Eugene Debs, that greatest son of the middle American west, wrote this in 1907 in celebration of that year’s May Day events. It retains all of its vibrancy and vitality as events breathe new life into the global struggle for emancipation. ‘Revolution’ remains the most heroic word in every language.
‘Today the slaves of all the world are taking a fresh breath in the long and weary march; pausing a moment to clear their lungs and shout for joy; celebrating in festal fellowship their coming Freedom.
All hail the Labor Day of May!
The day of the proletarian protest;
The day of stern resolve;
The day of noble aspiration.
Raise high this day the blood-red Standard of the Revolution!
The banner of the Workingman;
The flag, the only flag, of Freedom.
Slavery, even the most abject—dumb and despairing as it may seem—has yet its inspiration. Crushed it may be, but extinguished never. Chain the slave as you will, O Masters, brutalize him as you may, yet in his soul, though dead, he yearns for freedom still.
The great discovery the modern slaves have made is that they themselves their must achieve. This is the secret of their solidarity; the heart of their hope; the inspiration that nerves them all with sinews of steel.
They are still in bondage, but no longer cower;
No longer grovel in the dust,
But stand erect like men.
Conscious of their growing power the future holds up to them her outstretched hands.
As the slavery of the working class is international, so the movement for its emancipation.
The salutation of slave to slave this day is repeated in every human tongue as it goes ringing round the world.
The many millions are at last awakening. For countless ages they have suffered; drained to the dregs the bitter cup of misery and woe.
At last, at last the historic limitation has been reached, and soon a new sun will light the world.
Red is the life-tide of our common humanity and red our symbol of universal kinship.
Tyrants deny it; fear it; tremble with rage and terror when they behold it.
We reaffirm it and on this day pledge anew our fidelity—come life or death—to the blood-red Banner of the Revolution.
Socialist greetings this day to all our fellow-workers! To the god-like souls in Russia marching grimly, sublimely into the jaws of hell with the Song of the Revolution in their deathrattle; to the Orient, the Occident and all the Isles of the Sea!
VIVA LA REVOLUTION!
The most heroic word in all languages is REVOLUTION.
It thrills and vibrates; cheers and inspires. Tyrants and time-servers fear it, but the oppressed hail it with joy.
The throne trembles when this throbbing word is lisped, but to the hovel it is food for the famishing and hope for the victims of despair.
Let us glorify today the revolutions of the past and hail the Greater Revolution yet to come before Emancipation shall make all the days of the year May Days of peace and plenty for the sons and daughters of toil.
It was with Revolution as his theme that Mark Twain’s soul drank deep from the fount of inspiration. His immortality will rest at last upon this royal tribute to the French Revolution:
“The ever memorable and blessed revolution, which swept a thousand years of villainy away in one swift tidal wave of blood—one: a settlement of that hoary debt in the proportion of half a drop of blood for each hogshead of it that had been pressed by slow tortures out of that people in the weary stretch of ten centuries of wrong and shame and misery the like of which was not to be mated but in hell. There were two Reigns of Terror, if we would but remember it and consider it: the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death on ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the horrors of the minor Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty and heartbreak? What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror, which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over, but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.”’