150 years ago today, the first shots of the American Civil War were fired. This war, our second revolution or a continuation of the first, was America’s bloodiest. More U.S. citizens were killed in the Civil War than in all wars up to Vietnam combined.
But it was a necessary fight.
It ended the horrors of slavery and saved the United States of America. Had the Union troops lost, our nation would be a far different place now, 150 years later. While, after the Reconstruction was betrayed, racist Jim Crow laws persisted, the Civil War paved the way for all the civil rights struggles that came afterward, up through the 1960s and into the present time.
What would in fact take place would be not a dissolution of the Union, but a reorganization of it, a reorganization on the basis of slavery, under the recognized control of the slaveholding oligarchy … In the Northern states, where Negro slavery is in practice unworkable, the white working class would gradually be forced down to the level of helotry. This would fully accord with the loudly proclaimed principle that only certain races are capable of freedom, and as the actual labour is the lot of the Negro in the South, so in the North it is the lot of the German and the Irishman, or their direct descendants.
The democratic republic would have been gone, the spirit of 1776 dead. The battle against racism’s ugliest form was a battle for the entire nation’s future, and, as Marx pointed out, for all working people.
A century and a half later, while we’ve made important gains, racism is still alive. And the dynamic is the same: the immiseration of the African American population, immoral and unjust on its own, hurts all working people.
In that spirit, we present to you the following articles from the People’s World archives: