New York: Civil Rights Defense Committee, 1943. Six mimeographed typed pages, double-spaced, rectos only, stapled at top left and measuring 11 x 8 1/2 inches (280 x 215 mm). Folded twice for mailing. Press release criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court for refusing to hear the appeal of 18 leftists in Minnesota who were found guilty of advocating the violent overthrow of the government. The release was issued in the name of novelist James T. Farrell, chairman of the Civil Rights Defense Committee. The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case "administered a blow to the cause of free speech," Farrell writes, adding that the court "showed itself more than inattentive to the provisions of the very Constitution which it has sworn to uphold." The 18 were found guilty under the Alien Registration Act, popularly known as the Smith Act after its author, Rep. Howard W. Smith of Virginia. This law, approved in 1940, required registration of all non-citizen immigrants. But it went much farther: The Act made it a crime to advocate forcible or violent overthrow of the government, or to publish or distribute material advocating violence with the intent of overthrowing the government. So for the first time since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, America had a federal peacetime sedition law. (Harold L. Nelson and Dwight L. Teeter Jr., Law of Mass Communications: Freedom and Control of Print and Broadcast Media, The Foundation Press, Second Edition, 1973). The Minnesota case is especially notable because it was the first prosecution under the Smith Act. The government claimed the leftists favored violent revolution to overthrow the government. The defense argued that the leftists were not advocating violent revolution, but were instead predicting it because that's what Marxism teaches. The defendants included members of the Socialist Workers Party (a Trotskyist organization) and Teamsters union local 544. "The trial involved only speeches and publications by members of the Socialist Workers Party, without any considered charges of overt acts," according to Farrell. On December 1, 1941, the defendants were convicted of advocating the violent overthrow of the government. For nearly two years after that, the Civil Rights Defense Committee and other organizations appealed the decision and fought to keep the defendants out of prison. But when the Supreme Court finally refused to consider the case in November 1943, the defendants had to begin serving their prison terms of 12 to 16 months. In the press release, Farrell notes: "This is Thanksgiving Week. In the motion pictures and newspapers and on the radio, we are being told over and over again that we should be thankful for being free. But there is less freedom in this country today than there was last week or in Thanksgiving 1942. We know that this week the Supreme Court of the U.S. is less of a guarantee of our liberties than many people have believed it to be." This press release is rare. OCLC shows no institutional holdings. Nor were there any other copies in commerce as of November 29, 2019. RARE. Item #2130
CONDITION: Toning to page edges, evidence of water staining along left side of pages, two horizontal folds for mailing. About Very Good.