US repression of leftists
At many times in its history, the US has embarked on a vicious crackdown of the Left (socialists, anarchists, trade union activists). I don’t think this repression should be viewed as unrelated to the repression the US has also meted out against activists for Black liberation (e.g. COINTELPRO was directed against them all). Socialism, anarchism and Black liberation are fundamentally overlapping causes, all of them opposed to the capitalism and imperialism of the US.
According to the first Jacobin article linked below, there were three major periods of repression of the Left (trade unionists, socialists, anarchists) in the US:
- In the late 19th century, following the Haymarket affair, where prominent labour activists were jailed and even executed
- This violence should not be considered separate from the terroristic violence carried out by employers’ associations and the KKK. While extralegal, this violence was carried out with impunity, as the police and courts refused to punish perpetrators of terrorism against working-class and Black people. There was also significant overlap of individuals carrying out state-sanctioned violence (e.g. in their roles as police officers) and extralegal violence off-duty.
- In the 1920s (the “First Red Scare”), when the Socialist Party and IWW were “all but crushed”, socialist Eugene Debs was jailed, and anarchist Emma Goldman was forced into exile in the USSR
- In the McCarthyist era of the 1950s (the “Second Red Scare”), which destroyed or neutered so many institutions of the “Old Left”, from the CPUSA itself to the CIO, racial justice organisations, left-wing Jewish secular organisations, legal organisations for the defence of immigrants and workers, and so forth.
See Also / References
- Jacobin: The Red Scare Scarred the Left — But Couldn’t Kill It
- Jacobin: A Good Life Rule for Leftists: Never Talk to the FBI : An individual’s account of the kind of low-level harassment the FBI used against leftists in the McCarthyist era.
- Jacobin: When Bosses Were Terrorists