Civil War Delayed is a series written by Rosemary Jenkins that presents an alternate future had the U.S. Civil War not been fought in 1861. This is the fifth of six essays. Click here to read the first essay. Click here to read the second essay. Click here to read the third essay. Click here to read the fourth essay. Click here to read the sixth essay.
It is true that a resort to the use of force was simply not acceptable to most native-born Americans, so that complete acceptance of that doctrine was not always consistent. Samuel Gompers of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) said in 1883 that "those who try to inject socialism into the labor movement are generally opposed by trade unions at large."
However, the American social revolutionaries were willing to attempt anything to extricate themselves and their families from their "economic bondage." The Pittsburgh Manifesto, on the subject, made it clear that compromise was both ineffectual and futile. The Haymarket Affair of 1886 belied the tragic circumstances in which labor was thrown. At a rally seeking shorter hours, higher wages, better working conditions and benefits, and union arbitration over management-employee disputes, a massacre (literally planned and anticipated by the power interests) resulted.
A trial was held and in the heat of controversy and fear, the leaders of the movement were executed or given long prison sentences. Some of those convicted were affiliated with the socialists; consequently, the entire affair was recalled with the aura of socialism surrounding it, putting a damper on American socialist labor activities. Yet, if all or most of Americans were suffering economically like those in Chicago at the time, no doubt such a movement could not have been quashed so easily. If circumstances had become so much worse, our capitalistic democracy might have become a socialistic democracy (reflected in the quasi-modern history of several European countries) or even developed into a Marxian Socialistic or proto-communistic nation.
[I think about how the severe dictatorship under Juan Bautista led to revolution under Fidel Castro, whose government eventually become a dictatorship all over again. Having been in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, I witnessed how successful the nation had become with regard to education through college for all, universal healthcare, etc. until interference by our nation (the Contra Affair) stalled and even reversed the progress that it had made.
I have long predicted that America would someday become a more socialistic-democratic nation over the capitalistic top-to-bottom country that it is now (consider the "movement" under Bernie Sanders, Alexndria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Presley, and Rashida Talib). Please do not confuse the communism referred to in this essay with the communism of Russia/Soviet Union, China, North Korea--completely different animals.]
When American social-revolutionaries[a hundred years ago] finally turned to Anarchism, they found the teachings of quite another school (of thought) more to their taste--that of Anarchist-Communism. This, like Marxian Socialism was carried over bodily to the United States from Europe.
The white post-Civil War attitude toward the Negro laborer was definitely hostile for the most part. Negroes were excluded from apprenticeships and were forced to form their own union, the Colored National Labor Union, since organized white labor, especially in the South, was forcing Negroes out of various skilled trades. The big labor unions vacillated on the question of Negro union membership, depending on the prevailing sentiment of white labor.
The larger landowners and employers liked the Negro only as long as he remained faithful, obedient, and unambitious. When he became prosperous or educated, or a landowner, many whites turned hostile. [Consider what transpired a hundred years ago in the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was a Black community that was so prosperous with Black-owned businesses and home ownership that it was referred to as Black Wall Street. Due to white resentment and rage, many whites were responsible for burning down the District, murdering at least 300 residents, injuring hundreds, and leaving 5000 people homeless. In fact, people today are still trying to locate the unmarked graves of many of the victims. The community has never really recovered from the devastation.]
It is easily apparent that there was a direct correlation between the rise of the poorer whites and the increasing oppression of the Negro. As has been said many times: the oppressed become the oppressors (and generally don't even realize it).
Fitzhugh believed that all workers--black and white -- should be slaves. He did not have the foresight to realize that America's capitalistic democracy, after its initial industrial growing pains, would provide important protections and benefits for its workers
If, then, the Negro slave (before the end of the Civil War), the subsequent former slaves, and also the historically free Blacks, were to hold the majority of blue collar jobs and continued to be perceived as "threats" to white culture, there would have been a propensity by the whites to stamp out this economic menace.
An interesting point should be made here about a view adhered to by George Fitzhugh, a Virginian of the mid-nineteenth century and slavery advocate. He inadvertently and unintentionally professed a socialistic system when he stated that the peculiar institution was actually a positive good because, being that people were not equal, slavery, if properly regulated by the Federal Government, would prevent exploitation of the Negro slave--white man's inferior.
At the same time, the plight of most urban workers was appalling--being exploited by management, working in unhealthy conditions for long hours for meager wages, and returning to a rundown home with inadequate food and clothing. [Today, the poorest and most disadvantaged among us express a similar dilemma--living in food deserts, lacking health insurance, living in polluted neighborhoods, children attending old, often out-of-date schools. The struggle goes on.]
Fitzhugh believed that all workers--black and white -- should be slaves and that capitalism should be destroyed altogether. He did not, however, have the foresight to realize that America's capitalistic democracy, after its initial industrial growing pains, would provide important protections and benefits for its workers (recently being diluted or slipping away altogether). He also contradicted himself by advancing states' rights while advocating Federal intervention in regulating the slave system. In his books, Sociology for the South and Cannibals All, Slaves without Masters, Fitzhugh denounced capitalists, defended the slave system, and put forth a theory of a semi-welfare state--all of which seem to be rather contradictory.
Swinging back now to the issue over slavery, another aspect of the problem should be noted here. America was gradually shifting away from her completely isolationist policy (we witness this vacillation in American history many times, including post-World War I) and thus coming more into contact with Western Europe. America, at this time, was the last holdover for slavery in the Western world. The sentiment in Western Europe was divided over what to their citizens was basically a moral issue. It seems there existed a dichotomy there: the "aristocrats" favored the Southern gentry and viewed the question in economic terms while the commoners were offended at the idea of slavery and thus supported the North on ethical grounds.
The ruling classes, especially the mill owners and cotton merchants, regarded the secession of the Southern states as another movement of national determination, and cherished strong sympathies for the Southern aristocratic communities. They were comforted in the belief that slavery had nothing to do with the issue until the Emancipation Proclamation raised the war to this new moral level.
Once the Civil War had broken out in 1861, a decision had to be made by England whether to recognize the Confederacy. Although such people as Lord John Russell and Prime Minister William Gladstone supported this policy, the overriding sentiment was antagonistic toward such a move so that such recognition never happened.
Of course, England was in an awkward position. First of all, she had imposed upon herself strict neutrality but realized that breaches in her neutrality were hard to prevent. It seems that British ship-building yards were responsible for helping to build a naval force for a South, desperate for a fleet. This act was done in opposition to the British Foreign Enlistment Law of 1819. The Alabama was one such ship supplied to the South. Until its capture in June 1864, it wreaked much havoc in its wake.
Great Britain saw two major issues emerging regarding her relations with America over the War: (1) England had led the way in putting an end to the slave trade and thus found her working population sympathetic with the Northern cause. (2) On the other hand, the South was to the Union what America had been once to Great Britain; therefore, the question was one over the right of secession [an interesting and thought-provoking point]. Similarly, the ruling classes were empathetic toward the South, reading into the crisis a question over social considerations--"struggle between aristocratic landlords and bourgeois manufacturers."
After the first two years of war, supplies of cotton practically disappeared in Lancashire and over half a million men were thrown out of work. The cotton trade at Lancashire [think of Birmingham], the greatest in England, was completely disorganized and largely at a standstill. Distress and privation were extreme (there had been no insurance provisions for such a labor crisis). . . (T)hroughout the whole period the English workingman steadily refused to bring any pressure on the English Government in order to liberate the cotton trade, an intervention which might have been decisive. The cause of the North was one of abolition of a great human wrong and they never (italics added) wavered in their support.