1917 September 5

Government Raids Socialist Party Offices; Publications Halted


As part of the suppression of dissent during World War I, the Justice Department on this day raided the offices of the American Socialist Party of America, which was one of the most vocal opponents of U.S. entry into the war. (See the party’s strong declaration of opposition to the war on April 13, 1917.) The raid halted publication of the party’s newspaper, American Socialist. The Post Office had already denied the party’s newspaper a mailing privilege, on July 7, 1917, but the Justice Department raid on this day was a far more serious matter. A second raid the following night shut down the publication of four additional Socialist publications, two of which were German-language, one Croatian, and one English-language.

The most celebrated repression of the Socialist Party involved its leader Eugene V. Debs, who was convicted for giving an anti-war speech in Canton, Ohio, on June 16, 1918, was later arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Before the war, the Socialist Party had considerable support across the country, with elected officials in many cities. The party was crushed by the wartime repression, however, and never regained its old strength.

Read the government’s search warrant for the raid: http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/parties/spusa/1917/0905-doj-textofspawarrant.pdf

Learn more: Nick Salvatore, Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist (1982)

Read about Postmaster General Burleson: https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbu38

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