Sheep magazine Archive 2: issues 10-17

AlfRodchenko

Lefty online magazine: issue 10, May 2016 to issue 17, November 2016

He ran again in 1904 (gaining 3 percent

of the vote) and 1908 (3 percent again).

Then came a great upsurge in struggle as

major strikes swept the US from 1909 to

1913. The IWW led local general strikes

in Lawrence and Patterson.

Debs’ 1912 campaign was part of this

movement. He campaigned across the

country, drawing in huge crowds who

would gladly listen to him speak for two

hours. He won 6 percent of the vote, the

highest figure ever for a socialist.

His Socialist Party of America (SPA) had

real roots. US labour historian Melvyn

Dubofsky writes, “By 1914 the party had

elected two members of Congress, and

counted a membership of over 100,000.

At various times between 1910 and

1916 the SPA controlled municipal

governments in Schenectady, New York;

Reading, Pennsylvania; Milwaukee,

Wisconsin; Dayton and Toledo, Ohio;

Granite City, Illinois; Butte, Montana;

Berkeley, California, and numerous other

cities.”

As in every other part of the world, the

First World War divided socialists. Debs

was utterly against the slaughter and

agitated against it. In 1918 he made

a speech against the call-up for the

military and was arrested on ten counts of

sedition. He was sentenced to ten years in

jail.

After conviction he spoke from the

dock. “I am opposing a social order

in which it is possible for one man

who does absolutely nothing that is

useful to amass a fortune of hundreds

of millions of dollars, while millions

of men and women who work all the

days of their lives secure barely enough

for a wretched existence. Years ago I

recognised my kinship with all living

beings, and I made up my mind that I

was not one bit better than the meanest

on earth. I said then, and I say now, that

while there is a lower class, I am in it,

and while there is a criminal element,

I am of it, and while there is a soul in

prison, I am not free.”

From prison he secured nearly a

million votes in the 1920 election, an

extraordinary tribute to his popularity. But

prison broke his health and he died in

1926.

23

MAY DAY 2016

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