Backstory

While five time Socialist Presidential candidate Eugene Victor Debs (1855-1926) has been the subject of more than a dozen biographies and several small collections of writings, as well as a substantial microfilm papers project, no serious effort has ever been made to systematically gather and carefully select his sundry speeches, statements, and writings in book form.

aru-poster-for-siteAs editor of Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine for over a dozen years and as a prolific publicist, writing for dozens of newspapers and magazines, as well as serving as one of the most important orators of his generation, Debs left behind a vast body of work — approximately 4,000 editorials, articles, press statements, and published speeches. Of these, only about 150 have ever seen print again in book form — with the same material, first published in a 1908 campaign collection, endlessly recycled.

In addition to quality biographies by Ray Ginger and Nick Salvatore, two major landmarks in Debs scholarship are worthy of mention. The first of these is the Papers of Eugene V. Debs, 1834-1945 microfilm project, edited by J. Robert Constantine and Gail Malmgreen and published in 21 reels of 35 mm. film by Microfilming Corporation of America in 1983. This project provides a very solid starting point from which we are working.

There followed in 1990, closely related to the microfilm project, a three volume Letters of Eugene V. Debs, edited by Constantine and published by University of Illinois Press. Constantine’s selection of correspondence was careful and good, but the enormous mass of Debs published writings and speeches has remained untouched for a third of a century.

This project may be seen as a continuation of Constantine’s work — an effort to catalog and mine the Debs corpus, selecting something around a million words of essential text from the multiple millions of words that Debs wrote throughout his half century of activity.

Material will be presented chronologically rather than topically, and material previously republished will neither be excluded nor awarded special preference for inclusion. Debs’ decade of writings as a railway brotherhood functionary will not be excluded, nor will his fairly obscure final writings be ignored. Rather, an effort will be made to detail the entire intellectual trajectory of this seminal figure of American labor and political history.

There will be four volumes of approximately 750 pages each. Manuscript completion deadlines are set for the middle of October 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, with publication to follow within 9 months of those dates.

Royalties generated by this project, if any, will be paid to the non-profit internet site Marxists Internet Archive < https://www.marxists.org >, of which David is a leading administrator and I am a volunteer contributor. Despite its relatively high internet profile, MIA is a low-budget, seat-of-the-pants type operation and a little bit of money can go a long ways to help keeping that critical project up and running.

Thank you for your interest.