Betsy Newmark writes:
As you might remember from your history books, Sacco and Vanzetti were two Italian anarchists who got caught up in the Red Scare of the 1920s and were accused of the murder of a paymaster and security guard for a warehouse. At the height of the Red Scare, they were convicted in a very questionable trial. After much hoopla with lots of support for the two men from the intelligentsia of the day, they were executed in 1927. This incident is always cited in the history books as evidence of what unreasoning fear and injustice stalked the land during the Red Scare after WWI and during the twenties. Two innocent men were executed simply because they were immigrants and endorsed an unpopular ideology. One of their most vigorous supporters was the muckraking novelist, Upton Sinclair.
Well, a California collector has found a 1929 letter written by Upton Sinclair proclaiming his knowledge that the two men he so strongly defended were actually guilty.
So, of course [Sinclair] decided to stay silent and let his public and allies all go on thinking that two innocent men had been put to death. Apparently, his position among other like-thinking leftists and his readers was more important.
This isn’t the last time that leftist intellectuals have rallied to the cause of someone they feel has been unjustly sentenced by the government. Think of Alger Hiss. Jim Bass is thinking about the Free Mumia movement. And, of course, witness the latest brouhaha over Tookie Williams. The pattern of guilt being secondary to the political outcry and demagoguery continues.