Debs,in search of self.

Matthew X profrv at
Tue May 11 09:59:21 PDT 1999 The Anti-war Speech That 
Earned Eugene Debs 10 Years in PrisonProminent labor organizer and 
political activist Eugene Debs delivered a speech at a Socialist Party 
convention in Canton, Ohio, on 16 June 1918. Because of it, he was 
prosecuted under the Sedition Act for interfering with the draft, leading 
to a 10-year prison sentence and the stripping of his US citizenship. (He 
ended up serving 2 years and 8 months in the slammer; President Warren G. 
Harding commuted his sentence.) Interestingly, Debs ran for President on 
the Socialist Party ticket five times, with the last time occurring while 
he was in prison. He received almost one million votes. The Memory Hole is 
presenting this speech for many reasons. Besides its historical value, we 
believe any speech which caused its speaker to be imprisoned is worth 
saving. And you may notice that as the current administration bangs the 
drum for war against Iraq, Afghanistan, and 60 other countries, the 
anti-war portions of this speech are as relevant now as they were 84 years 
ago. Anti-war portions of Debs' speech 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. If war is right let it be declared by the 
people. You who have your lives to lose, you certainly above all others 
have the right to decide the momentous issue of war or peace.... You need 
at this time especially to know that you are fit for something better than 
slavery and cannon fodder. You need to know that you were not created to 
work and produce and impoverish yourself to enrich an idle exploiter. You 
need to know that you have a mind to improve, a soul to develop, and a 
manhood to sustain.... They are continually talking about your patriotic 
duty. It is not their but your patriotic duty that they are concerned 
about. There is a decided difference. Their patriotic duty never takes them 
to the firing line or chucks them into the trenches. And now among other 
things they are urging you to "cultivate" war gardens, while at the same 
time a government war report just issued shows that practically 52 percent 
of the arable, tillable soil is held out of use by the landlords, 
speculators and profiteers. They themselves do not cultivate the soil. Nor 
do they allow others to cultivate it. They keep it idle to enrich 
themselves, to pocket the millions of dollars of unearned increment.... 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. 
Alternative Press Review -
Your Guide Beyond the Mainstream
PO Box 4710 - Arlington, VA 22204

More information about the cypherpunks-legacy mailing list