A collection of writings and speeches by one of the most radical of America's early 20th century labour leader which brings to life a once powerful Socialist movement. Eugene Victor Debs (1855-1926), one of America's most famous socialists, was an important political figure on the American political landscape in the early 20th century. He ran as the Socialist Party's (SP) presidential candidate five times and obtained nearly a million votes in 1912 and 1920.
Debs was born into a family from Alsace and started on work on the railways. He was an elegant and fiery writer and orator. His literature is a pleasure to read. Throughout the book, Debs rails against the injustices of capitalism, arguing for a socialist system based on political and industrial democracy. He defends workers and trade unions that are being assaulted by employers while advocating the formation of industrial unions and rejecting craft unions that only included skilled workers. At a time when Blacks faced segregation and hostility from whites, Debs, in several speeches and articles, makes it clear that class and not skin colour was the only important factor. "Foolish and vain is the working man who makes the colour of his skin the stepping stone to his imaginary superiority," laments Debs.
His writings witness to a broad and tolerant socialism. In "Sound Socialist Tactics" he opposes the SP leadership's attempts to limit debate. In "A Plea for Solidarity" Debs believed that the anarchist-led Industrial Workers of the World (for whom he had great respect) and their campaign of direct action and industrial sabotage alienated workers. The book is biographical in the sense that the speeches and articles paint a broader canvass of Debs' life. He writes that it was during his first time in jail, in 1894 for leading a strike of railroad workers, that he was led to become a socialist.