Day By Day

Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Lies of the Left Redux -- Sacco and Vanzetti

Lefties love to play the role of martyr. Time and again they recapitulate their favorite morality tales -- stories and images of innocent men and women persecuted by an oppressive and bigoted American establishment. One of their greatest hits, one featured in every American History text I have seen, is the sad tale of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti who were electrocuted in 1927 after being tried and convicted of murder.

The men's defense centered on the fact that they were immigrants and political radicals -- anarchists and atheists. The international left, eager to portray the American government and society as blatantly and inherently unjust, mobilized to support their claims of innocence and the case became a tremendous sensation, not just in the United States, but throughout Europe.

For material relating to the case go here and here.

Historians have generally accepted the defense's claim that the men had no chance of a fair trial in America. "Liberty, Equality and Power" a recent general US History text argues that the men were executed because of "their foreign accents and their defiant espousal of anarchist doctrines in the courtroom." [p.794]

Arthur Schlesinger, one of America's most celebrated historians, explains the predominant opinion:
[G]reat trials express -- bear [sic] the soul -- of a nation in a way and Sacco-Vanzetti was a great case in that respect. People compared it to the Dreyfus case in France. It was one of those half dozen cases which a historian of the United States covering the 20th century could fix upon as a way of getting in, penetrating some of the deep conflicts in American life.
And what were those deep conflicts?

It was a very conservative time in the 1920s. We had three extremely conservative presidents: Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. We had a conservative Congress and they passed the Immigration Act in 1924, which was cut back on immigration. They tried to freeze the ethnic composition of the country as it was then.

There was always a prejudice against the latest newcomers. I mean, when the Germans first came, there was prejudice against them. Then when the Irish came, there was prejudice against them, in which the Germans joined. Then when they, when each new wave of immigration, when the Italians came, the Germans and the Irish were prejudiced against them. When the Eastern Europeans, the Poles, the Hungarians, and Russians came, everyone was prejudiced against them. And now, we're having the same thing with the Latinos.

That's right, conservative Republican bigots mobilizing the power of the state to persecute innocent lefties -- a continuing feature of American political culture.

Schlesinger's statement can be found here.

Richard Polenberg, Professor of History at Cornell, makes an even stronger statement of essentially the same argument:

The Sacco-Vanzetti case aroused enormous indignation from intellectuals in the 1920's. I think that the case has to do with what America is as a nation and how we define ourselves as a nation and who's included and who's excluded. I think it also raises issues about law in American society and the way in which the law operates, who can expect fair treatment and who can't expect fair treatment. And those are enduring issues.

And so there's the issue of immigration and ethnicity and the case arises in the 1920's with a period of great xenophobia and a strong anti-immigration feeling. It's a period when laws are passed to restrict immigration, and the laws that are passed chiefly restrict immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, Italy, of course, being where Sacco and Vanzetti came from.

If not for the Red Scare, if not for the anti-radical sentiment and the activities of radicals in that period, this case probably would not have arisen. These men would not have been arrested, because when they were arrested, there was no evidence linking them to any of the crimes. They were arrested because they seemed to be suspicious characters, and suspicious because they were Italian radicals, Italian anarchists.

Read it here.

Here's a short list of Sacco-Vanzetti apologists:

H. G. Wells, Harold Laski, Madame Curie, Albert Einstein, Walter Lippmann, Robert M. Lovett, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr., John Dewey, H. L. Mencken, Anatole France, Romain Rolland, Malcolm Cowley, Bennett Cerf, George Seldes, A. M. Schlesinger, Jr., William Allen White -- the list goes on and on... and includes folksingers Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, both of whom wrote songs to the two men, Kurt Vonnegut who wrote a novel featuring their trial, and poets Alan Ginzberg and Edna St. Vincent Millay who memorialized them.

This whole victimization myth has taken on so much substance that it is treated as historical fact.

There is only one problem with this line of argument. The men were guilty! and the supposedly exculpatory evidence presented at their trial was manufactured by their attorney.

The LA Times reports the discovery of a letter by Upton Sinclair, prominent socialist novelist and politician who wrote a novel condemning the men's execution, in which he recounts a conversation he had with Fred Moore, Sacco and Vanzetti's attorney. In that conversation Moore bragged to Sinclair about what he had done.

"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."

And what did Sinclair do with this information? He covered it up.
"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.
Note here the assumption that people who tell the truth about the lies of the left have to fear for their lives, and that Sinclair was by no means the only person who was in on the plot.
Ideale Gambera, whose father was a Boston anarchist in the 1920s, said he could empathize with Sinclair's angst about revealing his doubts.

Gambera, 80, said there was a strict code of silence to protect the group and hide the nature of their activities. He said his father, Giovanni Gambera, a member of the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee, told him before he died in 1982 that Sacco was one of the killers.

"They all lied," said Gambera, a retired English professor living in San Rafael. "They did it for the cause."
Read it here.

They all lied. They did it for the cause..., for the cause..., for the cause. And as for historians -- eager to issue a moral indictment of the American Protestant conservative establishment, they have been all too willing to acquiesce in the deception and accept at face value the defense argument. After all, it's for a good[?] cause, isn't it? Well, isn't it?



The corruption goes deeper than I indicated above. Over at History News Network's Cliopatria, Ralph Luken remembers that several years ago he heard Oscar Handlin, another illustrious Harvard scholar admit that "some of his peers among historians had knowingly participated in suppressing evidence that, however hysterical and procedurally flawed was the case against them, Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty as charged." [emphasis mine]. Now Handlin's peers were the most respected historians in the nation, and that statement means that the most influential figures in the profession knowingly conspired to present a false account of the American past [for the cause, you understand]. Yet professional historians want to be taken seriously. FAUGH!

Prof. Lukens also links to a site that uses the old Clintonian argument -- "there's no news here, move along." Eb at No Great Matter argues that Sacco's guilt was well known among specialists and that therefore this information is not very important or newsworthy. Well, I beg to disagree. The information was so poorly circulated that Sinclair scholars were ignorant of it, not to speak of the general public, the students in American history classes, and political figures like Michael Dukakis who have been falling all over themselves to proclaim the two men innocent victims of a vicious American system of injustice.

This is Orwellian stuff here -- but the left-dominated history profession, to its shame, just brushes it off with a "ho hum."


Reuters has published a story arguing that the LA Times account was incomplete. It establishes that Sinclair did not think well of Fred Moore, that neither of the defendants had specifically admitted their guilt to Moore [although he was quite certain tht Sacco was guilty and Vanzetti at the least had knowledge of the crime], and that Sinclair's novelized account of the trial was ambiguous regarding the guilt of the defendants. None of this, of course, in any way alters my basic point that left-wing propagandists constructed and sustained an elaborate web of lies around the trial and that prominent historians have been knowingly complicit in maintaining that falsehood over many decades.

The Reuters account also contains this disturbing statement:
His knowledge had not prevented Moore from doing whatever he could to save the two men, perhaps including illegal activities. The entire legal system, was corrupt, Moore insisted, assuring Sinclair that, 'There is no criminal lawyer who has attained to fame in America except by inventing alibis and hiring witnesses. There is no other way to be a great criminal lawyer in America."'
I wonder if that applies to Clarence Darrow and other liberal icons?

Read the whole thing here.

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