Cold War Political Justice: The Smith Act, the Communist Party, and American Civil Liberties

Cold War Political Justice: The Smith Act, the Communist Party, and American Civil Liberties

Cold War Political Justice: The Smith Act, the Communist Party, and American Civil Liberties

Cold War Political Justice: The Smith Act, the Communist Party, and American Civil Liberties

Synopsis

In October 1948, 11 leaders of the Communist Party-USA were convicted of conspiring, in contravention of the 1940 Smith Act, to advocate the revolutionary overthrow of the U. S. government.... Belknap recounts the trial in its fullest context, beginning in the late 1930's with the origins of the Smith Act, and ending with the last government attacks upon the Communist Party in the late 1950's. In the process, he expertly surveys a politico-judicial conflict that figures most prominently in the history of American civil liberties. Library Journal

Excerpt

The genesis of this book was a luncheon conversation with Stanley Kutler in the fall of 1969, when one of the biggest stories in the nation's newspapers was the chaotic trial of the Chicago Conspiracy, antiwar activists indicted for allegedly inciting riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. the case was a fascinating one, not only because it featured dramatic battles pitting Judge Julius Hoffman against the defendants and their lawyers, but also because it was in many respects—from the composition of the group that the government had singled out for prosecution to the demonstrations organized by friends of the accused—so obviously a political event. Because of our mutual interest in legal history, Kutler and I soon wandered from discussing the Chicago Conspiracy trial itself to considering similar judicial proceedings in the past. Although it was obvious to both of us that America had produced other criminal cases with decidedly political overtones, we were struck by the dearth of literature on this facet of the country's legal history. Out of this conversation developed the idea of a work on American political trials.

The kind of comprehensive study that we had in mind proved impractical, in part because too little research had yet been done in many areas of this large subject, but even more because of the impossibility of precisely defining the topic. Many people deny that there are political trials, at least in the United States, and even among sophisticated scholars who realize that such things occur, there is no agreement concerning the location of the boundary line that divides this special category of cases from other judicial proceedings. Even though it seemed impossible to write the history of something for which no generally accepted definition was available, a case study—one that might contribute to scholarly understanding of the subject as a whole while identifying the issues with which a comprehensive work on American political justice must one day deal—did appear feasible.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.