Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti Guilty — And It Matters Today
. . . stunning new information about the case of Sacco and Vanzetti, leftist radicals who were supposed victims of the “red scare” following World War I.
Ordinarily, Paul Hegness wouldn’t have looked twice at Lot 217 as he strolled through an Irvine auction warehouse, preferring first-edition books and artwork to the box stuffed with old papers and holiday cards.Sinclair, socialist and famous “muckraker” had an intense interest in the case of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian immigrants accused of robbing a Massachusetts shoe factory and killing two men in the process.
But then, he wouldn’t have stumbled upon a confession from one of America’s great authors. Inside the box, an envelope postmarked Sept. 12, 1929, caught his eye. It was addressed to John Beardsley, Esq., of Los Angeles. The return address read, “Upton Sinclair, Long Beach.”
The case was a cause célèbre among left-leaning intellectuals, authors, professors and journalists, who declared the two men victims of an unjust criminal justice system.
Sinclair was one of these people, but he learned some things that startled him, and convinced him the case didn’t fit the standard leftist template.
Prosecutors characterized the anarchists as ruthless killers who had used the money to bankroll antigovernment bombings and deserved to die. Sinclair thought the pair were innocent and being railroaded because of their political views.But why didn’t Sinclair go public with this information?
Soon Sinclair would learn something that filled him with doubt. During his research for “Boston,” Sinclair met with Fred Moore, the men’s attorney, in a Denver motel room. Moore “sent me into a panic,” Sinclair wrote in the typed letter that Hegness found at the auction a decade ago.
“Alone in a hotel room with Fred, I begged him to tell me the full truth,” Sinclair wrote. “. . . He then told me that the men were guilty, and he told me in every detail how he had framed a set of alibis for them.”
“I faced the most difficult ethical problem of my life at that point,” he wrote to his attorney. “I had come to Boston with the announcement that I was going to write the truth about the case.”
Other letters tucked away in the Indiana [University] archive illuminate why one of America’s most strident truth tellers kept his reservations to himself.
“My wife is absolutely certain that if I tell what I believe, I will be called a traitor to the movement and may not live to finish the book,” Sinclair wrote Robert Minor, a confidant at the Socialist Daily Worker in New York, in 1927.
“Of course,” he added, “the next big case may be a frame-up, and my telling the truth about the Sacco-Vanzetti case will make things harder for the victims.”
He also worried that revealing what he had been told would cost him readers. “It is much better copy as a naïve defense of Sacco and Vanzetti because this is what all my foreign readers expect, and they are 90% of my public,” he wrote to Minor.
Why It Matters Today
American history, as told by the liberal and leftist academics, journalists and educators, is wedded to the notion that Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent, just as it is wedded to the notion that Hollywood writers and government officials charged with subversion during the McCarthy era were innocent.
Actually, the establishment version of history won’t actually say that all these people were innocent. Rather they frame the whole issue in terms of the “Red Scare” after World War I or “McCarthyism” during the early 50s.
What the liberal and left establishment doesn’t want is anybody asking questions about the actions and motives of people on the left.
If one understands that people like Alger Hiss and a host of other government officials were spying for the Soviet Union, one might ask just what about Ivy League educated elites made them prey to communist ideology.
If one faces the fact that some intellectuals, government officials, academics and authors were fundamentally disloyal to America, one might wonder about leftist activists today.
College students might wonder which of their professors were suckered by Mao, or Fidel, or Ho Chi Minh.
People might wonder about the activists who insist that people like Mumia Abu-Jamal are innocent. Aren’t these the same sort of people who have been suckered by Sacco, Vanzetti, Hiss, the Rosenbergs and a lot more?
It’s much safer to give the impression that violent radicals like Sacco and Vanzetti, or urbane and educated traitors like Alger Hiss were just figments of the imaginations of Mitchell Palmer or Joe McCarthy.