Eugene V. Debs Presidential Candidate Attacks “the Monstrous System” of Capitalism 100 years ago

Early American Socialist Eugene V. Debs attacked the “Monstrous System” of capitalism and the capitalist Democrat, Republican and Progressive parties in his 1912 acceptance speech as the Socialist Party Presidential candidate. Below is an abridged version of this speech…..

The workers in the mills and factories, in the mines and on the farms and railways never had a party of their own until the Socialist party was organized. They divided their votes between the parties of their masters. They did not realize that they were using their ballots to forge their own fetters.

The infallible test of a political party is the private ownership of the sources of wealth and the means of life. Apply that test to the Republican, Democratic, and Progressive parties and upon that basic, fundamental issue you will find them essentially one and the same. They differ according to the conflicting interests of the privileged classes, but at bottom they are alike and stand for capitalist class rule and working-class slavery.

One question is sufficient to determine the true status of all these parties. Do they want the workers to own the tools they work with, control their own jobs, and secure to themselves the wealth they produce? Certainly not. That is utterly ridiculous and impossible from their point of view. The Republican, Democratic, and Progressive parties all stand for the private ownership by the capitalists of the productive machinery used by the workers, so that the capitalists can continue to filch the wealth produced by the workers.

It is vain to hope for material relief upon the prevailing system of capitalism. All the reforms that are proposed by the three capitalist parties, even if carried out in good faith, would still leave the working class in industrial slavery. The working class will never be emancipated by the grace of the capitalists class, but only by overthrowing that class.

It is as foolish and self-destructive for workingmen to turn to Republican, Democratic, and Progressive parties on election day as it would be for them to turn to the Manufacturers‘ Association and the Citizens’ Alliance when they are striking against starvation wages.

The capitalist class is organized economically and politically to keep the working class in subjection and perpetuate its power as a ruling class. They do not support a working class union nor a working-class party. They are not so foolish. They wisely look out for themselves.

Every vote cast for a capitalist party, whatever its name, is a vote for wage-slavery, for poverty and degradation. Every vote cast for the Socialist party, the workers’ own party, is a vote for emancipation.

Capitalism is rushing blindly to its impending doom. All the signs portend the inevitable breakdown of the existing order. Deep-seated discontent has seized upon the masses. They must indeed be deaf who do not hear the mutterings of the approaching storm.

Poverty, high prices, unemployment, child slavery, widespread misery and haggard want in a land bursting with abundance; prostitution and insanity, suicide and crime, these in solemn numbers tell the tragic story of capitalism’s saturnalia of blood and tears and shame as its end draws near.

Standing as it does for the emancipation of the working class from wage-slavery, for the equal rights and opportunities of all men and all women, for the abolition of child labor and the conservation of all childhood, for social self-rule and the equal freedom of all, the Socialist party is the party of progress, the party of the future, and its triumph will signalize the birth of a new civilization and the dawn of a happier day for all humanity.

Source: Eugene Debs, “Speech of Acceptance,” International Socialist Review (October, 1912) Labor Donated

“The working class and the employing class have nothing in common.”
IWW founding congress opening statement

About Mad Scientist

Member of California Association of Professional Scientists
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