1950 September 17

HUAC Calls National Lawyers Guild the “Legal Bulwark of the Communist Party”

 

The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) issued a report on this day declaring the National Lawyers Guild the “legal bulwark” of the Communist Party. The Lawyers Guild was a left-liberal professional association of lawyers, established on February 20, 1937, as a progressive alternative to the American Bar Association. It took cases related to political dissidents, the rights of labor unions, and racial justice. It was not itself a Communist or even Communist-dominated organization, however.

The HUAC attack on the Lawyers Guild was one of several during the Cold War. On August, 27, 1953, Attorney General Herbert Brownell denounced the Guild and directed that it be listed in the Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations (published on December 4, 1947). The Guild fought back, and the Justice Department finally abandoned its effort to have it listed on September 11, 1958.

The attacks on the Lawyers Guild represented the guilt-by-association tactics of the anti-Communist movement, in which any association with left-wing organizations was taken as evidence of “Communist sympathies.” The Cold War attacks greatly weakened the Guild, and thereby made it more difficult for people and organizations on the left to obtain needed legal assistance.

Learn more: Ann Fagan Ginger and Eugene Tobin, eds., The National Lawyers Guild: From Roosevelt Through Reagan (1988)

Learn more about HUAChttp://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/huac

Read: Kenneth O’Reilly, Hoover and the un-Americans: The FBI, HUAC, and the Red Menace (1983)

Learn more about the ACLU in the Cold War and other Times of National Crisis: https://www.aclu.org/aclu-history-rooting-out-subversives-paranoia-and-patriotism-mccarthy-era

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