Re: [OPE] Marx on the U.S. Civil War

From: paul bullock <>
Date: Sat Feb 05 2011 - 12:15:54 EST

Jerry, with respect to your particular answer below, the idea that 'the CSA
could have existed as an independent nation', other than as a result of
slave revolt, misses the point that Marx was making, that this would have
meant the end of the economic basis of the 'state: it would have stagnated
and collapsed from within in the face of an incapacity to be anything other
than a cotton exporter from fields of declining fertility, with nowhere to
export slaves as a secondary income, and subject to a constant relative fall
in cotton prices.. (in any case the British were soon to open up Egypt for
this purpose). You seem to forget the underlying material analysis. The war
was dramatic and tragic rearguard action of an anachronistic 'mode of
Paul B



From: []
On Behalf Of Paul Zarembka
Sent: 02 February 2011 15:54
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
Subject: Re: [OPE] Marx on the U.S. Civil War



In my view, you have missed the whole point of Marx's writing on the Civil
War. His basic point is in

and reproduced below.

I am NOT arguing one way or another whether Marx is correct but trying to
confront him on HIS terms.

Your argument does not consider Marx's argument, but is simply YOUR
political calculation without consideration of the economic base of Marx's
perception of the causes of the War and his prediction that the North would
eventually win, even at the time in 1962 when the North seemed to be losing.


"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

"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."

(V23) HIDDEN HISTORY OF 9-11, Seven Stories Press, 2nd ed. softcover
====> Research in Political Economy, Emerald Group, Bingley, UK
====> P.Zarembka, ed.,
====> or

On 2/2/2011 9:49 AM, GERALD LEVY wrote:

Hi Paul Z:
My brief comment was not simply a response to this particular letter,
but was rather directed at the whole of Marx's writings on the Civil
But, let us consider the section of the letter you cite as providing
a materialist analysis:

"The South would or could conclude peace only on condition that it
gained possession of the border slave states. In that case, California
would also fall to it, the North-West would follow suit and the entire
Federation, with the exception, perhaps, of the New England states,
would again form one country, this time under the acknowledged
supremacy of the slaveholders. It would be the reconstruction of the
United States on the basis demanded by the South. But that is
impossible and won't happen.

Is it true that the South would or could 'only' conclude a peace on that
basis? i doubt it. By that time of the war don't you think they would
have agreed to an armistice on the basis of recognition of the Confederate
States of America as a sovereign nation? I suspect they would have -
and let the border states (from their perspective) be damned. It's true
that the border states were key to the beginning of the war and
its historical context, but this - after years of fighting - was a new

"The North, for its part, can conclude peace only if the Confederacy is
restricted to the old slave states, and then only to those bounded by
the Mississippi River and the Atlantic. In which case the Confederacy
would soon come to a happy end. In the intervening period, ceasefires,
etc., on the basis of a status quo could at most occasion pauses in the
course of the war."

Why would it 'only' mean that the CSA would come to a 'happy end'.
Had the War been concluded on the basis of the above, then the CSA
would be recognized by most nations, would have a very strong
military ally in the UK and could commence trade again both with the UK
and most other nations. At some point in the future, of course, the
slaves could revolt but in the interim the CSA could have existed as
an independent nation.
All of Marx's writings on the Civil War are laced with comments about how
the Union would - eventually - succeed. I think this was tied to a
particular historical perspective of his that it would represent progress
and was basically something which could only be slowed but not stopped.
In this, there was a whiff of a conception of inevitable victory which
was common among revolutionaries before his time, during his time, and
In solidarity, Jerry
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Received on Sat Feb 5 12:21:36 2011

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