Never Be A Soldier

— Eugene Victor Debs (1915)

This classic, written in 1915, was one of numerous leaflets by Socialist Party leader Debs opposing World War I. His opponents sent copies of this and other antiwar statements by Debs to the U.S. Attorney General. See Eugene Debs. Spokesman for Labor and Socialism, by Bernard Brommel (Charles H. Kerr, 1978), 117, and Tim Dayton’s review of We Called Each Other Comrade in this issue of ATC.

WORKING MEN ARE forced into war as working women are forced into prostitution.

Let us think for a moment!

The working man who turns soldier today becomes the hired assassin of his capitalist master. He goes on the murderers’ pay roll at fifty cents a day, under orders to kill anybody, anywhere, at any time.

To refuse to brain his own mother in a hunger strike is treason to his potbellied master.

This is the vile and abject thing we call a soldier. Lower than the slimy, ripping depths in which this craven creature crawls, neither man nor beast can ever sink in time or eternity

Let us think another moment!

War is the crimson carnival where the drunken devils are unchained and the snarling dogs are “sicked” upon one another by their brutal masters; where they shoot off one another’s heads, rip open one another’s bellies and receive their baptism of patriotic devotion to their masters’ anointed moneybags in a thousand spurting geysers of their own blood and brains and guts.

Working men and working women of America! Let us swear by all that is dear to us and all that is sacred to our cause, never to become a soldier and never to go to war!

If the pot-bellied masters insist upon the Crimson Carnival, the Devil’s Bloody Debauch, they will henceforth rip out their own loins and livers, riot in their own blood and entrails and offer up their own mangled and putrescent carcasses on the blood-drenched altar of Mars and Mammon.

The dastard jingoes even now are plotting to force the United States into the seething maelstrom of fire and slaughter, pestilence and famines, misery and hell. Every subtle agency known to their infernal ingenuity is being employed to accomplish their satanic design.

The working men of America have it in their power to foil this monstrous conspiracy; to slay the demon of destruction and put an end to war here and everywhere, now and forevermore.

They have but to stand up like men and in the commanding voice of their class and the eternal glory of their cause proclaim the fiat of civilization and humanity:


ATC 76, September–October 1998