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

From: Paul Zarembka <>
Date: Sun Feb 06 2011 - 11:54:32 EST


I would add to Paul B.'s comment that falling upon probability theory is
not the answer to anything, because the issue is not 'well, this could
have happened, or that could have happened and I'll attach probabilities'.

The issue is the discuss WHY Marx felt so certain of his prediction
(correct as it turns out) and, if you think he was wrong, then WHAT he
miss. For example, if Marx was wrong the soil was not being depleted in
the South, then give us the evidence that the soil was not being
depleted. If Marx was right that the soil was being depleted, but crop
rotation would have solved the problem, then give us the evidence the
crop rotation would actively addressed by slave masters so that they
need need new lands to the West. Etc. Paul is asking you to confront
Marx's explanation.

I hope I am conveying to you what I would expect.

Paul Z.

On 2/5/2011 12:15 PM, paul bullock wrote:
> 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 production'.
> 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
> Jerry,
> 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.
> Paul
> "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."
> =====
> (V23) HIDDEN HISTORY OF 9-11, Seven Stories Press, 2nd ed. softcover
> ====> Research in Political Economy, Emerald Group, Bingley, UK
> ====> P.Zarembka, ed., <>
> ====> <>
> .
> 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
> War.
> 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 situation
> entirely.
> "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 since.
> In solidarity, Jerry
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