Was the Union war against the Confederacy a progressive war or imperialist bloodbath?

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Hieronymous's picture
Joined: 27-07-07
Feb 20 2016 05:03

Artesian, they're not only pacifists, but as Walter pointed out:

". . . these men are cowards"

. . . and nihilists (they believe in nothing)

Joined: 20-04-08
Feb 23 2016 07:34

This clip is well worth a watch


A clip from Plutocracy

James MacBryde's picture
James MacBryde
Joined: 26-10-15
Feb 24 2016 20:50


But really, what would I say to a crowd of raving racist New Yorkers? Nothing

Steven.'s picture
Joined: 27-06-06
Feb 24 2016 23:42

Multiple posts including racism and flaming have been reported on this thread. The thread has now been locked temporarily until we have had a chance to look through it and take action when necessary. Apologies but please bear with us.

Mike Harman
Joined: 7-02-06
Oct 15 2018 13:55

SpikyMike just mentioned this thread elsewhere. We never undid the temporary lock here (and I completely missed this thread the first time around)... so I'm (possibly temporarily) unlocking it again. I'm also not sure exactly what action was or wasn't taken, but some posters have since stopped using the site.

Mike Harman
Joined: 7-02-06
Oct 15 2018 14:57

Joseph Kay wrote:

Ok this thread's a clusterfuck, but it's probably useful to distinguish between social form and 'labour conditions' (for want of a better term). Chattel slavery, peonage, sharecropping, and wage labour are distinct (if potentially overlapping) social forms. So the shift from pre-war chattel slavery to post-reconstruction peonage/convict leasing is a shift in social form, even if the conditions of labour - and indeed places of work, and identity of the employers - were in many cases identical to under chattel slavery (or even vengefully worse).

As I understand the 'slavery by another name' thesis (I've watched the film, but not read the book), it's arguing more about the continuity of labour conditions and economic role (i.e. harsh unremunerated labour). I don't think that's mutually exclusive with a shift in social form (though arguably convict labour is a form of slavery - as the 13th Amendment seems to acknowledge - albeit not chattel slavery). That then also answers the 'when was (chattel) slavery abolished?' question; with the defeat of the South, but the 'slave-like' conditions re-imposed after 1876 persisted well into the 20th century, offset by migration to the north, and the eventual decline of Southern cotton as a key commodity.

I've read the Blackmon book and JK's synopsis is correct. He goes into depth on how convict leasing worked, but also notes how it was very different from chattel slavery - i.e. it benefited extractive (and to a lesser extent) industrial capitalists more than the plantation class. The process of leasing convicts was very different from slave markets etc.

What Blackmon doesn't say is that the civil war was 'pointless' - convict leasing was introduced to reverse gains made during reconstruction ([i]edit, and convict leasing also existed as early as the 1830s, it was expanded post-reconstruction in tandem with vagrancy laws and similar, not created out of the blue).

I also think it's an oversimplification to say that it was an inevitable conflict over modes of production and that 'free wage labour' won - because those 'free wage labourers' were often then imprisoned then forced to work to death in mines. On top of this, while Marx might have seen the conflict itself as inevitable, he didn't see the victory of the North as inevitable, can't find the reference now but there's one point he says the South was fighting the war to introduce slavery to the north. The fugitive slave act a decade or so before the civil war was a sign of how that might have started.

While it's true that debt peonage, sharecropping and convict leasing itself were more or less finished by 1945, we should remember that the 13th amendment's exception of prison labour has been massively exploited with the US's rising prison population since 1973, to the point where there are about 3 million convict labourers today. This is less than the number of slaves in 1860, but much more than in 1800.

What Blackmon doesn't mention is the resistance to convict leasing, such as this in the mid-1880s. Although we'd also have to pit that against the various race riots by whites against blacks, right into the 20th century.


On the general point of slave resistance, maroon communities have been very little mentioned here but it seems relevant in terms of what is or isn't proletarian struggle.

The idea that slaves could only manage isolated revolts due to their condition is not right. Escaped slaves sustained maroon communities for decades, in some cases centuries - in Brazil, Jamaica (Granny Nanny being the famous one), Haiti (the Haitian maroons were on the receiving end of Louverture's army at the start, and forces were only combined much later). Louverture also threatened to send an envoy to Jamaica to get them involved (although Louverture had been an ex-slave for some time before the Haitian revolution started).

In the US, the Florida Seminoles combined Native Americans who had been forced to migrate with escaped slaves, and they held out against the US for decades, https://libcom.org/history/christmas-day-freedom-fighters-hidden-history-seminole-anticolonial-struggle-william-kat

Another US example was the dismal swamp: https://libcom.org/history/real-resistance-slavery-north-america The dismal swamp continued until the end of the civil war, when the prospect of being caught and returned to slavery was at least in theory over. Also iirc it was a multi-racial maroon community, with whites living on the edges of the swamp forming a kind of buffer to the escaped slaves in the middle.

It's also a mistake to see all of this as pre-capitalist - US chattel slavery was a creation of capitalism and central to the industrialisation of Europe. Britain imposed forced labour on an industrial scale in Kenya in the mid 1950s too after decades of trying to create a 'free' proletariat there.

When Marx talks about slavery, sometimes he is talking about classical slavery, and sometimes he is talking about US chattel slavery, and too many people (including some on this thread) conflate those statements with each other. US chattel slaves weren't in some pre-capitalist patriarchal relationship with their masters (as much as confederate nostalgia might try to put that forward), but had already been violently separated from the land, and were working to create commodities for the world market.

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Joined: 29-04-08
Oct 16 2018 12:51

Even though this thread is a few years old, I remember it well. It helped clarify a few things for me, perhaps most importantly, that you can't necessarily project the values of the 20th/21st Century dissident workers movement into the past. It can place you into some regrettable positions.

Joined: 6-01-07
Dec 29 2020 16:13

I have my disagreements with IP in relation to their text and the issue of slavery in the American Civil War and otherwise as I commented in my posts No's 112 and 173. Sander would probably not change their view as previously expressed on this thread but I still thought their text on a related matter here seemed relevant and worth a mention even at this late stage:
Like Juan I found this discussion thread very useful in clarifying my own views and others might also still find it worthwhile.