[Marxism] Andrew Jackson

James Zarichny zarichny at yahoo.com
Fri Oct 14 15:21:07 MDT 2005

For almost two centuries, a debate has been raging in
what we now call the “American Left”.

It all started in 1830 when William Lloyd Garrison
first issued his newspaper, the Liberator.  Garrison
argued that the abolitionists should always take the
moral high ground; they should undertake a moral
crusade in behalf of everything good such as pacifism
and women’s suffrage.  He said that what was needed
was  a moral crusade that would split the churches on
the issue of slavery.

Within less than a decade, James Gillespie Birney
initiated a counter tendency.  He said that what was
needed was a political campaign.  The anti-slavery
movement should be built on a political foundation. 
It should be united with movements that had strong
public political support.  It should be united with
forces that wanted higher tariffs, railroads in the
West, internal improvements, a Homestead Act, and a
whole host of other issues which the South vehemently

He initiated the Liberty Party, and as its candidate
for president in 1840, spoke out on all of these
issues.  His supporters worked with dissident elements
in the Whig and Democratic parties and by 1848 were
able to merge into the Free Soil Party which was soon
to merge with other forces into the new Republican
Party.  Clearly, he is the ideological grandfather of
the Republican Party.  Birney took a year off from
American politics to work with the British anti Corn
Law League because he believed that if the British
imported more American grain, the population of the
upper Midwest would increase rapidly and furnish a
base of support for him.

Today, looking back, it is clear that the moral
campaign of Garrison awakened people. But it was
Birney’s position that directly led to Lincoln.  At
the time, there was extreme bitterness between
Garrison and Birney over which route to take.  For
example, While Birney privately supported women’s
suffrage, he did not make an issue of it because women
could not vote and thus a side issue in the coalition
he was building.

Let us now look at Roosevelt.  He was confronted with
a congress that had three segments, Republicans,
Northern Democrats, and Dixiecrats.  Whenever
Republicans and Dixiecrats combined, they had a clear
majority.  Tactically, Roosevelt felt it was necessary
to get some Dixiecrat support if he was to pass
legislation such as old age pensions, the Wagner Labor
Relations Act which greatly strengthened the labor
union movement, job creation under the WPA and PWA,
and many other issues.  Was the Black Community
mistaken because it united behind Roosevelt on these
issues.  I was politically active at the time and I
can testify that there was enthusiasm for Roosevelt
among the people in the Black community that I knew.

I can well remember the sit-down strikes at the huge
Fisher Body plant on South Saginaw Street in Flint,
Michigan.  (I was president of the UAW sponsored
Junior Union in 1937 and later in high school, I was
treasurer of the CIO Youth Club).  Today, many people
criticize Bob Travis, the Communist leader of the
strike, for not raising the demands of Black workers. 
But let us take a detailed look at the situation. 
General Motors was incredibly racist.  Fisher Body was
all white.  There was not a single Black in South
Fisher, not even as a janitor.  Furthermore 75% of the
workers were not participating in the strike.  The
great majority was sympathetic, but after the failed
1934 strike, they were afraid.  Basically only the
left political people, the Slavic Immigrants, and the
youth under 30 took part in the strike.  The local
Communists knew that the battle for Black rights would
eventually have to be fought, but they felt that
tactically, it was not the right moment.  Their
position paralleled Birneys’ position on women’s
suffrage in 1840.  The question is “Are there Moral
positions which must be upheld at all times (as a
formula), or are there moments when tactical questions

After World War II broke out in 1941 A. Philip
Randolph called for a march on Washington for jobs for
Black people.  Randolph called off the demonstration
when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive
Order No. 8802, forbidding racial discrimination in
the employment of workers in defense industries. 
Executive Order 8802 established the Fair Employment
Practices Committee and mandated race-blind hiring by
defense organizations. This change in attitude was
influenced by Eleanor Roosevelt.  For the first time
in Flint, Large numbers of Blacks went to work on the
machines and assembly lines of General Motors.  We saw
a sea change in the jobs situation for Blacks.

In my opinion, Executive order 8802 was the most
significant attack on Jim Crow in the first half of
the twentieth century.

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