1917 July 7

Government Repression Hits Socialist Opponents of War


In a “Statement to Our Readers,” J. Louis Engdahl of the Socialist Party of America informed its members that the Post Office had declared the June 16 issue of The American Socialist to be “unmailable” (although it didn’t get around to this until two weeks after the issue had already been mailed). The Socialist Party, which had a large national following, was one of the leading opponents of U.S. entry into the European war. See its statement of opposition which it issued on April 13, 1917.

When President Woodrow Wilson asked for a declaration of war on April 2, 1917, he warned about a “stern hand of repression” is there was opposition to U.S. involvement. Events quickly proved him correct.

A special “Liberty Edition” on June 30 was also denied a mailing permit. The “Statement” was included in a greatly reduced July 7 edition published on this day hat was allowed to be mailed. Only nine more issues were mailed before the government raided the Socialist Party’s headquarters, which ended further publication of The American Socialist.

Publications of the National Civil Liberties Bureau, forerunner of the ACLU, were also banned by the Post Office. See November 1, 1917.

Read the “Statement to Our Readers”: http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/parties/spusa/1917/0707-engdahl-statement.pdf

Read copies of The American Socialist: http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/american-socialist/index.htm

Learn more: Paul L. Murphy, World War I and the Origin of Civil Liberties in the United States (1979)

Learn about the ACLU during times of national crisis: https://www.aclu.org/aclu-history-defending-liberty-times-national-crisis

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