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Organized Crime

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The first gangs appeared in the mid 19th century in big cities, in ethnic districts. These gangs were born out of one major contradiction in the United States: opportunity for all and equality for all - and real practice of this combination (the discrimination against foreigners: Jews, Catholics, Russians, Polish...)

The West was usually not an option in 1890 for it was closed. Eastern cities like Chicago were cities where ghettos had formed. There was a regulated competition in poor ghettos and knowing a gang member was a good way to get a job.

There were different levels: the federal level, the city level and the county level. Each level has a strong degree of independence. One county could decide to stay dry (without alcohol) where another would be wet.

Since the end of the Civil War, American capitalism gave rise to monopoly capitalism, through horizontal integration (the bigger ones buy smaller ones and merge) and vertical integration (one company controlling several parts of a business: manufacturing or raw materials, distribution, selling...). It is characterized by fierce competition: end of productive power, spreading of false rumors on the stock market and the taking advantage of it.

Newspaper magnate R. Hearst hired gangsters to buy his newspaper and convince others to buy them. C. Vanderbilt started a civil war to get control of the canal of Panama to protect his own interests. Hollywood used the practice called "blind booking" (or "block booking") to be sure to control the distribution of their films. If a distributor wanted one film, it had to buy the whole stock. This gave rise to the Anti-Trust Act to prevent complete monopoly.

In Chicago beer war, the means were slightly more violent but the aims were the same: to get the monopoly. As Al Capone put it: "I'm just a businessman, I provide what people needs".



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