Debs, Eugene V.


Debs, Eugene V.

▪ American social and labour leader
born November 5, 1855, Terre Haute, Indiana, U.S.
died October 20, 1926, Elmhurst, Illinois
 labour organizer and Socialist Party candidate for U.S. president five times between 1900 and 1920.

      Debs left home at age 14 to work in the railroad shops and later became a locomotive fireman. In 1875 he helped organize a local lodge of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, of which he was elected national secretary and treasurer in 1880. He also served as city clerk of Terre Haute (1879–83) and as a member of the Indiana legislature (1885).

      From his earliest days, Debs advocated the organization of labour by industry rather than by craft. After trying unsuccessfully to unite the various railroad brotherhoods of his day, he became president (1893) of the newly established American Railway Union. Debs successfully united railway workers from different crafts into the first industrial union in the United States. At the same time, industrial unionism was also being promoted by the Knights of Labor.

      Debs's union won national prominence when it conducted a successful strike for higher wages against the Great Northern Railway (Great Northern Railway Company) in April 1894. He gained greater renown when he was sentenced to six months in jail (May–November 1895) for his role in leading the Chicago Pullman Palace Car Company strike (Pullman Strike).

      During his prison term at Woodstock, Illinois, Debs was deeply influenced by his broad reading—including the works of Karl Marx (Marx, Karl)—and grew increasingly critical of traditional political and economic concepts, especially capitalism. He also saw the labour movement as a struggle between classes. Sympathetic toward Populist (Populist Movement) doctrines, he campaigned for the Democratic-Populist presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan (Bryan, William Jennings) in 1896. After announcing his conversion to socialism in 1897, he led the establishment of the Socialist Party of America (socialism). Debs was the party's presidential candidate in 1900 but received only 96,000 votes, a total he raised to 400,000 in 1904. In 1905 he helped found the Industrial Workers of the World, but he soon withdrew from the group because of its radicalism.

      Debs was again the Socialist Party candidate for president in 1908, 1912, and 1920 (he refused the nomination in 1916). His highest popular vote total came in 1920, when he received about 915,000 votes. Ironically, he was in prison at the time, serving a sentence for having criticized the U.S. government's prosecution of persons charged with violation of the 1917 Espionage Act. He was released from prison by presidential order in 1921; however, his U.S. citizenship, which he lost when he was convicted of sedition in 1918, was restored only posthumously in 1976.

      Neither an intellectual nor a hardheaded politician, Debs won support through his personal warmth, integrity, and sincerity. He was extremely effective as a public speaker and made his living primarily as a lecturer and contributor to various periodicals. Among his best-known writings are a pamphlet, Unionism and Socialism (1904), and a book, Walls and Bars (1927).

Additional Reading
Ray Ginger, The Bending Cross (1949, reissued 1992); and Nick Salvatore, Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist (1982), are biographies. Harold W. Currie, Eugene V. Debs (1976), explains his ideas.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Debs,Eugene Victor — Debs (dĕbz), Eugene Victor. 1855 1926. American labor organizer and socialist leader who ran unsuccessfully for President five times between 1900 and 1920. * * * …   Universalium

  • Debs, Eugene V(ictor) — born Nov. 5, 1855, Terre Haute, Ind., U.S. died Oct. 20, 1926, Elmhurst, Ill. U.S. labour organizer. Debs left home at age 14 to work in the railroad shops. As a locomotive fireman, he became an early advocate of industrial unionism, and he… …   Universalium

  • Debs, Eugene Victor — (1855–1926)    Born in Indiana in the United States, Debs is one of the most significant and well known American socialists. He was an organizer and leader of various labor organizations and stood as a socialist candidate for the U.S. presidency… …   Historical dictionary of Marxism

  • Debs, Eugene V(ictor) — (5 nov. 1855, Terre Haute, Ind., EE.UU.–20 oct. 1926, Elmhurst, Ill.). Dirigente laboral estadounidense. Dejó su hogar a la edad de 14 años para trabajar en los talleres ferroviarios. Como fogonero de locomotora, fue pionero en la defensa del… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Debs, Eugene V(ictor) —  (1855–1926) American socialist and labor leader …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • Eugene V. Debs — Eugene Victor Debs (November 5, 1855 ndash; October 20, 1926) was an American union leader, one of the founding members of the International Labor Union and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), as well as candidate for President of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Eugene Debs — (1912) Eugene Victor Debs (* 5. November 1855 in Terre Haute, Indiana; † 20. Oktober 1926 in Elmhurst[1]) war ein US amerikanischer Sozialist, der in der Arbeiterbewegung aktiv war u …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Eugene Victor Debs — Eugene Debs (1912) Eugene Victor Debs (* 5. November 1855 in Terre Haute, Indiana; † 20. Oktober 1926 in Elmhurst[1]) war ein US amerikanischer Sozialist, der in der Arbeiterbewegung aktiv war u …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Eugene Debs — Eugene Victor Debs Eugene V. Debs en 1912 Eugene Victor Debs (né le 5 novembre 1855 et décédé le 20 octobre 1926) est un homme politique américain, syndicaliste et socialiste, un des fondateurs du syndicat des Industrial Workers of the World (IWW …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Eugene V. Debs — Eugene Victor Debs Eugene V. Debs en 1912 Eugene Victor Debs (né le 5 novembre 1855 et décédé le 20 octobre 1926) est un homme politique américain, syndicaliste et socialiste, un des fondateurs du syndicat des Industrial Workers of the World (IWW …   Wikipédia en Français


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.