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Republic & Democracy in the 20 th Century: Eugene V. Debs This order of things cannot always endure. (Political Science 565)

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Presentation on theme: "Republic & Democracy in the 20 th Century: Eugene V. Debs This order of things cannot always endure. (Political Science 565)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Republic & Democracy in the 20 th Century: Eugene V. Debs This order of things cannot always endure. (Political Science 565)

2 5 Minutes on Marxism Dialectical materialism – Laws of history Class & the Means of Production – Aristocracy Land – Bourgeoisie Capital – Proletariat Labor Internal contradictions of a social order bear seeds of replacement by new hegemonic class Capitalism the most revolutionary system State as the executive committee of the ruling class 2

3 Eugene V. Debs Labor Leader – Founder American Railway Uniion (1 st American industrial union), IWW – Becomes a Socialist after Pullman Strike Socialist Party candidate for Presidency 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1920 – Ran from prison in 1920, after conviction under Sedition Act Re: Debs: That old man with the burning eyes actually believes that there can be such a thing as the brotherhood of man. And that's not the funniest part of it. As long as he's around I believe it myself. 3

4 How I Became a Socialist In 1894 the American Railway Union was organized and a braver body of men never fought the battle of the working class. – Up to this time I had heard but little of Socialism, knew practically nothing about the movement, and what little I did know was not calculated to impress me in its favor. I was bent on thorough and complete organization of the railroad men and ultimately the whole working class, and all my time and energy were given to that end. My supreme conviction was that if they were only organized in every branch of the service and all acted together in concert they could redress their wrongs and regulate the conditions of their employment. – The stockholders of the corporation acted as one, why not the men? It was such a plain propositionsimply to follow the example set before their eyes by their masterssurely they could not fail to see it, act as one, and solve the problem. 4

5 After a series of ARU victories, Next followed the final shockthe Pullman strikeand the American Railway Union again won, clear and complete. The combined corporations were paralized and helpless. – At this juncture there were delivered, from wholly unexpected quarters, a swift succession of blows that blinded me for an instant and then opened wide my eyesand in the gleam of every bayonet and the flash of every rifle the class struggle was revealed. This was my first practical lesson in Socialism, though wholly unaware that it was called by that name. 5

6 The Pullman Strike 1894, Chicago Employees of Pullman Palace Car Co. go on wildcat strike – Wages had been cut, but rents in company housing remained as they were – Delegation sent to talk to management, gets fired Strike Racial tensions Mail cars also stopped, Pres. Cleveland 12,000 soldiers 3,000 US Marshals sent to break strike over objections of state & city officials – 5,000 Deputies 6

7 Debs response to Cleveland 1904 – Cleveland had written a piece for McClures, Debs response unpublished I aver that [Cleveland] received every particle of his information from the capitalist side, that he was prompted to act by the capitalist side, that his official course was determined wholly, absolutely by and in the interest of the capitalist side, and that no more thought or consideration was given to the other side, the hundreds of thousands of working men, whose lives and whose wives and babes were at stake, than if they had been so many swine or sheep that had balked on their way to the shambles. (2) 7

8 From the federal judge who sat on the bench as the protegé of the late George M. Pullman, to whose influence he was indebted for his appointment as he was to the railroad companies for the annual passes he had in his pocket down to the last thug sworn in by the railroads and paid by the railroads (pg. 340, Report of Strike Commission) to serve the railroads as United States deputy marshals, the one object of the federal court and its officers was not the enforcement of law and the preservation of order, but the breaking up of the strike in the interest of the railroad corporations. – Judge Woods imprisons strikers w/o trial – Who owns the state? 8

9 During the strike the late George M. Pullman was summoned to appear before the federal court to give testimony. He at once had his private car attached to an eastbound train and left the city, treating the court with sovereign contempt. – On his return, accompanied by Robert Todd Lincoln, his attorney, he had a tête-à-tête with the court in chambers, and that ended the matter. He was not required to testify nor to appear in open court. The striker upon whom there fell even the suspicion of a shadow of contempt was sentenced and jailed with alacrity. Not one was spared, not one invited to a heart-to-heart with his honor in chambers." (2-3) – Whose law? Whose justice? 9

10 Offices, records, communications searched & subpoenaed from ARU, but not from Pullman Co. At the time President Cleveland and his Attorney General, Richard Olney, designated Edwin Walker, upon recommendation of the railroads, as special counsel to the government, for which alleged service he was paid a fee that amounted to a fortune, the said Edwin Walker was already the regular counsel of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. – Does it not indicate clearly that the railroads controlled the government, that Pres. Cleveland did the bidding of the General Managers Association? (4) 10

11 Suppose that President Cleveland had appointed Clarence S. Darrow, attorney for the American Railway Union, instead of Edwin Walker, attorney of the General Managers Association, as special counsel to the government! – Suppose hed had the offices of the General Managers Association sacked, papers confiscated, offices put under guard – Suppose he had sworn in an army of thugs, thieves, and ex- convicts (see official report of Michael Brennan, superintendent of Chicago police to the Council of Chicago) to serve the American Railway Union as deputy United States marshals and conservators of peace and order! Would anyone in possession of his senses believe that these things had been done to protect life and property and preserve law and order? (5) 11

12 Michael Brennan, superintendent of the Chicago police, knew it and denounced the deputy marshals, Edwin Walkers hirelings, the General Managers Associations incendiaries and sluggers, as thugs, thieves, and ex-convicts. – The only trouble there was when the deputies were sworn in, followed by the soldiers, was that there was no trouble. That is the secret of subsequent proceedings. The railroads were paralyzed. Profound peace reigned. (6-7) Peace and order were fatal to the railroad corporations. Violence was necessary to them as peace was to the employees. They realized that victory could only be snatched from labor by an appeal to violence in the name of peace. (7) – Deputies incite violence, start fires (no Pullman cars burned), riots (no strikers implicated), capitalist media spread word of chaos public demands order, vilifies strikers 12

13 To whose interest was it to have riots and res, lawlessness and crime? To whose advantage was it to have disreputable deputies do these things? Why were only freight cars, largely hospital wrecks, set on re? Why have the railroads not yet recovered damages from Cook County, Illinois, for failing to protect their property? Why are they so modest and patient with their suits? The riots and incendiarism turned defeat into victory for the railroads. They could have won in no other way. They had everything to gain and the strikers everything to lose. (10) – Perjury & manipulations of court – Mysterious illness of a juror, trial suspended (10-12) 13

14 The Supreme Court of the United States, consisting wholly of trained and successful corporation lawyers, affirmed the proceedings and President Cleveland says that they have written the concluding words of this history. Did the Supreme Court of the United States write the concluding words in the history of chattel slavery when it handed down Chief Justice Taneys decision that black man had no rights that the white man was bound to respect? (7) 14

15 John Brown: Historys Greatest Hero Few people dared on that fateful day to breathe a sympathetic word for the grizzled old agitator. – Old John Brown set an example of moral courage and of single- hearted devotion to an ideal for all men and for all ages. With every drop of his honest blood he hated slavery, and in his early manhood he resolved to lay his life on Freedoms alter in wiping out that insufferable affliction. He never faltered. So God- like was his unconquerable soul that he dared to face the world alone. – How perfectly sublime! He did not reckon the overwhelming numbers against him, nor the paltry few that were on his side. This grosser aspect of the issue found no lodgment in his mind or heart. He was right and Jehovah was with him. His was not to reckon consequences, but to strike the immortal blow and step from the gallows to the throne of God. 15

16 Not for earthly glory did John Brown wage his holy warfare; not for any recognition or reward the people had it in their power to bestow. His great heart was set upon a higher goal, animated by a loftier ambition. His grand soul was illuminated by a sublimer ideal. A race of human beings, lowly and despised, were in chains, and this festering crime was eating out the heart of civilization. – In the presence of this awful plague logic was silent, reason dumb, pity dead. The wrath of retibutive justice, long asleep, awakened at last and hurled its lurid bolt. Old John Brown struck the blow and the storm broke. That hour chattel slavery was dead. – In the first frightful convulsion the slave power seized the grand old liberator by the throat, put him in irons and threw him into a dungeon to await execution. Who shall be the John Brown of Wage-Slavery? 16

17 Race & Class The white man in the south declares that the nigger is all right in his place; that is, as menial, servant and slave. If he dare hold up his head, feel the thrill of manhood in his veins and nurse the hope that some day may bring deliverance; if in his brain the thought of freedom dawns and in his heart the aspiration to rise above the animal plane and propensities of his sires, he must be made to realize that notwithstanding the white man is civilized (?) the black man is a nigger still and must so remain as long as planets wheel in space. – But while the white man is considerate enough to tolerate the Negro in his place, the remotest suggestion at social recognition arouses all the pent-up wrath of his Anglo-Saxon civilization; and my observation is that the less real ground there is for such indignant assertion of self -superiority, the more passionately it is proclaimed. 17

18 At Yoakum, Texas, a few days ago, leaving the depot with two grips in my hands, I passed four or five bearers of the white mans burden perched on a railing and decorating their environment with tobacco juice. One of them, addressing me, said: Theres a nigger thatll carry your grips. A second one added: Thats what hes here for, and the third chimed in with Thats right, by God. – Here was a savory bouquet of white superiority. One glance was sufficient to satisfy me that they represented all there is of justification for the implacable hatred of the Negro race. They were ignorant, lazy, unclean, totally void of ambition, themselves the foul product of the capitalist system and held in lowest contempt by the master class, yet esteeming themselves immeasurably above the cleanest, most intelligent and self- respecting Negro, having by reflex absorbed the nigger hatred of their masters. 18

19 But of all the senseless agitation in capitalist society, that in respect to social equality takes the palm. The very instant it is mentioned the old aristocratic plantation owners shrill cry about the buck nigger marrying the fair young daughter of his master is heard from the tomb and echoed and re-echoed across the spaces and repeated by the white trash in proud vindication of their social superiority. – This phase of the Negro question is pure fraud and serves to mask the real issue, which is not social equality, BUT ECONOMIC FREEDOM. There never was any social inferiority that was not the shrivelled fruit of economic inequality. 19

20 I have said and say again that, properly speaking, there is no Negro question outside of the labor questionthe working class struggle. When Marx said: Workingmen of all countries unite, he gave concrete expression to the socialist philosophy of the class struggle; unlike the framers of the Declaration of Independence who announced that all men are created equal and then basely repudiated their own doctrine, Marx issued the call to all the workers of the globe, regardless of race, sex, creed or any other condition whatsoever. – As a social party we receive the Negro and all other races upon absolutely equal terms. We are the party of the working class, the whole working class, and we will not suffer ourselves to be divided by any specious appeal to race prejudice; and if we should be coaxed or driven from the straight road we will be lost in the wilderness and ought to perish there, for we shall no longer be a Socialist party. 20

21 Sedition Conviction June 16, 1918, Debs gives speech urging resistance to WWI draft Wilson calls him a traitor to his country Sentenced to 10 years President Harding commutes sentence to time served in 1923 On return to Terre Haute, IN, greeted by crowd of 50,000 and marching bands 21

22 Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free. – Your Honor, I have stated in this court that I am opposed to the social system in which we live; that I believe in a fundamental changebut if possible by peaceable and orderly means, Standing here this morning, I recall my boyhood. At fourteen I went to work in a railroad shop; at sixteen I was firing a freight engine on a railroad. I remember all the hardships and privations of that earlier day, and from that time until now my heart has been with the working class. I could have been in Congress long ago. I have preferred to go to prison… 22

23 if there are still vast numbers of our people who are the victims of poverty and whose lives are an unceasing struggle all the way from youth to old age, until at last death comes to their rescue and lulls these hapless victims to dreamless sleep, it is not the fault of the Almighty: it cannot be charged to nature, but it is due entirely to the outgrown social system in which we live that ought to be abolished not only in the interest of the toiling masses but in the higher interest of all humanity… – I believe, Your Honor, in common with all Socialists, that this nation ought to own and control its own industries. I believe, as all Socialists do, that all things that are jointly needed and used ought to be jointly ownedthat industry, the basis of our social life, instead of being the private property of a few and operated for their enrichment, ought to be the common property of all, democratically administered in the interest of all… 23

24 I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence. This order of things cannot always endure. – Your Honor, I ask no mercy and I plead for no immunity. I realize that finally the right must prevail. I never so clearly comprehended as now the great struggle between the powers of greed and exploitation on the one hand and upon the other the rising hosts of industrial freedom and social justice. 24

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