Near It But Not In It: Gene Debs and Early Preparation for the IWW (19-03)


When the smoke clears the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), organized in 1905, will emerge as the longest-lived radical organization in American history. Admittedly, the tiny self-described “revolutionary industrial union” still has a couple decades to putter along before it catches the current record-holder, the Socialist Labor Party of America (1876-2008) — but small radical organizations with big names have incredible durability, as the SLP ably demonstrated.

The IWW wasn’t always tiny and it wasn’t always powerless — power being the ability to make a decision and cause others to comply. The IWW was once big. It once had teeth.

I have a shelf and a half of books about it — general histories and monographs, memoirs and graphic storybooks — it retains scholarly interest.

Its history is closely intertwined to that of the Socialist Party of America (1901-1972), which itself had a long life saga of birth, maturity, crash, and impotence. Indeed, during the first decade of the IWW’s existence, the two organizations shared a considerable number of dual members.

One of these, for a brief time at least, was Eugene V. Debs.

•          •         •         •         •

Who were the actual fathers of the IWW?


Fr. Thomas J. Hagerty, a radical Catholic labor priest who resigned his collar under pressure in 1902, conceived of the IWW’s directory of numbered industrial divisions, apportioned by occupation. The system was designed to forestall jurisdictional fights and to bring the myriad of otherwise unrelated crafts together as One Big Union.

Discussions about the formation of a new industrial union that would encompass all workers across multiple industries began with informal discussions between Dan McDonald, president of the American Labor Union, heads of the Western Federation of Miners, and a number of other prominent labor leaders and labor journalists — including particularly William E. Trautmann, of the bilingual St. Louis socialist and labor newspaper Brauer Zeitung (Brewers’ News)

In the fall of 1904, Trautmann and five other prominent activists got together in Chicago to further discuss their new initiative. Attending along with Trautmann was the radical labor priest Thomas J. Hagerty, closely affiliated with the American Labor Union Journal; Clarence Smith, general secretary-treasurer and the chief leader of the American Labor Union; two functionaries of the stillborn attempted remake of the Debs ARU, the United Brotherhood of Railway Employees, the train engineer George Estes, and his associate, General Secretary-Treasurer W.K. Hall, as well as Isaac Cowen, the American representative of the British Amalgamated Society of Engineers. (fn. Paul F. Brissenden, “The Launching of the Industrial Workers of the World,” University of California Publications in Economics, vol. 4, no. 1 (Nov. 25, 1913), pp. 1-82.)

These were the actual fathers of the IWW.

Mark that.

•          •         •         •         •

The November 29 call for a secret conference

These six core founders decided to call another, more formal conference of labor leaders, to be held in Chicago in January. The call for this meeting was a letter dated Nov. 29, 1904, and signed by five of the six who attended the gathering, as well as by Eugene V. Debswho was apparently enthused with the project and who lent his name and national prestige to the effort. (fn. Brissenden, op. cit., pp. 3-4.)


The New Zealand-born William Ernst Trauttmann (1869-1940), editor of the bilingual St. Louis Brauer Zeitung (Brewers’ News), was one of the prime organizers of the IWW.

This letter, written in the form of a resolution by William E. Trautmann, the radical editor of the Brauer Zeitung, declared

Believing that working class political expression, through the Socialist ballot, in order to be sound, must have its economic counterpart in a labor organization builded as the structure of socialist society, embracing within itself the working class in approximately the same groups and departments and industries that the workers would assume in the working class administration of the Cooperative Commonwealth; * * *

We invite you to meet with us at Chicago, Monday, January 2, 1905, in secret conference, to discuss ways and means of uniting the working people of America on correct revolutionary principles, regardless of any general labor organization of past or present, and only restricted by such basic principles as will insure its integrity as a real protector of the interests of the workers. (fn. The Founding Convention of the IWW: Proceedings, pp. 82-83.)

This was sent to about 36 prominent trade union activists and editors of radical or labor newspapers. (fn. Philip S. Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the United States: Vol. 4: The Industrial Workers of the World, 1905-1917. New York: International Publishers, 1965; p. 15) Two of these rejected it outright as a counterproductive declaration of war on the American Federation of Labor, instead favoring continuation of the tactic of “boring from within.” These were Victor L. Berger of Milwaukee, publisher of the Social Democratic Herald, for which Debs wrote almost exclusively through 1904, and Max S. Hayes, editor of the Cleveland Citizen, prominent in the national typographers’ union and an annual warrior against Sam Gompers at the annual conventions of the AF of L.


Max S. Hayes (1866-1945), editor of the venerable Cleveland Citizen, was a socialist activist in the typographers’ union who fought the Gompers administration each year at the annual AF of L convention. He was adamantly opposed to the dual union tactic, which he believed would again lead to a sectarian cul-de-sac.

Here is Hayes’s alternative view:

This sounds to me as though we were to have another Socialist Trade & Labor Alliance experiment again; that we who are in the trade unions, as at present constituted, are to cut loose and flock by ourselves. If I am correct in my surmises it means another running fight between Socialists on one side and all other partisans on the other…. If there is any fighting to be done I intend to agitate on the inside of the organizations now in existence… (fn. Hayes letter to W.L. Hall, Dec. 30, 1904, cited in Brissenden, op. cit., p. 5).

Debs begged off from attending this critical initial organizing session, citing reasons of ill health — adding a fifth data point to what was becoming a pattern of non-attendance of key and potentially controversial organizational meetings. Recall that he had earlier missed the late night organizational meeting at the time of split forming the Social Democratic Party in June 1898, the negotiations between the Springfield and Chicago SDP at the 1900 Chicago convention, the pivotal second day of the Jan. 1901 convention of the Chicago SDP, and the entire founding convention of the Socialist Party of America in the summer of 1901.

Debs penned a lengthy and illuminating letter to Clarence Smith of the ALU, one of the chief organizers of the confab, explaining his non-attendance:

I shall not be able to attend the meeting on the second [Jan. 2, 1905]. I keenly regret this for I had counted on being with you and in giving such assistance as I could to the work of organizing that is to be undertaken along new and progressive lines. In spite of my best will this is now impossible.

For a good many years I have been working without regard to myself and in all my life I have never known what it is to have a rest. The last year’s work was in many respects the hardest of my life. I spent myself too freely and have now reached the point when I must give up for a time as the doctor warned me that my nerves are worn down and that I am threatened with collapse.

There is nothing the matter with me except that I am compelled to let go for a time and so I have had to cancel all my engagements for the immediate future. How soon I may be able to resume I do not know, but I think I shall have to quite the public platform entirely, or almost so, for a year or such matter. There are too many demands constantly upon me and I shall have to turn them aside until I can get myself in physical condition to resume my activities. Under any other circumstances I should have considered it a privilege as well as a pleasure to attend your meeting.

Please find draft enclosed covering the amount you were kind enough to advance to me. Please accept my warm thanks for the favor. (fn. Debs in Terre Haute to Smith in Chicago, in William E. Trautmann (ed.), Proceedings of the First Convention of the Industrial Workers of the World: Founded at Chicago, June 27-July 8, 1905. New York: New York Labor News Co., 1905; pp. 98-99).

These are not the words of a primary organizer of what Debs called “your [Smith’s] meeting,” but rather a lengthy and rather tortured apology from one who had lent his name and prestige to a letter calling a session the previous month, but who was now feeling forced to duck the actual planning session itself.

Quoting my own doggerel: “When factional organizing reared its head / Eugene Debs was sick in bed.”

This was, however, nevertheless the fork in the road where Debs and his longtime co-thinker Victor L. Berger parted company, at least for a time. Debs did cast his lot once again with a new industrial union against the established network of existing craft-based organizations.

Debs and his associates believed these existing labor entities were inseparably under the control of an overpaid, overfed, unprincipled bureaucracy who worked hand-in-glove with their capitalist masters.

They were ready to tear it down and start over, lest the working class never be able to face down and win a battle against a united and organized ruling class.

•          •         •         •         •

The Socialist Labor Party comes in from the cold

While Debs was a pioneer of “industrial unionism” with the formation of the American Railway Union in 1893, it was the Socialist Labor Party and its controversial labor party initiative, the ST&LA that broke new ground in 1896 with an explicitly socialist dual industrial union across multiple industries. Although little headway was made in practice, the tactical maneuver did manage to burn bridges between SLP activists and friends within the established labor movement and had been a primary reason for internal conflict within the SLP itself, culminating in a bitter split of the organization in 1899.

After the Western Federation of Miners borrowed the dual socialist industrial union tactic through their promotion of the American Labor Union in 1902, it was only a matter of time until all was forgiven and a rapprochement was made between the isolated and sectarian SLP/ST&LA and the broader radical labor movement of the Mountain West.

National organizer for the SLP/ST&LA Frank Bohn was fortuitously passing through Chicago in December 1904 and he was contacted by the William Trautmann on behalf of the “Committee of Seven” and personally invited to attend the January organizing conference to discuss the situation.

According to Bohn

Trautmann, in stating the general purpose of the conference on behalf of the Committee of Seven, proclaimed clearly and firmly the old, old truths which we, of the SLP, have never ceased to emphasize during all these years of fighting. After proving the capitalist character of the AF of L and showing its open follies and its hidden rottenness, he added: “It will be said that we are practically accepting the principles of the ST&LA. Yes, we are. We must come to that. They are the right principles.” (fn. Frank Bohn, “Preliminary Explosion or Volcanic Rumblings Coming to a Head,” Weekly People, vol. 14, no. 43 (Jan. 21, 1905), p. 1).

•          •         •         •         •

The January Conference

The “January Conference” was convened in Chicago on Jan. 2, 1905, with William E. Trautmann presiding. A total of 25 people were present,(fn. Bohn, op. cit.) including  Charles H. Moyer and William D. “Big Bill” Haywood, the two top officials of the powerful Western Federation of Miners; C.O. Sherman of the United Metal Workers; labor organizer Mary “Mother” Jones; Frank Bohn, an organizer for the Socialist Labor Party and its faltering red dual union, the Socialist Trade & Labor Alliance (ST&LA); editor A.M. Simons of the socialist theoretical monthly, the International Socialist Review; and J.M. O’Neill, editor of Miners’ Magazine. (fn. Brissenden, op cit., p. 5).


“Big Bill” Haywood (1869-1928), head of the Western Federation of Miners

This conference issued a Industrial Union Manifesto, also known as the Chicago Manifesto, formally calling a June 27 convention to organize a new industrial union. According to the text of this convention call:

A movement to fulfill these conditions must consist of one great industrial union embracing all industries — providing for craft autonomy locally, industrial autonomy internationally, and working class unity generally.

It must be founded on the class struggle, and its general administration must be conducted in harmony with the recognition of the irrepressible conflict between the capitalist class and the working class.

It should be established as the economic organization of the working class, without affiliation with any political party.

All power should rest in a collective membership.

Local, national, and general administration, including union labels, buttons, badges, transfer cards, initiation fees, and per capita tax should be uniform throughout.
All members must hold membership in the local, national, or international union covering the industry in which they are employed, but transfers of membership between unions — local, national, or international — should be universal.

Workingmen bringing union cards from industrial unions in foreign countries should be freely admitted into the organization…. (fn. Industrial Union Manifesto, Voice of Labor [Chicago], vol. 3, no. 6 (March 1905), pp. 3-5).

A “permanent executive committee” was chosen. This included “Big Bill” Haywood of the Western Federation of Miners as Chairman and the indefatigable W.E. Trautmann as Secretary. Rounding out the board were Clarence Smith of the ALU, W.L. Hall of the tiny Railway Employees’ union, and Algie Simons, editor of International Socialist Review. Gene Debs was not part of this executive board, unsurprisingly.

As he did not attend the organizing meeting, Debs’s name was not one of 26 affixed to the convention call in the first published version, which appeared in the Daniel DeLeon-edited Weekly People. It was, however, later appended and appears in most published versions. (fn. “First Explosion: More to Come,” Weekly People, vol. 14, no. 44 (Jan. 28, 1905), pp. 1-2).

The stage was set for the formation of a new labor organization.

•          •         •         •         •

The Way the Media Portrayed the Forthcoming Establishment of the IWW

We have seen the primary movers for IWW were Trautmann of the Brauer Zeitung, Thomas Hagerty and Clarence Smith of the ALU, Estes and Hall of ARU-inspired albeit tiny United Brotherhood of Railway Employees, and William D. Haywood of the Western Federation of Miners.

But it was Gene Debs who remained the great bogey man in the eyes of the press. The Wall Street Journal pinned it all on him, bringing to life the specter of the ten-years-dead ARU in a Jan. 12, 1905 snippet:

Eugene V. Debs is endeavoring to form a gigantic labor organization, with the American Railway Union as the nucleus. He contemplates the overthrow of of the American Federation of Labor. He called for a convention in Chicago on June 27. (fn. “Newspaper Specials, Wall Street Journal, vol. 45, no. 10 (Jan. 12, 1905), p. 2.)

This drumbeat emerged again as the June 1905 launch of the new industrial union drew near.


Los Angeles Herald, May 1, 1905, p. 4. Much too much work for them to learn the actual organizational backstory… The implications of the new union were, however, clear.

Wire reports of this time cast Debs as the new president of the yet-to-be-announced industrial union, which was to go to war against the AF of L, since “there is no concealment of the fact that Debs will do his utmost to disrupt the organization of which Gompers is the head.” (fn. See, for example: “New Labor Body,” Topeka Daily Herald, May 2, 1905, p. 6).

Other news reports of similar vintage went even further, purporting that Debs had “confirmed” that he was to be the head of the new industrial union. (fn. See, for example: “The Latest,” Louisville Courier-Journal, May 4, 1905, p. 1).

Debs’s sensational and sensationalized association with the industrial union project was not ignored by his anti-dual unionist friends in the Socialist Party of America. On April 29, 1905, following a speech before 600 people in Racine, Wisconsin, Debs retired to his room in the Hotel Racine with his old Milwaukee friends from Social Democratic Party days, Victor L. Berger and Fred Heath. The pair attempted to induce Debs to remove his name from the IWW convention call. They were unsuccessful, with Debs subsequently declining to make further comment to the press. (fn. “Would Block Opposition of Federation of Labor,” LaCrosse [WI] Tribune, vol. 1, no. 293 (May 1, 1905), p. 3).

•          •         •         •         •

A Digression: Debs’s First Speaking Tour of 1905

One thing I am attempting to do as a part of this project is to take advantage of the newly sprung historical resource that is (and its fabulous search engine of digitized newspapers) in order to reconstruct for the first time Debs’s various speaking tours.

It appears that his first 1905 tour kicked off in Pensacola, Florida on February 15 to a disappointingly small audience on the venerable topic of “Labor and Liberty.” That particular speech, under the auspices of the Lyceum Course of the Pensacola Library Association, featured the most expensive ticket price I’ve seen to date — $1 for the best seats, with other price tiers of 75, 50, and 25 cents. This was an era when a good wage was $3 a day. You do the math.

Shoe store ad cashing in on visit of Eugene V. Debs to speak at

A union shoe store in Muskogee, IT, took advantage of an appearance by Eugene V. Debs in March 1905 to promote itself.

The first 1905 tour then vanishes from the radar for three weeks (it might have been a one-off date, but keep in mind inclusion of Southern newspapers in the Newspapers .com database is bad). It may also be that Debs spent the “missing” time resting and recuperating from his December 1904 breakdown. There seem to be no available letters to answer this question either way.

Debs reappears on the radar of the mainstream press at the end of the first week of March. From that point the tour focused on the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Indian Territory. Debs spoke at a number of small Kansas towns throughout the rest of the month of March, including Girard, Oswego, Columbus, Parsons, Udall, and Arkansas City, as well as the city of Wichita.

After touching base in Gutherie and Oklahoma City, Debs delivered an address to a major “Union Labor Congress” in Muskogee, Indian Territory, on March 29 on the topic of “The Closer Affiliation of the Unions.” After speaking in the afternoon for more than two hours to the 300 delegates and interested others, he then deadheaded back for an appearance the next night in Pittsburg, located in the mining country of Southeastern Kansas, just down the road from Girard.

This seems to have been the end of the tour.



I spent the better part of one day this week setting up my directory structure for Volume 4. I work in Apple Pages ’09 as my main word processor, which exports to Microsoft Word doc format (losing formatting in the transition, which needs to be restored line-by-line), which I then need to re-export to Word docx format (the form that is finally submitted), which in turn needs to be exported as pdfs for Marxists Internet Archive. So that’s four sets of the same files… Then there is an Excel word-counting spreadsheet for Vol. 4 that needed to be set up.  Now things should proceed smoothly.

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 22 more Saturdays after today to get the core content section of the book assembled, with a limit for publication of approximately 260,000 words. And so it begins…

  • “Invitation to a Secret Conference to Plan a New Industrial Labor Union” (Nov. 29, 1904) — 452 words
  • “Letter to Clarence Smith Explaining His Forthcoming Absence from the Meeting to Plan the Founding of the Industrial Workers of the World” (December 23, 1904) — 535 words
  • “Women: To Get What Is Due, You Must Take It” (Jan. 14, 1905) — 295 words
  • “The Socialist Party and Woman’s Freedom” (Jan. 14, 1905) — 179 words
  • “The Russian Uprising” (Jan. 26, 1905) — 588 words
  • “Winning a World” (Nov. 1905) — 1,654 words
  • “Craft Unionism: Speech in Chicago” (Nov. 23, 1905) — 9,705 words
  • “Class Unionism: Speech Delivered at South Chicago” (Nov. 24, 1905) — 10,266 words

Word count: 22,639 in the can + 23,674 this week + amendments = 48,059 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 a list of the microfilm that I’ve scanned this week, available for free download. There is a short delay between completion of the scanning and its appearance on MIA.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Publishing a Book (19-02)


I was going to write about Eugene V. Debs and his relationship to the Industrial Workers of the World this week — the first major topic of volume 4 of his selected works reflected in the book’s working title, Red Union, Red Paper, Red Train. The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley…

mouseYou see, this turned out to be a week with a Friday deadline for turning in the manuscript of volume 3 (postponed from October 15 by mutual consent with the publisher).

And that was a lot of work, heavily time consuming. It’s very much akin to a hitting a deadline for turning in a college term paper, complete with the requisite “all-nighter” as the zero hour approached.

That got done. I’m more or less happy with the 42 page introduction. There are still two or three paragraphs to write and insert for topics that I inadvertently missed, but definitely good enough that the professor should give me an A.

And, I got my work for the week done, exceeding my 15,000 word weekly quota for Debs content and getting a few years of old socialist newspapers scanned.

But an article on the “Debs and the IWW” for this blog?

Dream on…

Instead, I will torment you with a little essay that I can write for you in about 90 minutes on a rainy Saturday morning in February, before the sun comes up.

•          •          •          •          •

If you will forgive me the youthful indiscretion of the 50 copies of a small xeroxed volume of stupid stories and bad poetry that I did back in college, I was involved with my first book publishing project back in the early 1990s. It was a numismatic catalog that I did with a fellow collector from Virginia,  and was published with a very bland but very descriptive title: United States Sales Tax Tokens and Stamps: A History and Catalog (1993).

STTThat project involved a few months of research and writing, with me pounding away on my trusty old IBM Selectic typewriter. My partner, the late Merlin Malehorn, wrote the technical section of the book and I did the historical section. He took care of all the publishing details.

The book is still being used by the couple hundred dedicated collectors of sales tax tokens, which is pretty good mileage for a numismatic catalog. Exonumists use “M&D numbers” to denote one type or variety of these depression-era tokens from another.

I’m the D. Whoopty doo.

I did think it might be interesting to write a few words about the actual publishing process today — a little peek behind the curtain of academic (or serious political) publishing.

•          •          •          •          •

The first step to publishing a book is to understand book publishers. There are essentially four animals in the zoo. These are, in no particular order: (1) commercial publishers, (2) academic publishers, (3) specialized publishers, and (4) Do It Yourself or so-called vanity publishers.

Most people casually think of publishing as a dichotomy between numbers 1 and 4 above — either a publisher is a commercial entity (“all about the Benjamins, baby”) that is out to make lots of money tracking down potentially big-selling titles and moving tonnage by any means necessary; or a publisher is a shysterist firm (“all about the Benjamins, baby”) that is out to make lots of money from gullible saps willing to pay cash for the privilege of having their otherwise unpublishable and mostly unsellable books.

ChicagoWhile both of these things are real, neither is it of the publishing world with which I am at least a little familiar. There’s a huge world out there that is neither fish nor fowl — publishers that focus on content rather than sales. These include the academic presses more or less associated with various universities (Princeton University Press, Indiana University Press, University of Illinois Press, University of Oklahoma Press, Stanford University Press, and so on) or the presses associated with a particular theme or political orientation.

This is the world of serious scholarship, focused specialization, or distilled politics.

Is your book about some aspect of the history of a given state? Chances are there is a press catering to such fare. A certain highly specialized topic? There are probably publishers similarly focused. Obviously, all of these need to sell enough books to sustain their operations, they aren’t oblivious to commercial considerations, but the primary criteria is content: is a title a potential contribution to the serious literature? The potential market is secondary.

So the first step to publishing a book — assuming one is not trying to flog a potential best-seller (better have an agent!) or going the Do It Yourself route (and there’s nothing wrong with that!) — is to find a publisher who “does” the type of book which one is interested in publishing.

That’s the first half of the battle right there, fully 50%.

•          •          •          •          •

As for the second half of the battle, getting from concept to published content…

The first step in the process, after a submission of an idea or a manuscript is accepted, is to negotiate a contract. Any publisher bigger than a breadbox has a standard contract that they use, so the “negotiation” aspect from the author’s side of things is pretty limited. The publisher will specify the form in which a manuscript is to be submitted (generally a file in Microsoft Word format).

Do you hate Word and use a different word processor program, as do I? Tough titties. Figure out how to convert your stuff into Word format. That’s not something that one is apt to be able to negotiate away, try as one might. Get yourself a copy of Word if you don’t have one, you’re gonna need it.

mai-frontThe publisher will specify its royalty system. For my own extremely specialized little world, I don’t care a whit about that part of the game. It’s all about getting the book out there. Basically, the publishers’ system will be their system and while there might be a little bit of bend on a couple trivial details in this structure, I wouldn’t count on it. This is again something that one is gonna have to accept as it comes. Quarterly or annual statements and some percentage of gross revenue of sales of copies not discounted more than a certain rate — after costs are met — is typical, I believe.

For the Debs, David and I have signed over all potential royalties to Marxists Internet Archive, the underfunded internet content platform for which we volunteer. Their annual budget is something like $5,000, and there is no Daddy Warbucks character behind it, so a few hundred bucks might mean something if it ever materializes… But if it never does, nobody’s feelings will be hurt… (It’s not about the Benjamins, baby…)

But there are things that can be negotiated during the contract process.

1. Size of the book. The publisher will want a certain size of book. Is this the size you want to write? There is give and take to be had. The author’s opportunity to set this parameter doesn’t come at the end, it happens up front. For the Debs, it was important for David and myself to have as many pages to work with as possible, as we knew how big the iceberg was and didn’t want to be the 9th Debs selected works project delivering the same exact set of ice cubes. The publisher (whom we adore) offered “Long.” We got them bumped up to “VERY Long.” Our publisher, Haymarket books, is actually known to have done 1,000 page paperbacks before, we knew there would be flex there — so know your publisher’s track record and comfort zone.

haymarket-logoWe started thinking the project would be three volumes long. We figured out it was actually going to take four. The publisher bought in to this idea. Then we figured that wasn’t going to be enough either and told them we needed five. The publisher bought in again. Then we figured out even with five volumes, the content skew would be unrepresentative (too much early stuff, not enough late stuff) without a sixth volume. The publisher, god bless them, again bought in.

Did I mention we love Haymarket Books?

We love Haymarket Books.

2. Format of the book. One thing I was really worried about was seeing that there was a hardcover edition published. Most book sales happen in the paperback format, but libraries want the permanence of hardcover. Don’t assume that both formats are going to happen automatically, because they are not. If hardcover is important to you (or, conversely, if paperback is important to you and a publisher is hardcover-driven), the contract-negotiation phase is the time to make it happen.

The most haggling and wrangling we did involved this aspect, as Haymarket historically has been about 98% paperback-only. I had a previous experience with a publisher that I didn’t care for and wanted to make sure that the catastrophe of being associated with a hardcover book selling for 190 Euros ($215) was not repeated. So I went into the project wanting an assurance of a hardcover AND I wanted the price capped at no more than about $100 — a rate that academic libraries can deal with. Getting there took a while, but it turns out that Haymarket had previous experience with the format deep in their back catalog, so it wasn’t totally uncharted territory. Lucky break.

calendar3. Deadlines. A contract specifies when a manuscript is due. Make sure a suitable date is selected. A contract also generally specifies how long a publisher has to get a manuscript through the printing process after the manuscript is accepted.

For the Debs, we’ve been pretty relaxed, mostly since this is a big, multi-volume project and publishing wheels turn slowly. Volume 3 was supposed to be turned in on October 15, 2018, but there was a gridlock forming because volume 2 was still in the proofreading process and volume 1 hadn’t yet been cleared for production. So things moved back to February 15.

On the publishers’ end, I think they are supposed to be operating on a 10 month shot clock. I’m pretty sure that volume 1 has been running longer than that.

No big deal, it takes as long as it takes. Far best to do things right.

4. Author copies. Authors get complimentary copies of their book. From big, bad $215 book publisher, I got 3. There was no provision for paperbacks at all, even though they knew going in that they were going to license the format out. I managed to beg two from Haymarket, who published it under license. For the Debs, David and I are each due to get 10 paperbacks and 3 hardcovers of each title as they appear, as a point of reference.

A contract also specifies the rate at which authors can buy additional copies of their own book. For Haymarket, this is a standard 50% of cover price. The problem is, Haymarket  runs 30% off discounts off their website probably 350 days a year, sometimes running sales at 40%, and occasionally special sales at 50%.

So what is really the price of the book?

Live and learn, I really messed this up. If I had it to do over again, I would have specified the right to preorder up to 100 copies at 30% of the cover price or something like that. They probably would have thought it over and priced it out and said, “sure.”

The time to negotiate these things is at the front, writing the contract. Whoops.

5. Indexing. The contract generally specifies who does the index (author or someone paid by the publisher, the cost of which is charged back to the project). Generally, publishers have their people to do this work and they charge what they charge. If one wants to go DIY with the indexing, this needs to be negotiated up front.

•          •          •          •          •

Okay, so now you’ve got your contract and you write your book.

You submit the manuscript in the form specified by the contract (MS Word) meeting the size requirement specified in the contract — the coin of the realm being NUMBER OF WORDS, not number of pages of manuscript.

Then comes the next stage of the process, proofreading.

In the old days, I think they probably used to give things the once over for errors in the manuscript, set things to type, and then manually sort through physical printed sheets looking for typographical errors. I am guessing here, but that’s my understanding…

This has absolutely nothing to do with the way things are actually done today.


In practice, the original manuscript in MS Word gets marked up by the copy editor (I use here the Wikipedia term, the industry may use a different description), who sends it back to the author for amendments and approvals. Depending on one’s relationship with the copy editor, this can go back and forth through several rounds of fixes and changes, with lots of questions and answers and comments tacked into notes on the side.

The text morphs during this process, presumably emerging better at the end. (My writing is naturally kludgy. Hopefully, it finishes up a more efficient and grammatically-correct kludgy…)

The copy editor of Debs volumes 1 and 2 — and hopefully volumes 3, 4, 5, and 6!!! — is a woman named Amelia Iuvino. She’s fucking brilliant at what she does, pardon my French…

•          •          •          •          •

After the manuscript is corrected to the satisfaction of the author and the copy editor, things move to the publisher’s production department — what I call “layout.”

layout.jpgCover art is done by the art department, or whoever handles such things. We had a little disconnect with the exact book title for volume 1. This is work that needs to be carefully inspected, no matter how brilliant the art might appear at first glance.

The corrected manuscript itself is inserted as a giant Word file into a template constructed within the layout program, which for Haymarket is Adobe InDesign.

Things are read over by the person doing the final page layout. On Debs volume 1, I got an email with at least half a dozen excellent observations about confusing wording or typos that were somehow missed in the earlier proof reading process. (You try getting 750 pages 100% perfect, I dare you!) So this is a new set of eyes with yet another layer of proofreading.

At the same time, a certain number of new errors are introduced into the layout process at this time, and this is where the author has to do more work. The manuscript in laid out form needs to be read again, top to bottom, and layout errors observed, noted, and fixed. Sometimes indentation is wrong. Sometimes ornaments are inserted where ellipses belong, or vice-versa. Sometimes italics were botched earlier in the process and the error is finally caught. And so on and so forth.

So a few things that were messed up get fixed, but at least as many things that were fine before now need to be fixed…

•          •          •          •          •

Once the layout is all fixed up and approved, the publisher sends the production pdfs of the InDesign layout to the publisher, and the waiting game begins.

There’s the question of promotion, too. This varies on a case-by-case basis, I am sure. Some of these particulars are probably part of the contract for some publishers.

Well, the sun is up, it is time to scan some microfilm of old newspapers… I hope this has been at least a little bit interesting. I promise to actually write about Debs next week.



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 23 more Saturdays after today to get the core content section of the book assembled, with a limit for publication of approximately 260,000 words. And so it begins…

  • “Berger and His Opponents: Letter to the Toledo Socialist (June 17, 1905) — 1,295 words
  • “Speech to the Founding Convention of the Industrial Workers of the World, Chicago” (June 29, 1905) — 2,752 words
  • “The Industrial Workers of the World: The Convention and its Work” (July 29, 1905) — 1,534 words
  • “The Industrial Convention” (August 1905) — 703 words
  • “Industrial Unionism: Address at Grand Central Palace, New York City” (Dec. 10, 1905) — 8,389 words
  • “Railway Employees and the Class Struggle” (Feb. 3, 1906) — 6,549 words

Word count: 1,417 in the can + 21,222 this week = 22,639 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 a list of the microfilm that I’ve scanned this week, available for free download. There is a short delay between completion of the scanning and its appearance on MIA.



Thomas Kirkup, A Primer on Socialism. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1908. — Short historical overview, including chapter length coverage of early socialism, German socialism, and Karl Marx.

Marx Lewis, Meyer London: Pioneer Labor Lawyer. New York: Tamiment Library, New York University, 1975. — Uncommon pamphlet written by veteran Socialist Party member about the second socialist congressman in America.

G.H. Lockwood, How to Live 100 Years. Kalamazoo, MI: Lockwood Publishing Co., n.d. [1912]. — Socialist Party cartoonist and pamphleteer offers his suggestions on living a long life, like not taking opium or drinking or eating too much food… He only lived to be 77, so I guess he needed to take his own advice better.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Back in the Harness (19-01)


This marks the beginning of the third year of the Debs project.

By now I have the preparation cycle pretty well figured out, kicking off research the first week of February and getting into final compilation and writing mode around the first of August.

As I write this I am in a weird place with the project — Volume 1 (Building Solidarity on the Tracks, 1877-1892) is still at the printer; Volume 2 (The Rise and Fall of the ARU, 1892-1896) is heading for indexing; Volume 3 (Path to a Socialist Party, 1897-1904) has an introduction that is still being futzed with… Now here I am simultaneously ready to kick off research and article transcription for the fourth volume, tentatively titled Red Union, Red Paper, Red Train, 1905-1910.

It seems a little bit scattered having four 750-page books happening at once, eh?

Does that make it hard to focus?


•          •          •          •          •

Gene Debs the Subject of New Documentary Film


I opened up my third research year grudgingly doing a bit of homework. I spent an hour and a half watching a new documentary movie — American Socialist: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs (Blackstream Films, 2018). Few of you have probably heard of this project; nor had I. I was surprised to recently discover this straight-to-DVD project in the course of my perusing of eBay for rare Debs and Socialist Party fare and the requisite coins were spent to buy a copy.

American Socialist, written and produced by Yale Strom and Elizabeth Schwartz, fortunately proved to be well crafted. The film is clearly inspired by the work of Ken Burns — he of the slow moving pans of static images and the toothsome voice-overs dramatically reading contemporary documents while folksy acoustic instrumental music accompanies in the background. Some money was clearly spent carrying out the project, as it features in-person interviews with a range of well-selected subject experts, including historians Jim Bissett, Richard Schneirov, and Nick Salvatore, economist Richard Wolf, social scientist Frances Fox Piven, and red diaper baby New Yorker journalist Rick Hertzberg.

All of these enlighten the general audience for whom this project is intended, the new generation of American socialists taking inspiration from the 2016 political campaign of  certain United States Senator from Vermont, answering the rhetorical question posed by the producers: “Bernie Sanders inspired a generation — but who inspired him?”


Jean Daniel “Dandy” Debs (1820-1906), patriarch of the Debs clan. He was French, it’s not pronounced “JEEN.”

As is inevitable when attempting to compress a lifetime into a 90 minute slide show, certain strengths and weaknesses of analysis make themselves felt. The movie whizzes through the first half of Debs’ life — his growing up in Terre Haute (without truly making clear his middle class background), his departure from school at age 14 to work for the railroad (without noting the brevity or his railway career or his simultaneous enrollment in business school), glancing allusion to his career as a Democratic Party politician (omitting mention of his election to the legislature), his marriage to and (overemphasized) emotional estrangement from Katherine Metzel.

Then, voilá, we have the American Railway Union and the Pullman Strike.

It’s all very tidy and telescoped and a bit superficial, racing about in an effort to check many boxes, speaking of much while truly explaining little. Identification of Debs as a well-salaried magazine editor and railway brotherhood functionary for more than a decade? Nada.

The voice work is quite good for most of the characters of the historical drama — Big Bill Haywood, Clarence Darrow, Seymour Stedman, Helen Keller, Upton Sinclair, and so on — with the notable and deeply disappointing exception of the treatment accorded to Debs himself. The uncredited, uncharismatic portrayal of Debs’ voice is colorless and plodding —  devoid of his midwestern twang and deep orator’s resonance, both of which were documented traits that he possessed. Did the producer save this plum for himself? I certainly hope not — it was a terrible decision and a failure if he did.

The tepid presentation of Debs stands in  painful contrast to the colorful voice work done for others and leaves the viewer wondering just what all the fuss was about — how a man could have been able to captivate crowds running into the thousands for two hours at a time despite being so…………. bland. The answer is this: Debs’s voice wasn’t bland.

Looking on the bright side: at least Brooklyn Bernie Sanders wasn’t tapped by Strom and Schwartz for a reprise of the Debs vocal role which he delivered with such comically bad effect in his 1979 spoken word album.

Several potentially controversial aspects of the Debs story are not dodged in the least, including his lengthy love affair with Mabel Curry, his brief support of the Bolshevik Revolution, and his fleeting flirtation with the American communist movement in the months after his 1922 prison release.


1912 Patterson Silk Strike activists (L-R): Patrick Quinlan, Carlo Tresca, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Adolph Lessig, Big Bill Haywood. Nope, Debs didn’t play a huge role here, documentary aside…

Other aspects of the political story are overdrawn or wrong, including an over-association of Debs with the Industrial Workers of the World (to the extent of ignoring his endorsement of the anti-syndicalist reaction in the Socialist Party in 1913), a complete failure to mention or explain his 1916 Congressional run, as well as howling errors such as calling defrocked Socialist Congressman Victor L. Berger a pro-WWI “jingoist,” pronouncing the name of Debs’ French-Alsatian father Jean as “JEEN,” and misspelling and mispronouncing the name of Attorney General Harry Daugherty as “Daughtery.” Such errors should not happen in a documentary of this scale.

Additional abdominal pain and eye-rolling resulted from the repeated use of anachronistic photos, including those of Debs from late in life to illustrate activities undertaken in the middle of life, as well as film of non-germane industrial and crowd scenes and badly faked crowd noise. When they do get it really right, using actual images from the 1918 Canton speech in connection with their presentation of the event, the impact is lessened because similar things had already been cheesily “simulated” several times before.


Why is Martin King (1929-1968) in a documentary film about Gene Debs? They were making a motivational film for contemporary activists rather than “history for history’s sake.”

The film, as it necessarily must be, is a quick gloss of a life, attempting to briefly tie the Debs life story to the later struggles of Martin Luther King, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the concern for the poor of Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis). There is, in short, an undeniable contemporary-activist rather than scholarly overtone to the work, despite the enlistment of able scholars to help tell the tale.

I observe that the anarchist publisher AK Press is credited for some of the design work on the box. I additionally observe that the name of producer “Blackstream Films” bears a vaguely anarchist flavor. To this political state of affairs may be assigned the over-association of Debs with the anarchosyndicalist IWW, I speculate.

In reality, Debs was in and out of the IWW in rapid succession as it quickly eschewed electoral politics in favor of mass action. Thereafter, Debs would be friendly to the IWW’s activist members but never again of the body, so to speak. Debs would be fundamentally committed to political-action throughout his entire life, brief rhetorical flourishes notwithstanding. This divergence is badly blurred by the makers and presents the single greatest flaw of the film.

Be that as it may, the end result here proves to be………….. okay. Those who know a little about Debs will doubtlessly learn some; thought those who already know some won’t probably learn much. The still photographs are interesting and well-presented, the production values quite good indeed. One could certainly do worse.

★ ★ ½

American Socialist: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs.

Blackstream Films/First Run Features. DVD. 97 minutes. $24.95

•          •          •          •          •

What I Did During My Winter Vacation

Those who know me well are aware that I own and read a lot of microfilm. I’m not exactly sure, but the Vegas over/under would be something like 1,000 reels — although bear in mind that a lot of it is garbage, like US News and World Report and Time magazine and the Congressional Record. But I do have a lot of really good and quite rare and valuable microfilm of socialist, anarchist, and communist newspapers.


Over the last decade or so, veritable old 1950s-vintage microfilm — lauded as a format stable enough to last for hundreds of years — has been giving way to digitization. The website, for example, currently has 467.2 million pages of newspapers digitized and available for their subscribers to peruse. Moreover, that is just a minor fraction of the pages of newspapers that have survived. There are multiple billions of pages out there from the United States alone.

It is worth mentioning that the digitization of radical newspapers (a specialized subset of newspapers in general) is spotty at best, beyond which is the legitimate issue of whether such material should be locked behind a subscribers-only paywall. Information wants to be free.

In his life’s work to improve the world, my friend Marty Goodman has been digitizing left wing newspapers and magazines for the better part of a decade now. Though he dropped major cash on flattop paper scanning gear,  he has for years hemmed and hawed about getting the costly equipment needed for microfilm digitization, paralyzed by the choice of dropping $50,000 for a top-end automated scanning system versus $10,000 for a state of the art non-automated unit.


Die Wahrheit (The Truth) was Victor L. Berger’s German language weekly that became an official organ of the Social Democratic Party with headquarters in Chicago.

During the course of his work, Marty made himself familiar with the various film scanners being used at several of the archives and libraries he visits and he passed that information on to me. “An e-ImageData Scan Pro 3000 is what you want,” Marty assured me. He put his money where his mouth is, dropping several thousand dollars to track down a used Scan Pro 2200 and spending extra money to upgrade it to 3000 fidelity. Then, miracle of miracles, a couple weeks after upgrading his machine we spotted a lease return on a Scan Pro 3000 up for sale on eBay — the only one we have ever seen, before or since, I note. I went to the mat to obtain it, spending enough money to have bought a decent used car in the process…

It goes without saying that the last several months I have spent scanning film of old socialist newspapers like a madman, placing an emphasis on the major publications of Debs Volume 3 time period (1897-1904). My consigliere and handler, David Walters, has been putting my output into accessible form on Marxists Internet Archive, where it is available for free download by anyone, any time, anywhere… Nice work by him!

Here are some of the specific papers I have worked on, in case anyone is interested in doing a little reading, research, or writing… Those with a “+” I will be expanding as I move forward…

American Labor Union Journal (1902-1905)

America for All (1932) — SPA campaign paper

Appeal to Reason (1900-1904+)

Camden Voice of Labor / New Jersey Leader (1915-1920) — badly broken run

Chicago Workers’ Call / Chicago Socialist (1899-1903+)

The People [regular] / The Weekly People (1897-1904+)

The People [dissident] / The Worker (1899-1904+)

The Railway Times / The Social Democrat (1897-1898)

Seattle Socialist (1900-1907+) — partially done earlier by someone else

Social Democratic Herald (1898-1904+)

Socialist Party Official Bulletin (1904-1913)

Die Wahrheit (1897-1898+) — Victor Berger’s German weekly

•          •          •          •          •

Debs Volume 4 — 1905 to 1910

The period 1905 to 1910 marks Gene Debs’s most fruitful period as a socialist commentator. At the time I begin the Red Union, Red Paper, Red Train volume, my database lists slightly more than 510 Debs items — seemingly about one-third of which were first published in the Appeal to Reason. It was during this period that Debs moved out of his comfortable house in Terre Haute, leaving his wife behind, making the small Southeastern Kansas town of Girard his home and base of operations.


Debs in the Seattle Times, April 1907

I see nothing on my list of Debs articles written for Victor Berger’s Social Democratic Herald dated after October 1905. This had been Debs’s main journalistic venue of the 1898-1904 period. I speculate that he and Berger broke over Debs’s participation in the Industrial Workers of the World, Berger being a committed “boring from within” kind of guy with respect to the trade union movement.

It will be interesting to see whether Berger and his right hand man, Fred Heath, picked up and reprinted Debs’s articles written for the Appeal the way the Appeal often reprinted earlier material by Debs originally written for the Herald, or whether things were so bitter between the two that Debs was ignored.

This period also marks the launch of two of the three Socialist Party daily newspapers, the New York Call and the Chicago Daily Socialist. Six issues a week instead of one means six times as much scanning work. My newspaper scanning project is about to explode…

Whelp, time to move along to getting that intro to Volume 3 finished up. No time to think about anything too long…



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 24 more Saturdays after today to get the core content section of the book assembled, with a limit for publication of approximately 260,000 words. And so it begins…

  • “The Industrial Union Manifesto” — Jan. 4, 1905 — 1,417 words

Word count: 0 in the can + 1,417 this week = 1,417 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 a list of the microfilm that I’ve scanned this week, available for free download. There is a short delay between completion of the scanning and its appearance on MIA.



bevirNew arrivals for my personal library vaguely related to the Debs project.

  • Mark Bevir, The Making of British Socialism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011. — An emphasis on the Fabian movement and the emergence of the Independent Labour Party, but including discussion of Christian socialism and ethical anarchism. Chapter-length coverage of E. Belfort Bax, H.M. Hyndman, George Bernard Shaw, Sydney Webb.
  • Peter J. Frederick, Knights of the Golden Rule: The Intellectual as Christian Social Reformer in the 1890s. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1976. — Biographies of William Deans Howell, Henry Demarest Lloyd, W.D.P. Bliss, B.O. Flower, Vida Scudder, Walter Rauschenbusch, George Herron, Edwin Markham, Ernest Crosby, and Samuel M. Jones as exemplars of a movement.
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Election of 1904 (18-26)


Gene Debs seems to have embraced his role as presidential nominee of the Socialist Party in 1904 less grudgingly than he did four years previously. He delivered an acceptance speech to the SPA’s nominating convention in May, sat out the hot summer months — presidential campaigns were much shorter in that era than they are today — and began to campaign in earnest on September 1 with a widely reprinted speech delivered at Masonic Hall in Indianapolis.

Eugene V. Debs opens up campaign in New York City with speech at

This is not a typo, the Socialist Party remained the “Social Democratic Party” due to ballot restrictions in New York and Wisconsin during the 1904 campaign. It also had a different name in Minnesota, the “Public Ownership Party.”

It takes a great deal of time-consuming detective work to determine EVD’s itinerary during the 1904 campaign — there was never anything so neat and easy as a list of scheduled speaking engagements as there was for the “Socialist Red Special” year of 1908, with the time of every scheduled whistle-stop speech minutely planned and publicized on a printed schedule. Instead, newspapers from around the country have to be searched and perused and the rough outline filled in and fleshed out.

In connection with volume 3 of the Debs Selected Works I have made some serious progress towards a definitive listing of Debs speaking appearances during the 1904 campaign.  The following list is nothing like complete, bear in mind, is “only” at the 401 million page mark with their searchable accumulation of digitized microfilm — en route to several billion pages a decade hence, I am sure. There is no doubt whatsoever that blank spots will be colored in and a few errors fixed as more source material becomes available. That being said, the following makes for a decent start at the effort to list every Debs speech during the 1904 Presidential Campaign…

I’ve worked really hard on this. It interests me.

My timeline as it currently stands follows…

•          •          •          •          •


• Sept. 1, 1904. — INDIANAPOLIS at Masonic Hall scheduled.

• Sept. 2, 3, 4, 5. — no information.

• Sept. 6, 1904. — NEW YORK CITY at Carnegie Hall, George D. Herron presiding. Debs claimed in Montana News published Oct. 5 (pg. 1) that “there was a line seven blocks long formed to enter Carnegie Hall to avoid a crush at the doors, and a detail of 100 policemen to prevent a jam. The great auditorium filled to the roof in a few moments and thousands could not get in.”
• Sept. 7. — BALTIMORE, MD.
• Sept. 8. — WHEELING, WV
• Sept. 9. — DAYTON, OH. — Spoke on a Friday night at the Park Theater.
• Sept. 10. — no information.
• Sept. 11 —  ST. LOUIS, MO. At Riverside park to at least 5,000 people at a socialist picnic at Riverside Park. Debs spoke for two hours, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm.
• Sept. 12— MEMPHIS, TN. Introduced by Fred Stanley of the Labor-Journal. The editor of the Memphis Commercial Appeal afterwards wrote:

“Mr. Debs is a man of vast strength of personal magnetism. Intensely in earnest, a man of the people, caring little for the effect of rhetorical graces, although possessed of these in no mean degree, he first attracts attention and then compels admiration on his own account, even where the listener quite disagrees with his peculiar political and economic views.

“Eugene V. Debs upon the lecture platform is a man of intense action. His long, angular form bends and sways, his long right arm crooks and lifts, his bony fingers shake and point as he strives with voice and gesture to drive his argument home to the intelligence of his audience and clinch it there. He makes an individual appeal. There is no broad shooting at a phalanx, there are no scattering volleys. It is a rapid succession of sharp-shooting, in which every word counts and every sentence nails an argument. And always he speaks to you, and you forget that there are others who are listening.” (Quoted in SD Herald, Sept. 24, 1904, p. 1.)

• Sept. 13.— CHATTANOOGA, TN. Accompanied by a workingmen’s band dressed in “white duck trousers and blue shirts.” Spoke for two hours at the Auditorium, starting at 8 pm. Introduced by Socialist Congressional candidate R.B. Taggart.
• Sept. 14. — ATLANTA, GA. Planned meeting site at the Wesley Memorial Tabernacle abruptly cancelled 24 hours in advance. Hall of Representatives in State Capitol  secured at last minute and Debs spoke to about 300 people there for two hours. Introduced by Rev. E.M. Skagen of the West End Episcopal Church and Max Wilk, secretary of Local Atlanta SPA.
Debs faces troubles for Sept. 15, 1904 Birmingham, Alabama Socia• Sept. 15. — BIRMINGHAM AL. Denied access to the city’s opera house, campaign was forced to rent a smaller hall on the edge of town — then were denied rental of chairs. Eventually were able to obtain raw planks, which were placed on top of chairs to fashion makeshift benches. Hall crowded to capacity and hundreds turned away.
• Sept. 16. – LITTLE ROCK, AR at Old Concordia Hall. Free admission. Arrived in town at 1:40 and was escorted to the Gleason Hotel by E.W Perrin, State Secretary of the SP of Arkansas. Spoke for two hours to an audience including many farmers. “The house was packed and jammed, no standing room even out in the corridor. Debs was lustily cheered to the echo.”
• Sept. 17. — PINE BLUFF, AR.
• Sept. 18. — FORT SMITH, AR. Spoke during the day at the park to about 2,500 despite a heavy rain.
• Sept. 19. — KANSAS CITY, MO, spoke at Convention Hall to a large crowd, estimated variously at 2,000 to 5,000 people for more than 2-1/2 hours. Admission was 10, 25, and 50 cents. Speech punctuated by applause. Shook hands and spoke to a crowd of people who surrounded him for more than an hour after the speech finished.
• Sept. 20. — WICHITA, KS at Toler Auditorium. 300 reserved seats for 25 cents, otherwise admission free. Introduced by Rev. Granville Lowther, Socialist candidate for Governor of Kansas. Stayed in the Hotel Carey in Wichita afterwards.
• Sept. 21. — No speech given: transit day. Was rumored to speak at the depot at EL PASO, TX, en route to CA. A crowd assembled, but Debs was not on the expected train, which was running three hours late. Another news report has him visiting Newton, KS on the 21st and leaving late in the evening straight for Los Angeles.
• Sept. 22. — Arrived in ALBUQUERQUE, NM at 10:40 am, where he was scheduled to speak for 20 minutes at the depot. “Repairs” had to be made on the engine and he wound up speaking nearly an hour from the back of a baggage truck. According to one observer, “Many of those present were old railroad men who were visibly affected at meeting their old comrade… We presented him with a basket of native fruit and were awfully sorry to see the train move out.” No night speech given: transit day.
• Sept. 23. — LOS ANGELES. Speaks to an audience filling the 4,000 seat Hazard’s Pavilion at 8 pm on a Friday night. Admission downstairs ranged from 10 to 50 cents. The (anti-union) LA Times refused to cover the speech the next day.
• Sept. 24. — SAN FRANCISCO. Speaks to 7,000 at Woodward’s Pavilion. Admission was 10 cents, reserved seats 25 cents.
• Sept. 25. —  no information.
• Sept. 26. — PORTLAND, OR. Arrived at the hall at 8:30 pm to a standing ovation lasting several minutes.

Chicago Inter Ocean editorial on Debs, pt. 1 -


• Sept. 27. — TACOMA, WA. At Lyceum Theater, which was packed “from gallery to parquet.” Those unable to obtain seats congregated outside. Topic: “Political Economics from a Socialist Standpoint.”
• Sept. 28. — SEATTLE. Arrived in morning from Tacoma. Called at Seattle socialist headquarters then went to visit a friend at Dunlap. Spoke for two hours in the evening at the “new” Armory located on 10th and Howell streets to a full house. Tickets were 10 cents. Scheduled to leave on the 10 pm train for Spokane.
• Sept. 29. — SPOKANE, WA at the Auditorium. Introduced by David Burgess of Tacoma. Addresses 1,500 people paying from 10 cents to 50 cents admission.
• Sept. 30. — WALLACE, ID to a large and enthusiastic audience.
• Oct. 1. — MiSSOULA, MT at Union Opera House, scheduled to start at 8:00 pm. Socialist candidate for Clerk and Recorder T.D. Caulfield presided and Debs spoke for nearly 2 hours. Debs’ train from Couer D’Alene was scheduled to arrive at 3:15 pm.


Impassioned anti-Debs editorial from the Chicago Inter Ocean (Dec. 2, 1904), one of the city’s three or four most important dailies. They did not like EVD, putting things mildly…

• Oct. 2. – HELENA, MT: Ten minute whistle stop scheduled for 2:15. LIVINGSTON, MT at night to a SRO crowd. Debs spoke for two hours. “We could have used a house twice as large and filled every seat.”
• Oct. 3 – BUTTE, MT at the Auditorium. Scheduled to start at 7:30 pm. As many as 10,000 people tried to attend, with thousands unable to get in. Spoke for more than an hour.
• Oct. 4. – POCATELLO, ID. speaks for an hour between trains at McNichols and Wright Hall. Speaks briefly with a newspaper reporter in Ogden, en route to SLC. Arrives in SLC late night Tuesday, Oct. 4 and stays at the Grand Pacific Hotel.
Oct. 5. – SALT LAKE CITY at the Salt Palace Theater. Scheduled to start at 8:00 pm. Topic; “Should the trusts own the government or the government own the trusts?”
• Oct. 6. —  no information.
• Oct. 7. (?) — DENVER at Coliseum Hall, which was packed to the rafters. [Denver more than 500 miles from SLC and more than 500 miles from Omaha].
• Oct. 8.— no information.
• Oct. 9.— OMAHA, NE at Washington Hall.
• Oct. 10. — DES MOINES, IOWA at the Auditorium. Spoke in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 1,500, each paying 10 cents admission.
• Oct. 11. — MINNEAPOLIS at the vast International Auditorium, with admission set at 10 cents. An outdoor meeting was held outside due to the 7,000 seat venue (extra seats having been added) being filled, with Carl Thompson, George Kirkpatrick, and Frank O’Hare addressing the outdoor meeting.
• Oct. 12. — ST. PAUL scheduled.
• Oct. 13.— DUBUQUE, IA. Admission charged, which did not deter it from being one of the biggest political meetings in the city’s history. Full transcript of speech run by the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald.
• Oct 14. — ROCK ISLAND, IL to a full house at the Illinois Theater.
• Oct. 15. — No Speech Given.
• Oct. 16.—TOLEDO, OH to a full house at Memorial Hall. Five hundred people turned away at the door. Introduced by Thomas W. Row of the American Flint Glass Workers Union.
• Oct. 17. – CHICAGO at the Auditorium with Ben Hanford to an overflow audience. Small admission fee charged. Overflow crowd in Congress Street outside unable to get seats listened to stump orators.
• Oct. 18.— CLEVELAND, OH at Grays’ Armory. Debs arrived slightly late and was greeted by an ovation from a crowd estimated at 3,000 to 3,500.
• Oct. 19.— NEW CASTLE, PA seceduled.
• Oct. 20.— PITTSBURGH, PA at Old City Hall, auspices of Allegheny Co. Socialist Party.
• Oct. 21. — READING, PA. At the Auditorium to “the largest and most enthusiastic gathering ever held in the city.”
• Oct. 22.—WILMINGTON, DE at Turn Hall in the afternoon scheduled.
• Oct. 23. Sunday — NEW YORK CITY at the Academy of Music. Debs said to be accompanied on his eastern tour by Stephen M. Reynolds, a Terre Haute attorney and friend. Debs spoke in the afternoon to 8,000 people, who packed the floor, three balconies, boxes, stage, and standing room. Before opening the line outside ran for three blocks; half an hour after door closed there were still hundreds outside, unable to get in. Music was provided by the Brooklyn Letter Carriers’ band with speeches by Dr. Gibbs of Worcester, MA; John Brown of Connecticut, and Com. Bach, SPA candidate for Lt. Governor in New York. When debs entered a ten minute ovation erupted with cheering, shouting, and the waving of flags and handkerchiefs. EVENING: BROOKLYN at the Majestic Theater.
• Oct. 24.M— no information.
• Oct. 25. U — JERSEY CITY in the evening. Overflow meeting outside was addressed by Comrade Keep. SECOND MEETING: NEWARK at the largest hall in the city to an overflow crowd.
• Oct. 26. W — NEW HAVEN, CT to a SRO crowd at Music Hall. A torchlight procession with music and banners marched past Debs’ hotel on the way to the hall. Rev. Alexander Iroine cll ed the meeting to order. Debs spoke for two hours. Afterwards he was swarmed and lifted onto the shoulders of the crowd, who cheered themselves hoarse.

• Oct. 27, 28, 29. — no information.

• Oct. 30, 1904. — BOSTON, MA. Afternoon. Speaks with James F. Carey of Haverhill. Packs out Faneuil Hall, with “several thousand people unable to gain admittance, according to the Boston Globe. Spoke for more than two hours, then addressed an impromptu meeting outside in the square, then was surrounded by a cheering crowd of 1,000 who accompanied him to his hotel.
• Oct. 30, 1904 — BOSTON afternoon and FALL RIVER, MA at night.
• Oct. 31.— BROCKTON, MA
• Nov. 2. — ROCHESTER, NY at Fitzhugh Hall scheduled.
• Nov. 3. — BUFFALO, NY, Concert Hall at the Teck Theater Building scheduled.
• Nov. 4.— MILWAUKEE at West Side Turner Hall, the largest hall in the city. Large attendance included a number of farmers who came to town for the speech. Overflow crowd and a scheduled overflow meeting held at Freie Germania Hall. Debs was accompanied by a number of campaign speakers, including Seymour Stedman, Victor L. Berger (running for Congress in the 5th District), Winfield Gaylord (running for Congress in the 4th District), William A. Arnold, candidate for Governorn, Rev. E.E. Carr, and others.
• Nov. 5. — RACINE, WI scheduled
• Nov. 6. — DETROIT at Light Guards’ Armory scheduled.
• Nov. 7. — TERRE HAUTE, IN to close the campaign.
• NOV. 8. — ***ELECTION DAY***

Unsurprisingly, the exhausted Debs barely wrote or spoke on socialist themes for the rest of the year. He spent  time at home in Terre Haute, recuperating. Things got so bad that Victor Berger’s Social Democratic Herald was reduced to running repackaged “reruns” of EVD’s material like recycled Peanuts strips…

Berger and Debs were very, very friendly from 1897 to 1904. VLB was a good newspaper man. He knew that Debs “sold” and he tried to get a Debs article into every issue.

From Debs’ perspective, the Social Democratic Herald was his old paper, The Railway Times, with a new name under new friendly management. He was happy to help.

Things changed between Debs and Berger in 1905…

•          •          •          •          •

My best work of the week…

Gorgeous Socialist political art from 1904. This is a rare image for this period of SPA history, most radical art was still drawn very crudely.

"The Double Headed Octopus" — Socialist 1904 political ca

•          •          •          •          •

Publishing update.

debs-layout.jpgVolume 1 has now moved to the next stage, which is page layout. We’re still fussing a little bit over such matters as whether to use footnotes, chapter notes, or end notes and the size and justification of the quotation text, but it’s starting to look like a real book.

As I expected (but maybe not Haymarket, who has this thing listed as “540 pages” on their website), things will come in just north of 700 pages by the time everything gets tuned up and an index is tacked on.

The reason that I’m not surprised: I have been doing my work as specially formatted 6 inch by 9 inch pages throughout the text compilation and manuscript process. Moreover, I have been approximating the point size used in a standard Haymarket book — so the 753 page manuscript ending up as a 715 page book is vastly more likely than the prospect of it magically shrinking to become a 540 page book… Besides, word count: 275,000 words is 700 pages, give or take.

Haymarket are the absolute kings of massive paperbacks, having a couple in their catalog with over 1,300 pages (!!!) and a couple others weighing in around 1,000. Consequently, producing a fat book is nothing that I feel badly about. The girth will raise the selling price a few bucks, that’s show biz — you get what you pay for.

From my perspective bigger is better when one has six volumes to work with and 12 or 15 volumes worth of material to choose from. Just save as much good stuff out there as you can, that’s the name of the game…


By the way, Haymarket Books is running a 50% off sale through most of the month of August, so this is a fine time to get over there and fill out that library!




The deadline for Eugene V. Debs Selected Works: Volume 3 is October 15, 2018. I had previously set a soft deadline of August 1 to finish the document compilation phase of the project, which means things are now moving into what our soccer friends might call “extra time.” As there is a limit for publication of approximately 260,000 words, there will be a number of cuts made, as expected.

I am guessing there will be about two more weeks needed to get finished.

  • “The Class Struggle and Its Impediments” — July 30, 1904 — 1,190 words
  • “Moving Toward Socialism” — Aug. 30, 1904 — 1,767 words
  • “Socialists Making Unprecedented Gains” — Oct. 1, 1904 — 622 words
  • “Principle Shall Prevail: Campaign Speech in Milwaukee” [excerpt] — Nov. 4, 1904 — 4,238 words
  • “The Swing of Victory” — Nov. 9, 1904 — 396 words
  • “Known by Its Fruits” — Dec. 24, 1904 — 655 words

Word count:291,422 in the can + 8,868 this week = 300,290 words total.

The above material — along with fairly vast numbers of other Debs speeches and articles — is available for free download via Marxists Internet Archive <>

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Home stretch (18-25)


I’m heading down the home stretch on document compilation and putting on a final kick for the finish line. No time to blog.

It will probably take me one week past my Aug. 1 soft deadline to get finished, judging by the list of items remaining to be found and assessed.




The deadline for Eugene V. Debs Selected Works: Volume 3 is October 15, 2018. I’m setting a soft deadline of August 1 to finish the document compilation phase of the project. This means there are now 1 more Saturday after today to get the core content section of the book assembled, with a limit for publication of approximately 260,000 words.

  • “Mayor Jones and ‘All the People’” — Jan. 1904 — 1,169 words
  • “The Crimes of Capitalism in Colorado” — April 9, 1904 — 931 words
  • “Stray Leaves from an Agitator’s Notebook” — June 1904 — 2,730 words
  • “The Independence Depot Bombing: A Case of Capitalist Infernalism” — June 25, 1904 — 1,806 words
  • “The Anniversary of Class War in Colorado” — June 25, 1904 — 1,538 words
  • The American Movement — Aug. 1904 — 8,599 words
  • “The Socialist Party’s Appeal for 1904” — Oct. 13, 1904 — 3,575 words

Word count: 271,074 in the can + 20,348 this week = 291,422 words total.

The above material — along with fairly vast numbers of other Debs speeches and articles — is available for free download via Marxists Internet Archive <>

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Survey of the Debs Correspondence (18-24)


I spent an hour this week on the deck with a cigar and a beer reviewing the published Debs correspondence for 1897 to 1904, the time period that is covered in Selected Works Volume 3. There are a couple of fairly interesting takeaways which I will very briefly outline here with a view to incorporating them in the historical introduction to that volume.

•          •          •          •          •

Takeaway No. 1 — Bob Constantine was a really good historian.


The late Indiana State professor J. Robert Constantine, the dean of Debs studies.

I have complete faith in the letters selection by the late J. Robert “Bob” Constantine, the editor of the three volumes of Debs letters. I’ve reviewed the Debs Papers microfilm multiple times for the 1877 to 1896 period covered by Selected Works Volumes 1 and 2 and found precised one letter that I felt he “missed” — one of a series of communications that Debs had with E.E. Clark, head of one of the railway brotherhoods. It was totally “inside baseball,” with themes at least partially covered in other letters that were published.

That was it. Exactly one letter that I am tucking into the Works that Constantine skipped.

Similarly, I can’t find a single thing for this current interval that Constantine failed to include which should have included.

What he published is all the important material there is for the early period.

If Constantine’s selection of Debs letters can axiomatically be accepted as a complete survey of  surviving examples — which I believe is correct — that published material should be very closely analyzed. It’s not a loose agglomeration, the contents of which may be disputed by reasonable people, who might prefer alternate documents. Rather, it should be considered the universal set of the important material which has survived.

•          •          •          •          •

Takeaway No. 2 — There aren’t very many Debs letters for the 1897-1904 period.


Stock header for the syndicated article “Advice to First Voters,” distributed by the Newspaper Enterprise Association. Representatives of five political parties participated in the series with Debs writing on behalf of the Socialists.

So, what did Constantine put into print for the 1897 to 1904 period? Here’s a raw count of letters.


Letters by EVD: 2

Correspondence with his ARU friend Frank X. Holl, a loyal follower and a cable to Harry Demarest Lloyd attempting to bring him into the SDA as member of the group’s ill-fated “Colonization Commission.”


Letters by EVD: 2

Letters to EVD: 3

Rather empty correspondence with journalist Harry Demarest Lloyd and a first letter to Samuel Milton Jones (1846-1904), the maverick “Golden Rule” mayor of Toledo, Ohio.


Letters by EVD: 9

Letters by Theodore: 1

Letters to EVD: 3

Mostly a correspondence with “Golden Rule” Jones of Toledo. EVD had a stilted relationship with Jones, admiring the mayor’s actions and agenda while ultimately taking umbrage to his refusal to identify his efforts with the Social Democratic Party, instead deciding to remain independent on principle. The correspondence carried over into 1900 when the two seem to have broken over Jones’ refusal to abandon the William Jennings Bryan ticket and Debs’ related cattiness in a couple articles.


Letters by EVD: 3

Letters by Theodore: 1

Letters to EVD: 3

Theodore piece is his official report to the convention of the Chicago SDP, a highly important document. EVD correspondence with Tommy Morgan of the Springfield SDP campaign committee. Absolutely pivotal EVD letter to TD of Nov. 9 which I have already covered in detail in a previous blog post.


Letters by EVD: 5

Letters to Theodore: 4

Theodore pieces are correspondence from Elizabeth Thomas, Victor Berger’s strong right hand in the Milwaukee organization and Leon Greenbaum, National Secretary of the new SPA to TD in his capacity as the former National Secretary of the Chicago SDP.


Letters by EVD: 6

Letters by Kate Debs: 1

Two letters to Theodore, three to their father, and a thank you note for a photograph given to Debs by leading German Marxist theoretician Karl Kautsky.


Letters by EVD: 7

Letters to EVD: 4

First letters to Socialist United Mine Workers official Adolph Germer (1881-1966), later National Secretary of the SPA during the 1919 split of the Communists and to Morris Hillquit, the latter a thank you note for copy of Hillquit’s History of American Socialism that he was comped. Two communications from SPA National Secretary Will Mailly and correspondence back and forth with Harry Demarest Lloyd and labor historian Richard Ely.


Letters by EVD: 9

Letters by Theodore: 2

Letters to EVD: 3

Three of the letters loving personal correspondence to his parents. Four EVD and one TD letter to Adolph Germer, plus New Years greetings to Morris Hillquit: “There was a time, I confess, when I did not like Morris Hillquit. I did not know him. I do know him now and am trying to make up for past remissness.”


Letters by EVD: 43, as follows:

Father or Both Parents — 7

Morris Winchevsky — 5

Adolf F. Germer — 5

Samuel Milton Jones — 4

Henry Demarest Lloyd — 4

Morris Hillquit — 3

Edwin or Catherine Markham — 3

Theodore Debs — 2

Frank X. Xoll — 1

Stephen Marion Reynolds — 1

Thomas J. Morgan — 1

Marry Harris Jones — 1

Karl Kautsky — 1

Richard T. Ely — 1

Clara Spalding Ellis — 1

Ignatius Donnelly — 1

John Lloyd Thomas — 1

Cinton Pinckney Farrell — 1

Letters to EVD: 16, as follows:

Samuel Milton Jones — 5

William Mailly — 3

Henry Demarest Lloyd — 2

Thomas J. Morgan — 1

James Whitcomb Riley — 1

Frank X. Xoll — 1

Richard T. Ely — 1

Warren Atkinson — 1

George Candee — 1

Letters by Theodore: 4

Letters to Theodore: 5

Letters by Kate Debs: 1



The deadline for Eugene V. Debs Selected Works: Volume 3 is October 15, 2018. I’m setting a soft deadline of August 1 to finish the document compilation phase of the project. This means there are now 2 more Saturdays after today to get the core content section of the book assembled, with a limit for publication of approximately 260,000 words.

  • “Graft vs. The Same Thing” — Oct. 1903 — 1,193 words
  • “An Ideal Labor Press” — May 1904 — 1,226 words
  • “The Socialist Party and the Working Class” — Sept. 1, 1904 — 6,299 words
  • “The Tragedy of Toil” — Oct. 1904 — 1,366 words
  • “Advice to First Voters” — Oct. 25, 1904 — 862 words

Word count: 259,957 in the can + 11,117 this week = 271,074 words total.

The above material — along with fairly vast numbers of other Debs speeches and articles — is available for free download via Marxists Internet Archive <>

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Halftime (18-23)


Two decades ago my best friend from college and I went out to lunch in Corvallis. We had both recently turned 35 and that served as the occasion — half of the biblical “three score and ten.” I don’t precisely remember a single word that we said to one another during the 90 minutes or so we were together, but I do remember it as a very reflective discussion that we had at what felt like “halftime” of our lives.

Time had flown. There were good memories and good stories and others that were less happy — but it was somehow deeply satisfying to take accounts and to acknowledge mortality. The relative shortness of the first half of life emphasized the value of time and served as a source of focus for activity in the second.

I now find myself feeling the same sort of mixture of pensiveness and optimism about the Debs Selected Works project today as the calendar ticks down on the arduous document compilation phase for the third of six volumes. Halftime approaches.

•          •          •          •          •

Origin of the Debs Project

I didn’t wake up one morning and decide that I wanted to spend five years doing a comprehensive Debs writings project. Far from it — this little obsession is the end product of a long process.

harrington.jpgI became a socialist as a freshman or sophomore in high school. I was both a committed Marxist and a democrat — with both a small and a capital D. The two most influential books in this process were The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels and Toward a Democratic Left by Michael Harrington, both of which had a place in the high school library in Eureka, California.

The Soviet Union and its centralized, authoritarian, police state held no attraction for me. Rather, it was a classic case of something that had gone terribly wrong and, as such, was something that needed to be thoroughly investigated and understood.

I studied Economics in college, with a view to getting a PhD and becoming an economics professor. Late in the process, in my Junior year, I discovered that I actually had little faith in the pseudoscience of marginalist economics — nor did I possess any quasi-religious faith in the nineteenth century economic system constructed by Karl Marx. Political science and history were far more fascinating.

I graduated and got married, gave up on life as a Economics professor, and worked towards taking over the family business, an independent shoe store. I bought lots and lots of history books in an effort to compensate for my  academic frustrations. It was a fair trade.

A few years later, academia again began to sing its siren song. I re-enrolled at Oregon State University part time, studying Russian language so that I could get into a Russian Area Studies MA program with a view to getting a PhD in Russian History. I was accepted at the University of Washington, which had an in-state tuition reciprocity program with Oregon for programs like Russian Area Studies that did not exist in Oregon’s system of higher education.

I had a miserable time. My wife hated Seattle and I struggled mightily with the exponentially more difficult language classes at UW, taught by unsympathetic Russian emigrants. The history part? That I absolutely aced — I truly was one of the top three Russian history students out of the program of 50 or whatever. Fuck it, I was the best, I can not lie… Remember, I had been buying and frenetically reading books for nearly a decade. But as a linguist — dogshit, baby, dogshit…

I found my brief brush with academia not to my liking and at the end of one year I left UW and came back to Corvallis and life as a retail merchant. When “my music” suddenly came back from the grave I put aside books and started a punk rock record label in 1995. It was a blast, making some of my best friends and having my most fun. I went pedal to the metal releasing vinyl 7″ers and CDs — nearly 100 total releases by 2002. I did wholesale distribution to stack up money to lose making stuff. It was incredibly fun.

Eventually fun became labor and musical tides turned. By 2003 I was ready to move back to scholarly pursuits. I decided that my Russian language skills were not good enough, nor would they ever be good enough, to do archival research in Moscow. Nor did I any longer feel that I had anything much to add to the ongoing revisionist/totalitarian school debate in the wake of the collapse of the USSR — which absolutely debunked the totalitarian school’s model of an unchanging authoritarian police state ruling an atomized population which was incapable of making change.

Instead I decided to move from academic interest in the Soviet 1930s to the American 1920s — the era of the Socialist-Communist split, our own “what went wrong?” and “what happened and why?” historical moment.

I began to envision a multivolume history integrating the various strands of American radical history — socialist, communist, anarchist. For the historic interval to study, I foresaw a beginning with the “preparedness” campaign of 1916 which paved the way for American entry into World War I, continuing through the restructuring of the Communist movement and nearly total disintegration of the Socialist Party at the end of 1924.

History is all about periodization. That’s my period.

•          •          •          •          •


I began building a website gathering and presenting documents about this period, a set of “reading notes in extremely long form” which could be marshaled for my writing project and began the long and costly process of building a second library. This continued for the better part of a decade.

eam-logo.jpgAlong the way one of the people closely associated with the website Marxists Internet Archive discovered my growing work creating and publishing documents for free download at my own site, Early American Marxism. He persuaded me that MIA was interested in “mirroring” my own work — putting up duplicate copies of the same stuff — and brought me into that fold. This in turn brought me into contact with one of the central figures keeping that project moving forward, David Walters of San Francisco.

A man of broad interests and wide knowledge in the field of radical history and Marxist political theory, David noticed the way that I had been paying particular attention to the unpublished writings of Eugene V. Debs whenever I found them.

“Why don’t you compile the Eugene V. Debs Collected Works?” he queried.

“Too big of a project,” I replied. I thought it would take a team of half a dozen scholars, working full time, about a decade to produce satisfactorily. There would be 15, maybe 20 volumes produced, I guesstimated. There were uncounted hundreds of articles spread out over scores of rare publications, material which needed to be discovered before it could be transcribed — and the transcription job would itself be massive.

Time passed and David repeated his suggestion a number of times; I was, however, more and more certain that the chore was unmanagably massive. But still I continued to type up and publish as many unpublished Debs articles as I could lay hands upon in the course of my work building the Early American Marxism archive, preparatory material for my three volume magnum opus on American Radicalism, 1916-1924.

His repeated suggestion left a mark, however, and I began to toy with the idea of some sort of Debs Selected Works, which made no pretense of completeness but at the same time captured everything essential from the massive number of lost-and-forgotten works by Gene Debs.

•          •          •          •          •


The Early American Marxism website was focused on the years 1916-1924, to be sure, but it also includes material dating back to launch of the modern socialist movement in America in the 1870s and forward to the coming of World War II, which essentially erased the chalk board on the early phase of American radicalism.

LovestoneOne of the small radical movements that fascinated me, and which I attempted to document, was the “Communist Party Majority Group” associated with former CPUSA Secretary Jay Lovestone. My small stack of documents online drew the attention of Pennsylvania professor and radical activist Paul LeBlanc, who was launching a multi-volume book project gathering the key public documents of a number of dissident Marxist organizations in the United States.

The number of Lovestone experts in the United States can be counted on the toes of one’s right foot and I seemed to qualify. Paul drafted me into his project as co-editor. It was his baby all the way although I did manage to shoehorn a fairly long historical chapter into the book, putting some new detail about the 1929 CPUSA-Lovestone split into print.

The project occupied the better part of a year, I worked my ass off on it running pamphlets and newspaper columns through OCR and correcting. I learned a great deal about the publishing world in the process, picking up the invaluable skill of counting words to meet a quota and developing a short list of what NOT to do when I did a book project of my own.

The Lovestone was published by a Dutch academic publisher called Brill, who I felt made a mess of things, with the paperback rights assigned to Haymarket Books of Chicago, the publishing arm of a Trotskyist political party called the International Socialist Organization (ISO). The latter is today the largest Marxist publishing house in the United States — by a big margin it would seem. I developed warm feelings about them and when my friend David Walters mentioned that he had connections with their editorial board, I began to seriously consider whether a Debs Selected Works project might be viable and decided to take the leap. David agreed to sign on as co-editor and consigliere.

Forward and onward.

•          •          •          •          •

The Big Shipping Error

papers-guideI already had in my library the printed guide for the Eugene V. Debs papers, a 21-reel set of microfilm produced in the 1980s. I had also previously borrowed several reels of Debs correspondence from this set through interlibrary loan. Once I decided to take on Debs, the first order of business was acquiring the three key reels of the set, gathering Debs’s publications.

It took a long time and several failed efforts to get the microfilm publisher to even talk to us. Commercial microfilm publishers are pretty icky, a first cousin of the publishers of big money academic journals, used to dealing with institutions with thousands of dollars to spend and not ashamed to price things in such a matter as to drain those thousands as quickly as possible. The sale of just three reels of film, even at the pirate-with-an-eyepatch rate of $200 a reel, held no attraction for them.

Ultimately we managed to get somebody to quote us a price for the critical reels however, and we cut them a check and waited.

To my shock and nefarious delight, the Huge Commercial Microfilm Company ended up shipping an entire 21-reel set of Debs papers microfilm! Mum was the word with me, call me a criminal element. Microfilm costs about $15 per reel to duplicate, by the way, so I rationalized my silence with the fact that they still cleared about $275 on the transaction. I can live with myself… The contribution that Huge Commercial Microfilm Company inadvertently made to historical science has proven to be massive, as the three targeted reels that we actually paid for have proven to be more or less useless garbage, while several of the other reels they “tagged on” have been a goldmine of new material not even listed in the guidebook.

I’m not sure what the takeaway is. “Never trust a guidebook?” “Bigger equals Dumber?” “Silence can be golden?” “Crime sometimes pays, just not very well?”

Anyway, thanks, rich guys… Without you, this project would have sucked and I never would have figured it out. Now it is solid, and I know that it is solid…

•          •          •          •          •

Databasing Debs

The first task I set myself, and one thing that I really did right, was creating a database of every known Debs article. I started by listing every article Debs wrote during his 13 year editorship of Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine, to which I added later Debs material converted from the (alphabetical by title) listing in the microfilm guidebook to my chronological listing.

To this I have added every “new discovery” as I made them, while subtracting the multiple listings of the same material I have observed which had found its way into the Constantine & Malmgreen microfilm guidebook. Then I cross-referenced every previously published collection of Debs material, of which there have been more than half a dozen.



If that sounds like a lot of work, you are on target. I spent three solid months just getting this database up to speed. Once it was in place, however, I found myself the proud possessor of the mother of all power tools for a Debs Selected Works project — chronologically listing every article, its first source, and recording a word count and notations as I work down the list. A tiny section of this database, listing some of the material from 1902 and 1903, appears above.

You will see that according to my current count indicates there are exactly 3,928 known Debs items. I expect this ever-changing total to sit right at the 4,000 item mark by the time the smoke clears several years hence.

•          •          •          •          •

Three Volumes. No, Four… No, Five… No, Six…

haymarket-logoWhat started as a three volume Debs Selected Works project has steadily expanded as I have grown more familiar with the size and shape of the Debs corpus. Our publisher, Haymarket Books, has been extremely supportive, granting us the fourth, then fifth, and finally sixth volume that we have requested.

It’s actually quite an amazing commitment on their part and they are to be saluted for their fortitude. Six volumes should be just right. As I am now finishing up with the documents phase of volume three in the next few weeks here, halftime approaches!

Never satisfied to leave well enough alone, I’m also starting to suss out the prospect of a supplemental self-published volume putting into print a comprehensive index and the key information from my vast database of Debs titles. I wouldn’t dream of burdening Haymarket with that esoteric monstrosity. More on that at some future date.


The deadline for Eugene V. Debs Selected Works: Volume 3 is October 15, 2018. I’m setting a soft deadline of August 1 to finish the document compilation phase of the project. This means there are now 3 more Saturdays after today to get the core content section of the book assembled, with a limit for publication of approximately 260,000 words.

  • “‘I Am with You in This’: Speech to the Joint Convention of the Western Federation of Miners and Western Labor Union” — May 31, 1902 — 3,077 words
  • “The Social Crusaders” — Feb. 4, 1903 — 1,401 words
  • “Labor and Politics: Address Delivered at the Socialist Picnic at Gross’s Park, St. Louis” — Sept. 13, 1903 — 1,993 words
  • “The Negro and His Nemesis” — Jan. 1904 — 3,342 words
  • Unionism and Socialism — July 1904 — 13,538 words

Word count: 236,221 in the can + 23,736 this week = 259,957 words total.

The above material — along with fairly vast numbers of other Debs speeches and articles — is available for free download via Marxists Internet Archive <>


Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments