Showing posts with label class struggle defense. Show all posts
Showing posts with label class struggle defense. Show all posts

Thursday, March 18, 2021

*From The Karl Marx- Friedrich Internet Archives- In Defense Of The Paris Commune And The Struggle To Defend Its Class-War Prisoners- In Honor Of The 140th Anniversary Of The Paris Commune

Click on the headline to link to the Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels Archive online copy of the material mentioned in the title on the defense of the Paris Commune and its class-war prisoners.

Markin comment:

Readers of this space are, by now, familiar with my interest in the defense of class-war prisoners and, perhaps, know that I express that interest through support to the efforts of the Partisan Defense Committee (PDC). One of the reasons for that support of the PDC is its commitment to the non-sectarian defense of all class-war prisoners, a tradition in which it follows the old Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) principle expressed in the slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all.” That principle also animated the early James P. Cannon-led work of the International Labor Defense, the legal defense arm of the American Communist Party and of the early legal defense work of the Trotskyist American Socialist Workers Party.

Perhaps not as well known, although it would seem axiomatic to their theories, is the even earlier class-war prisoner defense work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as an expression of their concept expressed in the slogan “workers of the world unite.” In no place was this work ardently pursued that in their defense against all-comers of the Paris Commune during its short, historic existence and later, after it was crushed of its refugees, exiles, prisoners and their families. Much of this work was done early on through the Marx-created and led First International, and after its demise in the wake of that defeat through other Marx-influenced national organizations. I am posting some material here to provide some examples of their efforts.

The important point here is that, to my knowledge, there was, at most, only one proclaimed Marxist in the leadership of the Commune, and not much more adherence among the plebeians and artisans who heroically defended the Commune. So, mostly, those being defended by Marx and Engels were leftist political opponent, in some cases, severe political opponents. That approach is what has animated my own legal defense work and, hopefully, yours. Here, by the way, is another slogan to end this comment, fittingly I think-All Honor To The Paris Communards! Long Live The Memory Of The Paris Commune!
***********
Paris Commune

International Working mens Association 1872

Resolutions of the Meeting held to celebrate the Anniversary of the Paris Commune

Source: MECW, Volume 23, p. 128;
Written: by Marx between March 13 and 18, 1872;
First published: in La Liberté, March 24, 1872 and in The International Herald, March 30, 1872;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

I
“That this meeting assembled to celebrate the anniversary of the 18th March last, declares, that it looks upon the glorious movement inaugurated upon the 18th March, 1871, as the dawn of the great social revolution which will for ever free the human race from class rule.”

II
“That the incapacity and the crimes of the middle classes, extended all over Europe by their hatred against the working classes, have doomed old society no matter under what form of government-Monarchical or Republican.”

III
“That the crusade of all governments against the International, and the terror of the murderers of Versailles as well as of their Prussian conquerors, attest the hollowness of their successes, and the presence of. the threatening army of the proletariat of the whole world gathering in the rear of its heroic vanguard crushed by the combined forces of Thiers and William of Prussia.”

Monday, August 10, 2020

*From The Karl Marx- Friedrich Internet Archives- In Defense Of The Paris Commune And Defense Of Its Class-War Prisoners-On Hostages

Click on the headline to link to the Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels Archive online copy of the material mentioned in the title on the defense of the Paris Commune and its class-war prisoners.

Markin comment:

Readers of this space are, by now, familiar with my interest in the defense of class-war prisoners and, perhaps, know that I express that interest through support to the efforts of the Partisan Defense Committee (PDC). One of the reasons for that support of the PDC is its commitment to the non-sectarian defense of all class-war prisoners, a tradition in which it follows the old Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) principle expressed in the slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all.” That principle also animated the early James P. Cannon-led work of the International Labor Defense, the legal defense arm of the American Communist Party and of the early legal defense work of the Trotskyist American Socialist Workers Party.

Perhaps not as well known, although it would seem axiomatic to their theories, is the even earlier class-war prisoner defense work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as an expression of their concept expressed in the slogan “workers of the world unite.” In no place was this work more ardently pursued that in their defense against all-comers of the Paris Commune during its short, historic existence and later, after it was crushed of its refugees, exiles, prisoners and their families. Much of this work was done early on through the Marx-created and led First International, and after its demise in the wake of that defeat through other Marx-influenced national organizations. I am posting some material here to provide some examples of their efforts.

The important point here is that, to my knowledge, there was, at most, only one proclaimed Marxist in the leadership of the Commune, and not much more adherence among the plebeians and artisans who heroically defended the Commune. So, mostly, those being defended by Marx and Engels were leftist political opponents, in some cases, severe political opponents. That approach is what has animated my own legal defense work and, hopefully, yours. Here, by the way, is another slogan to end this comment, fittingly I think-All Honor To The Paris Communards! Long Live The Memory Of The Paris Commune!

*From The Karl Marx- Friedrich Internet Archives- In Defense Of The Paris Commune And Its Class-War Prisoners- Second Address

Click on the headline to link to the Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels Archive online copy of the material mentioned in the title on the defense of the Paris Commune and its class-war prisoners.

Markin comment:

Readers of this space are, by now, familiar with my interest in the defense of class-war prisoners and, perhaps, know that I express that interest through support to the efforts of the Partisan Defense Committee (PDC). One of the reasons for that support of the PDC is its commitment to the non-sectarian defense of all class-war prisoners, a tradition in which it follows the old Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) principle expressed in the slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all.” That principle also animated the early James P. Cannon-led work of the International Labor Defense, the legal defense arm of the American Communist Party and of the early legal defense work of the Trotskyist American Socialist Workers Party.

Perhaps not as well known, although it would seem axiomatic to their theories, is the even earlier class-war prisoner defense work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as an expression of their concept expressed in the slogan “workers of the world unite.” In no place was this work more ardently pursued that in their defense against all-comers of the Paris Commune during its short, historic existence and later, after it was crushed of its refugees, exiles, prisoners and their families. Much of this work was done early on through the Marx-created and led First International, and after its demise in the wake of that defeat through other Marx-influenced national organizations. I am posting some material here to provide some examples of their efforts.

The important point here is that, to my knowledge, there was, at most, only one proclaimed Marxist in the leadership of the Commune, and not much more adherence among the plebeians and artisans who heroically defended the Commune. So, mostly, those being defended by Marx and Engels were leftist political opponents, in some cases, severe political opponents. That approach is what has animated my own legal defense work and, hopefully, yours. Here, by the way, is another slogan to end this comment, fittingly I think-All Honor To The Paris Communards! Long Live The Memory Of The Paris Commune!

Sunday, November 03, 2019

***On The Anniversary Of 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 32nd 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.

***On The Anniversary Of Greensboro 1979, Never Forget- From The American Labor Archives On The Ways To Defeat The Fascists

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the Greensboro 1979 events.


Markin comment:

The events of Greenboro, North Carolina 1979, today more than ever as we gear up our struggles in the aftermath of the spark of the Occupy movement, should be permanently etched in our minds. We had best know how to deal with the fascists and other para-military types that rear their heads when people begin to struggle against the bosses. The article below points the way historically.
*******
Markin comment on this article :

Every year, and rightfully so, we leftist militants, especially those of us who count ourselves among the communist militants, remember the 1979 Greensboro, North Carolina massacre of fellow communists by murderous and police-protected Nazis, fascists and Klansmen. That remembrance, as the article below details, also includes trying to draw the lessons of the experience and an explanation of political differences. For what purpose? Greensboro 1979-never again, never forget-or forgive.

Although right this minute, this 2011 minute, the Nazis/fascists are not publicly raising their hellish ideas, apparently “hiding” just now on the fringes of the tea party movement, this is an eternal question for leftists. The question, in short, of when and how to deal with this crowd of locust. Trotsky, and others, had it right back in the late 1920s and early 1930s-smash this menace in the shell. 1933, when they come to power, as Hitler did in Germany (or earlier, if you like, with Mussolini in Italy) is way too late, as immediately the German working class, including its Social-Democratic and Communist sympathizers found out, and later many parts of the rest of the world. That is the when.

For the how, the substance of this article points the way forward, and the way not forward, as represented by the American Communist Party’s (and at later times other so-called “progressives” as well, including here the Communist Workers Party) attempts to de-rail the street protests and rely, as always, on the good offices of the bourgeois state, and usually, on this issue the Democrats. Sure, grab all the allies you can, from whatever source, to confront the fascists when they raise their heads. But rely on the mobilization of the labor movement on the streets to say what’s what, not rely on the hoary halls of bourgeois government and its hangers-on, ideologues, and lackeys.
************
Ohio Union Guard Routs Fascists
Reprinted from the Northwest Organizer,24 November 1938

A company of union defense guards, made up of unionists from Youngstown, Ohio, had the honor of leading the first victorious assault on the fascist Silver Shirts when the boss-supported labor-haters sought to hold a meeting last Thursday in Sharon.

Sharon is 14 miles from Youngstown. Roy Zachary, national commander of the Silver Shirts, appeared in Sharon Thursday to speak before a scheduled meeting of his group.

The Silver Shirts had arranged some time ago to hold their meeting in the local Moose Hall, but without announcing the sponsorship of the meeting. When the Silver Shirts arrived around 8 p.m., lodge officers revoked the permit for the meeting.

A fascist who had wormed his way into the Carpenters' union then suggested that the meeting be held in the nearby Carpenters' Hall. The Silver Shirts went there and started their meeting.

The meeting had no sooner got under way than 10 carloads of union guards arrived from Youngstown, dashed up the stairs and stormed the meeting.

Storm the Hall

As the doors and windows were being battered down, several squads of cops rushed in to protect the Silver Shirts. The union guards circled the building and prepared to storm it from the rear. At this point, two officials of the Carpenters Union arrived and ordered the Silver Shirts out of the building.

Cops Protect Fascists

Quaking, the Silver Shirts quickly stole out of the building and were escorted to their cars by the cops as the union pickets hurled their hatred at the local Hitlerites.

"Union members in this area," writes one of the union
guards, "are determined that the Silver Shirts shall hold no
""meetings. The effectiveness of our swift action in the Sharon
case is shown by the fact that the Silver Shirts called off
a scheduled meeting in Newcastle, Pennsylvania, the following
night. Definite steps are being taken to organize union defense
squads after the pattern of the Minneapolis unions for the
protection of the union movement against any attacks from the
employers' stooge vigilante organization, the Silver Shirts.
Our motto is 'Offense is the best defense'."

The stalwart union defense guards of Youngstown, Ohio, have given a magnificent and inspiring demonstration of labor's resolve that the United States shall not go the way of Germany, Italy, Austria and the Balkans. Labor everywhere must energetically set about to build the union defense guard and smash the Silver Shirted rats wherever they show their heads. We hail the Youngstown union guard!
*********
Minneapolis Picket Line Smashes Fascist Rally
—Reprinted from the Militant 31 August 1946

Minneapolis, Minn., Aug. 22—A united labor movement stopped Fascist Gerald L.K. Smith from speaking last night in Minneapolis. More than 1,500 pickets from AFL, CIO and Railroad unions, along with members of veterans, Jewish, Negro and working class political organizations, including the Socialist Workers Party, rallied in a fighting mass dem¬onstration against America's No. 1 fascist leader.

When Smith's goons assaulted several pickets outside the fascists' meeting place at the Leamington Hotel, the aroused workers stormed the meeting hall and routed Smith and his followers in a pitched battle....

"Stop Fascism!"

Scores of banners carried by the pickets had been distributed by the united labor committee. They carried such slogans as: "Race Hatred is Fascism;" "Stop Fascism and G.L.K. Smith;" "Don't Be A Sucker For Fascists;" "Don't Support Hitler's Agent-Keep Away." By agreement of the committee in charge, each organization carried only one placard.
Among the organizations carrying their own banners were the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; the Workers Defense League; the Minneapolis AFL Central Labor Union; the Minneapolis AFL Building Trades Council; the American Veterans Committee; the American
Youth for Democracy; the Socialist Workers Party; the Communist Party; and the Minneapolis Jewish Action Committee.

Prominent in the picket line was the banner of the Socialist Workers Party proclaiming: "American Workers Do Not Want A Hitler-STOP Gerald L. K. Smith!"...

Storming the Hall

As the first pickets reached the hotel, some of the Smith goons attempted to break up the line. Several of the pickets were attacked and knocked to the sidewalk. When the attackers fled into the hotel, the pickets stormed in after them.

Surging through the lobby, the pickets were met by a knot of fascists who attempted to bar the way to the ballroom where the meeting was to be held. With a mighty push, the Smith supporters were brushed aside and the pickets plunged on like a great tidal wave toward the meeting hall.

Charging through a barricade of chairs which the fascists had thrown up to prevent the pickets from entering the hall, the shouting mass of labor anti-fascists made their way into the ballroom. In their frantic retreat, the fascists left broken chairs, tables, lamps and mirrors in their wake. Dozens of Smith's supporters fled through the windows. Those remaining in the hall scuttled to one corner of the room and huddled there.

Workers Take Over

At the call of the picket captain, Walter Frank, all the pickets were seated. Frank's announcement that no Smith meeting would be held was greeted with resounding cheers. He reported that the hotel manager had refused to let Smith's meeting take place and ordered the fascists out, since the ballroom had been obtained under false pretenses. One of Smith's followers had rented the hall in the name of the "Northwest Pioneers."

The assembled pickets were then instructed to march in a body to the Minneapolis courthouse where an anti-fascist would be held. A rearguard of pickets was left at the hotel to see that instructions of the manager were carried out.

Smith came out of hiding only after the pickets left. He attempted to hold a meeting in the hotel lobby but only a handful of people remained. In one of his usual attacks on the labor movement and minorities, Smith declared to his followers that the demonstration was the work of "Jewish terrorists and Communists."...

Thursday, August 15, 2019

*From The Karl Marx- Friedrich Internet Archives- In Defense Of The Paris Commune And Defense Of Its Class-War Prisoners-Passports

Click on the headline to link to the Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels Archive online copy of the material mentioned in the title on the defense of the Paris Commune and its class-war prisoners.

Markin comment:

Readers of this space are, by now, familiar with my interest in the defense of class-war prisoners and, perhaps, know that I express that interest through support to the efforts of the Partisan Defense Committee (PDC). One of the reasons for that support of the PDC is its commitment to the non-sectarian defense of all class-war prisoners, a tradition in which it follows the old Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) principle expressed in the slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all.” That principle also animated the early James P. Cannon-led work of the International Labor Defense, the legal defense arm of the American Communist Party and of the early legal defense work of the Trotskyist American Socialist Workers Party.

Perhaps not as well known, although it would seem axiomatic to their theories, is the even earlier class-war prisoner defense work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as an expression of their concept expressed in the slogan “workers of the world unite.” In no place was this work more ardently pursued that in their defense against all-comers of the Paris Commune during its short, historic existence and later, after it was crushed of its refugees, exiles, prisoners and their families. Much of this work was done early on through the Marx-created and led First International, and after its demise in the wake of that defeat through other Marx-influenced national organizations. I am posting some material here to provide some examples of their efforts.

The important point here is that, to my knowledge, there was, at most, only one proclaimed Marxist in the leadership of the Commune, and not much more adherence among the plebeians and artisans who heroically defended the Commune. So, mostly, those being defended by Marx and Engels were leftist political opponents, in some cases, severe political opponents. That approach is what has animated my own legal defense work and, hopefully, yours. Here, by the way, is another slogan to end this comment, fittingly I think-All Honor To The Paris Communards! Long Live The Memory Of The Paris Commune!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

*From The Karl Marx- Friedrich Internet Archives- In Defense Of The Paris Commune And Defense Of Its Class-War Prisoners-1872 Address

Click on the headline to link to the Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels Archive online copy of the material mentioned in the title on the defense of the Paris Commune and its class-war prisoners.

Markin comment:

Readers of this space are, by now, familiar with my interest in the defense of class-war prisoners and, perhaps, know that I express that interest through support to the efforts of the Partisan Defense Committee (PDC). One of the reasons for that support of the PDC is its commitment to the non-sectarian defense of all class-war prisoners, a tradition in which it follows the old Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) principle expressed in the slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all.” That principle also animated the early James P. Cannon-led work of the International Labor Defense, the legal defense arm of the American Communist Party and of the early legal defense work of the Trotskyist American Socialist Workers Party.

Perhaps not as well known, although it would seem axiomatic to their theories, is the even earlier class-war prisoner defense work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as an expression of their concept expressed in the slogan “workers of the world unite.” In no place was this work more ardently pursued that in their defense against all-comers of the Paris Commune during its short, historic existence and later, after it was crushed of its refugees, exiles, prisoners and their families. Much of this work was done early on through the Marx-created and led First International, and after its demise in the wake of that defeat through other Marx-influenced national organizations. I am posting some material here to provide some examples of their efforts.

The important point here is that, to my knowledge, there was, at most, only one proclaimed Marxist in the leadership of the Commune, and not much more adherence among the plebeians and artisans who heroically defended the Commune. So, mostly, those being defended by Marx and Engels were leftist political opponents, in some cases, severe political opponents. That approach is what has animated my own legal defense work and, hopefully, yours. Here, by the way, is another slogan to end this comment, fittingly I think-All Honor To The Paris Communards! Long Live The Memory Of The Paris Commune!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

*From The Karl Marx- Friedrich Internet Archives- In Defense Of The Paris Commune And Defense Of Its Class-War Prisoners-The Blanquists

Click on the headline to link to the Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels Archive online copy of the material mentioned in the title on the defense of the Paris Commune and its class-war prisoners.

Markin comment:

Readers of this space are, by now, familiar with my interest in the defense of class-war prisoners and, perhaps, know that I express that interest through support to the efforts of the Partisan Defense Committee (PDC). One of the reasons for that support of the PDC is its commitment to the non-sectarian defense of all class-war prisoners, a tradition in which it follows the old Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) principle expressed in the slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all.” That principle also animated the early James P. Cannon-led work of the International Labor Defense, the legal defense arm of the American Communist Party and of the early legal defense work of the Trotskyist American Socialist Workers Party.

Perhaps not as well known, although it would seem axiomatic to their theories, is the even earlier class-war prisoner defense work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as an expression of their concept expressed in the slogan “workers of the world unite.” In no place was this work more ardently pursued that in their defense against all-comers of the Paris Commune during its short, historic existence and later, after it was crushed of its refugees, exiles, prisoners and their families. Much of this work was done early on through the Marx-created and led First International, and after its demise in the wake of that defeat through other Marx-influenced national organizations. I am posting some material here to provide some examples of their efforts.

The important point here is that, to my knowledge, there was, at most, only one proclaimed Marxist in the leadership of the Commune, and not much more adherence among the plebeians and artisans who heroically defended the Commune. So, mostly, those being defended by Marx and Engels were leftist political opponents, in some cases, severe political opponents. That approach is what has animated my own legal defense work and, hopefully, yours. Here, by the way, is another slogan to end this comment, fittingly I think-All Honor To The Paris Communards! Long Live The Memory Of The Paris Commune!

Monday, August 12, 2019

*From The Karl Marx- Friedrich Internet Archives- In Defense Of The Paris Commune And Defense Of Its Class-War Prisoners-Engels' 1891 Address

Click on the headline to link to the Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels Archive online copy of the material mentioned in the title on the defense of the Paris Commune and its class-war prisoners.

Markin comment:

Readers of this space are, by now, familiar with my interest in the defense of class-war prisoners and, perhaps, know that I express that interest through support to the efforts of the Partisan Defense Committee (PDC). One of the reasons for that support of the PDC is its commitment to the non-sectarian defense of all class-war prisoners, a tradition in which it follows the old Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) principle expressed in the slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all.” That principle also animated the early James P. Cannon-led work of the International Labor Defense, the legal defense arm of the American Communist Party and of the early legal defense work of the Trotskyist American Socialist Workers Party.

Perhaps not as well known, although it would seem axiomatic to their theories, is the even earlier class-war prisoner defense work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as an expression of their concept expressed in the slogan “workers of the world unite.” In no place was this work more ardently pursued that in their defense against all-comers of the Paris Commune during its short, historic existence and later, after it was crushed of its refugees, exiles, prisoners and their families. Much of this work was done early on through the Marx-created and led First International, and after its demise in the wake of that defeat through other Marx-influenced national organizations. I am posting some material here to provide some examples of their efforts.

The important point here is that, to my knowledge, there was, at most, only one proclaimed Marxist in the leadership of the Commune, and not much more adherence among the plebeians and artisans who heroically defended the Commune. So, mostly, those being defended by Marx and Engels were leftist political opponents, in some cases, severe political opponents. That approach is what has animated my own legal defense work and, hopefully, yours. Here, by the way, is another slogan to end this comment, fittingly I think-All Honor To The Paris Communards! Long Live The Memory Of The Paris Commune!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

*From The Karl Marx- Friedrich Internet Archives- In Defense Of The Paris Commune And Defense Of Its Class-War Prisoners-The Paris Commune

Click on the headline to link to the Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels Archive online copy of the material mentioned in the title on the defense of the Paris Commune and its class-war prisoners.

Markin comment:

Readers of this space are, by now, familiar with my interest in the defense of class-war prisoners and, perhaps, know that I express that interest through support to the efforts of the Partisan Defense Committee (PDC). One of the reasons for that support of the PDC is its commitment to the non-sectarian defense of all class-war prisoners, a tradition in which it follows the old Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) principle expressed in the slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all.” That principle also animated the early James P. Cannon-led work of the International Labor Defense, the legal defense arm of the American Communist Party and of the early legal defense work of the Trotskyist American Socialist Workers Party.

Perhaps not as well known, although it would seem axiomatic to their theories, is the even earlier class-war prisoner defense work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as an expression of their concept expressed in the slogan “workers of the world unite.” In no place was this work more ardently pursued that in their defense against all-comers of the Paris Commune during its short, historic existence and later, after it was crushed of its refugees, exiles, prisoners and their families. Much of this work was done early on through the Marx-created and led First International, and after its demise in the wake of that defeat through other Marx-influenced national organizations. I am posting some material here to provide some examples of their efforts.

The important point here is that, to my knowledge, there was, at most, only one proclaimed Marxist in the leadership of the Commune, and not much more adherence among the plebeians and artisans who heroically defended the Commune. So, mostly, those being defended by Marx and Engels were leftist political opponents, in some cases, severe political opponents. That approach is what has animated my own legal defense work and, hopefully, yours. Here, by the way, is another slogan to end this comment, fittingly I think-All Honor To The Paris Communards! Long Live The Memory Of The Paris Commune!

karl marx, Friedrich Engels, paris commune, an injury to one is an injury to all, CLASS-WAR PRISONERS, class struggle defense,

Saturday, August 10, 2019

*From The Karl Marx- Friedrich Internet Archives- In Defense Of The Paris Commune And Defense Of Its Class-War Prisoners-Third Address

Click on the headline to link to the Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels Archive online copy of the material mentioned in the title on the defense of the Paris Commune and its class-war prisoners.

Markin comment:

Readers of this space are, by now, familiar with my interest in the defense of class-war prisoners and, perhaps, know that I express that interest through support to the efforts of the Partisan Defense Committee (PDC). One of the reasons for that support of the PDC is its commitment to the non-sectarian defense of all class-war prisoners, a tradition in which it follows the old Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) principle expressed in the slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all.” That principle also animated the early James P. Cannon-led work of the International Labor Defense, the legal defense arm of the American Communist Party and of the early legal defense work of the Trotskyist American Socialist Workers Party.

Perhaps not as well known, although it would seem axiomatic to their theories, is the even earlier class-war prisoner defense work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as an expression of their concept expressed in the slogan “workers of the world unite.” In no place was this work more ardently pursued that in their defense against all-comers of the Paris Commune during its short, historic existence and later, after it was crushed of its refugees, exiles, prisoners and their families. Much of this work was done early on through the Marx-created and led First International, and after its demise in the wake of that defeat through other Marx-influenced national organizations. I am posting some material here to provide some examples of their efforts.

The important point here is that, to my knowledge, there was, at most, only one proclaimed Marxist in the leadership of the Commune, and not much more adherence among the plebeians and artisans who heroically defended the Commune. So, mostly, those being defended by Marx and Engels were leftist political opponents, in some cases, severe political opponents. That approach is what has animated my own legal defense work and, hopefully, yours. Here, by the way, is another slogan to end this comment, fittingly I think-All Honor To The Paris Communards! Long Live The Memory Of The Paris Commune!

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

On The Anniversary Of May Day- A 1926 Article from "Labor Defender"-Lucy Parsons on the Origins of May Day

Workers Vanguard No. 979
29 April 2011

Lucy Parsons on the Origins of May Day

“The Haymarket Martyrs”

1926 Article from Labor Defender


What is celebrated internationally on May 1 as a workers’ holiday was born in the raw class struggle of labor against capital, originating 125 years ago in Chicago with the fight for an eight-hour day and the 4 May 1886 police riot against workers protesting in Haymarket Square. Anarchist labor organizers were framed up on conspiracy charges, and four were executed the following year; a fifth killed himself in jail just before the scheduled execution. The article reprinted below was written four decades later by Lucy Parsons, the wife and comrade of Albert Parsons, who was one of those hanged by the State of Illinois in November 1887. The article appeared in the November 1926 issue of Labor Defender, journal of the International Labor Defense, a class-struggle defense organization associated with the American Communist Party. In the article, “Bradstreet” refers to a financial publication of the time.

* * *

Does this rising generation know that those who inaugurated the eight-hour day were put to death at the command of capital?

Until forty years ago men, women, and children toiled ten and often twelve hours a day in factories for a mere pittance and children from eight to nine years of age had to work to help to keep up the family.

The Knights of Labor, a powerful organization, claiming 500,000 members, had never agitated for a reduction of the hours of labor. Then who were the pioneers of the eight-hour movement?

Those martyrs who were strung from the gallows in Chicago on November 11, 1887, the much lied about and abused Anarchists.

I will verify this statement. Until 1885 there had never been a concerted action for the reduction of the hours of labor. If eight hours was mentioned in some of our meetings (they were never really mentioned), why, that was only a dream to be indulged in by fools; the bosses would never tolerate such a thing, was the reply.

In 1885 a convention was held in Chicago, composed largely of delegates from Canada. They passed a resolution calling upon the workers of this country and Canada to unite in a demand for a reduction of the hours of daily toil to eight a day on the first of May, 1886, and to strike wherever it was refused. Albert R. Parsons brought the matter up before the Trade and Labor Assembly of Chicago, the first central body ever organized in this city, a body which he himself organized and of which he was elected president three consecutive times. The matter was hotly debated and finally rejected on the ground that the bosses would never tolerate it.

The Central Labor Union, composed of German mechanics, took the matter up and endorsed it. At the same time they passed a resolution requesting August Spies, editor of the Chicago Arbeiterzeitung, the daily German paper, and Albert R. Parsons, editor of the Alarm, to support it in their papers and speeches; they were both splendid orators.

Thus it was that the eight-hour movement got under way. Many other cities agitated for it, but Chicago was the storm center of the movement owing to the zeal and courage of the men and women of this city who worked day and night for it. The result was that when May 1, 1886, arrived, it found Chicago well organized and demanding the eight-hour day, striking by the thousands where the demand was refused. It was a veritable holiday for the workers.

The bosses were taken completely by surprise. Some were frightened and threatening; some were signing up; others were abusing those “scoundrels” who had brought all this trouble upon “our” city and declaring that they would be made examples of, that they ought to be hung and the like.

Bradstreet declared (see Bradstreet of that date) that stocks had slumped on the New York market owing to the strike situation in Chicago.

The police were unspeakably brutal, clubbing and shooting; factory whistles blew, but few responded.

I was chairman of the Women’s Organization Committee and know personally how that great strike spread. I have never seen such solidarity. I only wish I could describe it in detail, those stirring times. It would make the blood course swiftly through the veins of the rebels of today, but lack of space forbids.

In the afternoon of May 3, the McCormick Reaper Works employees were holding a meeting at the noon hour, discussing the strike and declaring for the eight-hour day—they were then working twelve hours—when wagon loads of police dashed down upon them and began clubbing and shooting without a word of warning. An afternoon paper stated there were five killed and many injured at this meeting.

August Spies who was addressing the meeting, returned to the Arbeiterzeitung office and issued the circular calling the Haymarket meeting for the next evening, May 4. I will allow Mayor Harrison, who was the first witness for the defense, to describe that meeting:

“I went to the meeting for the purpose of dispersing it in case I should feel it necessary to do so for the safety of the city...there was no suggestion made by either of the speakers looking toward calling for immediate use of force or violence. I saw no weapons at all upon any person. In listening to the speeches I concluded that it was not an organization to destroy property...”

For holding that peaceable protest meeting, five of as fine young men as ever lived, all labor organizers, were condemned and judicially murdered on November 11, 1887, in Chicago, Illinois.

There was a riot at the Haymarket meeting, it is true, but it was a police riot. Mayor Harrison further testified that, when the meeting was about to adjourn, he went to the police station, half a block distant, and ordered Captain Bondfield to send the reserves to the other stations, as the meeting was about to adjourn and was quiet. Instead of Bondfield obeying the orders of the Mayor, as soon as the Mayor started home, Bondfield rushed a company of police at double quick, with drawn clubs, upon the meeting of peaceably assembled men, women and children. At the onrush of these violators of the people’s constitutional rights someone hurled a bomb. Who threw that bomb has never become known. Neither the police nor the capitalists wanted to know; what they wanted was to get hold of the labor organizers and make “examples” of them as they said openly they would do.

The trial, so-called, lasted sixty-one days. The jury reached their verdict in less than three hours, condemning seven men to the gallows and one to prison for fourteen years. I herewith give a few, just a few, samples of the rulings of the judge who presided at the trial in selecting the jury.

James H. Walker said he had formed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the defendants, which opinion he still held. Now the judge takes him in hand.

“Do you believe that you can listen to the testimony and the charge of the court and decide upon that alone, uninfluenced and unbiased by the opinion that you now have?”

“No, I don’t.”

“That is what I asked you.”

“I said I would be handicapped.”

“Do you believe that you can fairly and impartially render a verdict in accordance with the law and the evidence in this case?”

“I shall try to do it, sir.”

“But do you believe that you can sit here and fairly and impartially make up your mind from the evidence whether that evidence proves that they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt or not?”

“I think I could but I would feel that I was a little handicapped in my judgment. I am prejudiced, sir.”

“Well, that is a sufficient qualification for a juror in this case. Of course, the more a man feels that he is handicapped the more he will guard against it.”

W.B. Allen, another juror. The judge asked:

“I will ask you whether what you have formed from what you have read and heard is a slight impression or an opinion, or a conviction?”

“It is a decided conviction.”

“Have you made up your mind as to whether these men are guilty or innocent?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Would it be difficult to change that conviction or impression perhaps?”

“It would be hard to change my conviction.”

Seven years later Governor John P. Altgeld reviewed the whole case. He, having been a judge before he was elected governor, was amply competent to review the case in a legal manner. He took the testimony and proved from it that our comrades were absolutely innocent. In his masterly State Paper, Altgeld’s “Reasons” (I can only take a few extracts from it here, the document is printed in the Life of Albert R. Parsons in full) Governor Altgeld says:

“The state has never discovered who threw the bomb which killed the policemen and the evidence does not show any connection between the defendants and the man who did throw it...and again it is shown here that the bomb was, in all probability, thrown by someone seeking revenge, that is, a course had been pursued by the authorities which would naturally cause this; that for a number of years prior to the Haymarket affair there had been labor troubles, and in several cases a number of laboring people, guilty of no offense had been shot down in cold blood by the Pinkerton’s men, and none of the murderers were brought to justice...

“All facts tend to show the improbability of the theory of the prosecution that the bomb was thrown as the result of a conspiracy on the part of the defendants to commit murder; if the theory of the prosecution were correct, there would have been many more bombs thrown and the fact that only one was thrown shows that it was an act of personal revenge... The record of the case shows that the judge conducted the trial with malicious ferocity and forced eight men to be tried together who should have been tried separately.”

Albert R. Parsons was not arrested immediately after the Haymarket meeting. He left Chicago and stayed with his friend, D.W. Hoan, father of the present mayor of Milwaukee, at Waukesha, Wisconsin. The day the trial began he came into court and surrendered, stating that he was innocent of bomb-throwing and only wanted a chance to prove his innocence. But he too was murdered along with the other four.

Parsons, Spies, Lingg, Fischer and Engel. Although all that is mortal of you is laid beneath that beautiful monument in Waldheim Cemetery, you are not dead. You are just beginning to live in the hearts of all true lovers of liberty. For now, after forty years that you are gone, thousands who were then unborn are eager to learn of your lives and heroic martyrdom, and as the years lengthen the brighter will shine your names, and the more you will come to be appreciated and loved.

Those who so foully murdered you, under the forms of law—lynch law—in a court of supposed justice, are forgotten.

Rest, comrades, rest. All the tomorrows are yours!

Friday, May 03, 2019

From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"- "A Revolutionary Marxist History Of May Day"-Fight For The Eight Hour Day, For International Working Class Solidarity, Against Militarism

Markin comment:


In the body of this article there is mention of a May Day speech by Leon Trotsky in 1924 (the immediate post-Bolshevik Revolution period) where he notes that the key struggle slogans for May Day should be the struggle for the eight hour work day, the need to amp up international working class solidarity actions, and fight, fight hard and long against militarism, especially that of your own bourgeoisie. Hey, almost one hundred years later and, unfortunately, this same advice still holds true. Make those three slogans the heart of every May Day Action. And include this one-Full Citizenship Rights To All Who Make It Here. Enough said.
********
Workers Vanguard No. 981
27 May 2011
A Revolutionary Marxist History of May Day


The following is a presentation, edited for publication, given by comrade Jacob Zorn at a May 7 forum in New York City.

Every year on the first of May, workers throughout the world celebrate May Day. Like International Women’s Day in March, May Day originated in the heat of class struggle against the U.S. capitalist class, but it has not been celebrated in the United States for decades—that is, until several years ago, when tens of thousands of immigrants began demonstrating for immigrant rights.

The Spartacist League and the Spartacus Youth Clubs go to these May Day protests with our paper, Workers Vanguard, and the paper of our comrades in Mexico, Espartaco, to put forward our demand that the workers movement fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants. We also raise our Marxist program of working-class independence in counterposition to the labor bureaucrats and liberals in the leadership of these protests: that the working class must struggle in its own interests, here and internationally, against the capitalists, and that the Democrats and other bourgeois politicians and their allies in the labor bureaucracy are enemies of the fight for workers emancipation.

In Europe and Latin America, celebrating on May Day is much more common. Yet the politics of these celebrations, as pushed by the social democrats, the trade-union bureaucrats and, in the semicolonial world, bourgeois nationalists, obscure not only the origins of May Day but also its historic revolutionary political message. This forum will emphasize this revolutionary heritage, based on the need for the working class internationally to make a socialist revolution, expropriate the capitalist parasites and create a society based on proletarian rule.

The 1886 Haymarket Police Riot

For most people, the origins of May Day are synonymous with the Haymarket demonstration in Chicago on 4 May 1886, which took place amid a large struggle for an eight-hour day. In order to understand what happened in Haymarket Square 125 years ago, it’s important to have a sense of this struggle in Chicago, which was largely organized by anarchist labor leaders August Spies and Albert Parsons, who would go on to become two of the Haymarket martyrs. During these protests, some 400,000 workers struck in Chicago on 1 May 1886; 45,000 other workers had won the eight-hour day without striking.

The first of May demonstrations were peaceful. But this was not due to any effort by the bourgeoisie in Chicago. More than 1,000 National Guard troops were on standby in their armories, which were fortresses built in most cities after the 1877 railway strike. The Chicago capitalists and their hirelings in the police were looking to nip the growing labor movement in the bud, including by going after its leaders. So a Chicago newspaper on May 1 declared: “There are two dangerous ruffians at large in this city; two sneaking cowards who are trying to create trouble. One of them is named Parsons. The other is named Spies.... Mark them for today.... Make an example of them if trouble does occur!”

Well, there wasn’t any trouble on that day. And the strike continued for several days. On May 3, as part of the eight-hour struggle, 6,000 union lumber-shovers [lumber yard workers] held a mass rally. By chance, the rally was held near the McCormick Harvester Machine Company plant. There had been a strike against this company, whose owners were particularly anti-union, going on since February 1886, unrelated to the eight-hour day struggle. But by May, about half of the employees of the plant had joined in the eight-hour movement. So 500 McCormick strikers came out for the protest on May 3.

On that day, as August Spies, one of the leading German labor-anarchist radicals of Chicago, was speaking, some of the strikers and lumber-shovers protested as scabs were leaving the McCormick plant. Suddenly 200 cops swarmed down on the workers, killing one, critically injuring five or six more and wounding unknown numbers. Outraged by this attack, Spies helped organize a protest the next day at Haymarket Square against this police violence.

On the evening of May 4, this 3,000-strong protest was relatively subdued, and the fact that it started to rain at the end meant that most of the people had left. Some of the most important labor leaders, particularly the anarchists such as Parsons and Spies, were on the speakers list. The mayor of Chicago observed most of the demo but left early because it was uneventful. Just as the demonstration was about to end, some 280 cops showed up and ordered the 200 remaining protesters to disperse. As the protesters began to leave, a bomb exploded suddenly. Nobody knows who threw the bomb. The only thing that’s certain is that it wasn’t anybody who was later convicted of throwing the bomb. The bomb itself was not responsible for most of the deaths. The deaths of seven cops, as well as the killing and injuring of protesters, occurred mainly because the police pulled out their guns and started shooting in all directions.

The cops, and the Chicago bourgeoisie, were incensed by the growing radical labor movement, and they saw in the Haymarket police riot a chance to get Spies and Parsons. What followed was an almost archetypal display of how the capitalist state—armed bodies of men, including the police, the prisons and court system—has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with protecting the rule and profits of the capitalists through violent force. This was the first red scare in U.S. history. Lucy Parsons, who was the wife of Albert Parsons, described the atmosphere shortly after the riot: “A reign of terror has been inaugurated which would put to shame the most zealous Russian blood-hound.” The police, disregarding all laws, rounded up leftists, unionists, immigrants. And once they narrowed down who their “suspects” were going to be, the court system then proceeded to legally lynch the anarchists and workers’ leaders.

The trial was one of the most blatant examples that there is no justice in the capitalist courts. The judge, Joseph Gary, turned the trial into an inquisition, with the Haymarket defendants tried for something they had no part in. They were supposedly co-conspirators with somebody—unnamed and unidentified—who threw the bomb. To assure a conviction, the jurors were not chosen at random but were preselected to make sure there were no workers and that all were sufficiently reactionary. When some of the prospective jurors said that they were too biased against the defendants, Gary argued to seat them nonetheless.

On 11 November 1887, Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel and Adolph Fischer were hanged by the state of Illinois. Louis Lingg died in mysterious circumstances in his cell the day before his planned execution. Michael Schwab and Samuel Fielden had their death sentences commuted to life in prison. Oscar Neebe was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor. As James P. Cannon, who went on to become one of the founders of the American Communist Party and then the American Trotskyist movement, put it in a 1927 article titled “The Red Month of November”: “They were the pioneers of the eight-hour day movement, and their crime was so heinous in the eyes of the master class that nothing but their blood would satisfy the vampires whose profits and power they menaced.” May Day honors these proletarian heroes.

In 1893, Illinois governor John Altgeld released the remaining anarchists who were still in jail. So obvious was the anti-working-class bias of the court that Altgeld in his pardon noted what he called Gary’s “malicious ferocity.” But that is really the way that bourgeois democracy works: the state acts as the brutal enforcer of bourgeois rule, but it gets dressed up to make it prettier. One of the reasons May Day is not celebrated in the U.S. is that the bourgeoisie has a long memory and remembers what it really means. When I gave this forum in Chicago, the comrades pointed out that the police department’s training facility used to have a statue honoring the cops in the Haymarket riot, in the courtyard. Anybody who wanted to be a Chicago policeman saw that statue every day.

Class Struggle and Black Oppression in the U.S.

The key to why this riot and this day became so important lies in the context of the class struggle in the U.S. during the period of the 1880s, a period referred to today as the “Great Upheaval.” Unfortunately many people, including many radicals, don’t know very much about this period, even though to a large degree it laid the basis for the labor struggles of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the 1910s and the CIO in the 1930s.

As with many things in American history, a good place to start is the Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865. The Civil War was a bourgeois revolution, one of the most progressive wars in modern history. The war freed black people from slavery and paved the way for the full development of capitalism in the United States. During the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War, the Federal government extended the rights of citizenship to black people through the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. It used the power of the Army to protect former slaves and establish the Freedmen’s Bureau. And it even mooted land reform. But the bourgeoisie did not complete the task of ending black oppression.

By this time, the American capitalist system was well on its way to becoming imperialist, something that would blossom fully over the next decades. Especially after the Paris Commune of March-May 1871, which was the first time the working class took power, continuing the social revolution that black liberation would have entailed was far from the minds of most capitalists in the U.S., even among “progressives” in the Republican Party. With the Compromise of 1877, the capitalist class betrayed the freedmen and removed the last Federal troops from the South, slamming the door shut on the hopes of black freedom.

The Civil War also inaugurated a fierce class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie in the industrializing North and West. Karl Marx has a famous quote in the first volume of Capital:

“In the United States of North America, every independent movement of the workers was paralysed so long as slavery disfigured a part of the Republic. Labour cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded. But out of the death of slavery a new life at once arose. The first fruit of the Civil War was the eight hours’ agitation, that ran with the seven-leagued boots of the locomotive from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from New England to California.”

One of the main results of the failure of Reconstruction is that the labor movement and the fight for black freedom remained separate. To be sure, there were some links. Ira Steward, the founder of the eight-hour movement in the 1860s, is rumored to have fought with John Brown in Kansas, and abolitionist and Republican leader Wendell Phillips advocated the eight-hour day after the Civil War.

Another exception is Albert Parsons himself. Parsons grew up in the South and as a youth fought in the Confederate Army. During Reconstruction, he sympathized with the Radical Republicans and believed that the former slaves had rights. He married Lucy Parsons, who was of mixed-race background. Because of their support to Reconstruction and the fact that they were in a mixed marriage, they were essentially driven out of the South. They moved to Chicago, throwing themselves into the radical labor movement. As Parsons put it in his autobiography, which he wrote from his prison cell: “I have made some enemies. My enemies in the southern states consisted of those who oppressed the black slave. My enemies in the north are among those who would perpetuate the slavery of the wage workers” (“Autobiography of Albert R. Parsons,” reprinted in The Autobiographies of the Haymarket Martyrs [1969]).

But while the shadow of the Civil War hung over the 1880s, it was a failing that the importance of the continued fight for black liberation remained alien to most of the labor movement. It was only after the October Revolution of 1917 that the importance of fighting for black liberation was driven home among left-wing workers in the United States, at the insistence of the Communist International under V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky. The race-color caste oppression of black people at the bottom of American society is integral to the capitalist system itself. A key part of our understanding of black oppression is that it will take a third revolution—a workers revolution to smash capitalism—to achieve black liberation. And thus our slogans: Finish the Civil War! For black liberation through socialist revolution!

The Early Labor Movement

It was no exaggeration when Marx said that the labor movement began in earnest after the Civil War. William Sylvis, an iron-molder, made the first attempt at a national trade-union federation in 1866, the National Labor Union. At the time of his premature death in 1869, Sylvis was in correspondence with the First International, of which Marx was a principal leader. The eight-hour day movement was the first real cause of the American labor movement. And in fact, the first May Day was not in 1886 but in 1867, when workers in Chicago demonstrated in support of a state law guaranteeing an eight-hour day. Like most such reforms, the bourgeoisie found a way around these laws.

Compared to Europe, the condition of the U.S. working class was contradictory. On the one hand, class relations between workers and capitalists were more brutal. In 1886, Karl Marx’s daughter Eleanor and her husband, Edward Aveling, toured the United States. In their book, The Working-Class Movement in America, they wrote: “The first general impression left on the mind is, that in this country of extremes, those of poverty and wealth, of exploitation in its active and passive form, are more marked than in Europe.... There are in America far more trenchant distinctions between the capitalist and labouring class than in the older lands.”

On the other hand, many workers did not see being proletarian as a permanent condition. Friedrich Engels called America “the ideal of all bourgeois: a country rich, vast, expanding, with purely bourgeois institutions unleavened by feudal remnants or monarchical traditions, and without a permanent and hereditary proletariat. Here everyone could become, if not a capitalist, at all events an independent man, producing or trading, with his own means, for his own account. And because there were not, as yet, classes with opposing interests, our—and your—bourgeois thought that America stood above class antagonisms and struggles” (“Engels to Florence Kelley-Wischnewetzky,” 3 June 1886).

Since the age of President Andrew Jackson in the 1830s, most white male workers could vote, and they did so, supporting the Democratic Party. Workers could learn a trade and, after an apprenticeship, could become master workmen or small businessmen. Many could move to the countryside and make a good living as small farmers. Until the 1920s, more Americans lived in the countryside than in urban areas. This is almost exactly the opposite of most every other capitalist country, where peasants move to the city to escape the problems of the countryside.

Now as Marxists, we define one’s class based on one’s relationship to the means of production. Under capitalism, the bourgeoisie owns the means of production. The proletariat, or the working class, are those who are forced to sell their ability to work to the capitalists. Workers are exploited by the capitalists, who appropriate the products of their labor but pay only a fraction of their value back in wages. But class consciousness also has a different dimension: not just what one’s position is at any given time, but how one sees one’s position in the future. As Engels put it in “The Labor Movement in America” (26 January 1887):

“In February 1886, American public opinion was almost unanimous on this one point: that there was no working class, in the European sense of the word, in America; that consequently no class struggle between workmen and capitalists, such as tore European society to pieces, was possible in the American Republic; and that, therefore, Socialism was a thing of foreign importation which could never take root on American soil.”

The Haymarket events really punctured the myth of there being no classes or class struggle in the United States.

The last quarter of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century were marked by massive class battles in an almost endless class war. And I’m not using the term “war” lightly. Hundreds of strikers were killed and thousands imprisoned. In the 1880s, there were some 30,000 Pinkerton strikebreakers; the U.S. Army had less than 27,000 soldiers, and of course the soldiers could be used to break strikes as well. There was the first general strike in the United States, in St. Louis, as part of the national railway strike of 1877. There was the Haymarket police riot in 1886; the Homestead strike against Carnegie Steel in 1892; the Pullman railway strike in 1894; the Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) miners strikes in the 1890s; the so-called “Uprising of the 20,000” among women textile workers in New York in 1909-10 that gave rise to International Women’s Day. There were the 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts, textile strike; the Paterson, New Jersey, silk strike of 1913; the Ludlow Massacre of 1914 in Colorado; the Phelps Dodge strike in Bisbee, Arizona, in 1917; the 1919 steel strike.

But despite this massive class struggle, the proletariat in this country has always been among the most politically backward. If nothing else, this should prove the truth of Lenin’s assertion that economic struggle does not in and of itself lead to socialist consciousness, which needs to be brought to the working class from without. This requires the intervention of a revolutionary party into class and social struggles.

A defining feature of the U.S. historically is the lack of a mass social-democratic party or any other workers party that recognizes the division of society between workers and capitalists and the struggle between these two classes, if even in a crude way. Now I just want to make clear that our goal is not the creation of a social-democratic party. Following Lenin, we call such parties, like the British Labour Party, bourgeois workers parties, because while their base is in the working class, their leaderships and programs are dedicated to maintaining capitalism. What we stand for is the forging of a revolutionary workers party that fights for all the oppressed. In countries with social-democratic parties, this means splitting the base from the top. In the U.S., this means fighting to break the working class from the capitalist Democratic Party.

Bourgeois historians and political scientists have made a cottage industry of explaining why there is no labor party in the United States. Now, there are lots of reasons. One is the historic ethnic divisions among workers. Another is the importance of farmers in American society and the sense of upward mobility, real or illusory. For much of the 1880s and 1890s, it was not the working-class movement but the petty-bourgeois Populist movement that was seen as the vanguard of fighting against the excesses of capitalist industrialization. As the name implies, however, Populists saw the world divided not into classes but into the producers, or so-called “little people,” on one side and the parasitical financiers, bankers and speculators on the other. Instead of socialism, populists advocated a whole array of schemes, some of them supportable and some of them rather bizarre—everything from nationalizing the railroads to a tax on land and printing “cheap money” based on silver instead of gold.

The fundamental reason why the American working class does not have even a rudimentary labor party is, as I mentioned before, the role that black oppression plays in maintaining capitalism. As we write in the Programmatic Statement of the Spartacist League/U.S.:

“The central enduring feature of American capitalism, shaping and perpetuating this backward consciousness, is the structural oppression of the black population as a race-color caste at the bottom of society. Black oppression with its profound and pervasive ideological effects is fundamental to the American capitalist order. Obscuring the class divide, racism and white supremacy have served to bind white workers to their capitalist masters based on the illusion of a commonality of interest based on skin color.”

The Knights of Labor

I want to get back to the labor movement in the 1870s, a period of tremendous economic hardship. Until the 1930s, this period was called the Great Depression; today it’s generally known as the Long Depression because it lasted throughout most of the 1870s. The bourgeoisie used the state and armed thugs to wage war against the working class. Trade unions generally stagnated and became very weak, with one exception. In 1869, tailors in Philadelphia, under the leadership of Uriah Stephens, began to organize a group that became known as the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor, the first national labor organization.

Who and what were the Knights of Labor? They’re very hard to understand today. They changed over time and were, in practice, very decentralized, with different regions having different politics and different attitudes on various questions. As their name implies, the Knights at first were heavily influenced by Masonic traditions. They were originally a secret organization. You couldn’t even tell somebody the name of the group before they joined. They had all kinds of rituals and handshakes and stuff like that.

In terms of their politics, on the one hand they were based on a pre-industrial republicanism and reflected populism. Their original declaration of principles stated: “We mean no conflict with legitimate enterprise, no antagonism to necessary capital.” But on the other hand, Stephens had also called for “the complete emancipation of the wealth producers from the thraldom and loss of wage slavery.” Their watchword was solidarity, and their motto was: “An injury to one is the concern of all.” In their book, the Avelings described the Knights as “the first spontaneous expression by the American working people of their consciousness of themselves as a class.”

The Knights are sometimes described as an industrial union. That’s not exactly true. They had locals of skilled trades and also had what were called “mixed” locals, which contained unskilled workers. As opposed to the skilled craft unionists of the time, they believed in class solidarity and also understood that industrialization created a mass of unskilled and semiskilled workers in need of organization. Two of the earliest industrial unions originated from the Knights of Labor: the brewery workers union and the United Mine Workers. The brewery workers were devastated by Prohibition, but the United Mine Workers went on to be key in the founding of the CIO industrial unions in the 1930s.

The Knights leadership under Terence V. Powderly, who succeeded Stephens in the 1880s, was opposed to strikes. But, as is often the case, the rank and file often felt differently. And in this period workers were eager to organize. As the country climbed out of the depression in the early 1880s, the percentage of nonagricultural workers in unions jumped from 2 percent to 12 percent in about five years. In 1885, railroad workers organized in the Knights faced down robber baron Jay Gould—one of the strongest, most powerful capitalists of the period—forcing him to accede to some of their demands and to agree to negotiate with the union. This was seen as a major defeat for Gould and caused the prestige of the Knights to soar, along with their membership.

The Knights went from less than 10,000 members in 1878 to as many as 700,000 in 1886. In February of that year alone, the Knights organized 515 local assemblies. They had become truly a national union. They put out propaganda in various languages to attract immigrant workers, although it’s worth noting that, like most unions, they excluded Chinese workers. They organized women workers. They also organized locals in England, Belgium, Ireland and Australia and New Zealand. And at times the Knights broke through the color bar. In November 1887, they organized a three-week strike of some 10,000 overwhelmingly black sugar plantation workers in Louisiana. The strike was broken by racist vigilantes who mowed down, by one estimate, as many as 300 black workers.

By the time of Haymarket in 1886, the Knights were the largest union in the country. But they were not the only national union. In 1881, the much smaller Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions was founded, and this would eventually become the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Its key leaders were Samuel Gompers and Adolph Strasser, both from the Cigar Makers union, and P.J. McGuire, the founder of the Carpenters union. In the 1880s, the Cigar Makers split from the Knights in a very sordid way, involving pretty much all the elements you would expect from Gompers, including jurisdictional disputes, scabbing on other unions and anti-socialism.

Gompers, Strasser and McGuire are often described as having cut their teeth as Marxists. And it’s true that they—like many successful trade-union bureaucrats since—had some kind of a leftist background. But it was not Marxism but social-democratic reformism, which they adapted to American conditions. Like the revisionists in the German Social Democracy, the AFL’s early leaders accepted capitalism. Here is Strasser in 1883: “We have no ultimate ends.... We are fighting only for immediate objects—objects that can be realized in a few years.”

Unlike the inclusive Knights of Labor, the AFL leadership focused on skilled craft workers. It became increasingly anti-black, anti-Chinese and all-around piggish. Gompers emphasized what he called “pure and simple” trade unionism. He was vehement in his opposition to creating a working-class political party. The heritage of Gompers and the AFL accounts for much of the weakness of the American labor movement today, led by its pro-capitalist bureaucracy. The fruits of its class collaboration can be seen in the fact that today unionization rates have fallen to the point that they are about the same as they were in the mid 1880s.

Working-Class Politics in the 1880s

I had mentioned that there was no socialist party in the United States. Now in point of fact this isn’t strictly speaking true. Although much weaker than in Europe, in the U.S. at this time there was a tradition of socialism, broadly defined. By the 1880s and 1890s, there were two main trends within the American socialist movement. The first was social-democratic, the second anarchist. And I just want to make a point that it is not always easy to separate these two trends when looking at the period. Both contained working-class militants who saw their fight as putting the proletariat in power. It really wasn’t until the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 that there was a clear differentiation between revolutionary and reformist in the socialist movement.

The first socialist organization in the U.S. was the Socialist Labor Party (SLP), which was founded in Newark, New Jersey, in 1877. A lot of people know about the SLP because in the 1890s it would be led by Daniel De Leon. Before this, the SLP largely consisted of German-speaking immigrants, who often had a higher theoretical level than American workers but remained aloof from American reality, including the centrality of black oppression in maintaining capitalism.

In the 1880s, many socialists split from the rather legalistic SLP in the direction of anarchism, with many joining the International Working People’s Association (IWPA). By 1885, this group had some 7,000 members, compared to 4,000 members in the SLP. Until about the time of World War I, the American bourgeoisie saw anarchism as a more dangerous threat than the legalistic social democrats and reserved the harshest repression for anarchists.

What was called “anarchism” really comprised two very different trends. The first was led by a German immigrant, Johann Most. Although he had been a Social Democratic delegate to the German Reichstag [parliament], Most became a leading proponent of what was known as revolutionary terrorism, particularly involving dynamite. He wrote a whole book on dynamite. In 1879, when Most was in exile in London before he finally moved to America, Marx wrote to Friedrich Sorge in Hoboken that “Our complaint against Most is not that his Freiheit is too revolutionary; our complaint is that it has no revolutionary content, but merely indulges in revolutionary jargon.” That kind of described what Most was about, very vehement phraseology without really a lot behind it.

There was another trend within the anarchist movement, the so-called “Chicago Idea” centered around Chicago anarchists Parsons and Spies. Both had been active in the SLP, including running for office, and also in the Knights of Labor, but had gravitated toward anarchism. Their anarchism was very similar to what would later be known as syndicalism: the idea that revolutionary unions were the basis of getting rid of capitalism and building socialism. There were some five to six thousand members of the IWPA in Chicago alone. The IWPA had five papers, including a biweekly English paper, which Parsons edited, a daily German paper edited by Spies and a daily Bohemian (Czech) paper. The Parsons wing of the anarchist movement, with its emphasis on militant unionism, is a thread that runs through the Industrial Workers of the World, which formed later on. Some of the best IWW elements, such as Cannon, found their way to revolutionary Marxism after the Bolshevik Revolution.

The Eight-Hour Day Movement in the 1880s

After Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling visited the U.S. in 1886, they described how many workers they met toiled 55, 60 or even 80 hours over a six-day workweek. Some industries were worse than others. Bakers were probably the worst of all—anybody who has read Marx’s Capital probably remembers the description of bakers. Transportation workers were also forced to work long hours.

As an aside, although the 40-hour week is supposedly enshrined today in labor law, it’s still out of reach for a lot of workers. Many are still cheated out of pay, or even if they are paid, they are made to work mandatory overtime. Even if it’s not mandatory, many are compelled to work overtime, or to take another job, just to survive. While I was working on this forum, two things happened that drew my attention to the importance of the eight-hour day. The first were those two long-distance bus accidents in New York and New Jersey that highlighted the fact that for many workers, workdays of 12 or more hours are still common. And then within the last several weeks was the rash of air traffic controllers falling asleep. Now that’s really scary, but it’s also a predictable result of the busting of the PATCO union in the early 1980s, which resulted in horrid working conditions.

Basing ourselves on the Transitional Program, which was written by Trotsky for the founding of the Fourth International in 1938, we call for “30 for 40”—30 hours’ work for 40 hours’ pay. This links the fight for humane work to the struggle for jobs for all. I am sure that to many Americans, this sounds completely unreal. But it was the same for the 40-hour week in the 1880s. The capitalist class and its press argued that death by overwork was an inalienable right, and if a man wanted to work—or a woman or a child—for that long, it was nobody else’s business. The more honest argued that it would hurt the capitalists’ profits to limit the workday.

In 1884, the forerunner of the AFL declared that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s work from and after May 1, 1886.” Gompers’ name is often associated with this motion, but I want to make two points. The first is that the craft-union federation was much smaller than the Knights of Labor and had less to lose. The Knights were officially opposed to the call to strike for the eight-hour day. Terence Powderly refused to participate in the 1 May 1886 strike. Some anarchists also originally opposed the eight-hour day slogan, arguing that it didn’t matter how many hours you worked because you were still working for the capitalists. But in Chicago, it was the anarchists, particularly Spies and Parsons, both members of the Knights, who made this struggle come to life. The May Day strike was largely coordinated by the Central Labor Union, led by Parsons and Spies.

The Haymarket riot and the subsequent witchhunt created a massive anti-radical scare that set back the labor movement quite a bit. Anarchist newspapers were shut down, and the anarchist movement never really achieved the same success that it had before. The Knights of Labor, even though they were not involved as an organization in the eight-hour day struggle, were basically swept away by this reaction. The main beneficiaries within the labor movement of the destruction of the anarchists and of the overall reactionary atmosphere were Gompers and the AFL, with their narrow focus on skilled workers.

May Day: International Workers Holiday

In the years following the Haymarket affair, the tradition of May Day was kept alive in the U.S. largely by socialists and anarchists. By the late 1890s, the AFL bureaucracy under Gompers had abandoned any celebration of May Day, with its hint of radicalism. Instead, they began to push Labor Day in September. Labor Day represents almost the exact opposite of May Day. Where May Day is a day of international proletarian struggle, Labor Day was instituted to celebrate the American worker’s contribution to American politics. For Gompers, this meant skilled, English-speaking men, dressed up in the finest clothes, coming out to show their respectability.

However, May Day and the struggle for an eight-hour day soon became a focal point of class struggle throughout the world. In 1889, an American delegate to the Paris Congress of the Second (Socialist) International called to make May Day a day of international labor struggle. Why did workers in Europe and across the world heed this call? One reason is that workers in the U.S. came from all parts of the world, so their struggles were closely followed elsewhere. Another big reason is that the U.S. in the 1880s was an up and coming imperialist power, and workers’ struggle here resonated loudly elsewhere. As did the point that in the U.S., with its claims of democracy and social mobility, bourgeois rule depends on naked violence against the working class.

This is clear if you read what some European Marxists wrote at the time. The founder of Russian Marxism, Georgi Plekhanov, wrote in an 1890 article about May Day:

“The practical Yankees have forgotten all shame and every tradition of political freedom since they noticed the bugbear of communism. The judicial murder of the anarchists in Chicago showed that in the struggle for existence all means are as suitable for the American bourgeoisie as for the European. ‘The specter’ of communism has become a universal guest; the workers’ question a universal question in the full sense of the word.”

Or as the German revolutionary Karl Liebknecht put it in his famous book, Militarism and Anti-Militarism (1907), “The gruesome judicial sequel of 4th May, 1886, which proved in a striking way what American democratic class justice is capable of is universally known.”

Within a decade of the Haymarket affair, workers across the world were celebrating May Day as a day to fight for their class interests. The first congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1898 explicitly included organizing May Day demonstrations as a task of its Central Committee. Back in the U.S., by the early 20th century the Socialist Party was holding massive rallies, including here in New York where it was common for some 30,000 to 50,000 workers to march under the party’s banners. One hundred years ago, May Day commemorated the 146 mainly female Jewish and Italian garment workers who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

In a 1924 speech, Trotsky noted that “the eight-hour working day…the international solidarity of workers and the struggle against militarism are the three fundamental May Day slogans.” May Day developed at the same time as the rise of imperialism, the last stage of capitalism, marked by the dominance of finance capital and the struggle of the richest capitalist powers to divide the world among themselves. May Day became a day for the working class to show solidarity with its class brothers and sisters in other countries and to oppose the inevitable wars that imperialism has on offer.

In 1898, the New York City police chief banned the SLP from celebrating May Day. This was the year of the Spanish-American War, the bloody debut of U.S. imperialism. According to the New York Times of that day, the chief “had heard that inflammatory speeches would be made denouncing the course of the United States with Spain” and demanded the right to read the rally’s resolutions before the march. When the SLP refused, he revoked their permit to march.

As imperialism developed and moved toward the carnage of the First World War, when workers from different countries would be forced to kill their class brothers from other countries, May Day became even more a symbol of proletarian internationalism. In 1913, on the eve of the war, Rosa Luxemburg wrote in “The Idea of May Day on the March”: “And the more the idea of May Day, the idea of resolute mass actions as a manifestation of international unity, and as a means of struggle for peace and for socialism, takes root in the strongest troops of the International, the German working class, the greater is our guarantee that out of the world war which, sooner or later, is unavoidable, will come forth a definite and victorious struggle between the world of labor and that of capital.”

But far from fighting against the war, most of the leadership of the Second International betrayed the working class, showing their social chauvinism by supporting their “own” bourgeoisies against the workers of other lands. But there were socialist militants who fought against this betrayal. In 1916, Karl Liebknecht was arrested in Germany for his proletarian internationalism, which he expressed in a speech on May Day, when he declared:

“Forward, let us fight the government; let us fight these mortal enemies of all freedom.... Workers, comrades, and you, women of the people, let not this festival of May, the second during the war, pass without protest against the Imperialist Slaughter. On the first of May let millions of voices cry, ‘Down with the shameful crime of the extermination of peoples! Down with those responsible for the War!’”

Here in New York City in 1917, when the left wing of the Socialist movement was swelling with workers and immigrants, 125,000 people marched on May Day.

The Bolsheviks and May Day

Amid the wreckage of the imperialist war, the working class in Russia, under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party, seized power from the capitalists in the October Revolution of 1917. The Revolution stood as the living embodiment of the ideals of May Day, and it is the Bolsheviks who made May Day synonymous with Communism internationally. In April 1918—some six months after the Revolution—Lenin signed a decree to “mark the great revolution that has transformed Russia,” declaring that tsarist monuments should be replaced with tributes to the working class and that by May Day, “some of the more monstrous statues will have already been removed and the first models of new monuments set out for the masses to see.” These would display “the ideas and mood of revolutionary working Russia.” By the first May Day after a victorious revolution in this country, the working class should have torn down the monuments to the leaders of the Confederate slavocracy and to the imperialist war criminals who came after them.

In his 1924 speech, Trotsky stated: “We represent not merely the irreconcilable opponents and enemies of today’s Second International but we also represent its direct heirs: everything that was liberating, progressive and forward looking in it we have taken over, including the May Day holiday. For us this is a great festival of liberation at the same time as German social-democracy suppresses it by force. And the same thing with the eight-hour working day and with all the rest of the May Day slogans.”

At that time, a conservative bureaucratic caste led by Stalin had arisen and begun to consolidate control over the Bolshevik Party and the Communist International. This was to take on a programmatic expression in late 1924, as the Stalinist bureaucracy propounded the anti-Marxist dogma of “building socialism in one country.” May Day would become a tribune to push not revolutionary internationalism but the narrow interests of the bureaucratic regime that sat atop the workers state. Through its futile pursuit of accommodation with imperialism and its opposition to international revolution, the Stalinist bureaucracy undermined the gains of the revolution and ultimately opened the door to capitalist counterrevolution in 1991-92.

In most of the world, May Day is still celebrated by millions of workers. However, what dominates these protests is not the Bolshevik program of revolutionary proletarian internationalism but the illusions and reformist program pushed by the trade-union bureaucrats, the social democrats and what remains of the Stalinists. But as highlighted by the imperialist wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, by the onslaught against unions, black people and immigrants, the revolutionary lessons of May Day are crucially relevant today, as are the lessons of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. There is a need for hard class struggle to fight for immigrant rights, to organize the unorganized, to establish working-class independence from the bourgeois parties, to oppose imperialism—struggles that must be linked to the fight for socialist revolution. These tasks demand building a revolutionary workers party, the task that the Spartacist League, U.S. section of the International Communist League, sets for itself.

Friday, April 12, 2019

On The 158th Anniversary Of The Beginning Of The American Civil War – Karl Marx On The American Civil War-In Honor Of The Union Side

Markin comment:

I am always amazed when I run into some younger leftists, or even older radicals who may have not read much Marx and Engels, and find that they are surprised, very surprised to see that Marx and Engels were avid partisans of the Abraham Lincoln-led Union side in the American Civil War. In the age of advanced imperialism, of which the United States is currently the prime example, and villain, we are almost always negative about capitalism’s role in world politics. And are always harping on the need to overthrow the system in order to bring forth a new socialist reconstruction of society. Thus one could be excused for forgetting that at earlier points in history capitalism played a progressive role. A role that Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and other leading Marxists, if not applauded, then at least understood represented human progress. Of course, one does not expect everyone to be a historical materialist and therefore know that in the Marxist scheme of things both the struggle to bring America under a unitary state that would create a national capitalist market by virtue of a Union victory and the historically more important struggle to abolish slavery that turned out to a necessary outcome of that Union struggle were progressive in our eyes. Read on.
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Articles by Karl Marx in Die Presse 1861

The North American Civil War


Written: October 1861;
Source: Marx/Engels Collected Works, Volume 19;
Publisher: Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964;
First Published: Die Presse No. 293, October 25, 1861;
Online Version: marxists.org 1999;
Transcribed: Bob Schwarz;
HTML Markup: Tim Delaney in 1999.


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London, October 20, 1861
For months the leading weekly and daily papers of the London press have been reiterating the same litany on the American Civil War. While they insult the free states of the North, they anxiously defend themselves against the suspicion of sympathising with the slave states of the South. In fact, they continually write two articles: one article, in which they attack the North, and another article, in which they excuse their attacks on the North.

In essence the extenuating arguments read: The war between the North and South is a tariff war. The war is, further, not for any principle, does not touch the question of slavery and in fact turns on Northern lust for sovereignty. Finally, even if justice is on the side of the North , does it not remain a vain endeavour to want to subjugate eight million Anglo-Saxons by force! Would not separation of the South release the North from all connection with Negro slavery and ensure for it, with its twenty million inhabitants and its vast territory, a higher, hitherto scarcely dreamt-of, development? Accordingly, must not the North welcome secession as a happy event, instead of wanting to overrule it by a bloody and futile civil war?

Point by point we will probe the plea of the English press.

The war between North and South -- so runs the first excuse -- is a mere tariff war, a war between a protectionist system and a free trade system, and Britain naturally stands on the side of free trade. Shall the slave-owner enjoy the fruits of slave labour in their entirety or shall he be cheated of a portion of these by the protectionists of the North? That is the question which is at issue in this war. It was reserved for The Times to make this brilliant discovery. The Economist, The Examiner, The Saturday Review and tutti quanti expounded the theme further. It is characteristic of this discovery that it was made, not in Charleston, but in London. Naturally, in America everyone knew that from 1846 to 1861 a free trade system prevailed, and that Representative Morrill carried his protectionist tariff through Congress only in 1861, after the rebellion had already broken out. Secession, therefore, did not take place because the Morrill tariff had gone through Congress, but, at most, the Morrill tariff went through Congress because secession had taken place. When South Carolina had its first attack of secession in 1831, the protectionist tariff of 1828 served it, to be sure, as a pretext, but only as a pretext, as is known from a statement of General Jackson. This time, however, the old pretext has in fact not been repeated. In the Secession Congress at Montgomery all reference to the tariff question was avoided, because the cultivation of sugar in Louisiana, one of the most influential Southern states, depends entirely on protection.

But, the London press pleads further, the war of the United States is nothing but a war for the forcible maintenance of the Union. The Yankees cannot make up their minds to strike fifteen stars from their standard. They want to cut a colossal figure on the world stage. Yes, it would be different if the war was waged for the abolition of slavery! The question of slavery, however, as The Saturday Review categorically declares among other things, has absolutely nothing to do with this war.

It is above all to be remembered that the war did not originate with the North, but with the South. The North finds itself on the defensive. For months it had quietly looked on while the secessionists appropriated the Union's forts, arsenals, shipyards, customs houses, pay offices, ships and supplies of arms, insulted its flag and took prisoner bodies of its troops. Finally the secessionists resolved to force the Union government out of its passive attitude by a blatant act of war, and solely for this reason proceeded to the bombardment of Fort Sumter near Charleston. On April 11 (1861) their General Beauregard had learnt in a meeting with Major Anderson, the commander of Fort Sumter, that the fort was only supplied with provisions for three days more and accordingly must be peacefully surrendered after this period. In order to forestall this peaceful surrender, the secessionists opened the bombardment early on the following morning (April 12), which brought about the fall of the fort in a few hours. News of this had hardly been telegraphed to Montgomery, the seat of the Secession Congress, when War Minister Walker publicly declared in the name of the new Confederacy: No man can say where the war opened today will end. At the same time he prophesied that before the first of May the flag of the Southern Confederacy will wave from the dome of the old Capitol in Washington and within a short time perhaps also from the Faneuil Hall in Boston. Only now ensued the proclamation in which Lincoln called for 75,000 men to defend the Union. The bombardment of Fort Sumter cut off the only possible constitutional way out, namely the convocation of a general convention of the American people, as Lincoln had proposed in his inaugural address. For Lincoln there now remained only the choice of fleeing from Washington, evacuating Maryland and Delaware and surrendering Kentucky, Missouri and Virginia, or of answering war with war.

The question of the principle of the American Civil War is answered by the battle slogan with which the South broke the peace. Stephens, the Vice-President of the Southern Confederacy, declared in the Secession Congress that what essentially distinguished the Constitution newly hatched at Montgomery from the Constitution of Washington and Jefferson was that now for the first time slavery was recognised as an institution good in itself, and as the foundation of the whole state edifice, whereas the revolutionary fathers, men steeped in the prejudices of the eighteenth century, had treated slavery as an evil imported from England and to be eliminated in the course of time. Another matador of the South, Mr. Spratt, cried out: "For us it is a question of founding a great slave republic." If, therefore, it was indeed only in defence of the Union that the North drew the sword, had not the South already declared that the continuance of slavery was no longer compatible with the continuance of the Union?

Just as the bombardment of Fort Sumter gave the signal for the opening of the war, the election victory of the Republican Party of the North, the election of Lincoln as President, gave the signal for secession. On November 6, 1860, Lincoln was elected. On November 8, 1860, a message telegraphed from South Carolina said: Secession is regarded here as an accomplished fact; on November 10 the legislature of Georgia occupied itself with secession plans, and on November 13 a special session of the legislature of Mississippi was convened to consider secession. But Lincoln's election was itself only the result of a split in the Democratic camp. During the election struggle the Democrats of the North concentrated their votes on Douglas, the Democrats of the South concentrated their votes on Breckinridge, and to this splitting of the Democratic votes the Republican Party owed its victory. Whence came, on the one hand, the preponderance of the Republican Party in the North? Whence, on the other, the disunion within the Democratic Party, whose members, North and South, had operated in conjunction for more than half a century?

Under the presidency of Buchanan the sway that the South had gradually usurped over the Union through its alliance with the Northern Democrats attained its zenith. The last Continental Congress of 1787 and the first Constitutional Congress of 1789 -90 had legally excluded slavery from all Territories of the republic north-west of the Ohio. (Territories, as is known, is the name given to the colonies lying within the United States itself which have not yet attained the level of population constitutionally prescribed for the formation of autonomous states.) 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 degrees 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. Under this new legislation the hitherto free Territory of New Mexico, a Territory five times as large as the State of New York, was transformed into a slave Territory, and the area of slavery was extended from the border of the Mexican Republic to 38 degrees north latitude. In 1859 New Mexico received a slave code that vies with the statute-books of Texas and Alabama in barbarity. Nevertheless, as the census of 1860 proves, among some hundred thousand inhabitants New Mexico does not yet count half a hundred slaves. It had therefore sufficed for the South to send some adventurers with a few slaves over the border, and then with the help of the central government in Washington and of its officials and contractors in New Mexico to drum together a sham popular representation to impose slavery and with it the rule of the slaveholders on the Territory.

However, this convenient method did not prove applicable in other Territories. The South accordingly went a step further and appealed from Congress to the Supreme Court of the United States. This Court, which numbers nine judges, five of whom belong to the South, had long been the most willing tool of the slaveholders. It decided in 1857, in the notorious Dred Scott case, that every American citizen possesses the right to take with him into any territory any property recognized by the Constitution. The Constitution, it maintained, recognises slaves as property and obliges the Union government to protect this property. Consequently, on the basis of the Constitution, slaves could be forced to labour in the Territories by their owners, and so every individual slaveholder was entitled to introduce slavery into hitherto free Territories against the will of the majority of the settlers. The right to exclude slavery was taken from the Territorial legislatures and the duty to protect pioneers of the slave system was imposed on Congress and the Union government.

If the Missouri Compromise of 1820 had extended the geographical boundary-line of slavery in the Territories, if the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854 had erased every geographical boundary-line and set up a political barrier instead, the will of the majority of the settlers, 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.

At the same time, under Buchanan's government the severer law on the surrendering of fugitive slaves enacted in 1850 was ruthlessly carried out in the states of the North. To play the part of slave-catchers for the Southern slaveholders appeared to be the constitutional calling of the North. On the other hand, in order to hinder as far as possible the colonisation of the Territories by free settlers, the slaveholders' party frustrated all the so-called free-soil measures, i.e., measures which were to secure for the settlers a definite amount of uncultivated state land free of charge.

In the foreign, as in the domestic, policy of the United States, the interest of the slaveholders served as the guiding star. Buchanan had in fact bought the office of President through the issue of the Ostend Manifesto, in which the acquisition of Cuba, whether by purchase or by force of arms, was proclaimed as the great task of national policy. Under his government northern Mexico was already divided among American land speculators, who impatiently awaited the signal to fall on Chihuahua, Coahuila and Sonora. The unceasing piratical expeditions of the filibusters against the states of Central America were directed no less from the White House at Washington. In the closest connection with this foreign policy, whose manifest purpose was conquest of new territory for the spread of slavery and of the slaveholders' rule, stood the reopening of the slave trade, secretly supported by the Union government. St[ephen] A. Douglas himself declared in the American Senate on August 20, 1859: During the last year more Negroes have been imported from Africa than ever before in any single year, even at the time when the slave trade was still legal. The number of slaves imported in the last year totalled fifteen thousand.

Armed spreading of slavery abroad was the avowed aim of national policy; the Union had in fact become the slave of the three hundred thousand slaveholders who held sway over the South. A series of compromises, which the South owed to its alliance with the Northern Democrats, had led to this result. On this alliance all the attempts, periodically repeated since 1817, to resist the ever increasing encroachments of the slaveholders had hitherto come to grief. At length there came a turning point.

For hardly had the Kansas-Nebraska Bill gone through, which wiped out the geographical boundary-line of slavery and made its introduction into new Territories subject to the will of the majority of the settlers, when armed emissaries of the slaveholders, border rabble from Missouri and Arkansas, with bowie-knife in one hand and revolver in the other, fell upon Kansas and sought by the most unheard-of atrocities to dislodge its settlers from the Territory colonised by them. These raids were supported by the central government in Washington. Hence a tremendous reaction. Throughout the North, but particularly in the North-west, a relief organisation was formed to support Kansas with men, arms and money. Out of this relief organisation arose the Republican Party, which therefore owes its origin to the struggle for Kansas. After the attempt to transform Kansas into a slave Territory by force of arms had failed, the South sought to achieve the same result by political intrigues. Buchanan's government, in particular, exerted its utmost efforts to have Kansas included in the States of the Union as a slave state with a slave constitution imposed on it. Hence renewed struggle, this time mainly conducted in Congress at Washington. Even St[ephen] A. Douglas, the chief of the Northern Democrats, now (1857 - 58) entered the lists against the government and his allies of the South, because imposition of a slave constitution would have been contrary to the principle of sovereignty of the settlers passed in the Nebraska Bill of 1854. Douglas, Senator for Illinois, a North-western state, would naturally have lost all his influence if he had wanted to concede to the South the right to steal by force of arms or through acts of Congress Territories colonised by the North. As the struggle for Kansas, therefore, called the Republican Party into being, it at the same time occasioned the first split within the Democratic Party itself.

The Republican Party put forward its first platform for the presidential election in 1856. Although its candidate, John Fremont, was not victorious, the huge number of votes cast for him at any rate proved the rapid growth of the Party, particularly in the North-west. At their second National Convention for the presidential election (May 17, 1860), the Republicans again put forward their platform of 1856, only enriched by some additions. Its principal contents were the following: Not a foot of fresh territory is further conceded to slavery. The filibustering policy abroad must cease. The reopening of the slave trade is stigmatised. Finally, free-soil laws are to be enacted for the furtherance of free colonisation.

The vitally important point in this platform was that not a foot of fresh terrain was conceded to slavery; rather it was to remain once and for all confined with the boundaries of the states where it already legally existed. Slavery was thus to be formally interned; but continual expansion of territory and continual spread of slavery beyond its old limits is a law of life for the slave states of the Union.

The cultivation of the southern export articles, cotton, tobacco, sugar , etc., carried on by slaves, is only remunerative as long as it is conducted with large gangs of slaves, on a mass scale and on wide expanses of a naturally fertile soil, which requires only simple labour. Intensive cultivation, which depends less on fertility of the soil than on investment of capital, intelligence and energy of labour, is contrary to the nature of slavery. Hence the rapid transformation of states like Maryland and Virginia, which formerly employed slaves on the production of export articles, into states which raise slaves to export them into the deep South. Even in South Carolina, where the slaves form four-sevenths of the population, the cultivation of cotton has been almost completely stationary for years due to the exhaustion of the soil. Indeed, by force of circumstances South Carolina has already been transformed in part into a slave-raising state, since it already sells slaves to the sum of four million dollars yearly to the states of the extreme South and South-west. As soon as this point is reached, the acquisition of new Territories becomes necessary, so that one section of the slaveholders with their slaves may occupy new fertile lands and that a new market for slave-raising, therefore for the sale of slaves, may be created for the remaining section. It is, for example, indubitable that without the acquisition of Louisiana, Missouri and Arkansas by the United States, slavery in Virginia and Maryland would have been wiped out long ago. In the Secessionist Congress at Montgomery, Senator Toombs, one of the spokesmen of the South, strikingly formulated the economic law that commands the constant expansion of the territory of slavery. "In fifteen years," said he, "without a great increase in slave territory, either the slaves must be permitted to flee from the whites, or the whites must flee from the slaves."

As is known, the representation of the individual states in the Congress House of Representatives depends on the size of their respective populations. As the populations of the free states grow far more quickly than those of the slave states, the number of Northern Representatives was bound to outstrip that of the Southern very rapidly. The real seat of the political power of the South is accordingly transferred more and more to the American Senate, where every state, whether its population is great or small, is represented by two Senators. In order to assert its influence in the Senate and, through the Senate, its hegemony over the United States, the South therefore required a continual formation of new slave states. This, however, was only possible through conquest of foreign lands, as in the case of Texas, or through the transformation of the Territories belonging to the United States first into slave Territories and later into slave states, as in the case of Missouri, Arkansas, etc. John Calhoun, whom the slaveholders admire as their statesman par excellence, stated as early as February 19, 1847, in the Senate, that the Senate alone placed a balance of power in the hands of the South, that extension of the slave territory was necessary to preserve this equilibrium between South and North in the Senate, and that the attempts of the South at the creation of new slave states by force were accordingly justified.

Finally, the number of actual slaveholders in the South of the Union does not amount to more than three hundred thousand, a narrow oligarchy that is confronted with many millions of so-called poor whites, whose numbers have been constantly growing through concentration of landed property and whose condition is only to be compared with that of the Roman plebeians in the period of Rome's extreme decline. Only by acquisition and the prospect of acquisition of new Territories, as well as by filibustering expeditions, is it possible to square the interests of these poor whites with those of the slaveholders, to give their restless thirst for action a harmless direction and to tame them with the prospect of one day becoming slaveholders themselves.

A strict confinement of slavery within its old terrain, therefore, was bound according to economic law to lead to its gradual effacement, in the political sphere to annihilate the hegemony that the slave states exercised through the Senate, and finally to expose the slaveholding oligarchy within its own states to threatening perils from the poor whites. In accordance with the principle that any further extension of slave Territories was to be prohibited by law, the Republicans therefore attacked the rule of the slaveholders at its root. The Republican election victory was accordingly bound to lead to open struggle between North and South. And this election victory, as already mentioned, was itself conditioned by the split in the Democratic camp.

The Kansas struggle had already caused a split between the slaveholders' party and the Democrats of the North allied to it. With the presidential election of 1860, the same strife now broke out again in a more general form. The Democrats of the North, with Douglas as their candidate, made the introduction of slavery into Territories dependent on the will of the majority of the settlers. The slaveholders' party, with Breckinridge as their candidate, maintained that the Constitution of the United States, as the Supreme Court had also declared, brought slavery legally in its train; in and of itself slavery was already legal in all Territories and required no special naturalisation. Whilst, therefore, the Republicans prohibited any extension of slave Territories, the Southern party laid claim to all Territories of the republic as legally warranted domains. What they had attempted by way of example with regard to Kansas, to force slavery on a Territory through the central government against the will of the settlers themselves, they now set up as law for all the Territories of the Union. Such a concession lay beyond the power of the Democratic leaders and would only have occasioned the desertion of their army to the Republican camp. On the other hand, Douglas's settlers' sovereignty could not satisfy the slaveholders' party. What it wanted to effect had to be effected within the next four years under the new President, could only be effected by the resources of the central government and brooked no further delay. It did not escape the slaveholders that a new power had arisen, the North-west, whose population, having almost doubled between 1850 and 1860, was already pretty well equal to the white population of the slave states -- a power that was not inclined either by tradition, temperament or mode of life to let itself be dragged from compromise to compromise in the manner of the old North-eastern states. The Union was still of value to the South only so far as it handed over Federal power to it as a means of carrying out the slave policy. If not, then it was better to make the break now than to look on at the development of the Republican Party and the upsurge of the North-west for another four years and begin the struggle under more unfavourable conditions. The slaveholders' party therefore played va banque. When the Democrats of the North declined to go on playing the part of the poor whites of the South, the South secured Lincoln's victory by splitting the vote, and then took this victory as a pretext for drawing the sword from the scabbard.

The whole movement was and is based, as one sees, on the slave question. Not in the sense of whether the slaves within the existing slave states should be emancipated outright or not, but whether the twenty million free men of the North should submit any longer to an oligarchy of three hundred thousand slaveholders; whether the vast Territories of the republic should be nurseries for free states or for slavery; finally, whether the national policy of the Union should take armed spreading of slavery in Mexico, Central and South America as its device.

In another article we will probe the assertion of the London press that the North must sanction secession as the most favourable and only possible solution of the conflict.