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Workers beware: you are being watched

The Months of Labor—June

Eugene V. Debs, Labor leader
Presidential Candidate
and Prisoner #9653

My parents emigrated to the US and started a grocery in Terre Haute, Indiana where I was raised.  I organized the American Railway Workers Union in 1894. Eventually I embraced socialism, and ran in five presidential elections under the Socialist Party banner between 1900 to 1920.

In 1918, I was sentenced under the Espionage Act of 1917 to 10 years in prison for opposing WWI. (This is the same Act that your government used to charge NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.) US President Woodrow Wilson’s Department of Justice (DOJ) under Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer waged war all through this period against labor in cities across the northeast. They  suppressed union strikes from New York City to Seattle. J. Edgar Hoover ran the DOJ’s General Intelligence Division, and used it to spy on union members and labor activists all over the country. The Palmer Raids intended to capture and deport prominent leftists were the rotten fruit of this government effort.

The 1950’s ushered workers into a new era of attacks on labor and dissidents led by Joseph McCarthy. This evolved into COINTELPRO, the FBI-initiated program to monitor and disrupt labor, the anti-war movement, the Black freedom struggle, and their allies. Today? You have Internet giants, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, and Skype along with the phone corporations transferring massive amounts of data to the NSA’s “farms.” Hand in hand with our government, their aim is to continue the current corporate hegemony of our society.

I see the same purpose that sent me to prison for a speech at work today.  Recall the Occupy movement. The  Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) obtained documents showing that from the FBI treated the movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though it was aware that the organizers called for peaceful demonstrations and “did not condone violence.” FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against people well beforfe the establishment of the Occupy Wall Street encampment or any others around the US.

I tell you that you need to be aware that your conversations, electronic communications and activities can and will be recorded by those in power. Just as in my day, our government, the moneyed, banks and corporations seek to protect their plutocracy by keeping working people from organizing towards a state of economic equality, and racial and social justice.  However, there are among you those with the skills to counteract this surveillance with methods of watching the watchers. It is vital to provide for yourselves the intelligence-gathering machinery and methods for the cause of social, racial, and labor organizing campaigns to prevail in the battle with the plutocracy.

Sometimes it might seem the work for justice and equality is unlikely to prevail. But remember this: I received nearly a million votes for my last campaign for president as Prisoner 9653 in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, while serving ten years for my opposition to WW I. Please do not be afraid to act.

In channeling the voice of Eugene Debs, our long-time union member and writer, MB, relied on The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Information about FBI monitoring Occupy is from

2 FBI Documents Reveal Secret Nationwide Occupy Monitoring, posted Dec. 21, 2012

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