[Marxism] Marx, Lincoln and Project 1619 | Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Feb 14 07:24:47 MST 2020

It must have enraged the historians who signed Sean Wilentz’s open 
letter to the New York Times and their World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) 
allies to see Abraham Lincoln knocked off his pedestal. How insolent for 
Nikole Hannah-Jones to write in her introductory essay for Project 1619 
that “Anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country, as does 
the belief, so well articulated by Lincoln, that black people are the 
obstacle to national unity.” Lincoln was not only an iconic figure for 
the average American. Karl Marx admired him as well for his war on 
slavery. Since the primary goal of the critics of Project 1619 was to 
prioritize class over “identity”, naturally Karl Marx was just the 
authority to help make their case against the bourgeois New York Times 
intent on dividing the working-class.

Since the WSWS sets itself up as a Marxist gate-keeper par excellence, 
we can assume that the historians also had the Karl Marx-Abraham Lincoln 
in mind when they hooked up with the Trotskyist sect. James McPherson is 
probably the closest to WSWS ideologically, having granted them 
interviews over the years. When they asked him if he read Karl Marx’s 
writings on the Civil War, the historian replied, “Well, I think they 
have a lot of very good insight into what was going on in the American 
Civil War. Marx certainly saw the abolition of slavery as a kind of 
bourgeois revolution that paved the way for the proletarian revolution 
that he hoped would come in another generation or so. It was a crucial 
step on the way to the eventual proletarian revolution, as Marx 
perceived it.”

In this article, I will look critically at what Karl Marx and Friedrich 
Engels wrote about these questions. Although I have been a Marxist for 
52 years, I have little patience with those who put him (or Lenin and 
Trotsky) on a pedestal. I believe that Nikole Hannah-Jones had good 
reasons to question his sanctity. More to the point, I will argue that 
Marx and Engels lacked the political foresight to see how black 
Americans would be short-changed after the Civil War. Keeping in mind 
that the first socialist international was located in the United States, 
we must examine its relationship to the newly emancipated black 
population. Based on my reading of Timothy Messer-Kruse’s “The Yankee 
International,” my conclusion is that it fell short.

full: https://louisproyect.org/2020/02/14/marx-lincoln-and-project-1619/

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