EUGENE V. DEBS: Spokesman for Labor and Socialism by Bernard J. Brommel

EUGENE V. DEBS: Spokesman for Labor and Socialism

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This new biography of the ubiquitous Debs concentrates on his role as public speaker, pamphleteer, and voice of the Socialist Party. Bernard J. Brommel, speech professor at Northeastern Illinois University, knows the Debs family and had access to previously unavailable papers. He traces Debs' early life with little improvement over Ray Ginger's account in The Bending Cross (1949); and he is content, on the whole, to provide documentation for old arguments rather than to advance new ones. By no means the Left's major theoretician, Debs was America's finest popularizer of socialism. And it is Debs the public speaker who receives the most careful treatment here, especially apropos of his 1900-1912 presidential campaigns. (""Here revolution tingles and whirls,"" Carl Sandburg said aboard Debs' barnstorming railroad, The Red Special of 1908.) He also conveys Debs' basic humanity, which helped to attract votes for his candidacy though he was unable to bring large numbers into the Socialist Party. Subsequently, his opposition to the war led to a celebrated trial and a severe jail term which he began to serve after the signing of the armistice. In a final chapter evaluating Debs' role in the politics of the American Left, Brommel stresses Debs' concern for blacks and prison reform, two themes earlier biographers have tended to ignore. Overall, though, it's an old-fashioned descriptive treatment of a great and good man.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Charles H. Kerr (600 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, Ill. 60606)