[Marxism] Eric Foner letter on Lincoln

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Dec 3 12:48:40 MST 2012

On 12/3/12 12:10 PM, DCQ wrote:
> Are we really basing entire political judgments on single quotes?
> Ugh, fine I'll play.
> Lou's Lincoln quote is from 1858. Here's him addressing freed slaves
> in Virginia 1865 immediately after the end of the war:
> "In reference to you, colored people, let me say God has made you
> free. Although you have been deprived of your God-given rights by
> your so-called masters, you are now as free as I am, and if those
> that claim to be your superiors do not know that you are free, take
> the sword and bayonet and teach them that you are."

Well, that's the whole point, isn't it?

Over a 10 year period material reality dictated a new set of ideas. As 
Marx put it:

"The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the 
transformation of the whole immense superstructure. In studying such 
transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the 
material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which 
can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, 
political, religious, artistic or philosophic -- in short, ideological 
forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out."

In other words, Marx adapted to facts on the ground in the same way that 
FDR switched from a deficit hawk to a military Keynesian. When workers 
sat in at Ford plants in 1938, he "saw the light".

Odd, however, that advocates of "socialism from below" can have such a 
soft spot in their heart for a politician who can at best be described 
as adapting to historical forces beyond his control.

I'll stick with Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell 
Phillips, Charles Sumner, and Thaddeus Stevens. Thank you very much.

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