Was there a purge in the USA during the Great Depression?

VHS

Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
4,043
Brassicaland
#1
Due to speculations of statistics and hearsay, some claimed that a "purge" happened in the USA during the Great Depression.
The "purge" was against suspects of communism or socialism and dissolute lifestyles.
Is such claim totally bogus or somewhat real?
Did the USA really have such tradition?
 

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
2,386
Las Vegas, NV USA
#3
Due to speculations of statistics and hearsay, some claimed that a "purge" happened in the USA during the Great Depression.
The "purge" was against suspects of communism or socialism and dissolute lifestyles.
Is such claim totally bogus or somewhat real?
Did the USA really have such tradition?
The closest to what you describe are the two "red scares"; one right after WWI which led the US to join several other powers in invading Russia in 1919. The US didn't recognize the USSR until 1936. The second was from around 1949 to 1952. The "fall of China" and the subsequent Army-McCarthy hearings highlighted a period of strong anti-communist activism in which thousands were accused and ostracized.

I'm not aware of any purges in the US in the 1930's but populism and socialism were popular alternative politics. Stalin conducted major purges of the government and military in the USSR in the late 1930s.
 
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Likes: grey fox
Aug 2010
14,652
Wessex
#4
This seems to refer to dubious claims by some Russian pseudohistorian which have been discussed before in this forum, unfortunately I can't remember his name or the exact nature of his claims (which were based on highly dubious interpretation of demographic data), perhaps someone else might; that would give us soemthing to start from. Aslo, it is necessary to define what is meant by a purge; someone losing a job is diffrenet from someone being sent to a prison camp; there were no prurges in the USA that can be compared to those in Stalin's Russia.
 

Rodger

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
4,975
US
#6
In my readings I have never come across such a purge. Now, bootleggers and gangsters during Prohibition is another story...
 

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
5,500
#7
There was a large Communist Party and several other radical parties in the 1930s. There were many people prosecuted or deported in the Red Scare of 1919 following the Russian Revolution.

In the 1950s and afterwards many people lost jobs in government the movie industry and so on because they were suspected of being Communist. This was due to allegations that Communists were spying for the Soviet Union and using there positions to influence government policy for the Soviet Union, put out Communist propaganda etc.

In 1886, several speakers at an anarchist rally were executed for a bomb that went off during the rally. Radical labor leader Joe Hill was executed on a dubious murder charge in 1915. There were many cases of prosecutions and violence against radicals and labor leaders before the 1930s.

None of this is anything like the purges that occured under Stalin
 
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Aug 2010
14,652
Wessex
#8
Indeed, we really have to be more critical in our use of language, and not even suggest for a moment that purging people from, say, Hollywood, has any similarity to purging people form society by sending them to a massive chain of prison camps or by terminating their existence!
 

Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
3,584
Caribbean
#10
In the 1950s and afterwards many people lost jobs in government the movie industry and so on because they were suspected of being Communist.
I am not sure I would say "many" and merely "suspected."

Surely, the 11 convicted of trying to overthrow the government by violence, and their friend Dashiell Hammett who would not reveal the contributors to the 11's substantial legal defense fund- or Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs - were not just "suspects."
If anyone has a credible work tracking the suspects reported by the FBI to the Cabinet Secretaries - as to how many were actually fired for being communists - I'd like to see it.
And as far as private companies, like GE, whose policy was to fire any employee who invoked the Fifth Amendment rather than testify, I am not sure I would label such people as mere "suspects."

If you read Truman's Proclamation 2914, Truman puts the entire country on a war footing, marshaling virtually every citizen into the vigil against "communist imperialism." It has always seemed an irony to me that any excesses in pursuit of this goal are named after a Senator from the other political party.

Truman:
"I do proclaim a national emergency"
"I summon every citizen"
Proclamation 2914 - Wikisource, the free online library

But this did not rise to the level of a Stalinist "purge,," I think the Proclamation goes to the answer for the OP. Prior US Presidents did not declare states of national emergency (perhaps because no power exists in the Constitution), and that is why the US didn't have purges.
 
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Likes: grey fox