What impact did American intervention in World War I have on the Socialist movement in the US?

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The entry of the United States into World War I severely damaged the American Socialist movement. Most socialists were ardently opposed to the War, seeing it as a conflict between the ruling classes that had nothing to do with the proletariat. They believed that the working class would bear the brunt of the War, as most of those conscripted into the armed forces would be from this particular segment of society.

So socialists actively attempted to prevent young men from enlisting. At the same time, they continued to hold giant rallies designed to mobilize opinion against America's entry into the War. The Wilson Administration responded harshly, signing into law the draconian Espionage Act, which imposed tough prison sentences on anyone engaged in activities that could be construed as advocating or inciting disloyalty to the United States. Inevitably, many socialists came under this very broad heading, and before long they began filling up jails by the score.

The leader of the American Socialist Party, Eugene V. Debs, was one of them. After making a fiery speech against the War, he was immediately arrested. Not longer after he was tried, convicted, and sent to prison for ten years under the Espionage Act. In the meantime, Debs' I.W.W. union was under attack from the authorities. The union's many offices were raided, and some of their leaders were arrested on charges of espionage and sedition.

Overall, one could say that the socialist movement in America was broken by the US's entry into the War. And even after the War was over, the authorities continued to crack down on the merest hint of subversion during the infamous Red Scare.

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