italy.
The Shambles gives coherence to this collection; moreover, it contains transcriptions of correspondence not found elsewhere in the collection. There are other documents that will orient the researcher to the major issues and participants in Montana's Labor Council by Vincent J. Tirelli (found in the souvenir booklet, 50 Years of Progress); an essay, "Politics and Religion in the Italian Labor Movement," by John Norman and Montana's response to Norman's argument; an essay, "The Italian Revolution," by Felix Morrow; a copy of a 1949 Congressional Report on Italian labor ("Freedom of Information Act" folder); a chronology of Local 89 activities (1909-1944) and a chronology of IALC activities (1941-1964).
Born Giovanni Santo Buscemi in Mazara del Vallo, Italy, in 1902, Vanni Buscemi Montana, a name he assumed to protect relatives still in Italy, emigrated to the United States as a political refugee from Mussolini's dictatorship in 1928.
An enemy of fascist absolutism in his native Sicily, Montana fled first to Belgium and then to Paris, where he studied political science and journalism at the Sorbonne, organized Italian immigrants, and urged resistance to fascists. A member of the Italian Socialist Party (PSI) in Sicily and in Paris, Montana continued his antifascist activities with the Italian socialist Federation after emigrating to the United States in the late 1920s. He was city and labor editor for Il Nuovo Mondo and then La Stampa Libera, two Italian antifascist daily newspapers, from 1930 to 1933. He also contributed to La Parola, an Italian antifascist weekly.
In 1934, Luigi Antonini, founder and general secretary of the Italian Dressmakers' Union, Local 89 of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU)--the largest local in America--hired Montana as publicity and educational director. ILGWU president David Dubinsky also employed Montana as assistant editor and then editor of Giustizia, the Italian language organ of the ILGWU, a post he held for the next thirty-four years. Additionally, Montana became a broadcaster at Radio Station WEVD, hosting "The Voice of Local 89," a program that featured talks by Luigi Antonini.
In response to Mussolini's declaration of war against the United States in 1941, Montana and Antonini, along with other Italian-American leaders, formed the Italian-American Labor council (IALC). Montana served IALC as press director and writer from 1941 until 1973.
During World War II, Montana served on the board of directors of the Mazzini Society, New York Branch, a group that included Carlo Tresca, a prominent leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and a well-known antifascist and anticommunist. Montana secretly corresponded with Ignazio Silone, Italian author of Bread and Wine and a leading member of the Italian Socialist Party, on political activities in fascist Italy. This correspondence made Montana useful as a political consultant to U.S. State Department officials and determined the substance of his shortwave broadcasts to Italy during World War II.
Dubinsky sent Antonini to Italy in 1944 to prepare Italian labor unions for the post-war period. Montana later followed Antonini to Italy and became highly critical of Antonini's support and signing of the "Pact of Rome." Vanni Montana served as executive secretary and coordinator of European activities of the Italian American committee for Just Peace for Italy organized in 1946 by Don Luigi Sturzo, a Sicilian priest and founder of the Catholic Italian "Partito Popolare," to attend the Paris Peace Conference. The committee contributed to efforts to prevent post-war Italy from being punished by the Allies.
From 1946 onwards, Montana published many articles in the New Leader, L'Umanita, Giustizia, Sindacalismo Libero, and other publications in an effort to prevent splits in the Italian Socialist Party and movements toward unification with the Communist-dominated CGIL. In these articles he described and clarified the complexities and development of Italian labor and political parties following World War II. The faction of Pietro Nenni, who was accused of aligning his politics with Palmira Togliatti (head of the PCI), controlled the PSI. Another faction led by Giuseppe Saragat withdrew from the PSI and formed the Partito Socialista Lavoratori Italiani (PSLI); Matteo Matteotti, son of Giuseppe Matteotti (murdered by a fascist gang in 1924), was also one of its leaders. Both Saragat and Matteotti were invited to New York to speak at the ILGWU Convention. Montana escorted and translated for them during their American tour.
Two programs offered by the Americans, the Atlantic Pact (later NATO) and the European Recovery Program (or Marshal Plan), became points of controversy. Montana and other democratic Socialists urged the acceptance of these programs; however, the PCI-led CGIL opposed military and economic alliances with the United States, positions that caused Giulio Pastore to withdraw from CGIL in August 1948 and to form in October 1948 a rival labor confederation, the Free CGIL (or LCGIL), a Catholic-dominated labor confederation. Later in 1949, two other groups led by Giovanni Canini (Socialist) and Enrico Parri (Republican) split from CGIL and united to form a third labor confederation, the Italian Federation of Labor (FIL). The two confederations eventually merged in May 1950 to form the 1.6 million-worker Confederazione Italiana Sindicati Lavoratori (CISL), led by Giulio Pastore and later by Bruno Storti. As a result of the proposed merger, Autonomous Socialists, together with independent unions, founded the Unione Italiana del Lavoro (UIL), led by Italo Viglianesi and Della Chiesa.
Into the 1970s Montana continued to write about proposed mergers of CGIL, CISL, and UIL. In assessing his political career in The Shambles, Montana wrote that his "bitterest disappointment was not seeing, after World War II, a united Italian labor movement, free from political domination rally around the banner of freedom that Bruno Buozzi carried until he was murdered; and not seeing a united Italian socialism around the banner of Giacomo Matteotti--both as instruments for serving the advancement of Italian democracy as a free and independent part, with the United States of America, of a world democracy unthreatened by any kind of totalitarian despotism or oppression.”
After his retirement in 1968 from Local 89 and Giustizia and encouraged by friends, family, and his wife Hèléne Barton, Montana began going through his papers. This work resulted in the 1976 American publication of his political autobiography, Amarostico, written in Italian. An unpublished English translation is in this collection.
Montana and Hèléne had two American-born sons, Victor B. Montana, a physicist, and John B. Montana, a physician. Vanni B. Montana died in Manhattan on November 3, 1991.
This collection is organized into three series:
Hèléne Montana, wife of Vanni Montana, donated the materials in this collection to the George Meany Memorial Archives in 1994. The collection was in the custody of Mrs. Montana since the death of her husband in 1991. The George Meany Memorial Archives transferred these records as part of a major transfer of their archive and library holdings to the University of Maryland Libraries in 2013.
The records arrived at the George Meany Memorial Archives in some disarray--folders often lacked titles and existing folder titles sometimes appeared to be sorting tools rather than an indication of content.
Processing consisted of retaining original titles, as much as possible, and rearranging the folders alphabetically. This resulted in Series 1: Papers, 1925-1987. Two other series (stored separately) include photographs and audiotapes, respectively. Duplicate correspondence, manuscripts, and nonrelated newspapers and magazines were discarded. The unpublished manuscript, The Shambles, can be found in Box 1. Amarostico, the published Italian version, is available; please contact the collection curator for information.
Rudolph Lewis and M. Lee Sayrs at the George Meany Memorial Archives initially processed these records in 1997. The University of Maryland Libraries received the records and the finding aid in 2013. In 2017, Bria Parker exported and cleaned the finding aid contents from the Eloquent Systems database using OpenRefine, and finally transformed the finding aids into Encoded Archival Description (EAD) using a series of programmatic scripts. The finding aid was ingested into ArchivesSpace in 2018, at which point Rebecca Thayer updated the descriptive content for accuracy. Revisions include changes to biographical/historical notes, scope and content notes, and the creation of new collection numbers. Rebecca Thayer also enhanced custodial histories and re-wrote collection titles to better conform to archival standards.
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