1920 April 1

Red Scare in New York: Legislature Expels Socialist Party Members


As part of the 1919–1920 Red Scare, the New York State Legislature on this day expelled all five Socialist Party members who had been duly elected to their positions. Never before had a state legislature voted to remove an entire political party. All five members were re-elected in September 1920, in special elections to fill their seats. Nonetheless, the Legislature again voted to expel three of the members.

For more on the Red Scare, see the Palmer Raids on November 7, 1919, and January 2, 1920. The New York state legislature, meanwhile, published a five-volume report on April 24, 1920, “Revolutionary Radicalism,” which, through guilt-by-association, indiscriminately attacked liberals, pacifists, civil libertarians, feminists and leftists as being dangerous radicals.

Reaction by two of those ousted: “…If the people are to be driven from the ballot box, where shall they go?”

Learn more about the Red Scare: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/SaccoV/redscare.html

Put the Red Scare in historical perspective: Christopher Finan, From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A history of the Fight for Free Speech in America (2007)

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