"They have always taught and trained you to believe it to be your patriotic duty to go to war and to have yourselves slaughtered at their command. But in all the history of the world you, the people, have never had a voice in declaring war, and strange as it certainly appears, no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people."
by:
Eugene Debs
(1855-1926) American labor and political leader, five-time Socialist Party of America candidate for US President
Source:
in a speech made June 16, 1918 in Canton, Ohio in opposition to World War I. Debs was arrested under the Espionage Act of 1917. He was convicted, sentenced to 10 years in prison and disenfranchised for life. President Harding commuted his sentence in 1921.
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Reader comments about this quote:
 -- Karl Noyes, Minneapolis      
 -- Anonymous      
Hogwash. The very war Debs was talking about, WW 1, began with crowds clamoring for war in the streets of Europe. The mob is all for war, especially when it is someone else that will do the fighting and dying.
 -- Jim VanderRoest, Kalamazoo, Michigan     
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    I think Eugene's quote was wonderful and well spoken.
     -- Miss. Socialism, no mands land     
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    I hate to agree with a socialist, but it is true -- includinig the socialist wars waged daily. Unless one is defending one's borders and homes, so-called 'war' is waged for profit (or to protect profits).
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    War has never been declared by the people. Only the elite have declared war while the poor fight the War's for the rich.
     -- Elce, Chicago     
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    Outdated. It was once true, but no longer is. America, and to a lesser extent in varying degress, all democracies, only goes to war with the support of its people.
     -- Reb, Jerusalem     
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    Socialist propaganda. It sounds true to a socialist leaning mind but a typical mind trick to make one start to think down that slippery slope that eventually leads to socialism. If the world ever gets to the socialist utopia the quote will become true.
     -- warren, olathe     
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    Even a communist like Eugene Debs can come up with a pearl now and then. This is true -- NO WAR has ever been voted in by the people. Ever. And almost every war has required an act of outrage before the people would get riled up enough to want it, which is why the Socialist Roosevelt allowed Pearl Harbor to happen. "They" NEED catastrophic events in order to get the wars they want, and if the enemy won't provide them, then sometimes we help them.
     -- Daniel, Iredell, Texas     
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    Interesting that Debs was stripped of his citizenship and sent to prison for ten years for speaking his mind in the "Land of the Free." He was one of the founders of the American Labor Movement, and one of the most dangerous men in America, and yet, he happens to be right on this one subject.
     -- Angus, Carlton, Texas     
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    True for the vast majority of the wars.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
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    Hermann Goering, Hitler's Reich-Marshal at the Nuremberg Trials after WW2: “Naturally, the common people don't want war, but after all, it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag people along whther it is a demoncracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.” Gen. Smedley Butler, USMC Commandant, Medal of Honor: “I spent 33 years (in the Marines) . . . most of my time being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism... I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City (Bank) boys to collect revenue in. I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. ...In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested... I had... a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, promotions... I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate a racket in three city districts. The Marines operated on three continents.” --The World Tomorrow, October, 1931; N.Y. Times, August 21, 1931
     -- Paul, Union, WA     
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    Hermann Goering (see above comment) is alive and well in the good old USA. Project Northwoods was revealed to the public under the Freedom of Information Act. Conceived by the Joint Chiefs in the 1960s and bearing the written approval of each and every one of them, Project Northwoods was a plan to create popular support for an American war with Cuba. The idea was to launch a campaign of terrorism against Americans and blame it on Cuba . The Joint Chiefs called for (stop me when this starts to sound familiar): Sniper attacks against civilians in the streets, the sinking of boats carrying Cuban refugees, civilian airline hijackings and downings, the framing of Cuban immigrants for bombing attacks perpetrated by American agents, and 'a series of well-coordinated events' targeting U.S. Marines stationed at Guantanamo Bay. One of the more creative ideas was to hope for (and exploit) a tragedy when astronaut John Glenn was to make a liftoff from Cape Canaveral, FL. Should the rocket explode and kill Glenn, 'the idea is to provide irrevocable proof that ... the fault lies with the Communists, et al, Cuba. Eugene Debs, tho a socialist, was dead on target in his statement.
     -- Paul, Union, WA     
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    Oh boy are the crazies out today.
     -- warren, olathe     
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    The Espionage Act of 1917: the Patriot Act of its day (not that that's a bad thing). However, the more things change the more they stay the same. Maybe the Patriot Act needs a mechanism to strip away a few citizenships as well. I can think of a few to start with.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
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    Eugene Debs followed his heart for the working class, he dedicated his life to others and their rights. He advocated peace always and during the pullman strike he offered to keep the trains moving without pullman cars. He went to jail twice for speaking out and was slandered badly because the Media does and still is controlled by the goverment....
     -- Anonymous, Texas     
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    Some of the critics above speak negatively about socialism. What's their beef with socialism..I bet they like their public schools, public library, police department, fire department, 911 ambulance service, public water and sever systems, medicare and social security. I odn't think we have enough socialism. We need a national single payer health care system--publically financed, privately run, such as in Rep. John Conyers House Resolution 676. Also, the truth is war is always started by those supporting the corporate expansionist policies for commodities. Just because ignorant people are sold the bad product doesn't mean they started it. They just are ignorant accomplices working for things that will not be beneficial to them. There were millions in the street, across the globe and in our own nation, against this Iraq War and Occupation. Of course the corporate media didn't and hasn't still told their story.
     -- MichaelPDA, Ohio     
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    Yes, why can't some people deal with the idea itself instead of a label--"socialism". Hey, we wouldn't want to do anything SOCIAL would we! If Roosevelt was a socialist, what do you think GW Bush is? The answer, of course, is fascist.
     -- Porter, York, PA     
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     -- Anonymous      
     -- Jack Solidarity, uniontown      
    I accept this quote of truth!
     -- McCourt, MCCOURT     
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    Eugene Debs for President!
     -- Anonymous, Ocala     
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     -- Anonymous      
     -- Anonymous      
    To Jim VanderRoest, Kalamazoo, Michigan - Your account of history is what is hogwash. Wilson needed one million men to fight WWI and only 73,000 volunteered. That is why the conscript act was passed and two months later, the espionage act, which made it illegal to protest the war. Debs was imprisoned for violating the espionage act.
     -- Rick Medlin, Columbus Ohio     
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     -- Roger Mac, Cheyenne      
    To Rick Medlin, Columbus, Ohio--If you knew the least thing about WW1 you would know that the US got involved in 1917, three years into the war. By then the nature of trench warfare was plain for all to see. But in July and August of 1914, it was in fact the common man in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, and St. Petersburg that very much demanded the war. The capitals of Europe rang with chants of, "We want war!" They all had gotten their fill of it by 1917. Americans were well aware of the horrors of the trenches by then. Wilson won the election of 1916 on his promise to keep the country out of war. But in point of fact, it was the mob that clamored for war in 1914.
     -- Anonymous, Kalamazoo, Michigan     
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    Interesting debate. In regards to the `support`for the war in Europe leading up to WW1, one must keep in mind that the populations got behind their war-mongering leaders AFTER huge propaganda campaigns that fooled large segments to support the war in order to prevent a greater calamity. In the end, the war itself was the calamity. Anonymous in Kalamazoo, looks like you`ve got more reading ahead. Medlin had it right. What you are inferring - that Europeans wanted war from the get go - would have to be backed up with facts. You provide no facts. Why would working class and poor people want a war over an assassination, or treaty violation anyway? These are issues that concern the elite... which brings me to those 73 000 conscripts in the US. How many of those conscripts do you think were desperately poor? Or can you find a historian who argues that every conscript was a war loving patriot? Debs' statement stands, as does his life's work.
     -- Travis, Montreal, Canada     
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    Travis, I invite you to read "The Guns of August" for one. Why do you think class solidarity mattered to some elements in Europe during that nationalistic time. It is you and Medlin who need to do some reading, and I might suggest non-Marxist history. Debs was a poseur and his life work stands only to those whose knowledge of history is conflated with their political views.
     -- Jim VanderRoest, Kalamazoo Michigan     
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     -- Anonymous, Michigan      
    Critics of Debs should read his bio... the Ray Ginger(?) one is good. Railroad workers were being killed and maimed by the thousands... and simply "replaced" by the corporations. It was all about money... and regretfully pretty much still is.
     -- ws, Terre Haute     
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    Hi! I'm from Dominican Republic wants more people
     -- Starlin, Suazo     
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