Eugene V. Debs

Help! Help!! Help!!!

Source: International Socialist Review, Vol. XI, No. 7. January 1911
Online Version: E.V. Debs Internet Archive, 2006
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Robert Bills for the Socialist Labor Party of America and David Walters, December, 2006

It seems to me that I can hear this startling cry from the north this winter night as I read the evening papers and the harrowing stories they contain about the striking and starving slaves of the sweatshops in that capitalist bedlam at the foot of the lake. Women and children by thousands, who spend their wretched lives making clothes for others are themselves naked, without shoes, their wan features distorted by the fangs and pangs of starvation.

Is there any hell any savage ever conceived to be compared with this tragedy of horrors?

If the workingmen of Chicago were not inert as clods, white-livered excuses for men, they would rise like a whirlwind in defense of these shivering, starving children at their doors.

There are enough union men, so-called, in Chicago, to put an end to this strike in five minutes and snatch their suffering brothers and sisters from the cruel fangs of torture and death.

Why in the name of all that unionism stands for don’t they act?

The steel trust has already wiped out the tin plate workers and marine firemen, the tobacco trust has all but destroyed the tobacco workers, and a score of other unions are hanging to life by a thread, and now the clothing trust is allowed to annihilate the garment workers.

When will these union men awaken? Or are they dead, except for the use of the city hall at election time?

Craft unionism stands utterly condemned in the presence of this ghastly strike of the garment workers.

The spectres of starved babies hover all over the battlefield; ghosts of mothers sweated to death, flit about and human hyenas gnaw at corpses, while beastly, bloated capitalists await the inevitable surrender.

With industrial unionism — the kind of unionism that every criminal corporation and every ward-heeling labor politician is fighting — that strike would be won and the heartless bosses brought to their senses within twenty-four hours.

These sweatshop victims could hardly suffer more keenly if they were being slowly burnt at the stake. In the name of God and the dying little children, why does not organized labor act instead of seeing these babes go to their fate without putting forth a hand to rescue them?

After what happened day before yesterday when the bosses, merciless as jackals, spat full in the face of those pleading for the paltriest concessions to end the misery of the dying, Chicago, were it not dead as the consciences of the brutes who are murdering these babies, would seethe with revolt and the vaunted hundred thousand union men would give an exhibition of robust manhood that would make forever impossible a repetition of this monstrous crime.

Fine unionism this, that submits, except upon the part of the noble few whom I applaud with all my heart, to such shocking indignities and brutal outrages.

All over Chicago indignation meetings should be held, and the tide of revolt should rise and roar as it never has before in an American city.

The shriek for help can be distinctly heard by all who are not dead as stones. Will the workers respond a Hundred Thousand strong and save the day for the starving strikers, for unionism, and humanity?