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(en) US, LA, Sacco and Vanzetti in LA Times - not real social class strughgle anatrchists....

Date Sun, 25 Dec 2005 11:48:03 +0200


Sinclair Letter Turns Out to Be Another Exposé -- # Note found by an O.C.
man says 'The Jungle' author got the lowdown on Sacco and Vanzetti.
By Jean O. Pasco, Times Staff Writer
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.
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."

"I stood there for 15 minutes reading it over and over again," Hegness
said of the letter by the author of "The Jungle," the groundbreaking
1906 book that exposed unsanitary conditions at slaughterhouses.

The last paragraph got the Newport Beach attorney's attention. "This
letter is for yourself alone," it read. "Stick it away in your safe,
and some time in the far distant future the world may know the real
truth about the matter. I am here trying to make plain my own part in
the story."

The story was "Boston," Sinclair's 1920s novelized condemnation of the
trial and execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Italian
immigrants accused of killing two men in the robbery of a
Massachusetts shoe factory.

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.

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."

Hegness paid $100 for the box containing Sinclair's confessional
letter and tucked it away in a closet — where it gathered dust. Now,
after stumbling upon it again, he plans to donate it to Sinclair's
archives at Indiana University, where it will join a trove of
correspondence that reveals the ethical quandary that confronted
Sinclair — papers that even some scholars of the author weren't aware
of.

"This is a stunning revelation," said Anthony Arthur of Los Angeles, a
retired literature professor and author of the recently released
biography, "Upton Sinclair: Radical Innocent."

"I've never heard of this," added Lauren Coodley, a professor of
history and psychology at Napa Valley College who edited a recent
Sinclair anthology. "It's one of those amazing things. That's why
history is so fascinating, because we keep revising it."

Upton Beall Sinclair was a giant of the nation's Progressive Era, a
crusading writer and socialist who championed the downtrodden and
persecuted. President Theodore Roosevelt, who pushed through the
nation's first food-purity laws in response to "The Jungle," coined
the name for Sinclair's craft: muckraker.

Sinclair wasn't alone in believing Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent
when he began researching the book that fictionalized their case. On
Aug. 23, 1927, the day they were executed, 25,000 protested in Boston.

The men have been viewed as martyrs by the American left ever since.
Historians agree that prosecutors in the case were biased and shoddy,
and that the two men failed to receive a fair trial.

On the 50th anniversary of their execution, Massachusetts Gov. Michael
S. Dukakis all but pardoned the pair, urging that "any disgrace should
be forever removed from their names." But the fearless Sinclair was
left a conflicted man by what Sacco and Vanzetti's lawyer — and later
others in the anarchist movement — told him.

"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 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.

Sinclair was born in 1878, and his upbringing in New York City was
framed by his parents' poverty and his grandparents' wealth. He
entered college at 14 and paid for school by writing stories for
newspapers and magazines. His first novel was published in 1901.

He moved to Southern California in 1915. In 1926, he ran as a
Socialist for California governor, getting 60,000 votes. He took
another stab in 1934, during the Great Depression, this time winning
the Democratic primary with a platform of ending poverty. He got
nearly 900,000 votes.

ADVERTISEMENT
In 1943, Sinclair won a Pulitzer Prize for "Dragon Teeth," a novel
that dealt with Hitler's rise to power. He died in a small town in New
Jersey in 1968 at the age of 90, having never publicly disclosed his
doubts about the innocence of Sacco and Vanzetti.

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."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The writer and his subjects

Upton Sinclair: American author born in Baltimore in 1878, best known
for his 1906 novel, "The Jungle," an account of conditions in the
meatpacking industry in Chicago that began a style of exposé writing
that came to be known as muckraking. His novel, "Boston," chronicling
the Sacco and Vanzetti case, was published in 1928. An unsuccessful
Socialist candidate for California governor, he died in 1968.

Nicola Sacco: An Italian immigrant and self-proclaimed anarchist who
was arrested, tried and executed in Massachusetts in 1927 for
murdering a shoe factory paymaster and his bodyguard during the
robbery of $15,766.51 from the factory's payroll.

Bartolomeo Vanzetti: Arrested with Sacco for the murders and robbery.
The two were executed amid worldwide protests.

*

Sources: Upton Sinclair archives, Lilly Library, Indiana; published
materials. Graphics reporting by Jean Pasco_______________________________________________
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