Just to make something clear

Mark Lause MLause at cinci.rr.com
Thu Jul 10 07:01:33 MDT 2003


You speak of an "ability to distinguish history from personal fantasy."
You don't seem to know the difference.

History is about the sources.  You--or a neo-Confederate ancestor
worshipper--may have your cherished and comforting notions about the
past, but don't confuse them with history. History is not about your
reading of what Marx said but about what the sources tell us.

You ignore what the secessionist strategists wrote and said to each
other--about reestablishing the cotton South beneath the protection of
the British Empire.  You ignore what they said and wrote--brushing aside
mere ideas to focus on the alleged determinants of the economic
relations--but then you don't really address that subject either,
because you are quoting Marx. Why not use a Ouija board?

Marx was a bright fellow.  Being bright doesn't mean he knew so more
about what was happening on the other side of the planet than we can
ignore what the people who were actually there doing things were saying
about what they were doing.  Of course, not only can bright people who
write things be wrong, but the not-so-bright can later misread those
writings.  In this case, had the primary proponent of historical
materialism have had access to much of the historical materials we do,
he would have used them.  I don't think he'd have quoted himself.

In any event, anyone who tries to distill the "progressiveness" of Union
victory in the Civil War--our "Second American Revolution"--to a
singularity of any sorts doesn't understand what revolution is or
suffers from severe tunnel vision.  Revolution is a process in which
conflicting interests vie for position and power. Anyone who sees
"bourgeois revolution" as something to do just with the economic will of
the bourgeoisie is deluding themselves.  The next issue of LABOR HISTORY
will include a piece on how the New England shoe strike of 1860 fed into
the triumph of "free labor" ideology at the polls, the Unionist war
effort, and emancipation.  Simply put, it warps our understanding of the
real world to treat these things as simplistically distinguishable.

You might be engaged in some kind of model-building kind of social
science that will discover and propound new "laws" about what happens
and doesn't happen.  Invariably, this approach ignores what doesn't fit.
Certainly, this way of approaching the past has nothing to do with
history or historical materialism.

Bless you,
Mark Lause

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