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The Civil War Wasn’t Enough


The Civil War Wasn’t Enough

Jason Opal

This Monday marks the 153rd anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, ending the US Civil War. The Union commander told his men to respect the beaten rebels as fellow Americans, while President Lincoln urged reunion “with malice towards none” until his murder five days later.

We’re still paying for this forbearance.

For while the slave-holding elite that had launched the Confederacy lost their power to enslave black people, their extreme hostility to our nation’s common good lived on.


Astute analysis , thanks!


Cruel Inequality driven by the Hatred of those who feel their entitlements are more important than the masses who are made to pay for their luxurious lifestyles, are numbering the days before the People Revolt and bring Justice to an unjust Political Duopoly that knows only how to Lie, Deny, and Steal.


The book Democracy in Chains. The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean describes exactly what the Koch Brothers are about and how they have took over the Republican Party and transformed it into a libertarian party. The intellectual hub of the Koch Brothers network of right wing institutions is located in the Mercatus Center on the campus of George Mason University in Virginia.


The 13th amendment did not ban slavery from US soil.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.".

Prisoners can still be subject to forced labor and servitude and this clause was used to force ex slaves to work Plantations AFTER the Civil war these the very same they worked as Slaves prior to the war. Corporations still use forced labor to this day. Over 90 percent of peoples in in the USA imprisoned for crimes never had a trial.


Excellent article! Gets right to the heart of what ails the U.S.!

We’ve been in denial far too long!


What gets me, that the Koch bros as jews, know the history of minorities and how they are treated. Their money is fueling a new civil war, one filled with anti-semetism beside the hate towards other minorities. So far they have managed to paint George Soros as the jew, but sooner or later, they will be seen as jews also. The nazis will not see the difference between them.


I may have to memorize this. Going to visit some southern relatives this summer, who are, let’s say, ‘unreconstructed.’ Thanks for a very succinct recap.


That certainly was a lot of words to simply say the real problem is capitalism. I kept hoping he would finally actually just say it. But to do so still puts a person on the fringe of acceptable society.


All that’s needed to connect the dots and support this thesis is to show how the rise of the plutocrats of the North was rooted in not dealing with the plutocrats of the South.


In 1865 Gen. Sherman did land reform in South Carolina, taking the plantations from the planters and redistributing the land to the freed slaves. … Pres. Andrew Johnson reversed that.

The Radical Republicans wrote a Civil Rights law. The Supreme Court struck it down. The Radical Republicans wrote it again as a Constitutional Amendment, #14. There weren’t enough northern states willing to ratify it, so Congress coerced enough southern states to do it.

Since they are synonyms, Jacobin also said “the real problem is free markets.” That there exist people in our community who are quicker and foxier than the lazy dog and can and do leap over the lazy dog, -
- contrary to communitarianism that we must work for the betterment of everyone.
(The contra-positive of this is that if the lazy dog is opposed to betterment, then the rest of us must be satisfied with no better a material life than what the lazy dog lives. …)
(It is also a problem that comes up in the story of the Little Red Hen. If the other barnyard animals aren’t willing to ‘put into’ making a loaf of bread, should the Little Red Hen make it anyway, much less keep it for herself?)

We have radical PC thinkers like Jason Opal, in this article, advocating for radical expropriation from the planters, maybe doing to them what Che Guevara did to the gusanos. Too bad Opal didn’t live back then. Not enough people were persuaded by or acted on such ideas in the late 1860s and early 1870s, and ‘the moment passed’.

Mr. Opal refers to unfinished business, without going into it any further. I guess that is up to us, and one element that is up to us is to revisit is a European doubt about the US Civil War: On one side they saw ‘oligarchs’ who owned their labor, and on the other side they saw ‘oligarchs’ who rented it by the hour, and Europeans didn’t see much moral difference between the two. Is that a current problem for us? What should we do about it?


Too damn bad that is still true… today!


I think it time to get more facts by reading the well informed historian Gerald Hone’s book, The Counter Revolution of 1776. There were slaves in the North and NY, Mass. and Rhode Islands were hubs of the slave trade and the North profited handsomely from the forced labor of blacks and the Natives’ dispossession of ancestral lands. One ugly history.

If you are white and think yourselves a “progressive” with good will and not a socialist who fights this very system with the aim to establish true equality among all you need to reconsider your position.


I recently read King’s book, The Devil In The Grove about the “South of the South”, that is, Florida whose history in the mid 20th C was every bit an example of what you write. It is no accident that Florida is known for the highest lynching rates in the entire nation. That’s right.


It’s a Jewish name (also German) but they are not Jewish.


The Civil War was severe overkill–by any reasonable count, one should think. Apparently shooting people up is not always enough to convince them of one’s good intentions.

The end of legitimized chattel slavery has become regarded as the primary point of conflict in retrospect, but it was a benefit unplanned by most combatants and most politicians. Northerners mostly fought against the loss of union, the loss of a united front against ever-possible English attack, and the possible loss of its primary supplier of raw goods and agricultural goods. Southerners fought against the encroachments of Northern capital on an agricultural and relatively localized way of life that most imagined, foolishly, as requiring slavery. It is true enough that the war did not adequately resolve the matter of slavery, let alone racism, but this is because doing so was skew to the purposes of most White actors North and South.

Opal writes as though the plantations of the South, because they and the culture around them were not more fully exterminated, metamorphosed over some decades into the oppressive industrial capitalism of Guilded Age. This is greatly misleading. Collusion between Northern capital and wealthy Southern plantation holders occurred, of course, as it has under colonial circumstances elsewhere. But the traditional South and the center of the country have remained both the more rural and the more proletarian sectors. The ills of the Guilded Age were primarily the work of a different sort of slavers: the slavers of what was in the 1800s broadly known as the “wage slave” system–an insight that became by slow measures set aside within the 20th century, and one that deserves some rehabilitation. The ills of the Guilded Age came primarily from the Goulds and Rockefellers and capital enterprises mostly centered in the Northeast, the traditional North.

This does not mean at all that the strategies of chattel slavery were justifiable. But they made their contribution to the Guilded Age’s laissez faire capitalism only because they did not offer a sufficiently vibrant or egalitarian version of Jeffersonian smallholder agricultural democracy to hold its own against robber barons, railroad tycoons, carpetbaggers, and the Union army. By its own divisions and contradictions, the South failed to hold its own against the components of the Guilded Age that had already taken hold in the North back when Henry David Thoreau could write once in honor of John Brown, but again about railroads laid over the bones of Irish workmen.

A large part of this, even today, is the division between people whose circumstances ought to provide grounds for solidarity, divisions around race and nationality and often also gender. It has been the large failing of class politics throughout the history of union struggles in America that people so often clung to racial entitlements instead of wholeheartedly supporting their fellows.

This absolutely remains an issue when a Donald Trump can garner votes crowing about keeping workers out of the States with a wall. Would there were a wall to keep American intervention out of the rest of the world! But it also remains an issue because the Democrats now running the party can pretend that hiring different races and genders into a steeply hierarchical, corrupt and antidemocratic system can be “liberal” or “progressive” or “a compromise.” They lie that a differently staffed engine of oppression is somehow less an engine of oppression.

History does not repeat itself, exactly, but rhymes, as per Mark Twain. But as surely as we recognize the remaining racism within the contemporary Republican Party, we ought to acknowledge and work through the remaining classist and capitalist oppression that runs the Democratic Party at least as thoroughly as the Republicans.


Thanks for setting me straight. I had always heard them referred to as jewish. And I must admit instead of fact checking, I assumed they were. Well that makes sense then for what they support. It didn’t make sense for a jew to be funding anti-semetism. So thank you again.
Oh by the way, I did fact check this, something I usually do. But it reminds me to double check what I hear about someone or something. So I do appreciate the heads up.


But how many decades will it take? Rome took hundreds of years to fall.


A couple of remarks. 1st about the europeans not seeing a moral difference, they practiced both. They decided that total ownership was immoral, but not economic slavery. This from a historical view of what they practiced while slavery was legal in the US. If economic slavery (renting by the hour) was so bad, they didn’t seem to have qualms about practicing it. It is one of the reasons for the french revolution.

As for your other point, we have had economic slavery since the beginning of the country. And it continues to this day. The whole idea that capitalism professes is a fair wage for a fair day’s work. Yet for most americans this doesn’t happen. That is why the term wage slaves is used.

I don’t know if you know this, many americans don’t. But economics demand that a certain number of people remind unemployed, between 4-5%. And the US economics are arranged to make sure that unemployment doesn’t go lower. If they go lower, people are free to move to other jobs because there is a smaller pool of unemployed to draw from if someone leaves. Or else they can demand higher wages so they won’t leave.

So we need a permanent unemployed group large enough to keep wages from rising. Yet we are supposed to scorn such people and the poor while wages are kept purposely low. This is conservative policy that has been in effect since Reagan. So you have a structured economic program to ensure that you have people in poverty. Or economic slavery where they are tied to jobs and can’t move beyond without tremendous effort.

I would call that a problem. We complain about the poor and their drain upon us while making sure with policies to keep them poor. Now I am using the royal we here. Obviously not all of us agree with this system. But it sets the poor up to be scapegoats and allows many to just dismiss the problem as they are too lazy to work and better themselves. All while the system makes sure they can’t.

As for the solution, make the rich not only pay their fair share of taxes, but to also pay fair living wages. They might not make their billions in profit, but only millions then. The problem is that the rich control the political system and such changes will never take place.

The conservatives complain about the liberals using identity politics, but the truth is that the conservatives have been using identity politics since the 50s’. Nixon codified it into the southern strategy and they have been using that playbook to divide people into going against their economic interests. And this is supported by many of the rich, because divided we fall.

Only when people are more united have we decreased economic slavery. The way we are polarized these days, uniting enough people to make a change becomes difficult. And even then, the rich made sure that standing up to them was bloody and deadly.


One problem is that those who are economically enslaved see themselves as having more freedom than a slave of the cotton plantation. Race has always been a problem since it was invented in order to justify being able to make someone a complete slave. When one sees a slave as a human being, then it becomes harder to justify. Thus racism was invented and you still have people today who see other races as less than human.

Thus you can have someone in economic slavery hating and blaming race as the problem as to why they are a slave. And the rich benefit because they can keep more people down as slaves to the system.

This country has always been run by the rich and their money controls both parties. There are very few cultures that have escaped the rich controlling the populace. And as long as money rules the world, we will have economic slavery for most people. This has been going on since we settled into cities and started gathering wealth, 10,000-12000 yrs. I certainly see no end in sight for wealth not to rule.

As I have said before security is the greatest need for most people. And the crappiest job is better than no job at all, esp. when the game is rigged to make sure that the poor finding another job is extremely difficult. By setting an artificially high unemployment rate, they make sure that there is a labor pool. So if someone at a poor paying job quits, there is someone else desperate to work. And that finding another job is difficult. Thus the wage slave has to stay with their job and cannot make any demand for a higher wage.

I discovered this system in the 70s and couldn’t understand it at the time. Then when Clinton was present and unemployment was going down, I heard about it then. This time I studied it and realized just how they keep people trapped. It’s all done to keep wages down for businesses. The smaller the labor pool, the harder it is to find workers. Thus workers can demand higher wages. So by making sure there is enough unemployed people, there is always someone to replace a dissatisfied worker. Thus they don’t need to raise wages. It’s a great system for the rich.

And it’s why people don’t revolt or protest. If you do, you can get fired. And someone else is eager to take the job while you join the rank of the unemployed. And as I said, security is the greatest human need. Most people will do anything to feel secured. Very few people are willing to sacrifice security for freedom. And thus you have a society not willing to rock the boat.