[Marxism] A "Third Worldist" view of the American Civil War

Nestor Gorojovsky nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar
Sun Oct 9 14:56:04 MDT 2005

> Actually, Charles introduced Lincoln and the Republicans, as an 
> example of a great historic "front" of some sort that provided a 
> precedent for the popular front of the 1930s.... 

I hope you people will not be hard on me because I dare to have a 
saying on things American, but maybe a "Third Worldist" vision of the 
history of the US can be of help here.

Lincoln's was not a _popular_ but a _national_ front.  It aimed at 
finishing for good the unsolved question of whether the Union would 
follow a self-centered path to capitalist deveolpment, or an foreign-
exports oriented path, as proposed by the South.

As it came to happen, the Reconstruction was not achieved in the way 
the best and most radicalized elements in Lincoln's National wished.  

It is not the first time that a society establishes a new order (less 
sordid than its predecessor) by bringing to the fore its own best 
energies, not exactly those that represent the _actual_ equilibrium 
to be achieved once the new order is attained, but simply those which 
express its own most progressive, advanced and radical wishes, simply 
to betray them once they have served their role.  Should we quote the 
Jacobins?  Or, maybe, even the Bolsheviks?  No Marxist should be 
amazed at this. 

The US ruling classes brought to an end the great drama of the Civil 
War by means of a particular agreement where the Southerner oligarchs 
offered themselves as the administrators of a domestic colony for the 
Northern bourgeois.  In this, they remained "underdeveloped 
capitalists", but simply changed partners:  up to the Civil War, 
their privileged partner was Manchester.  Now, it would be the 
textile mills that were mushrooming in the North of the US.  

I have a hunch, BTW, that this moment could be signaled as the 
birthdate of the American _imperialist_ bourgeoisie proper.  Not only 
because Lenin himself places the birthdate of imperialism on the 
aftermath of the 1875 crisis, but also because of internal reasons.  
This would be very helpful, for example, in explaining much of the 
particular callousness and viciousness of the American imperialist, 
maybe infused into it by the former slaveowners.  This particular 
imperialist bourgeoisie, if my hunch is accurate, would _not_ have 
been the "natural" result of an _internal_ change in the bourgeoisie 
(as, say, in France), but in fact something still worse:  a _fussion_ 
of the slavocrat with the bourgeois.  If one reads, for example, 
Gilberto Freyre's Casa Grande & Senzala, one can discover direct 
references to the Southerner ruling classes, and the myriad traits 
they shared with the North Eastern Brazilian slaveowners. Freyre came 
in contact with them during the 1930s;  now, by those times these 
classes were an integral part of the US imperialist bourgeoisie...  

The way in which the great confrontation was brought to an end 
permitted the dispersion, defeat and even murder (Lincoln himself, in 
an early demonstration of where would the ruling classes dare to go 
if need be) of the radicalized wings of the National Front. The 
arrangement was crowned around an agreement between the Northern 
bourgeoisie and the Southern oligarchies (deprived of slaves, not of 
land) by the mid-1870s.  We have been reading a most insightful essay 
on the relations between this agreement and the Katrina disaster on 
this very list a few weeks ago.  It is my own and humblest impression 
that this agreement, which took Rutherford Hayes to the US 
Presidency, casts a very dark and horrible shadow on the actual 
contents of the movement that erupted during the Civil War, and in a 
sense brought to life the US such as we know them.

As I said above, by that agreement, the Southern oligarchies offered 
themselves as the lords of an internal colony to the Northern 
bourgeoisie much in the way they had lorded the Southern states as 
semi-colonies of the British bourgeoisie.

Their full program was to split the Union during the 1850s/1860s, and 
 if they were not allowed to do their will.  The Civil War solved, at 
least, _this_ aspect of the national problem in the United States. 
Had the Southern oligarchs had their way, either by not allowing the 
Civil War to take place or by winning it, then the hypothetical 
division of the United States depicted on some novel by Ursula K. Le 
Guinn (the Nazis win the Second World War, and one of the 
consequences is the tripartition of the US) would have taken place 
long before that writer's parents or grandparents had been born.

And it would have not been impossible that these large partitions 
would, as a consequence, still suffer further Balkanization.

A final précis:

Balkanization of the States, at least, was avoided by the National 
Front, led by Lincoln, through a most particular National Liberation, 
which came to be known as the US Civil War.  Once the main objectives 
of the ruling class were achieved, the popular and progressive 
elements within the front,  Lincoln included, were either forced to 
stampede out of the mainstream Republican party (Mark Twain, as it is 
widely known, ended his life as the first vocal anti-imperialist in 
the US) or murdered (Lincoln).

Hope this is worth something.

Este correo lo ha enviado
Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar
[No necesariamente es su autor]
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"La patria tiene que ser la dignidad arriba y el regocijo abajo".
Aparicio Saravia
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