Eugene V. Debs

The Socialist Party’s Appeal.

Candidate of the Socialist Party for the Presidency of the United States

Source: The Independent (New York) Vol. LXXIII, No. 3334. Thursday, October 24, 1912.
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

For the first time in fifty years, or since the Civil War, a great moral question cleaves the political atmosphere of this nation.

Socialism indicts capitalism at the bar of civilization and challenges its political spokesmen of whatever name or brand to defend it.

The political struggle now on in this nation is a struggle to the death; either capitalism, with its gorgeous wealth and power for its successful devotees and owners, and its brutal, degrading struggle for existence for its workers, will write “esto perpetua” upon the scroll of Time and this civilization will enter eclipse and decline, as have the civilizations of every previous age, or else capitalism will surrender the scepter of power to socialism and the race will progress to hights [sic] undreamed and establish a civilization as far in advance of capitalism in its beneficence to mankind as capitalism is in advance of savagery.

The fundamental difference between the Socialist political organization of this and every other nation of earth and all other political organizations is in its economic program.

In this nation the politicians or statesmen of the Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson type, who are the chosen or self-appointed spokesmen for their respective political organizations, may have widely different convictions or opinions upon political issues, such as direct legislation, recall of public officials, including the judiciary, direct election of Senators, etc., but upon economic questions affecting the present social order they are at one. They represent the capitalist system and they stand or fall with capitalism.

The Socialist party and its chosen spokesmen, on the other hand, challenge the right of capitalism to longer exist, and they boldly proclaim the program of socialism as the legitimate successor of the present order.

Again, socialism appeals to the world’s workers upon the lines of their class interests. The Socialist nominees make no pretense of attempting to serve both capitalists and workers. That is a political sophistry which socialism leaves a monopoly in the hands of the political spokesmen for capitalism.

Socialism counts among the world’s workers all those who labor with hand or brain in the production of life’s necessities and luxuries. The services of a general manager of a great railway system, or the superintendent of a great department store, are quite as essential to modern civilization as are the section hand of the one or the delivery boy of the other, and the program of socialism appeals to the self-interest of every man and woman so employed. With the interests of the owners of the great machines of modern production and distribution the Socialists have no concern, except to abolish that ownership and vest it in the public, thru legislation, municipal, State and national.

Capitalism is founded upon production for profit. Socialism is postulated upon production for use. Whenever the owners of the world’s machinery of production and distribution fail for any reason to realize profit, it is in their power to cease production or distribution and the world’s workers may starve. Again, if the owners of the world’s machinery of production and distribution permit to be operated, they dictate the terms upon which the world’s workers may use that machinery. In other words, the only function of the modern capitalist is to own that which his brother man must use. The worker has naught but his labor power, of hand or brain, to sell, and if he must sell his labor power upon terms dictated by another, he is a slave.

He who controls my bread controls my head, and so the contest between modern capitalism and socialism resolves itself into the age-old question of human slavery.

Upon this question the political forces of this nation and the world are cleaving.

Deny it as they may, confuse it as they will, the spokesmen for the existing order are being slowly but surely driven to an admission of the Socialist indictment of capitalism.

The so-called progressive programs of the Democrats under Bryan and Wilson and the Republicans under Roosevelt are merely so many apologies for the crimes of capitalism. The standpat capitalists under the leadership of President Taft offer few apologies, but boldly take their stand for the existing order as it is.

The deplorable poverty of millions upon millions of workers in high tariff America, and a like condition existing in the ranks of the workers in free trade England, save the Socialists the necessity for wasting time upon this hoary but oft resurrected “issue” of capitalism. Whether under high or low tariff, in America or elsewhere, the worker and producer is exploited at the door of the factory or farm to the point of mere existence.

With the owners of the machinery of production and distribution in possession of both the machinery and its product, it matters little to them or to the workers whether wages be high or low, since thru manipulation of prices under capitalism the capitalists readily reduce the purchasing power of the workers’ wages to the point of subsistence, and that is the point at which the world’s workers always will exist under modern capitalism.

The present high cost of living can never be reduced without throwing capitalism into helpless bankruptcy; present prices are necessary in order to pay interest and dividends upon the monstrous capitalization of this age. The monumental capitalization, so huge in the aggregate as to stagger human imagination, represents the investments and the incomes of the owners of this nation. No capitalist politician, statesman or party dares lift a finger to reduce it, and it will continue to increase until the coming of socialism unless the entire machinery of capitalism breaks down previous to that time, bringing with it universal bankruptcy and a complete readjustment of our social and industrial system under capitalism. Such an eventuation is a possibility, but not a probability.

Control of corporations and the enforcement of the penal clauses of capitalist anti-trust legislation, by capitalist politicians, are twin frauds in the program of capitalism’s efforts to fool the people.

The corporate wealth of this nation controls the capitalist government of this nation and will to the end of capitalism. Corporate wealth is the result of economic and industrial evolution. Until corporate wealth supplanted by common wealth in the ownership of this nation, it will continue to write our laws and to enforce them or not, as best pleases its owners.

If it were possible to imprison the trust owners of this nation, it would have exactly the same effect upon economic evolution which has produced the trusts as the imprisonment of Galileo had upon the turning of the planets in their orbits.

But the Socialist wastes little time in expatiating upon these fleeting fantasies of the capitalist politicians. He realizes that the issues which divide the capitalist political camps are merely quarrels between rival groups of capitalists over the division of the spoils which they have expropriated from the workers. He is no more interested in the outcome of these political quarrels than he would be in the result of a quarrel between two hold-up men who had robbed him of his purse and who had fallen out over a division of its contents.

The Socialist contents himself with sticking to his political text. The monumental corruption, the hypocrisy and the shams of capitalist politics he sets down as one of the counts in his indictment of capitalism. Beside it he places the inexcusable impoverishment of his brother workers, the prostitution of his sisters, the destruction of his wife and children in the mines and sweatshops of capitalism.

The Socialist calls upon his brother worker to join him in the overthrow of capitalism thru capturing the powers of government and legally transferring the ownership of the world from capitalism to socialism.

He points out the staggering burden of militarism, the colossal fraud of capitalist courts, the indescribable corruption of capitalist business, the cant, the chicanery and the hypocrisy of capitalist society, and he urges his brother worker to join him in the struggle to usher in a better day.

For the first time in the world’s history a subject class has it in its own power to accomplish its own emancipation without an appeal to brute force.

This is the appeal which socialism makes to the workers of this nation and the world.

It invites them to seize political power in the name of the working class, and to legally write their own economic emancipation proclamation.

Under this invitation the nations of the earth, including our own, are seething with political revolt.

It is the sure precursor of mighty changes, political, social and economic, thruout the world.