The last week of April and the first week of May is a regular and predictable time when my work on Debs slows to a crawl. Real life intervenes in the form of a ten-straight day work schedule; free time dwindles and energy dissipates.
I own a small retail business. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do to pay the bills.
Anyway, there has been no time to research and write for the blog, there has been very little time to scan newspapers. The two long articles that I did manage to type up this week still have massive holes where the footnotes belong. There is more work to be done.
Moreover, a software idiosyncrasy of the program Dropbox resulted in the contralogical result of me losing two weeks of work on my all-important Debs Article Database instead of successfully backing it up — a glitch which necessitated me spending another 90 minutes or so of my limited stock of “Debs time” to make up the “vanished” data.
See, I can whine with the best of them…
A real blog post is clearly not in the cards this week. I thought that I’d instead accept that the tide is way out and that my sailboat is temporarily sideways on the beach and ramble for a few minutes about how Debs Volume IV is going.
There are 13 weeks down and 13 weeks to go with the document assembly process.
Let’s call it halftime.
• • • • •
Volume 4: Red Union, Red Paper, Red Train, 1905-1910 is progressing swimmingly. There are nearly 170,000 words in the can, which probably projects to something like 310,000 when the smoke clears. David and I will need to cut down to 260,000. That’s just about a perfect situation when we go into the work of diamond cutting.
We’re almost unquestionably going to chop two of the four long and duplicative stenographically reported “IWW Speeches” that have been a feature of every Debs Works project from 1908 onward. There will be plenty on the “red union” remaining. I don’t think anybody will miss the cut pieces, I certainly know I won’t, and it will definitely make for a book that reads better. Anyone seriously interested in finding that cut material will have zero problem doing that. Those particular speeches are ubiquitous.
Reducing the material dealing with the kidnapping of Moyer, Haywood, and Pettibone and the resulting Haywood Trial of 1907 to fit will prove to be more difficult. Debs was absolutely relentless banging the drum to alert organized labor, political activists, and the media about this affair. It’s not a matter of picking the two most important of four speeches made on nearly consecutive nights and calling it good — there is a story to be told running the course of months and there are tens of thousands of words in play in the first years of Debs’s professional association with the “red paper” — the Appeal to Reason.
It will be interesting to see how that resolves itself. I suspect that we will wield a scalpel rather than a cleaver on the trial material.
• • • • •
Although I’m not quite done with 1907 (I’ve got another week or so before that is totally finished up) I am already looking towards 1908. That’s the year of the legendary “red train” — the Socialist Red Special of the 1908 presidential campaign — and there will emerge dozens of short snippets of the two hundred or so speeches made during the course of EVD’s 1908 whistle-stop campaign.
Almost all of those will not make the cut for the final book.
One that did promise to make the grade was a much touted evening speech to a massive crowd at the Hippodrome in New York City.
I was positively frantic this week when I discovered that New York Public Library absolutely butchered the microfilming of the New York Evening Call for 1908 — with approximately 25% of the material rendered illegibly blurred and the irreplaceable source material likely to have been destroyed after filming!
Included in this catastrophe of bureaucratic incompetence was about 2/3 of the awaited Debs speech in New York City — obviously stenographically reported — which had promised to be one of the two most important preserved examples of his speeches of the 1908 presidential campaign.
It was absolutely gut-wrenching.
Fortunately I had already scanned the weekly edition of the Call — formerly known as The Worker, name changed to the New York Socialist. So it was a quick thing to check the content for early October. Bless their hearts, having moved to a 12-page format they had space and it turns out they reprinted the entire 6,000 word Debs speech in that alternate publication. What a break!
Scanning the Call has been dispiriting — very much like raking through the rubble to find personal effects after a tornado has struck and obliterated one’s home. Thank god it appears they finally got the technical problem figured out as they were filming the papers for late October 1908.
Unfortunately, the earlier papers from 1908 are probably lost to history, including one page featuring a very important letter to the editor by Morris Hillquit — who is probably going to be the focus of my next book project.
The four-letter words flow like a torrent…
• • • • •
So far I have been pretty fortunate in finding all known Debs writings for 1905, 1906, and 1907. There are still a few of them out there to be tracked down, but most of the key material is accounted for and I am learning quite a bit as I go.
Well, that’s probably enough for now.
See ya next week with a proper blog post.
The official deadline for Eugene V. Debs Selected Works: Volume 4 is October 15, 2019. I’m setting a soft deadline of August 1 to finish the document compilation phase of the project. This means there are now 13 more Saturdays after today to get the core content section of the book assembled, with a limit for publication of approximately 260,000 words.
- “The New Emancipation: Campaign Speech at the Hippodrome, New York City” (Oct. 4, 1908) — 6,038 words
- “Diaz’s Plot to Murder Our Mexican Comrades Must Be Foiled” (Oct. 10, 1908) — 2,056 words
Word count: 159,993 in the can + 8,094 this week +/- amendments = 168,087 words total.
David Walters will be running all of this material up on Marxists Internet Archive in coming days.
To find it, please visit the Eugene V. Debs Internet Archive
Here’s the microfilm that I’ve scanned this week, available for free download. Bear in mind that there is generally a short delay between completion of the scanning and its appearance on MIA. Thanks are due to David Walters for getting this material into an accessible format.
• New York Call — 1908 (daily: September-October)