The Battle Cry of Social Revolution: Eugene Deb's Canton, Ohio Speech
On June 16, 1918, Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs made a speech in Canton, Ohio protesting World War I. He was subsequently arrested for treason and sentenced to ten years in prison for his vocal opposition to the imperialist war. Debs ran for president from behind bars in 1920 and received 913,664 votes (3.4%). He was released in 1921 but was never able to recover his health from his years of imprisonment. He died in 1926.
This speech has always been a source of great inspiration for me, and is one of the most beautiful and inspiring socialist commentaries I know of. His words are more relevant today than ever.
The full text of the speech can be read here at the Marxist Internet Archive.
Here is an excerpt:
Socialism is a growing idea; an expanding philosophy. It is spreading over the entire face of the earth: It is as vain to resist it as it would be to arrest the sunrise on the morrow. It is coming, coming, coming all along the line. Can you not see it? If not, I advise you to consult an oculist. There is certainly something the matter with your vision. It is the mightiest movement in the history of mankind. What a privilege to serve it! I have regretted a thousand times that I can do so little for the movement that has done so much for me. The little that I am, the little that I am hoping to be, I owe to the Socialist movement. It has given me my ideas and ideals; my principles and convictions, and I would not exchange one of them for all of Rockefeller’s bloodstained dollars. It has taught me how to serve—a lesson to me of priceless value. It has taught me the ecstasy in the handclasp of a comrade. It has enabled me to hold high communion with you, and made it possible for me to take my place side by side with you in the great struggle for the better day; to multiply myself over and over again, to thrill with a fresh-born manhood; to feel life truly worthwhile; to open new avenues of vision; to spread out glorious vistas; to know that I am kin to all that throbs; to be class-conscious, and to realize that, regardless of nationality, race, creed, color or sex, every man, every woman who toils, who renders useful service, every member of the working class without an exception, is my comrade, my brother and sister—and that to serve them and their cause is the highest duty of my life.