Andrew Johnson impeachment and the Nation Magazine

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Aug 7 06:28:01 MDT 2003

David Schanoes:
>I think part of the problem with LP's conclusion is that he is expecting the
>US Civil war in the mid 19th century to reproduce the relations of 17th and
>18th century revolutions, and not just any relations, but the "paradigm"
>relation of  'yeoman farmers.'

No, that is the expectation of Charles Post, who views the civil war in
terms of the Brenner thesis. I am interested in challenging that analysis.

>Well, the US civil war did create, or should we say unleash, yeoman
>agriculture, that of the North.  What it did not do was transform the former
>slaves into yeoman farmers, which to my analysis, confirms Melvin's point
>that this slavery was not primitive accumulation, but embedded in capitalism
>itself, and as such, capital finds itself unable to complete the
>"revolution" of Southern property, drawing back from Reconstruction, as the
>demand for black labor to continue plantation production overwhelms the
>impulse to emancipation.

I will get into this in more depth, but I think it is a mistake to
overemphasize economic factors. The plantation system was about racial
supremacy as well as profit. In the middle ages the Catholic Church
introduced celibacy in order to prevent priests from leaving land to their
children. As part of this process, homosexuality was stigmatized as well.
The Church no longer has this economic requirement, but homophobia continues.

>There is also a problem in judging the "revolutionary" content of the civil
>war, or any bourgeois revolution by the actions of the bourgeois class.  One
>could, and some do, make the same argument concerning the French Revolution,
>i.e. the bourgeoisie hesitatted, equivocated, sold out/suppressed the rural
>and urban poor,  tried to maintain the ancien regime, etc. etc.  But the
>real revolution is in the supremacy of a specific form of  property and the
>shattering of the old form. That the bourgeoisie are or are almost not up to
>the tasks show how inadequate private property is even at its peak for
>organizing and leading social development.

Actually, Ellen Meiksins Wood denies that 18th century France was
capitalist. For her and Brenner, the bourgeois-democratic revolution--such
as it is--is of much less interest than the "revolution" in class relations
in the countryside, Britain in particular. However, there is a real
contradiction between this paradigm and what many Marxists view as the task
sine qua non of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, namely radical land
reform. Post has zero interest in whether this was accomplished in the
American south, while it would appear that this was the key demand of
Radical Republicans and Karl Marx himself.

>The US Civil War stands as a revolution, shattering slavery, allowing the
>North to move West, the US Civil War stands as a mid 19th century bourgeois
>revolution, incapable of completing the process, a process that has its
>origin and fulfillment in a need for access to and emancipation of labor.

But access to labor and "40 acres and a mule" are not quite the same thing.
There hangs a tale.

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list:

More information about the Marxism mailing list