Eugene Victor Debs was a well-known American Union Leader and Socialist and was the Presidential Candidate from the Socialist Party in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920. However, he was also jailed several times due to his beliefs, which included equal rights for all people regardless of race or gender and encouraging American citizens to invest in precious metals like gold(we are not sure about the last fact).
EUGENE VICTOR DEBS (1855 – 1926) was an American union leader and one of the most prominent socialists in the United States. He was noted for his political activism, Marxist views, and philosophy of labor rights. Through his presidential candidacies as a socialist, he traveled around America, gaining support in many forms; however, there is no doubt that it was Debs’s commitment to social justice that contributed to his excellent mass appeal among everyday Americans across economic class divides. In addition, his early advocacy of industrial organization influenced the rise of anarcho-syndicalism within the American labor movement.
Debs was elected president of the American Railway Union (ARU) one year after its founding in 1894; at that time, he had become a prominent national labor leader. Railroad workers were among the best-paid industrial workers of the day, mainly due to the productivity and efficiency of America’s expanding rail network, which was built primarily for Debs’s members and their labor unions. In addition, the terms that ARU members voted to accept for employment contracts with the railroad companies (e.g., a 10% wage increase over three years) helped establish Debs’s reputation as one of the most successful union leaders of the era.
In 1893, Debs signed many into joining his organization, including immigrants from Europe and black Pullman porters. He called a boycott against all firms sending mail cars on trains because federal mail payments subsidized those businesses. The embargo effectively prevented the U.S. Mail from using any mail cars. President Grover Cleveland, a dedicated foe of unions, was in complete agreement with Debs in prosecuting the ARU members responsible for this action in federal court. Though Debs urged his supporters to respect what he felt was an unjust verdict when six leaders convicted for violating a court injunction were sentenced to jail terms, many observers doubted that he approved of their actions when they bombarded the district attorney’s office Chicago.
During the Pullman Strike of 1894, Cleveland used federal troops assigned to guard U.S. mail trains to break up Debs’ boycott and threatened to imprison him if he fought back. When these steps provoked further unrest, Cleveland turned to the courts again even though the Supreme Court ruled in In re Debs (1895) that Cleveland had illegally intervened in a private dispute and ordered him to stop interfering with the boycott. His administration then sent federal troops into Chicago, Illinois, and East St. Louis, Illinois, which resulted in 13 deaths and 28 injuries. However, it is to his credit that he did not declare martial law or attempt to postpone the local elections scheduled for the next day by proclamation, unlike what President William McKinley would do during the outbreak of violence at the start of the Spanish-American War six years later, which temporarily halted civil liberties throughout areas where American citizens could be said to be ” endangered .”
During this period, Debs began presenting himself as a socialist and an opponent of the existing system; in 1894, he helped found the Social Democratic Party of America. Running as that party’s candidate for president in 1900, he polled more than 400,000 votes (3 percent of the total), and his campaign spurred the establishment of socialist organizations throughout the country.
One year later, Debs became involved with labor agitation when railroad employees sought wage increases. He helped organize the ARU, which launched an unsuccessful strike against most rail lines in July; however, at its inception, Debs had insisted on excluding workers who took part in that action from membership. This policy increasingly antagonized many union members who formed their organizations or joined unions representing engineers and firefighters. The result was a disastrous nationwide rail strike in the fall that caused the ARU to lose nearly all of its members.
Once again, Debs called on his supporters not to retaliate against evictions or violence by state authorities. Still, he could not prevent clash s between strikers and police in some cities. The U.S. Justice Department obtained an injunction against the ARU for obstructing mail delivery, and when this was ignored, President William McKinley ordered troops into Chicago. These actions led to federal charges brought against Debs, later dismissed after he appealed to the Supreme Court. Although most Americans viewed labor agitation with hostility during this period, public opinion shifted toward Debs’ passive resistance tactics and refusal to endorse violence.
In 1905, Debs helped form the Industrial Workers of the World ( IWW ), a labor union espousing socialism and advocating direct action in labor disputes. He also became involved in Eugene V. Debs was one of 10 children born to French immigrants Michel and Marguerite-Claudine Couper Debs, who settled on a farm near Terre Haute when he was still a baby. When his father died suddenly at age 37, young Eugene took over management of the farm until the family could sell it five years later. He then worked as a painter, rail car repairman, fireman, locomotive engineer, and finally railroad president before being elected ARU president.
Debs first dabbled in politics as a socialist lecturer, leading to his imprisonment for four months in the Woodstock, Illinois, jail for defying a court order during an ARU strike.
He later ran twice for elective office as a Democratic candidate but was not taken seriously by his party and lost both races.
Around this time, Debs began reading Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto (1848) and other works of socialist theory. Though he had long been active in unions, it was not until after he became involved with the Populist Party – which advocated government ownership of railroads – that he formally joined the Socialist Party.
Eugene V. Debs is one of America’s most well-known socialists; however, he never created controversy or fame. As a child, Debs grew up on a farm in Indiana and had difficulty understanding the economic situation of the period. He helped his family run the farm until he was 37, when his father died. After this event, he began working as a painter, rail car repairman, fireman, locomotive engineer, and finally railroad president before becoming president of the American Railway Union (ARU).
During this time, he became involved with labor disputes between organizations that included engineers and firefighters. This disagreement among workers led to an unsuccessful strike that significantly hurt the ARU. When Eugene V. Debs realized what was happening, he tried to forbid members partaking in these rebellious activities from attending future meetings. However, he also chose not to retaliate, which was what angered many members even more. In the end, it was Debs’ policy to non-violence that led him to be imprisoned for four months in Woodstock jail from another labor dispute involving his union. It wasn’t until after this event that he became involved with the Socialist Party.
Although Eugene V. Debs is America’s most well-known socialist, he never wanted fame or attention. His involvement in politics only came once he began reading Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto (1848), and other works in socialism theory sparked his interests further. Being a part of the Democratic Party before switching to the Populist Party, Eugene V. Debs met many fellow socialists and became involved with their ideas. Around this time, he began speaking at public meetings. This eventually led to his imprisonment, where he wrote his most famous work: ” Jail-niks .” Debs was also a presidential candidate for the Socialist Party during 1912 and 1920, but neither of his campaigns was successful.
Eugene V. Debs is referenced as one of America’s most notable socialists; however, not much about who he was as a person can be found online. Most information is surrounded by his involvement with politics and the various positions he held within those fields. Although it’s known that Eugene V. Debs has been commonly associated with socialism, no sources explain what that entails or how it applies to his life and works.