Dennis v. United States (341 U.S. 494)/Concurrence Jackson

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MR. JUSTICE JACKSON, concurring.

This prosecution is the latest of never-ending, because never successful, quests for some legal formula that will secure an existing order against revolutionary radicalism. It requires us to reappraise, in the light of our own times and conditions, constitutional doctrines devised under other circumstances to strike a balance between authority and liberty.

Activity here charged to be criminal is conspiracy -- that defendants conspired to teach and advocate, and to organize the Communist Party to teach and advocate, overthrow and destruction of the Government by force and violence. There is no charge of actual violence or attempt at overthrow. [1]

The principal reliance of the defense in this Court is that the conviction cannot stand under the Constitution because the conspiracy of these defendants presents no "clear and present danger" of imminent or foreseeable overthrow. [p562]


The statute before us repeats a pattern, originally devised to combat the wave of anarchistic terrorism that plagued this country about the turn of the century, [2] which lags at least two generations behind Communist Party techniques.

Anarchism taught a philosophy of extreme individualism and hostility to government and property. Its avowed aim was a more just order, to be achieved by violent destruction of all government. [3] Anarchism's sporadic and uncoordinated acts of terror were not integrated with an effective revolutionary machine, but the Chicago Haymarket riots of 1886, [4] attempted murder of the industrialist Frick, attacks on state officials, and [p563] assassination of President McKinley in 1901, were fruits of its preaching.

However, extreme individualism was not educive to cohesive and disciplined organization. Anarchism fell into disfavor among incendiary radicals, many of whom shifted their allegiance to the rising Communist Party. Meanwhile, in Europe, anarchism had been displaced by Bolshevism as the doctrine and strategy of social and political upheaval. Led by intellectuals hardened by revolutionary experience, it was a more sophistic&ted, dynamic and realistic movement. Establishing a base in the Soviet Union, it founded an aggressive international Communist apparatus which has modeled and directed a revolutionary movement able only to harass our own country. But it has seized control of a dozen other countries.

Communism, the antithesis of anarchism, [5] appears today as a closed system of thought representing Stalin's [p564] version of Lenin's version of Marxism. As an ideology, it is not one of spontaneous protest arising from American working-class experience. It is a complicated system of assumptions, based on European history and conditions, shrouded in an obscure and ambiguous vocabulary, which allures our ultrasophisticated intelligentsia more than our hard-headed working people. From time to time it champions all manner of causes and grievances and makes alliances that may add to its foothold in government or embarrass the authorities.

The Communist Party, nevertheless, does not seek its strength primarily in numbers. Its aim is a relatively small party whose strength is in selected, dedicated, indoctrinated, and rigidly disciplined members. From established policy it tolerates no deviation and no debate. It seeks members that are, or may be, secreted in strategic posts in transportation, communications, industry, government, and especially in labor unions where it can compel employers to accept and retain its members. [6] It also seeks to infiltrate and control organizations of professional and other groups. Through these placements in positions of power, it seeks a leverage over society that will make up in power of coercion what it lacks in power of persuasion.

The Communists have no scruples against sabotage, terrorism, assassination, or mob disorder, but violence is not with them, as with the anarchists, an end in itself. The Communist Party advocates force only when prudent and profitable. Their strategy of stealth precludes premature or uncoordinated outbursts of violence, except, of course, when the blame will be placed on shoulders other than their own. They resort to violence as to truth, not [p565] as a principle but as an expedient. Force or violence, as they would resort to it, may never be necessary, because infiltration and deception may be enough.

Force would be utilized by the Communist Party not to destroy government, but for its capture. The Communist recognizes that an established government in control of modern technology cannot be overthrown by force until it is about ready to fall of its own weight. Concerted uprising, therefore, is to await that contingency, and revolution is seen not as a sudden episode, but as the consummation of a long process.

The United States, fortunately, has experienced Communism only in its preparatory stages, and, for its pattern of final action, must look abroad. Russia, of course, was the pilot Communist revolution which, to the Marxist, confirms the Party's assumptions and points its destiny. [7] [p566] But Communist technique in the overturn of a free government was disclosed by the coup d'etat in which they seized power in Czechoslovakia. [8] There, the Communist Party, during its preparatory stage, claimed and received protection for its freedoms of speech, press, and assembly. Pretending to be but another political party, it eventually was conceded participation in government, where it entrenched reliable members chiefly in control of police and information services. When the government faced a foreign and domestic crisis, the Communist Party had established a leverage strong enough to threaten civil war. In a period of confusion, the Communist plan unfolded, and the underground organization came to the surface throughout the country in the form chiefly of labor "action committees." Communist officers of the unions took over transportation, and allowed only persons with party permits to travel. Communist printers took over the newspapers and radio, and put out only party-approved versions of events. Possession was taken of telegraph and telephone systems, and communications were cut off wherever directed by party heads. Communist unions took over the factories, and in the cities, a partisan distribution of food was managed by the Communist organization. A virtually bloodless abdication by the elected government admitted the Communists to power, whereupon they instituted a reign of oppression and terror, and ruthlessly denied to all others the freedoms which had sheltered their conspiracy. [p567]


The foregoing is enough to indicate that,.either by accident or design, the Communist stratagem outwits the anti-anarchist pattern of statute aimed against "overthrow by force and violence" if qualified by the doctrine that only "clear and present danger" of accomplishing that result will sustain the prosecution.

The "clear and present danger" test was an innovation by Mr. Justice Holmes in the Schenck case, [9] reiterated and refined by him and Mr. Justice Brandeis in later cases, [10] all arising before the era of World War II revealed the subtlety and efficacy of modernized revolutionary techniques used by totalitarian parties. In those cases, they were faced with convictions under so-called criminal syndicalism statutes aimed at anarchists but which, loosely construed, had been applied to punish socialism, pacifism, and left-wing ideologies, the charges often resting on far-fetched [p568] inferences which, if true, would establish only technical or trivial violations. They proposed "clear and present danger" as a test for the sufficiency of evidence in particular cases.

I would save it, unmodified, for application as a "rule of reason" [11] in the kind of case for which it was devised. When the issue is criminality of a hot-headed speech on a street corner, or circulation of a few incendiary pamphlets, or parading by some zealots behind a red flag, or refusal of a handful of school children to salute our flag, it is not beyond the capacity of the judicial process to gather, comprehend, and weigh the necessary materials for decision whether it is a clear and present danger of substantive evil or a harmless letting off of steam. It is not a prophecy, for the danger in such cases has matured by the time of trial or it was never present. The test applies and has meaning where a conviction is sought to be based on a speech or writing which does not directly or explicitly advocate a crime, but to which such tendency is sought to be attributed by construction or by implication from external circumstances. The formula in such cases favors freedoms that are vital to our society, and even if sometimes applied too generously, the consequences cannot be grave. But its recent expansion has extended, in particular to Communists, unprecedented immunities. [12] Unless we are to hold our Government captive in a judge-made verbal trap, we must approach the problem of a well organized, nationwide conspiracy, such as I have [p569] described, as realistically as our predecessors faced the trivialities that were being prosecuted until they were checked with a rule of reason.

I think reason is lacking for applying that test to this case. [p570]

If we must decide that this Act and its application are constitutional only if we are convinced that petitioner's conduct creates a "clear and present danger" of violent overthrow, we must appraise imponderables, including international and national phenomena which baffle the best informed foreign offices and our most experienced politicians. We would have to foresee and predict the effectiveness of Communist propaganda, opportunities for infiltration, whether, and when, a time will come that they consider propitious for action, and whether and how fast our existing government will deteriorate. And we would have to speculate as to whether an approaching Communist coup would not be anticipated by a nationalistic fascist movement. No doctrine can be sound whose application requires us to make a prophecy of that sort in the guise of a legal decision. The judicial process simply is not adequate to a trial of such far-flung issues. The answers given would reflect our own political predilections, and nothing more.

The authors of the clear and present danger test never applied it to a case like this, nor would I. If applied as it is proposed here, it means that the Communist plotting is protected during its period of incubation; its preliminary stages of organization and preparation are immune from the law; the Government can move only after imminent action is manifest, when it would, of course, be too late.


The highest degree of constitutional protection is due to the individual acting without conspiracy. But even an individual cannot claim that the Constitution protects him in advocating or teaching overthrow of government by force or violence. I should suppose no one would doubt that Congress has power to make such attempted [p571] overthrow a crime. But the contention is that one has the constitutional right to work up a public desire, and will to do what it is a crime to attempt. I think direct incitement by speech or writing can be made a crime, and I think there can be a conviction without also proving that the odds favored its success by 99 to 1, or some other extremely high ratio.

The names of Mr. Justice Holmes and Mr. Justice Brandeis cannot be associated with such a doctrine of governmental disability. After the Schenck case, in which they set forth the clear and present danger test, they joined in these words of Mr. Justice Holmes, spoken for a unanimous Court:

. . . [T]he First Amendment, while prohibiting legislation against free speech as such, cannot have been, and obviously was not, intended to give immunity for every possible use of language. Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U.S. 275, 281. We venture to believe that neither Hamilton nor Madison, nor any other competent person then or later, ever supposed that to make criminal the counseling of a murder within the jurisdiction of Congress would be an unconstitutional interference with free speech.

Frohwerk v. United States, 249 U.S. 204, 206.

The same doctrine was earlier stated in Fox v. Washington, 236 U.S. 273, 277, and that case was recently and with approval cited in Giboney v. Empire Storage & Ice Co., 336 U.S. 490, 502.

As aptly stated by Judge Learned Hand in Masses Publishing Co. v. Patten, 244 F. 535, 540:

One may not counsel or advise others to violate the law as it stands. Words are not only the keys of persuasion, but the triggers of action, and those which have no purport but to counsel the violation of law cannot by any latitude of interpretation be a part of that public opinion which is the final source of government in a democratic state. [p572]

Of course, it is not always easy to distinguish teaching or advocacy in the sense of incitement from teaching or advocacy in the sense of exposition or explanation. It is a question of fact in each case.


What really is under review here is a conviction of conspiracy, after a trial for conspiracy, on an indictment charging conspiracy, brought under a statute outlawing conspiracy. With due respect to my colleagues, they seem to me to discuss anything under the sun except the law of conspiracy. One of the dissenting opinions even appears to chide me for "invoking the law of conspiracy." As that is the case before us, it may be more amazing that its reversal can be proposed without even considering the law of conspiracy.

The Constitution does not make conspiracy a civil right. The Court has never before done so, and I think it should not do so now. Conspiracies of labor unions, trade associations, and news agencies have been condemned, although accomplished, evidenced and carried out, like the conspiracy here, chiefly by letter-writing, meetings, speeches and organization. Indeed, this Court seems, particularly in cases where the conspiracy has economic ends, to be applying its doctrines with increasing severity. While I consider criminal conspiracy a dragnet device capable of perversion into an instrument of injustice in the hands of a partisan or complacent judiciary, it has an established place in our system of law, and no reason appears for applying it only to concerted action claimed to disturb interstate commerce and withholding it from those claimed to undermine our whole Government. [13] [p573]

The basic rationale of the law of conspiracy is that a conspiracy may be an evil in itself, independently of any other evil it seeks to accomplish. Thus, we recently held in Pinkerton v. United States, 328 U.S. 640, 643-644,

It has been long and consistently recognized by the Court that the commission of the substantive offense and a conspiracy to commit it are separate and distinct offenses. The power of Congress to separate the two and to affix to each a different penalty is well established. . . . And the plea of double jeopardy is no defense to a conviction for both offenses. . . .

So far does this doctrine reach that it is well settled that Congress may make it a crime to conspire with others to do what an individual may lawfully do on his own. This principle is illustrated in conspiracies that violate the antitrust laws as sustained and applied by this Court. Although one may raise the prices of his own products, and many, acting without concert, may do so, the moment they conspire to that end, they are punishable. The same principle is applied to organized labor. Any workman may quit his work for any reason, but concerted actions to the same end are in some circumstances forbidden. National Labor Relations Act, as amended, 61 Stat. 136, § 8(b), 29 U.S.C. § 158(b).

The reasons underlying the doctrine that conspiracy may be a substantive evil in itself, apart from any evil it may threaten, attempt, or accomplish, are peculiarly appropriate to conspiratorial Communism.

The reason for finding criminal liability in case of a combination to effect an unlawful end or to use unlawful means, where none would exist, even though the act contemplated were actually committed by an individual, is that a combination of persons to commit a wrong, either as an end or as a means to an end, is so much more dangerous, because of its increased power to do wrong, because it is more difficult [p574] to guard against and prevent the evil designs of a group of persons than of a single person, and because of the terror which fear of such a combination tends to create in the minds of people. [14]

There is lamentation in the dissents about the injustice of conviction in the absence of some overt act. Of course, there has been no general uprising against the Government, but the record is replete with acts to carry out the conspiracy alleged, acts such as always are held sufficient to consummate the crime where the statute requires an overt act.

But the shorter answer is that no overt act is or need be required. The Court, in antitrust cases, early upheld the power of Congress to adopt the ancient common law that makes conspiracy itself a crime. Through Mr. Justice Holmes, it said:

Coming next to the objection that no overt act is laid, the answer is that the Sherman Act punishes the conspiracies at which it is aimed on the common law footing -- that is to say, it does not make the doing of any act other than the act of conspiring a condition of liability.

Nash v. United States, 229 U.S. 373, 378. Reiterated, United States v. Socony-Vacuum Oil Co., 310 U.S. 150, 252. It is not to be supposed that the power of Congress to protect the Nation's existence is more limited than its power to protect interstate commerce.

Also, it is urged that, since the conviction is for conspiracy to teach and advocate, and to organize the Communist Party to teach and advocate, the First Amendment is violated because freedoms of speech and press protect teaching and advocacy regardless of what is taught or advocated. I have never thought that to be the law. [p575]

I do not suggest that Congress could punish conspiracy to advocate something, the doing of which it may not punish. Advocacy or exposition of the doctrine of communal property ownership, or any political philosophy unassociated with advocacy of its imposition by force or seizure of government by unlawful means could not be reached through conspiracy prosecution. But it is not forbidden to put down force or violence, it is not forbidden to punish its teaching or advocacy, and the end being punishable, there is no doubt of the power to punish conspiracy for the purpose.

The defense of freedom of speech or press has often been raised in conspiracy cases, because, whether committed by Communists, by businessmen, or by common criminals, it usually consists of words written or spoken, evidenced by letters, conversations, speeches or documents. Communication is the essence of every conspiracy, for only by it can common purpose and concert of action be brought about or be proved. However, when labor unions raised the defense of free speech against a conspiracy charge, we unanimously said:

It rarely has been suggested that the constitutional freedom for speech and press extends its immunity to speech or writing used as an integral part of conduct in violation of a valid criminal statute. We reject the contention now. . . .
. . . It is true that the agreements and course of conduct here were as in most instances brought about through speaking or writing. But it has never been deemed an abridgment of freedom of speech or press to make a course of conduct illegal merely because the conduct was in part initiated, evidenced, or carried out by means of language, either spoken, written, or printed. . . . Such an expansive interpretation [p576] of the constitutional guaranties of speech and press would make it practically impossible ever to enforce laws against agreements in restraint of trade, as well as many other agreements and conspiracies deemed injurious to society.

Giboney v. Empire Storage & Ice Co., 336 U.S. 490, 498, 502.

A contention by the press itself, in a conspiracy case, that it was entitled to the benefits of the "clear and present danger" test, was curtly rebuffed by this Court, saying:

Nor is a publisher who engages in business practices made unlawful by the Sherman Act entitled to a partial immunity by reason of the "clear and present danger" doctrine. . . . Formulated as it was to protect liberty of thought and of expression, it would degrade the clear and present danger doctrine to fashion from it a shield for business publishers who engage in business practices condemned by the Sherman Act. . . .

Associated Press v. United States, 326 U.S. 1, 7. I should think it at least as "degrading" to fashion of it a shield for conspirators whose ultimate purpose is to capture or overthrow the Government.

In conspiracy cases, the Court not only has dispensed with proof of clear and present danger, but even of power to create a danger:

It long has been settled, however, that a "conspiracy to commit a crime is a different offense from the crime that is the object of the conspiracy." . . . Petitioners, for example, might have been convicted here of a conspiracy to monopolize without ever having acquired the power to carry out the object of the conspiracy. . . .

American Tobacco Co. v. United States, 328 U.S. 781, 789.

Having held that a conspiracy alone is a crime and its consummation is another, it would be weird legal reasoning to hold that Congress could punish the one only if there was "clear and present danger" of the second. This [p577] would compel the Government to prove two crimes in order to convict for one.

When our constitutional provisions were written, the chief forces recognized as antagonists in the struggle between authority and liberty were the Government, on the one hand, and the individual citizen, on the other. It was thought that, if the state could be kept in its place, the individual could take care of himself.

In more recent times, these problems have been complicated by the intervention between the state and the citizen of permanently organized, well financed, semi-secret and highly disciplined political organizations. Totalitarian groups here and abroad perfected the technique of creating private paramilitary organizations to coerce both the public government and its citizens. These organizations assert as against our Government all of the constitutional rights and immunities of individuals, and at the same time exercise over their followers much of the authority which they deny to the Government. The Communist Party realistically is a state within a state, an authoritarian dictatorship within a republic. It demands these freedoms not for its members, but for the organized party. It denies to its own members at the same time the freedom to dissent, to debate, to deviate from the party line, and enforces its authoritarian rule by crude purges, if nothing more violent.

The law of conspiracy has been the chief means at the Government's disposal to deal with the growing problems created by such organizations. I happen to think it is an awkward and inept remedy, but I find no constitutional authority for taking this weapon from the Government. There is no constitutional right to "gang up" on the Government.

While I think there was power in Congress to enact this statute and that, as applied in this case, it cannot be [p578] held unconstitutional, [15] I add that I have little faith in the long-range effectiveness of this conviction to stop the rise of the Communist movement. Communism will not go to jail with these Communists. No decision by this Court can forestall revolution whenever the existing government fails to command the respect and loyalty of the people and sufficient distress and discontent is allowed to grow up among the masses. Many failures by fallen governments attest that no government can long prevent revolution by outlawry. [16] Corruption, ineptitude, inflation, oppressive taxation, militarization, injustice, and loss of leadership capable of intellectual initiative in domestic or foreign affairs are allies on which the Communists [p579] count to bring opportunity knocking to their door. Sometimes I think they may be mistaken. But the Communists are not building just for today -- the rest of us might profit by their example.


^ . The Government's own summary of its charge is:

The indictment charged that from, April 1, 1945, to the date of the indictment, petitioners unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly conspired with each other and with other persons unknown to the grand jury (1) to organize as the Communist Party of the United States of America a society, group and assembly of persons who teach and advocate the overthrow and destruction of the Government of the United States by force and violence, and (2) knowingly and willfully to advocate and teach the duty and necessity of overthrowing and destroying the Government of the United States by force and violence. The indictment alleged that Section 2 of the Smith Act proscribes these acts, and that the conspiracy to take such action is a violation of Section 3 of the act (18 U.S.C. 10 11 (1946 ed.)).

^ . The Government says this Act before us was modeled after the New York Act of 1909, sustained by this Court in Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652. That, in turn, as the Court pointed out, followed an earlier New York Act of 1902. Shortly after the assassination of President McKinley by an anarchist, Congress adopted the same concepts in the Immigration Act of March 3, 1903. 32 Stat. 1213, § 2. Some germs of the same concept can be found in some reconstruction legislation, such as the Enforcement Act of 1871, 17 Stat. 13. The Espionage Act of 1917, 40 Stat. 217, tit. 1, § 3, which gave rise to a series of civil rights decisions, applied only during war and defined as criminal "false statements with intent" to interfere with our war effort or cause insubordination in the armed forces or obstruct recruiting. However, a wave of "criminal syndicalism statutes" were enacted by the States. They were generally upheld, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, and prosecutions under them were active from 1919 to 1924. In California alone, 531 indictments were returned and 164 persons convicted. 4 Encyc.Soc.Sci. 582, 583. The Smith Act followed closely the terminology designed to incriminate the methods of terroristic anarchism.

^ . Elementary texts amplify the theory and practice of these movements which must be greatly oversimplified in this opinion. See Anarchism, 2 Encyc.Soc.Sci. 46; Nihilism, 11 Encyc.Soc.Sci. 377.

^ . Spies v. Illinois, 122 Ill. 1, 12 N.E. 865, 17 N.E. 898.

^ . Prof. Beard demonstrates this antithesis by quoting the Russian anarchist leader Bakunin, as follows:

"Marx is an authoritarian and centralizing communist. He wishes what we wish: the complete triumph of economic and social equality, however, within the state and through the power of the state, through the dictatorship of a very strong and, so to speak, despotic provisional government, that is, by the negation of liberty. His economic ideal is the state as the sole owner of land and capital, tilling the soil by means of agricultural associations, under the management of its engineers, and directing through the agency of capital all industrial and commercial associations.
"We demand the same triumph of economic and social equality through the abolition of the state and everything called juridical right, which is according to our view the permanent negation of human right. We wish the reconstruction of society and the establishment of the unity of mankind not from above downward through authority, through socialistic officials, engineers and public technicians, but from below upward through the voluntary federation of labor associations of all kinds emancipated entirely from the yoke of the state."

Beard, Individualism and Capitalism, 1 Encyc.Soc.Sci. 145, 158.

^ . For methods and objects of infiltration of labor unions, see American Communications Assn. v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 422.

^ . The Czar's government, in February, 1917, literally gave up, almost without violence, to the Provisional Government because it was ready to fall apart from its corruption, ineptitude, superstition, oppression and defeat. The revolutionary parties had little to do with this, and regarded it as a bourgeoisie triumph. Lenin was an exile in Switzerland, Trotsky in the United States, and Stalin was in Siberia. The Provisional Government attempted to continue the war against Germany, but it, too, was unable to solve internal problems, and its Galician campaign failed with heavy losses. By October, its prestige and influence sank so low that it could not continue. Meanwhile, Lenin and Trotsky had returned and consolidated the Bolshevik position around the Soviets, or trade unions. They simply took over power in an almost bloodless revolution between October 25 and November 7, 1917. That Lenin and Trotsky represented only a minority was demonstrated in November elections, in which the Bolsheviks secured less than a quarter of the seats. Then began the series of opportunistic movements to entrench themselves in power. Faced by invasion of the allies, by counterrevolution, and the attempted assassination of Lenin, terrorism was resorted to on a large scale, and all the devices of the Czar's police state were reestablished. See 1 Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1923, 99-110, and Moore, Soviet Politics -- The Dilemma of Power, 117-139.

^ . Duchacek, The Strategy of Communist Infiltration: Czechoslovakia, 1944-1948, World Politics, Vol. II, No. 3 (April 1950) 345-372, and The February Coup in Czechoslovakia, id., July, 1950, 511-532; see also Kertesz, The Methods of Communist Conquest: Hungary, 1944-1947, id., October 1950, 20-54; Lasswell, The Strategy of Soviet Propaganda, 24 Acad.Pol.Sci.Proc. 214, 221. See also Friedman, The Break-up of Czech Democracy.

^ . Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47. This doctrine has been attacked as one which "annuls the most significant purpose of the First Amendment. It destroys the intellectual basis of our plan of self-government." Meiklejohn, Free Speech And Its Relation to Self-Government, 29. It has been praised:

The concept of freedom of speech received for the first time an authoritative judicial interpretation in accord with the purpose of the framers of the Constitution.

Chafee, Free Speech in the United States, 82. In either event, it is the only original judicial thought on the subject, all later cases having made only extensions of its application. All agree that it means something very important, but no two seem to agree on what it is. See concurring opinion, MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER, Kovacs v. Cooper, 336 U.S. 77, 89.

^ . Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652; Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357. Holmes' comment on the former, in his letters to Sir Frederick Pollock of June 2 and 18, 1925, as "a case in which conscience and judgment are a little in doubt," and description of his dissent as one "in favor of the rights of an anarchist (so-called) to talk drool in favor of the proletarian dictatorship" show the tentative nature of his test, even as applied to a trivial case. Holmes-Pollock Letters (Howe ed.1946).

^ . So characterized by Mr. Justice Brandeis in Schaefer v. United States, 251 U.S. 466, 482.

^ . Recent cases have pushed the "clear and present danger" doctrine to greater extremes. While Mr. Justice Brandeis said only that the evil to be feared must be "imminent" and "relatively serious," Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357, 376 and 377, more recently it was required

that the substantive evil must be extremely serious and the degree of imminence extremely high before utterances can be punished.

Bridges v. California, 314 U.S. 252, 263. (Italics supplied.)

Schneiderman v. United States, 320 U.S. 118, overruled earlier holdings that the courts could take judicial notice that the Communist Party does advocate overthrow of the Government by force and violence. This Court reviewed much of the basic Communist literature that is before us now, and held that it was within "the area of allowable thought," id. at 139, that it does not show lack of attachment to the Constitution, and that success of the Communist Party would not necessarily mean the end of representative government. The Court declared further that

[a] tenable conclusion from the foregoing is that the Party, in 1927, desired to achieve its purpose by peaceful and democratic means, and, as a theoretical matter, justified the use of force and violence only as a method of preventing an attempted forcible counter-overthrow once the Party had obtained control in a peaceful manner, or as a method of last resort to enforce the majority will if at some indefinite future time because of peculiar circumstances constitutional or peaceful channels were no longer open.

Id. at 157. Moreover, the Court considered that this

mere doctrinal justification or prediction of the use of force under hypothetical conditions at some indefinite future time -- prediction that is not calculated or intended to be presently acted upon. . . .

ibid., was within the realm of free speech. A dissent by Mr. Chief Justice Stone, for himself and Justices Roberts and Frankfurter, challenged these naive conclusions, as they did again in Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135, in which the Court again set aside an Attorney General's deportation order. Here, Mr. Justice Murphy, without whom there would not have been a majority for the decision, speaking for himself in a concurring opinion, pronounced the whole deportation statute unconstitutional, as applied to Communists, under the "clear and present danger test," because

Not the slightest evidence was introduced to show that either Bridges or the Communist Party seriously and imminently threatens to uproot the Government by force or violence.

326 U.S. at 165.

^ . These dangers were more fully set out in Krulewitch v. United States, 336 U.S. 440, 445.

^ . Miller on Criminal Law, 110. Similar reasons have been reiterated by this Court. United States v. Rabinowich, 238 U.S. 78, 88; Pinkerton v. United States, 328 U.S. 640, 643-644.

^ . The defendants have had the benefit so far in this case of all the doubts and confusions afforded by attempts to apply the "clear and present danger" doctrine. While I think it has no proper application to the case, these efforts have been in response to their own contentions and favored, rather than prejudiced, them. There is no call for reversal on account of it.

^ . The pathetically ineffective efforts of free European states to overcome feebleness of the Executive and decomposition of the Legislative branches of government by legal proscriptions are reviewed in Loewenstein, Legislative Control of Political Extremism in European Democracies, 38 Col.L.Rev. 591, 725 (1938). The Nazi Party seizure of power in Germany occurred while both it and its Communist counterpart were under sentence of illegality from the courts of the Weimar Republic. The German Criminal Code struck directly at the disciplinary system of totalitarian parties. It provided:

The participation in an organization the existence, constitution, or purposes of which are to be kept secret from the Government, or in which obedience to unknown superiors or unconditional obedience to known superiors is pledged, is punishable by imprisonment up to six months for the members and from one month to one year for the founders and officers. Public officials may be deprived of the right to hold public office for a period of from one to five years.

2 Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression (GPO 1946) 11. The Czar's government of Russia fell while the Communist leaders were in exile. See n. 7. Instances of similar failures could be multiplied indefinitely.