"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Apr 12, 2011

All You Need to Know About the Civil War

1. Rich white assholes owned black people.

2. Rich merchant shitheads wanted the rich slave owners to produce their goods cheaply for the rich merchants, not for European markets.

3. Rich slave owners wanted the merchant princes to get off their backs, so they could make a whole lot of money off of slaves. Also, they had an institutional system of rape to protect. Rapey rapists, the lot of them.

4. Merchant princes discovered a moral issue in slavery at the same time that landed slave owning gentry discovered their identities in it. Slave owners picked a fight. Over slavery. Slavery, not culture. Fucking slavery. Started a war to protect the institution of owning and raping people. Their descendants, to this day, call that "southern culture." Without any apparent sense of irony. Lady Irony, being who and what she is, gets paid in full.

5. Poor motherfuckers who were drafted up by the merchants and Jesus'd up by the slave owners died by the metric ton. Lots of nationalism. Piety. Total tonnage of wasted human life, unknown. Fucking lots of it. Just lots.

6. Merchants, having better banks and more factories - plus tens of thousands of immigrant conscripts - engaged in modern era's first industrial war, beating slave owners after five years of sending other people's children to die. Later, would pay good loot to have their victorious State hallow all the ground where other people's children died. Sanctimonious bullshit would follow, going on a century and a half.

7. A professor from Maine was about the only ranking officer on either side to come out of the war with any sort of humanity. Helps that he hated it. Helps also that he really believed slavery was wrong. Chamberlain. Look him up.

8. Slaves got an update on the name of their indenture. Indenture continued. Got worse. Got the illusion of freedom, but with worse and worsening conditions. Black folks who had other thoughts about their conditions would discover, over the course of one hundred and fifty years, that whitey is ingenious as a bottled devil, when it comes to figuring out ways to make black people live and labor under penal conditions. Jim Crow. Segregation. Drug war. Militarization of black life.

9. Rich merchants and former slave owners patched up their differences to fund and fight thirty years of Indian Wars, savagely seizing two thirds of a continent in the process. Still fighting "Indian Wars" around the world. See, Philippines, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Yemen and Libya. Merchant princes do not have good memories. At least, not for the evil that they do. Remember that.

10. White folks continue on in the belief that all can be forgiven. Or forgotten. Chickens, somewhere, are preparing to roost...


Anonymous said...

Que bueno!

The entry, not the slavery... of course.

And as to (8), I am assured by Liberals and Progressives that the 1965 Civil Rights Act ended all oppression of Blacks, after a perfect 100 years of veiled racism it was abolished completely!

So sayeth The Donkle!

BDR said...

One of my favorite professors taught an American history survey class at Montgomery College, the local juco. Here argued the Civil War was about:

1. Sale and distribution of western lands;

2. National bank;

3. Protective tariffs;

4. Internal capital improvements;

and that ending slavery was introduced by Lincoln only after the debacle at Antietam when McClellan could have ended the war then and there by driving Lee into the Potomac, and northern morale was at a low.

One of the best teachers I ever had. He assigned a text that explored alternative theories of historical events. I remember a chapter speculating that the Salem Witch Hunts were a result of tripping on psychotropic bread mold. Wish I could remember the book's name.

Jack Crow said...


There's some truth to that, but I think what gets lost in the attempt to backdate and federalize the conflict are the various articles of secession. The state governments of the confederacy kicked off a war because of slavery.

Kansas, Missouri. Slavery.


Gratis. The whitewash is common to conservatives, too. These people are still trying to buy up the rights to MLK, Jr, in order to turn him into a free market republican.

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed, Jack. And Alan Keyes, Thomas Sowell, JC Watts, Clarence Thomas, Condi Rice, Colin Powell are the Elephantine "proof" of post-racism, eh?

Dr King surely has made many turns in his grave with the misuse of his history, his actions, his views... by both teams in the Big Super Bowl of Donkey vs Elephant.

Joe said...

Uh, oh, Jack, you're getting dangerously close to a "childish" denunciation of the War To End Slavery here. Points 5 and 6 can't be emphasized enough, imo, and the same obviously goes for all wars.

Thanks for the recommendation, too.

Will Shetterly said...

Uh, not quite.

1a. Rich black assholes owned black people, too.
1b. A free black person could not legally be enslaved.

4a Some of the people fighting on the side of the merchant princes owned slaves, including the merchant princes' primary warrior, Grant. Some of the people fighting on the side of the slave owning gentry did not own slaves, or freed them, including the slave owning gentry's primary warrior, Lee.

5a Poor motherfuckers were drafted up by the slave owners, too. (As Marx noted, 300,000 rich slave owners drove the South's rebellion.)

7a If you like fiction, The Killer Angels is a damn fine novel with Chamberlain as a character.

Will Shetterly said...

PS. Regarding Republicans trying to co-opt MLK, Democrats do the same thing with Malcolm X, trying to turn him into a neoliberal antiracist. In both cases, they focus on who the men were around 1963 rather than who they became before they were killed.

Jack Crow said...


When I was writing that, I was imagining your objections. Not negatively, just that of all the people kind enough to comment on me blegh, I was thinking you might have specific revalutions.

I don't disagree with your points, but I wanted to keep my snark less discursive than not.

Will Shetterly said...

Quibbles aside, I'm cool with people saying the Civil War was over slavery. I used to demand a more nuanced understanding of it, and I still can argue that there were more factors involved than slavery alone, but ultimately? Slavery.

However, the racial take on slavery was a lot more complex than is usually presented, and as a guy who hates the way the class struggle is buried in the US, I will quibble like mad there, 'cause making it a purely racial conflict misses something more fundamental, imho: it was the last gasp of slavery within capitalism.

Have you read any of Marx's writing on the Civil War? He was amazingly accurate. They're on the web.

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

The whitewash is common to conservatives, too.

For them, it's a full-blown memory hole of Marianas Trench dimensions.

Amurka was founded by Pious White Christians who anointed St. Ronbo of the Raven Brylcreem'd Tresses to cement the victory of Supply Side Jesus.

Jack Crow said...


It's been a while, honestly.

BBBB, Karl -

I think we can probably agree that liberals and conservatives found black people as convenient as they do poor women.

David K Wayne said...

It's also cheaper to have slave labour instead of outright slaves. 'Legally' you're not obliged to house, clothe, feed or provide medical services. Or indeed trawl the earth buying them (why bother when labour can pay for its own boat to find the employer?).

The Civil War 'updated' American capitalism/imperialism, just as abolition gave British capitalism/imperialism more 'flexiblity' (and rapid growth) years earlier. India etc. was a more 'mature' method of exploitation. Of course they continued (variations of) slavery in colonies, but foreign uprisings could be addressed with far more severe military action than would be feasible in homelands.

Will Shetterly said...

W. Kasper, yup. A quote from a Florida farmer in 1960 describing migrant labor: ""We used to own our slaves -- now we just rent them."

Randal Graves said...

Jack, no mention of Lincoln's cool hat?

Anonymous said...

I find it amusing to consider Karl Marx an authority on American anything.

The Church of Marx does have its papal class, though, who are defenders of the infallibility of The One and Only Karl.

I'm sure those who lived through the period of 1776-1865 knew less about their existence than Glossy Karl knew. I'm sure of it. Glossy Karl knew everything. He was the universal solvent of all troubles. It's a shame he's dead. He was something like... alchemy embodied.

Will Shetterly said...

Karl, I find it amusing that people who haven't read Marx are his loudest detractors. Marx was the 19th century's equivalent of an internet news junkie, haunting the British Library. He wrote for a US paper; most of his writings about the Civil War are from it.

And then there's the simple fact that he was right: "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."

Who do you respect? Shall we mock you, saying that because you think that person was wise, you worship him or her as a saint? Or can we try for actual human discourse?

Will Shetterly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Will Shetterly said...

(I deleted my previous comment because I realized part of it could be interpreted as unkind, which was not my intention. Here's version 2.)

Karl, I just followed you back to the Oxtrot blogs on your profile, and I may see part of your problem: you assume anyone who cites Marx must be a doctrinaire Marxist of some stripe. But Marx never wrote about how to achieve socialism, beyond saying that democracy is the path to socialism, and he never defined what socialism would look like. Marx simply offered the best tools I know of for analyzing the way that capitalism works. He once told people who had become sectarian that if they were Marxists, he was not.

Jack Crow said...


I'm a fan of Lincoln's hat if it is filled with venomous asps.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy, Will. Oh boy.

Dare to consider something:

Marx was not the only person to possess those tools you say he held and used.

Dare to consider that. And then dare to consider what it means, for all humans.

If you need help here, I'm able.

NB/QB: For how many days did Marx live in America during the Civil War?

Will Shetterly said...

Karl, Ayn Rand lived in the US a long time, and knew far less about the US than many foreigners do. Clarence Thomas was born and bred here. Really, the idea that you have to be a goldfish to understand life in a goldfish bowl only goes so far.

Yes, Marx himself has said that he didn't create that much. Only the most ignorant capitalists think socialism began with him.

Now, have you read any Marx? Or even read any decent work about him?

And do you disagree with his take on the US civil war? Many people of the time saw it much less clearly.

Anonymous said...

I don't see the point of glorifying Marx further. If you wish to set up a religion surrounding him, I won't care to stop you.

But I won't worship. I won't take communion. And I won't declare fealty to the Church, nor its Godhead.

A lot of Americans saw what was wrong with America from the start, and didn't need Marx to inform them.

A lot of Americans alive today can understand what's wrong without Marx.

It does not matter whether I have read as much Marx as you, or as much as Jack, or as much as Richard Seymour, or as much as any avowed fan or scholar of Marx. It does not matter AT ALL.

What Marx observed was observable to everyone who looked at the same things. Marx didn't discover, he described.

And his writing is poorly done, high-falutin', self-impressed, jargon-laden nonsense. Overwrought.

But impressive to those who consider themselves "educated," sure. "Educated" people seem to think that the more obfuscatory the prose, the better it is, the deeper and more sagacious the author.

I disagree, of course.

Jack Crow said...

I dunno, Karl. I like Nietzsche. Most of Nietzsche. Not all of his work, but enough to occasionally consider myself Nietzschean.

I'm not making a religion of Nietzsche by noting his continued relevance, any more than some one who discovers in Marx an excellent cartographer of the present is.

Marx's work is useful, whether or not Marx is alive or dead. So too with Nietzsche. Or the inventor of bicycles. Or the first person to put chocolate to heat and conjure up yummy, yummy cacao drinks.

Will Shetterly said...

Dude, no one's worshipping Marx here. You're attacking a windmill.

And you're quite right that you can be an anti-capitalist without reading Marx.

But if you want to understand what you're anti, it helps to read Marx, or someone who does a decent job of translating Marx for the rest of us. Rius's Marx For Beginners is short and easy and not at all "educated."