Debating slavery: Marx's discussion

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Oct 22 14:47:28 MDT 2000

Jim Farmelant:
>I find it amazing how both Lou & Andy have managed from a Marxist
>standpoint come to conclusions concerning the American Revolution,
>the French Revolution, and the American Civil War, that are strikingly
>of those championed by conservative historians.

I would express it somewhat differently. I advocate a radical break with
the mythology of the "bourgeois-democratic" revolution whose articulation
in Marx's writings was heavily influenced by liberal historiography,
particularly those who glorified the French bourgeoisie of 1789. I think
that when Marx wrote based on his own information rather than second-hand
reporting, he was much more clinical about the bourgeoisie. In Germany he
thought that the "bourgeois revolution" would have to be led by the workers
and peasants since the industrialists seemed to lack the will to confront
the Junkers. Guess what he called it. Permanent Revolution. Rings a bell,
doesn't it.

Daniel Guerin, who started out as a Trotskyist and never fully dropped his
Marxist methodology, wrote a book about the French Revolution titled "Class
Struggle in the First French Republic: Bourgeois and Bras Nus 1793 1795."
Guess what, his analysis is not much different than the one found in Marx's
writings on the German revolution. Anything that was "revolutionary" in
1789 was accomplished by the peasantry and the plebian masses against the
landed gentry and the bourgeosie both.

Furthermore, my analysis of  the bourgeois democracy is radically different
from that put forward by the Second International and which actually
lingered on in the Trotskyist movement. I agree with Andy. I am not that
impressed with 1776. Yankee Doodle Dandy, my ass. As far as Lincoln and
company are concerned, they put down a challenge by the slavocracy but
blacks continued to live in a state that fell short of the "free wage
labor" so elevated by Laclau, Brenner and Genovese into a sine qua non for
capitalism. Does anybody believe that the American south was precapitalist
in the 1950s? For that matter, does anybody believe that the Mexico of B.
Traven's novels in which the Indians of Chiapas lived in a state of
permanent debt peonage while chopping mahogany trees for the world market
was "precapitalist"? Give me a break.

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list:

More information about the Marxism mailing list