“A Test of Fire”
“A Test of Fire”
December 1943–November 1948
Chapter 6 explores the experiences of the imprisoned defendants from December 1943 until January 1945, along with their struggle to restore their civil rights in the years immediately after their release. The Trotskyists, backed by the CRDC and ACLU, conducted a national campaign to pardon the “18” and to repeal the Smith Act. The SWP survived this trying time, mostly because of the work of women like Rose Karsner and Dorothy Schultz, who temporarily took up the reins while Cannon, Dobbs, and the others were incarcerated. When all of the “18” were released from prison by January 1945, they stepped back into a thriving party of almost 3,000 members. Instead of breaking the spirit of the Trotskyists, the conviction, for the most part, unintentionally reinvigorated the party. This chapter considers the broader implications of the 1941 case for First Amendment rights and describes the impressive alliance the Trotskyists forged with the ACLU, the NAACP, the March on Washington Movement, and over half a million progressive trade union members who shared their concerns over the threat to civil liberties that the Smith Act represented.
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