« AnteriorContinuar »
that the meaning of the red flag is obscure, and that it seems to stand among the radicals themselves for the universal brotherhood of working men throughout the world, it is obviously unjust to punish its display.
Criminal Syndicalism and Anarchy Statutes
Criminal syndicalism statutes all have much the same form. Some of the clauses have become stereotyped in their travels from state to state. Usually they are found to forbid the advocacy of the duty, necessity, or propriety of committing sabotage as a means of accomplishing political change, or of affecting changes in industrial ownership or control. Any attempts to justify syndicalism, spoken, written, or published, are forbidden. It is unlawful to speak
the doctrine that organized government should be overthrown
"1. In Massachusetts, where the act in general is mild, it is curiously specific to the effect that the accused may be arrested without warrant.
2. The Washington act, without providing for immunity, declares that no witness in a sedition case may refuse to testify on the conventional ground that his evidence may incriminate him.
3. The Colorado act imposes the penalty of first degree murder for any death that is the result of its violation; thus, a speaker who makes a speech which is held to be seditious may receive the death penalty if fatal riot occurs after ward.
4. The Kentucky act states as a matter of law what is elsewhere the usual rule in practice--'that in any prosecution under this act it shall not be necessary to prove any overt act on the part of the accused!
"The latest and most remarkable extravagance comes
5. American Mercury. Vol. VII. No. 25. pp. 35-42.
Its Criminal Syndicalism Act has this year been amended to include the following items in its definition of sabotage:
1. Work done in an improper manner.
2. Improper use of materials.
3. Loitering at work.
4. Slack work".
The Iowa act makes it criminal to "encourage hostility or opposition" to the state or national government. Montana makes it a high crime to "utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, violent, scurrilous, contemptuous, slurring or abusive language about the United States, the government of the United States, or the form of government of the United States". West Virginia penalizes anyone for communicating "by language any teachings, doctrines or counsels in sympathy or favor of ideals, institutions, or forms of government, hostile, inimical or antagonistic to those or hereafter existing under the constitution and laws of this State or the United States". A comparison of the Connecticut law and the constitution of New Hampshire brings a jarring contrast. The Connecticut law makes criminal all persons who "before any assemblage of ten or more persons advocate in any language any measure, doctrine, proposal or propaganda intended to injuriously affect the government of the United States or the State of Connecticut". this, the New Hampshire constitution provides: "The doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind". A person who reads the constitution of New Hampshire before ten or more persons in the State of Connecticut is, therefore, a base criminal.
These statutes have been sustained by ten state
Supreme Courts. Anarchy and Sedition laws have been held valid in Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois. Criminal syndicalism acts have been sustained in California, Kansas, Washington, Michigan, Oregon, Minnesota, and Idaho. The Connecticut courts approved the sedition law of that state when they decided that even if the law was unconstitutional an alien was not privileged to plead the infirmity of the law. An adverse decision was handed down in New Mexico. In that state the statute forbade doing or causing to be done "any act which is antagonistic or in opposition to organized government". It was further enacted that "any person, firm, or corporation employing or having in its employ any person or persons knowing him or them to be actively employed in advocating, teaching or encouraging the violation of this act is punishable by fine and imprisonment". It has been suggested that this law imperiled the corporations and as a result it was abrogated. The truth of this might be difficult to determine, but it is certain that the law carries matters a bit too far.
Not only are these laws of a severely repressive character but the enforcement of the laws has been savage. California, in its campaign against the I. W. W. has been the most notorious in this respect. In April 1922, two I. W. W's. were brought to trial in Sacramento county. Ten fellow members of the I. W. W. testified to prove that the organization did not advocate force and violence. As membership in the I. W. W. is sufficient grounds in California for conviction under the criminal syndicalism laws, the ten witnesses were arrested for violation of the law. After two juries had disagreed they were sentenced to from one to fourteen years in San Quentin.