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Eugene Debs

Eugene V. Debs (1855–1926) was an American socialist. He was radicalised in the aftermath of the Pullman Strike, where 150,000 railway workers across the US refused to switch, signal, or service trains pulling Pullman cars after the Pullman Palace Car Company sacked a number of workers and drastically cut the wages of many more at their Chicago factory, and 4,000 Pullman workers went on wildcat strike. The US government jailed Debs (then leader of the American Railway Union) for his role in organising the strike, and it was there that he began to read Marx. He was released after six months.

Debs ran as a Socialist candidate for president five times, and was also a founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). A committed internationalist, he gave a speech denouncing the US’s entry into the First World War in 1918, which led to his second arrest and stint in prison. President Harding commuted his sentence at the end of 1921. He died in 1926, having developed cardiovascular problems during his time in prison.

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