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Chapter 25 - Race, Criminal Justice, and “Labor Defense”

from Section B: Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 January 2022

Mark V. Tushnet
Affiliation:
Harvard Law School, Massachusetts
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Summary

Progressive ambivalence about rights in general, and their indifference to issues of racial justice, might have led to inattention to issues of race at the Supreme Court. It did not, because of the complicated relation between liberalism in politics, conservative libertarian impulses, and the depth of outrage at gross injustices in the cases that reached the Court. Most notable were the Scottsboro cases, where the Communist Party outmaneuvered the NAACP to gain control, and then used the cases as part of a strategy of “labor defense,” mobilizing large numbers of people to place pressure on the courts, as the theory had it. The theory, though, was at war with itself: According to it, courts were tools of capitalist oppression but could be brought to heel by a mobilize public even if capitalism remained in place.

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The Hughes Court
From Progressivism to Pluralism, 1930 to 1941
, pp. 610 - 647
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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