This Memorial Day, we should rededicate ourselves to fighting the horrors of war. So here’s a 1916 Eugene Debs piece, never before republished, about why internationalism is at the heart of socialist politics.

By Eugene Debs and Shawn Gude, Jacobin

In 1916, with World War I raging, socialist leader Eugene V. Debs wrote a short piece condemning the nationalism that had thrown soldiers into trench warfare and machine-gun slaughter.

Debs’s article appeared in the January 1916 issue of the National Rip-Saw, a mass-circulation socialist newspaper based in St Louis. The United States still hadn’t entered the war, and Debs wanted to keep it that way. He reminded his US comrades of their duty to oppose the conflict — the fetid fruit of the ruling class — and excoriated the many European socialists who had fallen in line behind their nations’ leaders.

Eugene Debs seated in a chair

“True socialists,” Debs wrote, “cannot at the same time be nationalists, militarists and capitalist ‘patriots.’ . . . The self-called socialists who are nationalists first and who set the ‘fatherland’ of their masters above the whole earth and above all the workers of the world are not socialists at all but either mild and harmless capitalist reformers and stool pigeons or traitors to the cause.”

Strong words. But this Memorial Day, it’s a reminder that the best way to honor those killed in war is to fight the ruling-class forces that repeatedly send soldiers off to die.

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