Monday, October 16, 2017

Debs, Antiwar Canton Speech. Debs was no Sandernista.

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

What an heroic figure Eugene V Debs was. He was a true revolutionary, an American socialist, a union leader who led the great Pullman Strike. Debs was not perfect, he was a human being. He ran for president three times, the last time getting close to one million votes while in prison for opposing the war.  It is no accident so many US workers have no idea who he was, have never heard of him. Like all revolutionaries, they are either slandered like Che Guevara and eventually executed, photoshopped from history to use a modern term like Stalin did to photos with Trotsky in them eventually having him assassinated him in Mexico City.

In other examples they are reduced almost to celebrity status, having days named after them, schools, freeways and streets like two other great American revolutionaries of the 20th century, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, their ideas, what they actually stood for obscured in this carnival like atmosphere. The only concession made to these two is that they fought for black people, a concession forced on the state due to the tremendous influence they had and pressure from the black working class. And even then their lives are romanticized. But they were much more than soldiers fighting racism and for black freedom. King led a mass movement, Malcom X, once hostile to Martin Luther King recognized his mistake, the limits of nationalism, and saw the struggle for black emancipation was connected to the struggle for all oppressed peoples.  They both challenged the state and capitalism in their own way, Malcolm X moving closer to socialism as was King at the end of their lives. These two were also assassinated, like Che Guevara by the capitalist state.

Please you young people drawn to Bernie Sanders for all the right reasons, his rhetoric directed at the excesses of capitalism, his voicing what he sees, as did Trump from the right, the discontent, the anger that lies beneath the surface of US society, please don't allow this fraud to usurp the legacy of Debs. Many liberals do this, Debs was not a reformist, he savaged capitalism, Sanders rarely if ever uses the term socialism and certainly doesn't offer any sort of alternative to capitalism. Debs did not point to the capitalist parties as a way out. Sanders had an opportunity to build an independent working class movement and refused. This was no accident.

Read about Debs, familiarize yourself with the great radical aspect of US history, with all its failings.
Debs is a giant compared to the pro-capitalist business friendly heads of organized labor today. They  have to removed from their positions by a rising tide of militant rank and file opossition. My guess is that prior to the rise of the CIO, and the emergence of US supreme dominance in the aftermath of the Second World War, US workers didn't refer to themselves as being middle class.
This is a decent biography of Debs: 

Philip Foner's History of the Labor Movement will have a lot on Debs including the Pullman Strike, the IWW (Vol 4) and the period prior to WW1. There are also numerous books covering his speeches. This one above is his famous Canton Speech that got him in jail.


Scott Nelson said...

I have a Facebook page dedicated to Debs. It contains quotes from his speeches and articles, some info on life, and links to other Debs-related pages and events. Would like to share if permitted.

Richard Mellor said...

Send me the link to it at the e mail address on this blog and I'll put it in to this post or send it here as a comment