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American Socialist: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs (2017)

Bernie Sanders inspired a generation - but who inspired him? This is the passionate, thoughtful biography of the founder of the American Socialist Party, five-time presidential candidate ... See full summary »


Yale Strom




Credited cast:
Nick Cagle ... Eugene Victor Debs (voice)
Tom 'Jack' Daniels Tom 'Jack' Daniels ... Bartolomeo Vanzetti (voice)
Steve Gunderson ... Carl Sandburg / Mayor Fiorello La Guardia / Sinclair Lewis (voice)
Amy Madigan ... Narrator (voice)


Bernie Sanders inspired a generation - but who inspired him? This is the passionate, thoughtful biography of the founder of the American Socialist Party, five-time presidential candidate and the only presidential candidate in US history to be imprisoned for his campaign platform. The values with which lived his life and fought for social and economic justice remain in short supply today.

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Important and interesting documentary about Eugene V. Debs
24 November 2019 | by Sasha_LaurenSee all my reviews

As long as there is a lower class I am in it; As long there is a criminal element I am of it; As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free." Eugene Debs

Written by Elizabeth Schwartz and director Yale Strom, this documentary of Eugene V. Debs, (who was a voice and leader of the working people in America), offers a look at the early Socialist movement, labor activism, the disparity between economic classes, and the failure of the two party political system in America to create true Democracy and justice for all. The use of photographs and speeches introduces Debs to those who don't know anything about him, and inspires some of us who do.

Born in Terre Haute, Indiana, Debs favorite book was the social protest novel, "Les Miserables," that his father read to him as a young boy. His middle name, in fact, was taken from author of the book, Victor Hugo.

By age fourteen, Debs was already working for the railroad, rising through the years until he became President of the American Railway Union. In 1894 as Union President, Debs led a nationwide railway strike against Pullman, a hyper-exploitative sleeping car manufacturer that treated it's workers poorly.

Debs was jailed for his part in this strike as the government falsely claimed that it impeded the delivery of mail. While he was told in jail, Eugene read and ruminated about the state of affairs in America, and developed his revolutionary political ideals. In 1897 he formed the American Socialist Party; he was the party's Presidential Candidate five times. In 1912, he got 6% of the vote.

On July 16, 1918, Debs addressed the Ohio Socialist Party's state convention in Canton, Ohio. Debs knew he was at risk of arrest for voicing disapproval the war, but he did so anyway. He passionately and articulately spoke out against imperialism, and strongly oppossed the U.S. involvement in WWI. He asserted that the war was a profitable Nationalist enterprise for the elite class to conquest and plunder and that it was the working class who fight all the battles.

Woodrow Wilson had him arrested and jailed for ten years claiming that Debs was an agitator based on the Espionage and Sedition Act. Freedom of speech, indeed...

While he was imprisoned, Debs again ran for President in 1920 and got nearly a million votes --- from jail!

"I would rather a thousand times be a free soul in prison than to be a sycophant and coward in the streets. They may put those boys in jail - and some of the rest of us in jail - but they cannot put the Socialist movement in jail," Debs said.

Included in the film is a bit about Joe Hillstrom, (Joe Hill), a Swedish-born American songwriter and organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) who was convicted of murder on circumstantial evidence. Before his execution, Eugene V. Debs wrote Governor. William Spry to ask that he grant clemency to Joe Hill. Spry did not.

I thought this film was well done, interesting and educational. This important part of our history is suppressed. I recommend it.

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Release Date:

27 April 2018 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

American Socialist: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,823, 4 March 2018

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Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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BlackStream Films See more »
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