On June 29, 1905, Eugene Debs spoke before the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or Wobblies). The IWW was (and continues to be to this day) one of the most radical political organizations ever developed on American soil. Nominally a trade union, its actual goal was a revolution that would place the working class in control of the means of production. While the group offered little detail about the aftermath of this revolution, its efforts at achieving this goal resulted in the development of many new tactics for the American labor movement. For example, the IWW pioneered the organization of all workers regardless of race or class, a tactic that Debs had advocated since the Pullman strike. One way in which the IWW gained sympathy for its cause was to hold free-speech struggles, campaigns for the right to air its message rather than campaigns over the message itself. Obviously, after the injunction that ended the Pullman strike, Debs sympathized with this tactic too. It was no surprise, then, that Debs came to the founding convention of the IWW in Chicago and addressed the gathering.
Read our complete coverage of Debs’s speech, including the text of the speech plus in-depth analysis by the historian and Milestone Documents Editorial Board member Jonathan Rees of Colorado State University—Pueblo.