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.
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 They passed the Fugitive Slave Act, repealed the Missouri Compromise by adopting the pro-slavery Kansas-Nebraska Act, slashed the tariff laws, adopted the infamous Dred Scott decision, vetoed the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.
THE ABOLITIONIST MOVEMENT
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.
THE ROLE OF THE MARXISTS
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 demonstration.
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
THE MATURING OF THE CRISIS
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 party.
THE ELECTION OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
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
THE CIVIL WAR
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.
THE NEGRO PEOPLE AND THE WORKING CLASS IN THE WAR
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.
ROLE AND STRATEGY OF THE MARXISTS IN THE WAR PERIOD
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 battlefields.
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 struggle.
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.