Eugene V. Debs, fully Eugene Victor Debs

Eugene V.
Debs, fully Eugene Victor Debs
1855
1926

American Socialist Leader, Union leader, one of the founding members of the International Labor Union and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and several times Presidential Candidate of the Socialist Party of America, Imprisoned for his opposition to WWI

Author Quotes

Foolish and vain indeed is the workingman who makes the color of his skin the stepping-stone to his imaginary superiority. The trouble is with his head, and if he can get that right he will find that what ails him is not superiority but inferiority, and that he, as well as the Negro he despises, is the victim of wage-slavery, which robs him of what he produces and keeps both him and the Negro tied down to the dead level of ignorance and degradation.

I would rather be friendless out on the American desert than to be friendless in New York or Chicago.

Now my friends, I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man’s business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man. Thousands of years ago the question was asked; ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society.

The collective ownership and control of industry and its democratic management in the interest of all the people. That is the demand.

The political solidarity of the working class means the death of despotism, the birth of freedom, the sunrise of civilization.

Wage-labor is but a name; wage-slavery is the fact.

Am I my brother's keeper? [That frequently asked question] has never been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society. Yes, I am my brother's keeper. I am under a moral obligation to him that is inspired, not by maudlin sentimentality, but by the higher duty I owe myself.

For myself, I want no advantage over my fellow man, and if he is weaker than I, all the more is it my duty to help him.

If ever I become entirely respectable I shall be quite sure that I have outlived myself.

Of course, Socialism is violently denounced by the capitalist press and by all the brood of subsidized contributors to magazine literature, but this only confirms the view that the advance of Socialism is very properly recognized by the capitalist class as the one cloud upon the horizon which portends an end to the system in which they have waxed fat, insolent and despotic through the exploitation of their countless wage-working slaves.

The earth is for all the people. That is the demand.

The Republican and Democratic parties are alike capitalist parties — differing only in being committed to different sets of capitalist interests — they have the same principles under varying colors, are equally corrupt and are one in their subservience to capital and their hostility to labor.

War, bloody war, must be ended by the working class.

And now for all of us to do our duty! The clarion call is ringing in our ears and we cannot falter without being convicted of treason to ourselves and to our great cause. Do not worry over the charge of treason to your masters, but be concerned about the treason that involves yourselves. Be true to yourself and you cannot be a traitor to any good cause on earth. Yes, in good time we are going to sweep into power in this nation and throughout the world. We are going to destroy all enslaving and degrading capitalist institutions and re-create them as free and humanizing institutions. The world is daily changing before our eyes. The sun of capitalism is setting; the sun of socialism is rising. It is our duty to build the new nation and the free republic.

From the crown of my head to the soles of my feet I am Bolshevik, and proud of it.

If it had not been for the discontent of a few fellows who had not been satisfied with their conditions, you would still be living in caves. Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.

People are never quite so strange to each other as when they are forced into artificial, crowded and stifled relationship. I would rather be friendless out on the American desert than to be friendless in New York or Chicago.

The Elgin writer says that we shall "jeopardize the best interests of the Socialist Party" if we insist upon the political equality of the Negro. I say that the Socialist Party would be false to its historic mission, violate the fundamental principles of Socialism, deny its philosophy and repudiate its own teachings if, on account of race considerations, it sought to exclude any human being from political equality and economic freedom. Then, indeed, would it not only "jeopardize" its best interests, but forfeit its very life, for it would soon be scorned and deserted as a thing unclean, leaving but a stench in the nostrils of honest men.

The rights of one are as sacred as the rights of a million.

Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. In the Middle Ages when the feudal lords who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war. The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another's throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell. The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose — especially their lives. They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people. And here let me emphasize the fact — and it cannot be repeated too often — that the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace. Yours not to reason why; Yours but to do and die. That is their motto and we object on the part of the awakening workers of this nation.

As a rule hogs are only raised where they have good health and grow fat. Any old place will do to raise human beings.

How stupid and shortsighted the ruling class really is! Cupidity is stone blind. It has no vision. The greedy, profit-seeking exploiter cannot see beyond the end of his nose. He can see a chance for an "opening"; he is cunning enough to know what graft is and where it is, and how it can be secured, but vision he has none — not the slightest. He knows nothing of the great throbbing world that spreads out in all directions. He has no capacity for literature; no appreciation of art; no soul for beauty. That is the penalty the parasites pay for the violation of the laws of life.

If it is a fact that after working for George M. Pullman for many years you appear two weeks after your work stops, ragged and hungry, it only emphasizes that the charge I made before this community, and Pullman stands before you a self-confessed robber....The paternalism of Pullman is the same as the self-interest of a slave-holder in his human chattels. You are striking to avert slavery and degradation.

Progress is born of agitation. It is agitation or stagnation.

The elimination of rent, interest, profit and the production of wealth to satisfy the wants of all the people. That is the demand.

Author Picture
First Name
Eugene V.
Last Name
Debs, fully Eugene Victor Debs
Birth Date
1855
Death Date
1926
Bio

American Socialist Leader, Union leader, one of the founding members of the International Labor Union and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and several times Presidential Candidate of the Socialist Party of America, Imprisoned for his opposition to WWI