Criminal syndicalism

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Criminal syndicalism is a doctrine of criminal acts for political, industrial, and social change. These criminal acts include advocation of crime, sabotage, violence, and other unlawful methods of terrorism.[1]


Idaho legislation defines it as, “the doctrine which advocates crime, sabotage, violence, or other unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform”.[2] Criminal syndicalism became a matter of public attention during and after the World War I period, and has been used to define to the efforts of radical labor movements.[3] By the year 1933, over 700 convictions of criminal syndicalism were made.[2] Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union believe laws on criminal syndicalism were aimed to punish doctrines or memberships of unions.[2]



State government legislation has been made to address criminal syndicalism according to their own definitions. States enacted criminal laws, the first of which was enacted in Idaho in 1917, or sedition law (operating basically in the same way as criminal syndicalism laws).[2] During World War I and post-WWI, more than half the states passed these anti-radical statutes, most of which still remain in effect today.[2] By 1935, there were a number of 33 states with remaining criminal syndicalism laws or sedition laws.[2] Between the years 1918 and 1919 Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and fourteen other states passed criminal syndicalism laws and between 1917 and 1923 thirteen states enacted sedition laws.[2] Those states without Criminal Syndicalism laws or sedition laws during this period are noted to have had some similar already existing statutes against incitement and rebellion. The degree of the consequences range from state to state. Criminal Syndicalism laws called for maximum fines of $10,000 and a maximum 25 year prison sentence.[2] Prosecutions under Criminal syndicalism laws ensued. The California Criminal Syndicalism Act of 1919 alone, only five years after its enactment, was responsible for over 500 arrests and 164 convictions.[4] This act was upheld by the United States Supreme Court on May 16, 1927 in the Whitney v. California case.[4] The power of law against criminal syndicalism began to falter by the 1930s as the courts began to overturn convictions as either being no true threat to the US or by declaring the laws to be too vague or broad.[5] One such example was the court's overturning of the conviction of Dirk DeJonge due to protesting the police brutality in the longshoreman’s strike, as violating Oregon's criminal syndicalism law.[6]

In 2013[edit]

The states who still have criminal syndicalism statutes in 2013 are:


  • California allows the firing of teachers involved in "commi[ting], aiding, or advocating the commission of acts of criminal syndicalism, as prohibited by Chapter 188 of the Statutes of 1919, or in any amendment thereof." [7]
  • Kansas allows, by an artifact disposition, the issuance of subpoenas for "any alleged violation in this state pertaining to terrorism, illegal use of weapons of mass destruction,..., criminal syndicalism"[8]
  • Minnesota allows courts and state executive to interviene in labor actions "where criminal syndicalism, or the acts constituting the same, are involved".[9]

Industrial Workers of the World[edit]

Criminal Syndicalism laws were enacted to combat the efforts of radical labor unions, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is one such union in particular.[3] Defining the labor efforts as criminal allowed for the government to stop the Wobblie's activities and the labor problem of WWI and post WWI altogether. Senator W.G. Walker of Idaho, the nation’s first state to enact a criminal syndicalism law, introduced the criminal syndicalism legislation to the Senate with an anti-IWW speech.[3]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ "O.S. 21-1327".  only applies in the schools.


  1. ^ "Criminal Syndicalism Law & Legal Definition". US Legal, Inc. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Anti-Radical Agitation". CQ Press. Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Sims, Robert, C (1974). "Idaho's Criminal Syndicalism Act: One States Response to Radical Labor". Labor History 15 (4): 511–527. Retrieved 6/5/2013. 
  4. ^ a b Urofsky, Melvin, I. "Charlotte Anita Whitney, Whitney v. California: Free Speech for Radicals". SAGE Publications. Retrieved 6/5/2013. 
  5. ^ Savage, David, G. "Freedom of Politcal Association". SAGE Publications. Retrieved 6/5/2013. 
  6. ^ Savage, David G. "Freedom of Speech". SAGE Publications. Retrieved 6/5/2013. 
  7. ^ "C.C. 44-932(a)(2)". 
  8. ^ "K.S.A. 22-3101". 
  9. ^ "M.C. 185.06".