Guizot on Equality and Right to Vote for French Citizens
Being an architect of France’s July Monarchy of 1830-1848, Francois Guizot was not a proponent of universal suffrage. He also opposed the equality of citizens in France and argued that it was not a desirable goal for the state because inequality could never be eliminated (Halsall). In this regard, he did not believe that people were the same, or that they needed to be treated as such. Instead, he saw political, social, and economic divisions in society as necessary components of a properly functioning political system.
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Therefore, he posited that people who wield the most power (elites) should be entrusted with the responsibility of governance, while “workers” should be subjected to their rule (Halsall). His sentiments were premised on the understanding that universal suffrage would end liberty and order in society.
Therefore, he considered inequality and the disproportionate distribution of political rights as prerequisites of an orderly society because they mirror the intellectual inequality in France (Halsall). Broadly, Guizot considered his view as an honest and practical replication of societal differences in governance structures because he did not believe that “commoners” or the working class could make decisions that would be in the best interest of the nation. Thus, he believed the elites were better placed to manage such issues.
Karl Marx on Trade and Tariffs
Although the North American civil war was regarded as a conflict about the slave trade between Northern and Southern states, the London Press presented the conflict as a problem-centered on trade and tariff wars between the two warring factions. Karl Marx explained that this alternative view about the cause of the American civil war was true because at the center of the differing views about the slave trade were deeply entrenched divisions about trade and tariffs between the same two groups (Schraffenberger).
The same claims were echoed through the London Press because the publication argued that the conflict pitted two sets of people (those who supported a free trade system and those who supported a tariff system) against each other (Schraffenberger). This argument insinuated that although the slave trade was a component of the war, it was a mere offshoot of the trade and tariff debate between Northern and Southern states.
Marx was of the view that the North was against the free trade concept, which supported the slave trade. Therefore, its associated states advocated for a protectionist economic system that not only allowed slave owners to make a profit from their business but also hold them accountable for human rights violations. Comparatively, the South opposed this economic system because it would end their rights to own slaves and, by extension, make huge profits.
After all, they extensively relied on the slave trade to produce cotton and other agricultural goods for export to Europe (Schwarz). Therefore, the protectionist system proposed by the North was unfavorable to their economic interests. Instead, the South preferred the free trade system that permitted slave ownership, without any preconditions or limitations on the same (Schraffenberger). Therefore, the main question in the war was whether the slave owners in the south would be allowed to profit from their trade or be denied this benefit because of protectionist policies in the North. Based on this argument, it is easy to understand Marx’s position because he conceived the slave trade as a byproduct of trade and tariff wars between the North and the South.
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Karl Marx on How the Southern Ruling Class Dominated the US
Although America was regarded as having among the most advanced democratic systems in the world (in the late 1800s), the country of about 30 million people, at the time, was largely ruled by a minority group of slave owners that numbered about 300,000 people (Schraffenberger). According to Marx, the ruling elite came to power because classes were defined by the relationship between work and labor (Schwarz).
Since slaves were the main source of labor at the time, their owners controlled the factors of production and (by extension) the economy and political structure of the US. Metaphorically, Marx argued that slave owners bought their slaves in the same way they would buy a horse (Schwarz). Therefore, if a slave died, the owner would lose capital similar to when a horse died. Slaves were the main resource in the Americas.
They helped to support a lucrative cotton and textile industry in Europe because they produced the raw material that supported this enterprise. Therefore, western civilization was greatly dependent on slave labor. Indeed, as Schraffenberger says, there was no greater economic force in the US than slave labor at the time. He further says that this resource had a greater force than all other types of raw materials combined (Schraffenberger). In this regard, he says those who owned this resource had a greater political, economic, and social power than any other group of citizens. This is how the slave owners who were the ruling class dominated the country.
Karl Marx on How Slavery Kept Poor Whites in Poverty
According to Marx, slavery in the South and the North helped to keep a majority of poor, southern white people in poverty because they were taught to hate slaves and not the unequal economic system that oppressed them (Schwarz). For example, they were employed by slave owners to keep the slaves in bondage or kill them if necessary, but they did not benefit from the same system they helped protect.
Therefore, they became part of a large “slave machinery” that did not regard them any different from a “factor of production” (in the same way as slaves were perceived). Indeed, they were merely used to protect the power and influence of the wealthy slave owners, who also paid them low wages because they were illiterate and poor (Schraffenberger). In the North, poor whites were also taught to hate the slaves because they deemed them a source of competition in the labor market (Schwarz).
In other words, they perceived black people as “enemies of progress”. They caused an oversupply of labor and a reduction in wages because they were willing to work cheaply. Therefore, while the slave trade was not as widespread in the North as it was in the South, poor white people were led to believe the emancipated slaves were the source of their economic frustrations and not necessarily the economic system that oppressed them (Schraffenberger).
Karl Marx on How Slavery Spread in the US
According to Marx, new developments that effectively removed the barriers to the spread of slavery into newly acquired territories were centered on the growth of the plantation system (Schraffenberger). He said that the success of this system was tied to the spread of newly acquired territories. Furthermore, a series of legal compromises and concessions in the 1850s between the Northerners and the Southerners effectively increased the political power of the latter, thereby minimizing barriers to the spread of slavery (Schwarz).
For example, the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854 gave power to individual states to decide whether slavery would be legally permissible, or not (Schwarz). This freedom led to the expansion of slavery in some US states, such as New Mexico, which is five times bigger than New York. Through the same development, there were minimal attacks on the institution of slavery. The growth and development of the cotton industry, which filled a huge demand for the same product in Europe, also spurred the growth of slavery in the United States, thereby heralding a period where the trade became an important factor of production in the US. Collectively, these developments removed the barriers to the spread of slavery into newly acquired territories in the US.
Karl Marx on the Relationship between Slavery, Technology, and the Expansion of Territories
Karl Marx said slavery was not aligned with technological innovation because it did not lead to competition for wages among capitalists (Schraffenberger). At the same time, he believed that technological development heralded a period where goods would be standardized and there was no market for such products. Marx also said that the slave trade could not survive unless there was an expansion of territories to gain access to new and fresh soil because old territories were agriculturally impoverished after years of large-scale farming (Schwarz). Consequently, it was essential for the planters to expand their territories to gain access to new soil. The failure to do so would mean that there would be no need for slavery because of the lack of viable territories to support the nation’s agricultural activities.
Karl Marx on Why the Democrats Split
According to Karl Marx, the split of Democrats’ votes in the divisive 1860 elections was occasioned by the party’s two centers of power in the North and South. The two camps split their votes because the Northern faction, headed by Douglas, held a different view of slavery compared to the South. Particularly, it supported slavery in the Northern states where the legality of the practice was in the hands of the majority of settlers (Schwarz).
The slaveholders’ party declared that slavery was already legal because the United States Constitution stipulated so. Therefore, it did not see a need for naturalization. However, the concept of settlers’ sovereignty, which was proposed by the Northerners, could not effectively satisfy the requirements of the southerners leading to a split of their votes and the eventual victory of the Republican presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln.
Karl Marx on Why the South Launched a Rebellion against the North
According to Karl Marx, the South decided to launch a rebellion against the North in 1860 because affiliated states felt that the latter was using union powers to curtail their economic and political interests (Schraffenberger). In this regard, the South saw the need to secede from the North for political and economic reasons because the latter was opposed to the expansion of slavery and its exercising of state rights. Therefore, the South believed that they should have the power to run their states using the power and rights of self-determination.
Critics of Karl Marx and Reductionism
Many critics of the Marxist view of the American civil war claimed that Marx’s arguments and views were an oversimplification of what was going on at the time (Schraffenberger). I disagree with this analysis because Marx’s observations provided an in-depth discussion of the intrigues between the North and the South. I believe that the details presented in his essay were more in-depth than what other philosophers and historians wrote about the issue.
For example, he claimed that the civil war was revolutionary because it marked a distinct paradigm shift in how America conducted its politics, relative to its social and economic dynamics. While such an argument may be deemed as simplistic (considering there were many interests and issues at play), Marx was right in his diagnosis of the war. His arguments tapped the root of the conflict and explained the underlying issues related to the civil war. Therefore, those who claim that his assertions are simplistic are wrong.
Jean Jaures and the Dreyfus Affair
During the Dreyfus Affair of the 1890s, a French socialist leader, Jean Jaures helped to increase support for the embattled Dreyfus and advocated for his protection from the false and baseless charges of treason he was accused of. He made this argument by highlighting the need to check the power of the army because it was infringing on people’s rights and values (Abidor). Overall, Jean Jaures claimed that oppression did not affect workers alone; other people like Dreyfus were also going through the same problem and they needed help in the same way as workers supported each other whenever they were being oppressed. Broadly, Jean Jaures was convinced of Dreyfus’s innocence, prompting him to publish articles supporting this view. He lost his legislative seat because of this position (Abidor).
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Abidor, Mitch. “The Socialist Interest.” Marxists. Web.
Halsall, Paul. “Modern History Sourcebook: François Guizot (1787-1874): Condition of the July Monarchy, 1830-1848.” Source Books. Web.
Schraffenberger, Donny. “Karl Marx and the American Civil War.” International Socialist Review. Web.
Schwarz, Bob. “Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Writings on the North American Civil War.” Web.