Eugene Victor Debs


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Debs, Eugene Victor

 

Born Nov. 5, 1855, in Terre Haute, Ind.; died Oct. 20, 1926, in Elmhurst, Ill. A figure in the workers’ movement of the United States.

When Debs was 14, he began working for a railroad. In 1893 he headed the American Railway Union. The following year Debs was sentenced to prison for his leadership of the Pullman strike of 1894. In 1897-98, he helped create the Social Democratic Party of the United States, which became known as the Socialist Party in 1900-01. Debs was one of the leaders of the left wing of the Socialist Party and opposed the policy of class collaboration pursued by the leaders of the American Federation of Labor. In 1905 he helped found the trade union the Industrial Workers of the World. He was the most popular leader among the working masses and was called “the American Bebel” by V. I. Lenin (see Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 32, p. 100). He was nominated for president by the Socialist Party in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920. During World War I (1914-18), Debs maintained an internationalist position. He hailed the Great October Socialist revolution in Russia and opposed anti-Soviet intervention. In 1918, Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison for his active struggle against the war. He was granted amnesty in 1921. In his last years, he vacillated on the question of creating a revolutionary workers’ party of the new type in the United States and on many other questions, but he later became aware of his errors.

WORKS

The Heritage of Gene Debs. Selections with a critical introduction by A. Trachtenberg. New York, 1955.

REFERENCES

Zubok, L. I. Ocherki istorii rabochego dvizheniia v SShA, 1865-1918. Moscow, 1962.
Ginger, R. The Bending Cross: A Biography of Eugene Debs. New Brunswick, 1949.

L. I. ZUBOK

References in periodicals archive ?
It sympathized with Eugene Victor Debs, who won almost one million votes in 1920 on the Socialist Party ticket, though Debs was in jail at the time for protesting World War I.
Not so with Eugene Victor Debs, the subject of a more genuinely adventurous and far more important biography, Harp Song for a Radical (Knopf, 1999) by Marguerite Young.
To rebuild them, the Senator's aides warned, he would have to abandon his continued calls for investigations of war profiteers and his passionate defense of socialist Eugene Victor Debs and others who had been jailed in the postwar Red Scare.
We are always in need of radicals who are also lovable, and so we would do well to remember Eugene Victor Debs.