[Marxism] Frederic Engels on the United States

Waistline2 at aol.com Waistline2 at aol.com
Tue Apr 27 08:15:25 MDT 2004

In a message dated 4/27/2004 3:37:57 AM Central Standard Time, 
andromeda246 at hetnet.nl writes:

>Phil Ferguson asked about the source of the quote by Engels " ...from good
historical reasons, the Americans are worlds behind in all theoretical
things..." etc. This came from a letter by Friedrich Engels to Friedrich
Adolph Sorge in Hoboken, written in London, November 29, 1886.
For a selection of quotes by Friedrich Engels on the US socialist movement,
see http://www.geocities.com/kenellis2020/partg.html< 


>From the stand point of my particular brand of Marxism several other factors 
account for the historical theory backwardness of the people of the American 
Union and our continuing collective backwardness. 

1. The extermination of the Indian peoples and the need to justify genocide 
in the ideological realm as a "theory" of human development. 

2. Slavery has distorted everything that America claims it stood for. The 
need to justify slavery in the ideological realm as a "theory" of human 
development, has debased the field of biology, economic theory and ever aspect of human 
relations. The fact of slavery created the historical "anti-education" 
tendency ingrained into American society. 

"The more stupid the people the better" is the official ideology of the 
bourgeoisie.  The historic South can lay claim to no serious intellectual 
contribution to anything in history except the justification of slavery. This does not 
deny a certain cultural specificity. 

3. The mechanics of the formation of the American Union. In Europe the shift 
to industry caused great dislocation  and tremendous struggle between town and 
country. A major part of this dislocation caused by the outflow of serfs into 
the towns, yet we are talking about a built up intellectual tradition. In 
America this dislocation was avoided by importing industrial workers from Europe. 
 The mechanics of the formation of the working class in the old South is a 
story best left to the communist workers and intellectuals of the historic 

The mechanics of the formation of the working class in the industrial North 
blocked the emergence of an indigenousness American Marxism for the better part 
of the twentieth century. A complex social process has been evolving in 
America for a couple hundred years that is perhaps best grasped as the emergence of 
a distinct American culture. 

There are only two basic sources for American culture: The Native American or 
Indian and the people of the Black Belt - the plantation areas of the South. 
The latter is so because America was Southern in its political institution and 
evolving culture up to the Civil War. The issue is simple and complex. The 
very important cultural contributions of the rural whites of the plantation area 
is based in the culture of the blacks. The African American people are not 
immigrants and emerged as a people based of development unique and specific to 
America. The increase in their mass and density is not the result of successive 
waves of immigration, as is the case with the "whites" of the American Union. 

Successive waves of European immigrants did not assimilate each others 
cultural peculiarity (language for example) as the basis for the emergence of a 
unique American culture, but rather that of the blacks and Indian, - and later 
thread of that identified as "Hispanic," which are uniquely American. This 
"Hispanic" that is uniquely American is based on or riveted to the blacks and Indian 
and not simply "Mexican."

Thus the emergence of an indigenousness Marxism could only take place on the 
basis of the political separation of the black workers from their own 
bourgeoisie. This process was well completed by the late 1980s and early 1990s. What 
has taken place is not a refusal to acknowledge our European heritage but 
something distinctly American has arisen within world Marxism - as a distinct 
intellectual thread, with a distinct American form. 

The above points basically add up to the political and economic logic of 
American history first formulated within Marxism as the national colonial question 
in history. 

We are still running from the "man in the mirror," but not all of us.  

We of course have always been our own "greatest enemy" and can blame no one 
for our intellectual development and political short comings. Who we are cannot 
be placed at the door of anyone else except ourselves. The problem is that we 
are still in a state of denial of our history, with an inability to define 
who we our - but not all of us. 

When onelooks into the mirror it looks back into you. The mirror is not the 

Melvin P. 

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