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Oratory of Debs.
BY ROBIN E. DUNBAR.
N THE first place, there is such a thing as
genius, or the faculty of being able to do a hard task easily. A few illustrations; singing a leading part in grand opera; playing Chopin as Paderewski does; painting with Millais; carving the marble with Rodin; conquering science with Haeckel
or philosophy with Dietzgen; writing poetry with the fire of Joaquin Miller, or the ecstacy of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Natural ability coupled with psychic force in these cases was recognized as genius.
Robert G. Ingersoll was the finished orator of the last years of the nineteenth century. He chose an unpopular subject, agnosticism, which was the despairing cry of "God knows, I don't" in religion. It was a purely negative position and negation repels rather than attracts converts. Nevertheless, by the charm of a lovable personality, by unflagging perseverance and a fine art of word phrasing, he made for himself a place in the world's group of orators.
Debs has been called the successor to Wendell Phillips, William Garrison and Abraham Lincoln. I would also call Debs the legitimate successor to “Col. Bob” even though this will call forth a shriek of dissent both from the admirers of "Bob" and of "Gene," for Debs has all that Ingersoll had, and all that Phillips had. He has humor and fire, good nature and fine training, natural art and finished phrasing.
He is the orator of laughter and tears, as well as of thrills and cheers.
There is all the lovableness in Debs that there was in Ingersoll. This spirit enabled the agnostic to preach to thousands his unpopular message. And it avails Debs in the same way. Preachers and churchgoers, as well as infidels and sceptics, flocked to hear the former. Capitalists and plutocrats, as well as Socialists and proletarians, crowd to listen to the latter.
There is not only a curiosity to hear the message, there is a desire to delight in the art.
Wendell Phillips was the only one of the middle part of
the nineteenth century who was entitled to rank with the great orators. His message was that of freedom-freedom for the chattel slave.
unpopular message, even in the North, but his spirit, his eloquence, his power and his art made it heard of all men. He organized the feeling for freedom as well as spoke for it, and his speeches were all eloquent, because all made for the same cause. And he helped win another world's battle for liberty. He spoke without ranting, without hatred, but with restrained and well directed power and kindly love. Ingersoll ransacked literature, sacred and profane to seek out words, figures and all sorts of rhetorical weapons with which to assail the church. He pulled the Bible to pieces; he dissected it with master hand; he analyzed; he criticised and he destroyed, but he did not build up. He had no organization, and when he died agnosticism died with him. There is nowhere in the world a great vital body of men worshipping the unknowable God. Scientists of today are with Haeckel, worshipping nature. They are cosmic materialists. They have a religion called Monism, which is a positive creed, preaching this world for all men, and all men for this world. This is the religion of the Socialists, too. It is the religion of Eugene V. Debs. He has helped to organize it into a church, called the Socialist Party. He is its High Priest, and while he can use the sarcasm and ridicule of Ingersoll, he also makes use of the inspiration and fire of Phillips. He unites in himself the best qualities of them both. His message, now unpopular, is destined to become popular. He, hated and detested, is soon to become respected and admired, and whether he die now or ten years from now, he will always be recognized as the greatest orator of the early part of the twentieth century, that not only America but that the world has produced. For we are yet the land where the cry for freedom finds its most powerful expression. Witness Tom Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Wendell Phillips, John Brown, William Lloyd Garrison, Walt. Whitman, Joaquin Miller, Edwin Markham, Robert G. Ingersoll and Eugene V. Debs.
Thoughts for Thanksgiving Day. It is a glad time for Socialists. These lines are printed too soon to give news of the elections, but no figures are needed to prove that Socialism has at last come to the front in America. In spite of the panic and industrial depression, nearly every Socialist paper is prospering, more good Socialist books are being sold than ever before, the party organization has had more than twice as much money for the campaign as in any previous year and nearly all of it has been contributed in small sums by thousands of wage-workers. Eugene V. Debs has toured the United States in the Red Special, and almost everywhere his meetings have overshadowed those of Taft and Bryan. Voters have trooped by the thousands to hear Debs, paying admittance fees for the privilege, while it has been hard for the Republicans and Democrats to find occupants for the free seats at their meetings. The sham fight between the two capitalist parties is about over, the real fight between Socialism and capitalism is beginning. This is å good time to live and we are glad we are living. We, the workers have for thousands of years been slaves to the owners. This slavery was necessary to develop a mode of production which could provide all with the comforts of life and banish forever the fear of want. Capitalism has solved this question of production; it has organized the workers on such a plan that a small portion of their labor power produces more than enough for all. Meanwhile the owners have converted themselves into mere parasites. The workers can do without them, and they are beginning to find it out. They see that poverty is no longer necessary, and because they see it, the day of poverty is nearly over. The sun of a new day is rising.
The Unending Campaign. The Socialist campaign does end on election day. To the old-party politician, votes and offices are the end of all effort. To us, offices are unimportant, and votes are valuable just because they indicate a certain number of people who can be depended upon to help along the revolution. This
year's vote means far more than the vote of four years ago. For that vote was swelled by many thousand democrats who were disgusted at the nomination of Parker, but would have voted for Bryan had he been in the field. This year he is there, and any "freak” who has personal objections to Bryan can find ample comfort in Hisgen or Watson. Debs has stood clearly for revolution, and no
mere reformer has any good reason for voting for him. The Debs vote is a revolutionary vote. But that is not saying that every Debs voter is a clear-headed revolutionist; only that he probably has the making of a clear-headed revolutionist in him. In the two years that will pass between now and the next congressional election no work is so important as that of making real socialists out of the new recruits who have come to us. The membership of the Socialist Party is now about 50,000. If every branch or local can be turned into a class for the study of socialism, the new interest that will be developed in the meetings will easily double the membership, and more important still, each member will have a chance to fit himself for the work of socialist propaganda. We shall soon be electing members to office. If we elect men who are ignorant of socialism, their folly will discredit the party and cause set-backs and waste of energy. The way to prevent this waste is to study socialism now, and get your neighbors to study it too.
Workingmen and the Courts. Apart from an occasional injunction, the civil courts, both of the United States and of the various states, are used to settle disputes between capitalists and to enforce contracts between capitalists, so that workingmen are naturally and logically indifferent to most of what they do. But it is otherwise with the criminal courts. If we are to believe the editors, teachers, preachers and other apologists of the present system, the object of these courts is to protect the People in their Inalienable Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. But as a matter of fact, the courts and the police departments are coming to be run openly in the interest of the property owners with brutal disregard of the “Inalienable Rights” of the people without property. We take one case at random to illustrate, and we take it from Pittsburg rather than Chicago because we do not wish to mix up personalities with the issue under discussion, and so prefer to speak of men we do not know. The Pittsburg Gazette-Times in its issue of Oct. 19 says:
“Shot through the leg early Friday morning, when he attempted to break into the Westinghouse works in Wilmerding, Frank Sisco tried to make his escape from the Turtle Creek lockup yesterday. He was only prevented from doing so by the watchfulness of one of the guards and last night was committed to the county jail for 30 days as a suspicious person.
The Westinghouse people have been missing quantities of wire recently and instructed their watchman to be on the lookout. Friday morning Special Officer Trax saw two men acting suspiciously around one of the windows. When he went toward them they started to run and Trax, after warning them, shot three times. The first two bullets went wild, but the third struck one man in the leg and he fell. The other man continued his fight.
Trax had the wounded man removed to the Turtle Creek lockup. Here the prisoner gave the name of Frank Sisco. Medical attention was given him and he recovered quickly. Yesterday one of the keepers heard a sound coming from Sisco's cell and investigation showed that the prisoner had almost sawed his way to liberty and would have been out by nightfall.
Burgess Strange decided to commit the man to jail, where he would be safe.
Evidently to the mind of the reporter and most of the readers of the paper the actions of Trax and Strange seem entirely commendable, and Sisco seems a criminal. But examine the statements a moment. In the opening sentence it is said that Sisco attempted to break into the Westinghouse works, but when details are given it appears that he was only "acting suspiciously", and that apparently on a public street. He was breaking no law and was under no legal obligation to stand and talk with the watchman after the “warning". The watchman on the other hand was legally a "criminal” for firing the shot, which by his own showing was not in self-defence, and he would doubtless have been locked up for it if he had not been defending property interests. Instead of this, it was Sisco who was
apparently without any legal proceedings whatever. It is hardly surprising that he had a poor opinion of the law, and tried to "make way for liberty" with a saw. Being discovered in this attempt he was committed to jail for 30 days as a "suspicious person." It really seems as if a “suspicious person” in Pittsburg must have money if he is to shine in society. It is a good deal the same in Chicago, only here the laws happens to be such that workingmen have a remedy for such practices in their own hands if they choose to apply it. In Illinois, and probably in other states also, a man can not be sentenced without a trial by jury unless he signs a waiver of a jury trial.
If arrested demand a jury trial. If drawn on a jury, remember that you are a judge of the law as well as the facts. city wage-worker do these two things and our capitalist governments would be obliged to take energetic measures for the relief of the unemployed. As it is, the vagrancy laws are used relentlessly to frighten those out of work into underbidding those at work, and to lock up summarily any man out of work who dares to ask employment in other than the humblest tones. A man who helps himself to food because he is hungry is railroaded through to the bridewell almost without a hearing, because the police take advantage of his ignorance by making him sign a jury waiver with