Monica Shay, Professor at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn Passes
The People’s Lawyer, by author and Guild member Albert Ruben, is the first comprehensive history on the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and tells the Center’s story from the civil rights era to today’s legal battles on habeas corpus, torture and Guantanamo Bay Prison. The book highlights critical legal fights taken on by CCR, revealing innovative tactics that have evolved within the radical organization. Albert Ruben points how the Center for Constitutional Rights continues to fight with the same spirit, audacity and courage it was founded on. As many listeners may know, CCR has been an important cornerstone to this radio show because our own Michael Ratner has been with the Center for four decades.
- The founders of CCR were Arthur Kinoy, Morton Stavis, Bill Kunstler and Ben Smith. Smith was a Southerner, he had an office in New Orleans, and Stavis, William Kunstler, and Arthur Kinoy were northerners who were working for civil rights in the South.
- They were all working their separate beats, they all knew each other and were in communication about the work they were doing. They decided that they needed something, primarily financially, to keep their work going.
- So they got in touch with a lawyer they all knew with financial means named Robert Boem. They incorporated it in New Jersey, and it became ultimately the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR).
- They had a very small office at the beginning with one lawyer in Newark.
- The anti-war movement, the McShirley Case. It threw the Center into the government misconduct orbit. It was in the course of litigating that case that the Center became aware that the federal government was not going to be on the side of the angels.
- Dombrowski alleged that members of his organization, the Southern Conference Educational Fund, were subjected to continuous harassment, including arrests without intent to prosecute, and seizures of necessary internal documents. Furthermore, the state was threatening to use anti-subversion statutes to prosecute the organization, which was a group of Southern liberals dedicated to fighting for civil rights for Blacks in the South.
- The Dombrowski case allowed the Center and a lot of lawyers to use that decision to challenge cases brought against civil rights attorneys and a lot of people who were working in the South and got caught up in state laws, anti-communist laws, used to take them out of state courts and bring them into federal courts.
- So, the Center lawyers were very acutely aware that they had on their side the federal courts. What happened with McShirley, was that it overturned that faith in the federal court system. The case led the Center to realize that government misconduct was an area that would be of interest. They could no longer count on federal court to be their allies.
- There were women on the staff of the Center who were both Center lawyers as their occupation but they were also women, and as women they were caught up in the women’s movement. They brought the two together.
- It was the early days of the women’s movement. The Center didn’t see itself as a place that would take on criminal law, it was more of a movement organization. The politics of the founders were central to their beings. They let their politics guide them in whether a case was something that they should adopt.
- Part of the Center for Constitutional Rights’s mission was educational; that’s not understood I think.
Guest – Albert Ruben, screen and television writer, has served as an officer of the Writers Guild of America East.
We welcome returning guest Adam Hochschild, historian and author of the new book To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918. In the book, Hochschild has focused on the antiwar movement in Great Britain. Near the beginning of World War I, 20,000 British men refused the military draft on principle; others were conscientious objectors and nearly 6,000 of the men were sent to prison. Hochschild relied on personal letters, diaries and memoirs to assemble this unique historic report on Britain’s powerful anti-war movement. The book also unearths how anti-war activists were monitored constantly by civilian and military intelligence as agent provocateurs bragged about their accomplishments. To End All Wars is a compelling account of the heroic anti-war struggle, while top writers in that period, such as Rudyard Kipling and H.G. Wells, contributed rhetoric to support the war propaganda.
- I always like to think we can learn things from history. I think you learn to be inspired by people who stuck to their ideals, even in very difficult times,
- I thought it would be a challenge to write a book centering around people who I admire tremendously although they lost, the cause that they were struggling for lost. I’ve always been fascinated by the First World War, which remade the world for the worse in every conceivable way and killed around 20 million people in the process.
- I’ve been particularly struck by those resisted that war on both sides, who said this war is not worth these millions of lives and we’re not going to fight.
- I wanted to talk about 2 different groups of people in this war: the generals who fought this terrible war filled with illusions that the next battle would bring a great victory, and then I was also fascinated by these pacifists and war resisters.
- 20,000 men of military age refused to go into the British Army. The largest number of outright refusals in any of the warring countries. Of that number many of them accepted alternative service under conscientious objector status. Driving ambulances, or work in a war industry factory.
- Many men refused that and more than six thousand went to prison.
- Aggression among Germany and Austria-Hungary did really ignite the war. You can’t really say its a war between good guys and bad guys, because the allies at first were Britain and France allied with Russia. The absolute last remaining monarchy in Europe.
- Wonderful trilogy of novels by Pat Barker, The Eye In the Door. Had I been alive in that time in 1917, I would have been like so many people at that time, who greeted the Russian Revolution with enormous hope.
- I guess I’m thinking more than anything else of the way the First World War made the Second World War almost certain. There was something about the way the war ended that gave rise to bitterness and the Nazis in Germany.
- Right up to the very last minute, the German people were fed a diet of totally triumphant propaganda.
- Eugene Debs got up out of his sickbed to do a speaking tour against the war. The Wilson administration charged him with subversion; he was still in prison when got nearly a million votes for president on a Socialist Party ticket.
- Illusion that the war is going to solve more problems than it causes. Another illusion is that it will be over quickly–you remember George Bush on the aircraft carrier.
Guest – Adam Hochschild, an award-winning author and journalist, has written for the New Yorker, Harper’s, the New York Review of Books, and the New York Times Magazine. Two of his books, King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (1998) and Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves (2005), were finalists for the National Book Award and have won numerous other prizes. Hochschild teaches narrative writing at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.