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.