Haymarket has been a cultural touchstone for many members of the left in this country and abroad. Regardless of their specific beliefs, which often differ from one another, they have seen themselves as kindred spirits to the men buried at Waldheim, whose story helped them understand and define their own lives and times.

Among these heirs of Haymarket, for example, was Eugene Victor Debs, who wrote an essay on the Haymarket defendants, titled "The Martyred Apostles of Labor," which originally appeared in 1898. Debs called the accused "the first martyrs in the cause of industrial freedom," contending that "one of the supreme duties of our civilization, if indeed we may boast of having been redeemed from savagery, is to rescue their names from calumny and do justice to their memory."

Debs's kinship to the Haymarket defendants extended to his romantic revolutionary spirit, his concern with worker pride and social injustice, and his propensity for dramatic rhetoric. An example of the last from "The Martyred Apostles of Labor":

"And as the struggle for justice proceeds and the battlefields are covered with the slain, as Mother Earth drinks their blood, the stones are given tongues with which to denounce man's inhumanity to man—aye, to women and children, whose moanings from hovel and sweatshop, garret and cellar, arraign our civilization, our religion and our judiciary—whose wailings and lamentations hushing to silence every sound the Creator designed to make the world a paradise of harmonies, transform it into an inferno where the demons of greed plot and scheme to consign their victims to lower depths of degradation and despair."

Debs (1855-1926) was an Indiana-born locomotive fireman who in 1893 became president of the American Railway Union, one of the first major labor groups organized by industry rather than by individual craft or trade. He was imprisoned six months for contempt of court because of his role in leading a sympathetic labor boycott during the 1894 Pullman Strike.

As a result of this experience and his reading in political philosophy, Debs became a leader in the organization of the new Socialist Party at the turn of the century. In 1905 he was also among the founders of the International Workers of the World, though he split from this organization because his own views were more moderate. He ran for president of the United States five times on the Socialist ticket—in every election but one from 1900 to 1920. During his last campaign he was in prison again for his attacks on the federal government's enforcement of the Espionage Act of 1917.