Eugene V. Debs: On The Ballot And Class-Conscious Voting

This afternoon my wife and I went block walking with a small group of acquaintances to register people to vote.

We believe that voting is a right, a privilege, and a responsibility that every eligible United States citizen has and should Debs and the voteexercise. Voting is the most personal and intimate opportunity we have to be involved in the democratic process. Unfortunately, it is not a right that many choose to exercise. The state in which we live, Texas, has one of the worst, if not the worst, voter turn-outs in the nation.

As I was participating in the democratic process and engaging with people this afternoon, I thought about a number of statements that Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926) – labor organizer, Socialist, and five-time presidential candidate – made about the ballot and the power of the vote to bring about change.

Here are just a few.

“Workingmen are in the majority. They have the most votes. In this God favored land, where the ballot is all powerful, peaceful revolutions can be achieved. Wrongs can be crushed – sent to their evil hell, and the right can be enthroned by the workingmen acting together, pulling together.”

~ “What Can We Do For Working People?”,  April 1890 ~

“Why is that labor does not conquer anything? Why does it not assert its mighty power? Why does it not rule in Congress, in legislatures, and in courts? I answer because it is factionalized, because it will not unify, because for some inscrutable reason, it prefers division, weakness and slavery, rather than unity, strength and victory.

Will it always be thus unmindful of its power and prerogatives? I do not think so. Will it always tamely submit to degradation? I protest that it will not. Labor has the ballot. It has redeeming power.”

~ “Labor Omnia Vincit”, September 1895 ~

“To the unified hosts of American workingmen fate has committed the charge of rescuing American liberties from the grasp of the vandal horde that have placed them in peril, by seizing the ballot and wielding it to regain the priceless heritage and to preserve and transmit it without scar or blemish to the generations yet to come.”

~ “Liberty”, November 1895 ~

“Thus, half asleep, labor has not only failed to gain ground in the struggle but has been decoyed into fighting for its enemy.

At each election labor has divided and fought valiantly in two wings of the army, both arrayed against the cause of labor.”

~ “We Must Gain Possession Of The Tools Of Trade”,  June 1902 ~

Granted, these quotes from Debs have to do with the need for workers to not just vote, but to vote class-consciously. Working men and women must understand their relationship to the corporate elite and their political representatives in local, state, and federal government offices. The working class must work and vote in a class-unified way on the shop floor and at the ballot box if their rights, values, and needs are going to be represented and protected.

Debs said then, and he would say today, that the time has come for the working class of America to organize politically as a party in order to advance their political-economic agenda for America.

Explore posts in the same categories: Economics, Labor, Politics, Social-Economic Justice, Unions

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