Number 22, JULY 1996
THE FORMATION OF THE UNITED STATES
MARX AND ENGELS ON SLAVERY
OF ALLIANCE (M-L)
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
MARX AND ENGELS ON THE FORMATION OF THE USA
i) Beginnings of Slavery in the New World
ii) The End Of The Caribbean Slave Trade
iii) Effects and causes of American Revolution.
iv) Economics of Slavery
v) The Civil War in the USA.
vi) Emergence of Socialism in the USA
In Alliance 19, we pointed out the links of the International Working
(IWMA) with the USA. The enforced move to the USA had been the death sentence
to the IWMA, removed as it was from the guiding leadership of Marx and
Engels. But, in fact, Marx and Engels had a considerable knowledge of the
movement developing in the USA. They saw the emergence of the anti-slavery
movement, and then the momentous Civil War. Indeed they followed these
events closely as communist journalists. This issue of Alliance, analyses
these events in the USA, that were followed by Marx and Engels. These events
led to the development of the profound workers movement seen in person,
by Engels upon his own visit to the USA. This issue of Alliance, is intended
to form a backdrop to the detailed analysis of the misguided adoption of
the theory of the ABlack Nation@
in the USA, by communist forces. As such this issue of Alliance, is followed
by a detailed analysis in Alliance 23, of the views of Lenin and Stalin
on the theory of AThe Black Nation@.
In regard to this, it is noteworthy that Marx and Engels viewed the USA
as a single nation. Since we here focus on the development of the black
working class in the USA, this issue will examine the early history of
the rise of slavery in the USA. It also therefore examines the economic
views of Marx and Engels on the nature of slavery. It ends with the description
by Engels of the three key components of the socialist movement in the
USA by the turn of the century.
MARX AND ENGELS ON THE NATURE
Both Karl Marx and Frederick Engels knew a great deal
about the United States of America. They understood the evolution of the
Negro slave trade, and indeed of the beginnings of the USA itself. It is
therefore significant for Marxist-Leninists, that in all their writings,
they talked of it as one country, or one nation. If the Black Nation did
form itself, it must have done so after the death of Marx and Engels. For
an example, Marx wrote to ABRAHAM LINCOLN,
the President of the USA on behalf of the INTERNATIONAL
WORKING MENS ASSOCIATION. Marx wrote of the AIdea
of one great Democratic Republic@in
November 1864. There was then no talk of ATwo
Nations A, an AAmerican
nation@ and a separate ABlack
Nation@. Instead Marx talked
of how Athe Anti-Slavery War
would initiate a new era of ascendency for the working classes@
AWhen an oligarchy
of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe for the first time in the annals
of the world, Aslavery@
on the banner of Armed Revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century
ago the idea of one Great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence
the first Declaration of the Rights of man was issued, and the first impulse
given to the European revolution; where on those very spots counter-revolution,
gloried in rescinding Athe very
ideas entertained at the formation of the old Constitution,@
and maintained Aslavery to be
a beneficent institution@, indeed
the only solution of the great problem of the Arelation
of capital to labour@ - then
the working classes of Europe understood at once.. That the slaveholders
rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy crusade of property
against labour.. While the working men, the true political powers of the
North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro
mastered and sold without his concurrence.. They were unable to attain
the true freedom of labour, or to support their European brethren in their
struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept
away by the red sea of civil war. The working men of Europe feel sure that
as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for
the Middle class, so the American Anti-Slavery War will do for the working
classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell
to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class,
to leads his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an
enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.@
(K.Marx:@To Abraham Lincoln@;
In :@Marx and Engels on the USA@,
Moscow, 1979; (Hereafter AM&E
Marx and Engels firmly believed that the workers movement-
white and black- should not be divided :
AIn the US
of North America, every independent movement of the workers was paralysed
so long as slavery disfigured a part of the Republic. Labour cannot emancipate
itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded.@(
K.Marx ACapital Vol 1:@
Chapter X The working day@, Cited
in M&E USA@; p.213).
Both Marx and Engels recognised the unique feature of the
USA. This was the Anewness@
of the United States, which meant the lack of a previous Afeudal@
past to reckon with. This nation could get on with the formation of a bourgeois
society, including its= proletariat,
with no intermediate steps :
like North America which start from scratch in an already advanced historical
epoch, the development proceeds very rapidly. Such countries have no other
natural premises than the individuals who have settled there and were led
to do so because of the forms of intercourse of the old countries did not
correspond to their requirements. Thus they begin with the most advanced
individuals of the old countries and therefore, with the correspondingly
most advanced form of intercourse, even before this form of intercourse
has been able to establish in the old countries@.
(Marx and Engels:@German Ideology@1846:
In M&E On USA@ Ibid; p. 43).
AIn a country
where things have evolved in so natural a way as America, which having
no feudal past has developed in a purely bourgeois fashion, but has at
the same time also taken over from England without any examination a whole
ideological agglomeration from feudal times such as the English common
law, religion, and sectarianism". (Engels Letter to A.Sorge; Sep; 1886;
In M&E On USA; p. 308).
was after the ideal of all bourgeoises; a country rich vast, expanding
with purely bourgeois institutions unleavened by feudal remnants or monarchical
traditions and without a permanent and hereditary proletariat."(Engels;
Letter to Florence Kelley-Wischnewetzky. June 1886; In M&E USA p. 307).
We will now re-trace the arrival of slavery to the West Indies
and the Americas, and then further examine the views of Marx and Engels
on the USA.
I) BEGINNINGS OF SLAVERY IN THE
It was the slave trade from West Africa, to the West Indies
and the American colonies of the British, that first brought the ancestors
of the Negroes to the USA. Because they were brought from Africa, and because
they have suffered severe racist and capitalist alienation, there is a
tendency to identify the modern descendants in the USA, with Africa itself.
Yet in fact the original number of slaves actually finally Adelivered@
was probably about 600,000 :
trade did bring some Negroes directly from Africa to our America, although
far fewer than most people seem to think. The first black permanent residents
of our America lived in Tidewater, Virginia- in other words in the South.
They actually did precede the Pilgrims, being left at Jamestown in 1619.
There were apparently twenty of them. Their consanguineous descendants
here now number in excess of 26 million.. It may be tempting to picture
to oneself a great influx of blacks from Africa into the US after the deposit
of the Jamestown Negroes and consequently to postulate that in Black America,
there is the powerful presence of an African atavism. One could believe
that this atavism is perpetuated if by nothing else, by the aggregation
of African-rooted recollections and practices in acquired behaviour of
millions of black Americans who preserved and passed on African culture
to blacks American children. But such has not been the case. Careful analysis
of the slave trade demonstrates that at the highest possible extreme, no
more than 600,000 black Africans were ever delivered to the USA from 1619
until the middle 1860s (when the last slaves beached in North America)
with no intervening Aseasoning@
- almost all of them incidentally before the end of the eighteenth century.
Seasoning in the present context refers to the training in Western enslavement
received by native African in the West Indies .. before a transfer to the
American mainland." (Introduction; In ABlack
Exodus: The Great Migration From the America South@;
Ed Alferdeteen Harrison; Jackson, Miss.; 1991; p. xii-xiii.
The story of the Slave trade begins with the colonisation
and enslavement of the Caribbean. These islands were a staging post for
the first European colonisers of the New World - the Spanish - on their
way to the silver of South America. In 1492 CHRISTOPHER
COLUMBUS representing the Spanish monarchy sailed to the New
World. JOHN CABOT=s
voyage in 1497 to North America, was the British monarchy=s
reply. The first colonies were Spanish, and they were mainly simply brutal
and rapacious, Aslash and burn@
extractions. Later colonies attempted instead, instead to plant@
roots in the colonies, and form some production basis. Slaves were useful
for this, because early colonies had an >excess=
of good land. Consequently labourers who were brought over from the mother
countries, rapidly left the employment of the aristocrat who had brought
them, to start their own farms.
When the Spanish Government brought slaves to the Caribbean,
they were prompted in part by concerns about death rates in the native
Indians, the ARAWAKS
and the CARIBS.
A Dominican friar, BARTOLEME DE LAS CASAS,
a former colonist for three years in Cuba and acquired an Aencomienda@
of Indian serfs had publicised the horrors. An encomienda was a grant of
people of a settlements, that was given to the Spanish setters who had
arrived with the first wave of colonists. De Las Casas, in his documented
articles, excoriated the Spanish colonists for their brutality :
the Spanish Government began to grant licenses to bring slaves directly
from Africa. It legalised the trade partly to forestall Portuguese smuggling
and partly because of requests by the Dominicans friars on Hispaniola including
Bartoleme de Las Casas. The Dominicans suggested that white and black slaves
be imported to prevent the extermination of the Arawaks.@
(Jan Rogozinski, AA Brief History
of the Caribbean@; New York;
1994; p. 51).
But once the Negro trade started, additional reasons were
quickly discovered, favouring the African Negro as a worker. They were
found to have, for a then unknown reason, a better tolerance for the diseases
of the West Indies. This was later understood to be due to their own resistance,
to the rampant malaria and yellow fever:
the 15th Century, the peoples of Europe and Africa rarely mingled, and
the indigenous peoples of the Americas existed in total isolation. A distinctive
disease environment developed on each of these continent. The people developed
relative immunities to some - but not all - of the disease endemic among
them. Until Europeans and Africans arrived, a host of illnesses - including
smallpox, typhus, yellow fever, malaria, tuberculosis and pus infections
- were totally unknown in the Americas. The native peoples were not immune
to these diseases. Thus they died in staggering numbers when European and
African slaves introduced them. When Columbus touched land in 1492 the
Caribbean islands were home to at least a quarter-million Arawak and Carib
Indians - perhaps as many as 6 million according to some archaeologists.
Within 20 years almost all were dead.. West Africans are at least partially
immune to two diseases - yellow fever and falciparum malaria- found only
in Africa. Africans coming to the Caribbean fared better than European
colonists. Most islands were decidedly unhealthy for whites, who today
form only a small minority - 5% or less - of their population.. Malaria
killed at least 25% - sometimes as many as 75% - of whites following their
first encounter with the disease. Malaria also killed Africans, but whites
died more rapidly and in greater number. West Africans who lack certain
haemoglobin determinants are almost totally resistant to malaria vivax
and they enjoy a relative immunity to falciparum malaria.. The death rate
from yellow fever among whites was much higher among whites than among
blacks.@ (Rogozinski, Ibid; p.
Generally, slavery in the New World is equated with Negroes.
But this is a historical simplification, even if forms of slavery in native
American Indian society are overlooked. After the arrival of the first
Spanish colonists the enslavement of the Native Indians occurred rapidly.
But this led directly to the annihilation of the Arawaks and the
Caribs. Excluding their slavery, and considering later colonial forms of
slavery only, there were poor whites who were >enslaved=,
But it is true that, for them, conditions of slavery were somewhat different
to that slavery of the Negro :
the Caribbean has been too narrowly identified with the Negro. A racial
twist had been thereby given to what is basically an economic phenomenon.
Slavery was not born of racism: rather racism was the consequence of slavery.@
Unfree labour in the New World was brown, white , black and yellow.. The
first instance of slave trading and slave labour developed in the New World
involved racially not the Negroes, but the Indian. The Indian rapidly succumbed
to the excessive labour demanded of them, the insufficient diet, the white
man=s diseases and their inability
to adjust themselves to the new way of life. Accustomed to the life of
liberty, their constitution and temperament were ill-adapted to the rigours
of plantation slavery.. the immediate successor to Indian however, was
not the Negro but the poor white. The white servants included a variety
of types. Some were indentured servants.. Still others were known as Aredemptioners=
arranging with the captain of the ship to pay for their passage on arrival
or within a specified time thereafter; if they did not they were sold..
Others were convicts.@ (Eric
Williams :@Capitalism and Slavery@;
London 1967; p. 7).
Between 1640 and 1740 the dispossession of many peasants
in England brought a number of such poor whites out to the English colonies.
But by the 1800's the use of the Negro slave was predominant. There were
at least three reasons for this. An early reason had been offered by the
Dominican priest Bartolome De Las Casas,
to protect the Native Indian from further genocide. Another later reason,
was the fear of mercantile classes in the mother country that their own
labour force would diminish. For example in England it was thought that
interest demanded a large population at home. Sir Josiah Child denied that
emigration to America had weakened England, but he was forced to admit
that.. that >Whatever tends to
the depopulating of a kingdom tends to the impoverishment of it.@
(Williams Ibid; p. 16).
The second reason was economic. Negroes were for their whole
life-time slaves - but usually whites were only slaves for a limited duration.
Furthermore, with their visible pigmentation the Negroes could not escape
from slavery as easily as the whites. Also, they were relatively immune
from yellow fever and malaria. In hard economic terms :
slave was cheaper. The money which procured a white man=s
services= for ten years could
buy a Negro for life@. (Williams
As discussed, the first colonies were Spanish, and were intended
as staging posts to the AEl Dorado@
of the Americas. Distinctions between trading and piracy then (as now!)
were small. Competitors - the English and Dutch and French, subsidised
pirates who harried Spanish Government Fleet ships for their booty of South
American silver. Caribbean islands were a natural interim berth between
South America and Europe, which were used by the Spanish fleets as a stop
over. After some time, the Caribbean islands were used in their own rights,
more than just trading and victualling stops, by the Spanish. Pirates of
the Northern European countries tried to break the convoy system of the
Spanish, which went to and from Seville. But on only three times, in 1628,
1656, and 1657 was the entire treasure fleet taken by an enemy squadron.
(Rogozinski; Ibid; p.39). So naturally, to sustain themselves, at the same
time as attempting brigandage, the pirates traded with the Spanish colonies.
In fact, the slave trade itself, out of West Africa is generally traced
to 1562, to the English pirate and buccaneer SIR
JOHN HAWKINS, who :
first cargo of slaves to San Domingo, beginning a lively and profitable
connection in which Spanish settlers and English traders combined to evade
Spanish Government warships and customs officers. The slave trade remained
on a small scale until after the middle of the 17 th Century, when Negro
labour began to provide the basis for the vast fortunes made from sugar
and tobacco plantations, but the right to supply slaves to Spain=s
American colonies was always one of the most desired objects of English
traders. England was able to establish herself in the slave trade till
the second decade of the 17th Century. A
(A.L.Morton : AA People=s
History of England@; New York,
1974; p. 201).
In response to the Spanish, the English and Dutch set up
colonies where they could. The first English colonies in North America
were often only seen as local bases, from which to launch attacks against
the Spanish. These English colones were often precarious :
were mostly adventurous and impoverished gentlemen, anxious to make any
quick fortunes but incapable of working the land or of making any sustained
effort. When cut off from England for any length of time they usually starved
to death. Colonies planted in Virginia in 1585 and 1597 were complete failures.
The first colony to survive was one established at Jamestown in 1607..
Two new kinds (of colonies-Ed) were made in considerable numbers and developed
rapidly. The first kind were in New England where groups of Puritan farmers
and artisans driven abroad by the religious troubles of the Stuarts.. And
further South in Virginia settlers with larger capital established considerable
plantations for the growth of tobacco, worked by indentured labour, partly
convict partly unemployed from England and.. Irish peasants.. After 1660
all these colonies and others established later, began to replace their
white indentured labour with Negro slaves.@
(Morton; Ibid; p. 204.)
The trade from the Caribbean had become enormously profitable.
Naturally the pressure on scarce land in the Caribbean Islands grew intense.
In the riches to be made, small white farmers were quickly displaced by
the plantation owners, who put their slaves to work ever greater farms:
of the small farm in Barbados was displaced by the sugar of the large plantation.
The rise of the sugar industry in the Caribbean was the signal for a gigantic
dispossession of the small farmer..the white farmers were squeezed out.
Between 1672 to 1727 the white males of Montserrat declined by more than
two-thirds, in the same period the black population increased by more than
eleven times.. The Barbados crop in 1650 over a twenty-month period was
worth over three million pounds (15 million pounds in 1972 terms-Ed). A
(Williams; Ibid; pp 23-24).
In Virginia the plantation crop was tobacco and, although
good, the profits were lower. Here, the poor whites still had access to
land, unlike in Barbados. Even then, the smaller farmers could not compete
with the productivity of the slave plantations. So the poor whites were
still squeezed out, just as on the West Indian Islands. By 1730 the future
development of Negro slavery was assured :
one twentieth of the population of Virginia and Maryland in 1670, were
one-fourth in 1730. Slavery from being an insignificant factor in the economic
life of the colony had become the very foundation upon which it had become
established.@ (Williams, Ibid;
The fabulous profits of Caribbean trade were re-invested
not in the farms and plantations, but in the ATriangular@
AIn this triangular
trade England - France and the Colonial Americas equally supplied the exports
and the ships; Africa the human merchandises; the plantations the colonial
raw materials. The slave ship sailed from the home country with a cargo
of manufactured goods. These were then exchanged at a profit on the coast
of Africa for Negroes, who were traded on the plantations at another profit,
in exchange for a cargo of colonial produce to be taken home to the mother
country.@(Williams; Ibid; p.
It was these profits that were ploughed back into England.
They formed one of the backbones of the British Banks and the Industrial
Revolution. The figures are astounding :
the annual income from West Indian plantations at four million pounds as
compared with one million from the rest of the world. As Adam Smith wrote:
>The profits of a sugar plantation
in any of our West Indian colonies are generally much greater than of any
other cultivations that is known in either Europe or America.=
According to Davenant, England=s
total trade at the end of the 17th century brought in a profit of PS 2,000,000.
The plantation trade accounted for Pounds Sterling (PS) 6000,000; re-export
of plantation goods PS 120,000; European African and Levant trade PS 6000,000;
East India trade PS 5000,000; re-export of East India goods PS 180,000.@
(Williams; Ibid, p. 53).
This Trade was ensured by the NAVIGATION
ACTS, which prohibited trade by the colonies, except
with the mother country. All ships which used the colonial ports had to
be English and could only buy English goods. The sugar islands of the Caribbean
protested these Acts, as later did the New England colonies (ie. The mainland
colonies), but to no avail. The ensuing profits were too large to heed
the protests. As a writer wrote of the city of Bristol :
not a brick in the city but what is cemented with the blood of a slave.
Sumptuous mansions luxurious living, liveried menials, were the produce
of the wealth made from the sufferings and groans of the slaves brought
and sold by the Bristol merchants.@
(Williams Ibid; p.61).
No less true was this of other cities, such as Liverpool,
where a street was called ANegro
Row@ and the Customs House was
emblazoned with Negro heads. This profit came cheaply, for human life was
not valued. It is certain that over this long historical period, many Negroes
died en route:
accounting is possible.. but as many as eight million Africans may have
died to bring four million slaves to the Caribbean Islands.@
(Rogozinski; Ibid; p.128.)
North American colonies served the British, to stock the
sugar islands colonies with provisions. This was easier than to stock them
from England. The Navigation Acts ensured that the profits returned to
the mother country. This process began as early as 1650, when the :
colonies were feeding their Aelder
sisters@ Virginia and Barbados..=His
mastys collonys in these parts=,
wrote Governor Willoughby of Barbados in 1667, >cannot
in tyme of peace prosper, nor in tyme of war subsist, without a correspondence
with the people of Newe Englande@.
(Williams Ibid; p. 110).
By 1770 the trade between New England, and the West Indies
was staggering :
AIn 1770 the
continental colonies (of the USA - Ed) sent to the West Indies nearly one-third
of their exports of dried fish and almost all their pickled fish; seven-eights
of their oats, seven-tenths of their corn, almost all their peas and beans,
half of their flour, all their butter and cheese, over one-quarter their
rice, almost all their onions, five-sixths of their pine, oak and cedar
boards, over half their staves, nearly all their hoops, all their horses,
sheep, hogs and poultry, almost all their soap and candles.. As Professor
Pitman has told us: >It was the
wealth accumulated from West Indian trade which more than anything else
underlay the prosperity and civilization of New England and the Middle
(Williams; Ibid; p. 108).
Although this trade primarily benefited England, it was argued
to be a reciprocal relationship. Because, it was asked, if the Caribbean
colonies grew their own produce, which they could, what would then become
of the New England colonies? This was a favourable situation for both the
planters of the West Indies and the English merchant class. But the profligate
exploitation of the soil in the Caribbean tipped into a crisis. Especially
since there was a stiff competition from the French islands:
sugar islands were.. illustrating the law of slave production. Less exhausted
than the longer-settled English islands, cultivation in the French islands
were easier and the cost of production less. As early as 1663, a mere twenty
years after the rise of the sugar industry, Barbados was Adecaying
fast@ and the complaints of soil
exhaustion became more numerous and plaintive.@
(Williams Ibid; p. 113).
Since molasses for spirit distillation, was an important
industry in the Mainland colonies, the Mainland was keen to repeal the
Navigation Acts. But the West Indian lobby resisted their demands to trade
with all foreign vessels, Afree
trade@ as it were. This latter,
would have meant Mainland trade with France and Spain. But France, with
its colonies in Cuba and Guadeloupe, was a competitor of the English sugar
trade. They were refused. So in retaliation, the mainland colonists insisted
on cash payments rather than goods in kind from the English sugar colonies.
This drained the English sugar colonies of cash, and the mainland colonies
still bought rum molasses from French islands. By 1763 :
AAll but three
per cent of Massachusetts= imports
of molasses came from the French West Indies, the British West Indies supplied
barely one-tenth of the imports of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The
distilling business occupied an important position in colonial economy.@
(Williams; Ibid, p. 118).
This is how sugar became one >reason=
for the American Revolution. The British imposed a ASugar
Duties Act of 1764, which caused,
said Governor Bernard , >a greater
alarm in America than did the capture of Fort William Henry in 1757'. (Williams
Ibid; p. 120). JOHN ADAMS
AHe did not
know why the Americans >Should
blush to confess that molasses were an essential ingredient in American
independence@. (Cited Ibid, Williams;
After the American Revolution, the mainland colonies dictated
their own terms of trade, and Eric Williams rightly concludes that :
independence was the first stage in the decline of the sugar colonies@
(Williams; Ibid; p. 121).
II) THE END OF THE CARIBBEAN SLAVE
Once the mainland was liberated by the American Revolution,
the Navigation Laws made the former colonies, now the USA, a Aforeign
country@. Over the objections
of ADAM SMITH and SIR WILLIAM
PITT, the Navigation Laws were amended. As Chalmers put
of 72,000 masters and 4000,000 slaves was too unimportant to permit the
sacrifice of vital English interests. AThe
Navigation Act@, wrote Lord Sheffield,
Athe basis of our great power
at sea, gave us the trade of the world. If we alter that Act, by permitting
any state to trade with our islands.. we desert the Navigation Act and
sacrifice the marine for England.@
(Williams; Ibid; op. 121).
The Americans now increased their trade in French sugar.
The French enjoyed a far more superior soil fertility in San
Domingue, over that of the British West Indies. Further
undermining the British West Indies, was Free
Trade with the American ex-colonies. Now
a direct trade was enhanced between England and America. In this increased
trade, the colonies of the Caribbean were irrelevant to the English industrialists.
This explains why the British African slave trade came to a halt, not the
of the British ruling class. Class and economic forces had led to the British
phenomenon of abolitionism, exemplified by WILLIAM
WILBERFORCE. As late as in June
1783, Lord North as Prime Minister complimented the Quaker
opponents of the slave trade on their humanity, but found it impossible
to contemplate abolition. But slightly later, when commerce boomed between
American and England, things looked quite different. The volume of trade
was high :
between the another country and the colony, as Merivale put it in 1839,
Awas but a vast peddling traffic,
compared to that vast international intercourse, the greatest the world
has ever known which grew up between them when they had exchanged the tie
of subjection for that of equality@.
(Williams Ibid; p. 124).
AThe Sugar colonies
took one-tenth of British iron exports in 1815, one twenty-third in 1833;
the US one-quarter in 1815, one-third in 1833.@
(Williams Ibid; p.13).
and 1830 over one-third of US exports went to Britain and the US took one-sixth
of British exports which constituted over two-fifths of her total imports.
In 1821 the US took one-seventh of British exports, in 1832 one-ninth the
exports increased in value by one-tenth. British purchases stimulated the
expansion of the cotton kingdom; private and state owned banks in the South
sought loans in London.A (Williams;
Ibid; p. 131-32.)
In these circumstances, West Indian based plantocracy aristocrats,
could no longer maintain their privileges with England. Now Free Traders
united - the Monopolists of the Sugar trade combined with the Monopolists
of the Corn Traders. The ANTI-CORN LAW LEAGUE
saw unity with the ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY
Law League said its= treasurer,
was Aestablished on the same
righteous principle as the Anti-Slavery Society. The object of that society
was to obtain the free right for the Negroes to possess their own flesh
and blood- the object of this was to obtain the free right of the people
to exchange their labour for as much food as could be got for it.@
(Williams Ibid; p.137).
The West Indian monopoly had simply become unprofitable,
and it was costing England revenue:
AIn 1828 it
was estimated that it cost the British people annually more than one and
half million pounds. In 1844 it was costing the country PS 70,000 a week
and London PS 6,000. England was paying for its sugar five millions more
a year than the Continent. Three and a half million pounds of British exports
to the West Indies in 1838, said Merivale, purchased less than half as
much sugar and coffee than they would have purchased if carried to Cuba
and Brazil.@ (Williams; Ibid;
By 1789 France was dominant in sugar production world wide
thanks to San Domingue. Since the colony was younger than the British ones,
its soil was less exhausted by the Rack of slave production. British sugar
simply cost more. Then British Prime Minister Sir William Pitt put it as:
Indian system was unprofitable, and the slave trade on which it rested
A instead of being very advantageous
to Great Britain.. Is the most destructive that can well be imagined to
your interests.@(Williams; Ibid,
Pitt developed a counter-strategy, First to win the sugar
trade by using the sugar grown in India; and Second to cripple San Domingue
by an international abolition of the slave trade. But Pitt=s
plans failed as Indian sugar could not sustain itself in the face of imposed
high duties; and because the French, Dutch and Spanish refused with Asheer
perverse-ness@ as Lord Liverpool
called it, to abolish the slave trade. So the English ended by imposing
a unilateral ban on the slave trade. But England did assist in the ruin
of the French colony of San Domingue though. But the real ruin of the colony
of San Domingue was the slave revolt, during which Pitt=s
hypocrisy on slavery, soon became clear.
San Domingue was the key French and Spanish sugar colony.
But in 1791, the Saint Domingue slaves revolted. This combined with the
French Revolution, led the planters of San Domingue to offer the islands
to England. Pitt accepted the French planters=
plea, to take the island. How easily this Aabolitionist@
would have swung back to slavery! But the British war was waged on two
fronts, one against the French, but the other against the slaves led by
At the beginning, the slave revolt was sparked by news
of the French Revolution, in July 1789. This ignited the ready and dry
tinder of the slaves. It was only after the spontaneous rising of the slaves,
and their initial victories, that AOld
Toussaint Breda@, joined them
to take the rising. He transformed it into a revolution. In support of
the slaves, and in the presence of slave delegates from San Domingue, the
French Revolutionary National Convention in January 1794 declared :
Convention declares slavery abolished in all the colonies. In consequence
it decares that all men, without distinction of colour domiciled in the
colonies are French citizens, and enjoy all the rights assured under the
ABlack Jacobins-Toussaint L=Ouverture
& the San Domingo Revolution@NY1963;
But this enthusiasm for the slave revolts was not universal
in the bourgeois leadership of the French Revolution. Most disapproved,
including Robespierre. Meanwhile, Toussaint
defeated the Ainvited@
British invaders. But a wavering section of the revolutionary forces, the
Mulattoes, made peace with the remnants of the white slave owners. In Paris,
after Robespierre=s fall, the
bourgeoisie established the DIRECTORY.
The Directory wished to ARestore
order@ in the colonies. The Black
San Domingan emissaries to Paris correctly understood this to mean Aslavery@.
Despite pressure from Paris, Toussaint defeated the Mulatto plots. He even
proceeded to liberate Spanish San Domingo against the express instructions
from Bonaparte, who feared the entrenchment of L=Ouverture=s
power. As the Governor, Toussaint instituted major changes and tried to
repair the defeated economy of the island. He proclaimed a Constitution
where slavery was abolished and colour played no role in distinctions.
Moreover, the Constitution removed France from control of the island. To
the alarm expressed by the pro-French lobby, Toussaint calmly replied:
"France will send commissioners to speak with me. What
is really required is that France send charges d=affaires
as the Americans the Spaniards will certainly do. And even the British@.
(James; Ibid; p. 334).
defeat of Toussaint, in the War of Independence was probably inevitable
at that stage in history. Toussaint L=Ouverture
was imprisoned, and died alone in a French cell, in the Jura mountains
on April 7th 1803. When he was captured, by treachery in the middle of
the war he stated :
me you have cut down in San Domingo only the trunk of the Tree of Liberty.
It will spring up again by the roots for they are numerous and deep.@
(James; Ibid; p. 334).
Yet despite his death, his life set the island towards an
independence as Haiti in 1804. His General Dessalines
proceeded to victory. The profound influence of Toussaint L=Ouverture
on the British West Indies can be seen from the comments of the British
Planter class representatives:
of Barbados wrote, Athe public
mind is ever tremblingly alive to the dangers of insurrection@.
(Williams, Ibid; p. 202.).
By 1807, the slave trade was in the main abolished in the
British West Indies, but continued in the Empire, until 1834. In the Caribbean,
the slave trade was diverted to Brazil and Cuba. But still full emancipation
had not taken place, as Aproperty
rights= and compensation and
vested interests etc; were raised as filibusters by the planters. So the
slaves increasingly took things into their own hands; they revolted, in
British Guiana in 1808; in Barbados in 1816; again in British Guiana in
1823; in Jamaica in 1824; in Antigua in 1831; and in Jamaica again in 1831.
They demanded emancipation. By 1833 as Eric Williams points out :
were clear: emancipation from above, or emancipation from below. But EMANCIPATION.@
(Williams Ibid; p. 208.)
III) THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
in 1585 landed in Virginia with seven ships. He was met with hospitality
by the Indians, but he retaliated by burning the whole village. The mainland
colonies can be said to truly begin with the establishment of Jamestown
in the year 1607. Here John
Smith set up a settlement in the territory
of the Indian confederacy led by Powhatan.
This Indian confederacy was also decimated by the colonists. The early
colonists as is well known, faced terrible hardships. A document from 1619
tells of the hunger in the Jamestown colony, when in the winter of 1609-1610
they were :
insufferable hunger to eat those things which nature most abhorred, the
flesh and excrements of man as well of our own nation as of an Indian..@
(Howard Zinn:@A People=s
History of the USA@; New York,
1980; p. 24).
The labour required was hard, and in the early part of the
colonisation, there were few colonists. So they looked for slave labour.
Since the colonists had failed to enslave the Native Indians, who died
in slavery, the colonists followed the Spanish in the West Indies and took
Black slaves. The first were brought by Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon in 1526.
But this colony did not survive, and it is unclear whether they survived.
But in 1619, a Dutch vessel brought 20 Negroes to Jamestown. From then
on, the growth of Negro slavery was very fast :
ABy 1650 there
were still only 300 Negroes in Virginia, and not all of these were slaves.
But by 1671, Virginia had 2,000 slaves and in 1715 almost one-third of
the total population of 95,500 was in a state of lifelong bondage. Maryland=s
figures were not far behind. By 1760 Negroes had come to outnumber the
whites in South Carolina.@ (William
Z. Foster AThe Negro People In
American History@; New York;
1954; p. 35).
There was still a white indentured labour force from the
Mother country. At the beginning, both white indentured labour and blacks
fraternized and intermingled. The many laws that were passed ( Zinn,
Ibid, p.31) , expressly to prohibit that, speak to the extent of this fraternisation.
The children of this fraternization were declared by law illegitimate,
and yet, such fraternisation could not be fully suppressed. From the earliest
days of the Mainland colony, that was to form the USA, both slaves and
indentured servants were to prove rebellious. Many plots were discovered,
did not halt the escapes. Court records tell.. Of people like Isaac
Robinson of Massachusetts, who was brutally whipped
dozens of times Afor running
away from his master very often and enticing others to run away. Robinson
could be considered as one of the earliest labor organisers in America.
Another was Sam, a Negro slave in Maryland who was convicted in 1688 of
having >several times endeavoured
to promote a Negro insurrection in this colony.. Instead of running away,
unfree workers often rose up in organised revolt. More than forty slave
plots were discovered in Colonial America. In some of them Negro slaves
and white indentured servants had formed common plans . Not all slave revolts
occurred in the South. In New York City, in 1712 twenty-three slaves revolted
against >hard useage.. Received
from their masters.@ (Philip
Foner, AHistory Labour Movement
in USAVol 1: Colonial Times to Founding of AFL@NY1978;
Black and white servant and slaves ran away together. Nonetheless
Negro slavery was legalised first by the 1661 Virginia Assembly which differentiated
Negro status from that of white indentured servants. Other Assemblies soon
followed suit. Slave codes were soon adopted and formalised the property
status of Negroes. The tendency of black slave and white servant to co-mingle
was stamped out as far as was possible. So much did the masters in the
North fear the Negro slave revolts, that for a period, free labour was
actually promoted. Moreover the slave did carry a pecuniary burden pointed
out by the economist ADAM SMITH:
were used as skilled workers in the Colonial shops, generally hired by
the month or year. But the demand for free workers grew. However valuable
the indentured servants and slaves were on plantations and farms where
the work was done all the year, they were not so profitable as the free
worker in the shops and mills where the work was seasonal. A servant or
slave had to be clothed fed and sheltered during the slack season, but
a free worker could simply be given notice.. When a servant or slave ran
away, the master lost a considerable investment. As Adam Smith observed
in his AWealth of Nations,@
AAt Boston, New York and Philadelphia..
The work done by freemen comes cheaper in the end than that performed by
slaves.@ (Foner; Ibid; Volume
1; p. 23).
The development of this Acheaper@
Freemen labour, would dominant the USA over the next two centuries. Free
Labour emerged first in the seaport towns and the cities. A true working
class, from artisan beginnings was being born. The common people in the
colonies were at first enfranchised, but then they were quickly deprived
of votes :
17th Century in some of the colonies the common man, slaves and indentured
servants excepted, had been able to vote. During the following century,
property qualifications for voting had been introduced to disenfranchise
the poor. In Pennsylvania the right to vote in 1750 depended upon the ownership
of 50 pounds of >lawful money=
or 50 acres of land. As a result only 8% of the rural population could
vote, and only 2% of the population of Philadelphia.@
(Cited Foner Ibid; p. 28).
But as the revolt of NATHANIEL BACON
against the Virginian planters in 1646, showed, the commoners did not give
up their rights without a battle. Later after it had been safely suppressed,
the King=s investigators said
that the Rebellion had :
the poverty and uneasiness of some of the meanest whose discontent renders
them easier to be misled.= (Foner
Ibid; p. 29).
A disturbing feature to the Virginia ruling class about the
Bacon-ite Rebellion, was the fact that black slaves and white servants
had joined forces. The Bacon-ites won some democratic rights including
suffrage for propertyless freemen. But they were quickly rescinded on Bacon=s
death, and the brutal suppression of his Arabble@
who had talked of Asharing men=s
estates among themselves@. In
many places in the Colonies, other similar rebellions of poor and freemen
were put down by MERCANTILE ARISTOCRATS.
In general, this latter class were linked to the British, and initially
they were reluctant to challenge the Navigation Acts. But the difficulties
imposed by Britain grew. The British after 1763, forbade the settlers to
settle West of the Appalachian Mountains, and by the Currency Act of 1764
deprived them of the rights to legal tender paper money and to establish
a Mint and land banks. The merchant capitalists were at first frightened
of unleashing the sentiments around freedom of the colonists, in case that
this might unseat their own privilege.
When the imposition of the STAMP
ACT of 1765 placed a tax on every legal
document, this inflamed all colonists of all classes. Then came the Tea
Act of 1774 giving a tea monopoly to the British East India Company. Although
this restricted the activities of the mercantile class, the poor of course
suffered more. By 1765 the disdain for the British Mother country had prompted
the mechanics and working men of the larger towns to push strongly for
liberation. This push was also an attempt to earn a better living. As such
they often directed their anger at the rich of the colonies. The Boston
Mob for instance, soon targeted the houses of the rich, and frightened
their own leaders, who tended to be drawn from the richer classes (Zinn,
Ibid, p. 65).
The WORKING MEN had
formed themselves into associations known as ATHE
SONS OF LIBERTY@.
Other names for the associations included ARegulators@
or AThe United Company@.
Men such as PAUL REVERE and
SAM ADAMS of Boston, and many others joined them and
took control. They were joined by the ADAUGHTERS
OF LIBERTY@ who were
equally militant. But the mechanics and artisans were generally still led
by the well-to-do merchants. The merchants were torn, as they were anxious
to break with England, but were hesitant about further raising the Amob@.
They therefore tended to act as a brake on the movement.
The epithet of AMob@
was hurled at the militants, but the more far seeing mercantile and professional
groups saw the need for the masses, they were to Sam Adams , AThe
strength of every community@,
and he placed the enforcement of the non-importation movement into the
hands of the ATwo Venerable Orders
of Men stiled Mechanics and Husbandmen@
(P.Foner; Ibid; p.35).
They pushed militant actions such as the Repeal of the
Stamp Act, the boycott of English Tea and enforced the Non-importation
agreement. Frightened merchants were publicly harried and counter-revolutionaries
were tarred and feathered. They, the colonial aspiring bourgeoisie, or
the middle classes, insisted upon Full Rights of Representation despite
the reluctance of the Aleading
men@. The working men in the
movement gave the bourgeois democrats a militant fire.
The problem facing the rich merchants who wished to break
with England, was to turn the anger of the poor against the rich, solely
onto England. The merchants thus had mixed views on the radicals, and especially
on TOM PAINE. This
man, the revolutionary who had been in turn, once a cobbler, staymaker,
civil servant and weavers labourer, and finally, the author of ACommon
Sense@ had become
enormously influential. This pamphlet of Paine was widely circulated. However
the uniting feature of both the artisans, mechanics and working people,
and the professional groups, and the merchants was the hatred of the British.
This fuelled the 1776 FIRST AMERICAN
British policy had aimed to prevent the growth of American
industry and trade. Thus naturally the American merchants and the trading
bourgeoisie wished to break with England. The SLAVE
OWNING PLANTERS of the South also
generally supported the break, as this would fully annul their debts. Of
the approximately 5 million P.S. owed by the colonists to England, five-sixths
were owned by the slaveowners.(Foster : Ibid; p. 46).
These two classes led the American
Revolution, but it was the muscle and determination of the workers that
carried it through. Throughout the struggle, the working men pushed it
in a more democratic direction.
For instance, the CONTINENTAL
CONGRESS of 1774; was only upon the pressure brought from below,
by mechanics and working men turned from a narrow ACommittee
of Fifty-One@ (representing only
the conservative merchants) , into a broader body of A100"
including the mechanics (P.Foner Ibid, p. 37). There were still a bourgeois
tendency to flinch from the break with England. But after the 1775 battle
at Lexington and Concord, between the colonial Minutemen and the British
troops, the Continental Congress finally agreed to separate. Now it drew
up the famous ADECLARATION
Originally written by THOMAS JEFFERSON,
it was adopted by Congress on July 2, and proclaimed on July 4th, 1776.
The workers were the spear-head for this revolution. Their militancy and
determination gave it a special democratic character, and they looked forward
to a future where they would be enfranchised and >free=.
The ensuing War of Independence began with excellent sprits.
It was truly a people=s war,
with the morale of the revolutionists unfazed by hunger, and cold. Under
the leadership of GENERAL GEORGE WASHINGTON,
the troops continued to fight on. Even at this time, many Negroes - both
freeman and slaves, took part. This was despite the English call to free
the slaves, which did bring a mass flight to the British camp. In response,
George Washington was forced to agree that free Negroes could serve in
the American ranks. The surrender of England, under the command of Lord
Cornwallis, came in 1781.
The Revolution now opened an era of the Factory system
in America, with the opening of Samuel Slater=s
Pawtucket mill in 1798. But still foreign merchandises was flooding into
the U.S.A. market. This was the parting of the ways between the slave owners
and the newly developed industrial bourgeoisie. The industrialists wanted
to develop a Tariff Law system that
would facilitate the growth of the industry in the USA. While the slave
owners dominated the national government they obstructed this. Despite
them, by 1844 industry had grown to the point where Frederick Engels observed
in 1844 :
its inexhaustible resources, with its unmeasured coal and iron fields,
with its unexampled wealth of labour power, but especially with its energetic
and active population.. Has in the last ten years created a manufacturer
which already competes with England in the coarser cotton goods, has excluded
the English from the markets of North and South America, and holds its
own in China, side by side with England.@
(Engels:@Condition of the Working
Class in England in 1844"; Lond 1936; p.295; Cited P.Foner Ibid; p. 52).
As Thomas Jefferson observed, the time for obstructing factory
manufacture, as the Slave owners still wished to do, was gone to ensure
AWe must now
place the manufacturer by the side of the agriculturist. Shall we make
our own comforts, or go without them, at the will of a foreign nation?
Experience has taught me that manufacturers are now as necessary to our
independence as to our comfort.@
(Cited P.Foner; Ibid; p. 50).
Although the working men and poor had fought the battles
of the American Revolution, on their return they found their position no
different. Thus they continued to organise. This was more than necessary
since the dominant voices of the wealthy merchants and slave owners were
suppressing what should have been the fruits of democratic revolution.
George Washington and ALEXANDER
HAMILTON (whose infamous words were :@The
People! - The people is a great beast!@
[Cited Foster Ibid; p. 51].) epitomised the reactionary voices.
They constructed an anti-democratic Constitution. This Constitution included
slavery; and the fugitive slave laws were left to the individual states
to write as they so wished. Of course this bowed to the wishes of Southern
planters. The constitution also evaded the will of the people by denying
popular elections, and provided for Senators to be elected by the state
legislators and for the Supreme Court to be appointed by the President.
Very tellingly, the Constitution had omitted the phrase : ALife
liberty and the pursuit of happiness=
Which had been in the Declaration of Independence; Instead
it substituted the words :
and property@. (Zinn Ibid; p.
In response, the workers formed new organisations, called
DEMOCRATIC SOCIETIES or REPUBLICAN
CLUBS. They were further inspired in this, by the outbreak
of the French revolution of 1789, hailed by the American workers. Rebellions
such as that of Shay=s broke
out. This latter Rebellion was aimed against foreclosures and persecution
of debtors. It organised 1000 farmers who were brutally put down. The new
movement for re-establishing the primacy of democracy fell to the leadership
of Thomas Jefferson. It was Jefferson, who spoke of SHAY=S
REBELLION the famous words :
AI hold it
that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing... It is a medicine
necessary for the sound heath of government.. God forbid that we should
ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.. The tree of liberty must
be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
It is its natural manure@. (Cited
Zinn ibid; p. 94)
Jefferson battled the anti-democratic forces of the slaveowners
and the merchants who formed the FEDERALIST
PARTY led by Alexander Hamilton. In an interesting foretaste of
future Red Scares, a Jeffersonian commented in 1797 :
to restore the liberties of mankind , or to check the progress of arbitrary
power, is now styled Jacobinism." ( P.Foner Ibid;
Under the pressure of the masses, the Jefferson Demand for
a BILL OF RIGHTS was forced into the
constitution. The first TEN AMENDMENTS
were a direct response to working class militancy. These put the freedom
of speech, worship, publish, to petition, to assemble, to be tried fairly
and to be secure against official intrusion while at home. At least on
paper! The Newark Gazette expressed the situation well on March 19th, 1794
AIt must be
the mechanics and farmers, or the poorer class of people (as they are generally
called) that must support the freedom of America.@
(P.Foner Ibid; p. 84.)
Now Jefferson won the support of the people for his DEMOCRATIC-REPUBLICAN
PARTY. In the Presidential elections of 1800 Jefferson won,
by popular acclaim. Even though the people were disenfranchised, enough
of the mechanics and workers had some rights especially in New York. This
proved crucial to win the elections for Jefferson. Jefferson=s
political heirs extended the suffrage, doing away with property qualifications
in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts after the 1812 war with England.
The results of the American revolution were to open the
way for the development of the working class and the rule of industrial
capital. This latter still had to overcome the Slave owning system. In
this, the interests of the Negroes and the workers of the North were objectively,
unequivocally the same. The American Revolution had started a State abolition
movement. Massachusetts abolished slavery in 1780, and in the same year
Pennsylvania, passed an act of gradual emancipation. Rhode Island had passed
the act of gradual emancipation, which would however take a second revolution
to realise. This stated that :
inhabitants of America are generally engaged in the preservation of their
own right and liberties among which that of personal freedom must be considered
as the greatest, and as those who are desirous of enjoying all the advantages
of liberty themselves should be willing to extend personal liberty to others."
(Foner; Ibid; Vol 1; p. 46).
The American Revolution broke up the indenture system; and
it opened up vast areas of the continent previously banned by the English
Proclamation of 1763 to settlement. Perhaps most importantly, and for the
first time in history, the people (excepting black slaves, Indians, and
women) won the right to vote, coupled with the right to elect delegates
to constitutional conventions and to ratify the draft of the constitution.
But the class relations remained the same.
As for the Indians, or the Native Americans, they had
already been subdued by force. They had first fought on the British side
as the British, enlisted their aid against the colonists by the Proclamation
of 1763. This was in the interests of the Native Americans because it limited
settlement on Indian territory. So as the Americans sent settlements West,
they inevitably clashed with the Native Americans. It was the poorer whites
who were thrust into battle against the Indian. The Government of the US
defeated the Indians= Western
Confederation in 1798 at the Battle of Fallen
Timbers. The Treaty signed, ceded
all future land deals to the United States :
AIn the Treaty
of Grenville it was agreed that in return for certain concessions of land
the United States would give up claims to the Indian lands North of the
Ohio, East of the Mississippi and South of the Great Lakes, but that if
the Indians decided to sell these lands, they would offer them first to
the United States." (Howard Zinn:@A
People=s History of the USA@;
New York, 1980; p. 87).
This commitment of the USA was soon abandoned. The US simply
continued the policy of expropriation and seizure. In the ensuing century
the Indian tribes were dispossessed and shattered. Their formerly proud
peoples, were thrown into the abyss of deprivations and loss of dignity.
It was an example of how nations can come into being, and pass out of being.
Native Americans now often use the terms of ANationhood@.
But though they are proud and dignified individuals, this claim is not
sustainable. Their claim is that of an oppressed minority, that was uprooted
in the transition from early capitalism into the imperialism of a single
mother nation state - the USA. The Native American current claims will
be examined later in a separate document. As far as the Blacks slaves went,
their state was slowly improved in the North, but remained a misery in
the South :
AAs late as
1810, there were thirty-thousand blacks, one quarter of the black population
of the North remained slaves. In 1840 there were still a thousand slaves
in the North. In the Upper South, there were more free Negroes than before,
leading to more control legislation,. In the lower South, slavery expanded
with the growth of rice and cotton plantations." (Zinn,
Ibid; p. 87.).
IV) ECONOMICS OF SOUTHERN SLAVERY
Historical materialism is a general theory of history
and the changes of societal development. It points out the progression
in the world economic system, from an ancient primitive communism, through
to slavery, through to capitalism and then to communism. The ancient societies
that first developed slavery, at first developed using slavery to a higher
level of economic output, and they created wealth for the slaver-owners.
But this wealth was impossible to sustain, because the productivity of
slaves is far lower than that of Afree@
men or serfs. Hence the transition ultimately, of the old slave owning
societies of Greece and Rome into various forms of feudalism. In the West
this became feudalism, in the East it took the form of Oriental Despotism.
Marx recognised the importance of slavery for the development
of North America. He termed the USA as Athe
most progressive country@. He
drew a distinction between the Adirect
slavery@ of the Negro and the
of the wage labourer. Marx believed that to Alet
slavery disappear@ would be to
Aerase North America@.
For Marx, the economic system found in North America was a unity that included
slavery constitute an antagonism... We are not dealing with indirect slavery,
the slavery of the proletariat, we are dealing with direct slavery, the
slavery of the Blacks in Surinam in Brazil, in the Southern states of the
North America. Direct slavery is the pivot of our industrialism today as
much as machinery, credit, etc. Without slavery we have not cotton, without
cotton you have no modern industry. It is slavery that had given value
to the colonies; it the colonies that created world trade; it is world
trade that is the necessary condition for large scale industry. Also before
the slave trade in Negroes, the colonies supplied the Old World with but
very few products and did not visibly change the face of the world. Slavery
is thus an economic category of the highest importance. Without slavery,
North America the most progressive country, would be transformed into a
primitive country . You only have to erase North America from the map of
nations and you will have anarchy the total decay of commerce and of modern
civilisation. But to let slavery disappear is to erase North America from
the map of nations. And thus slavery, because it is an economic category
is found among all nations since the world began. Modern nations have known
how to disguise the slavery in their own countries and how to import it
openly into the New World." (Marx Letter to Pavel
Vassilyevich Annenkov December 1846.; Padover Ibid; In p.36).
The system of slavery, rested on forcible suppression of
people into slavery, whether in ancient Greece or in the Southern USA.
The capital or money invested into a slave, was the equivalent of Afixed
capital@ under a capitalist system.
So the slave working throughout his or her life, replaced the Afixed@
capital, over time by either breeding (as in the Southern States of the
USA), or by themselves waging war to Aappropriate
outside labour power@. The work
the slave did on a day-to-day basis provided the equivalent of Ainterest@.
Since the replacement of the Afixed@
capital took time, and since the breeding of the slaves in the South USA
was not adequate to keep up with demands for labour power, the African
slave trade was continued for Aas
long as possible@ :
AIn the slave
system money capital invested in the purchase of labour power plays the
role of the money form of fixed capital which is only gradually replaced
after the expiration of the active life period of the slave. Among the
Athenians therefore the gain realized by a slave owner directly through
the industrial employment of his slave or indirectly by hiring him out
to other industrial employer as for example for mining) was regarded simply
as interest (plus amortization) on the advanced money capital, just as
in capitalist production the industrial capitalist places a portion of
surplus value plus the depreciation of his fixed capital to the account
of interest and replacement of his fixed capital; as it is also the role
with capitalist offering fixed capital (houses machinery etc) for rent.
Mere household slaves where they serve in the performance of necessary
duties or simply as luxuries for display do not come into consideration
here: they correspond to the our servant class. But the slave system too-
so long as it is the dominant form of productive labour, in agriculture,
manufacturing, navigation etc; as it was in the developed states of Greece
and Rome-preserves an element of natural economy. The slave market itself
maintains a constant supply of its labour power commodity by war, piracy
etc; and this rapine, for its most part is not promoted by a process of
circulation but by the natural appropriation of outside labour power through
direct physical compulsion. Even in the US after the transformation between
the wage-labor states of the North and the slave states in South into a
slave breeding region for the South, where the slave thrown on the slave
market thus became himself an element of the annual reproduction, this
did not suffice for a long time, so that the African slave trade was continued
as long as possible to satisfy the market." (Marx
Vol II Capital; Chapter XX; Sec 12; Cited by Padover cited by S.K.Padover
AKarl Marx On America and the
Civil War@; New York, 1972; p.
24. Book Cited Hereafter as Padover).
How the slave owner treated slaves, affected the eventual
economic well being of the state in which slavery flourished. As a Achattel@,
the slave was prone to Aracking@.
Often slaves died early; often slaves were >un-motivated=;
and were therefore not the best producers. The slave owner usually did
not care, so long as the slave labour could be easily and cheaply replaced.
Racking provided enough profit. Marx described it thus :
owner buys his labourer as he buys this horse. If he loses his slave he
loses capital, which can only be replaced by new outlay in the slave market.
But: The rice-grounds of Georgia or the swamps of Mississippi, may be fatally
injurious to the human constitution; but the waste of human life which
the cultivation of these districts necessitates is not so great that it
cannot be repaired from the teeming preserves of Virginia and Kentucky.
Considerations of economy, moreover -which under a natural system, afford
some security for humane treatment by identifying the master=s
interests with the slaves=s preservation
- once trading in slaves is practices, became reasons for racking the toil
of the slave to the uttermost; for when his replacement can immediately
be supplied from elsewhere, the duration of his life becomes a matter of
less moment that its productiveness while it lasts. It is accordingly a
maxim of slave management, in slave-importing countries, that the most
effective economy is that which takes out of the human chattel in the shortest
space of time the utmost amount of exertion it is capable of putting forth.
It is in tropical culture where annual profits often equal the whole capital
of plantations, that Negro life is most recklessly sacrificed. It is the
agriculture of the West Indies, which has been for centuries prolific of
fabulous wealth, that has engulfed millions of the African race." (Marx,
K : Capital Vol 1, Part III, Chapter VIII Sec 5, Cited Padover; Ibid; p.
The racking of slavery was an inefficient system :
principle universally applied in the method of production, only to employ
the rudest and heaviest implements and such as are difficult to damage
owing to their sheer clumsiness." (Cited Foster; Ibid;
p. 232; Marx : ACapital@;
Vol 1; p.178).
Marx comments on the long transcription he had made from
the book AThe Slave Trade@
by John Elliot Cairnes (published in London 1882), that the slave trade
was itself, being now further transformed into the labour trade, the modern
inheritor of the older >direct=
de te fabula narratur (ie. This could be thy story under a different name
-ed). For slave trade read labour market, for Kentucky and Virginia, Ireland
and agricultural districts of Scotland and Wales, for Africa , Germany."
(Marx in Capital, Cited Padover Ibid; p. 21-22).
Did the presence of slavery mean that the Southern USA was
a unique form of economy, distinct from the evolving capitalism of the
North? In fact, Marx writes that really the Southern plantations are a
form of capitalism :
AIn this case
the landowner and the owner of the instruments of production and thus the
direct exploiters of the labourers counted among these instruments of production,
are one and the same person. Rent and profit likewise coincide then, there
being no separation of the different forms of surplus value. The entire
surplus labor of the workers, which is here represented by the surplus
product is extracted from them directly by the owner of all the instruments
of production, to which the land and, under the original form of slavery,
the producers themselves belong. When capitalist conceptions predominate,
as they did upon the American plantations, this entire surplus value is
regarded as profit." (K.Marx Capital Volume III, p.
934, Chicago 1909, Cited by Foster William Z; AThe
Negro People in American History@;
New York, 1954; p. 39).
>Those who carry
on their own businesses with Negro slaves are capitalists." (K.Marx;
ATheories of Surplus Value,@
Vol II (German ed) p. 72; Cited Foster Ibid, p. 39).
Despite the wishes of the slave owners, they were inexorably
drawn into a process of capitalist forces :
cotton industry introduced child slavery in England, it gave in the United
States a stimulus to the transformation of the earlier more or less patriarchal
slavery, into a system of commercial exploitation". (K.
Volume 1; p.785; Cited Foster Ibid; p. 39).
This drawing into capitalism, actually made the already great
oppression of the Negro slave, even worse, as capitalist exploitation was
added to the racking of slavery :
ABut as soon
as people whose production still moves within the lower forms of slave
labour, corvee labour etc; are drawn into the whirlpool of an international
market dominated by the capitalistic mode of production, the sale of their
products for export becoming their principal interest, the civilised horrors
of over-work are grafted on the barbaric horrors of slavery, serfdom etc.
Hence the Negro labour in the Southern US of the American Union preserved
something of a patriarchal character, so long as production was chiefly
directed to immediate local consumption. But in proportion as the export
of cotton became of vital interest to this states, the over-working of
the Negro and sometimes the using up of his life in 7 years of labour became
a factor in a calculated and calculating system. It was no longer a question
of obtaining from him a certain quantity of useful products, it was now
a question of production of surplus-labour itself." (K.Marx
Capital Vol I, Chapter X The Working Day; Cited M&E USA=;
Ibid; p. 212).
It could not be otherwise, since the whole Southern system
was fully integrated with the Northern economy. It was the cotton of the
South that first provided the lead for the USA economy. But then this itself,
gave an impetus to the Northern industrial based development. The invention
of the Cotton Gin in 1793, transformed
cotton from a low profit cash crop, to a high profit-production crop. The
separation of cotton seed from the fibre by hand had been lengthy, tedious
and highly expensive. But the gin automated it. The gin was the answer
to the cry of the >spinning mule=
and the >flying shuttle=
for more cotton. It was a response to, and a part of, the Industrial Revolution.
This is another aspect of how cotton production in the South was an integral
part of industrial capitalism.
But Marx also maintained, that there were other >non-capitalist=
forms of farming practised within the USA. These both tended towards a
small scale farming, or Asubsistence@,
farming. These forms of farming were not at all capitalist :
There are the colonies proper such as in the US, Australia etc. Here the
mass of the farming colonists although they did bring with them larger
of smaller amount of capital from the motherland are not capitalists,
nor-do they carry one capitalist production.
They are more or less peasants who work themselves and whose main object
is to provide in the first place, is to produce their
own livelihood, their means of subsistence. Their main product
therefore does not become a commodity and is not intended for trade. They
sell or exchange the excess of their products over the own consumption
for imported manufactured commodities etc.
The other smaller
section of colonists who settle near the East, navigable rivers etc; form
trading towns. There is no question of capitalist production here either.
Even if capital production gradually comes into being, so that the sale
of his products and the profit he makes from this sale becomes decisive
for the farmer who himself works and owns his land, so long as compared
with labour and capital, land still exists in elemental abundance providing
a practically unlimited field of action, the first type of colonization
will continue as well and production will therefore never be regulated
according to the needs of the market - at a given market value." (K.Marx
:@Vol IV of Capital@;
From Chapter XII Tables of Differential rent and Comment@.
Cited M&E USA; Ibid; p. 221-222).
The means of their survival, meant that these farmers would
put any >excess=
above their needs onto the market at a price equal to or higher than their
own labour; whereas the capitalist production they were facing in the USA,
could and did put produce on the market at a lower price than the crop
the colonists of the first type produce over and above their immediate
consumption, they will throw on the market and sell at any price that will
bring in more than their wages. They are and continue to be for a long
time to be, competitors of the farmers who are already producing more or
less capitalistically, and thus keep the market price of the agricultural
product constantly below its value. The farmer who therefore cultivates
land of the worst kind, will be quite satisfied if he makes the average
profit on the sale of his farm, ie if he gets back the capital invested,
this is not the case in very many instances. Here therefore we have two
essentially different conditions competing with one another: Capitalist
production is not as yet dominant in agriculture; secondly although landed
property exists legally in practice it exists as yet sporadically and strictly
speaking there is only possession of land. Or although landed property
exists in a landed sense, it -in view of the elemental abundance of land
relative to labour and capital- as yet unable to offer resistance to capitals,
to transform into a field of action which in contrast to non-agricultural
industry, offers specific resistance to the investment of capital." (K.Marx
:Vol IV of Capital@; From Chapter
XII Tables of Differential rent and Comment@;
Ibid; p. 221-222).
Again Marx emphases that as Negro production in the slave
conditions of the South is production for the world market, it is capitalist
production. Although because of the limits to free labour under slavery,
this he calls a @formal@
capitalistic production :
AIn the second
type of colonies, plantations - where commercial speculations figure form
the start and mode of production is intended for the world market, since
the slavery of Negroes exists, although only for the world market, the
capitalist mode of production exists, although only in a formal sense,
since the slavery of the Negroes precludes free wage labour which is the
basis of capitalist production. But the business in which slaves are used
is conducted by capitalist. The method of production which they introduce
has not arisen out of slavery but is grafted to it. In this case the same
person is capitalist and landowner. And the elemental profusion) existence
of the land confronting capitalist and labour does not offer any resistance
to capital investment, hence none to the competition between capitals.
Neither does a class of farmers as distinct from landlords develop here.
As long as these conditions endure, nothing will stand in the way of cost-price
regulating wages." (K.Marx :@Vol
IV of Capital@; From Chapter
XII Tables of Differential rent and Comment@;
Ibid; p. 221-222).@
As everywhere in the world experiencing a transition into
full capitalism, the small farmer was being squeezed out. Marx and Engels
pointed this out in the preface to the 1882 Russian editor of the Communist
European immigration fitted North America for a gigantic agricultural production
whose competition is shaking the very foundations of European landed property-large
and small. In addition it has enabled the US to exploit its tremendous
industrial resources with an energy and on a scale that must shortly break
up industrial monopoly of Western Europe and especially of England, existing
up to now. Step by step the small and middle landownership of the farmers,
the basis of the whole political constitution, is succumbing to the competition
off giant farms; simultaneously a mass proletariat and a fabulous concentration
of capitals are developing for the first time in the industrial regions."
(Marx and Engels In M&E On USA@
Ibid; p. 256).
By 1820 the states of Georgia, South Carolina North Carolina
and Virginia were producing half of the cotton. Cotton and the slave system,
searching for new fertile soil, had moved West and :
and 1830 the Gulf states doubled their cotton production and by 1835 they
had passed the Atlantic states in output. By 1860 Mississippi, Alabama
and Louisiana alone were producing half the nations=s
Ibid; p. 77).
Although this slave production was a part of capitalism,
there were particular characteristics of Southern slavery. Marx does not
deny these factors. These special characteristics were the ever present
need to replenish the soil, exhausted as it was, by slavery; and the antagonism
to factory or industrial modes of production. In describing the incessant
push for territory that underlay the South=s
declaration of secession and then war in the Civil War, Marx describes
this first problem of slave labour and of slave cultivation in the United
of the Southern export articles cotton, tobacco, sugar etc.; carried on
by slaves, is only remunerative as long as it is conducted with large gangs
of slaves, on a mass scale and on wide expanses of a naturally fertile
soil, which requires only simple labour. Intensive cultivation which depends
less on fertility of the soil than on investment of capital, intelligence
and energy of labour is contrary to the nature of slavery. Hence the rapid
transformation of states like Virginia and Maryland which formerly employed
slaves on the production of export articles into states which raise slaves
to export them into the deep South. Even in South Carolina where the slaves
form four-sevenths of the population, the cultivation of the cotton has
been almost completely stationary for years due to the exhaustion of soil.
Indeed by force of circumstances South Carolina has already been transformed
in part into a slave-raising, since it already sells slaves to the sum
of four million dollars yearly to the states of the extreme South and South-West.
As soon as this point is reached the acquisition of new Territories become
necessary, so that one section of the slave holders with their slaves may
occupy new fertile lands and that a new market for slave raising therefore
for the sale of slaves may be created for the remaining section. It is
for example, indubitable that without the acquisition of Louisiana, Missouri
and Arkansas by the US, slavery in Virginia and Maryland would had been
wiped out long ago. In the Secessionist Congress at Montgomery, Senator
Toombs, one of the spokesman of
the South strikingly formulated the economic law that commands the constant
expansion of the territory of slavery.
>In 15 years,=
said he, >without a great increase
in slave territory either the slaves must be permitted to flee from the
whites of the whites must flee from the slaves". (Marx;
AThe North American Civil War@;
in M&E On USA@ Ibid; p. 89-90).
In short, Marx explains that the Southern system was in crisis,
and needed to constantly find new territory into which to expand to obtain
better soil. This >new soil=,
was in its= turn rapidly ruined
by slavery. But this view, is still controversial today! It is true that
nowadays, arguments against Marx=s
and Senator Toombs= views (as
stated above by Marx) are appropriately camouflaged in an anti-slavery
dress. And it is also true, that the various estimates for the depth of
the crisis of Southern USA farming by the Civil War do vary. But some academics
dispute that the South was in any economic crisis at all. They start by
arguing that Negroes in the USA South were better off than their counter-parts
in the West Indies. (R.W Fogel and S. L.Engerman:
Time On The Cross- Economics of American Negro Slavery@;
NY; 1989). This is probably true, though somewhat
irrelevant! After all, what kind of Achoice@
are we offered here - slavery is better in the South USA than in the Caribbean?!
But these academic authors then deny the crisis in the
South at all; they deny that the terrors of slavery led to a great decline
in the productivity of the slave for the Southern Plantocracy; and they
assert that the plantocracy was in reality a benign and >paternally=
responsible system for its time. These authors suggest some form of class
peace between the slaves (well fed, with medical care, allowed to rest
up when ill, and generally content) with a caring Plantocracy. Even the
data used to support this contention, are open to criticisms, including
that of bias in the records kept (eg. the Abetter@
slave owners keeping better records etc). But it is the dismissal of contrary
evidence like the revolts that shows the falsity of the approach.
revolt of 1822, in South Carolina recruited 9,000 slaves in secrecy. Vesey
had rejected the master=s advice
to return to Africa arguing that :@He
wanted to >see what he could
do for his fellow creatures.@
revolt was in Southampton county Virginia in 1831, and was led by a deeply
religious man. The Underground Railway operated in secrecy to spirit run-away
slaves to the Canadian far North. HARRIET TUBMAN
made 19 Journeys through the South to rescue 300 slaves herself
and organise. This Underground united blacks and whites in :
across Ohio alone, .. By 1840 every Northern state from Wisconsin to Illinois
eastward was crossed by slaves on their way into Canada." (Philip
Foner Ibid; p. 254).
In their dismissals of the servitude of slavery, Engerman
and Fogel, being Nobel prize winning academics, conveniently ignore the
historical data of the slave revolts. But other people are not so blithe.
These Revolts, were hardly born out of the benevolence of the white slave
owners as stated by Fogel and Engerman! Fogel and Engerman cannot explain
the explosive revolts under the plantocracy. Slaves understood well, as
FREDERICK DOUGLASS, the famous
Negro abolitionist said in 1849 to a white abolitionist, that a determined
struggle was necessary :
ALet me give
you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress
of human liberty shows that all concession yet made to her august claims
have been born of struggle... If there is not struggle there is no progress.
Those who profess to favour freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men
who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder
and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its may waters.
The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one; or it may
be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing
without a demand. It never did and it never will." (Zinn; Ibid p.179).
Fogel and Engerman contend that at the time of the Civil
War, the course of cotton production was still booming; and argue that
this shows the system was not in crisis. It is true that prices were still
rising, (See figure 1 Drawn from Fogel and Engerman [Fogel and Engerman
Ibid; p. 90 and p.91]) . But they then minimise the importance
of the downward trend (shown in figure 2) of the course of cotton prices
1802-1861. Furthermore, they ignore the reality of the push for new and
more territory as noted by both the Southern Planter advocate, Senator
Toombs ,and by Marx. Further, from some Aprojections@
they claim that the projected prices of slaves was to go up. But this deliberately
avoids the issue of the great cry for labour after the Civil War, following
the devastation of the War. But..they are right about one aspect of the
plantocracy- the attitudes to Industry. Finally they do grudgingly recognise
that the transition from the Plantocracy into overt capitalism was a critical
matter. They cite AThree
of wealth (Fogel and Engerman; Ibid; p. 256):
COTTON PRODUCTION PIG IRON PRODUCTION
(Per capita) (Per capita) (Per capita)
SOUTH 100 100 100
NORTH 108 401 637
Even here, though they mis-interpret this information,
as NOT showing a trend to Northern dominance. But this is clearly
what was happening. The South was in a crisis and the struggle between
the Northern industrialist and the Southern Plantocracy hinged on the transition
into the Industrial Revolution. The plantocracy was obstructing this. Furthermore,
slavery was obstructing the transition as the Industrial revolution in
the USA needed free labour. Just as it had done in the English Industrial
Revolution. In fact Fogel and Engerman cannot explain the Civil War. The
real struggles are ignored in the excuses for Plantocracy that are offered
by Fogel and Engerman.
Figure I (From
Fogel and Engerman)
Only in hard copy format
Figure 2 (From
Fogel and Engerman)
Only in hard copy format
The Louisiana purchase from the French, in 1803 effected
under President Jefferson allowed a small room, into which the Plantocracy
could expand. But soon they were pushing for more. After the American Revolution
the forces had aligned as follows :
Merchant Capitalism and Slave
owners - Federalist Party led by Hamilton
Industrial Capitalism and Working
class - Republican party led by Jefferson.
The Whig party also supported
a section of slave owners.
These class differences erupted in 1820, in the form of
struggles over the expansionist slave states. Both cotton production and
industrial production was expanding. The industrialists were concentrated
in the North and wished any new states joining the Union, to do so as Free
states. The Southern Plantocracy of course wanted them to come in as slave
states. Because the 13 original states were equally nearly split on the
issue of slavery, there was jockeying for the new states to come onto each
respective side. There were struggles between pro and anti-slavery camps,
as each of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee came into the
Union. But the slaveowners still needed to expand and Missouri brought
things to a head.
Missouri was a section of the 1803
Louisiana Purchase. The slaveowners
colonized it with 10,000 slaves, in a population of 56,00 whites, in 1818.
A two year debate over the entry of Missouri as a slave state into the
union was started in 1818. The slavers argued that slavery was purely a
state issue, one not involving the central Government. The anti-slavery
forces (industrialists as well as Abolitionists) argued that the Union
was predominant. The industrialists wished to expand their profit at the
expense of slave labour, and thus wanted the new states to be able to have
was brokered by Henry Clay of Kentucky.
Clay proposed that Missouri would be admitted as a slave state; and
that there would be geographical line drawing a demarcation for slavery
at 36 30'; and that
Maine would be admitted as a free state, to offset Missouri. This compromise
lasted for a while. The slavers next saw an opportunity to expand with
the invasion of Texas. This became mixed up with the issue of Tariffs,
and Banking monopoly. Both of the latter were needed for development by
the industrialists, and both were opposed by the planters.
General Andrew Jackson,
was the leader of the Democratic-Republican Party (later the Democratic
party) and President from 1829-1837. He obtained the loyalty of the working
men, when he fought against the United States Bank, and the financial oligarchy
of Nicholas Biddle and other Northern
bankers. However, he was a supporter of the slaveowners, being one himself.
In all other matters he took an anti-working class stand.
Jackson had moved against Banking as this favoured the
Southern plantation interests. Tariffs were needed by Northern business,
as a shield behind which to develop their own industry. But Southern slaveholders
wanted Free Trade in order to buy manufactured goods as cheaply as they
could, this meant of course from Britain. In 1832 South Carolina Anullified@
various Tariffs imposed by the Union. The slaveowners won the ensuing battle,
when they threatened ASecession@.
The issue of Texas was the next crisis precipitated by the slaveowners=
expansionism. In 1821 Spain still controlled Mexico. They allowed American
settlers under certain conditions including the recognition of Spain=s
sovereignty. But the American immigrants brought slaves with them and flouted
Spanish law. Jackson was an ardent expansionist and worked with Sam
Houston, the military leader of
the Texans. On March 2nd, 1836, the part of Mexico known as Texas declared
its independence of Mexico. In a short war, the Mexican general Santa
Anna was defeated, and Texas for 9 years was Aindependent@.
John C. Calhoun,
a slaver in Congress, successfully moved that it be incorporated as a slave
state into the Union. After this, the Mexican War of 1846-48 was inevitable.
The war was deliberately concocted by President James
K. Polk of North Carolina, a slave owner representative. General
John C. Fremont seized California
from the Mexican state by >proclaiming
a revolution@. When Mexico then
refused Polk=s Aoffer@
to purchase New Mexico and California, the USA invaded. US troops under
General Winfield Scott occupied Mexico
City in August 1847. This was a reactionary war of aggression against a
nation state. As Marx put it :
of the slavery abroad was the avowed aim of the three hundred thousands
slaveholders who held sway over the South. A series of compromises which
the South owed to its alliance with the northern Democrats had led to this
result. On this alliance all the attempts periodically repeated since 1817
to resist the ever increasing encroachments of the slaveholders had hitherto
come to grief. At length there came a turning point . For hardly had the
Kansas -Nebraska Bill (See below-ed) gone through which wiped out the geographical
boundary line of slavery ad made its introduction into new Territories
subject to the will of the majority of the settlers, when armed emissaries
of the slaveholders, border rabble from Missouri and Arkansas, with Bowie-knife
in hand and revel over in the other, fell upon Kansas and sought by the
most unheard of atrocities to dislodge its settlers from the Territory
colonised by them These raids were supported by the Central Government
in Washington. Hence a tremendous reaction@
North American Civil War@, Ibid;
Many Whigs opposed this
war of foreign aggression, including ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
The Abolitionist movement was by this stage well organised. It came out
openly against this and Frederick Douglass amongst others branded it as
>A most disgraceful
cruel and iniquitous war.. The work of our slave holding President."(Cited
Foster; Ibid; p. 124).
The slave holders however won. The Guadlupe-Hidalgo
Pirate Treaty forced Mexico to cede to the US more than half
of its territory including Texas, for a paltry $15 million. But, still,
their system needed expansion. Thus the events of The
Civil War. What was really happening to the slave owning system?
As Howard Zinn puts it:
secession of the South from the Union after Lincoln was elected President
in the fall of 1860.. was a long series of policy clashes between South
and North. The clash was not over slavery as a moral institution... The
Northern elites wanted economic expansion -free land, free labour, a free
market a high protective tariff for manufacturers, a bank of the United
States. The slave interests opposed all that; they saw Lincoln and the
Republicans as making continuation of their pleasant and prosperous way
of life impossible in the future." (Zinn; Ibid; p.184).
III) WHITE WORKERS AND BLACK SLAVES
The working classes of the U.S.A. were now making their
voice heard more clearly. They had seen the real battle between the Southern
Plantocracy, and the Northern industrialists. The degradations of the Negro
slaves were parallelled by the abuses of the artisans and mechanics of
white skin. In fact many slave insurrections were started initially, not
by plantation agricultural workers, but by Negro Mechanics or artisans.
This had often led the slave owners to argue that :
fundamental principle would be that the slave should be kept as much as
possible to agricultural labours. Those so employed are found to be the
most orderly and obedient of slaves.. There should be no black mechanics
or artisans at least in the cities." (Philip Foner;
Volume 1; Ibid; p. 255).
Slavery as an institution, affected the free workers - black
or white profoundly. It affected the price of labour, and the attitude
to both black and white labour. The conditions of poor whites was bad.
Only a few whites in the South itself, derived economic benefit from the
Negro slavery system :
AOnly a small
percentage of the white population of the south derived their profits from
the sweat and toil of the Negro Slaves. Not more than held a million southern
whites in 1860 maintained slaves who with their families numbered less
than three million. The total white population of the white slave states
was nine million; thus less than one-third of the whites people of the
south derived any benefit from.. slavery"(P.Foner
ibid; p. 258).
a blight to the whole south.. Thousands of poor whites were living under
conditions.. of abandoned outhouses cultivating the old fields of large
plantations land which the owners had left because it was too unprofitable
for slave labour. William Gregg.. estimated that at least one third of
the white population of his states of south Carolina, lived under these
conditions if not worse. De bow=s
review in 1860 estimated several million poor whites in the h south. William
H. Seward argued.. that slavery was an evil not because it was >scarcely
less severe upon the freedmen to whom only because he is a labourer from
necessity, it denies facilities for employment and whom it can expel from
the community because it cannot enslave and convert into merchandises."
(P.Foner; ibid; p.259).
Despite the strictures of most slave owners, to keep slaves
away from work that made them >uppity=,
some factories in the South did get lured by the apparently lower cost
of free labour. Some made profits by hiring slaves :
ironworks in the South, the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond Virginia employed
slave labour. Robert Anderson took over the failing business in 1847..
AFrom the difficulty of controlling
in a slave state the white labour employed at high wages in the manufacture
of iron.. I have come to conclusion to introduce slaves@..
By 1848 the company was making a $98,272.00 profit." (P.Foner
Ibid; p. 259).
But in fact, by the middle 1850's the industrial use of slaves
had proven unprofitable. In the main this was due to the practice of hiring
them to factories only at >down
times= on the plantation. This
meant they often could not acquire the necessary expertise. Factories were
unwilling to buy out slaves, because of the factors identified earlier
by Adam Smith, namely the need to keep them on through the slumps, and
of course the initial outlay of capital required.
Nonetheless, free white labour did perceive a threat from
Negroes. They first tried to organise against Negroes in the mechanical
industries using petitions, in the 1830's (P.Foner
Ibid; p. 259). Soon they turned to other political
actions. They forced legislation in 1845 in Georgia, making the employment
of a Negro mechanic or mason - whether slave or free, illegal. Paradoxically
this action of white workers alarmed the Plantocracy. The Plantocracy recognised
that if white labourers could organise so effectively, what would be next
on their agenda? As the editor of the Charleston Standard argued :
question the right of masters to employ their slaves in any work that they
wish for.. They may acquire the right to determine municipal elections,
Thus the town of Charleston, at the heart of slavery may become a democratic
power against it." (P.Foner; Ibid; p.262).
The unity of the working class was forcing itself into notice.
The ultimate class realities united white poor and black slaves, was recognised
by the most far seeing white mechanics and working men. These workers saw
the need to end to slavery. In Lexington Kentucky in 1849, a public meeting
of working men resolved :
institution of slavery is prejudicial to every interest of the State and
is alike injurious to the slaveholder and the non-slaveholder; that it
degrades labour, enervates industry, interferes with the occupations of
free labouring citizens, separates too widely the poor and rich, shuts
out the labouring classes from the blessings of education, and tends to
drive from the state all who depend upon personal labour for support."(P.
Foner Ibid; p. 263-264)
An alliance between poor whites and slaves began to spread.
This was aided by the German-American Communists, such as ADOLPH
DOUAI and WILLIAM WEITLING. The
alliance did have an effect, as commented upon by the newspapers, that
warned about :
who are constantly inciting our slaves to deeds of violence and bloodshed
- Galveston Texas >News=
December 27, 1856.. The Mobile Mercury >slaves
are constantly associating with low white people who are not slave owners.
Such people are dangerous to the community." (P.Foner
Ibid; p. 264).
They became even more reason, for the slave workers to work
against industry in the South. Southern commentators already saw the threat
to their livelihood clearly as being related to the rise of Industry:
AIt is this
great upheaving of our masses.. We have to fear as far as our institutions
are concerned. The people are divided into two classes - the rich and the
poor who are as distinct and separate as the North Pole is form the South
Pole." (P. Foner; Ibid; p. 265)
Horace Greeley, a
progressive newspaper editor, in 1853, said that slave holders were logical
to oppose the entrance of workers from the North into the cotton kingdom,
labourer taken to the South, is a fresh nail in the coffin of slavery."
(P.Foner; Ibid; p. 265).
Meanwhile, in the North, many working men had come to abolitionist
However the workers movement was split. Workers feared
that the slavery question, would spilt the DEMOCRATIC
PARTY, and thereby weaken the party
that had supported Jacksonian Democracy.
The slave owners were a powerful force in the Democratic party. And the
foreign immigrants believed that the Democratic party ,was more open to
their needs than that of the WHIG PARTY, which opposed foreign immigration.
Complicating matters, the abolitionists were themselves not all pro-labour
either. For example WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON
of the >Liberator=
had denounced the trade union movement . But others, were clearly pro-labour
(P. Foner, Ibid; p. 270). SARAH
BAGLEY denounced Garrison for his lack of concern about the
workers of the North; and FREDERICK DOUGLASS,
criticised the white trade unionists for failures to unite with black Mechanics
and artisans. His message was well received by some white workers, hence
his invitation from journeymen printers of Rochester to celebrate Benjamin
Franklin=s birthday. (P.Foner
Ibid; p. 271).
Finally the workers=
understanding of the effects of slavery, was retarded by
GEORGE HENRY EVANS. An eminent reformer, he put the view
that preceding slavery as a social concern, was the need for land reform.
Evans thought this would solve the slavery issue. He assisted slave owners
by fostering claims that Emancipation would throw >millions
of black workers on the labour market and drive down wages=.
But the logic of class solidarity, convinced the best elements of the working
class. On May 9th 1848 a mass meeting in Faneuil Hall in Boston honoured
the European revolutions of 1848 by saying :
rejoice in the organisation of free institutions in the Old World, we are
not indifferent to their support at home, and we regret the despotic attitude
of the Slave power in the South, and the domineering ascendancy of the
Money Oligarchy are equally hostile to the interests of labour & incompatible
with preservation of popular rights." (P.Foner Ibid,
The New England Workingmens=
Association rejected Evans, and proclaimed before Marx had:
AIn the United
States of North America every independent movement of the workers was paralysed
as long as slavery disfigured a part of the Republic. Labour cannot emancipate
itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded." (P.Foner;
Ibid; p. 275).
As the slaveowners had taken over the Democratic party, they
could control both main parties in the electorate, the other being the
Whig party, which was also under their control. During this period, the
workers were not represented by any mass party.
For a brief period the LIBERTY
party was formed and spoke on a platform against chattel slavery. It merged
into the FREE SOIL PARTY which was
formed in 1848. This party organised both Black and White workers on the
soil, Free Speech, Free Labour, Freemen@.
Frederick Douglass supported this party, though he also supported
the remnants of the Liberty party. Douglass and Garrison no longer worked
together, as the latter had become sectarian. This took the form of Garrison
anticipating the Secession of the South, and arguing that the North should
itself secede! Douglass strongly disagreed.
In the interim, THADDEUS STEVENS
and CHARLES SUMNER came to Congress and attacked slavery.
The tempo of antislavery struggle was rising. As it did so, the DRED
SCOTT case showed how the Southern judges would defy the law
even of the Union. This case condemned a ex-slave back into slavery, despite
the fact that he had having achieved freedom in a Free State. They argued
that even a free man, who had once been a slave on slave soil, was always
a slave wherever in the Union he or she was. At about this time the revolt
of JOHN BROWN, an ardent white abolitionist
occurred at Harper=s
Ferry, in 1857. Although brutally
put down, it nonetheless lit a signal.
At the same time, the insatiable appetite for land drove
the slave-owners into a struggle over the Kansas-Nebraska
Bill of 1854. The purpose of this bill was as Marx pointed out,
to make the abolition of slavery illegal, and to ensure the growth of slavery
into the new Territories. But it provoked an enormous struggle. The abolitionists
were supported as they attacked the Bill. In Kansas itself, where many
had settled, who refused to give way to the Slavers. Both sides tried to
settle their own party people as emigrants into Kansas, and a civil war
erupted. The Free Soilers won and demanded Union, but President
Buchanan, as a slaver himself refused. It was in this climate
of tension provoked by constant land grabbing by slavers, that the REPUBLICAN
party was born, relatively spontaneously, in 1854. By popular demand the
party grew. It picked at its first national convention in 1856 as its presidential
nominee JOHN C FREMONT,
a well known abolitionist. As Marx points out :
Fremont was not victorious, the huge number of votes cast for him at any
rate proves the rapid growth of the party.. The Republicans again put forward
their platform of 1856.. Its principal contest were the following: Not
a foot of fresh territory is further conceded to slavery. The filibustering
policy abroad must cease. The re-opening of the slave trade is stigmatised.
Finally Free-soil laws are to be enacted for the furtherance of free colonisation.
The vitally important point in this platform was that not a foot of fresh
terrain was conceded to slavery." (MarxAThe
North American Civil War@, written
October 1925, In M&E On USA; p.89).
The election was won by Buchanan. However the Northern capitalists
and industrialists now took over the Republican party. One of its journals
was the New York Tribune, edited by Horace Greeley,
and it advocated Trade unionism, high tariffs, women=s
rights, temperance, Fourierist Utopian socialism, abolitionism. But because
the economy was so interlinked, some Northern capitalist were not so keen
on the Republican party. As Foster rightly comments :
big business interests were so tied in with the slave economy that DeBow
the leading ideologist of slavery could boast that without slavery:@The
ships would rot at their docks, grass would grow in Wall Street and Broadway,
and the glory of New York, like Babylon and Rome.. Would be past.’ (Cited
Foster, Ibid, p. 190).
For the election of 1860, Lincoln was nominated. He was assisted
by the Marxists JOSEPH WEYDEMEYER
and DOUAI amongst others. They blocked the nomination
of Fremont, which tactically aided Lincoln. Lincoln won the election. The
planters seceded, forcing a AConfederated
States of America@ one month
before Lincoln was to took office. Lincoln tried compromise, and indeed
reneged on promises to stand fast on the issue of slavery. But a revolutionary
crisis arose in 1861, when rebels fire Fort Sumter, in Charleston. It had
refused to surrender to the Confederates. The Fort was starved by siege,
and Union forces relieved it. This was taken as a pretext to fire by the
Confederates, and this physically started the war.
VIEW OF THE CIVIL WAR IN THE USA.
Stalin thought that the Civil War was a revolution because
it brought about :
of power from one class to another@
(Foster p. 238; citing Stalin; AMarxism
versus Liberalism; p. 22).
Lenin referred to its importance for the revolutionary movement
world-historic progressive and revolutionary significance of the American
Civil War of 1861-65"(Cited Foster p. 238; Lenin :
AA Letter to American Workers@
But of course both Marx and Engels were contemporaries of
the Civil War, and followed it keenly. Commenting on the letter from HARRIET
BEECHER STOWE, the famous abolitionist, to Lord
Shaftesbury, Marx said that she had provoked the London press
to display its true colours. He accepted the argument of the AEconomist@
that the Aassumption that the
quarrel between the North and the South is a quarrel between Negro freedom
on the one side and Negro slavery on the other, is as impudent as it is
AThe American Question In England@;
Cited M&E On USA; Ibid; p. 79). As Marx commented:
ANow in the
first instance the premise must be conceded. The war has not been undertaken
with a view to put down Slavery, and the US authorities themselves have
taken the greatest pains to protest any such idea. But then it must be
remembered that it was not the North bu the South which undertook this
war; the former acting only the defence. If it be true that the North after
long hesitations and an exhibition of forbearance unknown in the annals
of European history, drew at last the sword, not for crushing Slavery ,
but for saving the Union, the South, on its part, inaugurated the war by
loudly proclaiming Athe peculiar
institution@ as the only and
main end of the rebellion." (Marx; AThe
American Question In England@;
Ibid; p. 79).
But Marx knew that the real causes of the war were very different
from those proclaimed. The economics of the slave owning system was in
contrast to the economics of the North, and had precipitated a crisis.
It constantly needed new land as it was so inefficient. As Marx cited,
bourgeois economists of the time writing in the AEconomist@
knew this was true. Moreover the proponents of the South themselves, a
Senator Toombs, knew that the issue was one of new land and territories
on the occasion of John Brown=s
Harper=s Ferry expedition, the
.. Economist, published a series of elaborate articles with a view to prove
that by dint of ane economical law, American slavery was doomed to gradual
extinction from the moment it should be deprived of its power of expansion.
That >economical >
law was perfectly understood by the Slaveocracy. In 15 years or more, A
said Toombs,@without a great
increase in Slave territory, either the slave must be permitted to flee
from the whites or the whites must flee from the slaves." The limitation
of slavery to its constitutional area, as proclaimed by the Republicans
(under Lincoln-ed) was the distinct ground upon which the menace of Secession
was first uttered in the House Of Representatives on December 19, 1859..
Moreover the Oligarchy of the 300,000 slave owners could not even maintain
their sway at home save by constantly throwing out to their white plebeians
the bait of prospective conquests within and without the frontiers of the
United States.@ (Marx;
Ibid; p. 81).
But these new lands and thus the spread of slavery, would
counter the philosophy of Afree
labour@ as required by capital:
As Marx made clear the North was reluctant to seize the issue of slavery
as the one by which to attack the South. Both Marx and Engels thought that
the North was being cowardly in its military campaign, but was likely to
win. They understood that if needed, the North would unleash a Slave Revolt,
but that it was trying to avoid doing so. Nonetheless the North would ultimately
AIn the long
run the North will of course win, for should the need arise it can play
its trump card, a slave revolution." (Marx Letter
to Lion Philips; May 1861; In AM&E
USA@; p. 172).
W.E.B.DUBOIS agreed with
this, and pointed out that the Southern plantation owners were well aware
of the possibility of revolt :
had economic power in their hands. Simply by stopping work, they could
threaten the Confederacy with starvation. By walking into the Federal camps,
they showed to doubting Northeners the easy possibility of using them thus,
but by the same gesture , depriving their enemies of their use in just
these fields.. It was the plain alternative that brought Lee=s
sudden surrender. Either the South must make terms with its slaves., free
them, use them to fight the North, and thereafter no longer treat them
as bondsmen; or they could surrender to the North with the assumption that
the North after the war must help them to defend slavery as it had before."
(Cited By Zinn; Ibid; p. 188).
The real reason for the ultimate victory of the North in
the Civil War was the economic crisis in plantation slavery :
of the slaves in America which began with John Brown=s
raid was seen by Marx and Engels as a vivid manifestation of the crisis
in the system of plantation slavery@.
(Introduction to M&E USA; p. 18; Selected Correspondence
Moscow 1975; p.114)
The War was aimed to increase the territory by which slavery
could be extended. This was necessary because of the faltering profits
of an economy based on slavery :
AA large part
of the territory claimed is still in the possession of the Union and would
first have to be conquered.. None of the so-called border states, however
were ever actual slave states. Rather they constitute the area of the United
States in which the system of slavery and the system of free labour exist
side by side and contend for mastery, the actual field of battle between
South and North, between slavery and freedom. The war of the Southern Confederacy
is not a war of defence, but a war of conquest, a war of conquest for the
spread and propagation of slavery." (Marx:@The
Civil War In the USA@; Nov 1861;
In AM&E USA@;
Under the need to win the War, the North did proclaim the
Emancipation proclamation on January 1 1863. This declared slavery ended
in those areas fighting against the Union but was silent on the slaves
behind the North Lines. Marx=s
comments on Lincoln are instructive. Whilst criticising him for his vacillations,
he however gives him due credit for the Proclamation :
Proclamation is even more important than the Maryland campaign. Lincoln
is a sui genreis figure in the annals of history. He has no initiative,
no idealistic impetus, no cornurnus, no historical trappings. He gives
his most important actions always the commonplace form. Other people declaim
about the >struggle for an idea=.
Which for them is a matter of square feet o f land. Lincoln even when he
is motivated by an idea talks of Asquare
feet@. He sing the bravura aria
of his part hesitatingly reluctantly and indignantly, as though apologising
for being compelled by circumstances to >act
like the lion@. The most redoubtable
decrees-which will always remain remarkable historical documents-flung
by him at the enemy all look alike, and are intended to look like , routine
summonses sent by a lawyer to the lawyer of the opposing party, subtle
legal arguments involved hidebound juridical acts. His latest proclamation
which is a drafted int in the same style, is the manifesto abolishing slavery,
it is the most important document in American history since the establishment
of the Union and it denotes the tearing up of the old American Constitution.
Nothing is simpler than to show that Lincoln=s=s
political actions contain much that is aesthetically repulsive, logically
inadequate, and politically contradictory, and this is done by the English
Pindars of slavery the Times, The Saturday Review and the rest. But Lincoln=s
place in the history of the US and of mankind will be nevertheless next
to that of Washington." (Marx, AComments
on the North American Events@;
Cited M&E USA@ Ibid; p. 154.
Written October 1862).
The Proclamation of itself fuelled abolition further, and
resulted in the 13th Amendment which outlawed slavery, due to take effect
on November 1 1864:
ABy the summer
of 1864, 4000,000 signatures asking for legislation to end slavery had
been gathered and sent to Congress, something unprecedented in the history
of the USA. That April, the Senate had adopted the Thirteenth Amendment,
declaring an end to slavery, and in January 1865, the House of Representatives
followed." (Zinn; Ibid; p. 187).
The Negro was enabled to enlist as volunteers, and droves
did. But many poor whites who were drafted, were unable to escape the $300.00
evasion fee, that was used by the rich whites. Many poor whites thus further
resented the war. The draft riots of 1863 were aimed at blacks. By the
end, some 600,00 had died on both sides, the bloodiest war up to that time.
But before it ended, pressure for the freedom of the Negroes got more intense.
By the end of the war, in 1864, the Negroes believed their liberty had
arrived. The push for Land became intense. Capital was now fully free to
take its way. But this stimulated Labour too, very greatly. Marx expressed
the results of the war this way :
AIn the US
every independent movement of the workers was paralysed as long as slavery
disfigured a part of the Republic. Labour cannot emancipate itself in the
white skin where in the black it is disfigured. But out of the death of
slavery a new life at once arose. The first fruit of the Civil War was
the eight hours agitation, that ran with the seven-leagued boots of the
locomotive from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from New England to California,
The General Congress of Labour at Baltimore (August 16th, 1866) declared
:@The first and great necessity
of the present to free the labour of this country from capitalistic slavery,
is the passing of a law by which eight hours shall be the normal working
day in all States of the American Union. We are resolved to put forth all
our strength until this glorious result is attained.@
Vol 1.; AChapter X The Working
Day@; Cited M&E USA; Ibid;
Civil War brought in its train a colossal national debt, and with it pressure
of taxes, the rise of the vilest financial aristocracy, the squandering
of a huge part of the public land on speculative companies for the exploitation
of railways , mines, ETC, in brief, the most rapid centralisation of capital.
The great republic has therefore ceased to be the promised land for emigrant
labourers. Capitalist production advances there with giant strides." (Marx
Vol 1 Capital, AChapter XXXI.
Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist@
Ibid M&E USA; p. 215).
Engels had foretold that after the Civil War the USA would
experience a huge boom, and a new imperialism. As we well know, he was
quite accurate :
AAs soon as
slavery - the greatest of obstacles to the political and social development
of the United States has been smashed, the country will experience a boom
that will very soon assure it an altogether different place in the history
of the world, and the army and navy created during the war will then soon
find employment." (Marx: Letter to Joseph Weydemeyer,
Nov 1864; Cited@M&E USA@;
Ibid; p. 204).
IV) RECONSTRUCTION AND THE RE-EMERGENCE
OF RURAL FEUDAL BONDAGE LABOUR
After the defeat of the Secessionists, an initial optimism
reigned, that the South was truly free for the Black population. However,
a resurgence of White supremacist rule was not long in coming. The White
supremacists were assisted by the new Northern President who succeeded
to Lincoln - ANDREW JOHNSON.
Johnson fully assisted the plantation owners. It was for this reason that
Marx and Engels celebrated his defeat in a general election. They hoped
this meant the recognition by the Northern workers, of an essential class
unity of white and black worker :
be as glad as I was at the defeat of President Johnson in the last elections.
The workers in the North at last understand perfectly well that as long
as the labour of Negroes is outraged, that of whites will never be emancipated."
(Marx Letter Francois Lafargue in Bordeaux, November,
1866; In AM&E USA@;
Sections of the then still developing working class recognised
this to be true. The NATIONAL LABOUR UNION
OF THE USA, which was in correspondence with Marx, through the First
International, stated, only two years after the end of the Civil War :
four million strong and a greater proportion of them labor with their hands
than can be counted from among many people on earth. Can we afford to reject
their proffered co-operation and make them enemies? By committing such
an act of folly we would inflict greater injury upon the cause of labour
reform than the combined efforts of capitalists could accomplish.. So capitalist
North and South would foment disorder between the whites and blacks and
hurl one against the other as interest and occasion might require to maintain
their ascendancy and continue the reign of oppression." (Cited
Foner; Ibid; Vol 1; p. 389).
The key to the situation was the issue of AWho
would work the land?@ In the
from physical destruction, the widespread devastation of work animals,
farm buildings, and machinery and the deterioration of levees and canals,
ensured that the revival of agriculture would be slow and painful.. 37,0000
blacks the greater majority from the South perished in the Union army,
as did tens of thousands more in the contraband camps, in Confederate Army
labor gangs, and in disease ridden urban shanty-towns. Nearly 260,000 men
died for the Confederacy-over one fifth of the South=s
adult white male population. The region moreover was all but bankrupt."
Short History of Reconstruction@;
New York; 1990; p. 55-56).
The North had a major war-led boom, and Congress pushed on
further with the expansion of industry and capital accumulation. To facilitate
the Union, public land and government bonds were given to the transcontinental
railroad. This facilitated the further penetration by capital into the
West. But by 1865 the problem of the labour power in the South was acute.
Many of the freedmen preferred it appeared to live and work only for their
own subsistence and not to plant any cash crops :
of thousands of slaves scattered throughout the States had become under
Federal auspices, free workers. The most famous of these Arehearsals
for Reconstruction@ occurred
on the South Carolina Sea Islands.. Sea Island blacks.. when the planters
fled (in 1861) sacked the big houses and destroyed cotton gins, they then
commenced planting corn and potatoes for their own subsistence, but evinced
considerable resistance to growing the Aslave
crop@, cotton." (Eric
Foner, Ibid ;p.24).
In other places, like Davis Bend , Mississippi, the plantations
of the CONFEDERATE PRESIDENT JEFFERSON DAVIS,
were taken over by freedmen. They were supported by the arrival of GENERAL
GRANT in 1863 who fostered it as a ANegro
freedmen, raised by 1865 :
bales of cotton and earned a profit of $160,000. The community had its
own system of government complete with elected judges and sheriffs." (Eric
Foner; Ibid; p. 27).
GENERAL WILLIAM T. SHERMAN
also fostered Negro rights. Under his decree, which was called SPECIAL
FIELD ORDER NO. 15 :
Set aside the Sea Islands and a portion of the low country rice coast of
Charleston, extending thirty miles inlands, for the exclusive settlement
of Blacks. Each family would receive forty acres of land and Sherman later
authorized the army to loan them mules. Here.. Lies the origin of the phrase
Aforty acres and a mule@
that would soon echo throughout the land". (Eric Foner;
Ibid; p. 32).
Throughout the South, huge strides in education and self-organisation
were taking place by the Negroes. In their passion to obtain land, the
openly defied the plantation owners :
1865 did more than argue the merits of their case, hundreds of freedmen
refused either to sign labor contacts or to leave the plantations insisting
that the land belonged to them. On the property of a Tennessee planter,
former slaves not only claimed to be Ajoint
heirs@ to the estate but; the
owner complained, abandoned the slave quarters and took up residence Ain
the rooms of my house." (Eric Foner; Ibid; p. 46).
BUREAU was set up by the Federal Government to ensure a smooth
passage of Emancipation in the South. But its hands were rapidly tied by
both Northern unwillingness to enforce the law, and Southern bigotry. Nonetheless,
some measures were taken to benefit the Negro. The Bureau had 850,000 acres
of land that it had confiscated, from Confederate enemies by Lincoln=s
rarely used 1862 Confiscation Act. General Rufus
Saxton was a dedicated pre-war abolitionist. He tried to set
up settlement of blacks on these lands in various parts of the South. He
was put in charge of the Bureau, and used the Field Order of Sherman. (Eric
Foner; Ibid; p. 72).
But in August 1865, President Andrew Jackson annulled
Special Field Order No. 15; by the AHoward=s
Circular 15". This restored the
land to the Confederate planters. Freedmen were removed by force of the
army. Most former slaves were averse to growing cotton, AIf
ole masse=r want to grow cotton,
let him plant it himself@( Eric
Foner; Ibid; p. 47). They instead chose food crops and only
then considered cash crops. But the cotton industry had come into being.
By brutal repressions and violence, the struggle was waged to push the
Negroes back into the fields. Under starvation, or seeing no other choice,
the Negroes went to work for the now restored plantation owners. Their
terms of work were now somewhat different to that of straight forward slavery.
AIn the early
years of Reconstruction, payments included cash wages, paid monthly or
at year=s end; a share of the
crop, divided collectively among the entire labour force or among smaller
groups of workers; various combination of wages and share payments; time
sharing plans in which freedmen worked part of the week for the planter
and part on their own land; wages in kind or cash wages for specific tasks."
(Eric Foner; Ibid; p. 78).
This ended up as SHARE CROPPING,
which decentralized plantation agriculture. Now:
families (instead of large groups of freedmen) signed contracts with the
landowner and became responsible for a specified piece of land (rather
than working in gangs). Generally sharecroppers retained one-third of the
years crop if the planter provided implements, fertilizer work animals,
and seed, and half if they supplied their own. The transition to sharecropping
occurred at different rates on different plantations and continued well
into the 1870's .. To Blacks sharecropping offered an escape from gang
labour and day-to-day white supervision. For planters the system provided
a war to reduce to cost and difficulty of labour supervision, share risk
with the tenants, and circumvent the chronic shortage of cash and credit.
Most important of all it stabilised the work force, for sharecroppers utilised
the labor fores of the members of the family and had a vested interest
in remaining until the crop had been gathered. Yet whatever its economic
rationale, many planters resisted sharecropping as a theat to their overall
authority." (Eric Foner; Ibid; p. 80).
V) EMERGENCE OF SOCIALISM IN THE
The early days of socialism in the USA were dominated
by some naive transplanted Germans. Of these a prominent individual was
HERMANN KRIEGE. Marx critiqued
him for his naive attitude to the division of the soil of the USA. He repeated
some of the earlier arguments of George Henry. Many naive early socialists,
thought this soil division, would allow societal development towards socialism.
In reality Marx argued, division of land could not be perpetuated ad infinitum,
and there would be an inevitable development of capitalism in agriculture
the soil the communal heritage of all mankind.. And want the legislative
power of the people to take steps to preserve as the inalienable communal
property of all mankind, the 1,400 million acres of land which have not
yet fallen into the hands of rapacious speculators.. So in order that the
soil shall remain Ainalienable
communal property@, and for @all
mankind@ to boot, a start must
be made without delay on dividing it up. Kriege considers 160 acres of
land as an ever-constant measure, as if the value of such an area did not
vary according to its quality.. It will soon become apparent that one >farmer=
even though he has no capital will simply by his work and the greater initial
productivity of his 160 acres, reduce his neighbour to the status of his
farm labourer." (AMarx
and Engels: ACircular Against
Kriege@; May 1846; Cited M&E
USA@; p. 45).
After the death of Marx, Engels remained in close touch with
the American movement, and visited America also. He described the emergence
of the working class movement in the USA in a new edition of the classic
work of his ACondition of the
Working Class in England@. This
was put into a new translation by one of his followers, Mrs Kelley-Wischnewetzky.
In the foreword to this, Engels summarises three main strands of the workers
movements in the USA. He first describes the fact hat it is a mass movement.
He had already done this before, in a latter to Sorge where he also notes
the influence of the German communist elements, who are theoretically Aahead@
of the native Americans :
is moving ahead mightily in America. There is for the first time a real
mass movement among the English speaking workers. That it should at first
proceed gropingly in a clumsy, uncertain, inexperienced manner, is unavoidable.
All that will be cleared up; the movement will and must develop through
it=s own mistakes. Theoretical
ignorance is a characteristic of all young nations but so is also rapid
practical development. No preaching does any good in America or in England
until the actual necessity exits. And this necessity exists in America
now, and people are becoming aware of it. The fact that masses of active
workers are joining the movement in America is for me one of the greatest
events of 1886. As for the Germans who associate with them , even if the
sort now flourishing should gradually associate with Americans, they would
still be somewhat ahead of them, and in the end there will still remain
a core among the Germans over there that retains a theoretical understanding
of the nature and the course of the whole movement, keeps the process of
fermentation going and ultimately predominates." (Engels:
Letter to Friederich Adolph Sorge; April, 1886; Cited AM&E
Again Engels points out the importance of the rupture of
the Civil War propelling the Adisconnected
upheavals@ into the proletarian
was only just on the start; there was but a series of confused and apparently
disconnected upheavals of that class which, by the suppression of Negro
slavery, and the rapid development of manufacturers had become the lowest
stratum of American society. Before the year closed these bewildering social
convulsions began to take a definite direction. The spontaneous instinctive
movement of these vast masses of working people over a vast extent of country..
Made them conscious of the fact that they formed a new and distinct class
of American workers; a class of-practically speaking-more or less hereditary
wageworkers, proletarians." (Engels: AThe
Labour Movement in America@,
Preface to American Edition of The Condition of the working class in England@;
p. 284; Ed Florence Kelley-Wischnewetzky; In M&E USA@
Ibid; p. 281-290).
This was bound to lead to the direct political actions of
formation of party to represent the masses. At first the Apolitical
was electorally based. But Engels warns that it needs to find a Adistinct
platform@, and that this must
end with the socialist revolution :
true American instinct this consciousness led them at once to take the
next step towards their deliverance: the formation of a political workingmen=s
party, with a platform of its own, and with the conquest of the Capitol
and the White House for its goal. In May the struggle for the eight-hours
working day, the troubles in Chicago, Milwaukee etc the attempts of the
ruling class to crush the nascent uprising of Labour by brute force and
brutal class-justice; in November the new Labor Party organised in all
great centers, and the New York, Chicago Milwaukee elections The next step
is to find the common remedy for these common grievances (ie of the >labouring
masses grievances=) and to embody
it in the platform of the new Labor Party. And this- the most important
and the most difficult step in the movement - has yet to be taken in America.
A new party must have a distinct platform ; a platform which may vary in
details as circumstances vary, and as the party itself develops, but one
upon which the party, for the time being is agreed. So long as such a platform
has not been worked out, or exists but in a rudimentary form, so long the
new party too, will have but a rudimentary existence; it may exist locally
but not yet nationally; it will be a party potentially but not actually.
That platform whatever may be its final shape must develop in a direction
which may be determined before hand.... It will proclaimed the ultimate
end, the conquest of political supremacy by the working class, in order
to effect the direct appropriation of all means of production-land railways,
mines, machinery etc; -by society at large." (Engels:
AThe Labour Movement in America;@
Ibid; p. 284-285).
As noted, Engels pointed to three
Adefinite forms of the American
The first was the Land Reform movement originally identified with Hermann
Kriege, and then with HENRY GEORGE.
Engels points out the >utopianism=
and naivete of the George movement, just as Marx had pointed out the same,
on the same issue of land reform, in Kriege :
AOf the three
more or less definite forms under which the American labor movement thus
represents itself, the first the Henry George movement in New York is for
the moment of a chiefly local significance.. In New York the Central Labor
Union.. chose.. Henry George and consequently its temporary electoral platform
has been imbued with this principles. In the great cities of the North
West, the electoral battle was fought upon a rather indefinite labor platform
and the influence of Henry George=s
theories was scarcely if at all visible..To Henry George the expropriation
of the mass of the people from the land is the great and universal splitting
up of the people into Rich and Poor. Now this is not quite correct historically.
In Asiatic and classical antiquity, the predominant form of class oppression
was slavery, that is to say, not so much the expropriation of the masses
from the land as the appropriation of their persons. When in the decline
of the Roman Republic, the free Italian peasants were expropriated form
their farms, they formed a class of Apoor
whites@ similar to that of the
Southern Slave States before 1861; and between slaves and Apoor
whites@, two classes equally
unfit for self-emancipation, the old world went to pieces. In the Middle
Ages, it was not the expropriation of the people form, but on the contrary,
their appropriation to the land which became the source of feudal oppression..It
was only at the dawn of modern times, towards the end of the 15th Century,
that the expropriation of the peasantry on large scale laid the foundation
for the modern class of wage workers who possessed nothing but their labour
power.. If Henry George declares land-monopolisation to be the sole cause
of poverty and misery, he naturally finds the remedy in the resumption
of the land by society at large.. What is to be done with the land? Modern
socialists as represented by Marx, demand that it should be held and worked
in common and on common account and the same with all other means of socials
production, mines, railways, factories etc.. What the Socialists demand
implies a total revolution of the whole system of social production; what
Henry George demands, leaves the present mode of production untouched."
Movement in America@ Ibid; p.
A better section Engels felt were the KNIGHTS
OF LABOUR, because they were a genuine
mass based movement. But Engels characterised them as Aindistinct@
and by this he meant that they had no socialist theoretical basis :
great section of the American movement is formed by the Knights of Labour..It
is undoubtedly by far the strongest. An immense association spread over
an immense extent of country in innumerable Aassemblies@,
representing all shades of individual and local opinion within the working
class; the whole of them sheltered under a platform of corresponding indistinctness
and held together much less by their impracticable constitution than by
the instinctive feeling that the very fact of clubbing together for their
common aspiration makes them a very great power in the country; a truly
American paradox clothing the most modern tendencies in the most mediaeval
Labor Movement in America@ Ibid;
Despite this the Knights were truly a national and mass working
class organisation, first in USA :
AThe KOL are
the first national organisation created by the American working class as
a whole; whatever may be their origin and history, whatever their shortcoming
and little absurdities , whatever their platform and their constitution,
here they are, the work of practically the whole class of American wage
workers, the only national bond that holds them together..To an outsider
it appears evident that here is the raw material out of which the future
of the American working-class movement, and along with it, the future of
American society at large has to be shaped." (AThe
Labor Movement in America@ Ibid;
He had already characterised, in a letter to Sorge, the mass
nature of the Knights of Labour, but their drawback was their >neutrality@
I hear the Knights of Labour are a real power, especially in New England
and the West, and are becoming more so every day owing to the brutal opposition
of the capitalist. It think it is necessary to work inside this organisation
to form within this still plastic mass a core of people who understand
the movement and its aims and will therefore take over the leadership,
at least of a section, when the inevitable, now impending Abreak-up@
of the present Aorder takes place.
The worst side of the Knights of Labour was their political neutrality..
The first step of importance for every country newly entering into the
movement is always the constitution of the workers as an independent political
party, no matter how so long as it is a distinct workers=
party. And this step has been taken.. The movement in America is at the
same stage as it was in our country (Germany) before 1848; the really intelligent
people there will first have to play the part played by the Communist League
among the workers= associations."
(Engels: Letter Friederich Adolph Sorge Nov 1886;
In AM&E USA@
p.312. From Sel Coressp pp 373-75).
The final section was the more conscious working class SOCIALIST
LABOR PARTY (SLP). But as Engels,
not being a dewy eyed observer, was aware, the SLP was not established
as a party. He pointed to its greatest drawback, the failure to have integrated
with the class, and its aloofness from native Americans, as it was dominated
by German immigrants :
section consists of the Socialist Labor Party. This section is a party
but in name, for nowhere in America has it, up to now, been able actually
to take its stand as a political party. It is moreover to a certain extent
foreign to America, having until recently been made up almost exclusively
by German immigrants, using their own language and for the most part little
conversant with the common language of the country. But if it came from
a foreign stock, it came, at the same time, armed with the experience ganged
during long years of class struggle in Europe... This is fortunate for
the American proletarians who thus are enabled to appropriate and to take
advantage of, the intellectual and moral fruits of the forty years struggle
of their European class-mates." (AThe
Labor Movement in America@ Ibid;
@For as I said
before there cannot be any doubt that the ultimate platform of the American
working class must and will be essentially the same as that of the German-American
Labor Party.. But they will have to doff every remnant of their foreign
garb. They will have to become out and out Americans. They cannot expect
the Americans to come to them; they , the minority and the immigrants,
must go to the Americans, who are the majority and the natives. And to
do that they must above all things learn English." (AThe
Labor Movement in America@ Ibid;
For Engels the process of fusion of the three streams of
the working class movement needed time, and the process would not be without
of fusing together these various elements of the vast moving mass-elements
not really discordant, but indeed mutually isolated by their various starting
points- will take some time and will not come off without a great deal
of friction." (The Labor Movement in America@
But he had no doubt that this would happen in due course
hosts of workers, for the first time set in motion in a common direction,
have as yet found out neither the adequate expression for their common
interests, nor the form of organisation best adapted to their common struggle,
nor the discipline required to insure victory. They are as yet the first
great levies en masse of the great revolutionary war.. All converging to
form one common army, but without as yet regular organisation and common
plan of campaign. The converging columns cross each other here and there:
confusion, angry disputes.. The community of ultimate purpose in the end
overcomes all minor troubles... presenting to the enemy a well-ordered
front, ominously silent under their glittering arms@
(The Labor Movement in America@
TO CONCLUDE FROM THIS BRIEF SURVEY,
MARX AND ENGELS FELT :
1. That the struggle for equality
of the Negroes was paramount to an understanding by the white workers that
liberty lay in a united workers fight against capital.
2. That the party to be built had
to be the party of the entire working class.
3. That the nature of the USA allowed
a swift confrontation when the class could organise its party, for the
socialist revolution. There was no democratic stage to go through.
Engels F AMarx
and Engels On The USA@; Moscow
1979; Citing :
Letter to A.Sorge; Sep 1886;
Letter to Friederich Adolph Sorge; April, 1886; Cited
Letter to Florence Kelley-Wischnewetzky. June 1886
Letter Friederich Adolph Sorge Nov 1886
Movement in America@, American
Edit of ACondition Working class
Letter Friederich Adolph Sorge Nov 1886;
Engels F: @Condition
of the Working Class in England in 1844"; London 1936
Foner Eric, AA
Short History of Reconstruction@;
New York; 1990;
Foner Philip, AHistory
of the Labour Movement in the USA. Volume 1: From Colonial Times to Founding
of the AFL@; New York 1978.
Fogel, Robert W. & S. L.Engerman: Time On The Cross-The
Economics of American Negro Slavery@;
N York; 1989.
Foster, William Z: AThe
Negro People In American History@;
New York; 1954.
Foster, William Z. AHistory
of the CPUSA@; New York; 1952;
Harrison Alferdeteen ; ABlack
Exodus: The Great Migration From the America South@;
Jackson, Miss.; 1991;
James C.L.R.; AThe
Black Jacobins - Toussaint L=Ouverture
and the San Domingo Revolution@;
New York; 1963.
Marx Karl : AMarx
and Engels on the USA@, Moscow,
1979, Citing :
AThe North American
Question In England@;
the North American Events@;
1:@ Chapter X The working day@;
Surplus Value,@ Vol II (German
@Vol IV of Capital@;
Chapter XII Tables of Differential rent & Comment@;
Vol 1 Capital, AChapter
XXXI. Genesis of the Industrial Capitalist@;
Letter to Lion Philips; May 1861;
Letter to Joseph Weydemeyer, Nov 1864;
Letter Francois Lafargue in Bordeaux, November, 1866;
Marx and Engel ; @German
Ideology@1846: In AMarx
&Engels On USA.@
Kriege@; May 1846; In AMarx
&Engels On USA.@
Padover, S.K ; AKarl
Marx On America and the Civil War@;
New York, 1972. Citing :
Letter to Pavel Vassilyevich Annenkov December 1846.
Marx Vol II Capital; Chapter XX; Sec 12;
Capital Vol 1, Part III, Chapter VIII Sec 5
Morton, A.L : AA
People=s History of England@;
New York, 1974
Rogozinski Jan , AA
Brief History of the Caribbean@;
New York; 1994;
Williams, Eric: @Capitalism
and Slavery@; London 1967
Zinn, Howard: @A
People=s History of the USA@;
New York, 1980.
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