Communism on the Plains

Feb 5, 2018



On this date in 1920, the Hope Pioneer trumpeted warnings about the rise of communism. Over an article that included excerpts from the Communist Manifesto, the headline read that communists intended to “Overthrow World Order.”

The manifesto urged workers in all countries to unite under the communist banner to overthrow their bourgeois masters. It declared that great victories had already been won, holding out hope for the mistreated and underpaid workers of the world.

The United States government pushed back against the communist promises of a better world for workers. Another article in the same newspaper announced that the United States Department of Justice “Warns of Red Peril.” Americans were urged to guard against the menace of communism. The press, schools, labor unions, churches, and community groups like the Boy Scouts were encouraged to educate their members about the propaganda of the “Reds.” Washington called on all true Americans to fight to protect their homes, religion, and property from the growing threat of communism. Rather than a movement of people who loved liberty and freedom, the government said communism was criminal and dishonest.

Beginning in the early 1900s and continuing for several decades, the northern plains witnessed the rise of communist activity. The movement had appeal for struggling farmers. North and South Dakota as well as Montana had very active communist groups. Several counties elected communist officials on the Socialist Party ticket. Communism reached its height on the Great Plains in the 1930s during the Great Depression. The policies of President Roosevelt and Governor Langer provided relief to farmers and undercut communism’s “bread and butter” issues.

Belden, North Dakota is an example of a town that once had an active communist organization. The group sponsored athletics for young people through the Young Communist League. They also hosted dances, social events, and educational activities. Some members of the group even traveled to the Soviet Union.

If you travel to Belden today, you will not find much where the busy village once existed. The Post Office closed in 1986. The last store closed in 1993. About half a mile south on Route 8 is the site where the Belden Hall once stood. It was the communist meeting place. Nothing remains of the hall today. Even memories of it have faded, but at one time, it housed a thriving group that hoped for a better life through communism.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


Hope Pioneer. “Overthrow World Order Cry Communists.” “Warns Nation of Red Peril.” Hope, ND. 5 February 1920. Page 1

Patrick, Dennis M. “Communism on the High Plains.” The Dakota Beacon. 10 July 2012. Accessed 25 December 2017.