It's a deeply researched, highly readable, thought-provoking book, though Blackburn's insightful analysis comprises only the first hundred pages of the volume.
An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln
The rest is made up of primary sources, meant to aid in the understanding of Lincoln, Marx, and other important voices of the time. Blackburn views the U. Civil War and Reconstruction era through the lens of labor, and in particular focuses his narrative on the notion of free labor, as espoused by Lincoln's Republican Party and Marx's International Worker's Association.
As a young man, Lincoln experienced exploitation first hand; his martinet of a father would lend him out to others for work and retain all the income for himself.
An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln by Robin Blackburn
Once beyond his father's control, the future president worked hard to better himself, raising himself from a backwoods afterthought to a prominent attorney and politician. From his distant vantage point in England, Karl Marx nevertheless had a decidedly clear view of what slavery meant for the concept of free labor. As long as some laborers toiled in literal chains, he believed, all laborers would be bound in metaphorical ones. From the very beginning he supported the Union cause, arguing that any attempt to pin the war on mere economic policy differences between North and South was hogwash—this was a slaveholder's revolt aimed at preserving the vast wealth represented by slaves.
For Marx, says Blackburn, the Civil War was "a decisive turning point in… history," that would "set the scene for emancipation and be a great step forward for the workers' cause on both sides of the Atlantic.
We don't know for sure if Lincoln ever read any of Marx's writings in the Tribune , but we do know that Marx had a particular interest in the president, and that despite some misgivings about his handling of the war in the early stages, believed that he was an ally of the working man. On Lincoln's reelection in , Marx drafted a letter of congratulations to the president on behalf of the IWA, praising Lincoln's resolve, and noting that the working men of Europe "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 matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of the social world.
No country illustrated Marx's ideas with greater precision and purity. Blackburn morosely explores the failure of Reconstruction and the chaotic post-war political world in which the pitched battle between labor and capital blazed out of control. Lincoln's dream of free labor was drowned in Gilded Age excess, while progressive activists and labor leaders including Marx's IWA, now operating in the U. This is the titular "unfinished revolution," the hope envisioned by Lincoln and Marx of a world of free men able to enjoy the fruits of their labor, quashed by the powerful oligarchy of robber barons who dominated the end of the 19th century.
Blackburn's writing is taut, intelligent, and compelling. He packs an astonishing amount of information into a scant hundred pages, providing a fresh and powerful look at Civil War politics and social issues. Blackburn provides an amusing characterization of the latter publication's editor, Victoria Woodhull, a free-loving, controversial progressive activist who the author calls "the Arianna Huffington of the s.
An Unfinished Revolution is a powerful account of an extraordinarily consequential moment in time, and a reminder that we still feel those consequences years later. The revolution is still unfinished. Nate Chinen's treatise on the subject of jazz in the 21 st century, Playing Changes , is erudite, passionate, and downright inspiring. Between the Buried and Me vocalist Thomas Giles recently released a new solo album and in this video, he takes us through each track.
Even with few truly catchy numbers and a cumbersome plot, Mary Poppins Returns has enough bright-eyed optimism to almost escape the shadow of the toe-tapping original. Progressive rock titan Neal Morse releases a new album with his band in January, but you can get a preview now.
The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 60 songs that spoke to us this year. Barry Jenkins' If Beale Street Could Talk is a thought-provoking tale of both love and injustice, and in working with Moonlight composer Nicholas Brittell, the two find compelling musical motifs from unexpected places. Short Stories columnist Jenny Bhatt presents the finest of this year's short stories collections from a wide range of authors that have no fear of pushing the boundaries. Juno-winning Canadian songwriter Dan Mangan's love of his influences and peers has lead him to craft something quite joyous: Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.
Reviews Europe's Radical Influence on America: The truth is that Marx wrote a letter to Lincoln on behalf of the International congratulating him on his second term win and how the cause of the war is the cause of the working class. Lincoln then had his ambassador write a reply.
There was no direct exchang Sorry, but what a deceptive book and a waste of time. There was no direct exchange! All in all, this book is a mess. It starts off with a page introduction for a page book. That's more than a third of the book for an introduction! Right there it's a sign that there's very little meat to the book itself. The introduction discusses the ideas both men had and their values and what impact they had on America and Europe.
The actual "meat" of the book are the two speeches Lincoln made at his inaugurations and his Emancipation Proclamation.
Marx's section is a collection of his writings and articles on the civil war, his letters back and forth to Fredrich Engels, an interview he made, and the letter he wrote on behalf of the International. Yes, these writings by Marx are interesting but mostly they talk about battle tactics during the war. This is the best the author and editors could come up with? Very very thin material here as of course, it appears that the truth is that these two men had very little connection.
At the end we have writings by some socialists who proclaim their hatred of capitalism how it's the new slavery and how women need to rise up and work for the 8 hour day. Honestly, what an embarrassment this book is. View all 4 comments. Jan 03, Titus Hjelm rated it it was ok. I bought the book based on its cover. Rarely have I seen such a misleading cover. First, this is not a comparison of the political philosophies of Marx and Lincoln, but a book about the US civil war.
Second, it is not a book by Robin Blackburn whom I much admire , but a book edited by him, with the two inaugural addresses and the Emancipation Proclamation by Lincoln, and assorted journalism on the US civil war by Marx. In addition there are random clippings from the correspondence between Marx I bought the book based on its cover. In addition there are random clippings from the correspondence between Marx and Engels and speeches and journalism from the era. My expectations made the reading experience worse than it could have been. But the cover is still misleading. Jul 22, Matthew marked it as to-read.
Maybe they're both vampire hunters. Jul 18, Online-University of-the-Left rated it really liked it. In , under the banner of the First International, some 70, marched in the city to protest the suppression of the Paris Commune. Another new thing, at least for me. Blackburn's long introduction to the documents is the heart of it, and you'll learn about the period in a new way, looking back at it through the lens of the s. Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln.
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Rather, he saw in South and North two species of capitalism — one allowing slavery, the other not. Defeating the slave power was going to be difficult. The wealth and pride of the , slaveholders there were actually , slave owners, according to the Census, but at the time Marx was writing this had not yet been published was at stake. These slaveholders were able to corrupt or intimidate many of the poor Southern whites, and they had rich and influential supporters among the merchants, bankers and textile manufacturers of New York, London, and Paris.
Defeating the slave power and freeing the slaves would not destroy capitalism, but it would create conditions far more favorable to organizing and elevating labor, whether white or black. Lincoln was not unaware of Marx. After Marx left the Tribune in late , he continued his commentary on the then-expanding Civil War in Die Presse, a daily published in Vienna, Austria.
Lincoln and Greeley got to know each other from their brief stint in in the U.
Lincoln was anti-slavery, as was Greeley and his newspaper. The Times of London, a daily, printed the response. The constitutional war had begun. One such individual was Benjamin F. Butler, a Massachusetts Democrat. He was appointed a brigadier general and was in charge of Union troops at Fort Monroe, in the tidewater area of Virginia in the spring of Subsequently three slaves working on Confederate fortifications rebelled and escaped to the Fort. McPherson, , Oxford University Press, Butler consulted afterwards and got the agreement of the Lincoln administration.
The property question was rearing its head. Other commanders started to welcome African-American slaves who went on strike against the slaveholder. As Union commander, General Butler knew that among the thousands were not only hands used by the Confederate Army, but also hands that worked the sugar plantations. This prompted the Republican-controlled Congress to pass a second Confiscation Act in the summer of — allowing field officers to seize plantation laborers as well as military laborers.
Such was the fate of John C. Phelps in Louisiana during the summer of Grant in the West and George B. McClellan in the East: I have no hobby of my own with regard to the Negro, either to effect his freedom or to continue his bondage…. I am using them as teamsters, hospital attendants, company cooks and so forth, thus saving soldiers to carry the musket. Military power should not be allowed to interfere with the relations of servitude…. A declaration of radical views, especially upon slavery, will rapidly disintegrate our present armies. Grant provides a crystal clear example of the implementation of the Confiscation Acts, McClellan the exact opposite.
In the spring of , Lincoln might have agreed with McClellan. Before the year was out, McClellan would be relieved of his command. Lincoln believed in the gradual emancipation of the slaves, coupled with ample compensation for the slave owners. Marx and Lincoln, 35 He rested his case on the withering away of slavery in the North after the Revolution of and the more recent example of British abolition of slavery in its Caribbean colonies in the s.
He repeatedly sought to convince Congressional representatives from the border states — Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, and Delaware — of this perspective. Most would have none of it. We must free the slaves or be ourselves subdued. The slaves were undeniably an element of strength to those who had their service, and we must decide whether that element should be with us or against us. This was a war, and as commander in chief he could order seizure of enemy slaves just as surely as he could order destruction of enemy railroads.
Decisive and extensive measures must be adopted…. We wanted the army to strike more vigorous blows. The Administration must set an example and strike at the heart of the rebellion. The Confiscation Acts formed the legislative bridge to emancipation. On July 22, Lincoln announced his intentions at a cabinet meeting.