The First Amendment Encyclopedia

Presented by the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies

Case Categories: Criminal Syndicalism Laws

Numerous states and U.S. territories enacted criminal syndicalism laws in the late 1910s and early 1920s with the purpose of making it illegal for individuals or groups to advocate radical political and economic changes by criminal or violent means.

The Supreme Court regularly upheld convictions under criminal syndicalism laws until Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969). In that case, the Court held that Ohio’s law made the advocacy of doctrines illegal, without determining whether advocacy would likely lead to imminent lawless action. The Court decided that the failure to make a clear distinction rendered the law overly broad and in violation of the Constitution.

Following are Supreme Court cases involving criminal syndicalism laws and the evolution of the court's position on them.

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