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If you're a committed Socialist, as Debs was, society and class mean everything
This is the lens through which Socialists view the whole world. As a Socialist, Debs believed that society was rigged to benefit those at the top and to keep the lower classes in perpetual misery.
In this view, everything that happens can and should be connected back to class issues—war is all about class, work is all about class, politics is all about class, etc. This speech is part of Debs' ongoing effort to educate the people of America as to the realities of the class system and its impact on society.
Race, gender, or religion can also be seen as having powerful influence over social structure. Socialists would argue it's all about class, class, class. Who's right?
Is a classless society possible? Is it even something to be desired?
If you've picked up one thing from "Statement to the Court," it's that Debs is super critical of greedy rich people. On the flip side of the wealth coin, Debs portrays the poor as possessing a kind of nobility in their unceasing life struggle.
Debs, after all, was a Bible-reader and -quoter and he would probably have agreed that "it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." As a Socialist, Debs felt that society's wealth should be jointly shared by all; he even used the term commonwealth to describe the ideal state. For Debs, inequalities in wealth were the root of all that was wrong in his America.
Is money the root of all evil, according to Debs?
Debs charged his working-class audience for tickets for most of his speeches—this must have been a stance that took some ideological twisting.
Eugene Debs was a ripe old sixty-three years old when he was sentenced to ten years in prison for his Canton, Ohio, speech criticizing the war. In those days, sixty was not the new forty…it was more like the old eighty.
The issue of the passage of time was very much on his mind when he made his "Statement to the Court." Time was not on his own side, but he very much wanted to believe that time was on the side of the Socialist movement—his life's work.
The old expression "It's always darkest before the dawn" could certainly be applied to Eugene Debs and his "Statement to the Court."
The passage of time has deeply affected the way people judge socialism as a political ideology, especially the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the reforms that have come to Socialist economies elsewhere.