Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chapter Three: The Marxists in the Struggle Against Slavery (1848-1865)

3. The Marxists in the Struggle Against Slavery (1848-1865)

Joseph Weydemeyer, Marxist and friend of Marx

served as a Lt. Colonel in the

Union Army during the Civil War.

The United States Constitution, drawn up
after the Revolutionary War and implying the continuation of Negro
slavery, was a compromise between the rival classes of southern planters
and northern merchants and industrialists. But it established no
stability between these classes, and they were soon thereafter at each
other's throats. The plantation system and slavery spread rapidly in the
South after the invention of the 1795. In the North the power of the
industrialists grew rapidly with cotton gin in 1793 and the development
of sugar cane production in the expansion of the factory system and the
settlement of the West. The interests of the two systems were
incompatible and the clash between them sharpened continuously.

Developing relentlessly over the basic,
related questions of control of the  newly-organized  territories   and
 of   the  federal  government,   this struggle was finally to culminate
in the great second revolution of 1861-65.   As the vast new
territories acquired by the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, by the seizure
of Florida in 1819, and by the Oregon accession and the Mexican War of
1846, were carved up into states and brought into the Union, the bitter
political rivals grabbed them off alternately as free or slave states.
Thus, a very precarious balance was maintained. The  northern
 industrialists  vigorously  opposed   the  extensive  infiltration of
the slave system into the West and Southwest, even threatening secession
from the Union. They contested the Louisiana Purchase, and bitterly
condemned the unjust Mexican War, in which the United States took half
of  Mexico's  territory  (the  present states  of  Texas, California,
Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, and part of Wyoming).
Lincoln denounced this predatory war, and opposition to it was intense
in the young labor movement.1 On the other hand, the industrialists were
eager to seize Oregon, and they never ceased plotting against the
territorial integrity of Canada, as these were non-slavery areas.

Despite all its expansion, the slave
system, however, could not possibly keep pace in strength with the great
strides of industry in the North. By 1860, 75 percent of the nation's
production was in the North, and the same area also held $11 billion of
the national wealth as against five billion held by the South. To
redress the balance of power shifting rapidly against them, the southern
planters embarked upon a militant offensive to consolidate their own
power. In the face of this drive the northern industrialists at first
retreated. Their ranks were split, as many bankers, shippers, and
textile manufacturers were tied up economically with the South; they
were confused as to how to handle the complex slavery issue; and they
feared the growing power of the working class.

During the 1850's the planters, through
the Democratic Party, controlled both houses of Congress, the
presidency, and seven of the nine Supreme Court judges. They used their
power with arrogance. They passed the Fugitive Slave Act, repealed the
Missouri Compromise by adopting the pro-slavery Kansas-Nebraska Act,
slashed the tariff laws, adopted the infamous Dred Scott decision,
vetoed the homestead bill, and declared slavery to be legal in all the
territories. Marx raised the real issue when he spoke of the fact that
twenty million free men in the North were being subordinated to 300,000
southern slaveholders.2 Class tensions mounted and the country moved
relentlessly toward the great Civil War.


It was the leaders and fighters of the
Abolitionist movement, in their relentless opposition to slavery, who
most fully expressed the historic interests of the as yet hesitant
bourgeoisie, and of the whole people. Men and women like Frederick
Douglass, Wendell Philips, William Lloyd Garrison, Susan B. Anthony,
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, John Brown, and Elijah P. Lovejoy prodded and
stirred the conscience of the nation. They fought to destroy slavery,
built the underground railway, and aggressively combated the fugitive
slave laws. With few exceptions they based their fight for Negro
emancipation mainly upon ethical and humanitarian grounds.

The most powerful force fighting for
abolition, however, was the tour million Negro slaves in the South. For
generations, and especially Since the turn of the century, the recurring
slave revolts, violent protests against the horrible conditions of
slavery, shook the very foundations of the slavocracy. Despite the most
ferocious suppression, the Negroes sabotaged the field work, burned
plantations, killed planters, and organized many insurrections. These
struggles grew more intense as the Civil War approached. The South
became a veritable armed camp, with the planters making desperate
efforts to stamp out the growing revolt of their slaves. Imperishable
are the names of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Denmark Vesey, Nat
Turner, and the many other brave Negro fighters in this heroic struggle
for liberty.

The northern white workers also played a
vital part in the great struggle. The existence of slavery in the South
was a drag on these workers' living conditions and the growth of their
trade unions in the North. Marx made this basic fact clear in his famous
statement that "Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin when
in the black it is branded."3 Retarding factors to the northern workers'
understanding of the slavery issue, however, were the anti-labor union
tendencies among middle class Abolitionists and the pressure in the
workers' ranks of opportunist leaders. Such men as George Henry Evans,
the land reformer, for example, argued that the emancipation of the
slaves prior to the abolition of wage slavery would be contrary to the
interests of the workers, as it would confront the latter with the
competition of a great mass of cheap labor. Once organized labor sensed,
however, that the abolition of slavery was the precondition for its own
further advance it was ready to join in the great immediate task of
destroying the block that stood in the path of its development and that
of the nation. With this realization, during the late 1850's, labor
became the inveterate enemy of slavery, and it became a foundation force
in the great coalition of capitalists, workers, Negroes, and farmers
that carried through and won the Civil War.


From the beginning, under the general
advice of Karl Marx, the Marxists in the United States took the most
consistent and clear-sighted position within the labor movement in
fighting for the outright abolition of slavery. The strong leadership of
the present-day Communist Party among the Negro people has deep roots
in the fight of these Marxist pioneers. They saw in the defeat of the
slavocracy the precondition for consolidating the nation's productive
forces, for the expansion of democracy, and for the creation of a
numerous, independent, and homogeneous proletariat advancing its own
interests. They also saw in the emancipation of the Negroes a great
cause of human freedom. They realized that in order to clear the decks
for the next historic advance, the working class must join with other
anti-slavery forces and do its utmost in carrying through the immediate,
democratic, revolutionary task of ending slavery and the slave system.

The contribution of the early Marxists
to the Abolitionist movement was out of all proportion to their small
numbers. They were very active in the terror-ridden South. Outstanding
here was the work of Adolph Douai, who had been a close co-worker of
Karl Marx in Europe. In 1852, Douai settled in Texas where, at the time,
it was said that one-fifth of the white population was made up of
48'ers from Europe. In San Antonio Douai published an Abolitionist
paper, until he was finally compelled to leave in peril of his life.
Important work was also done in Alabama under the leadership of the
immigrant Marxist, Hermann Meyer, who was likewise forced to flee.

In the North the anti-slavery Marxists
were particularly active, notably the Communist Club of Cleveland. A
conference in 1851 declared in favor of using all means which were
adapted to abolishing slavery, an institution which they called
repugnant to the principles of true democracy. In St. Louis and other
centers where the German immigrants were numerous, the Marxists carried
on intense anti-slavery activities. They developed these activities
especially after the passage in 1854 of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which
broke down the barriers against slavery in the Middle West. A few days
after this bill reached Congress the Chicago Socialists, led by George
Schneider, a veteran of 1848 in Germany and editor of the Illinois State
Gazette, initiated a campaign which culminated in a large public

On October 16, 1859, the heroic
Abolitionist, John Brown, and his twenty-one followers, Negroes and
whites, electrified the country by seizing Harper's Ferry in a desperate
but ill-fated attempt to develop an armed rising of the Negro slaves of
the South. The Marxists hailed Brown's courageous action, and they
organized supporting mass meetings in numerous cities. The Cincinnati
Social Workingmen's Association, led by Socialists, declared that "The
act of John Brown has powerfully contributed to bringing out the hidden
conscience of the majority of the people."4 Ten of Brown's men were
killed in the struggle and he himself was later hanged.

Joseph Weydemeyer, the Marxist leader,
considered that all these developments signalized the beginnings of a
new political awakening of the American labor movement. Along with Marx,
however, he had to combat the sectarian views, held by Weitling,
Kriege, and others, that Marxists should limit themselves to questions
of the conditions of the Workers and the struggle against capital, and
that labor should avoid "contamination" with political activities. Some
sectarians even branded participation in the anti-slavery movement as a
"betrayal" of the special interests of the working class.

In all his activities Weydemeyer
contended for the position that the fight against slavery was central in
the work of Marxists in that period. He strove to involve the trade
unions in the great struggle. He showed that without a solution of the
slavery question no basic working class problem could be solved. He
linked the workers' immediate demands with the fundamental issue of
Negro emancipation. In this fight the American Workers' League, under
Marxist influence, played an important role in winning the workers and
organized labor for the abolition struggle. Thus, in 1854, after the
passage of the infamous Kansas-Nebraska Act, the League held a big mass
meeting which declared that the German-American workers of New York
"have, do now, and shall, continue to protest most emphatically against
both white and black slavery and brand as a traitor against the people
and their welfare everyone who shall lend it his support."5


Following the "Nebraska infamy" of 1854,
events moved rapidly toward the decisive struggle. The arrogant actions
of the planters, who controlled the government, aroused and sharpened
the opposition in the North and West. The old political parties began to
disintegrate, and the Republican Party was formed in February 1854.
Alvin E. Bovay, former secretary-treasurer of the National Industrial
Congress and a prominent leader in New York labor circles, brought
together at Ripon, Wisconsin, a group of liberals, reformers, farmers,
and labor leaders-all of whom were disgusted with the policies of the
Whig and Democratic parties. This group decided "to forget previous
political names and organizations, and to band together" to oppose the
extension of slavery.6 Their program also supported those who were
fighting for free land.

The response of the northern
industrialists to the new party was immediate and favorable. Most of
them saw in it the instrument with which to wrest political control from
the slave-owners and to advance their own program; protective tariffs,
subsidies to railroads, absorption of the national resources, national
banking system, etc. The mercantile and banking interests, however, tied
financially to the cotton interests of the slave-owners in the South,
largely condemned the new party.

The initial response of the workers to
the Republican Party was varied. While many broke their traditional ties
with the Democratic Party, others hesitated to join the same party with
the industrialists. Among the northern and western farmers the new
party, however, got wide acceptance from the outset.

The Marxists, basing themselves on the
Marxist teachings (The Communist Manifesto) of fighting "with the
bourgeoisie whenever it acts in a revolutionary way,"7 unhesitatingly
supported the Republican Party and called upon labor to do likewise. Die
Soziale Republik, organ of the Chicago Arbeiterbund, then the foremost
Marxist group in the country, stated this policy. Although the Marxists
were firm advocates of full emancipation of the Negroes, they held that
they could best advance the anti-slavery cause by uniting with other
social groups upon the basis of the widely accepted program of
opposition to the further extension of slavery. This tactic was, in
fact, a transition to a later, more advanced revolutionary struggle.

In the elections of 1856 the Republicans
especially strove to win the support of the workers. The Marxists took a
very active part in the campaign. For example, in February 1856, they
helped to initiate a conference in Decatur, Illinois, of 25 newspaper
editors, including the German-American press, to organize the
anti-Nebraska Act forces for participation in the election campaign.
Abraham Lincoln was present at this gathering and he ardently supported
the resolution which it passed. This resolution was also adopted at the
1856 Philadelphia convention which nominated John C. Fremont for
President. Fremont polled 1,341,264 votes, or one-third of the total
vote cast. In consequence the Democratic Party was split, the Whig Party
was practically destroyed, and the Republican Party emerged as a major


The election in 1860 was the hardest
fought in the history of the United States up to that time. The
Republican Party made an all-out and successful effort to win the
decisive support of the great masses of armers, workers, immigrants, and
free Negroes, who were all part of the great new coalition under the
leadership of the northern bourgeoisie. Philip S. Foner states that "It
is not an exaggeration to say that the Republican Party fought its way
to victory in the campaign of 1860 "the party of free labor."8

Lincoln was a very popular candidate
among the toiling masses. He was known to be an enemy of slavery; his
many pro-labor expressions had won him a wide following among the
workers; his advocacy of the Homestead bill had secured him backing
among the farmers of the North and West; and his fight against bigoted
native "know-nothingism" had entrenched him generally among the
foreign-born. He faced three opposing presidential candidates—Stephen A.
Douglas, John C. Breckinridge, and John Bell—representing the three-way
split in the Democratic Party, and all supporting slavery in one way or
another. Lincoln stood on a platform of "containing slavery" to its
existing areas. There was no candidate pledged for outright abolition.

In the bitterly fought election the
slavocrats, who also had many contacts and supporters in the North,
denounced Lincoln with every slander that their fertile minds could
concoct. The redbaiters of the time shouted against "Black
Republicanism" and "Red Republicanism." Pro-slavery employers and
newspapers tried to intimidate the workers by threatening them with
discharge, by menacing them with a prospect of economic crisis, and by
warning them that Negro emancipation would create a flood of cheap labor
which would ruin wage rates. At the same time, the reactionaries tried
to split the young Republican Party by cultivating "know-nothing"
anti-foreign movements inside its ranks.

The Marxists were very active in this
vital election struggle. The clarity of their anti-slavery stand and
their militant spirit made up for their still very small numbers. Their
key positions in many trade unions enabled them to be a real factor in
mobilizing the workers behind Lincoln's candidacy. To this end they
spared no effort, holding election meetings of workers in many parts of
the North and East. Undoubtedly, the labor vote swung the election for
Lincoln, and for this the Marxists were entitled to no small share of
the credit.

The Marxists were energetic in winning
the decisive foreign-born masses to support Lincoln. In 1860 the
foreign-born made up 47.62 percent of the population of New York, 50
percent of Chicago and Pittsburgh, and 59.66 percent of St. Louis, with
other cities in proportion. The Germans, by far the largest immigrant
group in the country, were a powerful force in Missouri, Iowa,
Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Maryland,
Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. They heavily backed
Lincoln. "Of the 87 German language newspapers, 69 were for Lincoln."9

The Marxists were especially effective
in creating pro-Lincoln sentiment among the German-American masses. This
was graphically demonstrated at the significant Deutsches Haus
conference held in Chicago in May 1860, two days before the opening of
the nominating convention of the Republican Party. This national
conference represented all sections of German-American life. The
Marxists Weydemeyer and Douai, who led the working class forces at the
conference, were of decisive importance in shaping the meeting's action.
Douai, selected as head of the resolutions committee, wrote for the
conference a series of resolutions demanding that "they be applied in a
sense most hostile to slavery."10 These resolutions largely furnished
the basis for the election platform of the Republican Party.

The fierce campaign of 1860 concluded
with the election of Lincoln. The final tabulation showed: Lincoln,
1,857,710; Douglas, 1,291,574; Breckinridge, 850,082; Bell, 646,124


In the face of Lincoln's victory, the
oligarchy of southern planters acted like any other ruling class
suffering a decisive democratic defeat, by taking up arms to hold on to
and extend their power at any cost. Acting swiftly and disregarding the
will for peace of their people, seven southern states seceded, setting
up the Confederate States of America, with Jefferson Davis as president.
All of this was done before Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861,
while the planters' stooge president, James Buchanan, was still in
office. Eventually the Confederacy contained eleven states. The seceders
opened fire on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, thus beginning the war.
The conquest aims of the rebellious South were boundless. "What the
slaveholders, therefore, call the South," said Marx, "embraces more than
three-quarters of the territory hitherto comprised by the Union."11 The
second American revolution had passed from the constitutional stage
into that of military action.

The North, ill-prepared, met with
indecision the swift offensive of the southern planters. This weakness
reflected the prevailing divisions in the ranks of the bourgeoisie.
Among these were the Copperhead bankers and merchants, who strove for a
negotiated peace on the slavocracy's terms. Then there were the Radical
Republicans, representative of the rising industrial capitalists, whose
most revolutionary spokesman was Thaddeus Stevens and who insisted upon a
military offensive to crush the rebellion, with the freeing and arming
of the slaves. And finally there was the vacillating middle class,
largely represented by Lincoln's hesitant course.

The leaders of the government sought
evasive formulas, instead of taking energetic steps to win the war.
Lincoln, ready for any compromise short of disunion, proclaimed the
slogan, "Save the Union," at a time when the situation demanded clearly
also the revolutionary slogan of "full and complete emancipation of the
slaves." Stevens, bolder and clearer-sighted, declared that "The
Constitution is now silent and only the laws of war obtain." On the
question of the slaves, Stevens stated that "Those who now furnish the
means of war but are the natural enemies of the slaveholders must be
made our allies."12 This position was strongly supported by the Negro
masses, whose leading spokesman, Frederick Douglass, declared, "From the
first, I reproached the North that they fought the rebels with only one
hand, when they might effectively strike with two—that they fought with
their soft white hand, while they kept their black iron hand chained
and helpless behind them— that they fought the effect, while they
protected the cause, and that the Union cause would never prosper till
the war assumed an anti-slavery attitude, and the Negro was enlisted on
the loyal side."13

While Lincoln carried on his defensive
leadership the military fortunes of the North continued to sink. Events
combined, however, to change the conduct of the war from an attempt to
suppress the slaveowners' rebellion into a revolutionary struggle to
liquidate the slave power. These main forces were, the increasing power
of the northern bourgeoisie through the rapid growth of industry and the
railroads; the lessons learned from the bitter defeats in the early
part of the war; and the tremendous pressure exerted by the farmers, the
Negro masses, and the white workers—especially the foreign-born—for an
aggressive policy in the war.

Hence, on September 22, 1862, after
about 18 months of unsuccessful war, President Lincoln issued the
Emancipation Proclamation, proclaiming that after January 1st persons
held as slaves in areas in rebellion "shall be then, thenceforward, and
forever free." In August 1862, the enlistment of free Negroes into the
armed forces had been authorized.14 Lincoln removed the sabotaging
General McClellan in March 1862 from his post as head of the Union
forces, and generally adopted a more aggressive policy. The liberation
of the slaves, with its blow to the slave economy and the addition of
almost 200,000 Negro soldiers to the northern armies, proved to be of
decisive importance. From the beginning of  1863 the slave power was
clearly doomed.   But it took two more years of bitter warfare until the
South admitted defeat, with Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox
Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. At the cost of half a million
soldiers dead and a million more permanently crippled, the reactionary
planters had been driven from political power and their slaves freed.

The Civil War constituted a
bourgeois-democratic revolution. The capitalists of the North broke the
dominant political power of the big southern landowners and seized power
for themselves; the slave system, which had become economically a brake
upon the development of capitalism, was shattered; four million slaves
were formally freed; and the tempo of industrialization and the growth
of the working class were enormously speeded up all over the country.


In this long and bloody war the
oppressed Negro people displayed boundless heroism. In many ways they
sabotaged the war efforts of the South; they captured Confederate
steamers and brought them into northern ports; and they were the major
source of military intelligence for the North. In the plantation areas
the slaves' spirit of rebellion was so pronounced that the South was
compelled to divert a large section of its armed forces to the task of
keeping them suppressed.

The heroism and abandon with which the
newly-freed slaves fought in the Union armies amazed the white soldiers
and officers. Characteristic of many similar reports was the statement
of Colonel Thomas Went-worth Higginson: "It would have been madness to
attempt with the bravest white troops what [I] successfully accomplished
with black ones."15 The action of the almost legendary Negro woman,
Harriet Tubman, who led many forays deep into the South to free slaves,
was bravery in its supremest sense. And when Lincoln was urged in 1864
to give up the use of Negro troops, he replied: "Take from us and give
to the enemy the hundred and thirty, forty, or fifty thousand colored
persons now serving us as soldiers, seamen, and laborers, and we cannot
longer maintain the contest."16

Together with the approximately 200,000
Negro fighters in the northern army and navy, there were also about
250,000 more employed m various capacities with the armed forces.
Aptheker quotes government figures estimating that over 36,000 Negro
soldiers died during the war. He states that "the mortality rate among
the United States Colored Troops in the Civil War was thirty-five
percent greater than that among other troops, notwithstanding the fact
that the former were not enrolled until some eighteen months after the
fighting began."17 Of the enlisted personnel of the northern navy, about
one-fourth were Negroes, and of these Aptheker estimates approximately
3,200 died of disease and in battle. These gallant fighting services
were recompensed at first by paying the Negro soldiers at lower rates
than the white soldiers.

Organized labor also played a large and
heroic part in the Civil War. The outbreak of the war found the great
mass of the workers backing the war as a struggle to stop the further
extension of slavery. Only a small section supported the advanced stand
of the Marxists, who demanded abolition. A small minority of workers,
the most backward elements in the big commercial centers of Boston and
New York, were strongly under the anti-war influence of the Copperheads.
There was also a small but influential group that opposed all wars on
pacifist grounds. All through the war the workers suffered the most
ruthless exploitation from the profiteering capitalists. Price gouging
was rampant, and the capitalists brazenly used every means to cheat the
government and to enrich themselves.

The call for volunteers received a
tremendous response from the workers. Overnight, regiments were
organized in various crafts. Foreign-born workers responded with great
enthusiasm. Among the labor contingents to enlist were the DeKalb
regiment of German clerks, the Polish League, and a company of Irish
laborers. One of the first regiments to move in the defense of
Washington was organized by the noted labor leader, William Sylvis, who
only a few months before had voted against Lincoln. It has been
estimated that about fifty percent of the industrial workers enlisted.
T. V. Powderly, head of the Knights of Labor, was not far wrong when he
declared years later that in the Civil War, "the great bulk of the army
was made up of working men."18

At the start of the war, the labor
movement was in a weakened condition, not yet having fully recovered
from the ravages of the 1857 economic crisis. In the main, organized
labor followed the bourgeoisie led by Lincoln, without as yet entering
the struggle as a class having its own political organization and full
consciousness of its specific aims. There was an actual basis for this
course, inasmuch as the interests of the workers, in the fight against
slavery, coincided with those of the northern industrialists.  As the
war progressed, labor's line strengthened and the workers became a
powerful force pressing for the freedom of the slaves and for a
revolutionary prosecution of the war.


The war record of the Marxists,
predecessors of the Communist Party of today, was one of the most
inspiring chapters in the annals of the Civil War. Their response to
Lincoln's call for volunteers set a good example for the entire nation.
Within a few days the New York Turners, Marxist-led, organized a whole
regiment; the Missouri Turners put three regiments in the field; the
Communist clubs and German Workers' Leagues sent over half their members
into the armed forces. The Marxists fought valorously on many

Joseph Weydemeyer, formerly an artillery
officer in the German army, recruited an entire regiment, rose to the
position of colonel, and was assigned by Lincoln as commander of the
highly strategic area of St. Louis. August Willich, who became a
brigadier general, Robert Rosa, a major, and Fritz Jacobi, a lieutenant
who was killed at Fredericksburg, were all members of the New York
Communist Club. There were many other Marxists at the front.

The American Marxists, taught by Marx
and Engels, had a more profound understanding of the nature of the war
than any other group in the nation. They realized that a defeat for the
Union forces would mean the end of the most advanced
bourgeois-democratic republic and a retrogression to semi-feudal
conditions. Victory for the North, they knew, would greatly advance
democracy. They understood the war as a basic conflict of two opposed
systems, which could only be resolved by revolutionary measures.

Hence, from the very beginning, the
Marxists raised the decisive slogans of emancipation of the slaves,
arming of the freedmen, confiscation of the planters' estates, and
distribution of the land among the landless Negro and white masses. They
understood, too, the Marxist policy of co-operation with the
bourgeoisie when it was fighting for progressive ends. During the war
they tended to strengthen the position of the working class and its
Negro and farmer allies and practically, if not consciously, to lake
them the leading force in the war coalition. They fought against
pacifism and against Copperhead influences within and without labor's
ranks. A major service of the Marxists was in helping to defeat the
aspirations of Fremont to get the Republican nomination away from
Lincoln in l864. Marx urged the working class to make the outcome of the
Civil War count in the long run for the workers as much as the outcome
of the War for Independence had counted for the bourgeoisie. This,
however, the weak forces of the workers were unable to do. Nevertheless,
their relative clarity of political line and their tireless spirit made
the Marxists a political force far out of proportion to their still
very small numbers.

During the Civil War Karl Marx himself
played a vitally important part, his genius displaying great brilliance.
Marx's many writings in the New York Daily Tribune and elsewhere
constituted an outstanding demonstration of the power of revolutionary
theory in interpreting developments, in seeing their inherent
connections, and in understanding the direction in which the classes
were moving. From the inception of the conflict and through every one of
its crucial stages, Karl Marx, incomparably deeper than any other
person, grasped the basic significance of events and projected the
necessary line of policy and action. Lenin considered this "a model
example" of how the creators of the Communist Manifesto defined the
tasks of the proletariat in application to the different stages of the

Far better than the northern bourgeois
leaders, Marx clearly understood that here was a conflict between "two
opposing social systems" which must be fought out to "the victory of one
or the other system." He blasted those who believed that it was just a
big quarrel over states rights which could be smoothed over; he
criticized the bourgeois leaders of the North for "abasing" themselves
before the southern slave power, and he pressed Lincoln again and again
to take decisive action. From the outbreak of hostilities Marx urged the
North to wage the struggle in a revolutionary manner, as the only
possible way to win the victory. He demanded that Lincoln raise the
"full-throated cry of emancipation of slavery"; he called for the arming
of the Negro slaves, and he pointed out the tremendous psychological
effects that would be produced by the formation of even a single
regiment of Negro soldiers. In the most discouraging times of the war
Marx never despaired of the North's ultimate victory. His and Engels'
proposals for military strategy were no less sound than their
penetrating political analysis. Marx clearly gave the theoretical lead
to the northern democratic forces in the Civil War.19

Marx, as the leader of the First
International, exerted a powerful influence in mobilizing the workers of
England and the Continent in support of the northern cause. With his
position as correspondent to the important Die Presse of Vienna, Marx
was also able to influence general European opinion regarding the
decisive events in America. He upheld the Union cause in his inaugural
address to the International and in three major official political
documents addressed by that organization, in less than a year, to
President Lincoln, President Johnson, and the National Labor Union.

The British ruling class, despite all
their pretended opposition to slavery, wanted nothing better than to
intervene in the war on the side of the Confederacy. If they were
prevented from doing this, it was primarily due to the militant
anti-slavery attitude of the British working class, who hearkened to the
advice of Marx and developed a powerful anti-slavery movement. As Marx
said, "It was not the wisdom of the ruling classes, but the heroic
resistance to their criminal folly by the working classes of England
that saved the west of Europe from plunging headlong into an infamous
crusade for the perpetuation and propagation of slavery on the other
side of the Atlantic."20

History records few such effective
demonstrations of international labor solidarity. Lincoln himself
recognized this when, addressing the Manchester textile workers who were
starving because of the cotton blockade, he characterized their support
as "an instance of sublime Christian heroism which has not been
surpassed in any age in any country."21 Lincoln also thanked the First
International for its assistance, and the United States Senate, on March
2, 1863, joined in tribute to the British workers. The international
support of labor was a real factor in bringing to a successful
conclusion this "world historic, progressive and revolutionary war," as
Lenin called it.

1 Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the U.S., pp. 277-79.

2 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Civil War in the United States, p. 71, N. Y., l957

3 Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, p. 287, N. Y., 1947.

4 Cincinnati Communist, Dec. 5, 1859.

5 Hermann Schlueter, Lincoln, Labor, and Slavery, p. 76, N. Y., 1913.

6 Elizabeth Lawson, Lincoln's Third Party, p. 26, N. Y., 1948.

7 Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, p. 43.

8 Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the US., p. 295.

9 Lawson, Lincoln's Third Party, p. 41

10 V.J. Jerome in The Communist, Sept. 1939, p. 839. 

11 Marx and Engels, The Civil War in the US., p. 71.

12 Elizabeth Lawson, Thaddeus Stevens, p. 16, N. Y 1942.

13 Philip S. Foner, ed., Frederick Douglass: Selections From His Writings, p. 63, N. Y.,

14 Herbert Aptheker, To Be Free: Studies in American Negro History, p. 71, N. Y 1948.

15 Cited by Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the U.S., p. 319.

16 Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, Vol. 3, p. 210, N. Y., 1939.

17 Aptheker, To Be Free, p. 78.

18 Terence V. Powderly, Thirty Years of Labor, p. 58, Columbus, Ohio, 1889.

19 Marx and Engels, The Civil War in the US.

20 Karl Marx, Inaugural Address, Sept. 28, 1864, in Founding of the First International, p. 38, N. Y., 1937.

21 Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, Vol. 2, p. 24.

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