How (or How Not) to Build a Labor Movement

Looking at the Pullman Strike and the political forces it stirred.
Eugene V Debs speaking at a rally, c1912-18. Photo courtesy the Library of Congress.

For Socialism and Freedom: The Life of Eugene Debs

How Eugene V. Debs turned American republicanism against the chiefs of capitalism – and became a true crusader for freedom.

America’s Missing Labor Party

The history of labor strikes shows that, in order to achieve lasting success, workers need to capture political power.
Detail from a Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers graphic, 1877.

America’s Oldest Railway Union Must Break With Its Right-Wing Past

Why does the government have the power to break massive union strikes? Part of the story is a history of conciliatory railway unionism.
1877 political cartoon of a skeleton descending on a railroad, reading "the rioters' railroad to ruin."

Strikers, Octopi, and Visible Hands: The Railroad and American Capitalism

The railroad company remains a site for Americans to grapple with key questions about the nature of American capitalism.
Illustration depicting workmen and firemen dragging a fireman and engineer from a Baltimore freight train during the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad strike.

The Railway Labor Act Allowed Congress to Break the Rail Strike. We Should Get Rid of It.

Congress was able to break the rail strike last week because of a century-old law designed to weaken the disruptive power of unions.
Lithograph of federal troops crushing an 1877 rail strike.

Freight-Halting Strikes Are Rare, and This Would be the First in 3 Decades

Some rail unions are resisting government pressure to accept a new employment contract, but history suggests the authorities will keep the trains running.
Thorstein Veblen

The Gadfly of American Plutocracy

Far from a marginal outsider, a new biography contends, Thorstein Veblen was the most important economic thinker of the Gilded Age.
Eugene Debs in a suit

Eugene Debs Believed in Socialism Because He Believed in Democracy

Eugene Debs’s unswerving commitment to democracy and internationalism was born out of his revulsion at the tyranny of industrial capitalism.

When King was Dangerous

He's remembered as a person of conscience who carefully broke unjust laws. But his challenges to state authority place him in a much different tradition: radical labor activism.
Eugene V. Debs campaigning to crowd

When America's Most Prominent Socialist Was Jailed for Speaking Out Against World War I

After winning 6 percent of the vote in the 1912 presidential election, Eugene Debs ran afoul of the nation's new anti-sedition laws.

John Dewey's Experiment in Democratic Socialism

Despite his reputation as a liberal, Dewey's staunch commitment to democracy put him on a collision course with capitalism.
Engraving of the 1886 Haymarket protest

When Labor Day Meant Something

Remembering the radical past of a day now devoted to picnics and back-to-school sales.


Clarence Darrow’s unfinished work.