Browsing "American Marxism"

Immigrant Politics and Recruits

A congressional committee investigating naturalization frauds in New York and Philadelphia found it was the common practice on the eve of elections for immigrants, many not yet qualified by residency, were naturalized in droves by political machines like Tammany Hall. The immigrant influx had created two Americas by the late 1850s: An immigrant-dominated North versus a South still consisting of English and Scots-Irish who originally settled the region. The former knew little of American institutions; the latter revered limited government, self-reliance and independence.  

In 1860, the South contained some 233,000 people born under a foreign flag, while the North held nearly 4 million foreign-born inhabitants. While running for president in mid-1860, Lincoln purchased Springfield (Illinois) Zeitung to gather immigrant votes; by 1864, fully 25% of Lincoln’s war machine consisted of Germans.

Immigrant Politics and Recruits

“In 1835, it was reported that more than one-half of the paupers in the almshouses of New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore were foreign-born, and in later years the proportion was even higher. Crime statistics, too, revealed a disproportionate number of foreign-born offenders; in 1850 there were three times as many foreign-born inmates of the New York State prisons as there were natives.

To many nativists an equally grave and more immediate threat to republican freedom stemmed from the political role of the foreign-born. In places the proportion of foreign-born voters had so increased as to hold the balance of electoral power; this of itself was a source of alarm, for most immigrants remained ignorant of American institutions.

In addition, the electoral violence and voting frauds, which had come to characterize immigrant voting in politics, we believed to be sapping the very foundations of the American political system.  There were numerous complaints of native voters being kept from the polls by organized mobs of foreign laborers, of immigrants voting on the very day of their arrival in America, and of hired witnesses and false testimony as the commonplaces of naturalization proceedings.

[Native resentment] of German arrogance gave way to excited warnings against the machinations of a disaffected and turbulent element to whom America had unwisely given asylum. [An example of this were] the demands of Communist Forty-Eighters like Wilhelm Weitling, who advocated complete social revolution and the establishment of an American “republic of the workers.”

In Missouri in the spring of 1861, the bulk of Union forces consisted of German militiamen [who] thwarted secessionist attempts to take the State out of the Union.  What led many to enlist was the offer of a bounty greater than an unskilled laborer’s annual earnings.  Large numbers, too, joined the army because the trade depression at the beginning of the war, and its consequent unemployment, left them no choice save starvation or military service.

Such cases were common, for example, in New York where Horace Greeley, struck in April 1861 by the high proportion of foreigners among the recruits, wondered whether “the applicants were actuated by the desire of preserving the Union of the States or the union of their own bodies and souls.”

(American Immigration, Maldwyn Allen Jones, University of Chicago Press, 1960, excerpts pp. 152-154; 171-172)

Democrats Adopt Soviet Bill of Rights

Confronted with a Democratic party platform nearly identical to theirs, the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) in early 1944 formally dissolved as a political party and perennial CPUSA presidential candidate Earl Browder announced his support of President Roosevelt for a fourth term. Browder’s vice-presidential running mate in 1936 and 1940 was James W. Ford, the first black man on a presidential ticket.

Democrats Adopt Soviet Bill of Rights

[The] historic Democratic party is no more, that it has been transformed into a labor party so completely that there is nothing left of it but the name.  The process by which [the] transformation . . . was brought about had its beginnings during the period of “crisis government” established by Franklin D. Roosevelt and his “brain trust” in 1933.  Measures having far-reaching application and effect were drafted by the President’s “advisors” and were jammed through Congress, frequently without most of the members having an opportunity to read them.

Mr. Roosevelt had been elected in 1932 by an electoral majority of eight to one . . . In such circumstances, Congress practically abdicated. It became literally a “rubber stamp” Congress. And Republican Senators and Representatives, with the majority of their constituents supporting President Roosevelt, were careful not to show too much opposition to measures which he favored.  That’s why is was so easy to junk the Democratic platform of 1932 and to enact so many measures that violated the most fundamental principles of the historic Democratic party without protest from Southern Democrats, and even with their support.

One sequence [of the transformation] began during the period from 1935 to 1937, or at the very height of what Eugene Lyons has called “The Red Decade,” when it was fashionable in certain circles in New York, Los Angeles and Washington to glorify all things Russian and to affect a “revolutionary” attitude toward all existing institutions in the United States. It was a time when literally dozens of organizations with high-sounding names were set up in this country by the Communists to attract innocent “fellow travelers” and when The Daily Worker undertook to popularize the slogan “Communism is the Americanism of the Twentieth Century.”

In February, 1935, Joseph Stalin announced that the Russian Constitution would be democratized; in June, 1936, the first draft of the new Soviet Constitution was completed and published, [and adopted December 5, 1936].  It was promptly translated into English and by February, 1937, copies of it in the form of a five-cent pamphlet were available throughout this country.  It immediately became the leading topic of discussion among the so-called “liberals” in the United States.

[The] Soviet Bill of Rights . . . guarantees every citizen a job . . . the right to material security in old age and also in case of illness and loss of capacity to toil . . . [and] “The equal rights of citizens of the USSR, independent of their nationality and race, in all fields of economic, state, cultural and public-political life is unalterable law.  Any direct or indirect limitation of rights, or conversely, any establishment of direct or indirect preferences of citizens dependent on their racial and national membership, as well as all preaching of national exclusiveness, or hate and contempt, is punishable by law.”

[In late January, 1944] President Roosevelt revealed that the [New Deal] was being replaced by a streamlined post-war program.  Here is what President Roosevelt said:

“As our nation had grown in size and stature, however – as our industrial economy expanded – [our previous life and liberty] political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness. We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident.

We have accepted, so to speak, a second bill of rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all – regardless of station, race or creed.  Among these are: The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or mines of the nation; The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;  The right of every business man, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;  The right of every family to a decent home; The right of adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment;  The right to a good education.” 

The striking resemblance which this whole passage bears to the . . . Soviet Bill of Rights need not be dwelt upon.

 In his message to Congress on September 6, 1945, President Truman said: “The objectives for our domestic economy which we seek in long-range plans were summarized by the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt over a year and a half ago in the form of an Economic Bill of rights.  Let us make the attainment of those rights the essence of post-war American economic life.”

Notably, he issued a “salute to labor” on Labor Day, 1946, and more recently on June 28, 1947 . . . he discussed the subject in an address to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at Lincoln Memorial in Washington. In his “salute to labor,” President Truman said:

“Labor, perhaps more than any other group, has consistently supported [FDR’s] “Economic Bill of Rights.” We must now move forward to full achievement of these objectives: useful and remunerative jobs for all; income high enough to provide adequate food, clothing and recreation; freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopoly; adequate health protection; more effective social security measures, and educational opportunities for all.”

In his more recent address to the [NAACP], by coupling these “economic” rights with other civil rights, he stated clearly . . . that it is the responsibility of the federal government to guarantee and to enforce these new rights. “The extension of civil rights today means not protection of the people AGAINST the government, but protection of the people BY the government.”

(The South’s Political Plight, Peter Molyneaux, Calhoun Clubs of the South, Inc., 1948, pp. 56-57, 67-70, 75-77, 81-84,)

“Kossuth Exile” in Florida

The commander of Northern forces attacking Marianna, Florida in late September, 1864 was “Kossuth Exile” Alexander Asboth, a Hungarian revolutionary and contemporary of Lajos Kossuth in the failed 1848 socialist uprising. Fearing execution for treason, he fled that country in 1849.

A large contingent of Hungarian socialists journeyed to Iowa where they received US government interest-free loans. Kossuth conducted a fund-raising tour of the US to support his revolutionary cause, but expended most of it on a lavish lifestyle.  

Initially on the staff of General John C. Fremont in 1861, Lincoln promoted Asboth to the rank of brigadier-general with an eye to enlist more Hungarian refurgees in this country. After an undistinguished military career, he was assigned to western Florida. At the one-sided battle of Marianna against old men and teenage boys, Asboth was severely wounded in the left cheek and left arm before his retreat.  

In recognition of his accomplishments, in early 1866 President Andrew Johnson promoted Asboth to the permanent rank of major-general, and then appointed him US Minister to Uruguay.

Fellow Hungarian revolutionary Albin Francisco Schoepf became one of Lincoln’s brigadier generals who eventually commanded the notorious Fort Delaware prison camp. Schoepf allowed his subordinates absolute control over Southern prisoners, some of whom were tortured and used as forced labor, resulting in a high death rate and reputation as the most brutal POW camp in America.

Social Democrats and Revolution

In 1883 Georgi Valentinovich Plekhanov, son of a prosperous country gentleman, founded the first Russian Marxist movement and dominated it for over twenty years.  Coming from the country where many revolutionary leaders originated rather than cities, he was turned to radical politics as a student. He formed a “Liberation of Labor” group whose principal object was to systematically apply Marxism to the Russian scene.  

Plekhanov believed that Russia would have to become industrialized in order to produce a proletariat, a working class, before Czarism could be overthrown. Only the workers could produce a revolution. The Narodniks had a different view, opposed the capitalistic and industrial path of eventual revolution, holding that “serfdom to socialism” was more direct.

Karl Marx was a contributor to Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune before the war, promoted Lincoln’s cause in Europe and penned supportive letters to both Lincoln and his successor, Andrew Johnson. Marx saw the industrialized North as fertile ground for a socialist proletariat, and black people as workers to be organized against capitalism.

Social Democrats and Revolution

“One starts to see here the beginnings of a future rivalry; the Marxists with their emphasis on the industrial worker and the Narodniks with their emphasis on the peasants. It was Plekhanov, presiding over his revolutionary court in Geneva, who most rapidly began to gain ground.  In his writings he urged that terrorism was a secondary weapon; the main object was to set up a socialist organization among the working class in Russia, to train agitators, to stimulate strikes and demonstrations, and to spread Marxist ideas through the illegal printing press.

Soon small groups of his followers began to form in the principal cities in Russia. They called themselves Social Democrats.

Neither Marx nor Engels, moreover, had thought very highly of the Russians. Marx was particularly trenchant about them. “I do not trust any Russian,” he once wrote Engels. Russia, in any case, Marx thought, still had a long way to go before it achieved socialism; he had much better hopes of the United States where “the masses are quicker.”

(The Russian Revolution, Alan Morehead, Bantam Books, 1959, excerpts pp. 35-36)

If Our Enemies Prevail

Prominent South Carolina theologian James H. Thornwell saw the sectional conflict as not being merely between abolitionists an slaveholders,” but waged on one side by “athiests, socialists, communists, red Republicans and Jacobins, and the other by the “friends of order and regulated freedom. In one word, the world is the battleground and Christianity and Atheism the combatants.” Thornwell saw the progress of humanity as being at stake in the war.  Among Lincoln’s staunchest supporters were Karl Marx, many influential German revolutionaries who had fled the failed socialist revolutions of 1840s Europe, and New England utopians.

If Our Enemies Prevail

“Some Southerners saw such deception [as Lincoln’s] coming, James H. Thornwell, a prominent Presbyterian preacher and seminary professor in South Carolina, predicted if the South were defeated, then the North would not only revolutionize “the whole character of the government” from ‘a federal republic, the common agent of the sovereign and independent States’ to a “central despotism, with the notion of States forever abolished,’ but also would brand the South with the stigma of slavery:

“And what have we to expect if our enemies prevail? Our homes, too, are to be pillaged, our cities and property confiscated, our true men hanged, and those who escape the gibbet, to be driven as vagabonds and wanderers in foreign climes. This beautiful country is to pass out of our hands. The boundaries which mark our States are, in some instances, to be effaced, and the State that remain are to be converted into subject provinces, governed by Northern rulers and by Northern laws.

Our property is to be ruthlessly seized and turned over to mercenary strangers, in order to pay the enormous debt which our subjugation has cost. Our wives and daughters are to become the prey of brutal lust. The slave, too, will slowly pass away, as the red man did before him, under the protection of Northern philanthropy; and the whole country, now like the Garden of Eden in beauty and fertility, will first be a blackened and smoking desert, and then the minister of Northern cupidity and avarice.

There is not a single redeeming feature in the picture of ruin which stares us in the face, if we permit ourselves to be conquered.  It is a night of thick darkness that will settle upon us. Even sympathy, the last solace of the afflicted, will be denied to us.  The civilized world will look coldly upon us, and even jeer us with the taunt that we have deservedly lost our own freedom in seeking to perpetuate the slavery of others.

We shall perish under a cloud of reproach and of unjust suspicions, sedulously propagated by our enemies, which will be harder to bear than the loss of home and of goods. Such a fate never overtook any people before.”

(From Founding Fathers to Fire Eaters: The Constitutional Doctrine of States’ Rights in the Old South, James Rutledge Roesch, Shotwell Publishing, 2018, excerpt pp. xiv-xv)  

New Deal Front

Jeffersonian Democracy embraced republicanism which meant opposition to the artificial aristocracy of merchants, manufacturers and bankers, and corruption which accompanied it. The insistence on virtue and support for the farmer and plain people of America was the hallmark of this system of government.

New Deal Front

“The Southern Committee for Jeffersonian Democracy has made some very keen observations. The Committee points out that Mr. Roosevelt has gained control of the National Democratic Party, using it as a front party for the New Deal as Herr Hitler gained control of what was the National Labor Democratic Party in Germany. 

And the Committee further observes that today both of those Democratic parties, as exemplified by Mr. Roosevelt here and Herr Hitler over there, have no resemblance in principle or purpose to the original party.”

Rep. Fred L. Crawford, (R., Michigan), Congressional Record, October 2, 1940, pg. 19677.

(The Illustrious Dunderheads, Rex Stout, editor, Alfred A. Knopf, 1942)

The American Welfare State

Shortly after the Bolshevik revolution and consolidation of power in Russia came the Great Depression and the opportunity for a charismatic American politician to introduce his own version of a planned economy, fiat money and social programs funded by deficit financing.

American Welfare State  

“My father was a true liberal as it was defined prior to World War II. He was also a highly regarded and respected liberal, in the forefront of his profession of journalism. At that time, most of those in the newspaper field were staunch supporters of the Constitution as originally adopted; that is, they believed that the role of the federal government was quite limited. And they also believed in the free enterprise system. There were few leftists in their midst.

Since then the term “liberal” has undergone a radical change in meaning, and now means almost the reverse of what it meant when my father was practicing his profession before World War II. Under the present-day meaning of the word “liberal” my father would now be called a conservative. In addition to his strong views about the superior qualities of the free enterprise system and the need for a diminished role for the federal government, he was a firm believer in high standards of morality for the family, and for the communities in which the families lived and raised their children.

In his later years he was subject to heavy criticism, much of it slanderous, but I never heard anyone questioning his integrity. In his search for the truth as a journalist, he had great respect for all obtainable facts and information required for reaching judgmental decisions.

The passage in 1913 of the Constitutional Amendment to tax income greatly increased the power of the federal government to control and regulate the economy, but the exercise of this power was quite modest until the New Deal and World War II. This power, together with the gigantic demands of the war, resulted in an enormous involvement of the federal government in the total economy of the nation.

And with it came much more sympathy by the general public and the media for socialistic and planned governmental programs. Support for these programs also prospered in colleges, universities, and religious groups. The Welfare State was beginning to get a firm foothold on our shores.”

(Forgotten Lessons: Selected Essays of John T. Flynn, Gregory P. Pavlik, editor, Foundation for Economic Education, Inc., 1996, excerpt pp. v-vi)

Planting Anarchism in America

Johann Most, self-styled anarchist communist found sympathetic ears in New York after arriving in 1882.  He promoted “propaganda of the deed,” acts of violence that would energize the masses. After the assassination of President McKinley, he wrote that it was not a crime to kill a ruler. Most gave a speech at Cooper Union twenty-two years after Abraham Lincoln gave his promoting ideas not found in the Constitution; in the latter’s audience was Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune, who employed Karl Marx (with Friedrich Engels assisting) as his European correspondent.  

By late 1864, fully a quarter of Lincoln’s army were German immigrants led by expelled revolutionaries of Europe’s 1848 socialist upheavals. Col. Rudolph von Rosa, an early member of the New York Communist Club, led the all-German Forty-sixth New York Regiment.

Planting Anarchism in America

“The failures and disappointments resulting from the series of national elections from 1874 to 1884 at last made an opening for party movements voicing the popular discontent and openly antagonistic to the traditional Constitution.

The Socialist Labor party held its first national convention in 1877. Its membership was mostly foreign; of twenty-four periodical publications then carried on in the party interest, only eight were in the English language; and this polyglot press gave justification to the remark that the movement was in the hands of people who proposed to remodel the institutions of the country before they had acquired its language.

The alien origin of the movement was emphasized by the appearance to two Socialist members of the Reichstag, who made a tour of the country in 1881 to stir up interest in the cause. It was soon apparent that the Socialist party organization was too hindered by the fact that it was too studious and its discussions too abstract to suit the energetic temper of the times. Many Socialists broke away to join revolutionary clubs . . . to fight the existing system of government.

At this critical moment in the process of social disorganization, the influence of foreign destructive thought made itself felt. The arrival of Johann Most from Europe in the fall of 1882 supplied this revolutionary movement with a leader who made anarchy its principle. Originally a German Socialist aiming to make the state the sole landlord and capitalist, he had gone over to anarchism and proposed to dissolve the state altogether, trusting to voluntary association to supply all genuine social needs.

Driven from Germany, he had taken refuge in England, but even the habitual British tolerance had given way under his praise of the assassination of Czar Alexander in 1881 and his proposal to treat other rulers in the same way. He had just completed a term of imprisonment before coming to the United States.

Here he was received as a hero; a great mass meeting in his honor was held at Cooper Union, New York, in December 1882; and when he toured the country he everywhere addressed large meetings.”

(The Chronicles of America Series, Allen Johnson, editor, Yale University Press, 1919, excerpts pp. 135-136)  

Radical Experiment in the District

On January 4, 1867, President Andrew Johnson was preparing his veto of the District [of Columbia] Suffrage Bill, telling his cabinet of issues with the Bill. He pointed out that “New York Negroes were obliged to comply with property requirements not necessary for white voters”, while other Northern States like Pennsylvania and Indiana excluded them from voting altogether.”

Johnson added that “the representatives of States where suffrage is either denied the colored man or grant [voting rights on qualifications being met] . . . should compel the people of the District of Columbia to try an experiment which their own constituents have thus far shown an unwillingness to test for themselves . . .” It was clear to Johnson that the motivation for Negro suffrage was the voting potential they held, and the potential for Republican Party political hegemony in the future. This led to virtually unbroken Republican national rule until Woodrow Wilson.

It is noteworthy that when the Emancipation Bill of April 1862 provided freedom for colored people in the District, which also compensated their owners, Lincoln insisted that the measure be coupled with a $100,000 appropriation to settle the freedmen in Haiti and Liberia.

Radical Experiment in the District

“The question of voting by Negroes had become by this time a burning national issue and one on which the Republican Party was by no means unanimous. Even in the North only six States permitted Negro suffrage without restrictions. Negroes were not permitted to vote in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and . . . New York still maintained property qualifications for Negro voters.

The Radical wing of the Party, led by [Charles] Sumner and Thaddeus Stevens, was, however, adamant on this issue. It was essential in their opinion that the colored man should be permitted to vote . . . [and] the control of the Southern States by the Republican Party could be maintained by the Negro vote, since it was quite inconceivable that the vast majority of Negroes would vote for any other Party than the Republicans who had freed them.

Realizing the difficulties of achieving Negro suffrage in the States, the leaders of the Radical Wing of the Republican Party began to turn their attention to the District of Columbia over which Congress had jurisdiction.

If Negro suffrage could be achieved in the District, with its large colored population, that would set the standard which some of the Southern States might be eventually be persuaded or compelled to follow.

Thus the municipal politics of Washington and Georgetown were to become a vital issue in the struggle for power between the Radical Republicans in Congress and Andrew Johnson, the Conservative Democrat in the White House.”

(The Uncivil War: Washington During the Reconstruction, 1865-1878, James H. Whyte, Twayne Publishers, 1958, excerpts pg. 37)

Radicals Versus the South

Radical Republicans of Lincoln’s party barely concealed their contempt for him and certainly favored having him out of the way in order to fully control punishment for the American South’s bid for political independence.

It was these Radicals, who, along with Lincoln, spurned any and all compromise efforts in early 1861 to settle differences peaceably, and drove the country into a war which ended a million lives and laid waste to the South.

Radicals Versus the American South

“While the war from one point of view might be considered tragic, Radicals believed that it furnished an opportunity to make America’s political system just. “If we fail to embrace” the opportunity, warned one Congressman, “the golden moment will have escaped for years, if not forever.”

After winning victory on the battlefield, Radicals were determined not to lose the peace. These two elements – the Radical belief that Reconstruction politics were an extension of wartime issues and the Radical determination not to lose the fruits of military victory – are crucial in understanding Radical motivation.

Lincoln’s assassination confirmed these ideas. “My God Gov.,” wrote a friend to ex-Governor Austin Blair . . . “Poor Lincoln a victim of his own goodness and leniency. Death to all Traitors.”

Another of Blair’s correspondents reacted similarly: “Poor old Abraham has yielded up his life at last . . . Let justice now be meted out to the remorseless villains who led the people into rebellion by a man of their own household [Andrew Johnson] – a man who knows and fully realizes the depth of their depravity & has no mawkish sympathy for them when conquered.”

[Michigan] Senator [Zachariah] Chandler reacted in a more calculating manner. “I believe that the Almighty continued Mr. Lincoln in office as long as he was useful,” Chandler wrote to his wife, “& then substituted a better man to finish the work.” Had Lincoln’s policy [of reconstruction] been carried out, he believed that Jefferson Davis and his followers would be back in the Senate; “but now,” gloated the senator, “their Chance to Stretch hemp are [sic] better than for the Senate . . .”

Needed in Washington, the grim Michigan Senator substituted someone else to accompany Lincoln’s remains to Springfield. “[Andrew] Johnson is right now,” he reported; “thinks just as we do & desires to carry out Radical measures & punish treason & traitors, but much depends on his Surroundings.”

A few days later Chandler described Johnson: “as Radical as I am & fully up to the mark. If he has good men around him there will be no danger in the future.”

(Radical Republican Motivation, George M. Blackburn, Journal of Negro History, Volume LIV, Number 2, April 1969, Carter G. Woodson, editor, excerpts pp. 112-113)

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