The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 67/No. 23           July 7, 2003  
25 and 50 years ago  
June 30, 1978

NEW YORK—When the thousands of people gathered on June 19, 1953, for a final vigil for Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the police crowded them into a sidestreet off Union Square.

But on June 19, 1978, when 3,000 or more came to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Rosenberg execution, they had union Square. In fact, the police blocked off an extra lane of traffic to make room when the crowd swelled.

Catarino Garza, who was at the 1953 vigil, told me, “It was a sad and grim crowd then; there wasn’t much talking.”

By contrast, the 1978 tribute was full of people talking, getting petitions signed, leafleting, selling newspapers and pamphlets and buttons.

As Michael Meeropol, one of the Rosenbergs’ sons, said, “Our presence here says loud and clear: they may have killed two people twenty-five years ago, but they didn’t crush the movement.” He chaired the rally along with his brother, Robert Meeropol; Morton Sobell, a codefendant with the Rosenbergs who spent nineteen years in prison; and Helen Sobell.

Just as it was getting dark the crowd observed a period of silence to remember the Rosenbergs, who had been killed in Sing Sing just before sunset twenty-five years ago.

June 29, 1953
A smell of the auto-da-fé—the burning of heretics—hangs over the land. With the legal murder on June 19 of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the modern Inquisition has sent its first two victims to the stake.

Their inquisitors kept the Rosenbergs on the wrack for weeks and months, offering the condemned couple their lives in return for “recantations” and “confessions.” The Rosenbergs declared their innocence to the end. They refused to “abjure” themselves and spurned the role of stoolpigeons and perjurers as demanded by the Eisenhower administration, with its Department of Justice and FBI.

Enraged that their odious compact was refused, the witch hunters in obscene haste shoved aside a last-minute stay of execution granted by Justice Douglas and claimed their blood victims.

The Eisenhower administration feared to wait any longer the test of public opinion. It feared that each day would see the protest and indignation grow, not only abroad but at home. The juridical case against the Rosenbergs was coming apart at the seams. It was becoming known that the Rosenbergs were actually charged not with committing espionage but with mere “conspiracy”—agreement to commit—such acts. No tangible evidence was put forward even for this nebulous charge except the claims of a single informer who feared his own neck was at stake if he did not testify as demanded by the FBI. They rushed to kill the Rosenbergs precisely because the case could not stand up under further close public examination.

This was a deed of class hate and class vengeance. The brutal American capitalist class has sadistically vented on the helpless bodies of the Rosenbergs its rage and frustration at the setbacks it has received abroad from the forces of the colonial and socialist revolutions and for the impediments raised by the revolutionary masses on all the continents to its schemes of world conquest.  
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