Friday, November 06, 2020

*A Snapshot View Of The Leaders Of The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution- Joseph Stalin

Click on title to link to Wikipedia's entry for the 1917 Bolshevik revolutionary leader Joseph Stalin.

Markin comment:

Once again, before everyone starts yelling, Stalin, although not the puffed up 1917 revolutionary leader that he had his Communist Party political apparatus make him out to be, was a central leader (including being on the Bolshevik Central Committee that decided to seize power on behalf of the Soviets)of the 1917 revolution. We will leave the falsification of our precious common Communist history, in this case by an unforthright omission where acknowledgement is necessary, to the Stalinist remnant and others who still get weak at the knees on hearing his name.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

*Never Forget The Greensboro Massacre Of 1979- The Struggle Continues

Click on title to link to a YouTube film clip about the events of that day in 1979 when right wing thugs in Greensboro, North Carolina murdered five communist workers.

COMMENTARY

REMEMBER SLAIN LABOR MILITANTS-CESAR CAUCE, MICHAEL NATHAN, BILL SAMPSON, SANDI SMITH AND JIM WALLER




For those too young to remember or who unfortunately have forgotten the incident commenmorated here this is a capsule summary of what occurred on that bloody day:

On November 3, 1979 in Greensboro, North Carolina, five anti-racist activists and union organizers, supporters of the Communist Workers Party (CWP), were fatally gunned down by Ku Klux Klan and Nazi fascists. Nine carloads of Klansmen and Nazis drove up to a black housing project-the gathering place for an anti-Klan march organized by the CWP. In broad daylight, the fascists pulled out their weapons and unleashed an 88-second fusillade that was captured on television cameras. They then drove off, leaving the dead and dying in pools of blood. From the outset, the Klan/Nazi killers were aided and abetted by the government, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent who helped train the killers and plot the assassination to the "former" FBI informer who rode shotgun in the motorcade of death and the Greensboro cop who brought up the rear. The five militants listed above died as a result. The Greensboro Klan/Nazis literally got away with murder, acquitted twice by all-white juries.

This writer has recently been raked over the coals by some leftists who were appalled that he called for a no free speech platform for Nazis and fascists (see September archives under NO FREE SPEECH FOR NAZIS/KLANSMEN dated September 15, 2006 and below). Rather, the writer argued that labor should mobilize its forces and run these vermin off the streets whenever they raise their heads. Despite recent efforts to blur the lines of the heinous nature of, and political motivation for, these murders in Greensboro by some kind of truth and reconciliation process militant leftists should etch in their brains the reality of the Klan/Nazis. There is nothing to debate with this kind. The niceties of parliamentary democracy have no place in a strategy to defeat these bastards. The Greensboro massacre is prime evidence that any other way is suicidal for militants. No more Germany, 1933's. No more Greensboro, 1979's. Never Forget Greensboro.

REPOST FROM SEPTEMBER 15, 2006

In a recent blog (dated, September 4, 2006) this writer mentioned that one of the Klan groups in this country held a demonstration at the Gettysburg National Cemetery over the Labor Day, 2006 weekend around a list of demands that included bringing the troops home from Iraq in order to patrol the borders. Symbols mean a lot in politics and the notion that Klansmen were permitted to demonstrate at a key symbol in the fight to end slavery and preserve the union raised my temperature more than a little. As I said then, Gettysburg is hallowed ground fought and paid for in great struggle and much blood.

At that time the writer posed the question of what, if any, opposition to the demonstration leftists had put together to run these hooded fools out of town. In response, this writer was raked over the coals for calling for an organized fight by labor to nip these elements in the bud. Why? Apparently some people believe that running the fools out of town would have violated the Klan's free speech rights. Something is desperately wrong here about both the nature of free speech and the nature of the Klan/fascist menace.

First, let us be clear, militant leftists defend every democratic right as best we can. I have often argued in this space that to a great extend militant leftists are the only active defenders of such rights- on the streets where it counts. That said, the parameters of such rights, as all democratic rights, cannot trump the needs of the class struggle. In short, militant leftist have no interest in defending or extending the rights of fascists to fill the air with gibberish. Now that may offend some American Civil Liberties Union-types but any self-respecting militant knows that such a position is right is his or her 'gut'.

In the final analysis we will be fighting the Klan-types on the streets and the issue will no be rights of free expression (except maybe in defense of ours) but the survival of our organizations. A short glance at history is to the point.
One of the great tragedies of the Western labor movement was the defeat and destruction of the German labor movement in the wake of the fascist Hitler's rise to power in 1933. In the final analysis that destruction was brought on by the fatally erroneous policies of both the German Social Democratic and Communists parties. Neither party, willfully, saw the danger in time and compounded that error when refused to call for or establish a united front of all labor organizations to confront and destroy Hitler and his storm troopers. We know the result. And it was not necessary. Moreover, Hitler's organization at one time (in the mid-1920's) was small and seemingly unimportant like today's Klan/Nazi threat. But that does not mean that under certain circumstances that could not change. And that is exactly the point.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

*The Greensboro Massacre 1979- Never Forget

Click on title to link to a YouTube film clip of some of the events of that day in 1979 when various right-wing paramilitary thugs murdered five communist workers.

Commentary

This is the 28th Anniversary of the heinous crimes of 1979 against communist workers in Greensboro, North Carolina

This is a repost of last year's commemorative commentary. The struggle remains the same. As does the message- Never Forget!

REMEMBER SLAIN LABOR MILITANTS-CESAR CAUCE, MICHAEL NATHAN, BILL SAMPSON, SANDI SMITH AND JIM WALLER


For those too young to remember or who unfortunately have forgotten the incident commemorated here this is a capsule summary of what occurred on that bloody day:

On November 3, 1979 in Greensboro, North Carolina, five anti-racist activists and union organizers, supporters of the Communist Workers Party (CWP), were fatally gunned down by Ku Klux Klan and Nazi fascists. Nine carloads of Klansmen and Nazis drove up to a black housing project-the gathering place for an anti-Klan march organized by the CWP. In broad daylight, the fascists pulled out their weapons and unleashed an 88-second fusillade that was captured on television cameras. They then drove off, leaving the dead and dying in pools of blood. From the outset, the Klan/Nazi killers were aided and abetted by the government, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent who helped train the killers and plot the assassination to the "former" FBI informer who rode shotgun in the motorcade of death and the Greensboro cop who brought up the rear. The five militants listed above died as a result. The Greensboro Klan/Nazis literally got away with murder, acquitted twice by all-white juries.

This writer has recently been raked over the coals by some leftists who were appalled that he called for a no free speech platform for Nazis and fascists (see below) and argued that labor should mobilize its forces and run these vermin off the streets whenever they raise their heads. Despite recent efforts to blur the lines of the heinous nature of and political motivation for these murders in Greensboro by some kind of truth and reconciliation process militant leftists should etch in their brains the reality of the Klan/Nazis. There is nothing to debate with this kind. The niceties of parliamentary democracy have no place in a strategy to defeat these bastards. The Greensboro massacre is prime evidence that any other way is suicidal for militants. No more Germany, 1933's. No more Greensboro, 1979's. Never Forget Greensboro.

REPOST FROM SEPTEMBER 15, 2006

In a recent blog (dated, September 4, 2006) this writer mentioned that one of the Klan groups in this country held a demonstration at the Gettysburg National Cemetery over the Labor Day 2006 weekend around a list of demands that included bringing the troops home from Iraq in order to patrol the borders. Symbols mean a lot in politics and the notion that Klansmen were permitted to demonstrate at a key symbol in the fight to end slavery and preserve the union raised my temperature more than a little. As I said then Gettysburg is hallowed ground fought and paid for in great struggle and much blood. At that time the writer posed the question of what, if any, opposition to the demonstration leftists had put together to run these hooded fools out of town. In response, this writer was raked over the coals for calling for an organized fight by labor to nip these elements in the bud. Why? Apparently some people believe that running the fools out of town would have violated the Klan's free speech rights. Something is desperately wrong here about both the nature of free speech and the nature of the Klan/fascist menace.

First, let us be clear, militant leftists defend every democratic right as best we can. I have often argued in this space that to a great extend militant leftists are the only active defenders of such rights- on the streets where it counts. That said, the parameters of such rights, as all democratic rights, cannot trump the needs of the class struggle. In short, militant leftist have no interest in defending or extending the rights of fascists to fill the air with gibberish. Now that may offend some American Civil Liberties Union-types but any self-respecting militant knows that such a position is right is his or her 'gut'.

In the final analysis we will be fighting the Klan-types on the streets and the issue will no be rights of free expression (except maybe in defense of ours) but the survival of our organizations. A short glance at history is to the point.
One of the great tragedies of the Western labor movement was the defeat and destruction of the German labor movement in the wake of the fascist Hitler's rise to power in 1933. In the final analysis that destruction was brought on by the fatally erroneous policies of both the German Social Democratic and Communists parties. Neither party, willfully, saw the danger in time and compounded that error when refused to call for or establish a united front of all labor organizations to confront and destroy Hitler and his storm troopers. We know the result. And it was not necessary. Moreover, Hitler's organization at one time (in the mid-1920's) was small and unimportant like today's Klan/Nazi threat. But that does not mean that under certain circumstances that could not change. And that, my friends, is exactly the point.

*The Greensboro Massacre 1979- Never Forget

Click on title to link to a YouTube film clip of some of the events of that day in 1979 when various right-wing paramilitary thugs murdered five communist workers.

Commentary

This is the 27th Anniversary of the heinous crimes of 1979 against communist workers in Greensboro, North Carolina

This is a repost of last year's commemorative commentary. The struggle remains the same. As does the message- Never Forget!

REMEMBER SLAIN LABOR MILITANTS-CESAR CAUCE, MICHAEL NATHAN, BILL SAMPSON, SANDI SMITH AND JIM WALLER


For those too young to remember or who unfortunately have forgotten the incident commemorated here this is a capsule summary of what occurred on that bloody day:

On November 3, 1979 in Greensboro, North Carolina, five anti-racist activists and union organizers, supporters of the Communist Workers Party (CWP), were fatally gunned down by Ku Klux Klan and Nazi fascists. Nine carloads of Klansmen and Nazis drove up to a black housing project-the gathering place for an anti-Klan march organized by the CWP. In broad daylight, the fascists pulled out their weapons and unleashed an 88-second fusillade that was captured on television cameras. They then drove off, leaving the dead and dying in pools of blood. From the outset, the Klan/Nazi killers were aided and abetted by the government, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent who helped train the killers and plot the assassination to the "former" FBI informer who rode shotgun in the motorcade of death and the Greensboro cop who brought up the rear. The five militants listed above died as a result. The Greensboro Klan/Nazis literally got away with murder, acquitted twice by all-white juries.

This writer has recently been raked over the coals by some leftists who were appalled that he called for a no free speech platform for Nazis and fascists (see below) and argued that labor should mobilize its forces and run these vermin off the streets whenever they raise their heads. Despite recent efforts to blur the lines of the heinous nature of and political motivation for these murders in Greensboro by some kind of truth and reconciliation process militant leftists should etch in their brains the reality of the Klan/Nazis. There is nothing to debate with this kind. The niceties of parliamentary democracy have no place in a strategy to defeat these bastards. The Greensboro massacre is prime evidence that any other way is suicidal for militants. No more Germany, 1933's. No more Greensboro, 1979's. Never Forget Greensboro.

REPOST FROM SEPTEMBER 15, 2006

In a recent blog (dated, September 4, 2006) this writer mentioned that one of the Klan groups in this country held a demonstration at the Gettysburg National Cemetery over the Labor Day 2006 weekend around a list of demands that included bringing the troops home from Iraq in order to patrol the borders. Symbols mean a lot in politics and the notion that Klansmen were permitted to demonstrate at a key symbol in the fight to end slavery and preserve the union raised my temperature more than a little. As I said then Gettysburg is hallowed ground fought and paid for in great struggle and much blood. At that time the writer posed the question of what, if any, opposition to the demonstration leftists had put together to run these hooded fools out of town. In response, this writer was raked over the coals for calling for an organized fight by labor to nip these elements in the bud. Why? Apparently some people believe that running the fools out of town would have violated the Klan's free speech rights. Something is desperately wrong here about both the nature of free speech and the nature of the Klan/fascist menace.

First, let us be clear, militant leftists defend every democratic right as best we can. I have often argued in this space that to a great extend militant leftists are the only active defenders of such rights- on the streets where it counts. That said, the parameters of such rights, as all democratic rights, cannot trump the needs of the class struggle. In short, militant leftist have no interest in defending or extending the rights of fascists to fill the air with gibberish. Now that may offend some American Civil Liberties Union-types but any self-respecting militant knows that such a position is right is his or her 'gut'.

In the final analysis we will be fighting the Klan-types on the streets and the issue will no be rights of free expression (except maybe in defense of ours) but the survival of our organizations. A short glance at history is to the point.
One of the great tragedies of the Western labor movement was the defeat and destruction of the German labor movement in the wake of the fascist Hitler's rise to power in 1933. In the final analysis that destruction was brought on by the fatally erroneous policies of both the German Social Democratic and Communists parties. Neither party, willfully, saw the danger in time and compounded that error when refused to call for or establish a united front of all labor organizations to confront and destroy Hitler and his storm troopers. We know the result. And it was not necessary. Moreover, Hitler's organization at one time (in the mid-1920's) was small and unimportant like today's Klan/Nazi threat. But that does not mean that under certain circumstances that could not change. And that, my friends, is exactly the point.

Monday, October 19, 2020

In Honor Of John Brown Late Of Harpers Ferry-1859- *Honor John Brown's Revolutionary Anti-Slavery Struggle At Harper's Ferry- A Union Anthem -"John Brown's Body"

Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of Paul Robeson (who else should do it when you think about it) performing "John Brown's Body". February Is Black History Month

Lyrics- Section from Wikipedia's Entry For "John Brown's Body"

The lyrics generally show an increase in complexity and syllable count as they move from simple, orally-transmitted camp meeting song, to an orally composed marching song, to more consciously literary versions.

The increasing syllable count led to an ever-increasing number of dotted rhythms in the melody to accommodate the increased number of syllables. The result is that the verse and chorus, which were musically identical in the "Say, Brothers", became quite distinct rhythmically in "John Brown's Body", and even more so in the more elaborate versions of the "John Brown Song" and in the "Battle Hymn of the Republic".

Say, Brothers

(1st verse)
Say, brothers, will you meet us (3x)
On Canaan's happy shore.
(Refrain)
Glory, glory, hallelujah (3x)
For ever, evermore!
(2nd verse)
By the grace of God we'll meet you (3x)
Where parting is no more.
(3rd verse)
Jesus lives and reigns forever (3x)
On Canaan's happy shore.
John Brown's Body

John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave; (3X)
His soul's marching on!
(Chorus)
Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah! his soul's marching on!
He's gone to be a soldier in the army of the Lord! (3X)
His soul's marching on!
(Chorus)
John Brown's knapsack is strapped upon his back! (3X)
His soul's marching on!
(Chorus)
His pet lambs will meet him on the way; (3X)
They go marching on!
(Chorus)
They will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree! (3X)
As they march along!
(Chorus)
Now, three rousing cheers for the Union; (3X)
As we are marching on!
(From the Library of Congress:[32])

The version by William Weston Patton:[24]:

Old John Brown’s body lies moldering in the grave,
While weep the sons of bondage whom he ventured all to save;
But tho he lost his life while struggling for the slave,
His soul is marching on.

John Brown was a hero, undaunted, true and brave,
And Kansas knows his valor when he fought her rights to save;
Now, tho the grass grows green above his grave,
His soul is marching on.

He captured Harper’s Ferry, with his nineteen men so few,
And frightened "Old Virginny" till she trembled thru and thru;
They hung him for a traitor, they themselves the traitor crew,
But his soul is marching on.

John Brown was John the Baptist of the Christ we are to see,
Christ who of the bondmen shall the Liberator be,
And soon thruout the Sunny South the slaves shall all be free,
For his soul is marching on.

The conflict that he heralded he looks from heaven to view,
On the army of the Union with its flag red, white and blue.
And heaven shall ring with anthems o’er the deed they mean to do,
For his soul is marching on.

Ye soldiers of Freedom, then strike, while strike ye may,
The death blow of oppression in a better time and way,
For the dawn of old John Brown has brightened into day,
And his soul is marching on

Friday, October 16, 2020

In Honor Of John Brown Late Of Harpers Ferry-1859- *Poet's Corner- Edwin Arlington Robinson's "John Brown"- On The Anniversary Of Harper's Ferry

Click on the title to link to "Wikipedia"'s entry for the 19th American poet Edwin Arlington Robinson.

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935). Collected Poems. 1921.

VII. The Three Taverns

11. John Brown


THOUGH for your sake I would not have you now
So near to me tonight as now you are,
God knows how much a stranger to my heart
Was any cold word that I may have written;
And you, poor woman that I made my wife, 5
You have had more of loneliness, I fear,
Than I—though I have been the most alone,
Even when the most attended. So it was
God set the mark of his inscrutable
Necessity on one that was to grope, 10
And serve, and suffer, and withal be glad
For what was his, and is, and is to be,
When his old bones, that are a burden now,
Are saying what the man who carried them
Had not the power to say. Bones in a grave, 15
Cover them as they will with choking earth,
May shout the truth to men who put them there,
More than all orators. And so, my dear,
Since you have cheated wisdom for the sake
Of sorrow, let your sorrow be for you, 20
This last of nights before the last of days,
The lying ghost of what there is of me
That is the most alive. There is no death
For me in what they do. Their death it is
They should heed most when the sun comes again 25
To make them solemn. There are some I know
Whose eyes will hardly see their occupation,
For tears in them—and all for one old man;
For some of them will pity this old man,
Who took upon himself the work of God 30
Because he pitied millions. That will be
For them, I fancy, their compassionate
Best way of saying what is best in them
To say; for they can say no more than that,
And they can do no more than what the dawn 35
Of one more day shall give them light enough
To do. But there are many days to be,
And there are many men to give their blood,
As I gave mine for them. May they come soon!

May they come soon, I say. And when they come, 40
May all that I have said unheard be heard,
Proving at last, or maybe not—no matter—
What sort of madness was the part of me
That made me strike, whether I found the mark
Or missed it. Meanwhile, I’ve a strange content, 45
A patience, and a vast indifference
To what men say of me and what men fear
To say. There was a work to be begun,
And when the Voice, that I have heard so long,
Announced as in a thousand silences 50
An end of preparation, I began
The coming work of death which is to be,
That life may be. There is no other way
Than the old way of war for a new land
That will not know itself and is tonight 55
A stranger to itself, and to the world
A more prodigious upstart among states
Than I was among men, and so shall be
Till they are told and told, and told again;
For men are children, waiting to be told, 60
And most of them are children all their lives.
The good God in his wisdom had them so,
That now and then a madman or a seer
May shake them out of their complacency
And shame them into deeds. The major file 65
See only what their fathers may have seen,
Or may have said they saw when they saw nothing.
I do not say it matters what they saw.
Now and again to some lone soul or other
God speaks, and there is hanging to be done,— 70
As once there was a burning of our bodies
Alive, albeit our souls were sorry fuel.
But now the fires are few, and we are poised
Accordingly, for the state’s benefit,
A few still minutes between heaven and earth. 75
The purpose is, when they have seen enough
Of what it is that they are not to see,
To pluck me as an unripe fruit of treason,
And then to fling me back to the same earth
Of which they are, as I suppose, the flower— 80
Not given to know the riper fruit that waits
For a more comprehensive harvesting.

Yes, may they come, and soon. Again I say,
May they come soon!—before too many of them
Shall be the bloody cost of our defection. 85
When hell waits on the dawn of a new state,
Better it were that hell should not wait long,—
Or so it is I see it who should see
As far or farther into time tonight
Than they who talk and tremble for me now, 90
Or wish me to those everlasting fires
That are for me no fear. Too many fires
Have sought me out and seared me to the bone—
Thereby, for all I know, to temper me
For what was mine to do. If I did ill 95
What I did well, let men say I was mad;
Or let my name for ever be a question
That will not sleep in history. What men say
I was will cool no cannon, dull no sword,
Invalidate no truth. Meanwhile, I was; 100
And the long train is lighted that shall burn,
Though floods of wrath may drench it, and hot feet
May stamp it for a slight time into smoke
That shall blaze up again with growing speed,
Until at last a fiery crash will come 105
To cleanse and shake a wounded hemisphere,
And heal it of a long malignity
That angry time discredits and disowns.

Tonight there are men saying many things;
And some who see life in the last of me 110
Will answer first the coming call to death;
For death is what is coming, and then life.
I do not say again for the dull sake
Of speech what you have heard me say before,
But rather for the sake of all I am, 115
And all God made of me. A man to die
As I do must have done some other work
Than man’s alone. I was not after glory,
But there was glory with me, like a friend,
Throughout those crippling years when friends were few, 120
And fearful to be known by their own names
When mine was vilified for their approval.
Yet friends they are, and they did what was given
Their will to do; they could have done no more.
I was the one man mad enough, it seems, 125
To do my work; and now my work is over.
And you, my dear, are not to mourn for me,
Or for your sons, more than a soul should mourn
In Paradise, done with evil and with earth.
There is not much of earth in what remains 130
For you; and what there may be left of it
For your endurance you shall have at last
In peace, without the twinge of any fear
For my condition; for I shall be done
With plans and actions that have heretofore 135
Made your days long and your nights ominous
With darkness and the many distances
That were between us. When the silence comes,
I shall in faith be nearer to you then
Than I am now in fact. What you see now 140
Is only the outside of an old man,
Older than years have made him. Let him die,
And let him be a thing for little grief.
There was a time for service and he served;
And there is no more time for anything 145
But a short gratefulness to those who gave
Their scared allegiance to an enterprise
That has the name of treason—which will serve
As well as any other for the present.
There are some deeds of men that have no names, 150
And mine may like as not be one of them.
I am not looking far for names tonight.
The King of Glory was without a name
Until men gave Him one; yet there He was,
Before we found Him and affronted Him 155
With numerous ingenuities of evil,
Of which one, with His aid, is to be swept
And washed out of the world with fire and blood.

Once I believed it might have come to pass
With a small cost of blood; but I was dreaming— 160
Dreaming that I believed. The Voice I heard
When I left you behind me in the north,—
To wait there and to wonder and grow old
Of loneliness,—told only what was best,
And with a saving vagueness, I should know 165
Till I knew more. And had I known even then—
After grim years of search and suffering,
So many of them to end as they began—
After my sickening doubts and estimations
Of plans abandoned and of new plans vain— 170
After a weary delving everywhere
For men with every virtue but the Vision—
Could I have known, I say, before I left you
That summer morning, all there was to know—
Even unto the last consuming word 175
That would have blasted every mortal answer
As lightning would annihilate a leaf,
I might have trembled on that summer morning;
I might have wavered; and I might have failed.

And there are many among men today 180
To say of me that I had best have wavered.
So has it been, so shall it always be,
For those of us who give ourselves to die
Before we are so parcelled and approved
As to be slaughtered by authority. 185
We do not make so much of what they say
As they of what our folly says of us;
They give us hardly time enough for that,
And thereby we gain much by losing little.
Few are alive to-day with less to lose. 190
Than I who tell you this, or more to gain;
And whether I speak as one to be destroyed
For no good end outside his own destruction,
Time shall have more to say than men shall hear
Between now and the coming of that harvest 195
Which is to come. Before it comes, I go—
By the short road that mystery makes long
For man’s endurance of accomplishment.
I shall have more to say when I am dead.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

In Honor Of John Brown Late Of Harpers Ferry-1859 *From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-All Honor To “General” Harriet Tubman

Click on the headline to link to a “Wikipedia” entry for “General” Harriet Tubman

February Is Black History. March Is Women’s History Month. Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits. Any one , or all, of those reasons can be used as the reason to honor “General” Harriet Tubman


Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Winter 1986-87 issue of "Women and Revolution" that has some historical interest all those who wish to learn about our militant forbears. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during this Women's History Month.

*******
The Revolutionary Vanguard of the Civil War

Harriet Tubman: Fighter for Black Freedom


Toward the end of her long life, the black abolitionist Harriet Tubman commented on her years of service to the liberation of black people in a conversation with a journalist:

"She looked musingly toward a nearby orchard, and she asked suddenly: 'Do you like apples?' On being assured that I did, she said: 'Did you ever plant any apple trees?' With shame I confessed I had not. 'No/ said she, 'but somebody else planted them. I liked apples when I was young, and I said, "Some day I'll plant apples myself for other young folks to eat," and I guess I did it'."

—Frank C. Drake, The New York Herald, 22 September 1907, quoted in Earl Conrad, Harriet Tubman

In this simple metaphor, Tubman recognized the vanguard role she played in laying the groundwork for black freedom in the United States in the revolution that was the Civil War. As a conductor on the Underground Railroad and a military strategist and spy during the war, "General" Tubman, as John Brown dubbed her, stood in the revolutionary insurrectionist wing of the abolitionist movement in the struggle against the Southern slavocracy. Like John Brown, the heroic martyr of the 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, and the outstanding political leader of the abolitionist movement, Frederick Douglass, Tubman knew that freedom for the slave would come about only through blood and iron. Harriet Tubman's life is a microcosm of the struggle for black liberation in the
19th century; her life directly reflects the issues of the time.

Although the hope for a complete liberation of black people was later defeated in the cowardly betrayal of Reconstruction, Tubman's "apple orchard"—freedom for the slave—was a tremendous historical advance. The abolition of slavery and the fight for full citizenship for the black population was the great historic task of the Civil War, the second American Revolution, which carried forward the unfinished business of the first American Revolution.

The abolitionist movement was part of a broader bourgeois radicalism, the 19th century descendant of the 18th century Enlightenment, Protestant religious ideals and the American Revolution so dramatically unfulfilled in the "Land of the Free" where four million suffered in slavery. The abolitionists were part of the religious and intellectual upsurge which swept the United States after 1820, encompassing such movements as Transcendentalism and Unitarianism. Particularly among the most politically radical wing, the abolitionists were motivated by a vision of human emancipation profoundly rooted in religion. To men like the clergymen Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Theodore Parker, slavery was an abomination to god and the Christian Bible and a gross betrayal of the rights of man as put forth in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

Although slavery was their pre-eminent concern, these radical bourgeois egalitarians also fought for many other pressing political issues of the time, such as free education, religious tolerance and workers' rights. The women's suffrage movement first began as a fight within abolitionism over the role of women anti-slavery activists. The most deeply committed and politically astute of these revolutionary democrats, like Frederick Douglass, understood that the fight against slavery must be generalized into a struggle against all oppression. As the abolitionist and women's rights leader Angelina Grimke' said at the May 1863 meeting of the Women's Loyal League, a convention of support for the North in the Civil War, "I want to be identified with the negro; until he gets his rights, we shall never have ours" (see "The Grimke' Sisters: Pioneers for Abolition and Women's Rights," W&R No. 29, Spring 1985).

The situation of the triply oppressed black woman slave more than any other cried out for liberation. Even the right to raise their own children was often denied to these women, whose masters could sell them or any member of their family at will. The life of Harriet Tubman illustrates in a particularly acute fashion the tremendous obstacles black women faced regarding even the elementary decencies of life. Despite her courageous work for black freedom—which included years as a soldier in the Union Army—she lived in poverty all her life.

A fugitive from bondage, black and a woman, Tubman triumphed over exceptional odds to become a leader of the second American Revolution. Like Frederick Douglass, she was able to generalize her bitter and brutal experience of oppression into a revolutionary social consciousness and a determination to fight for all the oppressed. She was an advocate of militant political action and revolutionary insurrectionism. As opposed to the "moral suasion" Garrisonian wing, she was part of the revolutionary vanguard of the abolitionist movement. As the "Moses" of her people on the Underground Railroad, Tubman was famous throughout the U.S. and beyond by the time of the war.

However, many details about her work are obscure, since she operated in the secrecy of what was essentially a revolutionary underground. She was illiterate, and much of what is known about her life comes from a biography of her by Sarah Bradford, who interviewed Tubman as an old woman (quotes from Tubman which were originally printed in dialect are here transposed into modern English spelling). Thus much of the story of her life must be told by others, especially by Frederick Douglass, with whom she shared the conviction, through the bleak decade of the 1850s, that the coming war must crush the slave system and break the bonds of black oppression. She was a co-worker and friend not only to John Brown and Douglass, but to many other key figures of her time, from abolitionist William H. Seward, Lincoln's secretary of state, to Sojourner Truth, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Wendell Phillips and Gerrit Smith. She knew Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott and most of the leading women's rights activists of her day.
Douglass honored Tubman's role in a letter written in 1868, in which he defended her right to an army pension as a Civil War veteran:

"The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encourage¬ment at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day—you in the night. I have had the applause of the crowd and the satisfaction that comes of being approved by the multitude, while the most that you have done has been witnessed by a few trembling, scarred, and foot-sore bondmen and women, whom you have led out of the house of bondage, and whose heartfelt 'Cod bless you' has been your only reward. The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown—of sacred memory—I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have. Much that you have done would seem improbable to those who do not know you as I know you."

—quoted in Sarah Bradford, Harriet Tubman; The Moses of Her People
Slave vs. Free in the Antebellum U.S.

Like Frederick Douglass, Tubman was born a slave on the eastern shore of Maryland, probably in 1820. At that time the country was embroiled in the first of the major fights over slavery and the expanding U.S. territory, "resolved" in this instance by the Missouri Compro¬mise of 1820.

Since the founding of the U.S. in the late 18th century, when the slave system was left intact throughout the South, two economic systems, capitalism and slavery, coexisted within one country. The inevitable clash of economic interest which must lead to the victory of one over the other was postponed in a series of "compromises" centering on the maintenance of control by the slave states over the relatively weak federal government. But. the underlying economic conflicts between the two systems eventually reached the point at which compromise was no longer possible. The development of large-scale industrial capitalism required wage labor to exploit, the source of its tremendous profits, as well as a mobile and at least somewhat educated working population. Key to capitalist expansion was control of a growing home market. In contrast, the slave system was based on primitive, labor-intensive agricultural production; the slaveowners sought new lands to increase the highly profitable slave trade and to move plantations to fresh, non-exhausted soil. The clash came to a head over the huge, expanding territories of the West: would they be slave or free?

Karl Marx described the slow but inexorable sweep of political power by the slave states in their effort to increase control of the growing U.S.:

"The last Continental Congress of 1787 and the first Constitutional Congress of 1789-90 had legally excluded slavery from all Territories of the republic
northwest of the Ohio... The so-called Missouri Compromise (1820), in consequence of which Missouri became one of the States of the Union as a slave state, excluded slavery from every remaining Territory north of 36°30' latitude and west of the Missouri. By this compromise the area of slavery was advanced several degrees of longitude, whilst, on the other hand, a geographical boundary-line to its future spread seemed quite definitely drawn. This geographical barrier, in its turn, was thrown down in 1854 by the so-called Kansas-Nebraska Bill, the initiator of which was St[ephen] A. Douglas, then leader of the Northern Democrats. The Bill, which passed both Houses of Congress, repealed the Missouri Compromise, placed slavery and freedom on the same footing, commanded the Union government to treat them both with equal indifference and left it to the sovereignty of the people, that is, the majority of the settlers, to decide whether or not slavery was to be introduced in a Territory. Thus, for the first time in the history of the United States, every geographical and legal limit to the extension of slavery in the Territories was removed."

—Karl Marx, "The North American Civil War," Collected Works, Vol. 19

In 1820, when Tubman was born, news of the first of these bitter debates undoubtedly reached even the slave quarters, however isolated the slaves were kept from news of the day. Perhaps the slaves with whom Tubman lived as a child heard rumors about the deep split in Congress over the Tallmadge Amendment, which would have prohibited the introduction of more slaves into Missouri and provided for gradual emancipation of those already there. This first great debate on slavery was a harbinger of things to come. Abandoning even his earlier, contradictory anti-slavery position altogether, Thomas Jefferson strongly opposed the Tallmadge Amendment. In 1821 he wrote, "All, I fear, do not see the speck on our horizon which is to burst on us as a tornado, sooner or later."

As a child Tubman was acquainted with all the horrors of slavery. By the age of five or six she was at •work and suffering from whippings on her face and neck by a vicious mistress. Later she worked as a field hand. She was still a child at the time of Nat Turner's rebellion in 1831, put down by the slaveholders swiftly and ruthlessly. In 1832, the opposition of the agricultural South to the federal tariff designed to protect Northern industry led to the Nullification Crisis, in ' which South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union. The slaveholders' fear of black insurrection, sparked by Nat Turner's revolt, fueled their intransigence against the federal government.
Tubman was around 15 years old when the incident that literally marked her for life occurred. While trying to defend a fellow slave from the vindictiveness of the overseer, she was struck on the head with a two-pound iron weight which cracked her skull. For months she lingered between life and death, lying on rags in her family's slave cabin. The injury left a deep scar on her head and left her subject to spells of unconsciousness, sometimes three or four times a day, which plagued her for the rest of her life.

But instead of being crushed by the brutality of her life, Tubman hardened and determined to fight. When she recovered, she built up her physical strength until she could lift huge barrels of produce as well as a man, despite her small size. Her master would exhibit her strength as one of the "sights" of the plantation. She let people think her half-witted because of her brain injury, and plotted her escape. She began to experience daily visions, which inspired her driving commit¬ment to black freedom as part of a deeply personal religion.

In 1849, although it meant leaving her husband, a freeman who refused to go with her, Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery. Rumor had reached her and her family that their owners planned to sell them to the deep South, a dreaded fear of every slave in the bor¬der states. Already two of her sisters had been sent off in a chain gang, separated from their children. Her brothers lost courage for the escape; Tubman went on alone. As she later told Bradford: "I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other; for no man should take me alive; I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted, and when the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me."
Aided by a white woman who gave her the first address of the Underground Railroad, Tubman made her way North, traveling at night. "I had crossed the line of which I had so long been dreaming. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom, I was a stranger in a strange land, and my home after all was down in the old cabin quarter.... But to this solemn resolution I came; I was free, and they should be free also." Cooking and laundering to support herself, she began the life of a fugitive slave in the North.

The 1850s: The Irrepressible Conflict at the Boiling Point

Tubman arrived in the North on the eve of the biggest struggle yet over the question of slavery. Congressional debate sparked over California's petition for admission to the Union as a free state continued for months, while legislatures and mass rallies North and South adopted fiery resolutions. Mississippi called for a convention of Southern states. Over time a compromise satisfactory to few on either side was worked out, largely due to the efforts of Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas and Daniel Webster, who was voted out of his Senate seat by an enraged Massachusetts legislature in 1851. Webster was replaced by the uncompromising abolitionist radical, Charles Sumner. Later a leader of the Radical Republicans, in 1856, after a stirring anti-slavery speech, Sumner was beaten into unconsciousness on the Senate floor by a Southern Congressman.

The terms of the Compromise of 1850 centered on a series of tradeoffs: while California would be admitted as a free state, no restrictions on slavery were to be made in the Mexican cession; and while Washington, D.C. ceased to be a depot for the slave trade, the 1793 fugitive slave law was to be replaced with a much tougher version. This new law was an unspeakable atrocity, a threat to the lives and freedom of black people in every state. In his scathing indictment of hypocritical American "democracy," "July Fourth and the Negro" (5 July 1852), Frederick Douglass described it:

"For black men there is neither law nor justice, humanity nor religion. The Fugitive Slave taw makes mercy to them a crime; and bribes the judge who tries them. An American judge gets ten dollars for every victim he consigns to slavery, and five, when he fails to do so. The oath of any two villains is sufficient, under this hell-black enactment, to send the most pious and exemplary black man into the remorseless jaws of slavery! His own testimony is nothing. He can bring no witnesses for himself. The minister of American justice is bound by the law to hear but one side; and that side is the side of the oppressor. Let this damning fact be perpetually told. Let it be thundered around the world that in tyrant-killing, king-hating, people-loving, democratic, Christian America the seats of justice are filled with judges who hold their offices under an open and palpable bribe, and are bound, in deciding the case of a man's liberty, to near only his accusers.'

—The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Vol. 2

Many Northerners vowed to make the Fugitive Slave Law a dead letter. Congressman Joshua Giddings of Ohio, a long-time anti-slavery radical, defied even the army to enforce the statute: "Let the President... drench our land of freedom in blood; but he will never make us obey that law" (quoted in James M. McPherson, Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction). When the fugitive slave Anthony Burns was kidnapped in 1854 under the law in Boston by a gang of thugs organized by the federal government and Burns' Virginian master, the city erupted in seething conflict from the halls of government to the men in the street. The local vigilance committee, dedicated to helping fugitive slaves, organized mass rallies; a badly coordinated assault on the federal courthouse failed to rescue Burns. The federal government and the slaveholders succeeded in returning Burns to slavery. But he was the last fugitive to be returned from anywhere in New England. In fact, nine Northern states passed per¬sonal liberty laws, effectively nullifying the Fugitive Slave Law. In 1859, the Southern-dominated Supreme Court struck down the personal liberty laws as unconstitutional.

One of Harriet Tubman's most publicized actions was the courageous rescue of a fugitive slave, Charles Nalle, from the Troy, New York court where he was pronounced guilty in 1860 under the Fugitive Slave Law. For several hours a battle raged between the abolitionists and the authorities until Tubman, with the help of others, seized Nalle and started him off on the journey to Canada.

But the North was by no means free of pro-slavery or racist forces. Many states had "black laws"; Indiana, Oregon, Illinois and Iowa all eventually passed statutes banning black migration into the state. These measures reflected not only the racism of many whites in the states, but were an open conciliation to the South, stating in effect that fugitives would not be welcome.reflected not only the racism of many whites in the states, but were an open conciliation to the South, stating in effect that fugitives would not be welcome.

Indeed, opposition to slavery was all too often based on the wish to exclude blacks altogether. And throughout the 1850s, as the abolitionist movement grew in strength, so did the pro-slavery mob. Tubman had first¬hand experience with the violence of the Northern racists when she was part of a defense guard for Wendell Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison at a Boston meeting in 1860, raided by pro-slavery hooligans.

The Underground Railroad

Under these conditions of mounting assaults on blacks, free and slave, Harriet Tubman began her work with the Underground Railroad. Marked by her scarred head and subject to spells of unconsciousness, she faced incredible dangers which grew greater as the years passed. She raised money for her trips through her own labor and by fundraising among abolitionists. Given the secrecy of her missions and the price on her head—the slaveholders offered rewards totaling $40,000, an enormous sum in those days—there were few records of her 19 trips back South. She always carried a pistol and threatened to use it on those whose courage failed, on the principle that dead men carry no tales. In her native Maryland, where she returned many times to rescue dozens, including all but one of her entire family, so many slaves escaped that a panic broke out among the slaveholders, leading to the 1858 Southern Convention in Baltimore. Ancient laws were resurrected to crack down on escaping slaves; 89 free blacks were re-enslaved under a new law.

But Tubman continued her work up to the Civil War. She personally brought out some 300 people altogether, from all parts of the South. In the 1880s, she spoke of
these years at a meeting of women's suffragists in Rochester, New York: "Yes, ladies...I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can't say—I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger." As Frederick Douglass said of the Underground Railroad:

"I never did more congenial, attractive, fascinating and satisfactory work. True, as a means of destroying slavery, it was like an attempt to bail out the ocean with a teaspoon, but the thought that there was one less slave, and one more freeman—having myself been a slave, and a fugitive slave—brought to my heart unspeakable joy."

—Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

Indeed, the political impact of the Underground Railroad spread beyond the comparatively small numbers it freed, which have been estimated at probably less than 1,000 a year out of a total slave population of four million. As an interracial network of activists who were willing to risk imprisonment or death in their work, it was a rallying point in abolition work. Speaking tours of ex-slaves, who described the horrors of their lives in bondage, won over many to abolition.

The vigilance committees not only helped to settle newly arrived blacks, but tried to fight the racism of the North.

Most importantly, the Underground Railroad effectively allowed the crystallization of a black abolitionist vanguard in the North. As the black historian W.E.B. DuBois wrote:
"Nowhere did the imminence of a great struggle show itself more clearly than among the Negroes themselves. Organized insurrection ceased in the South, not because of the increased rigors of the slave system, but because the great safety-valve of escape northward was opened wider and wider, and the methods were gradually coordinated into that mysterious system known as the Underground Railroad. The slaves and freedmen started the work and to the end bore the brunt of danger and hardship; but gradually they more and more secured the cooperation of men like John Brown, and of others less radical but just as sympathetic."

—W.E.B. DuBois, John Brown

It was becoming more and more clear that liberation for the American slave was a national task beyond the scope of local slave insurrections like Nat Turner's or Denmark Vesey's. Leadership for black emancipation thus developed in the North, among the core of militant ex-slaves, free blacks and white abolitionists— people like Douglass, Tubman, Brown, Wendell Phil¬lips and Charles Sumner. A small but crucial element of experienced radicals existed in the "Red 48ers/' European refugees from reaction following the crushing of the 1848 revolutions. Black, white, foreign-born, many of these later formed the left wing of the Republican Party.

The abolitionists were by no means a homogeneous group. One of the most famous abolitionists, William Lloyd Garrison, opposed all political activity—running for office, petitioning the government—on the grounds that the U.S. Constitution was pro-slavery. Advocating "moral suasion," Garrison opposed the use of force in the fight against slavery. He finally ended up by proposing the secession of the North as the "answer"—which needless to say would have done nothing to end slavery.

Although Douglass and Brown originally subscribed to "moral suasion," they both soon realized that it was doomed to fail. Even the Underground Railroad, although constantly defying the slave system and the federal laws which protected it, was not a critical weapon to end slavery and as such was more inspirational than strategic. Douglass, Brown and Tubman embraced all means to fight slavery, from petitioning and agitation to armed self-defense and insurrection. As Douglass commented in 1852 at a national free-soil convention, "The only way to make the Fugitive Slave Law a dead letter is to make half a dozen or more dead kidnappers. A half dozen more dead kidnappers carried down South would cool the ardor of Southern gentlemen, and keep their rapacity in check" ("The Fugitive Slave Law," The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Vol. 2). When the war broke out, it was Douglass and the other radical abolitionists who argued for the immediate freeing and arming of the slaves. Black insurrection at last would destroy the slave power: only that way could the Union Army win the war.

Harpers Ferry: The First Battle of the Civil War

As the years passed,to anti-slavery forces it seemed that the slaveholders were winning every battle. Every "compromise" increased the power of slavery. In 1857 the Supreme Court ruling on the Dred Scott case effectively extended the boundaries of slavery throughout the country. Chief Justice Roger Taney, a Southern Democrat, led the court decision that residency in a free state did not free a slave and that the Missouri Compromise barring slavery in the Northern territories was unconstitutional. As Marx said, "... now the Supreme Court of the United States, by its decision of 1857, tore down even this political barrier and transformed all the Territories of the republic, present and future, from nurseries of free states into nurseries of slavery" ("The North American Civil War," Collected Works, Vol. 19). Most notoriously, Taney wrote that blacks had no claim to U.S. citizenship under the Constitution because blacks "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."

But many abolitionists and free-soilers were determined to fight with every weapon available. To the free-soil farmers of the West, the expansion of slave-based agriculture was a direct threat. The South hindered by every possible means the colonization of the territories by free labor, seeking instead new lands for the plantation system and for the immensely profitable slave trade. Outraged free-state settlers organized in self-defense. When the Kansas-Nebraska bill opened Kansas to slavery under the dubious slogan of "popular sovereignty," border ruffians from the neighboring slave-state of Missouri spread terror and murder throughout the area to prevent a free-soil government from forming. John Brown and his followers, armed with rifles and the determination that slavery would not triumph, were key in the eventual victory of freedom in Bleeding Kansas.

It was shortly thereafter that Brown began to finalize and execute his plan to initiate a slave insurrection to found a black republic in the South. When Brown approached Gerrit Smith, Frederick Douglass and others (among whom were the Secret Six) in 1858 with his plan for launching a guerrilla war against the slavocracy, they recommended Tubman as the key to recruiting followers among the many freedmen who had settled in Canada, beyond the reach of the Fugitive Slave Law. Her work in bringing slaves out of the South gave her not only detailed knowledge of the terrain throughout Brown's planned Appalachian route, but invaluable military experience. Brown went to meet the woman he called "General Tubman" at St. Catherines in Canada; she enthusiastically embraced his plan for arming the slaves and setting up mountain strongholds from which to wage war against slavery.

Tubman agreed to recruit followers and raise money for the plan. She also may have attended the Chatham, Ontario convention in May 1858, where Brown and his followers discussed the constitution for the new black republic. A sternly religious man not given to superlatives, Brown wrote to his son: "Hariet Tubman hooked on his whole team at once. He Hariet is the most of a man naturally; that / ever met with. There is the most abundant material; & of the right quality; in this quarter; beyond all doubt" (quoted in Stephen B. Oates, To Purge This Land With Blood).

But when the time came to launch the raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry which was to begin the guerrilla war, Tubman was ill and out of reach. Only sickness, brought on by her toil and exposure, kept her from being with Brown at Harpers Ferry. Thus Tubman was not there when federal troops dispatched by President Buchanan and under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant J.E.B. Stuart rounded up Brown and his men. A few escaped; of the rest, those who were not killed on the spot were railroaded and hanged by the vindictive courts of Virginia. At his execution in December 1859, John Brown's last, prescient words spoke of the years to come: "I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty, land: will never be purged away; but with Blood. I had as I now think: vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed; it might be done" (ibid., emphasis in original). In the North John Brown's martyrdom was a rallying cry for abolition, while hysterical fear of insurrection swept the South and led to lynchings of suspected agitators. In later years Harriet Tubman spoke of Brown, "We Negroes in the South never call him John Brown; we call him our Saviour. He died for us."

The Civil War Years

The Republican Party was founded in 1854 out of the struggle for Kansas. For the 1860 presidential election the Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln as a moderate capable of winning wider support than more radical candidates. Although he opposed the expan¬sion of slavery, Lincoln's platform did not call for its elimination in the states where it already existed. Lincoln explicitly denounced John Brown's raid and declared his execution just. But Lincoln was still too anti-slavery for the South, and the secession of (eventually) eleven states led to the Confederate States of America. The Northern government, hoping for yet another compromise, had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the war, which was forced on them by the slaveholders' cannons at Fort Sumter. To Lincoln and the majority of the Northern ruling class, the goal of the war was not to end slavery but to put down the secession of the South.
Harriet Tubman again saw further, earlier: that the war for the Union must become a war to free the slaves. The abolitionist Lydia Maria Child quoted her words in a letter to the poet John Greenleaf Whittier (quoted in Conrad, op. c/t.):

"They may send the flower of their young men down South, to die of the fever in the summer and the ague in the winter— They may send them one year, two year, three year, till they tire of sending ortill they use upthe young men. All of no use. God is ahead of Mister Lincoln. Cod won't let Mister Lincoln beat the South till he does the right thing. Mister Lincoln, he is a great man, and I'm a poor Negro; but this Negro can tell Mister Lincoln how to save the money and the young men. He can do it by setting the Negroes free. Suppose there was an awfully big snake down there on the floor. He bites you. You send for the doctor to cut the bite; but the snake, he rolls up there, and while the doctor is doing it, he bites you again ... and so he keeps doing till you kill him. That's what Mister Lincoln ought to know."

But in the early months of the war Lincoln was opposed to the abolition of slavery in the U.S. in a military/political maneuver to woo secessionists and would-be secessionists into the Union. When General John C. Frernont, commander of the western depart¬ment, declared in August 1861 that all property of Missourians in rebellion was confiscated and the slaves emancipated, Lincoln fired him and rescinded the order. It took two years of ignominious defeats at the hands of the rebels to convince Lincoln of the necessity of freeing the slaves. When it became clear by late 1862 that the North could not win the war in any other way, he made plans to issue the Emancipation Proclamation—finally ending the spirit of compromise which had immobilized the North:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom."

Although the Emancipation Proclamation expressly left intact slavery in Union-loyal states like Maryland, January 1, 1863 was a day of rejoicing among all anti-slavery people. Douglass described his reaction:

"...I took the proclamation, first and last, for a little more than it purported, and saw in its spirit a life and power far beyond its letter. Its meaning to me was the entire abolition of slavery, wherever the evil could be reached by the federal arm, and I saw that its moral power would extend much further."

—Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

Almost as important as freedom itself was the government's decision to form regiments of black soldiers. Harriet Tubman herself was within earshot of one of the first battles employing blacks in combat: the heroic assault on the Confederate Fort Wagner, South Carolina, in July of 1863. It was here that the Massachusetts 54th, the first regiment of free Northern blacks, led by Tubman's friend Robert Gould Shaw, demonstrated before the eyes of the nation the courage and commitment of black soldiers. It was probably this battle Tubman was describing in her dramatic words: "And then we saw the lightning, and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder, and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling, and that was the drops of blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped." From then on black soldiers were thrown into the fighting on all fronts, tipping the balance of power for the ultimate Northern victory against the slavocracy.
Fort Wagner was quite near to Port Royal, South Carolina, where Tubman spent most of the war years working for the Union Army. One of the earliest Union victories had liberated the lush Sea Islands from the slaveholders; from here the Union Army ran its Department of the South. Control of the port allowed Union gunboats to patrol the coastline from Savannah to Charleston and begin a blockade of Confederate shipping, cutting off trade between the cotton South and the textile merchants of Great Britain. Fugitive slaves and freedmen flocked to the protection of the Union Army. Abolitionists set up schools to teach the blacks, young and old, to read and write.

Here Tubman worked in the army's service in many capacities. Her authority as the "Moses" of the Underground Railroad was enormously important in reassuring the freedmen of the trustworthiness of the Yankees. As a nurse she first ministered predominantly to the blacks suffering from malnutrition. Later she nursed both black and white soldiers, going from camp to camp where men were dying of dysentery, smallpox and malaria. She set up a laundry and taught women to earn a living, while supporting herself by baking pies and brewing root beer at night after her hard day's labor.

Tubman's outstanding contribution to the war was as a Union spy and scout. General Hunter, the commander at Port Royal, recognized her expertise, tempered by her years in the Underground Railroad; under him Tubman organized a scouting service of black scouts and river pilots who surveyed and patrolled the Combahee River area in South Carolina.
In this capacity she was integral to a celebrated military action on the Combahee on 2 June 1863. Three ships under the command of Colonel James Montgomery, a veteran of the guerrilla battles in Kansas and a trusted comrade of John Brown, raided deep into South Carolina in a blow pointing forward to Sherman's march on Georgia. The Boston Commonwealth described the battle:

"Col. Montgomery and his gallant band of 300 black soldiers, under the guidance of a black woman, dashed into the enemy's country, struck a bold and effective blow, destroying millions of dollars worth of commissary stores, cotton and lordly dwellings, and striking terror into the heart of rebeldom, brought off near 800 slaves and thousands of dollars worth of property, without losing a man or receiving a scratch."

The liberated slaves were brought back to Port Royal, where the able-bodied men among them were inducted into Montgomery's regiment.

Reconstruction Betrayed

At the war's end in 1865, over 600,000 Americans lay dead—almost equal to the number of American deaths in all the rest of the nation's wars combined. It took this bloody conflagration to resolve two key questions in American history: the Civil War forged a loose confederation of individual states into a modern nation. And underlying this question of political power lay the conflict between slavery and capitalism. The black question is the linchpin of American history.

Northern industrialism, unfettered at long last from the opposition of the slaveholders, wasted no time. In 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed. A federal protective tariff fostered the growth of domestic industry. The Homestead Act of 1862 provided for the free-soil colonization of the vast territories of the West.

But in 1865 the question of what position the newly liberated slaves should occupy in American society cried out for an answer. The initial conciliationist policy of the federal government under Andrew Johnson was strenuously opposed by the Radical Republicans under the leadership of Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner. Congressional legislation provided for full political equality for blacks: the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution are the legal codification of the gains of the Civil War. Slavery was wiped from the American Constitution, and blacks were made full citizens by law. The 15th Amendment, as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1866, was passed to provide federal protection of blacks against Southern counterrevolu¬tionary violence. Black rights were enforced at riflepoint by the interracial Union Army.

But the foundation upon which black equality must rest was never laid: only confiscation of the huge plantation holdings of the ex-slaveowners and their distribution'among the ex-slaves would have laid the economic basis without which "equality" remained a legal formality. Having completed their revolution against slavery—the last great bourgeois revolution— the Northern capitalists turned their backs on the blacks. Although they may have been opposed to property in human flesh, the robber barons of the late 19th century allied with Southern landholders for private property in the means of production. Even the most basic of political rights, the right to vote, was denied to all women at this time, both black and white. The capitalist reaction flowed from the inherent inability of a system based on private ownership of the means of production to eliminate scarcity, the econom¬ic source of all social inequality. Only abolition of private property will remove the social roots of racial and sexual oppression.

Radical Reconstruction was destroyed in a political counterrevolution which stripped blacks of their newly won economic and political rights. Nightriding race-terrorists intimidated and murdered thefreedmen; the Ku Klux Klan was founded shortly after the war by ex-Confederate officers. The Compromise of 1877 codi¬fied the rollback of Reconstruction: the Republican Party bought the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes in exchange for the removal of Union troops from the South. Over the years a new form of rural repression developed to replace the slave plantations. The Jim Crow system of segregation and disenfranchisement bound the liberated slaves to poverty and oppression as landless sharecroppers.

The betrayal of the struggle for black freedom was certainly experienced by Harriet Tubman. At the war's end, almost 50 years old, she was at last able to head for her home in Auburn, New York. Exhausted by her years of labor, subject to increasing bouts of sickness, and with family members looking to her for support, her active political life was essentially over. En route North she was beaten by a train conductor who ridiculed her Union pass, entitling her to free transportation as an army veteran. She was thrown into the baggage car, badly hurt and humiliated by this racist and sexist attack. She suffered from the effects of this injury for years. Then began a decades-long battle for the pension to which her three years of war service entitled her. Tubman commented scornfully, "You wouldn't think that after I served the flag so faithfully I should come to want in its folds." She did not receive a penny until after the death of her second husband, Nelson Davis, in 1888, when she was awarded $8 a month. In 1899, when she was nearly 80 years old, the government made some recognition of her service to the Union. She received a full pension, much of which she used to establish a home, named in honor of John Brown, for indigent elderly blacks. Harriet Tubman died in 1913, over 90 years old.

Finish the Civil War!

At the time of Lincoln's re-election in 1864, the International Workingmen's Association, of which Karl Marx was a leading member, sent the president a letter of congratulation:

"From the commencement of the titanic American strife the workingmen of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholdersdared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world, 'slavery' on the banner of armed revolt; whenon the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great democratic republic had first sprung up,whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man wasissued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century; ...then the working classes of Europe understood at once...that the slaveholders' rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a
general holy crusade of property against labor... "

But the stars and stripes, the proud banner of the Civil War, has long since become mired in the filth of racism and imperialist war. Only the working class, under revolutionary socialist leadership, can lead mankind out of the putrid decay that is capitalist society today.

Marx said, "Labour cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded." The destruction of slavery signaled the birth of the American labor movement, the rise of unions and agitation for the eight-hour day. Blacks today play a strategic role in the American working class. Over the years mass migration from the rural South into the cities, both North and South, has transformed the black population from a largely rural, agricultural layer into an urban, industrial group. As an oppressed race-color caste integrated at the bottom of the U.S. economy, blacks suffer from capitalist exploitation compounded with vicious racial oppression—for them, the "American dream" is a nightmare! In precise Marxist terms black people are the reserve army of the unemployed, last hired, first fired, a crucial economic component of the boom/bust cycle of the capitalist mode of production. Thus Marx's words are all too true today: the fight for black liberation is the fight for the emancipation of all working people. It is fhe race question—the poison of racism—that keeps the American working class divided. As long as the labor movement does not take up the struggle of black people, there will be no struggle for any emancipation—just as the Civil War could not be won without the freeing and arming of the slaves.

Today the oppressed and exploited must look to the red banner of socialist revolution for their liberation. The Spartacist League raises the slogans, "Finish the Civil War! Forward to the Third American Revolution!" to express the historic tasks which fall to the revolution¬ary party. A workers party as the tribune of the people will fight for the interests of all the oppressed. Liberation for blacks and women can be won only by a workers government which will smash the capitalist system and reorganize society on the basis of a planned socialist economy. Key leadership in the revolutionary struggle will be provided by the Harriet Tubmans and Frederick Douglasses of our time. We honor these great black leaders for their role in bringing the day of liberation one giant step closer.

Friday, October 09, 2020

In Honor Of John Brown Late Of Harpers Ferry-1859 *From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-All Honor To “General” Harriet Tubman

Click on the headline to link to a “Wikipedia” entry for “General” Harriet Tubman

February Is Black History. March Is Women’s History Month. Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits. Any one , or all, of those reasons can be used as the reason to honor “General” Harriet Tubman


Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Winter 1986-87 issue of "Women and Revolution" that has some historical interest all those who wish to learn about our militant forbears. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during this Women's History Month.

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The Revolutionary Vanguard of the Civil War

Harriet Tubman: Fighter for Black Freedom


Toward the end of her long life, the black abolitionist Harriet Tubman commented on her years of service to the liberation of black people in a conversation with a journalist:

"She looked musingly toward a nearby orchard, and she asked suddenly: 'Do you like apples?' On being assured that I did, she said: 'Did you ever plant any apple trees?' With shame I confessed I had not. 'No/ said she, 'but somebody else planted them. I liked apples when I was young, and I said, "Some day I'll plant apples myself for other young folks to eat," and I guess I did it'."

—Frank C. Drake, The New York Herald, 22 September 1907, quoted in Earl Conrad, Harriet Tubman

In this simple metaphor, Tubman recognized the vanguard role she played in laying the groundwork for black freedom in the United States in the revolution that was the Civil War. As a conductor on the Underground Railroad and a military strategist and spy during the war, "General" Tubman, as John Brown dubbed her, stood in the revolutionary insurrectionist wing of the abolitionist movement in the struggle against the Southern slavocracy. Like John Brown, the heroic martyr of the 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, and the outstanding political leader of the abolitionist movement, Frederick Douglass, Tubman knew that freedom for the slave would come about only through blood and iron. Harriet Tubman's life is a microcosm of the struggle for black liberation in the
19th century; her life directly reflects the issues of the time.

Although the hope for a complete liberation of black people was later defeated in the cowardly betrayal of Reconstruction, Tubman's "apple orchard"—freedom for the slave—was a tremendous historical advance. The abolition of slavery and the fight for full citizenship for the black population was the great historic task of the Civil War, the second American Revolution, which carried forward the unfinished business of the first American Revolution.

The abolitionist movement was part of a broader bourgeois radicalism, the 19th century descendant of the 18th century Enlightenment, Protestant religious ideals and the American Revolution so dramatically unfulfilled in the "Land of the Free" where four million suffered in slavery. The abolitionists were part of the religious and intellectual upsurge which swept the United States after 1820, encompassing such movements as Transcendentalism and Unitarianism. Particularly among the most politically radical wing, the abolitionists were motivated by a vision of human emancipation profoundly rooted in religion. To men like the clergymen Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Theodore Parker, slavery was an abomination to god and the Christian Bible and a gross betrayal of the rights of man as put forth in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

Although slavery was their pre-eminent concern, these radical bourgeois egalitarians also fought for many other pressing political issues of the time, such as free education, religious tolerance and workers' rights. The women's suffrage movement first began as a fight within abolitionism over the role of women anti-slavery activists. The most deeply committed and politically astute of these revolutionary democrats, like Frederick Douglass, understood that the fight against slavery must be generalized into a struggle against all oppression. As the abolitionist and women's rights leader Angelina Grimke' said at the May 1863 meeting of the Women's Loyal League, a convention of support for the North in the Civil War, "I want to be identified with the negro; until he gets his rights, we shall never have ours" (see "The Grimke' Sisters: Pioneers for Abolition and Women's Rights," W&R No. 29, Spring 1985).

The situation of the triply oppressed black woman slave more than any other cried out for liberation. Even the right to raise their own children was often denied to these women, whose masters could sell them or any member of their family at will. The life of Harriet Tubman illustrates in a particularly acute fashion the tremendous obstacles black women faced regarding even the elementary decencies of life. Despite her courageous work for black freedom—which included years as a soldier in the Union Army—she lived in poverty all her life.

A fugitive from bondage, black and a woman, Tubman triumphed over exceptional odds to become a leader of the second American Revolution. Like Frederick Douglass, she was able to generalize her bitter and brutal experience of oppression into a revolutionary social consciousness and a determination to fight for all the oppressed. She was an advocate of militant political action and revolutionary insurrectionism. As opposed to the "moral suasion" Garrisonian wing, she was part of the revolutionary vanguard of the abolitionist movement. As the "Moses" of her people on the Underground Railroad, Tubman was famous throughout the U.S. and beyond by the time of the war.

However, many details about her work are obscure, since she operated in the secrecy of what was essentially a revolutionary underground. She was illiterate, and much of what is known about her life comes from a biography of her by Sarah Bradford, who interviewed Tubman as an old woman (quotes from Tubman which were originally printed in dialect are here transposed into modern English spelling). Thus much of the story of her life must be told by others, especially by Frederick Douglass, with whom she shared the conviction, through the bleak decade of the 1850s, that the coming war must crush the slave system and break the bonds of black oppression. She was a co-worker and friend not only to John Brown and Douglass, but to many other key figures of her time, from abolitionist William H. Seward, Lincoln's secretary of state, to Sojourner Truth, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Wendell Phillips and Gerrit Smith. She knew Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott and most of the leading women's rights activists of her day.
Douglass honored Tubman's role in a letter written in 1868, in which he defended her right to an army pension as a Civil War veteran:

"The difference between us is very marked. Most that I have done and suffered in the service of our cause has been in public, and I have received much encourage¬ment at every step of the way. You, on the other hand, have labored in a private way. I have wrought in the day—you in the night. I have had the applause of the crowd and the satisfaction that comes of being approved by the multitude, while the most that you have done has been witnessed by a few trembling, scarred, and foot-sore bondmen and women, whom you have led out of the house of bondage, and whose heartfelt 'Cod bless you' has been your only reward. The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and of your heroism. Excepting John Brown—of sacred memory—I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have. Much that you have done would seem improbable to those who do not know you as I know you."

—quoted in Sarah Bradford, Harriet Tubman; The Moses of Her People
Slave vs. Free in the Antebellum U.S.

Like Frederick Douglass, Tubman was born a slave on the eastern shore of Maryland, probably in 1820. At that time the country was embroiled in the first of the major fights over slavery and the expanding U.S. territory, "resolved" in this instance by the Missouri Compro¬mise of 1820.

Since the founding of the U.S. in the late 18th century, when the slave system was left intact throughout the South, two economic systems, capitalism and slavery, coexisted within one country. The inevitable clash of economic interest which must lead to the victory of one over the other was postponed in a series of "compromises" centering on the maintenance of control by the slave states over the relatively weak federal government. But. the underlying economic conflicts between the two systems eventually reached the point at which compromise was no longer possible. The development of large-scale industrial capitalism required wage labor to exploit, the source of its tremendous profits, as well as a mobile and at least somewhat educated working population. Key to capitalist expansion was control of a growing home market. In contrast, the slave system was based on primitive, labor-intensive agricultural production; the slaveowners sought new lands to increase the highly profitable slave trade and to move plantations to fresh, non-exhausted soil. The clash came to a head over the huge, expanding territories of the West: would they be slave or free?

Karl Marx described the slow but inexorable sweep of political power by the slave states in their effort to increase control of the growing U.S.:

"The last Continental Congress of 1787 and the first Constitutional Congress of 1789-90 had legally excluded slavery from all Territories of the republic
northwest of the Ohio... The so-called Missouri Compromise (1820), in consequence of which Missouri became one of the States of the Union as a slave state, excluded slavery from every remaining Territory north of 36°30' latitude and west of the Missouri. By this compromise the area of slavery was advanced several degrees of longitude, whilst, on the other hand, a geographical boundary-line to its future spread seemed quite definitely drawn. This geographical barrier, in its turn, was thrown down in 1854 by the so-called Kansas-Nebraska Bill, the initiator of which was St[ephen] A. Douglas, then leader of the Northern Democrats. The Bill, which passed both Houses of Congress, repealed the Missouri Compromise, placed slavery and freedom on the same footing, commanded the Union government to treat them both with equal indifference and left it to the sovereignty of the people, that is, the majority of the settlers, to decide whether or not slavery was to be introduced in a Territory. Thus, for the first time in the history of the United States, every geographical and legal limit to the extension of slavery in the Territories was removed."

—Karl Marx, "The North American Civil War," Collected Works, Vol. 19

In 1820, when Tubman was born, news of the first of these bitter debates undoubtedly reached even the slave quarters, however isolated the slaves were kept from news of the day. Perhaps the slaves with whom Tubman lived as a child heard rumors about the deep split in Congress over the Tallmadge Amendment, which would have prohibited the introduction of more slaves into Missouri and provided for gradual emancipation of those already there. This first great debate on slavery was a harbinger of things to come. Abandoning even his earlier, contradictory anti-slavery position altogether, Thomas Jefferson strongly opposed the Tallmadge Amendment. In 1821 he wrote, "All, I fear, do not see the speck on our horizon which is to burst on us as a tornado, sooner or later."

As a child Tubman was acquainted with all the horrors of slavery. By the age of five or six she was at •work and suffering from whippings on her face and neck by a vicious mistress. Later she worked as a field hand. She was still a child at the time of Nat Turner's rebellion in 1831, put down by the slaveholders swiftly and ruthlessly. In 1832, the opposition of the agricultural South to the federal tariff designed to protect Northern industry led to the Nullification Crisis, in ' which South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union. The slaveholders' fear of black insurrection, sparked by Nat Turner's revolt, fueled their intransigence against the federal government.
Tubman was around 15 years old when the incident that literally marked her for life occurred. While trying to defend a fellow slave from the vindictiveness of the overseer, she was struck on the head with a two-pound iron weight which cracked her skull. For months she lingered between life and death, lying on rags in her family's slave cabin. The injury left a deep scar on her head and left her subject to spells of unconsciousness, sometimes three or four times a day, which plagued her for the rest of her life.

But instead of being crushed by the brutality of her life, Tubman hardened and determined to fight. When she recovered, she built up her physical strength until she could lift huge barrels of produce as well as a man, despite her small size. Her master would exhibit her strength as one of the "sights" of the plantation. She let people think her half-witted because of her brain injury, and plotted her escape. She began to experience daily visions, which inspired her driving commit¬ment to black freedom as part of a deeply personal religion.

In 1849, although it meant leaving her husband, a freeman who refused to go with her, Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery. Rumor had reached her and her family that their owners planned to sell them to the deep South, a dreaded fear of every slave in the bor¬der states. Already two of her sisters had been sent off in a chain gang, separated from their children. Her brothers lost courage for the escape; Tubman went on alone. As she later told Bradford: "I had reasoned this out in my mind; there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty, or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other; for no man should take me alive; I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted, and when the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me."
Aided by a white woman who gave her the first address of the Underground Railroad, Tubman made her way North, traveling at night. "I had crossed the line of which I had so long been dreaming. I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom, I was a stranger in a strange land, and my home after all was down in the old cabin quarter.... But to this solemn resolution I came; I was free, and they should be free also." Cooking and laundering to support herself, she began the life of a fugitive slave in the North.

The 1850s: The Irrepressible Conflict at the Boiling Point

Tubman arrived in the North on the eve of the biggest struggle yet over the question of slavery. Congressional debate sparked over California's petition for admission to the Union as a free state continued for months, while legislatures and mass rallies North and South adopted fiery resolutions. Mississippi called for a convention of Southern states. Over time a compromise satisfactory to few on either side was worked out, largely due to the efforts of Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas and Daniel Webster, who was voted out of his Senate seat by an enraged Massachusetts legislature in 1851. Webster was replaced by the uncompromising abolitionist radical, Charles Sumner. Later a leader of the Radical Republicans, in 1856, after a stirring anti-slavery speech, Sumner was beaten into unconsciousness on the Senate floor by a Southern Congressman.

The terms of the Compromise of 1850 centered on a series of tradeoffs: while California would be admitted as a free state, no restrictions on slavery were to be made in the Mexican cession; and while Washington, D.C. ceased to be a depot for the slave trade, the 1793 fugitive slave law was to be replaced with a much tougher version. This new law was an unspeakable atrocity, a threat to the lives and freedom of black people in every state. In his scathing indictment of hypocritical American "democracy," "July Fourth and the Negro" (5 July 1852), Frederick Douglass described it:

"For black men there is neither law nor justice, humanity nor religion. The Fugitive Slave taw makes mercy to them a crime; and bribes the judge who tries them. An American judge gets ten dollars for every victim he consigns to slavery, and five, when he fails to do so. The oath of any two villains is sufficient, under this hell-black enactment, to send the most pious and exemplary black man into the remorseless jaws of slavery! His own testimony is nothing. He can bring no witnesses for himself. The minister of American justice is bound by the law to hear but one side; and that side is the side of the oppressor. Let this damning fact be perpetually told. Let it be thundered around the world that in tyrant-killing, king-hating, people-loving, democratic, Christian America the seats of justice are filled with judges who hold their offices under an open and palpable bribe, and are bound, in deciding the case of a man's liberty, to near only his accusers.'

—The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Vol. 2

Many Northerners vowed to make the Fugitive Slave Law a dead letter. Congressman Joshua Giddings of Ohio, a long-time anti-slavery radical, defied even the army to enforce the statute: "Let the President... drench our land of freedom in blood; but he will never make us obey that law" (quoted in James M. McPherson, Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction). When the fugitive slave Anthony Burns was kidnapped in 1854 under the law in Boston by a gang of thugs organized by the federal government and Burns' Virginian master, the city erupted in seething conflict from the halls of government to the men in the street. The local vigilance committee, dedicated to helping fugitive slaves, organized mass rallies; a badly coordinated assault on the federal courthouse failed to rescue Burns. The federal government and the slaveholders succeeded in returning Burns to slavery. But he was the last fugitive to be returned from anywhere in New England. In fact, nine Northern states passed per¬sonal liberty laws, effectively nullifying the Fugitive Slave Law. In 1859, the Southern-dominated Supreme Court struck down the personal liberty laws as unconstitutional.

One of Harriet Tubman's most publicized actions was the courageous rescue of a fugitive slave, Charles Nalle, from the Troy, New York court where he was pronounced guilty in 1860 under the Fugitive Slave Law. For several hours a battle raged between the abolitionists and the authorities until Tubman, with the help of others, seized Nalle and started him off on the journey to Canada.

But the North was by no means free of pro-slavery or racist forces. Many states had "black laws"; Indiana, Oregon, Illinois and Iowa all eventually passed statutes banning black migration into the state. These measures reflected not only the racism of many whites in the states, but were an open conciliation to the South, stating in effect that fugitives would not be welcome.reflected not only the racism of many whites in the states, but were an open conciliation to the South, stating in effect that fugitives would not be welcome.

Indeed, opposition to slavery was all too often based on the wish to exclude blacks altogether. And throughout the 1850s, as the abolitionist movement grew in strength, so did the pro-slavery mob. Tubman had first¬hand experience with the violence of the Northern racists when she was part of a defense guard for Wendell Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison at a Boston meeting in 1860, raided by pro-slavery hooligans.

The Underground Railroad

Under these conditions of mounting assaults on blacks, free and slave, Harriet Tubman began her work with the Underground Railroad. Marked by her scarred head and subject to spells of unconsciousness, she faced incredible dangers which grew greater as the years passed. She raised money for her trips through her own labor and by fundraising among abolitionists. Given the secrecy of her missions and the price on her head—the slaveholders offered rewards totaling $40,000, an enormous sum in those days—there were few records of her 19 trips back South. She always carried a pistol and threatened to use it on those whose courage failed, on the principle that dead men carry no tales. In her native Maryland, where she returned many times to rescue dozens, including all but one of her entire family, so many slaves escaped that a panic broke out among the slaveholders, leading to the 1858 Southern Convention in Baltimore. Ancient laws were resurrected to crack down on escaping slaves; 89 free blacks were re-enslaved under a new law.

But Tubman continued her work up to the Civil War. She personally brought out some 300 people altogether, from all parts of the South. In the 1880s, she spoke of
these years at a meeting of women's suffragists in Rochester, New York: "Yes, ladies...I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can't say—I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger." As Frederick Douglass said of the Underground Railroad:

"I never did more congenial, attractive, fascinating and satisfactory work. True, as a means of destroying slavery, it was like an attempt to bail out the ocean with a teaspoon, but the thought that there was one less slave, and one more freeman—having myself been a slave, and a fugitive slave—brought to my heart unspeakable joy."

—Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

Indeed, the political impact of the Underground Railroad spread beyond the comparatively small numbers it freed, which have been estimated at probably less than 1,000 a year out of a total slave population of four million. As an interracial network of activists who were willing to risk imprisonment or death in their work, it was a rallying point in abolition work. Speaking tours of ex-slaves, who described the horrors of their lives in bondage, won over many to abolition.

The vigilance committees not only helped to settle newly arrived blacks, but tried to fight the racism of the North.

Most importantly, the Underground Railroad effectively allowed the crystallization of a black abolitionist vanguard in the North. As the black historian W.E.B. DuBois wrote:
"Nowhere did the imminence of a great struggle show itself more clearly than among the Negroes themselves. Organized insurrection ceased in the South, not because of the increased rigors of the slave system, but because the great safety-valve of escape northward was opened wider and wider, and the methods were gradually coordinated into that mysterious system known as the Underground Railroad. The slaves and freedmen started the work and to the end bore the brunt of danger and hardship; but gradually they more and more secured the cooperation of men like John Brown, and of others less radical but just as sympathetic."

—W.E.B. DuBois, John Brown

It was becoming more and more clear that liberation for the American slave was a national task beyond the scope of local slave insurrections like Nat Turner's or Denmark Vesey's. Leadership for black emancipation thus developed in the North, among the core of militant ex-slaves, free blacks and white abolitionists— people like Douglass, Tubman, Brown, Wendell Phil¬lips and Charles Sumner. A small but crucial element of experienced radicals existed in the "Red 48ers/' European refugees from reaction following the crushing of the 1848 revolutions. Black, white, foreign-born, many of these later formed the left wing of the Republican Party.

The abolitionists were by no means a homogeneous group. One of the most famous abolitionists, William Lloyd Garrison, opposed all political activity—running for office, petitioning the government—on the grounds that the U.S. Constitution was pro-slavery. Advocating "moral suasion," Garrison opposed the use of force in the fight against slavery. He finally ended up by proposing the secession of the North as the "answer"—which needless to say would have done nothing to end slavery.

Although Douglass and Brown originally subscribed to "moral suasion," they both soon realized that it was doomed to fail. Even the Underground Railroad, although constantly defying the slave system and the federal laws which protected it, was not a critical weapon to end slavery and as such was more inspirational than strategic. Douglass, Brown and Tubman embraced all means to fight slavery, from petitioning and agitation to armed self-defense and insurrection. As Douglass commented in 1852 at a national free-soil convention, "The only way to make the Fugitive Slave Law a dead letter is to make half a dozen or more dead kidnappers. A half dozen more dead kidnappers carried down South would cool the ardor of Southern gentlemen, and keep their rapacity in check" ("The Fugitive Slave Law," The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Vol. 2). When the war broke out, it was Douglass and the other radical abolitionists who argued for the immediate freeing and arming of the slaves. Black insurrection at last would destroy the slave power: only that way could the Union Army win the war.

Harpers Ferry: The First Battle of the Civil War

As the years passed,to anti-slavery forces it seemed that the slaveholders were winning every battle. Every "compromise" increased the power of slavery. In 1857 the Supreme Court ruling on the Dred Scott case effectively extended the boundaries of slavery throughout the country. Chief Justice Roger Taney, a Southern Democrat, led the court decision that residency in a free state did not free a slave and that the Missouri Compromise barring slavery in the Northern territories was unconstitutional. As Marx said, "... now the Supreme Court of the United States, by its decision of 1857, tore down even this political barrier and transformed all the Territories of the republic, present and future, from nurseries of free states into nurseries of slavery" ("The North American Civil War," Collected Works, Vol. 19). Most notoriously, Taney wrote that blacks had no claim to U.S. citizenship under the Constitution because blacks "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect."

But many abolitionists and free-soilers were determined to fight with every weapon available. To the free-soil farmers of the West, the expansion of slave-based agriculture was a direct threat. The South hindered by every possible means the colonization of the territories by free labor, seeking instead new lands for the plantation system and for the immensely profitable slave trade. Outraged free-state settlers organized in self-defense. When the Kansas-Nebraska bill opened Kansas to slavery under the dubious slogan of "popular sovereignty," border ruffians from the neighboring slave-state of Missouri spread terror and murder throughout the area to prevent a free-soil government from forming. John Brown and his followers, armed with rifles and the determination that slavery would not triumph, were key in the eventual victory of freedom in Bleeding Kansas.

It was shortly thereafter that Brown began to finalize and execute his plan to initiate a slave insurrection to found a black republic in the South. When Brown approached Gerrit Smith, Frederick Douglass and others (among whom were the Secret Six) in 1858 with his plan for launching a guerrilla war against the slavocracy, they recommended Tubman as the key to recruiting followers among the many freedmen who had settled in Canada, beyond the reach of the Fugitive Slave Law. Her work in bringing slaves out of the South gave her not only detailed knowledge of the terrain throughout Brown's planned Appalachian route, but invaluable military experience. Brown went to meet the woman he called "General Tubman" at St. Catherines in Canada; she enthusiastically embraced his plan for arming the slaves and setting up mountain strongholds from which to wage war against slavery.

Tubman agreed to recruit followers and raise money for the plan. She also may have attended the Chatham, Ontario convention in May 1858, where Brown and his followers discussed the constitution for the new black republic. A sternly religious man not given to superlatives, Brown wrote to his son: "Hariet Tubman hooked on his whole team at once. He Hariet is the most of a man naturally; that / ever met with. There is the most abundant material; & of the right quality; in this quarter; beyond all doubt" (quoted in Stephen B. Oates, To Purge This Land With Blood).

But when the time came to launch the raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry which was to begin the guerrilla war, Tubman was ill and out of reach. Only sickness, brought on by her toil and exposure, kept her from being with Brown at Harpers Ferry. Thus Tubman was not there when federal troops dispatched by President Buchanan and under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant J.E.B. Stuart rounded up Brown and his men. A few escaped; of the rest, those who were not killed on the spot were railroaded and hanged by the vindictive courts of Virginia. At his execution in December 1859, John Brown's last, prescient words spoke of the years to come: "I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty, land: will never be purged away; but with Blood. I had as I now think: vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed; it might be done" (ibid., emphasis in original). In the North John Brown's martyrdom was a rallying cry for abolition, while hysterical fear of insurrection swept the South and led to lynchings of suspected agitators. In later years Harriet Tubman spoke of Brown, "We Negroes in the South never call him John Brown; we call him our Saviour. He died for us."

The Civil War Years

The Republican Party was founded in 1854 out of the struggle for Kansas. For the 1860 presidential election the Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln as a moderate capable of winning wider support than more radical candidates. Although he opposed the expan¬sion of slavery, Lincoln's platform did not call for its elimination in the states where it already existed. Lincoln explicitly denounced John Brown's raid and declared his execution just. But Lincoln was still too anti-slavery for the South, and the secession of (eventually) eleven states led to the Confederate States of America. The Northern government, hoping for yet another compromise, had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the war, which was forced on them by the slaveholders' cannons at Fort Sumter. To Lincoln and the majority of the Northern ruling class, the goal of the war was not to end slavery but to put down the secession of the South.
Harriet Tubman again saw further, earlier: that the war for the Union must become a war to free the slaves. The abolitionist Lydia Maria Child quoted her words in a letter to the poet John Greenleaf Whittier (quoted in Conrad, op. c/t.):

"They may send the flower of their young men down South, to die of the fever in the summer and the ague in the winter— They may send them one year, two year, three year, till they tire of sending ortill they use upthe young men. All of no use. God is ahead of Mister Lincoln. Cod won't let Mister Lincoln beat the South till he does the right thing. Mister Lincoln, he is a great man, and I'm a poor Negro; but this Negro can tell Mister Lincoln how to save the money and the young men. He can do it by setting the Negroes free. Suppose there was an awfully big snake down there on the floor. He bites you. You send for the doctor to cut the bite; but the snake, he rolls up there, and while the doctor is doing it, he bites you again ... and so he keeps doing till you kill him. That's what Mister Lincoln ought to know."

But in the early months of the war Lincoln was opposed to the abolition of slavery in the U.S. in a military/political maneuver to woo secessionists and would-be secessionists into the Union. When General John C. Frernont, commander of the western depart¬ment, declared in August 1861 that all property of Missourians in rebellion was confiscated and the slaves emancipated, Lincoln fired him and rescinded the order. It took two years of ignominious defeats at the hands of the rebels to convince Lincoln of the necessity of freeing the slaves. When it became clear by late 1862 that the North could not win the war in any other way, he made plans to issue the Emancipation Proclamation—finally ending the spirit of compromise which had immobilized the North:

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom."

Although the Emancipation Proclamation expressly left intact slavery in Union-loyal states like Maryland, January 1, 1863 was a day of rejoicing among all anti-slavery people. Douglass described his reaction:

"...I took the proclamation, first and last, for a little more than it purported, and saw in its spirit a life and power far beyond its letter. Its meaning to me was the entire abolition of slavery, wherever the evil could be reached by the federal arm, and I saw that its moral power would extend much further."

—Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

Almost as important as freedom itself was the government's decision to form regiments of black soldiers. Harriet Tubman herself was within earshot of one of the first battles employing blacks in combat: the heroic assault on the Confederate Fort Wagner, South Carolina, in July of 1863. It was here that the Massachusetts 54th, the first regiment of free Northern blacks, led by Tubman's friend Robert Gould Shaw, demonstrated before the eyes of the nation the courage and commitment of black soldiers. It was probably this battle Tubman was describing in her dramatic words: "And then we saw the lightning, and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder, and that was the big guns; and then we heard the rain falling, and that was the drops of blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped." From then on black soldiers were thrown into the fighting on all fronts, tipping the balance of power for the ultimate Northern victory against the slavocracy.
Fort Wagner was quite near to Port Royal, South Carolina, where Tubman spent most of the war years working for the Union Army. One of the earliest Union victories had liberated the lush Sea Islands from the slaveholders; from here the Union Army ran its Department of the South. Control of the port allowed Union gunboats to patrol the coastline from Savannah to Charleston and begin a blockade of Confederate shipping, cutting off trade between the cotton South and the textile merchants of Great Britain. Fugitive slaves and freedmen flocked to the protection of the Union Army. Abolitionists set up schools to teach the blacks, young and old, to read and write.

Here Tubman worked in the army's service in many capacities. Her authority as the "Moses" of the Underground Railroad was enormously important in reassuring the freedmen of the trustworthiness of the Yankees. As a nurse she first ministered predominantly to the blacks suffering from malnutrition. Later she nursed both black and white soldiers, going from camp to camp where men were dying of dysentery, smallpox and malaria. She set up a laundry and taught women to earn a living, while supporting herself by baking pies and brewing root beer at night after her hard day's labor.

Tubman's outstanding contribution to the war was as a Union spy and scout. General Hunter, the commander at Port Royal, recognized her expertise, tempered by her years in the Underground Railroad; under him Tubman organized a scouting service of black scouts and river pilots who surveyed and patrolled the Combahee River area in South Carolina.
In this capacity she was integral to a celebrated military action on the Combahee on 2 June 1863. Three ships under the command of Colonel James Montgomery, a veteran of the guerrilla battles in Kansas and a trusted comrade of John Brown, raided deep into South Carolina in a blow pointing forward to Sherman's march on Georgia. The Boston Commonwealth described the battle:

"Col. Montgomery and his gallant band of 300 black soldiers, under the guidance of a black woman, dashed into the enemy's country, struck a bold and effective blow, destroying millions of dollars worth of commissary stores, cotton and lordly dwellings, and striking terror into the heart of rebeldom, brought off near 800 slaves and thousands of dollars worth of property, without losing a man or receiving a scratch."

The liberated slaves were brought back to Port Royal, where the able-bodied men among them were inducted into Montgomery's regiment.

Reconstruction Betrayed

At the war's end in 1865, over 600,000 Americans lay dead—almost equal to the number of American deaths in all the rest of the nation's wars combined. It took this bloody conflagration to resolve two key questions in American history: the Civil War forged a loose confederation of individual states into a modern nation. And underlying this question of political power lay the conflict between slavery and capitalism. The black question is the linchpin of American history.

Northern industrialism, unfettered at long last from the opposition of the slaveholders, wasted no time. In 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed. A federal protective tariff fostered the growth of domestic industry. The Homestead Act of 1862 provided for the free-soil colonization of the vast territories of the West.

But in 1865 the question of what position the newly liberated slaves should occupy in American society cried out for an answer. The initial conciliationist policy of the federal government under Andrew Johnson was strenuously opposed by the Radical Republicans under the leadership of Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner. Congressional legislation provided for full political equality for blacks: the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution are the legal codification of the gains of the Civil War. Slavery was wiped from the American Constitution, and blacks were made full citizens by law. The 15th Amendment, as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1866, was passed to provide federal protection of blacks against Southern counterrevolu¬tionary violence. Black rights were enforced at riflepoint by the interracial Union Army.

But the foundation upon which black equality must rest was never laid: only confiscation of the huge plantation holdings of the ex-slaveowners and their distribution'among the ex-slaves would have laid the economic basis without which "equality" remained a legal formality. Having completed their revolution against slavery—the last great bourgeois revolution— the Northern capitalists turned their backs on the blacks. Although they may have been opposed to property in human flesh, the robber barons of the late 19th century allied with Southern landholders for private property in the means of production. Even the most basic of political rights, the right to vote, was denied to all women at this time, both black and white. The capitalist reaction flowed from the inherent inability of a system based on private ownership of the means of production to eliminate scarcity, the econom¬ic source of all social inequality. Only abolition of private property will remove the social roots of racial and sexual oppression.

Radical Reconstruction was destroyed in a political counterrevolution which stripped blacks of their newly won economic and political rights. Nightriding race-terrorists intimidated and murdered thefreedmen; the Ku Klux Klan was founded shortly after the war by ex-Confederate officers. The Compromise of 1877 codi¬fied the rollback of Reconstruction: the Republican Party bought the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes in exchange for the removal of Union troops from the South. Over the years a new form of rural repression developed to replace the slave plantations. The Jim Crow system of segregation and disenfranchisement bound the liberated slaves to poverty and oppression as landless sharecroppers.

The betrayal of the struggle for black freedom was certainly experienced by Harriet Tubman. At the war's end, almost 50 years old, she was at last able to head for her home in Auburn, New York. Exhausted by her years of labor, subject to increasing bouts of sickness, and with family members looking to her for support, her active political life was essentially over. En route North she was beaten by a train conductor who ridiculed her Union pass, entitling her to free transportation as an army veteran. She was thrown into the baggage car, badly hurt and humiliated by this racist and sexist attack. She suffered from the effects of this injury for years. Then began a decades-long battle for the pension to which her three years of war service entitled her. Tubman commented scornfully, "You wouldn't think that after I served the flag so faithfully I should come to want in its folds." She did not receive a penny until after the death of her second husband, Nelson Davis, in 1888, when she was awarded $8 a month. In 1899, when she was nearly 80 years old, the government made some recognition of her service to the Union. She received a full pension, much of which she used to establish a home, named in honor of John Brown, for indigent elderly blacks. Harriet Tubman died in 1913, over 90 years old.

Finish the Civil War!

At the time of Lincoln's re-election in 1864, the International Workingmen's Association, of which Karl Marx was a leading member, sent the president a letter of congratulation:

"From the commencement of the titanic American strife the workingmen of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholdersdared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world, 'slavery' on the banner of armed revolt; whenon the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great democratic republic had first sprung up,whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man wasissued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century; ...then the working classes of Europe understood at once...that the slaveholders' rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a
general holy crusade of property against labor... "

But the stars and stripes, the proud banner of the Civil War, has long since become mired in the filth of racism and imperialist war. Only the working class, under revolutionary socialist leadership, can lead mankind out of the putrid decay that is capitalist society today.

Marx said, "Labour cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded." The destruction of slavery signaled the birth of the American labor movement, the rise of unions and agitation for the eight-hour day. Blacks today play a strategic role in the American working class. Over the years mass migration from the rural South into the cities, both North and South, has transformed the black population from a largely rural, agricultural layer into an urban, industrial group. As an oppressed race-color caste integrated at the bottom of the U.S. economy, blacks suffer from capitalist exploitation compounded with vicious racial oppression—for them, the "American dream" is a nightmare! In precise Marxist terms black people are the reserve army of the unemployed, last hired, first fired, a crucial economic component of the boom/bust cycle of the capitalist mode of production. Thus Marx's words are all too true today: the fight for black liberation is the fight for the emancipation of all working people. It is fhe race question—the poison of racism—that keeps the American working class divided. As long as the labor movement does not take up the struggle of black people, there will be no struggle for any emancipation—just as the Civil War could not be won without the freeing and arming of the slaves.

Today the oppressed and exploited must look to the red banner of socialist revolution for their liberation. The Spartacist League raises the slogans, "Finish the Civil War! Forward to the Third American Revolution!" to express the historic tasks which fall to the revolution¬ary party. A workers party as the tribune of the people will fight for the interests of all the oppressed. Liberation for blacks and women can be won only by a workers government which will smash the capitalist system and reorganize society on the basis of a planned socialist economy. Key leadership in the revolutionary struggle will be provided by the Harriet Tubmans and Frederick Douglasses of our time. We honor these great black leaders for their role in bringing the day of liberation one giant step closer.