Eugene V. Debs, in his early life, was a locomotive fireman. He joined the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen (BLF) and became an active delegate, who was elected associate editor of the “Firemen’s Magazine” a monthly issue of the BLF. Debs eventually became Grand Secretary and Treasurer of the BLF and editor of the magazine in 1880.
During this time, Debs became a well- known figure in the community. He was elected for two terms as the city clerk for Terry Haute from 1879-1883. He was elected into the Indiana General Assembly in the fall of 1894, serving one term, as a Democrat.
In 1893, Debs traded in his Grand Secretary hat in order to establish the American Railway Union (ARU), which struck the Great Northern Railway, winning most of their demands, in spring of 1894. When times became tough, The Pullman Palace Car Company cut wages in half. Workers voted to strike, after members of a grievance committee met with Pullman with a list of demands. Debs advised caution, but a nationwide boycott of Pullman cars was supported by the ARU delegates.
In the beginning the Pullman strike was orderly and non-violent. Richard C. Olney, attorney general, accused the ARU of disrupting shipments of the U.S. Mail, and issued an injunction against the strike. Therefore, President Cleveland ordered army units against the strikers. The end of the strike came only with the arrest of Debs and other leaders by federal marshals on July 17. Debs was released from prison in 1895 he emerged as a socialist and believed that capitalism should be replaced by a new cooperative system. Although he advocated radical reform, Debs was opposed to the revolutionary violence supported by some left-wing political groups.
Debs was a regular contributor to Appeal to Reason, a journal edited by Julius Wayland and Fred Warren. Warren was a well-known...