Eugene V. Debs

Industrial and Social Democracy


From Eugene V. Debs, Labor & Freedom, St. Louis 1916, pp.73-76.
Originally published in American Socialist, May 27, 1915.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

First of all, allow me to quote with approval the following paragraph from An Introduction to Sociology by Arthur Morrow Lewis:

“... the greatest single achievement of the science of sociology is the concept of society, not as a collection of institutions, and sociology as an explanatory catalog or inventory – after the fashion of Spencer, but as a process of development, and the science of sociology as the analysis and explanation of the process.”

Also the following from an essay on Revolution by George D. Herron:

“Every revolution or true reform, every new and commanding faith, is in the direction of man’s becoming his own evolver and creator. Every uplifting light or law perforces, in the place of the evolution that is blind and chanceful, an evolution that is chosen and humanly directed.”

There is still room for reform and betterment in the present social system, but this is of minor consequence compared to the world’s crying need for industrial and social reorganization.

* * * *

The next great change in history will be, must be, the socialization of the means of our common life.

Privately owned industry and production for individual profit are no longer compatible with social progress and have ceased to work out to humane and civilized ends.

With all its marvelous progress through invention and discovery and all its monumental achievements in the arts and sciences, this poor world of ours has not yet learned how to feed itself. That is the problem of problems now confronting us more and more insistently and until that is solved the world is halted and it will either resume its march toward industrial and social democracy or be shaken to its foundations and into possible chaos by violent explosion.

There is no longer the shadow of an excuse for a hungry being. All the laws, all the materials and all the forces are at hand and easily available for the production of all things needed to provide food, raiment and shelter for every man, woman and child, thus putting an end to the poverty and misery, widespread and appalling, which now shock and sicken humanity and impeach our vaunted civilization. But these tools and materials and forces must be released from private ownership and control, socialized, democratized, and set in operation for the common good of all instead of the private profit of the few.

* * * *

It is well stated, “that civilization is at present rudimentary, and that it is to develop indefinitely.”

Now, in view of the fact that the crops this year (1914) are the most abundant ever produced, that there is no market for the almost sixteen million bales of cotton lying in the warehouses, while at the same time there are millions of unemployed in the land who are without food and without clothing and who, with their wives and children, are doomed to indescribable suffering; in view of this solemn and indisputable fact it would seem that there could be but one opinion among students and thinkers as to the one great, vital and essential thing to do for the relief of our common humanity and for the promotion of the world’s progress and civilization, and that that one thing is the one to be emphasized with all the power at our command.

A privately owned world can never be a free world and a society based upon warring classes cannot stand.

Such a world is a world of strife and hate and such a society can exist only by means of militarism and physical force.

* * *

The education of the people, not the few alone, but the entire mass in the principles of industrial democracy and along the lines of social development is the task of the people to he emphasized and that task – let it be impressed upon them – can be performed only by themselves.

The cultured few can never educate the uncultured many. All history attests the fact that all the few have ever done for the many is to keep them in ignorance and servitude and live out of their labor.

To stir the masses, to appeal to their higher, better selves, to set them thinking for themselves, and to hold ever before them the ideal of mutual kindness and good will, based upon mutual interests, is to render real service to the cause of humanity.

To quote Herron once more:

“Socialism is a deliberate proposal to lay the will of man upon the unfolding processes and ends of nature and history. It invokes the faith that shall be equal to the acceptance of its proposal – of its supreme challenge to the universe.”