Debs 1904 Campaign Poster

Imagine if you could make a Ron Paul and Johnny Cash blended-clone.  The best part about having such an audacious reader-base is that I can write about this guy and you will see exactly why he was/is so cool.

We’re talking about a guy who was so bad-ass that he left home at 14 to go to work. He got a job working on trains as a fireman. Seriously? A train fireman at 14? Who else does that? That’s hard-core. He worked there for a few years then came back home and ended up in politics. I am truly marginalizing this man’s accomplishments to hold onto your 21st century attention span for the last moment before I have you in my literary clutches.

He is important to today’s blog because:-

  1. In 1895 he went to prison for 6 months for speaking out about US involvement in WWI.
  2. He studies Karl Marx during his 6 mo prison sentence
  3. In 1897 he came out of prison and formed the Democratic Socialist Party, eventually named more efficiently the Socialist Party
  4. He ran for president 5 times under the Socialist Party from 1900 to 1912.
  5. He made a speech (RECITED HERE BY MARK RUFFALO   MUST CLICK) in Canton Ohio against War that he was sentenced a 10 year prison sentence for.
  6. The last time he ran in 1912 EUGENE DEBS WAS THE ONLY PERSON TO EVER RUN FOR PRESIDENT FROM PRISON. He received nearly a million votes, and was later pardoned by the winning presidential candidate, Harding.
  7. The corporate business owners were behaving like slave owners to the workers. America wasn’t that far out of Civil War.
  8. That the funneling of capitalist profits into government laws promoting favoritism towards large business  happened 100 years ago, AND in the exact same way it is trying to happen again today.

Who is this amazing man who there must obviously be much written about? Eugene Victor Debs. His parents named him after a French poet and Victor Hugo. I think Americans need to re-examine their roots that are buried. He is today’s Renewed American Hero.

1904 Socialist Party Campaign Poster

Debs and the Socialist Party were strong opponents of the First World War. He argued that the conflict had been caused by the imperialist competitive system. In an article in September 1915 he wrote: “I am not opposed to all war, nor am I opposed to fighting under all circumstances, and any declaration to the contrary would disqualify me as a revolutionist. When I say I am opposed to war I mean ruling class war, for the ruling class is the only class that makes war. It matters not to me whether this war be offensive or defensive, or what other lying excuse may be invented for it, I am opposed to it, and I would be shot for treason before I would enter such a war.

He compared business owners to slave owners. He argued that to ask “what can be done to help the condition of the American Worker?” was a degrading, dehumanizing question. It was the same thing that southern slave-owners would mutter with blushed cheeks across clean tables. The speech that he wrote got me right there- (insert dramatic knife stab to heart)

Debs: A Call to the People [Aug. 23, 1897]
by Eugene V. Debs
Published in The Social Democrat [Chicago], v. 4, no. 18
To the Social Democracy and all Lovers of Liberty and Fair Play, Greeting:

A mass convention will be held at St. Louis, Monday, August 30th [1897], in the interest of the striking, starving coal miners. The official call
has been issued by the Executive Board of the United Mine Workers and endorsed by the executive heads of the American Federation of Labor
and the Knights of Labor. I understand that this convention is called not to pass idle resolutions, but to take prompt, vigorous, and united action, and this being the case, i appeal to the Social Democracy and to all lovers of Liberty and Humanity to meet at St. Louis on the day named to lend a hand to the stricken, suffering miners of the country. The injunction has again done its deadly work. Constitutional liberty has been bludgeoned to death and labor has been bound and gagged for the perpetual exploitation of corporate capital. There is no relief in the courts. We have tried them all, from the bottom to the top, and they are all against labor. So far as I am a concerned we will appeal no more. We will now appeal to the American people.

Judges, the creatures of the plutocracy, rule the country by injunction. From justice of the peace to justice of the Supreme Court, the injunction has full sway. American citizens are forbidden to open their lips or to walk on the public highway.

Sheriffs, marshals, and other petty officers issue proclamations and then proceed to shoot and club workingmen if they are not as servile and
obedient as if they were so many savages off their reservation.

That there has been no violence and bloodshed in the miners’ strike is simply because the judges and sheriffs and deputies have been unable
to provoke an outbreak. The miners have patiently, meekly submitted to the most flagrant insults and abuses.

The hour has struck to call a halt. The cowardly, brutal, and wholly un-American reign of injunctional government has got to end.


We do not ask the courts or the authorities to help these perishing toilers, but we do demand that they take their cruel clutches from the throats of the workingmen and allow them to help themselves in lawful ways. The Pittsburgh operators have declared that they will open their mines if they have got to do it with Gatling guns. No injunction has been issued and no soldier has been called out to restrain them from executing their murderous designs. Injunctions, soldiers, marshals, deputies, thugs, and jails are for the exclusive benefit of the workingmen.

Under the rule of the money power, labor is plundered until the starvation point is reached and then its emaciated body is shot full of holes. It is notoriously true that the American miners have been robbed in countless ways, and now that they are hungry, it is proposed to murder them.

The horrors of Siberia are not of greater enormity. Every atom of American manhood revolts against the spectacle.

Judges by the usurpation of power, playing the role of tyrants, have annihilated the constitution, abrogated the right of trial by jury, forbidden free speech, suppressed peaceable assemblage, and transformed our republic into an absolute despotism. They are guilty of judicial treason and should be made to answer at the bar of an outraged people. The issue has been forced upon us and we have retreated before it to the verge of slavery. Let us now meet it as it would have been met by the patriots of 1776.

Eugene V. Debs,
Terre Haute, Ind., August 23, 1897.
Edited by Tim Davenport.

In the 1912 Presidential Election during the campaign Debs explained why people should vote for him: “You must either vote for or against your own material interests as a wealth producer; there is no political purgatory in this nation of ours, despite the desperate efforts of so-called Progressive capitalists politicians to establish one. Socialism alone represents the material heaven of plenty for those who toil and the Socialist Party alone offers the political means for attaining that heaven of economic plenty which the toil of the workers of the world provides in unceasing and measureless flow. Capitalism represents the material hell of want and pinching poverty of degradation and prostitution for those who toil and in which you now exist, and each and every political party, other than the Socialist Party, stands for the perpetuation of the economic hell of capitalism. For the first time in all history you who toil possess the power to peacefully better your own condition. The little slip of paper which you hold in your hand on election day is more potent than all the armies of all the kings of earth.

Here are some more Eugene Debs Speeches. They are all pretty bad-ass. BTW there were a lot of other writer’s like Carl Sandburg and Jack London who were part of his political movement, too.

He is today’s role model because he had what it took to do what it takes. I want that for all of us. Anything he wrote 115 years ago is still true. We should do something about that…