Thursday, September 11, 2014

My grandfather (mother's father) and the Palmer Raids

I have said in the past that I am not a political writer, and this is true. Yet my grandparents and mom lived so much in and with the urgent realities of politics that I end up having to talk about many different occurrences and movements.

After World War I, and in the wake of the Russian Revolution, actions by a certain group of anarchists elevated fears of /against foreign groups and alleged agitators blossomed into the Red Scare of 1919-1924 (the year that strict quotas against potential Southern and Eastern European immigrants were put into place). In 1919 and 1920, Attorney General Mitchell Palmer attempted to cast a wide net and compiled a list which named almost 60,000 supposedly "hyphenated American" dangerous radicals. Only a small fraction of them were actually deported, but the threat of deportation was quite real for most of them.

As a conscientious objector to World War I and the main writer and publisher of the Socialist Philadelphia Free Press (the predecessor of the Philadelphia Free Press of the 1960's-1970's), as well as a member of the Soldiers and Sailors Workingmen's Councils (a division of the IWW), and of course as someone who had not been born in the USA (he came here at the age of 3), my grandfather was a prime target for the Palmer Raids. The District Attorney of Pennsylvania, Francis Fisher Kane, was sympathetic to the accused and denounced the injustice of the raids. His office managed to tip off some of the potential targets. My grandfather was not even able to say goodbye to his mom; the contact arranged to get word to her.

His printing press was smashed, as was Marat's in the French Revolution.

He went south that evening and ended up working for different papers in Delaware, North Carolina and Georgia until the raids stopped and it was safe for him to go back north. By then, my great grandmother had relocated from Philadelphia to New York, and my grandfather became acquainted with the Village (Greenwich Village) and made many friends.

He also found out that two of his best friends had been deported in the Raids.

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