History reveals that a species of unbridled patriotism can sometimes drown out dissent or worse by the voices and actions of those for whom disloyalty and dissent are synonymous.

While Maine support for World War I was pronounced, visible traces of dissent dotted the landscape.

News fragments reveal that pacifists were denied the use of the Portland City Hall for holding a meeting, three “foreigners” were discharged from the Great Northern Paper Co. in Millinocket due to their discussions about the war, a socialist who refused to serve in the military was arrested, newspaper letters critical of socialists surfaced, and a negative reaction to the distribution of socialist literature was discernible.

As early as 1916, the Maine socialists condemned the war. The theme that workers should not engage in war and spill the blood of fellow workers was commonly heard among the ranks of socialists. Against charges that they were unpatriotic, socialists responded that:

If blood spilling for dollars is the test of patriotism, the Socialists are certainly not patriotic. They refuse to kill men for money, either for themselves or any one else. Nor do they believe that Frenchmen, Englishmen, Germans or people of other nations are less our brothers than are Americans. The Socialists regard all nationalities and races as members of the human family, and want this family to live in peace.

Other voices of opposition warned workers to be aware of “Patriotism as a Cloak” that only served the interest of employers:

It has been discerned that many of the appeals for patriotic devotion to country have sprung from no higher motive than that of greed for protection of the vested interest or the money power as represented in American industries.

Passionate partisans of the nation, such as the Minute Men of Portland, offered a chilling and frightening warning to dissenters and  declared its “first duty will be to take care (in our own energetic way) all anti-patriotic people composed of radical preachers, radical college professors, socialists, anarchists, extreme pacifists, professional Luddites and plain cranks who are viciously opposing all proposals to prepare our Nation for defense against attacks from without or within and sowing dissension among our citizens.”

Conformity in thought and action was encouraged by advertisements placed in local papers by the United States Department of Justice proclaiming that:

It is your patriotic duty to report Maine complaints of disloyal acts, seditious utterances and any information relative to attempts to hinder the United States in the prosecution of the war.

This climate of war-induced conformity was further reflected in the remarks of a military official who told the members of the Rotary Club at Riverton (Portland):

The people who criticize are the ones who do nothing to help the cause. You must learn to obey the edicts of your country just as you obey the commands of God. There is practically no difference, only that yours are issued by civil authority.

Gov. Carl Milliken, in his address to the 79th Legislature (1919) took note that the end of the war did not mean the end of serious threats to the nation for “the menace of mob rule and Bolshevism still threatens.” Legislative measures to provide for “Americanization” in the educational system, to promote patriotism by displaying the American flag at polling places, and to prevent and punish the desecration, mutilation or improper use of the American and State flags, were reflective of the ideological climate of the time.  So, too, was the unsuccessful effort to enact a measure that would have prohibited demonstrations against the established form of government of the United States or the state  of Maine.

Labor organizations such as the state-wide Maine State Federation of Labor (MSFL) made strong efforts to distance itself from the revolutionary labor movement.

The Executive Board of the MSFL, in some measure of self-defense, quickly joined in the growing chorus of condemnation of Bolshevism declaring “There is no room for Bolshevism in America,” while MSFL President C. P. Smith  warned of Bolshevism:

There is  a spirit of Bolshevism seeking to gain a foothold in America which is being stamped out by the American Federation of Labor as quickly as possible.  It is my advice that a careful watch be kept on all persons or societies that can in any possible way spread this propaganda, and in no instance should we allow it to enter into our discussion in any of our local meetings or elsewhere.

America, he noted, was “only large enough for one flag and one language ,” MSFL Secretary H. B.  Brawn shouted

There was only one “ISM” that can be considered, and should be considered, by any and all TRUE AMERICANS, and that is AMERICANISM . . . . there can be no room for Bolshevism in America, the thought and the action of us all must be, toward TRUE AMERICANISM, and the support of Government of the people, by the people, and for the people, founded upon the precepts of AMERICANISM, and Not upon Bolshevism.

The cooperation between the Maine Federation and the Justice Department was revealed when First Vice-president W. S. Wood informed convention delegates “we have assisted the Department of Justice in several instances to get in touch with the propagandists” who sought to persuade Maine workers to migrate to different parts of the nation where work was unavailable, in order to disrupt the labor force and weaken the nation’s military readiness.

Wood advised “that a careful watch be kept on all persons or societies that can in any way spread this [Bolshevist] propaganda.”  It was clear that the tolerance level of officials of the MSFL and rank and file unionists towards Bolshevism was virtually non-existent, and its policies sought to seek, find, and condemn all such enemies of trade unionism and the nation.

Organized labor was but one component of a mosaic of anti-Bolshevist sentiment. Bolshevism was generally denounced by fraternal organizations, patriotic societies, the press, and churches. The Portland Rotarians, for example, pledged to “actively help in every possible way to teach true Americanism and to fight to the bitter end the doctrine of anarchy and lawlessness now being spread by the Bolshevists throughout the world,” while their fellow Rotarians in Saco and Biddeford were urged “to devote a small fraction of their time, each day to spreading the glorious doctrine of Americanism .”

The Knights of Columbus declared they were “opposed to the radicalism under the names of socialism, Bolshevism, or however it may be named that tends to dehumanize men, that demoralizes the social and economic order of the world, that would destroy religion and by its philosophy eliminate God from the minds and thought of men.”

The Masons made it clear “no man who is willing to wave the flag which is inscribed with the great text of Bolshevism, ‘No God and no master’ can ever enter the doors of any Masonic Lodge.”

The Elks of Portland shared Auburn Mayor George C. Webber’s beliefs “we must do all we can to stop soap box anarchy that prefers the red flag to the stars and stripes .”

The Maine State Grange, the voice of rural Maine, made it clear that it was opposed to “the tendency toward political Socialism,” and in any form of unionism “would confiscate the rights of capital and of property.” The advocate of the farmers’ interests, The Organized Farmer in Maine, editorialized:

If ever there was a time in the history of this country that unswerving loyalty to the government and its principles of Liberty and Equality . . . was needed, that time is now, when Bolshevism, I.W.W.ism, Socialism, and various other isms are running riot, and trying to overturn all government, or make this country a second Russia …  There is not probably a loyal Anarchist, a loyal Bolshevist, or a loyal I.W.W. in the country, and there is probably no member of either of these classes who is not secretly a conspirator, a spy and an informer.  They should all be either deported or interned, and in either case it should be done for life.

The newly organized American Legion and its state organizations strongly condemned the “I.W.W.’s, the Anarchist and the International Socialist.” (The ideological link between the American Legion and the MSFL was reflected in the fact that in 1920 the State Federation held its annual convention in the American Legion Hall in Waterville.)

The patriotic Daughters of the American Revolution made “100 Per Cent Americanism” its central theme at its state convention, and heard the mayor of the City of Augusta declare “there was no room for Bolshevism and similar perils in the homes of such women” who belonged to the order.

In less forceful tones, the Maine State Board of Trade declared “the man with the red flag has had the front page and it is time he should be sidetracked and the business man take his place.”

The “Red Menace” was reflected in Maine in news that the Grand Army of the Republic planned a “conference of heads of all patriotic organizations for the purpose of forming a Federation to fight bolshevism and un-American ideas and doctrines,” while the Maine Federation of Women’s Clubs declared the necessity to study and understand the meaning of “Reds, Radicals, Anarchists, Communists [and] Socialists.” A private screening of “Bolshevism on Trial” was shown to local audiences to alert them to the growing threat to American institutions.

The Board of Directors of the Lewiston Chamber of Commerce, and undoubtedly others, condemned the strike action by the Boston police in 1919 and applauded the Massachusetts Governor for his swift action which rescued Boston from the “clutches of communism.”

Perhaps nothing symbolized the antipathy for radical thought as did the organization of a Maine Branch of United Americans in March 1920.  Its membership, which it stated was composed of “100 percent Americans,” declared that its purpose was “to combat and neutralize the Bolshevist movement and to be a bulwark in the defense of the United States against radical propaganda.”

In March of 1921, the legislature granted the House of Representatives to the United Americans to promote Americanism. According to DeForest H. Perkins of the Portland Chamber of Commerce, one of the founding members of the organization, “It is time and high time that all 100 per cent Americans unite in support of true Americanism against radicalism and bolshevism, that are so seriously threatening the governments of the world.”

Churches could be expected to be repelled by the rise of “Bolshevism” because of its philosophical tenet of materialism, and thus were to be found sponsoring advocates of “100 Per Cent Americanism” who offered emotional presentations of “The American Peril.”

Cartoon sketches proved to be a popular vehicle for targeting “Bolshevism” as the nation’s enemy. One such cartoon depicted a stern-looking Uncle Sam, seated in front of a large billboard on the nation’s coast, holding a rifle in his lap and crying out:  “This Country is Unhealthy for Every Kind of Bolsheviks, Reds, Agitators or Disorganizers of Our Labor or Business.”  Another showed Uncle Sam standing on “Free” American land with the Statue of Liberty in the background and shouting “Get Out” to “Alien Labor Agitators,” “Terrorists,” “Anarchists,” “Seditious Teachers” and “Parlor Bolshevists.”  Still another pictured Uncle Sam lifting an exponent of “Anarchy” and “Sedition” over his shoulders, preparing to hurl him into the sea.

One cartoon showed a World War 1 veteran in the process of removing his jacket preparing to take on a dagger-carrying IWW advocate and remarking that: “Having made the World Safe for Democracy, it looks like I would have to help make the U.S. a safe place to live in.”

The Bolshevist scare was so pervasive that even labor unions utilized it warning employers that their failure to improve working conditions and wages were simply inviting the evil they despised, and  warning if the legislature failed to enact labor reform it “would leave a fertile field for bolsheviks and un-Americans to sow the seeds of discontent with and suspicion of their duly elected representatives.”

In the fall of 1919 and the early winter of 1920, Attorney General of the United States A. Mitchell Palmer and Department of Justice agents raided the homes and headquarters of the IWW and communist organizations in numerous cities across the country, including Portland and Lewiston. According to the secretary of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, there were 308 “Reds” in Maine and that their names could be found in the files of the Department of Justice.

The “Red Activity” in Lewiston appeared to generate the greatest amount of fear. Guarded statements by the police and press revealed “agents representing the Russian Soviet government have been at work among the foreign-speaking population” of the city. When the local authorities learned of the new communist organization, they disbanded it, burned the charter, and warned its members against forming another such organization. Lewiston’s brief experiment in communism was over, but meetings at which foreign languages were spoken continued to be under surveillance by the police.  The U. S. Department of Justice became interested in the matter, sent representatives to the city, and while it is not certain what action they finally took regarding the matter, it was understood that certain propaganda and literature belonging to the local communists was confiscated.

The remarks of the Augusta’s Daily Kennebec Journal captured the link often made between labor conflict and radical influences, real or imagined, when it traced strikes and industrial closures to the “Alien labor agitator” and “Red Literature,” and found the solution to rest in “Americanism.”  Many observers always considered harmony to be the natural state of relations between employees and employers, and any disruption of such harmony was often traced to enemies, internal or external.  This permitted employers to skirt issues of substance growing out of the workplace situations and often prevented workers themselves from closing ranks.  Thomas Lyons, major labor leader, granite cutter, and Maine’s first Commissioner of Labor drawn from the ranks of labor, summarized the beliefs of many in the labor movement when he referred to ” . . . the camouflaged story about Bolshevism, I.W.W.ism, Sovietism, Socialism, etc., all of which we believe to be part of a well organized movement to discredit and check the rapid advance of the organized labor movement.” Thus, while organized labor in Maine was clearly on record in its opposition to “Reds” and their political and economic heresies, it could never escape the inevitable linkages made between Bolshevism and organized labor by those intent on weakening or destroying the labor movement.

Organized labor in Maine, despite its efforts, would never enjoy a complete respite from those who believed that socialism, communism and organized labor were synonymous, or from those who manufactured such a linkage when they believed it would serve their interests.  The decade of the thirties would again rekindle the spark of such opposition to organized labor. Witness, for example, the Lewiston-Auburn socialists struggling for street  permits or the use of Lewiston City Hall in 1932, the police raid and confiscation of papers and literature of the Communist Party of Lewiston and Auburn in 1934, and the iconic Lewiston-Auburn shoe strike of 1937 which was laced with charges of communist influence at the expense of the legitimate grievances of workers.

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