The Republican Party fell through the looking glass and came out as the party of Jefferson DavisRoundup
tags: Lincoln, Jefferson Davis
After the racial terrorist massacre in Charleston, many Americans found out about the neo-Confederate movement that inspired Dylann Roof.
Neo-Confederates aren’t generally fringe characters like Roof, but rather some of the most respectable, well-educated and well-off folks around — professors, clergymen, prominent politicians and community leaders. The Republican Party in the South is thoroughly enmeshed with neo-Confederates at the highest level.
To them, the Civil War was the “War of Northern Aggression” and Abraham Lincoln was a war criminal and dictator.
Last year, religious right broadcaster Kevin Swanson hosted Walter Kennedy, a neo-Confederate author of books such as Lincoln’s Marxists and Red Republicans and Lincoln’s Marxists: Marxism in the Civil War.
Kennedy said that “radical socialists and communists” helped establish the Republican Party and put Lincoln in the White House. He said Lincoln created “one big, allpowerful indivisible government” that led an “incessant attack on religious values in America,” He said the early Republican Party began implementing the Communist Manifesto by establishing public schools!
Actually, there is some truth to Kennedy’s hyperbolic blatherings.
Historians John Nichols in The ‘S’ Word and Robin Blackburn in Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln show how Lincoln was influenced by socialist ideas and how socialists were influential in the early Republican Party.
In 1861, Lincoln delivered his first State of the Union address several months after the Civil War had begun. Interestingly, he ended his address by talking about another division in American society. He expressed his fears regarding “the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of government.”
He concluded: “Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
In 1864, Lincoln received an “Address” from the London-based International Workingmen’s Association (IWA). It was drafted by Karl Marx and congratulated Lincoln on his reelection. Marx said:
“The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.”
The U.S. Ambassador in London, Charles Francis Adams, felt the letter was significant and forwarded it to Lincoln. It carried the signatures of several prominent British trade unionists as well as French socialists and German social democrats. In response, Adams conveyed Lincoln’s thanks to the IWA and said the president was encouraged by the support of Europe’s rising workers’ movements.
Lincoln might have recognized the name Karl Marx when he read the letter since Marx had been a prolific writer for The New York Tribune, which was a prominent Republican newspaper and had the largest circulation in the country. The paper was anti-slavery and pro-workers’ rights. Lincoln was a fervent reader of the Tribune as well as a friend and political colleague of the paper’s founder and editor, Horace Greeley.
Historian Adam Tuchinsky, in his study of the newspaper, says that the Tribune spurred one of the first public discussions of socialist ideas in the U.S. Greeley and his managing editor, Charles Dana, identified with the utopian socialism of Charles Fourier.
The Tribune covered the failed 1848 democratic uprisings in Germany, France, Hungary, Denmark and other European nations. In Paris, Dana reported, “Everyone now is more or less a Socialist.” Dana met Karl Marx who would end up writing over 500 articles for the Tribune on a wide variety of topics. Later Dana was hired by Lincoln to be the Assistant Secretary of War.
Many Germans escaped to America after the defeat of the 1848 revolution. Many of them were radicals. Joseph Weydemeyer, who maintained a regular correspondence with Marx and Engels, formed a national network of Kommunisten Klubs to promote what the New York Times denounced as “Red Republicanism.” He then joined the Republican Party.
About 200,000 Germans volunteered for the Union army. Joseph Weydemeyer and August Willich, both former members of the Communist League with Marx, were promoted first to the rank of Colonel and then to General.
History can be strange. The Civil War never quite ended. The Republican Party fell through the looking glass and came out as the party of Jefferson Davis. Maybe Republicans should just ask themselves, “What Would Lincoln Do?”
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