Hellraisers Journal: Eugene Debs on attacks against Socialist Party: “anti-patriotic, seditious, traitorous…”

I have no country to fight for;
my country is the earth,
and I am a citizen of the world.
-Eugene V. Debs


Hellraisers Journal, Tuesday February 12, 1918
Eugene Debs Defends the Socialist Party of America

From the Chicago Eye-Opener of February of 9, 1918:

The Campaign This Year.

by Eugene V. Debs

EVD by LS Chumley, ISR Jan 1916

The Socialist Party is emerging from another struggle crowned with victory.

When the party declared its attitude toward war at the St. Louis convention [April 7-14, 1917] it was fiercely attacked from within as well as without as an anti-patriotic, seditious, traitorous organization. The chairman of the committee that framed the war resolution was indicted and sentenced to penitentiary for a term of five years. The National Secretary [Adolph Germer] was arrested upon one charge, indicted and tried upon another, and is still under bail pending further trial.

Hundreds of the party’s speakers and organizers were arrested and jailed, and hundreds of others forcibly prevented from speaking. Halls for meeting purposes were denied our lecturers, secret service agents dogged the heels of our comrades, while rowdies and strong-arm men, including not a few in the uniform of United States soldiers and sailors, were incited to raid our local headquarters, sack our offices, and break up our meetings. The party’s papers were either suppressed outright or sorely hampered by the authorities.

Meanwhile, certain of our more prominent members, who were look upon as party leaders, lined up with the capitalists and their hirelings in the campaign of abuse and vilification launched to discredit and destroy the party. Had these former comrades quit the party because they could not endorse its war policy, and been fair enough to give those who did endorse it credit for being as honest as themselves, there would have been no loss of respect attached to their loss of membership. But some of them did not do this. On the contrary, the party that had honored them became anathema the moment they left it. They turned upon it with savage fury, denouncing it as traitorous and traducing its members, their former comrades, as pro-German sympathizers.

Of course the capitalist press eagerly seized upon these outpourings and spread them broadcast over the country. This meant sure death for the Socialist Party and the capitalists chortled with glee at the prospect.

SPA Emblem, ISR, Sept 1916

But alas! The attack upon the party by its former leading members in the service of its archenemy, the plutocrats and plunderbunders of the land, whom these very leading members had for years denounced as criminals and corruptionists, reacted with amazing force and swiftness in favor of the party and it at once began to grow and has been growing ever since at a rate unparalleled in its history.

At the time of these withdrawals and the vicious attacks of the deserters I said that the time would come when they would be almost willing to have their tongues cut out could they but have their vicious tirades blotted from their records.

Since that time and especially since President Wilson’s recent message virtually recognizing the Bolsheviki and proposing to accept their peace terms there has been a marvelous change of sentiment toward socialists and the Socialist Party. The capitalist press is today actually covering Lenin and Trotsky with fulsome praise in the vain attempt to square itself for the foul abuse it has poured upon their heads. The commanding part taken by socialists in every move that is made in the prosecution of the war as well as in the negotiations for peace can no longer be ignored and hence the somersault taken by press and pulpit and politicians in regard to the Socialist Party.

No more speakers are being arrested and no more indictments are being found, and it is a sage prediction that acquittal will follow the trials of those under indictment if the trials ever taken place.

This is a great victory for the party and the party is all the stronger and more aggressive and confident as the result of it. But victory for the Socialist Party simply means preparation for the next struggle and the next victory.

This is campaign year and now is the time to prepare for battle. The municipal elections are first in order and we confidently expect these to develop lively activity on the part of Socialist locals and to show an increase in the Socialist vote that will fairly startle the profiteers and their political underlings.

Then will follow the congressional contest. An entirely new popular branch of the congress is to be elected.

How many Socialists shall respond to the new roll when it is called? That depends entirely upon how well we do our work. The conditions are ripe, the people are ready, and it is up to us to prove our capacity to fight the winning political battle this year.

It has been intimated in the capitalist press that for “patriotic” reasons the congressional election this year may be postponed, the constitution to the contrary notwithstanding.

It has also been urged that the Republican and Democratic Parties combine for similar “patriotic” reasons upon a single ticket to make sure the defeat of the Socialists. We earnestly hope this will be done. We can think of no surer way for these two old camouflaging spoils-seekers to dig their own grave.

Locked in each other’s arms with their eyes rolling heavenward in their tearful plea for “patriotism,” they will present a spectacle that may never be seen again.

But whether the congressional election is postponed or not, whether the two old capitalist vampires become one or not, in either case the Socialist Party is scheduled for a grand political victory this year. Victories, however, do not come of themselves. Victories, especially of this nature, have to be fought for and achieved.

The fight this year will be a more desperate one against socialism than ever before. This very fact testifies to socialism’s growing power and increasing menace to plutocratic misrule.

For this fight we must be prepared. We need not only the soldiers of the revolution at the front, we need armament and munitions. We need shot and shell in the form of socialist literature, whole broadsides to sweep the country. There are millions of voters, women now as well as men, to be reached and educated, and for this our National Executive Committee has issued a call for


This is to be the slogan at the opening: A Million Dollars to Carry the Message of Socialism to the Homes and Hearts of the American People!

Be this our war-cry this year: SOCIALISM AND EMANCIPATION!

[Photographs added.]


Debs Internet Archive
The Eye-Opener
(Chicago, Illinois)
-Feb 9, 1918
Page 3: “The Campaign This Year.”
-by Eugene Victor Debs

EVD by LS Chumley, ISR Jan 1916
SPA Emblem, ISR, Sept 1916

See also:

Note re: “The chairman of the committee that framed the war resolution was indicted and sentenced to penitentiary for a term of five years.”
Debs is here referring to The Committee on War and Militarism, chaired by Kate Richards O’Hare. She was convicted under the Espionage Act on December 14, 1917. At the time Debs wrote this article, she was still free on bail. She entered Missouri State Pen on April 15, 1919 and served until May 29, 1920.

Hx of Labor Movement in US, Vol 7
Labor and World War I, 1914-1918

-by Philip S Foner
International Publishers, 1987
Chapter I: Socialist Party and World War I
Page 31: “The St Louis Convention”
Page 32: committee on war and militarism chaired by O’Hare
Chapter II: Wartime Repression: The Socialists
Page 321: “Imprisonment of Kate Richards O’Hare”

American Political Prisoners:
Prosecutions Under the Espionage and Sedition Acts

-by Stephen M Kohn
Greenwood Publishing Group, 1994
Page 120: Kate Richards O’Hare
Kate took prison and the separation from her husband and four children very hard, according to Emma Goldman who served with her.

Note re: “Meanwhile, certain of our more prominent members…turned upon [the SPA] with savage fury, denouncing it as traitorous and traducing its members, their former comrades, as pro-German sympathizers.”
Sadly, one of these was John Spargo, author of “The Bitter Cry of the Children.” In The Outlook of June 13, 1917, there appeared an article: “Americanism and Socialism.” Spargo’s reasons for resigning from membership in the SPA were given:

…the Socialist party has, in his opinion, “been committed to a programme essentially unneutral, un-American, and pro-German”…

The Outlook
(New York, New York)
-June 13, 1917
“Americanism and Socialism”

The Bitter Cry of the Children
-by John Spargo
Macmillan, 1906

Note re: “No more speakers are being arrested and no more indictments are being found, and it is a sage prediction that acquittal will follow the trials of those under indictment if the trials ever taken place.”
This prediction by Debs was, of course, overly optimistic.

Note: I could find little regarding the Eye Opener.
This wiki article on J. Louis Engdahl refers to the Eye Opener as “the successor weekly publication” to The America Socialist which had been the Chicago-based official organ of the SPA until suppressed by postal authorities as part of the Wilson Administration’s World War I Repression.

From The Eye-Opener of Sept 15, 1917:
The American Socialist Martyred in the
Great Cause of World Democracy and Peace.”
-by J. Louis Engdahl

From The New York Call of Oct 6, 1917:
Eye Opener is Cited by Post Office Department:
Successor to American Socialist Ordered
to Defend Its Right to Live —Hearing Today”

The American Year Book
A Record of Events and Progress [for] 1919

-ed by Francis G. Wickware, B.A., B.Sc.
NY & London, 1920
Page 438: “Socialism” by Carl D. Thompson
Begin with “United States” and read thru to next page for more
on the suppression of Socialist Press, including The Eye Opener and Socialist leaders imprisoned or under indictment.

Socialism in Thought and Action
-by Harry W. Laidler Ph. D., Secretary
of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society
Macmillan, 1920
Page 519: “Periodicals”

The Eye Opener and The Party Bulletin, 220 So. Ashland Blvd., Chicago, are the official organs of the Socialist Party…

Socialism and American Life, Volume II
-by Donald Drew Egbert & Stow Persons
Princeton University Press, Dec 8, 2015
(search: “eye opener”)
States the Eye Opener was published from 1912-1920.