Speech by Samuel Gompers on World War I, (16 January 1918) New York, NY

Speech Text

[1] Fellow Americans, our republic is at war against the imperial German and Austrian governments. That fact all must now realize. War means victory for our cause, or danger to the very existence of our nation.

[2] The World War in which we are engaged is on such a tremendous scale and is so all pervading in its influences that we have re-adjusted practically the nation’s whole social and economic organization from a peace to a war basis. For labor, this re-adjustment was critical. It devolves upon liberty loving citizens, and particularly the workers, to see to it that the spirit and the method of democracy are maintained within our own country while we are engaged in this war to establish them for all the nations of the world. Germany and Austria aim to substitute militarism and autocracy for freedom and democracy. America and her allies have made their decision, and have pledged their manpower and their wealth to the successful conclusion of this greatest contest of all time.

[3] In addition to the fundamental principles at issue, labor has a further interest in the war. This is the people’s war; labor’s war. The final outcome will be determined in the factories, the mills, the shops, the mines, the farms, the production and transportation agencies of the various countries. The group of countries which can most successfully organize production and transportation most effectively will be the victor.

[4] The workers have a part in this war equal with our fighting boys. The American workers understand the gravity of the situation and the responsibility which rests upon them. They are loyal to the republic, they have done, are doing, and will continue to do their full duty.

[5] Their own struggle for freedom and for a better life gives them keen appreciation of the opportunities and privileges of a free government. They are demonstrating their appreciation and loyalty by war work, by loaning their savings, and by their supreme sacrifice. Labor will do its part in every demand the war makes. Our republic, the freedom of the world, progress, and civilization hang in the balance. We dare not fail. For under the leadership of the world’s greatest tribune of freedom, Woodrow Wilson, president of the United States, democracy, freedom, and justice will be victoriously and gloriously enthroned.