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Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist (Working Class in American History) Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0252074523 ISBN-10: 0252074521 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Series: Working Class in American History
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 2nd edition (March 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252074521
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252074523
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #686,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Eugene Victor Debs was one of the most prominent labor activists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was, perhaps, the most admired openly radical public figure in America's history, running for president on the Socialist ticket in five separate elections, including a 1920 campaign conducted from prison. In the 1912 election, he earned 6 percent of the popular vote (and probably would have gotten more were it not for Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose campaign, which was also running on reform sentiments). Yet today he is largely forgotten, at best a footnote in history texts.

This biography by Professor Nick Salvatore does much to remedy the situation. It is a richly detailed recounting of Debs's life which demonstrates that Debs fit within a historical tradition of dissent in American politics. Although a professed socialist, he never gave up his commitment to democratic ideals; instead, he added to them an awareness of class and the effects of corporate capitalism that has continued relevance today. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

This is biography at its best."
--Eric Foner for the History Book Club


"In this stunning book, Salvatore sets Debs firmly within the central traditions of United States political and social history and depicts, as never before, the triumph and tragedy that characterized the socialist leader's personal and public life."
--American Historical Review



"Nick Salvatore's biography is very solid work. . . . The Debs who emerges is a flawed human being--very flawed--yet an extraordinary person: a man deficient in self-knowledge, as public figures usually are, but also a great tribune."
--
New York Review of Books


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By "wobbly@execpc.com" on August 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
He was dubbed an undesirable citizen by so-called progressive Teddy Roosevelt. The best biography of Debs to date. It shows his working class background and radical roots in his family. You can see his evolution from democrat and trade unionist to socialist and industrial unionist. His frustration with mainstream politics leads to his trade union agitation. The failure of the AFL railroad brotherhoods to work together spurs him on to create an industrial union of all railroad workers called the American Railway Union. While in jailed in Illinois after the Pullman Strike of 1894 is crushed he becomes a socialist. He helps unites the various factions into the Socialist Party of America in 1901. That same year he merges the broken ARU with the Western Federation of Miners to form the American Labor Union, which adopts socialism. He helps form the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905 which seeks to organize all workers into One Big Union. He leaves the IWW when in rejects politics. During WWI while other socialists give in to nationalism he remains militantly anti-war. In 1917 he refuses to support America's enterance into the war and remains undecided on the Russian Revolution. While in prison for trying to subvert the war effort he recieves over a million votes for president. His party disintegrates in dispute between Hawks and Doves, and reformers and revolutionaries. A fascinating story.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Dana Garrett on September 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
Here you will learn about Debbs the union activist and organizer, Debbs the socialist party organizer and Debbs the husband, brother, friend and lover. And you might get the impression that the advocacy and political activity of Debbs must be measured almost exclusively by the impact it had on the unions, the socialist party and his intimates. I had hoped to read more about Debbs' impact beyond these circles. How did the nation look on Debbs, especially during his presidential campaigns? What did the other major and minor party candidates make of him? These questions remain largely unanswered by the books end.
At times, the book treats Debbs' presidential campaigns almost in passing. The campaigns are not treated as events interesting primarily because of the impact they had on the nation. If the US thought Debbs dangerous enough to incarcerate him during WW1, it is difficult to imagine why a history depicting Debbs' larger political and cultural influence would be difficult to produce.
The book describes well how Debbs framed his leftism in an American voice: how he found within the discourse of individualism a foundation for socialism. But, of course, that direction was all but forgotten after the benighted enthusiasm for the Bolsheviks.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By america at work on April 28, 2011
Format: Paperback
"Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist" shows Eugene Deb's impact on American labor unions and the Socialist movement in America from the 1880s until his death in 1926, tracing his rise from a lowly locomotive paint-scraper to the five-time Socialist Party's presidential candidate. This "native son" combined his American values with socialism to battle against large corporations for "the working man." The author highlights the importance of Debs in American labor history, the complex life that Debs lived, and the journey that took him from democrat and trade unionist to socialist and industrial unionist.
The book is divided into four main sections. The first discusses early life in his home town of Terre Haute, a microcosm of working class towns throughout America. Here he became involved with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, and grew critical of industrial capitalism.
In the second section Debs took part in the Pullman strike and was sentenced to federal prison, where he spent much of his time reading, discussing, and learning about socialism. Upon his release from jail he helped found the forerunner to the Socialist Party of America.
In the third section Debs ran for president five times, the number of votes increasing with each campaign. The section also discusses Debs' greater acceptance of African Americans and women in his ideas for a socialist economy.
The final section sums up Debs' life. Sent to prison again, he ran for president for a fifth time from jail, winning 913,693 votes, the most ever for a Socialist Party candidate and the most votes of his career.
Debs was an impassioned human who fought for what he truly believed in. One issue was the book left me with some questions. What was the American consensus on Debs at this time?
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Maya Cook on April 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
Why is this book so widely lauded? Sure, in some places it's quite insightful, but in others it seems to revise for revision's sake. In checking Salvatore's primary sources, some turn out to be quite vague, revealing what seem to me to be somewhat dubious conjecture in order to turn this or that assumption (especially regarding his early years) on its head, in favor of a more hypocritical portrait of Debs. Admittedly, I'm only an undergrad historian, so perhaps I'm merely not far enough along in my studies to grasp the nuances, but I have found that in doing my own research, I cannot rely on Salvatore's interpretations of Debs any more than I can the overly adulatory biopics of his predecessors. A frustrating situation, but hopefully useful in my development as a historian.
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