DebsSpeak: Canton, Ohio Anti-War Speech

On the afternoon of June 16, 1918, Eugene V. Debs delivered what is perhaps the most well-known and famous speech of his labor and political career. The speech was delivered in Canton, Ohio and is known as the Canton, Ohio Anti-War Speech.

For this speech, the federal government charged Debs with “obstructing recruitment” under the provisions of the Espionage Act of 1917. He was found guilty and sentenced to ten years in federal prison.

-Eugene V. Debs-  Canton OH Speech 2

“To speak for labor; to plead the cause of the men and women and children who toil ; to serve the working class, has always been to me a high privilege; a duty of love.”

“I would be ashamed to admit that I had risen from the ranks. When I rise it will be with the ranks, and not from the ranks.”

” … in every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the people.”

“Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. … The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose – especially their lives.”

“There is no room in our hearts for hate, except for the system, the social system in which it is possible for one man to amass a stupendous fortune doing nothing, while millions of others suffer and struggle and agonize and die for the bare necessities of existence.”

“You need at this time to know that you are fit for something better than slavery and cannon fodder. You need to know that you were not created to work and produce and impoverish yourself to enrich an idle exploiter. You need to know that you have a mind to improve, a soul to develop, and a manhood to sustain.”

“… the capitalists and their henchmen … know how to exploit, how to gouge; how to rob, and do it with legal sanction. They always proceed legally for the reason that the class which has the power to rob upon a large scale has also the power to control the government and legalize their robbery.”

” … you insist upon voting a capitalist ticket and giving your support to the present wage-slave system. The trouble with you is that you are still in a capitalist state of mind.”

Debs’ sentence was commuted in December  of 1921.

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