9 Phony Martyrs of the Left

The progressive school of falsification.

Every religion has its martyrs, and so it is with the American Left. Myths have been built around myriad “wronged” radicals/communists and endless ink spilled about the injustice of their fate. Indeed, when I looked at more than 15 mainstream U.S. college history textbooks several years ago for my 48 Liberal Lies of American History, almost all of them flatly stated or strongly implied that Sacco and Vanzetti, the Rosenbergs, and Alger Hiss, among others, were prosecuted only for their ideology, not for their crimes. In fact, the leftist hall of shame is filled with culprits who were actually guilty. Below is a list of nine of the most infamous leftist criminals in modern American history and the facts surrounding their cases.

1. The Rosenbergs.

When even a communist dictator tells you that Julius and Ethyl Rosenberg were Soviet spies, you’d think the Left would have to believe him. Nikita Khrushchev, one-time premier of the USSR, said the Rosenbergs “provided very significant help in accelerating the production of our atomic bomb.”

Julius and Ethyl Rosenberg slipped atomic bomb secrets, including the famous schematic of the first bomb’s design, to other Soviet agents and by all accounts took five years off the Russians’  a-bomb project. Yet mainstream textbooks such as Marc C. Carnes and John A. Garraty’s American Destiny insist the Rosenbergs were “not major spies” and “the information they provided was not important.” However, Martin Sobell, a long-time friend of the Rosenbergs and co-defendant at their trial, finally admitted that both he and Julius were Soviet agents. One of the Rosenberg sons, Michael Meerpol, who had also maintained his parents’ innocence, simply stated, “I have no reason to doubt Marty.”

2. The McNamara Brothers.

No, this isn’t a movie about Irish thugs, but rather the true story of John (“J. J.”) and James (“J. B.”) McNamara, two union members who bombed the Los Angeles Times building in 1911, killing 21 innocent newspaper employees and injuring over 100 more. Both were found guilty, and James admitted setting the bomb, for which he got life in prison. His accomplice, John, served 15 years in prison and went back to being a union organizer. Some people never learn.

Of course the labor movement saw them as martyrs; a film “A Martyr to His Cause” was made of the bombing, and for a while Labor Day was renamed “McNamara Day.” Another accomplice, Ortie McManigal, the union leader directing the Iron Workers’ bombing campaign—yes, you heard right—ratted out the McNamaras and other union thugs. Clarence Darrow, brought in to defend the pair at the incredible price of $350,000 (nearly $8 million in 2012 bucks) soon had doubts about James’s testimony. Perhaps that was what led him to attempt to bribe a juror, for which the head of the defense team was arrested, even though Darrow was seen passing the bills.

Leftist activist Lincoln Steffens traveled to L.A. to interview the pair, but was convinced also that they were guilty. When Lincoln Steffens and Clarence Darrow conclude you are guilty, it’s a good bet you are.

3. Alger Hiss.

History books make poor Alger into a pathetic figure wrongly put in jail for a minor charge while his accuser, Whitaker Chambers, “wrote a bestseller.” Most textbooks still claim the trial was “controversial.” Alger Hiss was a Soviet spy, period, and was only caught when his fellow agent, Whitaker Chambers, found a conscience and exposed him.

Hiss had worked at a variety of important State Department positions, and had helped draft the organization of the United Nations. Called before the House Un-American Affairs Committee (HUAC) to answer Chambers’ charges, Hiss claimed he had not known Chambers. Had he stopped there, he would have gotten away scot-free. But he sued Chambers for defamation of character, and in a pair of trials beginning in 1949, new evidence was introduced that led to his conviction for perjury.

In high irony, Hiss’s “Woodstock” typewriter—brought in by the defense to prove his innocence—in fact was shown by tests to have been used to type the documents passed to the Russians. At that point, the defense tried to claim that the very documents in question were forgeries, after having laid the groundwork to prove the typewriter produced them. Later, the Venona documents, which were KGB files leaked to the West, mentioned an American spy named ALES, who was one of only four Americans at Yalta to return home via Moscow, and the only one fitting the ALES time-and-date requirements was Alger.

Just when everyone thought Alger was bottled up for good, a conference on the Cold War at New York University in 2007 saw a bait-and-switch attempted in which a Nation editor claimed to have evidence that ALES was Wilder Foote (one of the other men) … except Foote wasn’t even in Washington when the ALES spy activity was going on. Hiss’s itinerary fit ALES, Foote’s did not.

4. Sacco and Vanzetti.

Astoundingly, textbooks still claim that Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent, that “their trial was a travesty” as American Destiny says, and that “the state doctored evidence” (Making a Nation). The two anarchists, Niccolo Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, had been charged with robbing a shoe factory paymaster and a security guard in South Braintree, Massachusetts, and killing the guard in the process. A Dedham jury needed only three hours to reach a guilty verdict, but according to the Left, they were guilty only of being anarchists. Except:

Nine eyewitnesses identified Sacco as having been at the scene and/or shooting the guard, and four others identified Vanzetti. Several different analyses of the pistol concluded the bullets came from Sacco’s gun. Vanzetti lied throughout the trial about his own pistol, ammunition and his whereabouts on the date in question. Alibi witnesses proved flimsy. Liberals then claimed that the evidence was manipulated by the state.

In 1983, a new book, Postmortem, claimed that the prosecutor tampered with the evidence, but James Starrs, a professor of law and forensic science, discovered that the defense expert had switched the gun barrel, producing the entire controversy. New ballistics tests found that the two spent cartridges at the scene were made by the same machine as the live cartridges for the same gun Sacco had in his pocket when arrested. Experts also concluded that Sacco’s Colt fired the bullet that killed the guard. If that wasn’t enough, Carlo Tresca told writer Max Eastman that Sacco was guilty but not Vanzetti.

In 2005, a 1929 letter from socialist Upton Sinclair, who had defended the two, surfaced in which he had spoken with the two men’s attorney, Fred Moore, who said they were indeed guilty. Moreover, Moore provided details to Sinclair as to how he “framed a set of alibis” for them. All this was too late for former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, who in 1977 claimed the two were innocent and said that “all disgrace should be removed from their names.”  Instead, it added disgrace to his.

5. Victims of the Red Scare.

Pick your martyr here: when Senator Joe McCarthy announced on February 9, 1950 that he had a “list of 205 [active members of the Communist party and members of a spy ring] that were made known to the Secretary of State,” it didn’t take long for this to be labeled the “Red Scare.” Just for context’s sake, let’s remember that a) there had already been dozens of Soviet spies exposed in the Roosevelt/Truman administration; b) the West had “lost” China to communism; c) the Soviets had aggressively taken half of Europe and occupied it; d) they had detonated an atomic bomb five years ahead of schedule; and e) they had infiltrated Hollywood. But this was all just “hysteria,” right? (Clue: “hysteria” is an ungrounded fear.)

McCarthy identified several individuals, including Solomon Adler, Frank Coe, Harold Glasser, Owen Lattimore and Annie Lee Moss. McCarthy was not only right that these individuals were Soviet operatives, many of whom played critical roles in denying gold to Chiang Kai-Shek in China, who was locked in a death struggle with communist Mao Tse Tung, but he was too late. By the time he identified most of them, they had done their damage and the administration had quietly removed them. Perhaps one of the most famous of the McCarthy martyrs was Annie Lee Moss. The Left claimed McCarthy had mistaken her for someone else. But M. Stanton Evans’ book, Blacklisted by History, reproduced actual FBI reports identifying Moss as a communist in absolutely unqualified terms. He provided reproductions of other FBI documents totally incriminating virtually all of McCarthy’s so-called victims.

6. The Haymarket Affair.

Long a staple of all left-wing labor history, the Haymarket “Massacre” occurred on May 4, 1886 when workers striking at Haymarket Square in Chicago supposedly gathered peaceably. (Just as an aside, how many peaceful strikers have you seen lately? Can you say SEIU?) Someone hurled a bomb at the police who themselves were standing—peacefully—watching. But after the bomb exploded, they opened fire on the crowd and killed four (seven police were killed and few deny that the crowd fired back at the police).

Rudolf Schnaubelt, the lead suspect, was arrested, but released, then when the police found evidence that showed his role to be more significant, he fled the country. Seven other suspects were indicted as accessories to murder. From the outset the police assumed that anarchists in the labor gathering had planned the event to incite violence. After engaging in a voir dire of almost one thousand potential jurors, the twelve selected confessed to being “prejudiced.” Historians James Henretta and David Brody (America: A Concise History) wrote that the defendants were “victims of one of the great miscarriages of American justice.”

There was one small problem with their “historical” analysis: they had relied on a defense-supplied transcript of the trial rather than the actual trial record itself. This was too much for even an honest liberal like Timothy Messer-Kruse, whose two books on Haymarket came from slogging through the actual trial transcript. He concluded that indeed Schnaubelt was the likely bomb thrower, that the crowd (based on forensic recreations he did) almost certainly fired at the police, and that the defendants received a fair trial by all standards of the day.

Sometimes the truth is so clear that even liberals must confront it—and to be sure, Messer-Kruse paid a price in character assassination by his liberal brethren before, finally, several center-left publications began to admit that his book was, as Choice said, “well-argued” and “careful.” Labor History named Messer-Kruse’s second book on the Haymarket “Massacre,” Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists, as its book of the year.

7. Huey Newton.

David Horowitz’s Radical Son has done a thorough job of exposing the co-founder of the Black Panthers in 1966. Newton, already with an assault with a deadly weapon conviction, was pulled over on October 28, 1967 by Oakland police officer John Frey, who quickly realized he had pulled over the Black Panther leader and called for help. A second policeman, Herbert Heanes, arrived. As the typical non-descript, take-no-offensive-to-the-left position Wikipedia says, “shots were fired.” Frey was shot at a range of less than a foot, four times. Newton was shot once in the abdomen. Newton was convicted of manslaughter, appealed, got two new trials that ended in mistrials, and the state gave up. Newton later told close friends that he had killed Frey, and Horowitz recalled that all the “Panther exiles” knew he had killed Frey. It is noteworthy that while Newton, Angela Davis, and others associated with the Panthers get their own Wikipedia entries, Officer Frey never did.

8. Joe Hill.

Anyone over the age of 40 probably has seen the famous “Woodstock” movie clip of Joan Baez singing “I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill.” Joe Hill, an immigrant who was born Joel Emmanuel Hagglund in Sweden, was typical of the European immigrants of the day who came to the U.S. in 1902 in that he had fully absorbed much of the European socialist dogma. He became a member of the International Workers of the World (“Wobblies”), but generally drifted until he arrived at Park City, Utah near Salt Lake City in 1914. There he killed John G. Morrison and his son during a grocery store robbery, before showing up at a local doctor’s residence with a bullet wound and brandishing a pistol. He claimed he had been shot in a dispute over an unnamed woman, and the doctor reported him. The intruders had worn red bandanas, and police discovered a red bandana in Hill’s room. A dozen witnesses said the killer looked like Hill. While a subsequent biography claims that Hill was “probably” innocent, no actual evidence clearing Hill has ever been produced, and at his trial he did not want to discuss his wound. But hey, at least he gave Joan Baez 15 minutes of fame.

9. Che Guevara.

No, Che isn’t an American, but can anyone think of a leftist martyr who is more honored? After all, even Joe Hill doesn’t have his face on t-shirts. Most of the other creeps listed here don’t have Che’s creds, either: a one-man “death panel,” Che reviewed the murder lists for Fidel Castro’s firing squads, wrote a manual on guerilla warfare, and then broadened his horizons to lead revolutions elsewhere. Bolivian forces killed him in 1967 (of course, “assisted” by the CIA, according to the Left) and that left only Time magazine in 1999 to name him one of the most influential people of the 20th century. The Time editors’ elevation of this murderous thug to such a level represents an egregious – and sadly predictable – ignorance of historical facts.


Sources: Most of the references are found in the end notes for my 48 Liberal Lies About American History, 2nd edition (New York: Sentinel, 2007). Also see Humberto Fontova, Exposing the Real Che Guevara: And the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him (New York: Sentinel, 2008); David Horowitz, Radical Son (New York: Touchstone, 1997) and his Radicals: Portraits of a Destructive Passion (Washington: Regnery, 2012), Timothy Messer-Kruse, The Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists: Terrorism and Justice in the Gilded Age (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), Allen Weinstein, Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case (New York: Random House, 1997), Ronald Radosh and Joyce Milton, The Rosenberg File: Second Edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), M. Stanton Evans, Blacklisted By History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies (New York: Crown, 2007), and John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999).