Gordon Hawkins. God and the Mafia.
A perplexing and elusive problem confronts the student seeking information about organized crime. It concerns the concept "organized crime" itself. For a curious feature characterizes almost all the literature on the subject, up to and including the Task Force Report on this topic published in 1967 by the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice. This is that a large proportion of what has been written seems not to be dealing with an empirical matter at all. It is almost as though what is referred to as organized crime belonged to the realm of metaphysics or theology.
Indeed the analogy with theology is quite striking. Nor is it merely a matter of occasional similarities or likenesses, but rather of a systematic resemblance recurring in a wide variety of different sources. The parallelism is so pervasive that it is difficult to dismiss it as altogether fortuitous. But before considering its significance it may be well to illustrate it.
Take first the question of the existence of organized crime, a matter about which, like the existence of God, doubts have been expressed. On this subject Estes Kefauver, in his Crime in America, which is based on testimony taken at the hearings before, and upon reports of, the Senate Crime Committee between 1950 and 1951, writes as follows:
A nationwide crime syndicate does exist in the United States of America, despite the protestations of a strangely assorted company of criminals, self-serving politicians, plain blind fools, and others who may be honestly misguided, that there is no such combine . . . . The national crime syndicate as it exists today is an elusive and furtive but nonetheless tangible thing. Its organization and machinations are not always easy to pinpoint. . . . However, by patient digging and by putting together little pieces of a huge and widely scattered puzzle, the picture emerges . . . . Behind the local mobs which make up the national crime syndicate is a shadowy, international criminal organization known as the Mafia, so fantastic that most Americans find it hard to believe it really exists.
Now, apart from the bizarre nature of its content, one of the most remarkable facts about this quite categorical statement, which occurs in the first chapter of Kelauver's book, is that the evidence necessary to substantiate it is never produced. Indeed Daniel Bell in his The End of Ideology comments as follows:
Unfortunately for a good story--and the existence of the Mafia would be a whale of a story-- neither the Senate Crime Committee in its testimony, nor Kefauver in his book, presented any real evidence that the Mafia exists as a functioning organization. One finds public officials asserting before the Kefauver committee their belief in the Mafia; the Narcotic Bureau thinks that a world-wide dope ring allegedly run by Luciano is part of the Mafia: but the only other "evidence" presented--aside from the incredulous responses both of Senator Kefauver and Rudolph Halley when nearly all the Italian gangsters asserted that they didn't know about the Mafia--is that certain crimes beer "the earmarks of the Mafia." (Author's italics.)
Others have been equally skeptical. Thus, Burton B. Turkus, in Murder Incorporated, writing at the time when the Senate Crime Investigating Committee was publishing its findings, said:
If one such unit had all crime in this country under its power, is it not reasonable to assume that somewhere along the line, some law agency--federal, state, county or municipal-- would have tripped it up long before this? No single man or group ever was so clever, so completely genius, as to foil all of them forever . . . . In fact, as a factor of power in national crime, Mafia has been virtually extinct for two decades.
Gus Tyler, editor of Organized Crime in America, prefaces the section devoted to the Mafia with an essay in which he says that the Mafia "whose existence is assumed by some government agencies" is "a still unproven fact." He adds, however, that "while the existence of the Mafia is still legally conjectural, theories of its existence cannot be ignored."