Was the Union war against the Confederacy a progressive war or imperialist bloodbath?

Submitted by ocelot on February 2, 2016

This is a side discussion split off from this thread on International Perspective's "As We See It" position paper.

The opening post of this sub-thread was comment #44 in the parent thread which raised a question on a brief mention of the US Civil War in the "As We See It" document:

S Artesian

Perhaps Sander can supply some clarification. This appears in the recent IP position paper:

Quote:
Thus, his early deterministic and stage-ist theories led him to congratulate Lincoln on his re-election even while the first industrialized war was still in the course of murdering over half a million proletarians
Is IP suggesting the the Confederate troops were proletarians?

Even on the Union side, with so little of the economy, and so little of the population urbanized, and involved in industrial production, it's a stretch to call the majority of those troops "proletarians."

Friend of mine claims that IP considers the US Civil War an intra-capitalist dispute where the revolutionary stance would have been that of defeatism, working for defeat on both sides.

Is that an accurate rendering of the IP position?

I will append the subsequent posts on that topic in the next comment

ocelot

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

#46 Sander

Artesian wrote:

Quote:
Is IP suggesting the the Confederate troops were proletarians?
Even on the Union side, with so little of the economy, and so little of the population urbanized, and involved in industrial production, it's a stretch to call the majority of those troops "proletarians."
Friend of mine claims that IP considers the US Civil War an intra-capitalist dispute where the revolutionary stance would have been that of defeatism, working for defeat on both sides.
Is that an accurate rendering of the IP position?
.
Marx expected the victory of the North to speed up the development of capitalism, and therefore also of the working class, and thus be beneficial to the latter. We don’t disagree with that. The question is whether that was worth the price of more than 600 000 lives and all the other misery the war caused. “Half a million proletarians” may be an exageration, as there were many small farmers etc. among them, but that hardly changes the point. The war was horror and the fate of the downtrodden didn’t improve much after it. Marx was still too much captivated by his schematic, deterministic view of history to realize this.

More on other comments soon.

#47 S Artesian

Quote:
The war was horror and the fate of the downtrodden didn’t improve much after it.
In order to avoid derailing this thread, I would suggest, if Sander agrees, that a new thread around this issue should be initiated.

My first comment would be : Sander didn't answer the questions. I didn't ask why Marx held his view; or even if Marx held a view. I asked if IP considered the Confederate troops proletarians. I asked if IP holds to "turn the guns around. Defeat of the North by the South is a 'lesser evil' than pursuing the war on behalf of the North."

The question for Marxists is precisely not what Sander claims it was: "The question is whether that was worth the price of more than 600 000 lives and all the other misery the war caused."

Baloney. The issue is what determined the war; what made it an historical necessity (if it was); and therefore what compelled the parties to act as they did. History does not assign a price to lives. That's a bourgeois affectation. History is not a cost-benefit scheme or an accounting exercise.

The war didn't improve the "fate" of the downtrodden "much"? Once again baloney. Fate's got nothing to do with it. The war abolished slavery. Was this revolution completed? No. But without the war, there would have been no period of Congressional (Radical) Reconstruction, 1868-1872, which in fact did greatly improve the material lives, if not the fate, of the downtrodden.

That the bourgeoisie turned away from Radical Reconstruction and agreed to the restoration of Redemptionist governments in the South does not mean the war or Reconstruction was a waste-- unless of course you think that the migration of blacks to the cities after the turn of the century, the civil rights movement, the militant struggles of black industrial workers would have occurred without the Civil War, without the 13th, 14th, 15th amendments.

As for Sander's rationalization of IP's "exaggeration" of the death of 500,000 proletarians: Since when do Marxists, presenting an analysis of capitalism engage in "exaggeration"? Exaggeration? What's next, claiming "artistic license" in mis-characterizing class struggle? IP does not engage in exaggeration-- but in direct distortion to support a position that has no real basis in fact. That's called ideology.

See why this should be split-off?

#49 Sander

Artesian,
I’m appalled that you think the dead of 600 000 people (regardless whether they were proletarians or not) and all the other misery the war inflicted should not be a factor in judging whether to support such wars or not. It reminded me of Che Guevara writing in his diary that the millions of deaths in an atomic war would be well worth it to advance the cause of communism. I’m not saying you would make the same judgement but you argue in much the same vein as he did when you write

Quote:
“History does not assign a price to lives. That's a bourgeois affectation. History is not a cost-benefit scheme or an accounting exercise.”
Right. History has no feelings, it does not suffer, it has no sense, it has no purpose. But we humans do.

#50 S Artesian

Sander wrote:
Artesian,
I’m appalled that you think the dead of 600 000 people (regardless whether they were proletarians or not) and all the other misery the war inflicted should not be a factor in judging whether to support such wars or not. It reminded me of Che Guevara writing in his diary that the millions of deaths in an atomic war would be well worth it to advance the cause of communism. I’m not saying you would make the same judgement but you argue in much the same vein as he did when you write
Quote:
“History does not assign a price to lives. That's a bourgeois affectation. History is not a cost-benefit scheme or an accounting exercise.”
Right. History has no feelings, it does not suffer, it has no sense, it has no purpose. But we humans do.

Sander,

I'm appalled that your tally of the cost-benefit of the US Civil War does not include the lives of the millions of Africans enslaved, those more than thousands who perished in the Atlantic passage, and those millions who were, quite literally, worked to death.

Those bodies, somehow, don't show up in your ledger, do they? Of course not, they were slaves. By definition, they don't count.

The absurdity of your "position"-- your numbers-driven pacifism-- is that, besides begging the questions, it leads to asking, "Well, if only 200,000 died, would that make it worthwhile?"

As if once the struggle is joined, you would have known what the death toll would have been.

I'm asking you to answer some simple questions, which the careful reader will note, you continue to avoid answering:

1. Is it IP's position that Marx, and the IMWA, were wrong in endorsing the North's military, political, and economic struggle against the slaveholders' rebellion?

2. Is it IP's position that "revolutionary defeatism"-- which means that revolutionaries in the North welcome the defeat of the Union troops by the troops of the slaveholders' rebellion as preferable to the victory of Union troops-- was the "correct" position?

3. What justification can there be for claiming that the US Civil War sacrificed the lives of over "500,000 proletarians on both sides" when the composition of the slaveholders' army was not proletarian at all, and the proletarian component in the Union Army was a distinct minority?

4. Does the IP regard the victory of the North in the Civil War, the formal, legal, and substantive elements of the abolition of slavery-- i.e. military occupation of the South, Congressional Reconstruction, the 13th, 14th, 15th amendments as "tragedies," and not just tragedies, but a defeat for the prospects of revolution?

Perhaps the US should have, after all, been more like Brazil? And let slavery continue, say until the 1880s, then those 500,000 of almost proletarians, including the almost proletarian slave owners, wouldn't have had to sacrifice so much? And the million or so slaves, those actually performing the labor, those who would have died in the 30 or so years.....?????

Do at least try to answer the questions. After that, you can be as appalled as you like

#53 S Artesian

Quote:

A comment by Sander, in the midst of a discussion of the value-form, that the US civil war was a capitalist war, and one of the first wars in which warfare itself became industrialized,

Get your facts straight, Mac, if you're going to participate. Just to bring you up to speed and correct your distortion of the record, it was not a comment by Sander that triggered the discussion of the Civil War. It was the statement in your position paper "As We See It" on the Civil War that prompted my questions in this thread, a thread devoted, according to its title devoted to Internationalist Perspective: 'As We See It. Can't think of a better place to raise the question, can you?

Plus, I suggested that the admins might want to split the thread so we could pursue both issues. They have, so far, not seen the need for that. OK, then this is the place to pursue these matters.

You don't like it? Too bad. Ask the admins to split the thread, and then there will be two places where you can avoid the issues you raise in your own position paper.

Moreover, a friend of mine-- you know him, Loren Goldner-- stated that IP hold's a "defeatist" position on the US Civil War so I asked for clarification on that.

All will note that you, like Sander, ignore the questions directly dealing with the assertions in your position paper, and your attempted rationalizations thereof ("war is horrible." "war is terrible." "war cost 500,000 proletarians their lives." "I'm appalled at your sang froid" blahblahblah).

So let me reproduce the questions and then you may, one more time, and with feeling, avoid answering them, claiming that questioning your own assertions-- like the Confederate troops being "proletarians" for one-- is a diversion from.......what? Value-form? Do us a favor....

1. Is it IP's position that Marx, and the IMWA, were wrong in endorsing the North's military, political, and economic struggle against the slaveholders' rebellion?

2. Is it IP's position that "revolutionary defeatism"-- which means that revolutionaries in the North welcome the defeat of the Union troops by the troops of the slaveholders' rebellion as preferable to the victory of Union troops-- was the "correct" position?

3. What justification can there be for claiming that the US Civil War sacrificed the lives of over "500,000 proletarians on both sides" when the composition of the slaveholders' army was not proletarian at all, and the proletarian component in the Union Army was a distinct minority?

4. Does the IP regard the victory of the North in the Civil War, the formal, legal, and substantive elements of the abolition of slavery-- i.e. military occupation of the South, Congressional Reconstruction, the 13th, 14th, 15th amendments as "tragedies," and not just tragedies, but a defeat for the prospects of revolution?

No one disputes that Congressional Reconstruction was eviscerated; that a campaign of terror organized by the former Confederates and slaveholders (those "proletarians" who survived the tragic Civil War-- the tragedy being that they in fact survived) was the motor on the Redemptionist trolley; that the Northern bourgeoisie, and the Northern petty-bourgeoisie, turned away from Reconstruction when Reconstruction, to succeed, required racial equality throughout the land.

However that doesn't mean the Civil War was not necessary, and did not carry within it the impulse to emancipation-- as in fact subsequent revolutions and civil wars have embodied a similar impulse only to wither, ebb, and re-form the conditions of exploitation and oppression.

So answer the questions and in the subsequent discussion see if you can link your answers to your analysis of the value form. If you cannot, then you don't really get what Marx was driving at, and why he undertook the critique of capital.

All the talk in the world about value form don't mean a thing if the only place your so-called Marxism gets you is a place of abstention in a war against slavery.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

OK, we'll see if anyone from IP pursues this discussion.

James MacBryde

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Marx expected the victory of the North to speed up the development of capitalism, and therefore also of the working class.

Marx also demonstrated how the British working class backed up his assessment with industrial action in support of the North.

Numerous slave rebellions and insurrections took place in North America during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. There is documentary evidence of more than 250 uprisings or attempted uprisings involving ten or more slaves.

Slave resistance in the antebellum South did not gain the attention of academic historians until the 1940s when historian Herbert Aptheker started publishing the first serious scholarly work on the subject. Aptheker stressed how rebellions were rooted in the exploitative conditions of the southern slave system. He traversed libraries and archives throughout the South, managing to uncover roughly 250 similar instances.

The American Civil War was the bourgeois reaction to these slave revolts. It killed two birds: it attempted to appease slave discontent and to bring those slaves into the free labour market pool.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The US Civil War was a slaveholders' rebellion in defense of slavery, for the expansion of slavery.

The stage was set with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, effectively allowing slavery to expand into new territories administered by the federal government, and the first act took place in Kansas, when slaveholders from neighboring Missouri initiated a terrorist campaign against "free soil" farmers in Kansas in order to secure a pro-slavery territorial government.

The Civil War was in no way, shape,or form an attempt to "appease slave discontent," as initially the North made it quite clear that slavery in the existing states, even those in direct rebellion, would not be threatened. This formal "position" was undermined, of course, by the slaves themselves who flocked to Union lines.

In the West, in 1861 the commanding Union general John C. Fremont declared the abolition of slavery in the military region of his command and was promptly relieved of his command for so doing.

Hieronymous

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

From the previous thread:

S. Artesian

Actually, in the real terms of Marx's critique of capital, the practical struggle embodied in the US Civil War, of the actual material conditions of class, and the prospects for the emancipation of labor is 1000 times more substantive, than IP's (mis)exposition on fictitious capital, value form, etc.

Couldn't agree more.

It's disgusting when the agency of human beings in struggle gets airbrushed out of the discussion so that self-appointed experts, calling everyone a fool who doesn't agree with their highly-abstract polemics, can preach to us their ideological faith.

Back to agency.

CLR James brilliant works, like The Black Jacobins, show that slavery did not occur to passive African victims, but was vociferously opposed from its origins.

James

The docile Negro is a myth. Slaves on slave ships jumped overboard, went on vast hunger strikes, attacked the crews. There are records of slaves overcoming the crew and taking the ship into harbor, a feat of tremendous revolutionary daring. In British Guiana during the eighteenth century the Negro slaves revolted, seized the Dutch colony, and held it for years. They withdrew to the interior, forced the whites to sign a treaty of peace, and have remained free to this day. Every West Indian colony, particularly Jamaica and San Domingo and Cuba, the largest islands, had its settlements of maroons, bold Negroes who had fled into the wilds and organized themselves to defend their freedom. In Jamaica the British government, after vainly trying to suppress them, accepted their existence by treaties of peace, scrupulously observed by both sides over many years, and then broken by British treachery. In America the Negroes made nearly 150 distinct revolts against slavery. The only place where Negroes did not revolt is in the pages of capitalist historians. All this revolutionary history can come as a surprise only to those who, whatever International they belong to, whether Second, Third, or Fourth [or Internationalist Perspectives], have not yet ejected from their systems the pertinacious lies of Anglo-Saxon capitalism. It is not strange that the Negroes revolted. It would have been strange if they had not. (from the essay “Revolution and the Negro" [1939])

CLR James situates this in an historical context, much as Ted Allen did in finding the origins of American-style chattel slavery in the reaction to Bacon’s Rebellion, starting in 1676. Allen points out that the “white race” was a social control formation of the ruling class in response to the white and black unity in the latter stages of Bacon’s Rebellion.

In his monumental research in Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880 (1935), W.E.B. Du Bois discovered examples of the refusal of work by “slave” workers. He clearly shows how race and prefigurative class formations interact in the process of transformative struggle, where former slaves were agents of their own liberation:

Du Bois

[the] Civil War meant emancipation and…the black worker won the war by a general strike which transferred his labor from the Confederate planter to the Northern invader, in whose army lines workers began to be organized as a new labor force. […] This was not merely the desire to stop work. It was a strike on a wide basis against the conditions of work. It was a general strike that involved directly in the end perhaps half a million people. They wanted to stop the economy of the plantation system, and to do that they left the plantations. (p. 67)

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yes, indeed-- the actions by those determined, committed, to being slaves-no-more,- made manifest the impulse to the emancipation of labor.

These actions by slaves and former slaves overwhelmed the "limits" to which the North originally hope to confine the war.

RC

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Isn't the agency of slaves a contradiction in terms?

Hieronymous

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

Isn't the agency of slaves a contradiction in terms?

Then what would you call it when people fight to escape captivity and to emancipate themselves?

Sounds like you're getting hung up on semantics.

Joseph Kay

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Not just open insurrection either; slaves found many ways to drag feet, break tools, etc. It's often cited as one of the factors inhibiting productivity of slave production. Slaves were often only trusted with cheap simple tools as they had a habit of 'accidentally' breaking them. Plus escaping - CLR James talks about the communities of Maroons living up in the hills of Saint-Domingue for example.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Joseph Kay

Not just open insurrection either; slaves found many ways to drag feet, break tools, etc. It's often cited as one of the factors inhibiting productivity of slave production. Slaves were often only trusted with cheap simple tools as they had a habit of 'accidentally' breaking them. Plus escaping - CLR James talks about the communities of Maroons living up in the hills of Saint-Domingue for example.

Yes and no. Some slave were entrusted with complex and expensive tools-- some acted as artisan laborers; some were trusted with teams of plow animals; some were trusted to prepare, maintain, and oversee the extensive sugar processing equipment; and a very, very few ran steam engines of some sections of railroads in the South.

But no oppressed, exploited group loses or is devoid of their "agency." It just remains latent, hidden, or suppressed until it's made manifest.

It might appear that the slaves were liberated by the Union troops. In reality, the slaves liberated themselves, abandoning plantations and manor for the Union lines and fortifications.

RC

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hieronymous wrote:

Then what would you call it when people fight to escape captivity and to emancipate themselves?

OK, I see what you mean. But then you have to see the other side of it: that when slaves made a rational decision, based on the relations of force and the situation they were in, not to rebel, but to get along with slavery, this was an act of agency as well.

S. Artesian wrote:

But no oppressed, exploited group loses or is devoid of their "agency." It just remains latent, hidden, or suppressed until it's made manifest.

What do you mean by "hidden"? Their agency wasn't hidden at all to the slave masters, who saw their agency as obstinate. The slaves either used their agency to cope with slavery or their agency was beaten into submission. If their agency was only "latent" until it could be "made manifest" in those rare circumstances favoring a rebellion, then isn't that pretty much saying they were devoid of agency? Its not like slaves only had agency when rising up or breaking tools. And its no dishonor to the slaves to say that most of the time, the balance of power was so overwhelmingly against them that they just did what they could to survive.

Hieronymous

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC, since you seem pretty unaware of the lived experience of slaves in the U.S., I suggest you check out George Rawick's From Sundown to Sunup: The Making of the Black Community. It's an introductory volume to 19 subsequent ones, the latter containing transcriptions of interviews conducted from 1936 to 1938 with former slaves. They recount how when they weren't working for the master -- from sundown to sunup -- they preserved their own culture based on struggling against their condition, often outwitting the master. The myth of slaves submissively and passively resigned to their fate without resisting is a bourgeois myth.

An article RC linked to on race relations in the U.S., translated from German, is simply wrong when it writes:

RC

...these slaves did not free themselves but were released from forced labor for plantation owners in the southern states into the world of free wage-labor.

A corrective would be to read the aforementioned W. E. B. Du Bois Black Reconstruction in America: Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880.

James MacBryde

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Not just open insurrection either; slaves found many ways to drag feet, break tools, etc.

So ultimately nothing has changed. Our condition of life has shown no improvement. We basically still live in a one room shack, we wake up every morning to slave under a hot sun or a cold fluorescent. We have no land to call our own.

Auld-bod

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

James MacBryde #14

James, what are you trying to say?
It is too clever by half.

James MacBryde

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I don't see anything clever about my last comment, old bod. Looking back at it, it seems pretty dumb. OK, so I tried to make the point that our condition of life is no better as a wage labourer than as a slave; and that our methods of struggle do not differ from slavery either but so what, it doesn't answer the question posed in the OP, which actually seems pretty academic to me.

RC

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hieronymous,

Thanks for the reading tips, but you aren't responding to the points. You write:

The myth of slaves submissively and passively resigned to their fate without resisting is a bourgeois myth.

That might have been the prevailing image of slavery in American history books back in the 1930s and 40s when James, Rawick and Du Bois were writing. But do you think that’s still the picture of slavery held in the US today? Maybe in some places. It wouldn't apply to Roots, for example. Or take Django Unchained. A lot of cultural leftist types praised Django Unchained precisely for your reason -- it challenged the myth of the passive slave by showing a slave kicking ass all over the place.

This all starts with a false question -- agency or passivity? -- and then affirms agency in the abstract. It seems to have more to do with psychological self-help than a political-economic analysis of slavery.

Hieronymous

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

Hieronymous,

Thanks for the reading tips.

You're welcome.

The title of this split off thread was the question:

Was the Union war against the Confederacy a progressive war or imperialist bloodbath?

What do you think?

And I'd suggest splitting this off and starting a new thread if you want to debate agency vs. passivity.

vicent

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

regardless of how progressive a war seems, I think it is safe to say that the sensible working class response to any war is to;
a) evade conscription either individually or collectively
b) if caught, desert as soon as possible
c) otherwise resist and mutiny against militarist despotism
if by chance one is not drafted there is no problem with continuing resistance against capital in the workplace, regardless of how that may affect the war effort

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

vicent

regardless of how progressive a war seems, I think it is safe to say that the sensible working class response to any war is to;
a) evade conscription either individually or collectively
b) if caught, desert as soon as possible
c) otherwise resist and mutiny against militarist despotism
if by chance one is not drafted there is no problem with continuing resistance against capital in the workplace, regardless of how that may affect the war effort

The above is not exactly germane to this discussion.

How about these:

US Civil War: Proletarians on both sides? Proletarians caught in the middle? Irrelevant to workers? Not worth the effort? Of no consequence to slaves, ex-slaves, and "free" people? A waste? A money-making exercise?

Try those on for size.

ocelot

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Having started the thread it's probably bad manners not to express my own opinion. The quick version is 1) I don't see the US Civil War as an imperialist war and 2) I do think the war was inevitable and necessary and the destruction of the Confederacy and the Slave Power it fought to uphold, was progressive.

In response to positions like:

vicent

regardless of how progressive a war seems, I think it is safe to say that the sensible working class response to any war is to;
a) evade conscription either individually or collectively
b) if caught, desert as soon as possible
c) otherwise resist and mutiny against militarist despotism
if by chance one is not drafted there is no problem with continuing resistance against capital in the workplace, regardless of how that may affect the war effort

The position is posed in an abstract a-historical way which makes it "not even wrong" from a historical materialist perspective. From the perspective of African-American slaves then the injunctions to 1) evade conscription, b) desert, c) otherwise resist and mutiny; were precisely the principles that drove them to flee slavery and take up arms in the Union army. The question as to the class composition of both Union and Confederate armies, in terms of how many of the volunteers and conscriptees were actually proletarian or working class, is open to question, as SA has already pointed out.

I find the characterisation of the US Civil War as an "imperialist war" to be a-historical for a number of reasons. First of all the term "Imperialism" itself is only introduced in the late 1870s, i.e. after the 1861-1865 US war. It was introduced in the critique of Disraeli's foreign policy, denounced as "The New Imperialism" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Imperialism). This isn't just linguistic pedantry - there was a change in policy in the 1870s, led by Britain, which saw expanding new colonies as a remedy for the perceived decline of British capitalism after the "golden age" of uncontested dominance from the end of the Napoleonic Wars up to the Franco-Prussian War (this is the period of Jevon's musings over "Peak Coal", for e.g., and a near-universal fretting over the long term decline of the Industrial revolution). A policy that eventually led to a generalised competition between Western European powers to seize colonial space, peaking in the "Scramble for Africa" and the Berlin Conference of 1884-5, and culminating in the First World War. Whether we disagree with the specifics of Lenin and Luxemburg's different analyses of the dynamics of imperialism, there's no disputing the general historical outline of the phenonema and that it is historically located in the period 1871-1914, after the US Civil War.

Second, aside from the fact the US Civil War occurred in the pre-"New Imperialism" period of uncontested British imperial dominance, in the sphere of international trade, the world market and the developing globalisation of capitalism, there is the fact that it was not an inter-imperialist conflict but a civil war proper, with relatively little significant intervention from outside imperialist interests (as opposed to civil wars in Spain in the early 20th or Syria today, for e.g.). As such it represented the internal struggle between two ultimately incompatible modes of production.

And that's my second point - I think the war was inevitable by the time it happened. If we take Chris Hill's schema of preconditions, precipitants and trigger, then the preconditions for the war really goes back the compromise at the foundation of the state, best exemplified by the "3/5ths compromise" in the constitution. This progressively developed into a "one country, two systems" setup, the whole topic of precipitants has generated a vast swathe of hitorical writings, common reference points being the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Dredd Scott, etc. Everybody pretty much accepts that "Bloody Kansas" (as already mentioned by SA) was the trigger.

The division between the two systems was visible from the start. Thomas Jefferson's election in 1800 would have been impossible without the captive votes of the slave power. The "anti-bourgeois" vision of agrarian petty bourgeois utopia that made up "Jeffersonian democracy" was in reality unsustainable without slave production. Worse, from a Northern point of view, by the mid-19th century the Southern mode of production kept the slave states in a defacto relation of economic dependence on Britain, as the primary market for plantation cash crop production. Confederates even floated an ill-fated project of an export ban on cotton with the aim of forcing Britain into the war on the Confederate side. Even though the initial division between Jeffersonian democrats and Hamiltonian Federalists had cast the latter in the role of maintaining the link with the colonial power, by the time of the Civil War the roles were reversed. In that sense the Civil War was a settlement of outstanding issues left over from independence itself.

So much for geopolitics. Ultimately, from the likes of (ur-libertarian*) Joseph Dejacque onwards, radical socialists in the US had always argued for the destruction of the slave power. Even if this was resolutely not a conflict between massed proletarians separated only by accident of language or country, slavery represented the ultimate decomposition of the embryonic class, and it's destruction was not an optional goal for African-Americans, or ultimately for proto-class conscious actors.

---
* in the original libertarian communist sense - him coining the term, and all...

RC

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hieronymous wrote:

Quote:

Was the Union war against the Confederacy a progressive war or imperialist bloodbath?

What do you think?

And I'd suggest splitting this off and starting a new thread if you want to debate agency vs. passivity.

If I am following your argument for the "progressive" character of the Civil War, it is that "slaves were the agents of their own liberation." But what was the content of this “liberation” that they were the agents of? You quote Du Bois:

the black worker won the war by a general strike which transferred his labor from the Confederate planter to the Northern invader, in whose army lines workers began to be organized as a new labor force.

So they transferred their labor from the plantations to the only existing possibility of meals and pay – service as cannon fodder of the Union troops. Or else they starved. That was the material basis of their self-liberation.

I wouldn't take sides in questions like: which is the better mode of exploitation, slave labor or wage labor? I would ask instead: for 80 years after its founding, the USA saw nothing unAmerican about slavery. Then the US saw slavery as an obstacle to be removed. Why?

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

If I am following your argument for the "progressive" character of the Civil War, it is that "slaves were the agents of their own liberation." But what was the content of this “liberation” that they were the agents of? You quote Du Bois:

the black worker won the war by a general strike which transferred his labor from the Confederate planter to the Northern invader, in whose army lines workers began to be organized as a new labor force.

So they transferred their labor from the plantations to the only existing possibility of meals and pay – service as cannon fodder of the Union troops. Or else they starved. That was the material basis of their self-liberation.

I wouldn't take sides in questions like: which is the better mode of exploitation, slave labor or wage labor? I would ask instead: for 80 years after its founding, the USA saw nothing unAmerican about slavery. Then the US saw slavery as an obstacle to be removed. Why?

Think RC should study Ocelot's post above. I'm sure this will make him uneasy, but I find almost nothing to disagree with in Ocelot's analysis.

Ex-slaves were not used as cannon fodder by the Union Army. Most ex-slaves were not incorporated into infantry units. Those that were-- the "colored troops" formations-- fought with skill, bravery, and the will to survive, just like their white brethren-- who BTW saluted the courage this "Sable Army"-- as it has been called-- demonstrated in the face of the slaveholders' army.

The "great divergence" between North and South, when Northern "elites" begin to change their tune about slavery-- from being a protected institution to being an obstruction-- comes right after the Maine-Missouri Compromise, when it is clear that the South will do anything to expand the slave system, and offset the growing population and economic weight of the North.

Anyway, it's a slow change to say the least, and even after the South's initiation of the Civil War, the Union is loathe to explicitly target slavery, slave property. That issue was, as Hieronymous has pointed out settled by the slaves themselves, who flocked to the Union lines. The Union troops, and their officers, also forced the issue by refusing to return the refugee ex-slaves to their ex-masters, when the Confederate "gentlemen" showed up demanding the repatriation of their "property."

The progressive nature of the Civil War was realized in the abolition of slavery, made manifest by Radical (Congressional) Reconstruction, the 13th 14th and 15th amendments, the Reconstruction governments that were the first governments in the South to make provisions for public education, and the Freedman's Bureaus.

This progressive legacy was dismantled by a campaign of organized terror throughout the South to which the US executive and judicial branches did not respond in the manner mandated by the Reconstruction legislation.

Hieronymous

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I agree that there is no better exploitation. It's a false choice. But I would use an expression from addiction: harm reduction. Given the hypothetical choice between being forced out of bed by an alarm clock or a bullwhip, I think anyone's choice would be obvious.

But I never actually used the term "progressive," although I agree with the gist of what it implies. If I were a slave during the war, I'd like to think that I would grab a Northern gun and point it at former slave masters. But if I were an Irish working class immigrant (like my maternal ancestors actually were) in New York in that period, I could also imagine it hard to avoid being drawn into the ugly vortex of the Draft Riots in 1863. So to answer the hypothetical question of what I would have done had I been there, it would depend whether or not my skin was branded.

The Du Bois quote I gave above was from Chapter IV, entitled "The General Strike." Further on in the chapter he gives details how once they were liberated, some former slaves returned to plantations and started doing agricultural work for themselves; as a result, their "standard of living was rising" (p. 75). According to Du Bois, efficiency at providing for their own needs was an exponential improvement over what they produced for the master. But anyone who's ever had to toil while the boss is away knows this; unimpeded by managerial orders and oversight, you can facilely complete your tasks in half the time and head home early.

I largely agree with nearly everything Artesian and Ocelot wrote above.

EDIT: Also, I strongly suggest that everyone who hasn't read Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880 to check out pages 92-112 for his account of the combat performance of freed slaves.

Additionally, check out the late Will Barnes' grand opus Civil War and Revolution in America. He has several quotes with accounts of the heroic fighting of former slaves, this one taken from Bruce Catton's Grant Takes Command (p. 288):

Catton

[In Smith's formation in front of Petersburg,] "off to the left General Hincks' colored infantrymen the men to whom little had ever been given and from whom nothing in particular was expected, marched up to the dominating ridge, fought their way over the massive trenches and went storming on into the forts. ... In half an hour or a little more it was over. The salient was gone, the ridge to the south was crowned with black men in blue uniforms yelling and brandishing their weapons and climbing all over the captured guns, and when the sun went down Smith's troops had taken a mile and a half of trenches, five forts, sixteen pieces of artillery and several hundred prisoners. Between them and Petersburg there was nothing they needed to be afraid of …"

General Grant, whose attitude towards blacks was indifferent at best, also included reminiscences of the bravery of the emancipated slaves fighting under him in his Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. He even recounts instances where freedmen got extra-legal revenge by offing their former slave masters.

lettersjournal

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Debord writes in his memoir about his fascination with war:

I HAVE BEEN very interested in war, in the theoreticians of its strategy, but also in reminiscences of battles and in the countless other disruptions history mentions, surface eddies on the river of time. I am not unaware that war is the domain of danger and disappointment, perhaps even more so than the other sides of life. This consideration has not, however, diminished the attraction that I have felt for it.

It's hard not to be fascinated by it, attracted to it. The heroism and manliness. Good triumphing over evil and all that. It would be dishonest to deny the beauty in a war songs like 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic' or the great speeches of the generals. The St. Crispin's Day Speech...

Of course, that is the war of songs and movies and plays.

Perhaps the most alluring thing about war is that it's the domain of men: terrible, violent, dirty, exciting.

Sartesian, I thought that I had answered your question: in 1861 I would have joined the Union army. I would not have advocated revolutionary defeatism. And in 1789 you might have been a Jacobin, and several years later I might have been with Babeuf. Is that the level upon which we want to discuss history? Robespierre looks different today than he did in 1789, just as Lenin looks different today than he did in October 1917. And, yes the actual outcome of the American civil war, and the subsequent century of a legalized caste system in America, changes the way one looks at the war itself.

On some level, all revolutionary ideology is built on the fantasy of having a hand in murder and destruction. Every theoretician dreams of being a man of action. To march to the front alongside your brothers. Anything to be free of child-rearing and agriculture (I mean, office work)!

But what does this have to do with communism?

What does it mean to make pronouncements about the progressive nature of this or that war? How are we to judge both the ends and instruments of history (if there any at all)? What does it really mean to say "I would have joined the Union Army"? Or "such and such looks different today than he did so long ago? (What about those long ago who didn't like the look of him then, either?)

If we run the tape forward a few centuries, will 'we' say, "Sure, in 2016 I would have been a left communist (or whatever), even though we know today that was terrible"?

lettersjournal

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It is an obvious statement, but any argument advanced in favor of the Union in the Civil War can be advanced in favor of the Allies in WW2 or India in the civil war of Pakistan in 1971 or whatever else.

lettersjournal

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I do think the war was inevitable and necessary and the destruction of the Confederacy and the Slave Power it fought to uphold, was progressive.

What is the difference between this belief and the belief (common in the north at the time of the war) about the providence of God in relation to the Union war effort?

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

lettersjournal

It's hard not to be fascinated by it, attracted to it. The heroism and manliness. Good triumphing over evil and all that. It would be dishonest to deny the beauty in a war songs like 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic' or the great speeches of the generals. The St. Crispin's Day Speech...

Of course, that is the war of songs and movies and plays.

Perhaps the most alluring thing about war is that it's the domain of men: terrible, violent, dirty, exciting.

Except nobody's talking about finding war alluring, or being attracted to it, or its manliness, or good triumphing evil, or the swell songs, and stirring speeches, and the bands playing.. or any of that.

We are discussing the material determinants, the cause of a particular war, and the actions necessary to resolve that conflict.

letterjournal

What does it mean to make pronouncements about the progressive nature of this or that war? How are we to judge both the ends and instruments of history (if there any at all)? What does it really mean to say "I would have joined the Union Army"? Or "such and such looks different today than he did so long ago? (What about those long ago who didn't like the look of him then, either?)

If we run the tape forward a few centuries, will 'we' say, "Sure, in 2016 I would have been a left communist (or whatever), even though we know today that was terrible"?

Different questions-- to identify the issues driving a confrontation means we can determine if one side, or a side, is driven by a need to remedy the oppression and exploitation that exists in that specific historical expression. So we can determine if there is a "progressive" component.

As for what it means to say "I would have joined the Union Army..." well in the context of Mac's post-- it means nothing, as he's using it to ignore the previous question.

We can evaluate the conflict at the heart of a war just as we can, and by using the same tools, that we employ to evaluate popular struggles, and revolutions.

lettersjournal

It is an obvious statement, but any argument advanced in favor of the Union in the Civil War can be advanced in favor of the Allies in WW2 or India in the civil war of Pakistan in 1971 or whatever else.

And it's a meaningless statement to say that an argument linked, connected, embedded in the evaluation of a specific historical period, a specific conflict with specific material conditions, can be abstracted completely from that history and can be tacked on to any and every other conflict.

Hieronymous

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

But any argument advanced by lettersjournal in favor of discussing -- or not -- the issues driving a confrontation leading to war can be advanced by lettersjournal in favor of the Broncos in the Super Bowl or their favorite singer on American Idol (perhaps performing "Battle Hymn of the Republic") or whatever else.

RC

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The progressives are ignoring the question: what were the Northern troops fighting for? Yes, against the southern secessionist slave-owners – bad people. Probably nobody here wants to say that the troops were fighting for the well-being of the slaves. So what was the state interest being served by the abolition of slavery?

Instead of answering that question, a salute to the troops – skill! bravery! “just like their white brethren”! That’s on par with Hieronymous’s insight, supported by books, that the slaves had will and consciousness. The Indians must have been impressed. BTW, when aren't American troops fighting valiantly for freedom and equality?

Do the progressives want to say that the general imposition of wage labor on the North American continent was a step on the stairway to communism? S. Artesian thinks the progressive nature of the civil war was “realized” in such things as the right to vote and public education. Is that another step?

So far, this is just a left version of American nationalist myth-making.

Hieronymous

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

First RC, who the fuck do you think you are preaching your sermon too? Your parishioners? If so, you aren't posting on your church's Myspace page. This is libcom, in case you didn't notice.

Next, who the fuck are the "progressives"? Are you alleging that someone identifying as such reads this website? If so, you are once again on the wrong website. If not, stop making passive-aggressive smears.

RC

The Indians must have been impressed.

Who are you referring to? Do you mean this?:

lettersjournal

India in the civil war of Pakistan in 1971

That was a century later. If not, what the fuck are you talking about?

You said slaves were "canon-fodder" for what again? The right to vote and public education?

As Artesian suggests, why don't you take a look at Ocelot's post above and critique ruthlessly.

But please stop posting in bad faith.

lettersjournal

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

People like Chomsky often cite India’s invasion of Pakistan in 1971 as an example of a 'good war'. If one feels capable of surveying history and picking the good (or, "progressive") wars, it seemed like a possible candidate.

The idea of a "progressive war" does not make sense to me, unless we accept some idea of divine or communist Providence.

RC

The progressives are ignoring the question: what were the Northern troops fighting for?

If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

But why would communists, given their meager resources and numbers, dedicate themselves to defending wars of previous centuries?

Hieronymous

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

lettersjournal

People like Chomsky often cite India’s invasion of Pakistan in 1971 as an example of a 'good war'.

Did Indians cite the U.S. Civil War? How?

If, as RC alleges, slaves lacked "will and consciousness," was this still true when they were fighting the "general strike" for their own liberation? I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth, but it makes them sound sub-human.

lettersjournal

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

For me, the question is not so much the "non-existence of the will" but the inutility of the concept.

Hieronymous

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Sidetracking comment removed.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The Union troops were fighting against secession, for the Union. But It's not only a case of what troops are fighting for; , the issue is also what they are fighting against. The troops of the Union Army were fighting a slaveholders' rebellion; against the expansion of slavery.

RC

Do the progressives want to say that the general imposition of wage labor on the North American continent was a step on the stairway to communism? S. Artesian thinks the progressive nature of the civil war was “realized” in such things as the right to vote and public education. Is that another step?

Yeah, I think the general dominance of wage labor, and the abolition of slavery by wage labor, is a prerequisite for the abolition of wage labor and the creation of communism. Kind of the ABC of the difference between socialism scientific, socialism grounded in the real development of social production, and socialism utopian.

The progressive impulse of the US Civil War was the impulse to the emancipation of black labor, which the Reconstruction governments attempted to articulate, within the historical limits of the time (RC clearly doesn't believe there is any difference between 1860 and 1990), through the adoption of programs for public education, equality of legal standing between whites and blacks, the right to vote, the rights to establish specific contracts specifying duration and compensations for work.

Now if RC doesn't think that's a step-up, progress, versus slavery-- that's OK. Ignorance is its own critique.

So just so I leave no stone unturned, and no feather unruffled-- yeah I think the attempt of the Reconstruction governments and the Freedmen's bureaus to establish wage-labor for the ex-slaves, breaking the notion of the laborer in body and soul as property of the owner, was a giant step forward, a real measure of progress from slavery.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

lettersjournal

People like Chomsky often cite India’s invasion of Pakistan in 1971 as an example of a 'good war'. If one feels capable of surveying history and picking the good (or, "progressive") wars, it seemed like a possible candidate.

I'm not like Chomsky. I'm not one of those people. 1971 is not 1861.

The idea of a "progressive war" does not make sense to me, unless we accept some idea of divine or communist Providence.

Was the war the Convention pursued against the enemies of the French Revolution a "progressive war"?

Why or how can we claim a revolution is "progressive" when it relies sooner and later, on force of arms to preserve itself from counterrevolution, and then claim that the war undertaken by the revolution can't be revolutionary?

But why would communists, given their meager resources and numbers, dedicate themselves to defending wars of previous centuries?

Why should we, given our meager resources and numbers, defend previous revolutions? Why defend the revolution in Haiti? Denmark Vesey's rebellion against slavery? John Brown? Why defend the Paris Commune? The soviets of Russia? The Canton Commune? The cordones of Chile? Maceo's struggle against Spain? Or that of the Philippine rebels against Spain and then the US?

Why defend the meaning, the legacy of anything? Sounds to me like all your saying is a take on Ford's "history is bunk."

lettersjournal

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian

Why defend the meaning, the legacy of anything?

I'm not sure meaning and legacy are the same thing, but it's interesting that something about pro-revolutionary thinking leads to these fights about the legacy of historical events. It's similar to the concept of periodization, which your account of wars and revolutions seems to rely on (thus, "1860 is not 1960").

I think you're right that defending the wars of the past is a way to prepare for defending the "revolutionary" wars to come. I hope you'll lose your nerve when you see the bodies.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

lettersjournal

S. Artesian

Why defend the meaning, the legacy of anything?

I'm not sure meaning and legacy are the same thing, but it's interesting that something about pro-revolutionary thinking leads to these fights about the legacy of historical events. It's similar to the concept of periodization, which your account of wars and revolutions seems to rely on (thus, "1860 is not 1960").

What fight about historical events? So far you have studiously avoided the slightest shred of historical analysis of anything-- substituting instead pop psychology, pseudo philosophy, and ahistorical skepticism.

The point being, IP's mischaraterization of the US Civil War is not about the US Civil War, or even Marx's "mistakes" "errors" or "failures," but an actual distortion serving its own ideological purposes.

That's where this discussion began, and why it began; and it's also why nobody from IP will pursue the historical, material issue on this thread.

Like you, IP has naught but a philosophy of the abstract that capitulates to things as they are.

Alf

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Trying to keep up with this discussion, which seems quite significant. Will aim to write more eventually. But so far I am fundamentally in agreement with the argument in defence of Marx's position on the American civil war, advocated by Artesian and others.

Also, with the view that the disagreement over this historical point is linked to divergences about the question of revolutionary war in the future.

On the underlying issue of historical method - I would say, of the marxist historical method - I will reflect further on how to broach this.

Alf

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

late addition: Marx's position was also that of the IWA of the day. See 'The address of the International Workingmen's Association to Abraham Lincoln', if not linked already:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/iwma/documents/1864/lincoln-letter.htm

Sander

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The civil war was like the Napoleonic wars, the world wars and all the others in that the common, non-exploiting people rally behind the flag of their exploiters and are sent to fight and die for the goals of their exploiters. This is the main point, which remains true regardless whether the wars had also results that can be considered to be beneficial to the exploited.

The real issue is what constitutes “progress”?

Clearly the possibility of communism, as the communist left, and today’s communizers understand it did not exist in the 19th century, though when Marx sent his famous letter to Lincoln he believed that the conditions for proletarian revolution were fast ripening, and that the end of feudalism and other pre-capitalist social relations, chattel slavery in the Americas, for example would quickly provide the social conditions for the overthrow of capitalism too. Today, we know better.

Napoleon’s wars of conquest demolished feudal institutions, accelerated the development of capitalism and thereby also the development of the working class. But do Napoleon’s progressive reforms outweigh the 15 million deaths his conquests produced? The civil war formally ended slavery. But does this progress (mostly limited to a decade of improvements wiped away by Jim Crow) outweigh the 600 000 deaths and uncountable misery the war created? World War 2 also has beneficial effects, ending Nazi-rule etc. Does that mean pro-revolutionaries had to participate in that carnage, send congratulations to Churchill? In every one of those wars, the victory of one side is more desirable than the victory of the other, seen from the pov of which one does more for the development of capitalism. There is always a side to pick, which is what Marx did.

But while the development of capitalism was inevitable (once it was constituted in one country), the development of the consciousness needed to overthrow it, is not. From a pro-revolutionary pov, progress can only be progress of the latter’s development, that is, of the autonomization of the revolutionary subject from capital. Marching behind the banners of our own exploiters is exactly the opposite.

This is not pacifism. When the revolutionary subject autonomizes from capital, it is never the result of a military campaign but it will be attacked militarily by capital ( Paris commune, Russian revolution) and of course pro-revolutionaries then support a vigourous miltary defense, advocating at the same time radically different social relations than those of a traditional army. But it is silly to discuss events of 150 years ago, just to score points, without explaining how this is relevant to the questions of our present time.

James MacBryde

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Sander:

...when Marx sent his famous letter to Lincoln he believed that the conditions for proletarian revolution were fast ripening, and that the end of feudalism and other pre-capitalist social relations, chattel slavery in the Americas, for example would quickly provide the social conditions for the overthrow of capitalism too. Today, we know better.

We now have the end of feudalism and other pre-capitalist social relations and I agree with Marx that the conditions for proletarian revolution are ripe.

In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat.

Hieronymous

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

There's also a question of which side you're on. When the youth of Ferguson, Missouri rise up, they're not rallying "behind the flag of their exploiters." There's a pretty clear line from Jim Crow to the suburbanizing white flight in St. Louis County, tempered by more recent closures GM and Chrysler plants. This struggle has its roots in slavery and the Civil War.

In 1993, when the Aryan Brotherhood, Black Gangster Disciples and Muslims came together in a common struggle during an 11-day uprising and occupation of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility at Lucasville, they unified as a "class" (their own words). Racism permeates every aspect of daily life in the U.S. It has a divisive effect on class struggle and can only be overcome in struggle -- like in Lucasville, where 5 insurgents are still on death row for the crime of having had cross-racial unity in a prison uprising.

Those practicing left communist orthodoxy -- despite neologisms like "pro-revolutionary" -- seem practically allergic to discussions of race and racism. Hence the acrimony in discussing agency of liberated slaves and the causes of the U.S. Civil War. Comrades, does revolutionary struggle only happen abstractly between your ears, or is it carried out by real human beings in an imperfect practice of fighting against oppressive and exploitative social conditions in their myriad forms? If it's the latter, these battles are not going to leap from the pages from Das Kapital, but instead might be launched when strikes, riots, prison uprisings, mass looting, land and building occupations, and other forms of social unrest spread throughout society and generalize. Or they might come from the most unexpected sources. History is important for the cautionary lessons about what not to do, rather than blueprints of how to overthrow capital (and all its forms, from value, the commodity, wage labor, the state, parliaments, police, courts, standing armies, money, etc., etc., etc.).

But when young non-white proletarians rise up and fight against the police in Baltimore, Oakland, New York City, Minneapolis -- and across the world -- and against the forces who've just killed one of their own, which side are you on?

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Sander

The real issue is what constitutes “progress”?

No, that's not the real issue. The real issue is the one that initiated this discussion: IP's claim that Marx's mechanistic, determinist conception of history led him to offer congratulations to Lincoln on his re-election at the very moment that the world's "first industrialized war" was slaughtering "half a million proletarians." Here let me refresh your memory:

IP

Nonetheless, Marx was responsible for his theories and the actions they guided during his lifetime. Thus, his early deterministic and stage-ist theories led him to congratulate Lincoln on his re-election even while the first industrialized war was still in the course of murdering over half a million proletarians

.

I then asked you where IP comes up with the "over half a million" number. Does IP consider the troops of the slaveholders' rebellion to be proletarians? Proletarians in uniform? You did not answer. You still haven't answered.

I also asked how you could characterize the Union Army as proletarian when only a minority of those forces came from an industrial working class that was hardly yet formed? No answer to that one either.

You did state that IP might have "exaggerated" the numbers of proletarians. To which I responded, more or less, "bollocks." Why exaggerate? Since when do Marxists exaggerate in making a materialist historical analysis?

If you think the issue isn't whether or not the war was a sacrifice of proletarians in order to preserve the dominant property relations, but rather the issue is as you stated earlier and repeat here, the numbers lost, the suffering of war, then why include anything about "proletarians" in that faux critique of Marx's position? Why not just state that the suffering, even on behalf of the abolition of slavery, just isn't worth it? Why produce the assertion that Marx was circumscribed by a mechanistic view of history, when it is not history, the prospects for the emancipation of labor, that informs your view, but simply the mass of suffering?

Why? Because that's not your goal. You have an ideological goal; to provide a rendering of history that justifies your current positions based on a false interpretation of the past. Your argument is so shoddy, and so superficial, that you claim Marx is making this flawed gesture as a consequence of his mechanistic view of history, in the same period of time when Marx's writings on the history of capitalism, the relations of capitalism, and the pre-capitalist background are at their most lucid, liquid, flowing, poetic even. Doubt me? Read the Economic Manuscripts 1857-1864.

You write:

Sander

Napoleon’s wars of conquest demolished feudal institutions, accelerated the development of capitalism and thereby also the development of the working class. But do Napoleon’s progressive reforms outweigh the 15 million deaths his conquests produced? The civil war formally ended slavery. But does this progress (mostly limited to a decade of improvements wiped away by Jim Crow) outweigh the 600 000 deaths and uncountable misery the war created? World War 2 also has beneficial effects, ending Nazi-rule etc. Does that mean pro-revolutionaries had to participate in that carnage, send congratulations to Churchill? In every one of those wars, the victory of one side is more desirable than the victory of the other, seen from the pov of which one does more for the development of capitalism. There is always a side to pick, which is what Marx did.

You again want to put things on a scale and see if they can be balanced: Napoleon's demolition of feudal institutions vs the millions of deaths, as if history is an accounting exercise, a form of double-entry bookkeeping.

Well, here's one thing you are missing: Napoleon's wars occur after the revolution has been defeated; after the revolutionary wave has ebbed, and not just ebbed, but had been eviscerated in the attack upon the Commune, and the sans-culottes, by the radical Jacobins, followed by, naturally, the attack on the radical Jacobins themselves.

That is not the case with the US Civil War. It is not a war undertaken after the defeat and circumscribing of the revolution. It is the introduction to the prospect of a revolution, a prospect that is the core of future struggles-- the emancipation of black labor. That that prospect, that impulse, foundered, was abandoned by the bourgeoisie; that that prospect was done in by a terrorism organized by the former Confederates [still proletarians, I guess?] doesn't change the fact that the destruction of slavery was the necessary precursor to the prospects of the more general emancipation of labor.

Likewise, in your "discussion" of WW2, you miss the essential point: WW2 occurs, is the result of, is made inevitable by and through the defeat of the proletarian revolution. So in supporting that war, Marxists would be supporting, and reproducing, the defeat of revolution. Which is exactly what occurred.

You write:

Sander

From a pro-revolutionary pov, progress can only be progress of the latter’s development, that is, of the autonomization of the revolutionary subject from capital. Marching behind the banners of our own exploiters is exactly the opposite

.

That's swell. Except how is there to be autonomization (what a horrible word. You mean "self-organization"? Then just say that) of a "revolutionary subject from capital in 1861" when the revolutionary subject against capital is barely being formed and without that soon to be formed class not forthrightly, explicitly, engaging in the struggle against slavery?

But it is silly to discuss events of 150 years ago, just to score points, without explaining how this is relevant to the questions of our present time.

Exactly so. So why did IP put that "discussion" of Marx and the US Civil War in its statement? One can only conclude, again, for ideological reasons-- to provide an interpretation of history that in fact does not explain historical events, but serves to justify an organizational position.

lettersjournal

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hieronymous

But when young non-white proletarians rise up and fight against the police in Baltimore, Oakland, New York City, Minneapolis -- and across the world -- against the forces who've just killed one of their own, which side are you on?

I still can't figure out what Sherman's March to the Sea has to do with communism.

Hieronymous

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

lettersjournal

Hieronymous

But when young non-white proletarians rise up and fight against the police in Baltimore, Oakland, New York City, Minneapolis -- and across the world -- against the forces who've just killed one of their own, which side are you on?

I still can't figure out what Sherman's March to the Sea has to do with communism.

I can't see how your nihilism has anything to do with anything. Care to explain how your passivist defeatist determinism leads to communism?

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hieronymous

lettersjournal

Hieronymous

But when young non-white proletarians rise up and fight against the police in Baltimore, Oakland, New York City, Minneapolis -- and across the world -- against the forces who've just killed one of their own, which side are you on?

I still can't figure out what Sherman's March to the Sea has to do with communism.

I can't see how your nihilism has anything to do with anything. Care to explain how your passivist defeatist determinism leads to communism?

H.--

What he's really saying is: "I still can't figure out why I should be concerned about the fate of slaves, and the persistence of slavery"

He says that about 1861.

And you know what? He'd say a similar thing about 1961: "I still can't figure out why I should care about civil rights in the South? What do "freedom rides" and voting rights have to do with communism? Great, so blacks can have lunch at Woolworth's, and go to law school at the University of Maryland. What's that got to do with "free association of producers?"

And in 1967? "I still can't figure out why I should care about black people burning down the city of Detroit, laying siege to police stations, outsmarting, and outgunning, the National Guard, and the deployment of the 82nd Airborne, the "home guard" division tasked with protecting the US in case of invasion by another country, to Detroit. What do black rioters have to do with communism?"

And today? You know what he'll say.

James MacBryde

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hieronymus:

But when young non-white proletarians rise up and fight against the police in Baltimore, Oakland, New York City, Minneapolis -- and across the world -- against the forces who've just killed one of their own, which side are you on?

I appreciate your question but why the necessity for the prefix, 'young non-white'?

laborbund

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

James MacBryde

Hieronymus:

But when young non-white proletarians rise up and fight against the police in Baltimore, Oakland, New York City, Minneapolis -- and across the world -- against the forces who've just killed one of their own, which side are you on?

I appreciate your question but why the necessity for the prefix, 'young non-white'?

The qualifier 'young non-white' is important because institutional racism is a central feature of US capitalism and the rebellions Hieronymus cited above are rebellions against institutional racism as such. Likewise, the Civil War - regardless of the Northern bourgeoisie's initial weak fence sitting - was fought against a particularly pernicious manifestation of US institutional racism - slavery. So the question of whether or not the US Civil War was a pointless imperialist bloodbath that had nothing to do with proletarians is really a question whether or not one sees struggles against institutional racism as such as worthy of communist support even though such struggles don't necessarily lead in a straight line towards communism. For my own part I believe anti-racist struggles are absolutely worthy of communist support and pissing and moaning about southern soldiers being fellow proletarians is ahistorical garbage.

Been lurking on this thread for a while. Great posts Artesian, Hieronymus, and Ocelot! I love that whole "not viewing historical events ahistorically" thing you guys do!

Soapy

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

@laborbund yes it is remembered as a war waged against slavery but barring the brief respite enjoyed by southern blacks during reconstruction slavery was simply reimposed in a an all-encompassing system of convict leasing the extent of which is not fully understood to this day. (In fact Dubois' sociological study referencing the subject was literally destroyed by the US government) so what did the death of 500,000 proles accomplish really?

RC

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hieronymous wrote:

RC wrote:

The Indians must have been impressed.

Who are you referring to?

Since you like to read history

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Soapy

500,000 proles accomplish really?

Again, where do you get that number?

And look what happened after the French Revolution-- why 15 million dead according to Sander, so what's the big deal with the Commune? The Cordeliers? The Conspiracy of Equals? BFD, if you ask me.

And look what the Russian Revolution brought. Civil war, famine, the Cheka, confiscation of grain. Fuck it, the whole thing's pointless.

Oh yeah and look at the Spanish revolution, the millions killed in that civil war, and for what? Pointless man. Not even worth arguing about, discussing.

And Algeria?-- better off letting the French stay... until of course the real communist revolution, the one where nobody will ever suffer, reaches down and lifts up those poor souls from their ignorant striving.

Fuck it, I'm gonna go back and read Lukacs (see Mac's comments in the IP thread), because he really understood everything about history and class consciousness, which of course explains why and how he, Lukacs, was only too eager to fall in line behind Stalin, without a second thought.

I'll take any member of SNCC in 1963-- hell, I'll take any former member of SNCC today, including those who have joined the Democratic Party, over these phony communists. John Lewis over Lukacs? Absolutely. Every time.

Any single member of the Deacons for Defense, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, the Lowndes County Black Panther Party for Self Defense, knows more about, and has more to offer the development of, class consciousness than all the "autonomist" posers combined.

Hieronymous

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

Hieronymous wrote:

RC wrote:

The Indians must have been impressed.

Who are you referring to?

Since you like to read history

Damn, Holmes, you better stop reading Wikipedia. It's retarding your intellectual development (unless you're just being a passive-aggressive Henry "History is Bunk" Ford again).

Here's where Indians live.

RC

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

There is something strange about communists looking at American history to find progress toward communism. It is not a history that has been kind to radical opponents of capitalism. So this leads to a desperate effort to find progress toward communism in the spread of capitalism itself. S. Artesian writes:

Yeah, I think the general dominance of wage labor, and the abolition of slavery by wage labor, is a prerequisite for the abolition of wage labor and the creation of communism. Kind of the ABC of the difference between socialism scientific, socialism grounded in the real development of social production, and socialism utopian.

Why should the existence of something be a condition for its abolition? It is also like saying: the plague must become an epidemic before it can be eliminated. That doesn’t sound scientific.

The only “prerequisite” for the creation of communism is people wanting it. This depends on the conclusions people draw from their experience as wage labor. That's why communists criticize free wage labor, because of the harm it does people. But here S. Artesian is affirming wage labor because it is in the interest of some general social development that people are the instruments of -- "progress."

This type of exercise probably has to do with a psychological need of leftists to find some confirmation that their ideal is realistic ("little steps") in the face of a reality that is hostile to their ideal. Anybody who disagrees can only be a dreamer or utopian.

Hieronymous

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC, you come on here and say erroneous, contrarian, shallow and reactionary garbage. You are totally ignorant about U.S. history, geography, and Native Americans. Your deepest thoughts are actually taken from Wikipedia. Then you start playing psychoanalyst and diagnosing people based on impressions on your computer screen. Which begs the question: why are you so fucked up?

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

So this leads to a desperate effort to find progress toward communism in the spread of capitalism itself.

The progress such as it is, is in the struggle against the modes of expropriation; in how much and how deeply the modes of expropriation create the conditions for the struggle against themselves. So the progress is in the struggle against slavery, and yes, wage-labor creates a stronger basis for the struggle against exploitation and brutalization than does continued slavery. Not to put too fine a point on it.

Why should the existence of something be a condition for its abolition?

Priceless. Start with the Introduction to the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right and continue reading through the three volumes of Capital, omitting none of the Economic Manuscripts 1857-1864. Get back to me when you've finished.

RC

The only “prerequisite” for the creation of communism is people wanting it

Magical thinking trumps history every time. And that quarter under your pillow, the tooth fairy brought it. Yeah, that's the ticket. If only we all hold hands and wish for something real hard, and click our heels together and repeat "There's No Place Like Home..." we'll wind up in Kansas, home of the Koch Bros.

RC

Anybody who disagrees can only be a dreamer or utopian.

Not just anybody, and not just those things. In your case, ignorant. Could also be a fool.

I don't care if you disagree, but you can't even offer a stab at why and how historical events of significance occur-- other than "enough people wanting it."

And exactly how and why did the numbers of people wanting the abolition of slavery change? Did they all just wake up one morning and while brushing their teeth say-- "Hey, let's all be against slavery today. Sounds like fun."???

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Let me just repeat my question:

Where and how does anyone come up with the US Civil War "murdering" or causing the death of 500,000 proletarians?

donald parkinson

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

How is this even a question of debate? Of course the Civil War was a progressive war, it fits the classic marxist schema of a "bourgeois revolution" better than almost anything else especially considering how much industrialization and therefore the labor movement spread in its wake. It was a war to restore the Union that Marx correctly saw would mean the abolition of slavery if the Union was victorious. Slaves certainly had agency in their liberation, but this agency didn't exist independent from greater historical factors. The Union Armies occupation of the South was essentially in securing the defeat of slavery by forcing reactionary local rulers to follow anti-slave measurements. The destruction of slavery in the USA was a social revolution, one that defeated a backwards mode of production in favor of a more progressive one; it is however a revolution that is incomplete.

donald parkinson

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

When people say the absurd notion that Confederates were proletarians in Uniform I laugh. Most of the population in the south was engaged in household production, even if they were poor. They weren't proletarians for the most part, they were at best in the process of proletarianization. So even in the most economistic sense of 'proletarian' this is nonsense. The Confederate army were cannon fodder for a reactionary slaveocracy, not "a proletariat" as in waged workers struggling as a progressive class in history. This doesn't mean they weren't also capable of deserting and undermining the Confederate struggle (and they they did) but this wasn't revolutionary defeatism because there's no "third" proletarian front in the war that can even exist!

James MacBryde

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Thanks Alf for directing us to the Address of the International to President Lincoln. I note that Marx refers to the war in question as the American Antislavery War, not the American Civil War as I was taught in School.

laborbund:

The qualifier 'young non-white' is important because institutional racism is a central feature of US capitalism and the rebellions Hieronymus cited above are rebellions against institutional racism as such.

Pardon me, I thought these insurrections were a rebellion against the proletarian condition in general, not exclusively one aspect of it

Soapy

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

@Artesian

First off I think that it doesn't make sense to lump in the Civil War with the Russian Revolution as that is a bit of apples and oranges. I would say though that quite obviously although it was driven by a lot of good intentions the Russian Revolution was a dismal failure, although I'm not sure what relevance that has to this discussion.

As to the Civil War I'm not sure what you are arguing because it is obvious that it did not in any way benefit the material interests of anyone, most of all the slaves.

Leo

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The civil war was like the Napoleonic wars, the world wars and all the others in that the common, non-exploiting people rally behind the flag of their exploiters and are sent to fight and die for the goals of their exploiters.

But this isn't true. A significant portion of the confederate army either were slave-owners themselves or came from slave-owning families. They weren't rallying behind the flag of their exploiters, they were rallying behind their own flag as exploiters themselves. The rest were fighting against losing their legal right to own slaves even if they didn't in the future. In any case, way more than the other wars mentioned, the Confederate soldiers were certainly fighting for their own goals.

Any former slaves fighting with the Union army too were also not fighting for their exploiters but against them since not having become proletarians yet, their exploiters were the slave-owners.

As to the Civil War I'm not sure what you are arguing because it is obvious that it did not in any way benefit the material interests of anyone, most of all the slaves.

So the abolition of slavery is not to the benefit of the material interests of the slaves? I'm sorry, what? Were they better off as slaves?

Forty acres and a mule and still having to face institutional racism and racist segregation was certainly crap, but it was unimaginably better than brutal forced labor, continuious rape and torture.

Seriously, I'm not sure if the people who defend this "ultra-radical" position realize how they're coming accross.

Soapy

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

@Leo

You seem to be pretty misinformed about what occurred in the South following the Civil War. It is detailed pretty well in the book "Slavery By Another Name" by Douglas Blackmon.

Former slaves enjoyed a brief respite due to a short lived effort by the North to protect the newly gained rights of Southern slaves, this period is known as reconstruction. However, political will for this sort of humanitarian effort soon waned and whites soon consolidated their power in the form of groups like the KKK and worked to destroy all that was gained during Reconstruction. Blacks were enslaved again in conditions so shocking one wonders if there could possibly be anything worse than slavery.

Across the south blacks were arrested on frivolous charges and sold into slavery under a convict leasing system. They were often taken to mines where they were worked 18-20 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week. Their disease ridden windowless dormitories were attached to the mine shafts. They woke in darkness, worked in the cramped darkness of the mines all day where they frequently murdered and raped one another, and came back to bed in darkness, never once seeing the sunlight. They ate bug infested food that left them barely nourished. If they tried to escape they were hunted down with dogs and either killed or had an iron spike jammed into their chains that cause severe pain when they moved too quickly. Thousands died, but new slaves were so cheap to acquire that the bosses didn't care and furthermore they proved wonders when it came to strike breaking as the bosses ensured that any refusal of work was met with torture (waterboarding was used). US Steel used these slaves to break up strikes several times.

Mines were not the only places blacks were re-enslaved at. Lumber camps, farms, foundries, anywhere that required cheap labor. Young black men were systematically arrested and disappeared into this new form of slavery. Simultaneously the altruistic northern whites began to strongly believe that blacks were complaining too much and were disrupting the social fabric of life. Racist minstrel shows that depicted criminal caricatures of blacks performed in sold out shows in New York and Chicago and were received with rave reviews. All efforts at protecting the rights of former slaves were abandoned and Dubois' sociological study documenting some of these abuses was destroyed after it had been delivered to the US government because they felt it was too divisive.

Massacres of blacks throughout the south were frequent and elicited little to no comment. Even more frequent were common lynchings, something which was so widespread that it is thought that thousands of blacks were lynched each year during the period after reconstruction up until WWII.

No I do not think the material conditions of blacks in the south improved after the abolition of slavery.

James MacBryde

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Leo:

Forty acres and a mule and still having to face institutional racism and racist segregation was certainly crap, but it was unimaginably better than brutal forced labor, continuious rape and torture.

Yet, how many descendents of slaves now have any material resource but their labour power? Still, I accept your point as I do Soapy's. Didn't someone say that at least a slave owner has some interest in sustaining the life of his slave in the same way that he does in sustaining the life of his other livestock. With a reserve pool of labour, the capitalist does not have such an interest.

Soapy

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

James MacBryde

Leo:

Forty acres and a mule and still having to face institutional racism and racist segregation was certainly crap, but it was unimaginably better than brutal forced labor, continuious rape and torture.

Yet, how many descendents of slaves now have any material resource but their labour power? Still, I accept your point as I do Soapy's. Didn't someone say that at least a slave owner has some interest in sustaining the life of his slave in the same way that he does in sustaining the life of his other livestock. With a reserve pool of labour, the capitalist does not have such an interest.

Aye, that'd be Chomsky.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Soapy,

Yes, Reconstruction was defeated by terrorist campaigns, but I note that you, like Sander, fail to provide a shred of evidence for your claim that "500,000" proletarians died in the war against slavery.

The point remains: slavery was not restored, and because it was not restored, and because, despite the best/worst efforts of the Redemptionist governments (your proletarian Confederates out of uniform I guess), black labor was formally free, that is movable, and move black labor did, out of the US South beginning in 1905 and into the industrial proletariat. And yes, being a wage-laborer is an improvement in the condition of labor as opposed to being a share-cropper in debt peonage. Kind of explains why measures of living standards, life expectancy, infant mortality, education etc were higher for African-Americans in the North as opposed to the South.

You can claim that those measures are immaterial; they didn't really exist; but that puts you squarely in the camp of apologists for the South, and before that, the apologists for slavery.

But before we continue with this discussion, please answer the question: how do you come up with your 500,000 proletarians killed in the Civil War figure. If you can't, or won't answer that, then you're really not worth talking to-- as Sander and Mac Intosh are not worth talking to.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

MacBryde

Yet, how many descendents of slaves now have any material resource but their labour power? Still, I accept your point as I do Soapy's. Didn't someone say that at least a slave owner has some interest in sustaining the life of his slave in the same way that he does in sustaining the life of his other livestock. With a reserve pool of labour, the capitalist does not have such an interest.

Thought that was Marx, and not one of Marx's more incisive statements (but not do to a mechanistic deterministic view of history-- simply the result of ignorance of the real material conditions practiced under slavery).

Yeah, lots of people said that. Many apologists for slavery said that, too. The kind beneficent patriarchal slave-owner who really cared about taking care of these simple folk from Africa who needed, after all, taking care of, so slavery was the best alternative for the simple, happy-go-lucky, smiling Africans.

Oh thank you white man. For taking care of me and my little pick-a-ninnies.

EDIT:

Nobody here has claimed that the Civil War did anything other than what it did do, and what it represented-- that is the struggle of Northern capitalism against the slave holding South, in which the North realized it had to abolish slavery.

Nobody here has claimed that the impulse to emancipation, requiring racial equality, was the goal of the North.

Nobody here has claimed that the North did not abandon Reconstruction, restore the former Confederates to power as private property is thicker than blood.

However, some have claimed that the Confederate Army was made up of "proletarians in uniform" without of course providing a bit of evidence.

Some have claimed, in an iteration of the apologies offered by the apologists for slavery, that the conditions of the former slaves was no better, and perhaps worse, than that of the slaves-- without of course providing any evidence thereof.

What has been argued is that the abolition of slavery was necessary; that the Confederate Army were not proletarians; that Radical Reconstruction was of real, material benefit to the ex-slaves, and actually of benefit to the great bulk of the population in the former slave states (if you're worried about our "reb" proletarians, you might want to consider that); that Marx's congratulations to Lincoln on his reelection was not a result of some "error" or mechanistic interpretation of history, but was the result of the recognition that without the specific emancipation of black labor from the chains of slavery there could be no movement, no development of the struggle for the general emancipation of all labor.

I think that general course of events in the last 150 years has shown that assessment by Marx to have been correct.

In fact, I think it still applies today-- without the specific emancipation of black labor from conditions of racism, there can be no movement for the general emancipation of all labor.

So one more time-- were the Confederates proletarians in uniform? If you can't answer that, then you truly have nothing to say.

Soapy

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Artesian, it is pretty shocking to me that not only did you seemingly ignore any of the points I made above (aside from making a vague reference to the fact that blacks simply fled the South rather than face the new form of slavery, which is an evasive way of agreeing with me) but now you are now resorting to cursing and abusive behavior.

I said 500,000 because that is what I was taught in Elementary school excuse me and the rest of the American population for thinking that is the accurate figure, althought I'm not quite sure what the exact death toll has to do with this discussion.

Leo, after responding with a confrontational attitude, characterized black life in the years after the Civil War in this way:

"Forty acres and a mule and still having to face institutional racism and racist segregation was certainly crap, but it was unimaginably better than brutal forced labor, continuious rape and torture."

Now I have read some interesting things on this topic and I think this is a wholly disingenuous misrepresentation, but rather than telling Leo "fuck you, you ignorant motherfucker" as Artesian has done (although he has edited his post to remove that now), I simply laid out my disagreements above in what I believe to be a convincing manner.

I really am starting to question the value of discussing anything on the libcom forums as there seems to be little interest in genuine discussion.

Leo

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I'm sorry Soapy, I don't see your point. The fact that there was a defeat later doesn't invalidate the importance of a victory.

Soapy

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

You wrote

So the abolition of slavery is not to the benefit of the material interests of the slaves? I'm sorry, what? Were they better off as slaves?

Forty acres and a mule and still having to face institutional racism and racist segregation was certainly crap, but it was unimaginably better than brutal forced labor, continuious rape and torture.

I am saying that slavery was not abolished, it was put on hold for 15 or so years and then re implemented with a fervor few could have imagined.

I was pointing this out because I think it weighs heavily upon any notion that the Civil War accomplished anything other than bloodshed and misery.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Soapy,

You're shocked? First, you didn't say 500,000. You said "500,000 proles."

That's more than a technical distinction.

The rest of what you offer has zippo to do with the Civil War and everything to do with the (international) reaction to the revolutionary impulse that was embedded, and emerged,(internationally) during and after that war.

You're talking about the failure of a struggle to reach its completion. No one said it reached completion. But it is the fact that is impossible to conclude a struggle without first engaging in it.

The struggle was against slavery. The slaveholders' rebellion was not waged by proletarians in uniform.

You can be as shocked as you want.

I removed the inflammatory language as I thought it was a distraction.

But apologies for slavery bring out harsh language in me, and MacBryde indeed reproduced, uncritically, the most ignorant of apologies.

You have produced nothing in a convincing manner since you refuse to answer the most basic question.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Soapy

You wrote

So the abolition of slavery is not to the benefit of the material interests of the slaves? I'm sorry, what? Were they better off as slaves?

Forty acres and a mule and still having to face institutional racism and racist segregation was certainly crap, but it was unimaginably better than brutal forced labor, continuious rape and torture.

I am saying that slavery was not abolished, it was put on hold for 15 or so years and then re implemented with a fervor few could have imagined.

I was pointing this out because I think it weighs heavily upon any notion that the Civil War accomplished anything other than bloodshed and misery.

So when was slavery abolished? When? How? By whom? What constitutes the abolition of slavery, the owning of the laborer as property, as opposed to owning the products of labor?

It took a concerted campaign of terrorism to restore the Redemptionist governments. So how was slavery defeated after that? Or would you like to claim slavery still exists in the US South as the dominant mode of production?

Leo

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

If anything, it accomplished 15 years or so of abolition and radical effects to change the situation for the better. This is like the October Revolution accomplished nothing but bloodshed and misery. It didn't even last 10 years and sure was followed by a lot of misery.

In fact, what followed was mostly feudal forms like peonage and sharecropping aside from convict leasing which was abolished in the early to mid 20th century. All of these, without a doubt, brought worse conditions in certain periods and places compared to certain, more relaxed forms of slavery but overall, if taken as a totality, i think it should be clear that this experience was better than the whole experience of slavery which often involved conditions even more unspeakably brutal than those you've described.

Soapy

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I also find it pretty damning for the up/down system that Artesian's unwarranted and completely unjustified personal attacks on other posters receives no condemnation and no down votes. What is the point of having the up/down system if not to stop abusive behavior?

Ok I am sorry, I should not have said proles, I should have said people. I still don't see why this is a big distinction. Undoubtedly the vast majority of these people were not wealthy.

RC

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian wrote:

And yes, being a wage-laborer is an improvement in the condition of labor as opposed to being a share-cropper in debt peonage.

Leo wrote:

Forty acres and a mule and still having to face institutional racism and racist segregation was certainly crap, but it was unimaginably better than brutal forced labor, continuious rape and torture.

Comparisons are dishonest. They start with the intention of saying something good about one side or the other. If slave labor is bad and wage labor is bad, what is the point in comparing them? The point is to say: yes, wage labor may be bad, but at least it is not as bad as slave labor. Notice how small a compliment this is for wage labor: be grateful that you at least don’t have shackles on ...

The comparison also ignores what slave labor and wage labor have in common: using people to make money. The USA never had a problem with that. The only question was: how?

That might be a more fruitful line of questioning than all this “defend the honor of the Civil War!” stuff.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Soapy

Ok I am sorry, I should not have said proles, I should have said people. I still don't see why this is a big distinction. Undoubtedly the vast majority of these people were not wealthy.

.

Priceless. Not a big distinction? It is to IP. IP supposedly is concerned with class struggle; takes its position based on the class interests of the proletariat.

This is kind of the spot where I should say, "I rest my case."

If it makes you feel any better, I'll down vote my own post-- that's how absurd the up/down vote system is.

Leo

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

To be fair Artesian did remove his inflammatory comment.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

That might be a more fruitful line of questioning than all this “defend the honor of the Civil War!” stuff.

And you talk about dishonesty, about comparisons being dishonest? Nobody has launched into a defense of the honor of the Civil War.

What this discussion has been about has been specified, itemized, numerous times. The fact that you can't provide an iota of concrete analysis of real historical conditions does not mean the issues are what you wish them to be.

What would be more fruitful is if you demonstrate where Marx's deterministic, mechanistic view of history, as expressed in his writings on the Civil War differs from a)the actual causes of the war and b) Marx's own methodology of historical materialism.

Soapy

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Leo

If anything, it accomplished 15 years or so of abolition. And in effect, it brought 15 years or so of abolition. This is like the October Revolution accomplished nothing but bloodshed and misery. It didn't even last 10 years and sure was followed by a lot of misery.

In fact, what followed was mostly feudal forms like peonage and sharecropping aside from convict leasing which was abolished in the early to mid 20th century. All of these, without a doubt, brought worse conditions in certain periods and places compared to certain, more relaxed forms of slavery but overall, if taken as a totality, i think it should be clear that this experience was better than the whole experience of slavery which often involved conditions even more unspeakably brutal than those you've described.

Yes the aftermath of the October Revolution was a catastrophe. Totally agreed.

Peonage and convict leasing are the same thing, you really do not seem to have a grasp on this subject. Based on what I've read I really feel that you do not have adequate familiarity with this subject to make a claim that the condition of blacks improved after slavery. Convict leasing did not end simply because the Roosevelt administration gave a slap on the wrist to a few slave holders in the early 20th century.

Anyway, this has really been a disappointing experience for me, and I am pretty saddened by the behavior of posters on here. I feel that I am done and feel confident in my arguments, I see no reason why this discussion had to escalate to the point that it did, and I feel as though my time on the forums is done at least for now.

Leo

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Comparisons are dishonest. They start with the intention of saying something good about one side or the other. If slave labor is bad and wage labor is bad, what is the point in comparing them? The point is to say: yes, wage labor may be bad, but at least it is not as bad as slave labor. Notice how small a compliment this is for wage labor: be grateful that you at least don’t have shackles on ...

I'm sorry but yes, of course wage labor is not as bad as slave labor. Yes, it's still bad, it's still servitude. Yet although changing historical conditions made the gains possible, it was the exploited classes who've won these gains. We have nothing to be grateful for.

The comparison also ignores what slave labor and wage labor have in common: using people to make money. The USA never had a problem with that. The only question was: how?

That might be a more fruitful line of questioning than all this “defend the honor of the Civil War!” stuff.

This is not about defending the honor of the Civil War. This is about defending the honor of the struggles against slavery and abolitionism. The legacy of these struggles lives with the struggle of the proletariat. Communists themselves are abolitionists in a truly wide sense.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I can well understand how disappointing the experience must be for you. Here you come equipped to talk about the period that begins with the defeat of Reconstruction, and assemble all these facts on the imposition of Jim Crow, claim it's slavery with a vengeance, and people ask you what that has to do with the claim that the Civil War was fought by proletarians on both sides, who, I guess should have turned the guns around on both sides.

Except there were not proletarians on both sides, so as turning the guns around is an articulation of class struggle, of class against class, there's pretty much no substance to any of your arguments, other than, yes Reconstruction was defeated, yes terrible conditions were reimposed.

Just before you go, please tell us how in fact slavery, if not abolished by the war, but in fact restored with a vengeance, was finally abolished-- and if in fact you support that subsequent abolition.

Soapy

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian

Just before you go, please tell us how in fact slavery, if not abolished by the war, but in fact restored with a vengeance, was finally abolished-- and if in fact you support that subsequent abolition.

This is something I would loved to discuss in a congenial atmosphere, but you are really behaving extremely aggressively for no reason. I have noticed this behavior across the forums for a while, and I do not see any reason to subject myself to this any more.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well, post it as a blog. I'll be sure to read it and not comment.

Or, you can just say when it was abolished and if you support that abolition, and leave-- without engaging in any further discussion.

Leo

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Peonage and convict leasing are the same thing, you really do not seem to have a grasp on this subject.

Well, according to wikipedia, convict leasure is prisoners leased into companies, whereas peonage is individuals becoming debt-bound to plantations and companies.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convict_lease

Anyway, this has really been a disappointing experience for me, and I am pretty saddened by the behavior of posters on here. I feel that I am done and feel confident in my arguments, I see no reason why this discussion had to escalate to the point that it did, and I feel as though my time on the forums is done at least for now.

Overconfident, in fact. It isn't a good thing, you should try to calm down.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Leo is absolutely correct, debt-peonage and convict leasing were separate, although sometimes overlapping facets of the restorationist South.

Debt-peonage was used to "bind" the sharecroppers to the land as an ever-ready labor force to be used, and idled as the plantation required it.

Convict leasing was used to provide labor to coal mines, steel mills, road work-- and even to supplement some of the work done on plantations.

They are not the same thing.

Soapy

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Lol as one last note Artesian edited his post to omit "fuck you, you ignorant motherfucker" so nobody will know he said that.

read a book mate, the peonage trials of the early 20th century were dealing with landowners engaged in convict leasing, sigh

lol god it's amazing that right when I said I was going to leave you two reveal your ignorance of this subject so starkly. Convicts were held in debt peonage m8, it's amazing you feel so confident about your position but you clearly dont know the first thing about this subject!

Anyway, confidently, I now say I am logging off

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Convicts were leased out in labor to pay off their fines. They were leased to mines, plantation owners, mill operators, lumber operations etc.

Debt peonage, as it existed in the South, and exists in societies to this day, generally refers to the use of debt to maintain a share-croppers obligation to the plantation owner.

I said they overlapped. I said they are not the same thing. Sorry if that's too subtle a distinction.

And really, I don't care if everybody or anybody knows that I wrote "ignorant motherfucker"-- I removed it after thinking about it-- deciding it was needlessly inflammatory and would simply distract from the issue.

But once again-- if slavery was restored after 15 years, when was it abolished, by whom, and how, and do you support that abolition despite the worsening of conditions for African-Americans over the last 30 years?

lettersjournal

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

And if communism never comes, and all the progressive wars were for naught, what fools we'll be for cheering the cannons and scorning the dead.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Oh... just one more thing... I think I should point out the absurdity of Soapy pointing to the "ignorance" of those who make the distinction between debt-peonage and convict leasing as different facets of Jim Crow, when he himself can't see the distinction between "proletarian" and people "not very wealthy."

Now that really is something to make one laugh out load. And roll on the floor.

lettersjournal

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

How are conscripted infantry in a modern army not proletarians?

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

lettersjournal

And if communism never comes, and all the progressive wars were for naught, what fools we'll be for cheering the cannons and scorning the dead.

Communism is not the messiah, who "comes" and delivers us from our daily care. It is the practical activity of the emancipation of labor.

I'm not cheering the cannons, and I'm not scorning the dead-- at least not the dead of the Union, nor the slaves worked to death by the slaveholders.

I do cheer the death of slaveholders, and their legions, though. And will continue to do so. So here's to Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, John Brown and Thaddeus Stevens (a real capitalist. Owned an iron mill. Confederates placed a bounty on his head, and raided his mill in the attempt to kill him. Obviously those were proletarians in the grey uniforms of the slaveholders' army).

Just so that part is clear. Yes indeed, I praise, cheer, and hold in respect, the life, and deeds of a capitalist, one Thaddeus Stevens.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

lettersjournal

How are conscripted infantry in a modern army not proletarians?

We are talking about soldiers of the Confederacy, not a modern army, not draw from a modern industrialized society.

RC

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian wrote:

What constitutes the abolition of slavery, the owning of the laborer as property, as opposed to owning the products of labor?

This is a weak distinction. The capitalist does not only own the products of labor. What the capitalist acquires from the free wage laborer is the legal right to command over labor for a period of time. The free wage laborer sells his ability to work as if this is something alienable from himself – but it his own activity, the process of his muscles, brain, nerves, etc. That's why it can be hard sometimes to tell the difference between slavery and wage work in capitalism.

The interesting thing about wage labor is that the wage solicits the will of the worker. No chains or whips need be present (though they are always in the background) -- just the whole free market economy.

lettersjournal

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

And if we are compelled to 'support' the spread of wage labor as progressive, then I presume that would mean support for, e.g., the mass industrialization of the peasantry carried out in Mao's China. Never mind the dead!

James MacBryde

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Cor blimey, what a lot of polemic!

Artesian, you are correct, it was Marx not Chomsky (the liberal fuck). And it was not written by him in reference to African slaves in America and should not be applied to them. I will apologise to you if I made you irate but I will never apologise for slavery and neither was Charles.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This is a weak distinction. The capitalist does not only own the products of labor. What the capitalist acquires from the free wage laborer is the legal right to command over labor for a period of time. The free wage laborer sells his ability to work as if this is something alienable from himself – but it his own activity, the process of his muscles, brain, nerves, etc. That's why it can be hard sometimes to tell the difference between slavery and wage work in capitalism.

There is nothing weak about it. There is nothing difficult about distinguishing slavery from wage-labor. The capitalist does not own the laborer. The capitalist does not own the existence of the laborer. It's an essential distinction, the very basis of necessary labor-time vs. surplus labor time, and therefore the existence of surplus value as value.

The capitalist purchases the time of the wage-laborer and owns as property the products of that labor, which labor is measured, quantified as time.

Moreover, the capitalist does not own the children of the wage-laborer. The capitalist has no "right," or claim upon their labor or their lives. This may appear as a formal distinction to you, but not to those whose ancestors have endured slavery.

RC

And if we are compelled to 'support' the spread of wage labor as progressive, then I presume that would mean support for, e.g., the mass industrialization of the peasantry carried out in Mao's China. Never mind the dead!

First, as a matter of accuracy, Mao's China did not involve the "mass industrialization of the peasantry." The rural population, engaged in agricultural pursuits remained at the 85% of the entire population until the late 1970s.

But let's not get hung up on petty details. This might come as a shock but there's a big difference between the US in 1861 and China in 1949, not to mention 1979. The difference being that China did in fact have an industrial proletariat nationally, and more than that, there exisedt an international proletariat which could and can in fact act on its own for its own interests as opposed to the interests of the bourgeoisie.

So tell me, where in the US in 1861 is the industrial proletariat capable of acting in its own interests, and in the interests of others oppressed and exploited as the slaves were, but separate, apart, and in opposition to the Northern bourgeoisie's program for the suppression of the slaveholders' rebellion and the abolition of slavery? Where? In the "proletarians in Confederate grey"? In some little coterie of proto-Lukacs-es suffering under the iron diktat of Marx's mechanical-ism?

Where? Nowhere.

Where is the international development of the proletariat in 1861 in similar degree so that it can act separate apart and in opposition to the capitalists? Where is it? Only in support of the US North against the plans, desires, inclinations of the French and English bourgeoisie to support the South.

Your impoverished lack of understanding of history is the direct result of your inability to assess class relations, just as the IP is unable to assess class relations, and so we get the falsification of "500,000 proletarians murdered." It leaves you, like the IP, anowhere to go, nothing to offer, empty-handed, nowhere. Literally.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

MacBryde

Artesian, you are correct, it was Marx not Chomsky (the liberal fuck). And it was not written by him in reference to African slaves in America and should not be applied to them. I will apologise to you if I made you irate but I will never apologise for slavery and neither was Charles.

OK, then I'm doubly glad that I excised my inflammatory language.

James MacBryde

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

lettersjournal:

And if we are compelled to 'support' the spread of wage labor as progressive, then I presume that would mean support for, e.g., the mass industrialization of the peasantry carried out in Mao's China.

Correct

RC

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian,

So you really, really hate slavery. Got it.

Alf

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Passions are running high, and I suggest that to channel them fruitfully we follow the question posed by Artesian's recent post. In other words, we look more deeply into the position of the world proletariat in 1861-4. This also means studying why the International, which at that point was supported and sustained by diverse currents in the workers' movement (marxists, mutualists, blanquists, etc), took such an unambiguous position against the slave-holders' war. And it means asking why, according to the letter to Lincoln from the General Council, the advanced fractions of the working class in Europe clearly expressed their solidarity with the Republic. I don't know much about the response of workers outside Britain on this issue, but it is hard to find a moment of class consciousness and proletarian morality more powerful than the declarations of the English workers, who were materially suffering because of the "cotton famine" resulting from the blockade of the South, in support of the blockade and the military response of the North. http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/from-the-archive-blog/2013/feb/04/lincoln-oscars-manchester-cotton-abraham

It would also, eventually, mean looking a bit further ahead: to 1871, and one of Marx's conclusions from the experience of the Paris Commune: that, in Europe at least, the period of national wars and bourgeois revolutions was over. And to 1915, the Junius Pamphlet, and the polemic between Lenin and Luxemburg, with the latter arguing that the obsolescence of bourgeois revolutionary national wars now applied to the whole world. From her point of view, the 1861-4 war in the USA would have been seen as one of the last of the wars of this type, in a continent where capitalism was only becoming the conqueror.

PS - to Soapy: stay a bit longer.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Good points, Alf.

IP will probably point to that as "false consciousness."

And indeed, looking ahead to 1871-- one should note that Engels' position was far more in support of Prussia, and the unification of German capitalism as a "plus" for the workers movement. Engels wanted a full endorsement of Prussia by the IMWA. Marx was much more cautious. I think Engels was flat out wrong, and Marx should have explicitly opposed Engels on this.

The Franco-Prussian War was the episode where "turn the guns around" could have had its first real significance, as indeed there were proletarians on both sides who needed to express class solidarity, opposing the programs of their respective capitalism's with their own program.

Now before this ignites another round of "told you's"-- let's be clear, Bismark advancing the cause of unification of German capitalism is not the same as the US North undertaking the abolition of slavery. The former is achieved over the bones of the proletariat. The latter over the bones of the slaveholders.

Engels BTW supported the US in its war against Mexico in 1846, in a display of rah-rah development-ism that is a)bizarre b)everything Marx's endorsement of Lincoln and the Union in the Civil War was not.

Engels justified and supported the US in that "Yankee energy" was exactly what was needed to shake up the "lazy" Mexicans, and give a big boost to commerce and industrial development. That the war was fought basically in the interests of the slave holders, was opposed, more or less, by the party of "pro-development"-- the Whigs, seems to have been lost on Engels.

Lincoln too opposed that war. Odd isn't it that IP doesn't say anything about old Fred and that war, but stakes its position on the Civil War. Man, talk about firing at the wrong target.........

Sander

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This will be my last post on this thread. I will go back to the other thread but in this one, the discussion goes around in circles and has sunk to a deploringly low level. Apparently, anyone who disagrees with Artesian and Hieronymous is a racist, as well as a fuck-up, an idiot, ignorant, fool and so on. Scoring points, boosting egos seems to be the goal, not a common effort to understand. So I pass.

As a parting remark, I want to clarify what we mean by “autonomization”. Artesian dislikes the word and thinks we should use “self-organization” instead. But autonomization has a wider meaning.

The capitalist class and the working class are interdependent; together they reproduce capitalist society, neither class is autonomous from the other. From this relation, capital can never break away, it can not autonomize itself from its dependency on surplus value and thus on the working class. In contrast, the collective worker can autonomize itself from its dependency on capital. That is why working class struggle has the potential to become revolutionary. Its autonomization is in part self-organization, but it is more than that, it means breaking away from the capital-labor social bond in praxis and consciousness. All the important moments in the history of proletarian struggle were, to a greater or lesser degree, moments of autonomization.

Wars are the opposite: in stead of autonomizing, it’s rallying behind the capitalist state, behind the national banner, dying for it. It’s forgetting that “workers have no fatherland”.

That is what all the wars I mentioned in my previous post have in common. Obviously, that does not imply that all these wars were the same in all aspects. Artesian points to differences, but since I never claimed there were no differences, he’s once again attacking a straw man of his own creation. Not that his arguments are so solid. He explains Napoleon’s wars as a result of the defeat of “the revolution”. But the French revolution was a bourgeois revolution. Napoleon, a bourgeois reformer par excellence, spread it further.

Artesian reproaches us that, when we look at a war, we see a war. We see mass graves, burning villages, bombs falling on cities, famine and disease, fields littered with corpses. For Artesian, the question is: were these corpses certified proletarian? But that’s not the question. One thing is sure: the vast majority of them were not members of the possessing class.

Bourgeois accounting, Artesian sneers. Sentimental humbug. Yet he does his own accounting, inflating the war’s positive results, especially the abolition of slavery, even though it didn’t take long for racist oppression to become as bad as it was before, with the implicit approval of the victors of the war. I understand the argument that, historically, the window of opportunity for proletarian revolution had not opened yet, so the working class might as well embrace the state, when the latter’s goals overlap with its own interests; that the war accelerated the development of capitalism and thereby improved future conditions for revolution. It’s a reasonable position and I will not attack it with scorn and contempt, Artesian-style. But I disagree with it, as it is based on productivist, determinist assumptions.

It is true that proletarian revolution was not on the historical agenda anywhere in the 1860’s. But that doesn’t mean that the proletarian struggle was not on the agenda, or that there was no contradiction between its autonomizing tendency and making common cause with the class enemy. Only 7 years after the civil war, the proletarians of Paris (and yes, Astarian, they were not all proletarians) took over the French capital (this followed a war in which Marx also picked a side to support, although he switched sides over the course of the war!). The Commune was defeated of course. But it was a very important moment of autonomization, the only process that can lead to revolution, while the civil war was not.

I think our disagreements are clear. The rest, I fear will just be shouting and going around in circles. Before I get dizzy, I will step out of this not so merry-go-round. The floor is all yours, Artesian et al. Have fun.

Hieronymous

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Sander, you're a hypocrite and a liar. If you want to criticize me (or anyone), do it for something that was actually said -- not for words you put in people's mouths. And since you simply regurgitated the party line like a faithful cadre, you never said anything showing the slightest amount of original thought -- and nothing that would be worthy of debating. So I guess I'm saying you won't be missed. Unless we need to borrow your one-size-fits-all ahistorical "value-form" cookie cutter.

EDIT: Sander

(and yes, [color=#FF0000]Astarian[/color], they were not all proletarians)

Who's "Astarian"? Was this person even part of the discussion?

Sander

Before I get dizzy,

Sounds like you've gotten there already.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Sander

This will be my last post on this thread. I will go back to the other thread but in this one, the discussion goes around in circles and has sunk to a deploringly low level. Apparently, anyone who disagrees with Artesian and Hieronymous is a racist, as well as a fuck-up, an idiot, ignorant, fool and so on. Scoring points, boosting egos seems to be the goal, not a common effort to understand. So I pass.

Methinks the Sander doth protest too much. He's submitted one post to this thread, He was not referred to as an idiot, ignorant, or a fool. Every point he raised was considered and answered. However he has failed to answer the questions raised about the IP position.

In the interim of course, we've had replies from those who think the only thing that's needed for communism is that "enough people want it;" from people who think that not only did the war not abolish slavery, slavery was actually restored in a much harsher form after a brief interruption, but then they go off in a huff, much like Sander is doing, for tactical reasons, so they don't have to answer when and how and by whom slavery was abolished, if ever; we've had those who think there's absolutely, positively no difference between wage-labor and slave-labor; that recognizing and endorsing the North's struggle to abolish slavery means one must logically, automatically endorse Mao's forced mass industrialization of the peasantry (just ignore the fact that the massed industrialization part didn't happen); we've had others, or actually some of the same, claim that we're cheerleading for war; others, or the same, think that "proletarian" means "not very wealthy;" and still others, or the same, claiming that freed slaves were used as cannon fodder by the Union troops.

So...just on the face of it, given that each of these claims or counterclaims by the "Civil War don't mean a thing" crowd is demonstrably false, and truly a mis-characterization of the actual history of the struggle to abolish slavery, I think identifying the claims and the claimants as ignorant, or a fool (don't recall using fuck-up or racist, but no big deal) is being generous, is giving them the benefit of the doubt; is giving them too much credit.

Sander of course fails to come up with the answer to the so-called murder of the missing 500,000 so called proletarians. He cannot explain why a Marxist group, committed one would think to the accuracy and precision Marx himself demonstrated in his analysis of class relations, would create out of nothing the missing 500,000.

Sander cannot explain how Marx can be demonstrating a mechanistic approach to history at the very same time Marx is writing his Economic Manuscripts which IP acknowledges are anything but mechanical and or deterministic.

Sander can't even be bothered to ignore my questions and answer the questions that Alf raises about the expression of solidarity with the anti-slave struggle manifested across all the various participants in the IMWA and by the workers themselves.

He needs a way out, without answering questions. That's one of the things ideology gives you. And whining. That too gives you a way out without answering questions.

Sander

The capitalist class and the working class are interdependent; together they reproduce capitalist society, neither class is autonomous from the other. From this relation, capital can never break away, it can not autonomize itself from its dependency on surplus value and thus on the working class. In contrast, the collective worker can autonomize itself from its dependency on capital. That is why working class struggle has the potential to become revolutionary. Its autonomization is in part self-organization, but it is more than that, it means breaking away from the capital-labor social bond in praxis and consciousness. All the important moments in the history of proletarian struggle were, to a greater or lesser degree, moments of autonomization.

Wars are the opposite: in stead of autonomizing, it’s rallying behind the capitalist state, behind the national banner, dying for it. It’s forgetting that “workers have no fatherland”.

Once again we have a philosophy of the abstract that collapses in the face of the concrete. All wars, all the time are rallying behind a national banner? Even civil wars? The Spanish Civil War, was that rallying behind a national banner, or was there a real class content to that war?

When the slaveholders sent their terrorists into Kansas to terrorize free soil farmers, and free blacks, and the free soil farmers and free blacks organized to fight them in the war known as Bloody Kansas, was that capitulating to the reactionary capitalist national banner?

Better to tell the proletarians of Kansas, and the proletarian terrorists from the great state of Missouri: "Don't fight. This war isn't your war. Your serving only to strengthen the hands of your own oppressors. Don't be suckered by mechanistic conceptions of history."????

Or do we recognize the validity of the fight of the free soil farmers and free blacks in Kansas? Do we explore, explain, and bring to light the real impulse to the emancipation of labor that made its appearance, was expressed in this particular moment of history, by those proclaiming free soil, free labor, and wage-labor not slave-labor?

Sander

Artesian reproaches us that, when we look at a war, we see a war. We see mass graves, burning villages, bombs falling on cities, famine and disease, fields littered with corpses. For Artesian, the question is: were these corpses certified proletarian? But that’s not the question. One thing is sure: the vast majority of them were not members of the possessing class.

Priceless. "Not members of the possessing class"--- Somebody introduce Sander to Soapy so they can commiserate over Marx's determinism in specifying the conditions, relations that define class and how the determination of class configures the prospects for emancipation.

The vast majority were not members of the possessing class? This applies to soldiers serving the slaveholders?

That war was initiated by slaveholders in order to protect their system of owning the laborers as property. It's just as simple as that. If the slaveholders had simply agreed to emancipation, then no war would have occurred. And Sander wouldn't have to shed those copious tears over the poor non-possessing class slavery-defending corpses moldering in the mud. But the slaveholders did not.

And I'm, you, ANYONE is supposed to feel what? An ounce of suffering for those who sacrificed life, limb, in the service of a slaveholders' rebellion?

The question for me isn't if the corpses are proletarian, Sander. That's the question for you. YOU made the claim about Marx's "determinism" based on the fact that the "first industrial war was murdering 500,000 proletarians." You said that. The condition, or qualification of proletarian is what you used to criticize Marx's apparently mechanistic, and non-class based, misapplication of historical materialism.

This where I really do say-- if Sander believes a word of what he has written, then he is indeed an idiot, ignorant, a fuck-up. And if he doesn't...........

Sander

Bourgeois accounting, Artesian sneers. Sentimental humbug. Yet he does his own accounting, inflating the war’s positive results, especially the abolition of slavery, even though it didn’t take long for racist oppression to become as bad as it was before, with the implicit approval of the victors of the war. I understand the argument that, historically, the window of opportunity for proletarian revolution had not opened yet, so the working class might as well embrace the state,when the latter’s goals overlap with its own interests; that the war accelerated the development of capitalism and thereby improved future conditions for revolution. It’s a reasonable position and I will not attack it with scorn and contempt, Artesian-style. But I disagree with it, as it is based on productivist, determinist assumptions.

Yeah, unlike me you don't sneer. And unlike me, you are dishonest. I did not inflate the war's positive results. I quite frankly pointed out how the bourgeoisie failed to follow through on the military victory and pursue the social revolution required to prevent the return of the Confederates in different garb.

I did not say that the working class might as well embrace the state. I said the proletariat was in no way shape or form capable of presenting any program that could both speak to the emancipation of black labor from slavery and establish an opposition to the bourgeoisie's program for that emancipation.

Sander, in his obfuscations, offers nothing that could amount to an independent working class program that opposed the bourgeoisie's timid, halting, reluctant engagement when confronting the slaveholders. He cannot. His argument becomes, whether he admits it or not, that because the war was being prosecuted by the Northern capitalists against the Southern slaveholders, the abolition of slavery was of no material interest, no practical interest, to the working class.

Well, fortunately, Marx disagreed. The IMWA disagreed. And the British workers disagreed.

Sander

It is true that proletarian revolution was not on the historical agenda anywhere in the 1860’s. But that doesn’t mean that the proletarian struggle was not on the agenda, or that there was no contradiction between its autonomizing tendency and making common cause with the class enemy. Only 7 years after the civil war, the proletarians of Paris (and yes, Astarian, they were not all proletarians) took over the French capital (this followed a war in which Marx also picked a side to support, although he switched sides over the course of the war!). The Commune was defeated of course. But it was a very important moment of autonomization, the only process that can lead to revolution, while the civil war was not.

Note: Sander here explicitly states that supporting the North in its battle against the expansion of slavery, supporting the North in its abolition of slavery is making common cause with a class enemy. Doing nothing, of course, not organizing demonstrations of workers in Manchester, not having the IMWA agitate against England and France providing any support to the slaveholders-- of course, that's not siding with the class enemy, even if it does mean that the slaveholders will be able to maintain their system. That's not siding with the class enemy,even if it means the slaveholders will get to work to death the closest things to proletarians in the whole South--- the slaves themselves.

Shame on Marx and the IMWA for allying with the class enemy and not doing nothing-- because, see, then the bourgeoisie in England and France could ally with the enemy of the workers' class enemy and aid the little old South.

Abstentionism-- the slaveholders' best friend.

Before I get dizzy,

Way too late for that.

James MacBryde

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Marx expected the victory of the North to speed up the development of capitalism, and therefore also of the working class.

Marx also demonstrated how the British working class backed up his assessment with industrial action [not only 'declarations'] in support of the North.

The Catholic emancipation, the Reform Bill, the abolition of the Corn Laws, the Ten Hours Bill..., all were the fruit of stormy extra-parliamentary demonstrations, in which the working class, sometimes artificially incited, sometimes acting spontaneously, played the principle part only as a persona dramatis, only as the chorus or, according to circumstances, performed the noisy part. So much more striking is the attitude of the English working class in regard to the American Civil War.

From an article by Karl Marx ('A London Worker's Meeting', first published in Die Presse, 2nd February, 1862.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/subject/newspapers/die-presse.htm (now deleted at request of copyright holders)

Yet still, I accept Soapy's argument. And Alf, please don't fall into the trap of The Do Gooder's Newspaper and attribute the actions of our class to a moral attitude ('proletarian morality'). Although, the material interests of the English working class were detrimentally affected in the short term, it was conscious that in the long-term it would benefit by the defeat of the South.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

MacBryde

Yet still, I accept Soapy's argument.

What argument is that? That slavery was "suspended" before being reimposed with an even greater zeal?

petey

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hieronymous

And since you simply regurgitated the party line like a faithful cadre, you never said anything showing the slightest amount of original thought -- and nothing that would be worthy of debating. So I guess I'm saying you won't be missed.

this seems to confirm Sander's point

James MacBryde

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Duplicate post removed by user

James MacBryde

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

What argument is that? That slavery was "suspended" before being reimposed with an even greater zeal?

No, that life as a prole is even more impoverished than as a slave.

laborbund

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Sorry I didn't get back to you earlier when you responded to my first point Soapy.

Soapy

You wrote

So the abolition of slavery is not to the benefit of the material interests of the slaves? I'm sorry, what? Were they better off as slaves?

Forty acres and a mule and still having to face institutional racism and racist segregation was certainly crap, but it was unimaginably better than brutal forced labor, continuious rape and torture.

I am saying that slavery was not abolished, it was put on hold for 15 or so years and then re implemented with a fervor few could have imagined.

I was pointing this out because I think it weighs heavily upon any notion that the Civil War accomplished anything other than bloodshed and misery.

There's no doubt that Jim Crow and the practice of convict lease in particular severely rolled back the emancipatory gains of the Civil War. Nevertheless, could John Brown's raiders, the abolitionists, the majority of Northern white soldiers who weren't abolitionists but just 'anti-slavery,' the US Colored Troops have looked forward into the future and see that US institutional racism would be recreated in new form at the end of the struggle? For that matter, could SNCC et al. have looked into the future and seen how US institutional racism would be recreated after the 1970s? Does the fact that new forms of institutional racism have replaced old ones totally invalidate the struggles that did away with the old ones?

The racist division of labor remains with us to this day, and it remains probably the single most difficult barrier to class unity that we face, but I think it is absurd to argue that nothing has been gained from past struggles.

I regret the tone that some of this thread has taken and I appreciate that your argument, at least, is based on actual historical specifics. But I also think the tone is very understandable given the original premise of the thread.

Spikymike

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Some unnecessary aggression and sarcasm aside I have still found this discussion useful so far. I'm struggling a bit to express myself effectively but here goes anyway....

I don't have any problem with Sander's concept of 'autonomization' and his distinguishing that process in terms of the Paris Commune from the earlier class processes in the American Civil War but only in so far as the slave rebellion and slave support for the Union side in that war was not a working class or proletarian rebellion ... but that is surely to both concede the original contesting of the IP reference to proletarian losses in the civil war and to diminish the historical and human significance of the slave rebellion (and potentially all other preceding non working class struggle). In the wider world real working class opposition to slavery and support for slave rebellions in a period which Sander says ' proletarian revolution was not on the agenda' was still progressive in it's own right quite apart from any assumptions made at the time as to whether or not the result of the Civil War would ensure the further development of capitalism and the international expansion of working class struggle. Slaves made their choices in the civil war circumstances of the time and in the absence of proletarian revolution.

I would still appreciate Sanders and IP's continued contributions to the themes of the other related discussion thread.

Alf

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

And Alf, please don't fall into the trap of The Do Gooder's Newspaper and attribute the actions of our class to a moral attitude ('proletarian morality'). Although, the material interests of the English working class were detrimentally affected in the short term, it was conscious that in the long-term it would benefit by the defeat of the South.

James, I don't think that referring to an article in the Guardian invalidates the concept of proletarian morality, which Marx certainly defended, even seeing a moral element in the determination of the value of labour power.

“If the owner of labour-power works to-day, to-morrow he must again be able to repeat the same process in the same conditions as regards health and strength. His means of subsistence must therefore be sufficient to maintain him in his normal state as a labouring individual. His natural wants, such as food, clothing, fuel, and housing, vary according to the climatic and other physical conditions of his country. On the other hand, the number and extent of his so-called necessary wants, as also the modes of satisfying them, are themselves the product of historical development, and depend therefore to a great extent on the degree of civilisation of a country, more particularly on the conditions under which, and consequently on the habits and degree of comfort in which, the class of free labourers has been formed. In contradistinction therefore to the case of other commodities, there enters into the determination of the value of labour-power a historical and moral element”
(Marx, Capital vol 1 chapter 6).

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

James MacBryde

What argument is that? That slavery was "suspended" before being reimposed with an even greater zeal?

No, that life as a prole is even more impoverished than as a slave.

Really? Do you have any idea of the life expectancy of male slave on a plantation in Brazil?

How many workers were tossed overboard, quite literally, in the transit from Europe to the US?

Exactly where were conditions of industrial workers as a class more impoverished than those of the slaves as a class?

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Here's an exercise, for Sander and anyone else who is so inclined:

In 1863, in New York City, after the second "drawing" of the draft for Union Army troops, thousands of white, many Irish, mostly poor, or at least poorer, or at least "not of the possessing class" rioted, initially out of outrage that wealthier men could pay a $300 bounty and avoid the draft.

Things being what they were, and are, in the US, anti-black racism soon became the motivation of the rioters, who attacked and lynched numerous black artisans, laborers, shopkeepers, and in the full demonstration of their class solidarity with the victims of the common class enemy of blacks and whites-- burned down the children's Colored Orphans Asylum.

Troops from the Union Army were diverted to NYC to suppress the rioters, but by that time 120 black people had been killed.

OK here's your mission, should you choose to accept.

1. You are the head of a workers group in NYC.

--Write an address, and appeal, an agitational leaflet to the rioters. Tell us what you tell the rioters... about the Civil War, about the draft, about slavery, about those black people being attacked in the city.

2. The Union Army arrives in NYC. You are head of both a local workers group, and a member of an international association. Write the following leaflets, appeals.

--a. An appeal to the Union troops, some of whom have been in combat against the slaveholders rebellion, describing the conditions in NYC, and what should be done by the troops--including "turn the guns around" if that's what you think.

--b. An appeal to your International, to support the demands/actions/program you developed in (a).

--c. An appeal to the rioters, regarding how they should handle the presence of the Union troops marching behind the flag of the "class enemy."

I am absolutely serious about this. I intend to do it myself at some point. I doubt Sander or Soapy or RC or Letters Journal would dare to attempt this-- because not a one has anything to say to the real twists and turns that the struggle for emancipation does take.

I dare Sander or Soapy or RC or anybody who thinks Marx was wrong in his support of Lincoln's reelection to actually sort out. this situation.

James MacBryde

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Alf, I have to admit that with the exception of chapter 33 of Capital I really have not been able to get my head round it. I am not negating what you say, I am honestly too stupid (or stupified) to understand it. My attitude to Capital is that he did the spade work, so I don't have to. I have given you an up vote because you're not being nasty to me (or anyone else), which is a rare experience for me in these forums.

Artesian, I anticipated your question and came up with this feeble reply. In terms of exposure to natural light, the average slave was better off than the average prole. If I may make one criticism of your last post. Why the use of past tense in this sentence:

Exactly where were conditions of industrial workers as a class more impoverished than those of the slaves as a class?

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Artesian, I anticipated your question and came up with this feeble reply. In terms of exposure to natural light, the average slave was better off than the average prole.

Worse than feeble, it's a disgrace. And this time I make no apology for my inflammatory language.

You've got the class consciousness of a toad, and that's insulting to the class of toads.

Exposure to natural light? You arrogant, privileged wanker Wrap your head around that.

James MacBryde

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

comment removed for plagiarism

Joseph Kay

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Ok this thread's a clusterfuck, but it's probably useful to distinguish between social form and 'labour conditions' (for want of a better term). Chattel slavery, peonage, sharecropping, and wage labour are distinct (if potentially overlapping) social forms. So the shift from pre-war chattel slavery to post-reconstruction peonage/convict leasing is a shift in social form, even if the conditions of labour - and indeed places of work, and identity of the employers - were in many cases identical to under chattel slavery (or even vengefully worse).

As I understand the 'slavery by another name' thesis (I've watched the film, but not read the book), it's arguing more about the continuity of labour conditions and economic role (i.e. harsh unremunerated labour). I don't think that's mutually exclusive with a shift in social form (though arguably convict labour is a form of slavery - as the 13th Amendment seems to acknowledge - albeit not chattel slavery). That then also answers the 'when was (chattel) slavery abolished?' question; with the defeat of the South, but the 'slave-like' conditions re-imposed after 1876 persisted well into the 20th century, offset by migration to the north, and the eventual decline of Southern cotton as a key commodity.

S. Artesian

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

OK Joseph, but Union struggle against the Confederate slaveholders' rebellion, progressive or an intra-capitalist bloodbath in which Marxists should take no side?

Joseph Kay

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I've barely read anything on the civil war itself, only bits from reconstruction onwards mostly from reading up on civil rights (not a cop out, my knowledge of US history is patchy, hence following this thread hoping to learn something). It seems anachronistic to see it in terms of 'imperialist war', and abolition seems obviously a Good Thing (despite post-'96 developments), independent of the North's motives (to which abolition seems instrumental at best).

I know marginally more about Haiti. You can make a pretty good case that the Haitian Revolution was bourgeois, and the war of independence was thus bourgeois vs bourgeois. But insurgent slaves fighting to abolish slavery still seems a Good Thing even if the result was a bourgeois republic (and 200 years of punitive underdevelopment). In that instance I'm not even sure what abstention would mean - even if they'd refused to fight for their generals, the slaves would have had to fight Napoleon et al anyway.

James MacBryde

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

In contradistinction therefore to the case of other commodities, there enters into the determination of the value of labour-power a historical and moral element.

OK Alf, I made a special effort and I have understood what Marx writes up to this point, although I suspect that 'civilisation' should probably have been translated as 'sophistication'. However, this sentence has me stumped.

Let's see if I can work it out. An historical and moral element? History and morals are determining the value/cost of labour power. OK, is he saying that, for example, if the workers in a particular situation refuse to eat their fellow workers because of their particular morals, this may mean that the cost of that labour power to the capitalist increases. If I am anywhere close to understanding this, I can see how what Marx wrote does express the notion of proletarian morality. It still doesn't really back up the case that the industrial action (the blockades of trade) that the English workers took in defence of the North was for moral reasons as opposed to their long term material interests.

Jo, I'm only having fun but 'clutterfuck' sounds almost Yiddish.

Artesian, although I have heard of an Artesian well before, I had to look up what it is and it's a fucking brilliant technology. I don't know how generally the technology can be applied or whether it could be used where water is needed most but it seems to have plenty of potential. Everything is coming our way

Reddebrek

6 years 6 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

James MacBryde

What argument is that? That slavery was "suspended" before being reimposed with an even greater zeal?

No, that life as a prole is even more impoverished than as a slave.

You know the reason the slave trade was so prolific was because so many slaves were worked to death that the few survivors could not sustain their own population right? Care to give even a remotely similar example for wage proles?

James MacBryde

Didn't someone say that at least a slave owner has some interest in sustaining the life of his slave in the same way that he does in sustaining the life of his other livestock. With a reserve pool of labour, the capitalist does not have such an interest.

1:You do know that livestock and work animals are routinely slaughtered and or worked to exhaustion and eventual death right? You have actually seen a farm yes? It is in the farmers best interest to take care of his chickens until they can get a good price for them at the market.
2: As with everything related to the interests of bosses and owners, their interests aside from self profit are entirely conditional. I.e It is in the best interest of a slave owner to maintain his slave population only if a cheaper more efficient option is not currently available.
3: There was a reserve pool of labour, other slaves, a slave owner could just buy more, or go across the sea and get more slaves, or in the case of the USA just nick a few free blacks.
4: A proletarian doesn't have to put up with the appalling conditions of a slave because under capitalism he is free to sell his labour, in practice this freedom is heavily curtailed but it does still exist. A proletarian can down tools and leave and look for another employer and there is nothing the previous employer can do to stop him.
A slave and a serf however had no such freedom and were stuck were they ended up and were dependent upon the whims of their owners.

That's a terrible quotation whoever said it, and shows a gulf of ignorance about the conditions of slaves.

Hieronymous

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

James MacBryde

. . . life as a prole is even more impoverished than as a slave.

You've yet to substantiate that assertion. Slaves lived pretty bleak lives. Du Bois claims that slaves once freed had a rising standard of living. If you're implying that it subsequently deteriorated instead, please support that.

Here's something I found surfing the 'net:

Slaves suffered extremely high mortality. Half of all slave infants died during their first year of life, twice the rate of white babies. And while the death rate declined for those who survived their first year, it remained twice the white rate through age 14. As a result of this high infant and childhood death rate, the average life expectancy of a slave at birth was just 21 or 22 years, compared to 40 to 43 years for antebellum whites. Compared to whites, relatively few slaves lived into old age.

A major contributor to the high infant and child death rate was chronic undernourishment. Slaveowners showed surprisingly little concern for slave mothers' health or diet during pregnancy, providing pregnant women with no extra rations and employing them in intensive field work even in the last week before they gave birth. Not surprisingly, slave mothers suffered high rates of spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, and deaths shortly after birth. Half of all slave infants weighed less than 5.5 pounds at birth, or what we would today consider to be severely underweight.

Infants and children were badly malnourished. Most infants were weaned early, within three or four months of birth, and then fed gruel or porridge made of cornmeal. Around the age of three, they began to eat vegetables, soups, potatoes, molasses, grits, hominy, and cornbread. This diet lacked protein, thiamine, niacin, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, and as a result, slave children often suffered from night blindness, abdominal swellings, swollen muscles, bowed legs, skin lesions, and convulsions.

James MacBryde

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Reddebrek, you make my liberal heart bleed.

Artesian, I am privileged to have a wife and four children; three still living and one sadly passed due to hyperthermia because her baby mother did not have enough money for fuel. I am privileged to be a proletarian, not a bourgeois.

ocelot

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

They say sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words

This is not the back of a wage worker. Looks fairly material to me.

James MacBryde

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Oc, you ever seen a man being chewed up by a press and spat out the other side. That's the real reason Trelleborg, Trowbridge, moved production to Poland. Nothing, I repeat, nothing has changed for the better.

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

James MacBryde

Oc, you ever seen a man being chewed up by a press and spat out the other side. That's the real reason Trelleborg, Trowbridge, moved production to Poland. Nothing, I repeat, nothing has changed for the better.

EDIT: I have, and I've seen a lot worse than that. But nothing I've seen, including death, dismemberment, shootings, comes close to the treatment meted out to the CLASS of slaves on a daily basis because of the demands of the slave system.

The slave was willfully beaten, with intent, because he was a slave, and could be beaten. Slaves were whipped for not working hard enough; slaves were whipped for not showing deference; slaves were whipped for becoming ill; slaves were whipped for trying to escape slavery.

Workers are not thrown into the presses because they don't work hard enough; nobody is thrown into the presses for not showing up to work; nobody is thrown into the presses for looking directly at the boss while speaking to him; nobody is thrown into the presses for quitting work and walking away; nobody is thrown into presses for trying to defend their spouses or children from the assaults of the slavemaster.

The class of slaves were subject to whippings, beatings, rape, loss of children in order to satisfy the needs of slavery based production. All slaves could be beaten. All slaves could be whipped. All slaves could be murdered. And with impunity.

That is not the "default" mode for ALL workers in capitalism. Yes there are near slave like conditions generated. Yes there is force, the threat of force, sexual predation and abuse-- but these are not the default conditions that are enshrined as the mode of accumulation.

Alf

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

James, this particular aspect of the discussion may be off topic, but what Marx meant by "historical and moral element" I think was that the proletariat was not a mere passive victim of the laws of capitalism and had no choice but accept the dictates of the 'market': its willingness to take action in defence of its living standards, its indignation in the face of the conditions imposed on it, constrained the capitalists and meant that the 'minimum' needed by the workers for their reproduction was not a fixed amount in all places and at all times, and was not limited to the cost of simple survival. This is the same willingness to act, the same indignation that makes the revolution possible.

ocelot

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Anyway, it's time to stop wasting time on one or two people who are trolling with the position that there is no material difference between free wage labour and chattel slavery. Particularly ones using arguments like "at least they got out in the open air more". Enough! Go tell it to a BLM meeting near you, and be prepared to have more than a few down-votes to cry about.

Back to the position on the distinction between war and "autonomization" Sander has proposed. From his first post:

This is not pacifism. When the revolutionary subject autonomizes from capital, it is never the result of a military campaign but it will be attacked militarily by capital ( Paris commune, Russian revolution) and of course pro-revolutionaries then support a vigourous miltary defense, advocating at the same time radically different social relations than those of a traditional army. But it is silly to discuss events of 150 years ago, just to score points, without explaining how this is relevant to the questions of our present time.

1. Actually it really is pacifism, effectively. And this is why I think it has contemporary relevance, whether we're talking about the siege of Vicksburg or Kobane. (I'll return to this below)

2. "When the revolutionary subject autonomizes from capital, it is never the result of a military campaign". Sander turns Trotsky's concept of "war-revolution" upside down and proposes a historically indefensible idea, that proletarian "autonomization" has no connection to wars, either international or civil. Apparently the Paris Commune's juxtaposition to the Franco-Prussian War was a simple historical coincidence. DItto the Russian Revolution and WW1, China and WW2 and... You get the point. If someone can remind me of a historical revolution that occurred in peacetime, please speak out (I'm not saying it's impossible, just I can't bring any to mind right now).

We need to talk about two things - 1. the possibilities for rupture from capitalism, past, present and future; 2. The relationship between revolutions, political, bourgeois and social.

1. It seems to me there are 3 possible positions on the possibility for rupture, past, and future: a) there is no possibility for rupture from capitalism now or in the future, and there never was. b) the possibility for rupture, contrary to the delusions of past political actors, did not exist in the past, but do exist today, having become possible only recently, c) latent possibilities for rupture have been potentially present in at least some of the past violent crises of capitalism since its inception.

Obviously a) the "null hypothesis" need not concern us here (even though we need to never forget that it is the dominant ideology and accepted, even if only passively or resignedly, by the vast majority at present).

b) seems to be currently most put forward by the "communization" tendency, and IP seem to have absorbed it into their version of TC's "full subsumption" periodization. There is a bit of a problem with this schema, however. Taken to it's logical conclusion, it means history has no lessons for the "pro-revolutionary movement", that in other words the theorization of strategy must be invented ex nihilo, without any reference to an irrelevant past. Only some of the more extreme (or intellectually consistent, maybe) communization writers have tried to theorize or strategize from this tabula rasa position, so far without much success, AFAIK. Maybe that's because of a lack of time and effort yet applied to the problem, or maybe the more likely the intuitive position that it's an impossible task is the correct one.

AFAICS IP have taken the communization position of the possibilities of past rupture up until - when? - the 1960s? Post-Vietnam War? Post Reagan/Thatcher neoliberal era? Post proletarianization of China? (Probably this is explained somewhere, but I don't recall seeing it in the IP doc that spawned this discussion). But without fully embracing the historical nihilism of extreme communization.

Personally I'm not a Menshevik (born-again or otherwise), so I hold more to position c). In my view when conflicts between the political "superstructure" and mode of production or, in the case of the US civil war, two competing, incompatible modes of production, cannot be resolved within the dynamic reproduction of the existing social formation, you get societal conflict. When "the old is dying and the new cannot be born" the result is civil war or political revolution - IMO two words for effectively the same continuum of social conflict. In the past the socio-political civil war that marked the passage from pre-capitalist to capitalist social systems were labeled retrospectively as bourgeois revolutions. However, in any political revolution the old gathers the remaining military force that reproduced its social dominance in the past, and the new is forced to look for a new force to bury the last stand of the ancien regime. This new force clearly needs to come from outside the social classes and fractions that traditionally defended the old order. The problem of political revolution, having raised its New Model Army and defeated the ancient regime, is how to prevent the newly empowered forces from the previously dominated classes, from demanding the dismantling of their own exclusion from power altogether - the problem of counter-revolution - how to put down the new forces raised in the struggle ("Your land is in Ireland" was Cromwell's response to the NMA's Levellers, Reconstruction in the US, Napolean's imperialism, "dictatorship of the proletariat", etc).

However, given that we live in a capitalist world at present, the dogmatic ultraleftist can turn around and say, with the one-sided myopia of hindsight vision, that all past political revolutions were merely bourgeois revolutions from the outset, never containing any internal development of proletarian "autonomization" or social revolution (the collectives of Aragon being merely meaningless epiphenomena to an "imperialist war" according to the Bilan-ists).

The problem with this perspective is that effectively it leads to disengagement, pacifism and a false radicalism that consists principally of denouncing anyone who engages with trying to determine their own fate in a situation of political crisis. The pose of being "against war, but for the defence of proletarian autonomy" is bogus, because in practice any attempt by real world proletarians, in a dusty railway town like Kobane, for e.g., to defend their autonomy against Islamist imperialism, is denounced as being "rallying to the imperialist cause". The only class conscious position in any such situation, is merely to flee and join the refugee masses. At least all those Syrian Kurds drowned in the Mediterranean last year can die happy that at least they died with the correct "proletarian consciousness" by fleeing, rather than alongside their neighbours who decided to stay and fight for a place to live.

Effectively I do not see any route to social revolution that begins by continual flight from all forms of "merely" political revolutionary struggles. Still with Durruti on that one.

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Anyway, it's time to stop wasting time on one or two people who are trolling with the position that there is no material difference between free wage labour and chattel slavery. Particularly ones using arguments like "at least they got out in the open air more". Enough! Go tell it to a BLM meeting near you, and be prepared to have more than a few down-votes to cry about.

Word.

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Ocelot

If someone can remind me of a historical revolution that occurred in peacetime, please speak out (I'm not saying it's impossible, just I can't bring any to mind right now).

Mexico, 1906 (?) 1910 (?)-- 1914(?) 1940(?)

Cuba, 1956-1959, for one.

Chile, 1970-1973 for another, although crushed after being debilitated by the popular front.

It can happen without war, but war doesn't preclude it from happening

RC

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Maybe try to look at this in a different way ...

There’s a reason that the labor movement once used the term “wage slavery.” This was not just racial insensitivity, as some say. When modern people nowadays hear “wage labor,” they think of alarm clocks and things like that. That’s part of it. But wage labor also includes the exploitation of women and children in the textile factories of Bangladesh who are sometimes worked to death for starvation wages. This might make a person wonder: this is progress over slavery?

Just to shut-down the objection: yes, chattel slavery is worse. Few sane people would argue otherwise. But this doesn’t tell you anything about the reasons for these conditions.

Take another example: the working conditions of illegal immigrants in factories and fields. They are also free wage laborers – “free” wage labor does not necessarily mean you have bargaining rights or even basic democratic freedoms. We would probably all agree that their working and living conditions are appalling and that this is still not as bad as the Middle Passage of past centuries. So: progress.

But there’s another side of this: today when capitalists in the west need cheap labor, they no longer have to send out ships to bring back poor Africans in chains. Instead the Africans come of their own free will and at their own expense. And the employers are free to pick and choose from them as needed. They don't need to maintain them or use soldiers to supervise them. That’s progress – but for who and of what???

If you put aside moral views on slavery and wage labor and just deal with their economic determinations, what is the real difference? Long story short: wage labor is more efficient and cheaper than slave labor. For capital.

So there is really no reason to celebrate the (bourgeois democratic revolutionary?) American state for having pursued its own interest in a free market economy. It might be the case that this improved material conditions in some situations and ruined them in others – but this was a consequence of the state’s aims and never a purpose.

RC

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Ocelot wrote:

I find the characterisation of the US Civil War as an "imperialist war" to be a-historical for a number of reasons.

The USA was founded as an imperialist project. It intended to expand across the continent from day one.

Gepetto

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Oh god, ocelot had to make this thread into another one in which they fap to hot Kurdish chicks with guns...

ocelot

he pose of being "against war, but for the defence of proletarian autonomy" is bogus, because in practice any attempt by real world proletarians, in a dusty railway town like Kobane, for e.g., to defend their autonomy against Islamist imperialism, is denounced as being "rallying to the imperialist cause". The only class conscious position in any such situation, is merely to flee and join the refugee masses.

Kurdish nationalists are proxy of US imperialism whether you like it or not. In Rojava there are hardly any proletarians, it was always an economically underdeveloped region and after devastation caused by the civil war it reverted to petty commodity production and population was largely lumpenised. The movement here is petty bourgeois in its social composition.

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

If you put aside moral views on slavery and wage labor and just deal with their economic determinations, what is the real difference? Long story short: wage labor is more efficient and cheaper than slave labor. For capital.

The real difference is that capitalism creates a working class that can overthrow it; that in fact capitalism creates the conditions necessitating its own abolition, and those conditions are expressed in and by the condition of labor as value creating.

The real difference is that capitalism creates the basis for the struggle against its exploitation to be carried out on an international basis, beyond borders; beyond the scope of "nation;" or market and on the basis of class.

Slave systems create no such material basis, either in the growth of the means of production that threaten the private property and private production of the slaveholder, or in the organizations of slaves as a class. There was no, and could be no First International Slaves Association, could there. But we did get a First International Working Man's Association; a Second, and Third and 4th International.

We do get class struggle on a class wide basis, rather than isolated rebellions.

That's exactly where the "progress" resides in capitalism.

Hieronymous

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian

We do get class struggle on a class wide basis, rather than isolated rebellions.

That's exactly where the "progress" resides in capitalism.

word

ocelot

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Gepetto

Oh god, ocelot had to make this thread into another one in which they fap to hot Kurdish chicks with guns...

To say your chosen approach of sexualising the argument is self-sabotaging is an understatement.

ocelot

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

[on reflection my response to Gepetto above is an off-topic diversion from this thread]

see http://libcom.org/blog/dear-cheerleaders-we-need-have-chat-about-imperialism-04042015?page=9#comment-572500

edit: fuck.fuck.fuck. Can;t have comment links on that category, so the above link is useless. It's at the end of the thread at the time of writing, but that's useless, Oh for a decent CMS....

Admin: link fixed. Bit of a bodge, but if you quote your comment you can see the comment ID in the url, then manually append #comment-XXXXXX to the url of that page of comments, creating a direct link to the comment.

ocelot

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

@Admin - Thanks for the workaround.Useful to know for the future. (On reflection my comment in this case was probably not worth the bother, but it's good to know to how to shift off-topic stuff to more appropriate threads.)

Alf

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

In relation to Ocelot's effort to use Marx's arguments about the American civil war to justify political support for current national liberation struggles, the Lenin who opposed the first imperialist world war is very lucid:

"Anyone who today refers to Marx’s attitude towards the wars of the epoch of the progressive bourgeoisie, and forgets Marx’s statement that the ‘workingmen have no country’ – a statement that applies precisely to the period of the reactionary and outmoded bourgeoisie, to the epoch of the socialist revolution, is shamelessly distorting Marx, and is substituting the bourgeois point of view for the socialist.” (Lenin, Socialism and War)

But Lenin of course didn't take his argument the whole way, and left room for support for "national liberation" wars even in the "the period of the reactionary and outmoded bourgeoisie". Luxemburg's position was much clearer:

“In the epoch of unbridled imperialism, national wars are no longer possible. National interests are only a mystification which has as its goal the enrolment of the popular, labouring masses in the service of their mortal enemy - imperialism” (Theses on the Tasks of International Social Democracy).

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Well, I think this thread is just about done-- I mean once we start quoting Lenin you know we've pretty much exhausted any original contributions that can be made to the discussion. Nothing personal Alf, but part of my problem with IP is its attempt to substitute ideology for actual historical analysis, and nothing says "ideology over history" more, IMO, than quoting Lenin.

I think we should all go back to the original thread on IP's "How We See it" or whatever it's called and wait to see if Sander, or Mac Intosh bother to show up to answer outstanding questions from Ocelot, or my own about "fictitious capital."

I'm betting.......not.

RC

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian wrote:

There was no, and could be no First International Slaves Association, could there. But we did get a First International Working Man's Association; a Second, and Third and 4th International.

Is this what you mean?

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I've said what I mean.

ocelot

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Yup, I'm done here.

Last thing though, I would be interested in reading recommendations on the economics of slavery in the antebellum South. Preferably from a critical historical materialist perspective, ovs.

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The Half Has Never Been Told

The Sugar Masters

Industrial Slavery In the Old South

fingers malone

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Foner 'Organised Labour and the Black Worker'

lettersjournal

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Slavery or peasantry was 'better' than wage labor because both had a potential escape not leading to waged labor. They had a potential to take the fabled 'Russian Road' and bypass capitalism altogether. (We can say ex post facto that this did not happen, but then the international revolution of the working class didn't happen either.)

Of course, the fate of the Indians, even more than the Civil War dead, is the hardest lump to swallow in the story of a 'progressive' imposition of wage labor on the Americas.

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

lettersjournal

Slavery or peasantry was 'better' than wage labor because both had a potential escape not leading to waged labor. They had a potential to take the fabled 'Russian Road' and bypass capitalism altogether. (We can say ex post facto that this did not happen, but then the international revolution of the working class didn't happen either.)

Of course, the fate of the Indians, even more than the Civil War dead, is the hardest lump to swallow in the story of a 'progressive' imposition of wage labor on the Americas.

lettersjournal's is just parading his ignorance magnified to the 10th power.

Of course, slavery, or peasantry (i.e share-cropping, or tenant-farming), was so much better. That's why slaves never ran away from slavery. That's why slaves never revolted. Of course, and that's why black peasants, i.e. sharecroppers and tenant-farmer did not migrate, and in huge numbers, out of the South, away from conditions of rural exploitation, and to the North, and to the conditions of exploitation of wage-labor.

And that's why education levels were so much better for sharecroppers in the South than workers in the North. And why longevity was so much better in the South. And access to public health, to sanitation, to safe drinking water. Hell yes, the South was a fucking paradise compared to the the assembly line at Ford Rouge, or the Fleetwood plant, or Jefferson Ave. Chrysler or Fisher Body. Fucking A. Yeah, you know if the Civil War would have never happened, the South would have gone directly from slavery to communism.

And that's why movements of resistance to racism in North and South were actually movements in favor of returning to the conditions of slavery and share-cropping. Marcus Garvey and Back to Africa were nothing next to LettersJournal and his/her "Back to Slavery" movement, with masses of African-Americans demonstrating behind banners that said "Long Live the Whip! All Power to the Chains!"

And fuck yeah... look at China, look how happy millions of Chinese peasants were, when they by-passed wage-labor under the guiding hand of Mao. Look how that worked out. LJ meets Bob Avakian and likes it.

Guess what? There is no escape from wage labor based on the peasantry. Marx was wrong. The communes of Russia were incorporated into the Czarist administration as tax-collecting bodies, not as communal production units. There was absolutely zero chance of the communes, with their ignorance, their disease, their lack of productivity, their subjugation of women, their religious mysticism could have been the backbone for anything other than what they were-- tax collecting bodies for absolutism.

I don't know what you're drinking there, LJ, but whatever it is, it ain't exactly sharpening your powers of reasoning.

Hieronymous

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Although ocelot asked for antebellum economic accounts, I would suggest the following because they trace some of that earlier history and show how its legacy carried on throughout the 20th century (and are still true today):

The Crisis of American Labor: Operation Dixie and the Defeat of the CIO (1988) by Barbara S. Griffith. I can't recommend this book strongly enough. It shows why today the South is going through a "second industrialization." This right-to-work region gave birth to Walmart and it is now becoming one of the world's leading low-wage zones of auto production (in a cross-border manufacturing cluster that includes northern Mexico).

Testing the New Deal: The General Textile Strike of 1934 in the American South (2000) by Janet Irons. This book shows how the '34 strike's collapse presaged the failure of Operation Dixie in Griffith's book. Both books detail the history of racism, church-centered religious conservatism, defeat of popular struggles, and the anti-working class culture that's deeply ingrained in the southern working class.

RC

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

lettersjournal wrote:

Of course, the fate of the Indians, even more than the Civil War dead, is the hardest lump to swallow in the story of a 'progressive' imposition of wage labor on the Americas.

The Indians have no place in this “progress” story. They didn’t understand that great white men with private property were doing everybody a big favor by advancing the means of production so as to prepare the world for communism.

“Progress” is a rotten idea. It says that all the horrible shit that people have been put through in history was ok if it advanced the productive forces or whatever.

It is true that the productive forces developed under the rule of the capitalists. But the capitalists develop and use the productive forces only to the extent that they are useful for their interest in making money. This does not benefit anybody but themselves.

It is wrong to think that the means of production could only have developed in capitalist form. The idea is: since the means of production have always been developed in class society as a means of exploitation, it could only have happened in that way. But it only happened that way because the capitalists had the money and the power to make it happen.

And while it is true that production no longer takes place in isolated shops and farms but in global factories, it is a wrong step to say: the growth of the means of production threatens their private character. This sees a contradiction in: social production but private appropriation. There is no contradiction here. The society produces and the capitalists take it. Where is the contradiction?

The only contradiction is between the interests of the capitalists and the workers. This sounds non-objective to a historical materialist; the workers can’t shake off the domination of the capitalists "just" because it’s in their interest to do so. The workers are seen as serving a historic mission which is independent of and greater than them.

Historical materialism, on the one hand, wants to rouse the workers to revolt against their miserable role in this society; on the other hand, it says this revolt is on the agenda of history and the workers carry out its "laws." In the first case, a fight against the times; in the second, obedience to them.

Probably nobody here is a fan of capitalism or the state. But that’s where the logic of “capitalism is progressive” leads. It would be better to dump the whole mistake.

RC

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Its worth noting how left versions of progress echo the official version of racism in the USA.

The official version goes like this: there was once the “peculiar institution” of slavery which was not in line with the American values of freedom and equality. For blacks to become full Americans, a number of progressive steps had to be carried out by the federal government. America still has a lot of work to do to correct the injustices inherited from slavery and Jim Crow, but progress has been and is being made – maybe too little, too slowly, but overall in the right direction.

This view sees racism in the USA as a legacy of the past, not something produced by the current legal and economic system. It sees racism as something to be eliminated by legal and political reforms -- even though, for all the progress in this regard, racism never goes away. It doesn’t want to look at what racism has to do with the American values of freedom and equality and the private command over the social means of production – which creates a few beneficiaries who own the social wealth and a great mass of wage earners and “superfluous” people.

Slavery and Jim Crow gave blacks the worst initial conditions in the competition, but it is the competition for money and jobs that is responsible for the miserable conditions and police violence in black communities.

Reddebrek

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

lettersjournal

Slavery or peasantry was 'better' than wage labor because both had a potential escape not leading to waged labor. They had a potential to take the fabled 'Russian Road' and bypass capitalism altogether. (We can say ex post facto that this did not happen, but then the international revolution of the working class didn't happen either.)

You know the first American state to abolish slavery was Pennsylvania in 1780, this means there was nearly a century of free black population* coexisting with slave owning states, not to mention the tens of thousands of blacks freed during the American Revolution by the British. With that in mind why is it that these freed blacks whom unlike you had a direct experience of slavery preferred the life of free people to that of the slave? Why would they constantly agitate for more emancipation and the right to participate on an equal footing even as proletarians and wage earners?

Moving beyond America, why did Black Haitians fight so long and so hard against three Empires to maintain their freedom? Indeed globally and throughout history the pattern is clear, the slave despised their lot and when given the opportunity did all in their power to change it?

What is your explanation for this total lack of nostalgia for the good old days of Dixie?

*Actually it was longer than that, as there were tiny free black population even in the slave owning states/colonies

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

“Progress” is a rotten idea. It says that all the horrible shit that people have been put through in history was ok if it advanced the productive forces or whatever.

Strawman. Nobody says anything is "ok." I don't say that. Hieronymous doesn't say that. Ocelot didn't say that. Alf didn't say it. Reddebrek didn't say it.

I said the abolition of slavery by means of military struggle against the slaveholders' rebellion was more than OK. It was necessary. It was a step forward in the struggle for the emancipation of black labor, and through that, the emancipation of labor in general.

Nobody's arguing that the means of production "could only have developed in a capitalist form," only that the means of production in the 19th century in the United States were in the capitalist mode, or form; and only that the slave mode, while intimately connected with that capitalist form in the US and Europe, was incapable of creating the conditions of its own overthrow.

If you want to argue about "progress"-- that's another thread completely.

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

Its worth noting how left versions of progress echo the official version of racism in the USA.

The official version goes like this: there was once the “peculiar institution” of slavery which was not in line with the American values of freedom and equality. For blacks to become full Americans, a number of progressive steps had to be carried out by the federal government. America still has a lot of work to do to correct the injustices inherited from slavery and Jim Crow, but progress has been and is being made – maybe too little, too slowly, but overall in the right direction.

This view sees racism in the USA as a legacy of the past, not something produced by the current legal and economic system. It sees racism as something to be eliminated by legal and political reforms -- even though, for all the progress in this regard, racism never goes away. It doesn’t want to look at what racism has to do with the American values of freedom and equality and the private command over the social means of production – which creates a few beneficiaries who own the social wealth and a great mass of wage earners and “superfluous” people.

Where has any of this been argued on this thread? And by whom. Christ on a crutch man, quit throwing shit around hoping something might stick.

Being ignorant, as you are, is one thing. Being dishonest and ignorant is something else again.

RC

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I was referring to the article I linked to ("Finish the Civil War!"). You yourself said that the 4th International was a terrific thing that capitalism made possible. If you read it, it pretty much says exactly what you have been arguing here: that the civil war progressive, that we should celebrate the Northern capitalists who opposed slavery on humanitarian grounds, that civil rights legislation was further progress, etc etc. I am trying to clarify your argument. If you don't like the implications, then deal with that.

Hieronymous

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

I am trying to clarify your argument.

Regarding RC debating with a link to another website that they posted themselves, as well as openly putting words in Artesian's mouth:

S. Artesian

Being ignorant, as you are, is one thing. Being dishonest and ignorant is something else again.

word

lettersjournal

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Reddebrek

lettersjournal

Slavery or peasantry was 'better' than wage labor because both had a potential escape not leading to waged labor. They had a potential to take the fabled 'Russian Road' and bypass capitalism altogether. (We can say ex post facto that this did not happen, but then the international revolution of the working class didn't happen either.)

You know the first American state to abolish slavery was Pennsylvania in 1780, this means there was nearly a century of free black population* coexisting with slave owning states, not to mention the tens of thousands of blacks freed during the American Revolution by the British. With that in mind why is it that these freed blacks whom unlike you had a direct experience of slavery preferred the life of free people to that of the slave? Why would they constantly agitate for more emancipation and the right to participate on an equal footing even as proletarians and wage earners?

Moving beyond America, why did Black Haitians fight so long and so hard against three Empires to maintain their freedom? Indeed globally and throughout history the pattern is clear, the slave despised their lot and when given the opportunity did all in their power to change it?

What is your explanation for this total lack of nostalgia for the good old days of Dixie?

*Actually it was longer than that, as there were tiny free black population even in the slave owning states/colonies

I'm not sure how to respond because I made no claims about the everyday conditions of slavery being preferable to anything. As I said and you quoted:

lettersjournal

Slavery or peasantry was 'better' than wage labor because both had a potential escape not leading to waged labor. They had a potential to take the fabled 'Russian Road' and bypass capitalism altogether. (We can say ex post facto that this did not happen, but then the international revolution of the working class didn't happen either.)

Nobody would trade their job at BestBuy for life as a slave on a cotton plantation, but slaves and peasants had some opportunity to escape/destroy slavery/peasantry into something other than wage labor. In the same way that those initially proletarianized had some chance to resist that fate.

No such 'escape route' exists today. One could say, perhaps, that the Civil War (and its attendant armed conflicts like the Nez Perce War), was the permanent shutting of that escape route in America.

General Oliver Howard, Civil War hero and founder of Howard University, was the commander of the American army in the Nez Perce War. He's an interesting historical figure and could help us untangle this idea of progress.

RC

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Hieronymous wrote:

word

Or: amen!

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

RC

I was referring to the article I linked to ("Finish the Civil War!"). You yourself said that the 4th International was a terrific thing that capitalism made possible. If you read it, it pretty much says exactly what you have been arguing here: that the civil war progressive, that we should celebrate the Northern capitalists who opposed slavery on humanitarian grounds, that civil rights legislation was further progress, etc etc. I am trying to clarify your argument. If you don't like the implications, then deal with that.

As I pointed out, nobody in this thread has said the things you claim have been said. I didn't say the 4th Intl was a "terrific thing." I pointed out that there could be NO international movement of workers and poor for the emancipation of labor under slavery.

You want to argue with the Sparts, argue with the Sparts. I am not a Spart; I've laid out my arguments and you've failed to deal with a single one of them.

This is where we tell Sander-- right. This is why we call people like RC who make shit up, who don't know what they're talking about, who can't deal with the actual arguments-- ignorant, dishonest, fucked-up.

Hieronymous

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Since RC only posts on libcom as a contrarian troll, they might as well be a Spart.

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

BTW, still waiting for RC (or Sander or any one of the-- let's call them-- anti-abolitionists; think that is so fitting for those who call us "progressivists" and other nonsense)..

Still waiting for RC or any other of the anti-abolitionists to respond to the challenge in post #115:

Here's an exercise, for Sander and anyone else who is so inclined:

In 1863, in New York City, after the second "drawing" of the draft for Union Army troops, thousands of white, many Irish, mostly poor, or at least poorer, or at least "not of the possessing class" rioted, initially out of outrage that wealthier men could pay a $300 bounty and avoid the draft.

Things being what they were, and are, in the US, anti-black racism soon became the motivation of the rioters, who attacked and lynched numerous black artisans, laborers, shopkeepers, and in the full demonstration of their class solidarity with the victims of the common class enemy of blacks and whites-- burned down the children's Colored Orphans Asylum.

Troops from the Union Army were diverted to NYC to suppress the rioters, but by that time 120 black people had been killed.

OK here's your mission, should you choose to accept.

1. You are the head of a workers group in NYC.

--Write an address, and appeal, an agitational leaflet to the rioters. Tell us what you tell the rioters... about the Civil War, about the draft, about slavery, about those black people being attacked in the city.

2. The Union Army arrives in NYC. You are head of both a local workers group, and a member of an international association. Write the following leaflets, appeals.

So have at it anti-abolitionists. Tell us how you address the crowd of anti-progressive; anti-state (but pro Tammany Hall); anti-draft; anti-militarist; anti-whatever, who, went they aren't killing blacks, burning orphanages, etc. want to know what to do next.

lettersjournal

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

So have at it anti-abolitionists. Tell us how you address the crowd of anti-progressive; anti-state (but pro Tammany Hall); anti-draft; anti-militarist; anti-whatever, who, went they aren't killing blacks, burning orphanages, etc. want to know what to do next.

There is no Virgil to lead us from this inferno.

Hieronymous

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

lettersjournal

There is no Virgil to lead us from this inferno.

Literati name-dropping isn't rising to the challenge.

Suggestion: RC & lettersjournal should create a new thread to debate the Spart party line vs. the religious/literary party line.

Reddebrek

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

lettersjournal

I'm not sure how to respond because I made no claims about the everyday conditions of slavery being preferable to anything. As I said and you quoted:

Yeah not buying it pal, not only were you saying slavery was better (that word does mean preferable) based on an incredibly abstract and frankly empty and speculative argument based on nothing. Literally nothing since you base it on events that didn't happen, and compare to something that also hasn't happened.

But in addition nearly every comment you've made in this thread that you haven't made incomprehensible by your attempts to look simultaneously flippant and deep, has been to deny that the War and the abolition of slavery represented any progress in real terms. So at best you're arguing wage slavery is equivalent to chattel slavery. You can't have it both ways, you can't take such an absolutist nihilistic perspective and admit conditions did actually improve when you get called out, that's just being two faced.

I'm also not the only user to see your bizarre slave excuses, so on the slight chance you're being sincire you have serious communication issues.

RC

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian wrote:

I said the abolition of slavery by means of military struggle against the slaveholders' rebellion was more than OK. It was necessary. It was a step forward in the struggle for the emancipation of black labor, and through that, the emancipation of labor in general.

Who is the subject in these sentences? It can only be the US Army. When did it transform from being an instrument for the “emancipation of labor” and start breaking strikes (not to mention killing Indians)? And why did this happen?

And please explain what’s so good about the “emancipation of labor” -- on its own terms, apart from being better than slavery? Everybody notices the positive side of freedom, that nobody can own you, but ignores the other side – that freedom in capitalist society means you have to get by with whatever property you have or don’t have and this puts labor in the position of absolute dependency on the interests of the capitalists.

You dismiss Marx’s insights about slavery and wage labor in Capital and prefer his letter to Lincoln (“the star-spangled banner carried the destiny” of the European working class – oh please!). You might not know that Marx complained in a letter to Engels about having to write it to satisfy the liberals in the International, and that he tried to write it in a way that would nullify the “vulgar-democratic phraseology.” Little did he know that generations of Marxists would seize on this nonsense to celebrate Marx for “taking sides” in the national struggles of his times.

Marx’s mistake was to think that the creation of conditions for a working class was the same as progress for communism. He can be excused because he got carried away by enthusiasm for the working class movement in its militant early days; but we live a century later and the historical record shows that the existence of a working class is not by itself revolutionary. It would be better to criticize nationalism for the harm it does to the workers than to repeat Marx's mistakes.

RC

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian wrote:

So have at it anti-abolitionists. Tell us how you address the crowd of anti-progressive; anti-state (but pro Tammany Hall); anti-draft; anti-militarist; anti-whatever, who, went they aren't killing blacks, burning orphanages, etc. want to know what to do next.

I'll leave that one for the larpies.

lettersjournal

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

But really, what would I say to a crowd of raving racist New Yorkers? Nothing. I would probably hide underneath my bed and pray they don't torch my house.

What's at stake here is the nature of communist thinking. What does it mean to think about the past?

We could list big events and go down the line, assigning each a yes-vote or a no-vote:
Civil War - yes
WW2 - no
Russian Revolution - it's complicated
etc

Then we could argue about the criterion for voting and the voting outcomes. That's a bit like what we're doing now. One criterion is 'does the war abolish slavery'. By this criterion, the 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia would be a progressive war that communists ought to support, since the Italians declared the abolition of slavery as their reason for invading (and then did, in fact, abolish it). Another criterion is 'does the war spread wage labor'. The list of wars gets longer with that one.

But why take this approach at all?

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

SA

I said the abolition of slavery by means of military struggle against the slaveholders' rebellion was more than OK. It was necessary. It was a step forward in the struggle for the emancipation of black labor, and through that, the emancipation of labor in general.

RC

Who is the subject in these sentences? It can only be the US Army. When did it transform from being an instrument for the “emancipation of labor” and start breaking strikes (not to mention killing Indians)? And why did this happen?

You expose your true level of ignorance here. The subject-- is the ex-slaves of course. That's who made it a step forward in the emancipation of black labor, and through that the emancipation of labor in general. The ex-slaves, and runaway slaves, and free blacks were the subjects/agents who carried the military struggle beyond that of one "for the union" beyond for the "reconciliation of North and South and forced it to become a struggle for the abolition of slavery and for racial equality. Had the North not embraced that emancipation, they would have never defeated the South-- which, I guess, would have been just fine in your book, as slavery isn't any worse than wage-labor.

The fact that the army before and after the Civil War was used to oppress indigenous people, and after the defeat of Reconstruction was withdrawn from the South and almost immediately deployed against striking railroad workers does not diminish the importance of abolishing slavery and the necessary role the Union Army played in breaking that system.

RC

And please explain what’s so good about the “emancipation of labor” -- on its own terms, apart from being better than slavery? Everybody notices the positive side of freedom, that nobody can own you, but ignores the other side – that freedom in capitalist society means you have to get by with whatever property you have or don’t have and this puts labor in the position of absolute dependency on the interests of the capitalists.

Which of course is why so many ex-slaves wanted nothing to do with emancipation. So many ex-slaves didn't participate in Freedmen's Bureaus; in labor actions; didn't petition for land. The freedom in capitalist society means you are not a slave; it means your children are not slaves; are not born as property belonging to a master. See previous post about whippings and killings.

RC

You dismiss Marx’s insights about slavery and wage labor in Capital and prefer his letter to Lincoln (“the star-spangled banner carried the destiny” of the European working class – oh please!). You might not know that Marx complained in a letter to Engels about having to write it to satisfy the liberals in the International, and that he tried to write it in a way that would nullify the “vulgar-democratic phraseology.” Little did he know that generations of Marxists would seize on this nonsense to celebrate Marx for “taking sides” in the national struggles of his times.

Where did I dismiss Marx's insights about slavery and wage labor? Marx ALWAYS made the important distinction between wage-labor and slavery; how capitalism reproduced itself through the generation and extraction of surplus value that required a "free" dispossessed, detached work force. He also made it clear that the chattel slavery of the US South, and the "New World" was integrated into that expanding capitalism, but was not, in itself, subject to the same economic laws as capital. And most of all, he made it clear that those economic laws were nothing but expressions of specific social relations of production.

What I said was that Marx was right in expressing the solidarity of international working class with the struggle which had proclaimed "Death To Slavery." Whether or not I give 2 rats' asses about the verbiage regarding the "destiny of the working class," or the "stars and stripes" is irrelevant. FWIW, the rhetoric makes me want to puke. But "Death To Slavery" is the essential component of Marx's address because it was, and became, the essential component of the Civil War itself , so much so that it took concerted terrorist action, overthrowing elected governments, murdering and maiming hundreds of people who were committed to racial equality to restore near-slave like conditions, which as near as they were, were not slavery.

RC

Marx’s mistake was to think that the creation of conditions for a working class was the same as progress for communism. He can be excused because he got carried away by enthusiasm for the working class movement in its militant early days; but we live a century later and the historical record shows that the existence of a working class is not by itself revolutionary. It would be better to criticize nationalism for the harm it does to the workers than to repeat Marx's mistakes.

Well yeah, see that's not a mistake; that's what Marx called the scientific basis for communism; it's the basis for historical materialism-- a certain material level of development brought about by specific social relations of production becomes the basis for the abolition for those very same social relations. That's not Marx's "mistake." That's your ignorance.

Nobody is flogging nationalism here. That's just more of your chronic, probably congenital, dishonesty. We're endorsing the abolition of slavery as being essential, not simply for the development of capitalism, but for the development of the forces that can abolish capitalism.

You think, obviously, just leaving slavery alone is a better alternative.

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

LJ

But really, what would I say to a crowd of raving racist New Yorkers? Nothing. I would probably hide underneath my bed and pray they don't torch my house.

Right, exactly. You would hide and pray. So much for your ability to say anything of relevance when the actual struggle is joined. Your "workers"-- who weren't "much better off" than slaves, actually weren't better off at all, according to you, lynched and murdered 120 blacks, because they were afraid of the competition from free blacks, and you can't say anything. Because you're hiding under the bed and praying.

You don't do anything do you? You don't go into the 5 points neighborhood, where the vast majority of poor and workers resolutely opposed the lynch mobs, do you? You don't try to arrange for a single unit from that area to aggressively undertake the physical defense of black people, black orphanages, black shopkeepers who were being torched by those sympathetic to slaveholders, do you? Because you're hiding under the bed and praying.

You don't even demand universal conscription, prohibiting the paying of bounties or the engaging of substitutes, thereby bringing the class struggle issues to the fore, do you? Because you're hiding under the bed and praying

What's at stake here is the nature of communist thinking.

Pardon me, what the fucking is communist about hiding under the bed and praying? That's what's at stake? That's your new communist thinking?

Piss off.

Hieronymous

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

lettersjournal

I would probably hide underneath my bed and pray . . .

It can safely be said that you're the only "communist" in human history who's ever advocated this cowardly evasion as the "nature of communist thinking."

James MacBryde

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

S. Artesian :

Piss off.

Somethings never change.

Spikymike

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It seems to me that both RC and lettersjournal have a point to make of sorts that would justify some better discussion on this thread: http://libcom.org/forums/general/capitalism-historic-necessity-31012016 as they appear to have fixated on what they think is an underlying theme with broader significance than the more specific and nuanced views expressed here by such as S.Artesian who has reinforced their response in their post no 4 on that thread. There has always been a tension in Marxist influenced pro-revolutionary theory and practice between the emphasis on class struggle past and present as the motor of history and the 'external' objective conditions in which that struggle takes place. It is quite possible to be inspired by the pre-capitalist class struggles of the past (including their short lived and localised communist attempts) and still recognise that a stable and sustainable world human community, ie communism as we understand it today, has only been practically possible, whilst not inevitable, as a result of the universalising process of modern global capitalism. And the issue here of slavery and the American Civil War is one that is nearer enough to our times to have a significant influence on our struggles today in a way that others such as past peasant rebellions perhaps do not.

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

James MacBryde

S. Artesian :

Piss off.

Somethings never change.

Says the guy who thinks slaves have the advantage over wage-workers because they get more exposure to natural light.

Be sure to tell that to those enslaved by the mita system to mine the silver out of Cerro de Potosi for their Spanish masters.

lettersjournal

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

The cowardly communist is an old topic here: http://libcom.org/forums/thought/refuge-solution-imperialism-11122007

To put it simply, if you affirm the Civil War, you also get the Nez Perce War (fought by the same army led by the same abolitionist general who founded Howard University). The progressive imposition of wage labor on America involved both the abolition of slavery and the destruction of the Indians. You can't pick and choose.

More than that, the logic of 'preconditions' is endlessly recursive; if one is favor of the extension of wage labor (as a precondition for communism); one is in favor of what preceded it; if the wage relation is necessary, then slavery is necessary; if slavery is necessary, then colonization is necessary. And so on.

And if we are to celebrate wars that abolished slavery, then we're stuck celebrating wars like the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.

But why go through the annals of history as cheerleaders? The function of this view of history seems, in this thread at least, to be a way of bullying people who don't agree with your sort of Marxist orthodoxy AND as a way to lay the foundation for defending future 'revolutionary' terror and war.

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Spikymike

It seems to me that both RC and lettersjournal have a point to make of sorts that would justify some better discussion on this thread: http://libcom.org/forums/general/capitalism-historic-necessity-31012016 as they appear to have fixated on what they think is an underlying theme with broader significance than the more specific and nuanced views expressed here by such as S.Artesian who has reinforced their response in their post no 4 on that thread. There has always been a tension in Marxist influenced pro-revolutionary theory and practice between the emphasis on class struggle past and present as the motor of history and the 'external' objective conditions in which that struggle takes place. It is quite possible to be inspired by the pre-capitalist class struggles of the past (including their short lived and localised communist attempts) and still recognise that a stable and sustainable world human community, ie communism as we understand it today, has only been practically possible, whilst not inevitable, as a result of the universalising process of modern global capitalism. And the issue here of slavery and the American Civil War is one that is nearer enough to our times to have a significant influence on our struggles today in a way that others such as past peasant rebellions perhaps do not.

Indeed. I have never claimed that capitalism is a universal historic necessity, but where it has developed, where it has penetrated, then certain obstacles, conditions have to be transformed for capitalism to expand. Where those conditions that capitalism encounters cannot be transformed "in its own image" capitalism accommodates them, absorbs them, strengthens and undermines them, embeds itself with them, until the entire system ruptures.

Capitalism was existent in the US, and its growth was obstructed by the slaveholders' in the South, whose own system was integrated through the world markets with the industrial capitalist development of Europe.

For US capitalism to advance, slavery had to be abolished. That abolition was progress, not based on the development of the material productive forces as some abstract quantity, but rather progress based upon the social relations of human beings, which beings, being social, reproduce their social being through a mode of production. {How's that for nuance?}

That the unfettering of capitalism was not sufficient to remedy the enduring legacy of the slave system, the "loyalty" that private property forges among its various iterations, is not doubted. The military destruction of the slave system by Northern capitalism was necessary and sufficient for the expansion of capitalism. It was necessary, but not sufficient for the full emancipation of the social relations of human beings. For that, there was need a continuing struggle for full racial equality, which then, no less than now, threatened private property in all its iterations.

We, myself and others, have pointed that out. Necessary but not sufficient is how to best describe the Civil War. There is no point to calling for "finishing" the Civil War, as indeed it was finished, and did about as much as it could. Might be a romantic and a wonderful slogan to call for finishing Radical Reconstruction, but the failure of Radical Reconstruction means that the model itself-- of creating an independent black farming class, was in fact unattainable as capitalism's development precluded such a possibility.

What Sander and others want to proclaim is that because the US Civil War was prosecuted by the Northern bourgeoisie for the expansion of capitalism, the Civil War is of no interest to the working class; is of no significance for the development of class consciousness, merits no intervention or participation by the working class. That abstentionism however is a direct capitulation to the backward level of class consciousness, the racism that has paralyzed the US working class as a whole, and in fact ceded the entire question of slavery, discrimination, segregation, and the opposition to slavery, discrimination, segregation to the bourgeoisie, something proven so tragically in the NYC anti-draft riots, where our so-called super-communists can't propose anything other than hiding and praying, while white sympathizers with the slaveholders, abetted by the NY branch of the slaveholders' party, murdered black people. .

Whatever Marx's language, or compromises on language, in the letter of congratulations to Lincoln, the fact remains he identified the struggle for what it was-- of great material interest to the working class; of great historical significance for the development of class consciousness. Marx did say "Death to Slavery." His "mistake" was not to confuse development of the working class with conditions for communism, but not to add to "Death to Slavery"... "Necessary but not Sufficient."

lettersjournal

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

It's illustrative to compare the arguments in favor of the Civil War in this thread and the arguments in favor of the Egyptian revolt here: http://libcom.org/forums/news/what-exactly-are-you-supporting-02022011

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Another place where you would hide under a bed and pray.

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Simple question: Do you support the abolition of the slave system that existed in the US South prior to 1865? Yes or no?

If no-- say no more.

If yes, exactly what mechanisms were available to make that a reality?

You might as well be telling us that there was no point in supporting the Haitian Revolt because Dessalines, had risen to the role of foreman on a plantation, because Dessalines and others reconstituted the plantation system and compelled former slaves to work harvesting and processing sugar, and because Dessalines had himself anointed emperor.

lettersjournal

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

- "I'm against war, even the 'good wars' like WW2."
"You're a moron! Why do you support the Nazis?"

Bless you, Artesian.

S. Artesian

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

If you ever bothered to answer a question, I would be shocked.

I'm not a pacifist. If you are, then simply say so and quit with the bullshit about how slavery and wage-labor are the same.

Back under the bed, wanker.

Hieronymous

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Artesian, they're not only pacifists, but as Walter pointed out:

". . . these men are cowards"

[youtube]FAwtG_lfSk4[/youtube]

. . . and nihilists (they believe in nothing)

[youtube]Y5J_kao6mwA[/youtube]

ajjohnstone

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

This clip is well worth a watch

http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/after-the-civil-war-there-was-an-incredible-period-of-history-that-america-forgot/

A clip from Plutocracy

James MacBryde

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

But really, what would I say to a crowd of raving racist New Yorkers? Nothing

Steven.

6 years 5 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Multiple posts including racism and flaming have been reported on this thread. The thread has now been locked temporarily until we have had a chance to look through it and take action when necessary. Apologies but please bear with us.

Mike Harman

3 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

SpikyMike just mentioned this thread elsewhere. We never undid the temporary lock here (and I completely missed this thread the first time around)... so I'm (possibly temporarily) unlocking it again. I'm also not sure exactly what action was or wasn't taken, but some posters have since stopped using the site.

Mike Harman

3 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Joseph Kay

Ok this thread's a clusterfuck, but it's probably useful to distinguish between social form and 'labour conditions' (for want of a better term). Chattel slavery, peonage, sharecropping, and wage labour are distinct (if potentially overlapping) social forms. So the shift from pre-war chattel slavery to post-reconstruction peonage/convict leasing is a shift in social form, even if the conditions of labour - and indeed places of work, and identity of the employers - were in many cases identical to under chattel slavery (or even vengefully worse).

As I understand the 'slavery by another name' thesis (I've watched the film, but not read the book), it's arguing more about the continuity of labour conditions and economic role (i.e. harsh unremunerated labour). I don't think that's mutually exclusive with a shift in social form (though arguably convict labour is a form of slavery - as the 13th Amendment seems to acknowledge - albeit not chattel slavery). That then also answers the 'when was (chattel) slavery abolished?' question; with the defeat of the South, but the 'slave-like' conditions re-imposed after 1876 persisted well into the 20th century, offset by migration to the north, and the eventual decline of Southern cotton as a key commodity.

I've read the Blackmon book and JK's synopsis is correct. He goes into depth on how convict leasing worked, but also notes how it was very different from chattel slavery - i.e. it benefited extractive (and to a lesser extent) industrial capitalists more than the plantation class. The process of leasing convicts was very different from slave markets etc.

What Blackmon doesn't say is that the civil war was 'pointless' - convict leasing was introduced to reverse gains made during reconstruction ([i]edit, and convict leasing also existed as early as the 1830s, it was expanded post-reconstruction in tandem with vagrancy laws and similar, not created out of the blue).

I also think it's an oversimplification to say that it was an inevitable conflict over modes of production and that 'free wage labour' won - because those 'free wage labourers' were often then imprisoned then forced to work to death in mines. On top of this, while Marx might have seen the conflict itself as inevitable, he didn't see the victory of the North as inevitable, can't find the reference now but there's one point he says the South was fighting the war to introduce slavery to the north. The fugitive slave act a decade or so before the civil war was a sign of how that might have started.

While it's true that debt peonage, sharecropping and convict leasing itself were more or less finished by 1945, we should remember that the 13th amendment's exception of prison labour has been massively exploited with the US's rising prison population since 1973, to the point where there are about 3 million convict labourers today. This is less than the number of slaves in 1860, but much more than in 1800.

What Blackmon doesn't mention is the resistance to convict leasing, such as this in the mid-1880s. Although we'd also have to pit that against the various race riots by whites against blacks, right into the 20th century.

https://libcom.org/library/stockade-stood-burning-rebellion-convict-lease-tennessee-s-coalfields-1891-1895

On the general point of slave resistance, maroon communities have been very little mentioned here but it seems relevant in terms of what is or isn't proletarian struggle.

The idea that slaves could only manage isolated revolts due to their condition is not right. Escaped slaves sustained maroon communities for decades, in some cases centuries - in Brazil, Jamaica (Granny Nanny being the famous one), Haiti (the Haitian maroons were on the receiving end of Louverture's army at the start, and forces were only combined much later). Louverture also threatened to send an envoy to Jamaica to get them involved (although Louverture had been an ex-slave for some time before the Haitian revolution started).

In the US, the Florida Seminoles combined Native Americans who had been forced to migrate with escaped slaves, and they held out against the US for decades, https://libcom.org/history/christmas-day-freedom-fighters-hidden-history-seminole-anticolonial-struggle-william-kat

Another US example was the dismal swamp: https://libcom.org/history/real-resistance-slavery-north-america The dismal swamp continued until the end of the civil war, when the prospect of being caught and returned to slavery was at least in theory over. Also iirc it was a multi-racial maroon community, with whites living on the edges of the swamp forming a kind of buffer to the escaped slaves in the middle.

It's also a mistake to see all of this as pre-capitalist - US chattel slavery was a creation of capitalism and central to the industrialisation of Europe. Britain imposed forced labour on an industrial scale in Kenya in the mid 1950s too after decades of trying to create a 'free' proletariat there.

When Marx talks about slavery, sometimes he is talking about classical slavery, and sometimes he is talking about US chattel slavery, and too many people (including some on this thread) conflate those statements with each other. US chattel slaves weren't in some pre-capitalist patriarchal relationship with their masters (as much as confederate nostalgia might try to put that forward), but had already been violently separated from the land, and were working to create commodities for the world market.

Juan Conatz

3 years 9 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Even though this thread is a few years old, I remember it well. It helped clarify a few things for me, perhaps most importantly, that you can't necessarily project the values of the 20th/21st Century dissident workers movement into the past. It can place you into some regrettable positions.

Spikymike

1 year 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

I have my disagreements with IP in relation to their text and the issue of slavery in the American Civil War and otherwise as I commented in my posts No's 112 and 173. Sander would probably not change their view as previously expressed on this thread but I still thought their text on a related matter here seemed relevant and worth a mention even at this late stage:
https://internationalistperspective.org/streets-and-workplaces-race-and-class-part-3/
Like Juan I found this discussion thread very useful in clarifying my own views and others might also still find it worthwhile.