less than 1 minute read

Whitney v. California


The concurrence was actually more important than the opinion of the Court in Whitney.

In 1919, California passed a law criminalizing syndicalism, a philosophy which advocated bringing government and industry under the control of labor through "direct action," such as strikes. The law was aimed chiefly at the International Workers of the World (IWW), or "Wobblies," a radical labor group then active in the West.

The first important prosecution under the law was of Charlotte Anita Whitney, a social activist and prominent member of the Socialist Party. In 1919 she was arrested while participating in a convention organized by the Communist Labor Party (CLP), a radical California-based offshoot of the Socialist Party. At trial, Whitney did not deny her brief association with the CLP, and the prosecution seized the opportunity to associate her with the IWW, whose goals had been endorsed by the CLP. Whitney was convicted of violating the anti-syndicalism law, and after the California Court of Appeals upheld her conviction, she appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940Whitney v. California - Significance, Supreme Court Upholds California Criminal Syndicalism Law, The California Criminal Syndicalism Act, Further Readings