Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Confederate History Month. Today’s topic: Stolen labor

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Dennis G at Balloon Juice:

When one mentions Slavery it seems that many members of the Republican Confederate Party feel that you are trying to buzzkill their celebrate Confederate History Month.

A certain fat bastard from Mississippi called it Diddling a Nit (or something like that). And all over one can hear the sons of the Confederacy recite their talking points that the Civil War was not about slavery. They insist that the system of human bondage was a side issue. And as I look at the record of the Republican Confederate Party in recent times and the history of the Confederate Party regardless of its political host over the last 150 years—I am ready to admit that there is a bit of truth to their POV.

The Confederacy really wasn’t about slavery. That was just a tactic. The real issue was finding the best way to steal the labor of others.

Before the Emancipation Proclamation and the passage of the 13th Amendment (which Mississippi has still NOT officially ratified) slavery was a State sponsored institution in America and it was the easiest way to steal the labor of others. Protecting the simplicity of that labor stealing system is why the Confederates started the Civil War.

Back in the day, slavery was a great deal for the owners, a bad deal for the slave and a real problem for the average working man or women of the South. Having a way that the elites can steal the labor of some always hurts the wages of most working people—especially if this theft of labor is protected by the State. This was true in 1860 and it is still true. As the Civil War began the business of stealing labor was massive. In the Ta-Nehisi Coates essay I mentioned last night he quoted Civil War historian David Blight about just how much money was being made though this organized system to steal the labor of others:

By 1860 there were approximately 4,000,000 slaves in the United States, the second largest slave society—slave population—in the world. The only one larger was Russian serfdom. Brazil was close. But in 1860 American slaves, as a financial asset, were worth approximately three and a half billion dollars—that’s just as property. Three and a half billion dollars was the net worth, roughly, of slaves in 1860. In today’s dollars that would be approximately seventy-five billion dollars. In 1860 slaves as an asset were worth more than all of America’s manufacturing, all of the railroads, all of the productive capacity of the United States put together. Slaves were the single largest, by far, financial asset of property in the entire American economy. The only thing worth more than the slaves in the American economy of the 1850s was the land itself, and no one can really put a dollar value on all of the land of North America.

Naturally, the elites profiting from this system could not let it end without a fight and so they ginned one up a war using the same rhetorical tactics and fear mongering that they still use today. In 1860, racism, pride, and fear were used to get working class folks to take up arms to protect a system that was actually harming them. Same as it ever it was (see party, tea or news, fox).

Fortunately these Confederate bastards got their collective asses kicked and State sanctioned slavery in America came to an end (it was a great victory even though slavery in America is still with us today—but that’s a story for another night). Despite taking a beating on the battlefield, the Confederates have shown over the last 150 years that they are still an ongoing blight on the American soul. It may be time to call them out and kick their collective asses a second time.

Reconstruction was hard on the Confederate Party. It took a couple of decades for them to regroup and figure out new ways to steal labor once outright slavery had been outlawed. By the 1890s the new system of debtors prisons, sharecropping and Jim Crow laws had been established and enforced though the domestic terrorism of night riders. Back then, the Confederate Party had also found a political host—the Democratic Party. The Confederates and the Democrats would be bound together for decades and many shameful things were done and many solutions to the abuse were blocked.

The news ways to steal labor spread. Union busting, exploiting immigrants, child labor and unsafe working conditions were just some of the new tools. Every now and then a reform movement would nibble at the edges of the worst cases of abuse. When FDR came to office the Democratic Party started to focus on protecting workers and their wages. It took decades. By 1948 the Confederate Party began to feel like their host Party was moving away from them and that their access to cheap stolen labor was in jeopardy. Over the next twenty years they fought for control of the Democratic Party and lost. In 1968 the Confederates were in the wilderness. George Wallace was their candidate and he made a respectable showing in a run for President. Richard Nixon saw an opportunity and he invited the Confederate Party to join the Republican Party.

It has been over forty years and now the Confederate Party owns the Republican Party so completely that any Republican from any state must support the Confederate agenda—and that agenda is all about helping the elites steal the labor of others to fatten their bottom line. The old plays learned during Reconstruction are still being run over and over again. One needs to be anti-union. One needs to be anti immigrant. One needs to be anti-black. One needs to be anti-poor. One needs to be pro-elite at all time and one needs to cloak it a patina of carefully tested ‘populism’ and dog-whistles to motivate working class folks with racism, pride and fear. Properly done, this Luntz tested hype will get many a rube to work against their best interests.

So as the Republican Confederate Party celebrates Confederate History Month and insists that it is not about slavery, I am inclined to concede that they have a point. Slavery was not the main goal of the Confederacy—stealing labor was. Slavery just made the theft of labor easy and so it was an important tactic. Losing the war led to the loss of that tactic, but ever since the Confederate Party have been creating new ways to steal labor. Sure, these labor stealing tactics can and have changed with the times, but the ongoing goal to steal the labor of others is why the Republican Confederate Party exists. It is what they do. And this is something to remember as these weasels celebrate Confederate History Month.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 April 2010 at 9:59 am

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