Today in labor history: Socialist denied seat in Congress

On this day in 1919 Victor Berger, the first socialist elected to the U.S. Congress was denied his seat.

Berger was elected from Wisconsin’s 5th district. He was a founding member of the Social Democracy of America, the Social Democratic Party and later the Socialist Party.

Like Eugene Debs, Berger opposed the First World War. He was convicted under the Espionage Act which Congress used as the basis for vacating his seat.  The Supreme Court overturned Congress’ decision  He first successful election campaign to the House of Representatives was in 1910. He was returned to Congress three times after the war.

Berger befriended Gene Debs while in prison and helped win him to the the socialist cause. Debs credited the Congressman with introducing him to Karl Marx’s Capital.


Special to
Special to is a daily news website of, for and by the 99% and the direct descendant of the Daily Worker. Published by Long View Publishing Co., People’s World reports on the movements for jobs, peace, equality, democracy, civil rights and liberties, labor, immigrant, LGBT and women’s rights, protection of the environment, and more.