Criminal Syndicalism Laws III
Bill Long 8/16/06
The 1933 Revisions and the DeJonge Case
As we saw in the previous essay, the (revised) 1921 Oregon Criminal Syndicalism Law prohibited three types of activities: (1) urging violent or criminal behavior or criminal syndicalism to foment revolution or political change; (2) distributing literature that had this as its theme; (3) organizing a criminal syndicalist society or club and recruiting others for membership in that club. The US Supreme Court had upheld, in its 1927 Whitney v. California case, the constitutionality of such a statute. Therefore it seemed as if the forces against radicalism had not only triumphed but could, because of (3) above, justify infiltration of suspected syndicalist groups.
In 1933, the statute received one further extension in Oregon by prohibiting a fourth thing--assembly. It was this added provision that became the focus of a case that ultimately made it to the US Supreme Court in 1937 (DeJonge v. Oregon). Let's turn to the 1933 revision.
Oregon's 1933 Criminal Syndicalism Law
As we saw in the previous essay, the definitions of criminal syndicalism and sabotage in Sections 1 and 2 of the statute were simplified, even though the meaning remained essentially the same. Section 3, that most unwieldy 500-word sentence from the 1921 statute, was likewise reduced by a few hundred words, but in reducing the words, another prohibition was added. Here is the complete text of the revised Section 3, with my own subsection markers (, etc.) to clarify the prohibitions.
Sec. 3: " Any person who by word of mouth or writing, advocates or teaches the doctrine of criminal syndicalism or sabotage,  or who prints, publishes, edits, issues or knowingly circulates, sells, distributes or publicly displays any books, pamphlets, paper, handbill, poster, document or written or printed matter in any form whatsoever, containing matter advocating criminal syndicalism, orr sabotage,  or who shall organize or help to organize, or solicit or accept any person to become a member of any society or assemblage of persons which teaches or advocates the doctrine of criminal syndicalism, or sabotage,  or any person who shall orally or by writing or by printed matter call together or who shall distribute or circulate written or printed matter calling together or who shall preside at or conduct or assist in conducting any assemblage of persons, or any organization, or any society, or any groups which teaches or advocates the doctrine of criminal syndicalism or sabotage is guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state penitentiary for a term of not less than one year nor more than 10 years, or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or by both such imprisonment and fine."
My subsection  is the new "zinger" added to the 1933 statute. It made criminal any attempt to organize a meeting, to publicize it, to preside over it or "assist in conducting" any assemblage of people which advocates the doctrine of criminal syndicalism. It was the passage of this 1933 amendment to the statute that enabled the Portland authorities to arrest Dirk DeJonge at a meeting called by the Communist Party on July 27, 1934.
The DeJonge Arrest and Case
On a summer day in 1934, the Communist Party of Multnomah County called for a public meeting to protest the result of police conduct during the recent West Coast waterfront strike. As the US Supreme Court tells it, the following was the subject of the meeting, held at a park at what was then 68 Alder Street (the current O'Bryant Park).
"That on July 27, 1934, there was held in Portland, a meeting which had been advertised by handbills issued by the Portland section of the Communist Party; that the number of persons in attendance was variously estimated at from 150 to 300; that some of those present, who were members of the Communist Party, estimated that not to exceed ten to fifteen per cent. of those in attendance were such members; that the meeting was open to the public without charge and no questions were asked of those entering, with respect to their relation to the Communist Party; that the notice of the meeting advertised it as a protest against illegal raids on workers' halls and homes and against the shooting of striking longshoremen by Portland police; that the chairman stated that it was a meeting held by the Communist Party; that the first speaker dwelt on the activities of the Young Communist League; that the defendant De Jonge, the second speaker, was a member of the Communist Party and went to the meeting to speak in its name; that in his talk he protested against conditions in the county jail, the action of city police in relation to the maritime strike then in progress in Portland and numerous other matters; that he discussed the reason for the raids on the Communist headquarters and workers' halls and offices; that he told the workers that these attacks were due to efforts on the part of the steamship companies and stevedoring companies to break the maritime longshoremen's and seamen's strike; that they hoped to break the strike by pitting the longshoremen and seamen against the Communist movement; that there was also testimony to the effect that defendant asked those present to do more work in obtaining members for the Communist Party and requested all to be at the meeting of the party to be held in Portland on the following evening and to bring their friends to show their defiance to local police authority and to assist them in their revolutionary tactics; that there was also testimony that defendant urged the purchase of certain communist literature which was sold at the meeting; that while the meeting was still in progress it was raided by the police; that the meeting was conducted in an orderly manner; that defendant and several others who were actively conducting the meeting were arrested by the police and that on searching the hall the police found a quantity of communist literature."
So, those are the facts which the US Supreme Court mentions. I guess I will need one more essay to see how we go from facts to indictment to cases to ultimate repeal of the criminal syndicalism statute by the Oregon Legislature in 1937.
Copyright © 2004-2009 William R. Long