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Thursday, November 18, 2010
Condensed text of Eugene Debs' June 16, 1918 Anti War speech that was delivered at a Socialist Party event in Canton, Ohio. For this act of defiant free speech delivered within a country fighting for "democracy", Debs was shortly afterwards put in jail.
Debs' imprisonment was part of a nationwide crackdown on labor radicals and antiwar activism. Hundreds of speakers and activists where imprisoned for distributing pamphlets, writing articles, or speaking freely in public. This crackdown largely destroyed the Industrial Workers of the World and greatly disrupted the Socialist Party, which itself was split between a right wing that supported the war and a left wing that opposed it and, inspired by the example of Russia, called for revolution.
World War One was ended on November 11th, 1918, when the German Revolution spread to Berlin and the Kaiser's government was overthrown by a popular movement of workers, soldiers, and other citizens fed up with four years of war. Today we remember November 11th as "Veterans' Day", with the context largely forgotten.