Today in labor history: Eugene Debs sentenced to 10 years for opposing WWI

Eighty-seven years ago today, Eugene Debs (1855-1926) was sentenced to 10 years in prison for opposing U.S. Entry into World War I.

One year after the Espionage and Sedition Act  was voted into law, Debs was in Canton, Ohio for a Socialist Party convention.

He was arrested for making a speech considered “anti-war” by the Canton district attorney.

In his speech Debs had said, “They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and have yourself slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world, you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war.

“And as strange as it may seem, never in any age has war ever been declared by the people.”

“Do not worry over the charge of treason to your masters but be concerned about the treason that involves yourselves, ” he said.

“Be true to yourself and you cannot be a traitor to any good cause on earth.

“Years ago I recognized my kinship will all living beings, and made up my mind that that I was not one bit better than the meanesst on earth. I said then, and I say now that if there is a lower class, I am init; if there is a criminal element, I am of it; if there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

The Espionage and Sedition Act is still on the books today.

Photo: Eugene Debs in 1897, via Wikipedia.

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Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.

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