From the ‘I couldn’t have said it better myself Department’ — excerpts from a political speech by a presidential candidate:
It is extremely dangerous to exercise the constitutional right of free speech in a country fighting to make democracy safe in the world. . . .
These are the gentry who are today wrapped up in the American flag, who shout their claim from the housetops that they are the only patriots, and who have their magnifying glasses in hand, scanning the country for evidence of disloyalty, eager to apply the brand of treason to the men who dare to even whisper their opposition to [aristocratic] rule in the United Sates. No wonder Sam Johnson declared that “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.” He must have had this Wall Street gentry in mind, or at least their prototypes, for in every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the people . . .
Every solitary one of these aristocratic conspirators and would-be murderers claims to be an arch-patriot; every one of them insists that war is being waged to make the world safe for democracy. What humbug! What rot! What false pretense! These autocrats, these tyrants, these red-handed robbers and murderers, the ‘patriots,’ while the men who have the courage to stand face to face with them, speak the truth, and fight for their exploited victims – they are the disloyalists and traitors. If this be true, I want to take my place side by side with the traitors in this fight.
Do not worry over the charge of treason to your masters, but be concerned about the treason that involves yourselves. Be true to yourself and you cannot be a traitor to any good cause on Earth.
Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. In the Middle Ages when the feudal lords who inhabited the castles whose towers may still be seen along the Rhine concluded to enlarge their domains, to increase their power, their prestige and their wealth they declared war upon one another. But they themselves did not go to war any more than the modern feudal lords, the barons of Wall Street go to war.
The feudal barons of the Middle Ages, the economic predecessors of the capitalists of our day, declared all wars. And their miserable serfs fought all the battles. The poor, ignorant serfs had been taught to revere their masters; to believe that when their masters declared war upon one another, it was their patriotic duty to fall upon one another and to cut one another’s throats for the profit and glory of the lords and barons who held them in contempt. And that is war in a nutshell.
The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose — especially their lives.
Those words are from a speech given nearly 97 years ago — on June 16, 1918 — by Eugene V. Debs to a ‘crowd’ of about 1200 people in Canton Ohio. Words from that very speech were later used by the government against Debs, to make the case that he had violated the espionage Act of 1917. His crime: “obstructing” the draft and recruitment for the war in Europe (World War I). He was tried, convicted, then sentenced on November 18, 1918 to ten years in prison. At his sentence hearing, he said:
Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
Debs was incarcerated on April 13, 1919, in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, Atlanta Georgia; undeterred, he ran for President — from prison — in 1920, and received nearly a million write-in votes.
So now it’s February 20, 2015, and when one reads Eugene Debs’ words from 1918 it appears that not much has changed. There are still wars, “declared,” as always, by the “master class,” wars that are still fought by the “subject class” and are “waged for conquest and plunder.”
The beat goes on with but one noticeable difference: none of today’s presidential candidates have as yet been imprisoned for resisting the demands of the financial and political elite — for plunder, conquest and power. For profit.
I guess that’s progress.