Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 13, 2016

The Real Rebels

Filed under: American civil war — louisproyect @ 12:51 pm

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Mark Lause

Mark Lause is a Professor of History at the University of Cincinnati. Author of 10 books, including most recently Free Labor The Civil War and the Making of an American Working Class, published in 2015 by the University of Illinois Press and Free Spirits: Spiritualism, Republicanism, Radicalism published in 2016 by University of Illinois Press.

View all posts by Mark Lause »

I can feel a certain sympathy for people who get hoodwinked into fighting for a Lost Cause that could never be worthy of the blood and treasure spent on its behalf. After all, as a child of the Cold War, my own closest brush with toting a gun to war came during Vietnam. In that conflict, the government, both political parties, the military, the media, the universities, the corporations, and the entire power structure insisted that the triumph of a Vietnamese effort to control of their own country would start toppling dominoes that would end in Anytown, U.S.A. By the end, most Americans actually doubted this. In hindsight, there’s no real issue as to whether the power structure of the people were correct, though some feel obligated to pretend otherwise.

Free State of Jones, by Victoria Bynum
Free State of Jones, by Victoria Bynum

Responses to the Free State of Jones by Gary Ross, and starring Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Mahershala Ali demonstrate that such denials of experience can last a long time. The movie offers a fictionalized version of the revolt of poor Southerners against the Confederacy in Jones County, Mississippi. Newton Knight worked on medical duties at the front until his disgust with the war inspired his desertion and return home. “Captain” Knight held that title for his role as the leader of guerilla forces that successfully made parts of southern Mississippi a no-go zone for Confederate tax gatherers and conscript officers. It is based on Victoria E. Bynum’s superb historical account The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002), and aims to be much more truthful than Hollywood’s first attempt at the subject in 1948, Tap Roots.

Free State of Jones directly confronts the issues of class and race that Tap Roots downplayed or avoided. This fact, in part, explains the mixed reviews.

A movie is not a documentary, of course. The page dedicated to Free State of Jones at “History vs. Hollywood” provides a useful corrective, and I would urge everybody who liked the movie to read Bynum’s book.

The set battle scenes (including civilians employing a battery against trained troops) provide an emotionally gratifying and crowd-pleasing symbol of the triumph of enthusiastic victory over tyranny. In reality, the success of the revolt in Jones reflected the weakness of the Confederate authorities as much as the bravery and determination of those rebelling against them. Too, the love story between Knight and the slave Rachel or the depicted fraternization among black and white victims of the Confederacy is, of necessity, a matter of guesswork, but its presentation in the film rings true.

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3 Comments »

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  2. I would like to make some comments about Repatriations. Repatriations are indircectly related to both this post and the preceeding post abou Professor Adolph Reed. White support for an end to slavery was not only a moral crusade it was also in the economic interests of the vast majority of white people. Not only that some people began to understand as early as 1700 that slavery weakens even the slave holder. If a person no longer has to be troubled to do their own work they become not only physically weaker their minds also become dulled. As a result they become incapable and incompetent. Ending Slavery was a no brainer for everyone except for those whose minds had already become foggy.
    Sadly the job in America did not get done correctly. Foggy brains could not surrender their fix. Another century of struggle passed before some of the formal rights lost had been regained. The recognition of these rights was again in the economic interests of the vast majority of white people as well as being a just cause in and of themselves.
    Repatriations is different though. Repatrations is not for poor white people. That will really piss a lot of poor white people off. After all although the reasons for white people being poor are more historically diverse than the reasons black people are poor the reasons that white people are poor are no less tragic.
    None the less I myself have in the past few years drawn the conclusion that capitalism and racism are intertwined but they are not exactly the same thing. If by some miracle there were to be a socialist revolution in America tommorrow I imagine that the lives of black people would get comparitively better but blacks would still lag quite far behind. I do not care to footnote how I came to that conclusion becasue as Louis says I am not trying to get tenure anywhere. Only a racist would think that black people living in the USA deserve to lag behind whites.
    Fixing the problem will not be easy though. One thing that I propose to fix this injustice is a Solidarity Program instead of Repatriations. Even if black families were to recieve monitary payments. (that would not be given to poor white famiies) without decent jobs and without the education-training to hold those jobs the payments recieved will be exausted in the not to distant future. So even socialism AND a Solidarity Program are just the beginning of the process to correct the ongoing racial problems in the USA.
    One important key in making this work is that the leadership must get poor whites to understand that they are not being punished or are be cheated out of something. They should see the Solidarity Program as the result of a class action suit, no pun intended. The purpose of the Solidarity Program is not to punish white people. Another important key is to prove that our society can afford the Solidarity Program if we understand that the purpose of the Program is to help blacks achieve a postition in the society in which they can economically and legally mount a defence of their legitimate needs.
    By my estimation, based on the average level of wealth of white families in the USA, cash payments to black families somewhere in the ballpark of 1.25 to 1.5 trillion dollars to paid out over some number of years would be one part of the Solidarity Program. In my opinion how that money is divided up exactly should be something decided among black people themselves.
    That itself creates some problems. Who exactly is black? Have all blacks suffered equally as a result of our nation’s past systemic injustices? Our history with Native Amercans shows that 90% of the cases are quite unambiguous but 10% become more and more ambiguous. Well would it be all that difficult to set up an institution of people who are unambiguously black to regulate formal membership in to a subset of Americans which could be refered to as the Tribal Council of African American Residents of America. African Americans would then have the same legal standing as native tribal members. Few people question the Americaness or the Patriotism of the Dakota, or the Apache or the Seminoles. So why should blacks be considered any differently?
    Critics may say that this is a step backwards. I say no it is not a step backwards. It is a step sideways. I think that one thing that should be included in this process is a type of sunset law. It should be written in to the Constitution of the Tribe that a vote will be held every 10 years, or perhaps every 5 years or perhaps every 20 years and when 67 or perhaps 75 or perhaps 88 percent of African Americans think that special legal and economic protections for African Americans are no longer needed the tribal institution will be formally ended. The forming of this institution would allow a decision about whether a family of African American multi millionairs would be allowed to recieve any of these monetary payments of if a family of recent immingrants from Africa should recieve any payments with some measure of legitimacy.
    Other steps will also need to be taken to correct the ongoing injustices. One thing I would like to mention before I post this is there is a perception that education that African Americans are getting in public schools is below that of whites in public schools and especially whites in private schools. I am starting to wonder if this is really true or if it just something that we repeat to avoid working with black people. Our society has been spreading this message that Ivy league schools and schools like Standford and and MIT give the best educations in the USA and the world. That is clearly just a crock of shit. They might accept the smartest high school students in to their classes but they are clearly turning out complete idiots. These people become the leaders of our country and based on their performance they did not recieve an education at these universities they recieved a lobotomy.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — July 13, 2016 @ 9:33 pm

  3. Can you predict what the consequences for the USA and the world will be if the USA closes down its empire? If you can I would like to hear from you. Will the part of the world that has extra,and useful natural resources, to sell put out a sign at the ends of their airport ramps that say Americans need not apply to do business here because deals will only be struck with the Chinese, Germans and Japanese? If that were to happen who much would that cause Ameicans to suffer? It would be good to have an idea of things would go with the rest of the world to be able to get an idea of how they could go in the USA. It would not be my intention to make the rest of the world to pay for any part of repatriations in the USA.

    It is also not my intention to make to make white people as poor as black people are today to be able to achieve equivilence in quality of life. It would be my intention to keep net white wealth at 0% growth per capita until black people catch up. Since the birth rate of whites overall is not all that high, to my understanding, a 0% growth rate overall should not be an impossible task. Of course the net growth in wealth of wealthy white families per capita will be negative. The growth in wealth of poor white families should be positive. Those in the middle should be able to keep and make due with what they have.

    This scenario might be very frightening to some white people if they thought that there was a chance that it could actually come true. Not only to those white people who are already rich but to those white people who think that they are going to become rich. It would be my intention to reassure them that life will go on, even with a level of comfort, that one could call suburban for lack of a world (word?) that has not been invented yet. It would be my intention to make sure that such wealthy people understand that they have a choice. They can either accept the new levels of what is possible to achieve or they can accept the new and modern ways to be brutally murdered, such as Sarin gas, napalm, depleted irridium rounds, musket balls, spiked baseball bats, and earthquakes set off by Teslar vortex machines.

    It would also be my intention to assure them that I am not the one in charge of giving them that choice. I am just a simple sower of seeds. But everyone needs to know that if humanity is going to survive, and by that I do not mean a few thousand scattered barabarians, or a few hundred super rich people who managed to hold out in bunkers here and there for a few hundred years, I mean saving as many people as possible, all illusions of democracy must be shattered. It is not neccessary to shatter all thoughts and asperations of a republic of which the ideas of seperations and balances of power are key aspects.

    Comment by Curt Kastens — May 4, 2017 @ 6:44 pm


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