Smith Act

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The Alien Registration Act or Smith Act (18 U.S.C. ยง 2385) of 1940 is a United States federal statute that makes it a federal criminal offense for

It also required all non-citizen adult residents to register with the government; within four months, 4,741,971 aliens had registered under the Act's provisions.

The Act is best known for its use against political organizations and figures. Prosecutions continued until a series of United States Supreme Court decisions in 1957 threw out numerous convictions under the Smith Act as unconstitutional. The statute remains on the books, however.

The Act was proposed by Congressman Howard W. Smith of Virginia, a Democrat and a leader of the "anti-labor" bloc of Congressmen.[1] It was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.


Smith Act trials

The first trial, in 1941, focused on Trotskyists; the second, in 1944, prosecuted alleged fascists and, beginning in 1949, leaders and members of the Communist Party USA were targeted.

1941: Minneapolis offender - Communism on Trial

The first Smith Act Trial occurred in 1941 with the prosecution in Minneapolis of leaders of the communist Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in Minneapolis including James P. Cannon, Carl Skoglund, Farrell Dobbs, Grace Carlson, Harry DeBoer, Max Geldman, Albert Goldman (who also acted as the defendants' lawyer during the trial), twelve other leaders of the Trotskyist SWP, and union activists involved with Local 544 of the Teamsters union in Minneapolis where the SWP had had a degree of influence since the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934. The SWP had advocated strikes and the continuation of labor union militancy during World War II under its Proletarian Military Policy and had some influence in Minneapolis due to its involvement with the Teamsters Union. The US Communist Party-- which, during the period in which the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was in force, had opposed American involvement in the war--had become an advocate of a no-strike pledge since the beginning of Nazi invasion of the USSR. An SWP member edited the Northwest Organizer, which was the weekly newspaper of the Minneapolis Teamsters, and the local remained a militant communist outpost in what was becoming an increasingly conservative national union under IBT leader Daniel J. Tobin.

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