What remains certain is that Reconstruction failed, and that for blacks its failure was a disaster whose magnitude cannot be obscured by the genuine accomplishments that did endure.
– Eric Foner
By ann summers
The libertarian warlordism nationally rampant in the 1870s may yet return in the 21st Century, given its revival in the Second Reconstruction of the 1960s Civil Rights movement and its apparent reemergence in the post-9/11 period.
The Third Reconstruction might even deconstruct its predecessors. Unfortunately, unlike the Reverend Barber’s hopeful view, it could all go dystopian and sideways. The running joke on the left about libertarians needing to move to Somalia could come to fruition, just as RW domestic terror is on the uptick.
Federal troops always seem to make an appearance and it soon could be no different. Cinematic versions of a third Reconstruction and its warlord militias could resemble David Brin’s The Postman which was made into a film of the same name. Think The Book of Eli without the Ted Cruz subtext. Or Mad Max movies with healthier warlords and more POC other than Tina Turner.
Another message of the plot deals with the backstory of the post-apocalyptic world: specifically, that it was not the electronics-destroying EMPs, the destruction of major cities, or the release of various bio-engineered plagues that actually destroyed society, but rather it was the Holnists themselves, who preyed on humanitarian workers and other symbols of civilization.
“Poor economic conditions caused voters to turn against the Democratic party. In the 2010 Congressional elections, the Republicans assumed control of the House. Public opinion made it difficult for the Obama Administration to develop a coherent policy.” Curiously, the history of the Panic of 1873 is described similarly noting of course the ideological reversals of Party identifications after WWII with the Dixiecrats’ defection and the GOP Southern Strategy.
The failure of reconstruction in the US coincided with the rise of reactionary racist insurgencies like the KKK, among others covert and overt in identification still operating today as Sons, Daughters, and citizens councils of whatever. Clearly national economic crisis dominated the period and helped shift US demography and economy as well as producing a pernicious Jim Crow racism that still remains as the pentimento for a diverse modern US society now expanded to other POC.
The monetary metalism of contemporary RW libertarianism has its roots in this post-Civil War period as well as the ideological shifts among the political parties still dependent on secessionized regional identities at the beginnings of the Progressive period.
The rise of RW militias and domestic terrorist cadres still outnumber the threats by any other groups and form those institutions that give cover for RW political institutions accumulating power and wealth on a model dating back to US anticommunism and fascism. These will be the basis for a future warlordism, the robber baronism for the 21st Century. Republican regionalism and the rise of local states as prolific as the stupidity of frontier social justice warriors(sic) in Eastern Oregon or Western Yemen.
Poor economic conditions caused voters to turn against the Republican Party. In the 1874 congressional elections, the Democrats assumed control of the House. Public opinion made it difficult for the Grant Administration to develop a coherent policy regarding the Southern states. The North began to steer away from Reconstruction. With the depression, ambitious railroad building programs crashed across the South, leaving most states deep in debt and burdened with heavy taxes. Retrenchment was a common response of southern states to state debts during the depression. One by one, each Southern state fell to the Democrats, and the Republicans lost power.
The end of the crisis coincided with the beginning of the great wave of immigration into the United States which lasted until the early 1920s.
The failure of 1870s Railroad financing recalls the recent hedge fund derivative debacle in mortgage speculation and is presaged by the work of Robert W. Fogel (and Stanley L. Engerman), that certain great invention in the latter case being the 1997 Nobel economics prize for derivatives maths.
(1) He discovered that the iron horse, bestriding the economic historiography of the nineteenth century like a colossus, was important but not colossal. He was here testing the theory of Schumpeter and Rostow that modem economic growth has depended on certain great inventions, the analogue in economic history of great men. He tested it with extraordinary thoroughness and began, as I have noted, by believing it to be true. Yet he found it wanting. Transportation strikes the noneconomist as obviously fundamental in some vague fashion-after all, what would happen if we closed down the highways and railroads tomorrow? Fogel noted that the question was one of long-run dispensibility and brought to bear the latest insights of cost/benefit analysis. The book (really, two books: his master’s thesis on the Union Pacific railway was part of the tale) created much controversy. Fogel’s argumentative style rubbed some economists the wrong way, and the less self-confident among the historians, frightened by the quantitative history that Fogel was advocating, were pleased to see the historical economists quarreling among themselves. The same story was to be repeated more bitterly ten years later in the controversy over slavery. …
(2) He turned then to American slavery, with his colleague at Rochester, Stanley Engerman. (Each successive project of Fogel’s has involved more and more work by teams, as his ambitions for cupta have grown.) Unlike the railroad book the essential plan of the work on slavery was not original with Fogel. The notion that one might view slavery, however vile its moral basis, as an efficient market arrangement had been adumbrated by Kenneth Stampp, Alfred H. Conrad, and John R. Meyer. But adumbration is not the same as painting in oils. Fogel and Engerman in the two volumes of Time on the Cross and in their massive subsequent work painted a picture of capitalism gone wrong, of slavery as an economic success that demanded political intervention to kill, and of a black work force that achieved much in bourgeois terms despite the lash…
Fogel was attacked as a racist in some circles and a running dog of capitalism in others. It is hard to imagine labels less apt. The sober truth is that he and the group of scholars he led greatly increased our understanding of American slavery. They were the first to take seriously the measurement of efficiency, of slave diets and physical conditions, and of the abuse of slaves. On other issues-such as the demography of the slave population-they permanently and substantially raised the level of debate. Any student of the compulsory labor systems that typified the workplace before the twentieth century must use Fogel and Engerman’s work, extended by their students and colleagues, and embodied now in the massive volumes of Without Consent or Contract.
To put it more broadly, neither the optimistic correlation of capitalism with freedom nor the pessimistic correlation of capitalism with misery make much sense. Fogel has done much additional work on the abolition movement, tracing its roots in political economy and especially in religious conviction. He has found that abolition was a close call, not inevitable, no automatic result of “modernization.” Nor was it a self-interested move of the middle class. A quantitative economist has ended by emphasizing the complexities of politics and the saliency of moral freedom. That is scientific integrity. Deirdre N. McCloskey
The problems of Railroad failure are perhaps as capital less correlated to their spatial (and temporal) capital construction. The 19th Century property integration of right of way and eminent domain enabling transport/communication network infrastructure help map the demographics and socio-cultural meaning onto the labor history of the US.
It is no different in the multi-level spectrum and network divisions of broadband and wireline development in 21st Century telecommunications that can be mapped against demographics and income data as digital redlining. Racism as the function of struggles of race and class divisions was always entwined with the history of communication infrastructure.
In Railroads and American Economic Growth, Fogel (1964) transformed the academic literature by using a social saving methodology to focus attention on counterfactuals: in the absence of railroads, freight transportation by rivers and canals would have been only moderately more expensive along most common routes. Small differences in freight rates can cause some areas to thrive relative to others, but the aggregate economic impact may be small.
This social saving methodology has been widely applied to transportation improvements and other technological innovations, though many scholars have discussed both practical and theoretical limitations of the approach (see, e.g., Lebergott 1966; Nerlove 1966; McClelland 1968; David 1969; White 1976; Fogel 1979).
There is an appeal to a methodology that estimates directly the impacts of railroads, using increasingly-available county-level data and digitized railroad maps. Recent work has compared counties that received railroads to counties that did not (Haines and Margo 2008; Atack and Margo 2010; Atack et al. 2010; Atack et al. 2011), and similar methods have been used to estimate impacts of railroads in modern China (Banerjee et al. 2010) or highways in the United States (Baum-Snow 2007; Michaels 2008). These studies estimate relative impacts of transportation improvements; for example, due to displacement and complementarities, areas without railroads and areas with previous railroads are also affected when railroads are extended to new areas.
Trains form an image of modern warfighting and Sherman’s Neckties in the destruction of Southern rail networks and the rise of the KKK are a symbol of the demodernizing dominance of the North shown with the later popular cinema of D.W Griffith.
“The General” is an epic of silent comedy, one of the most expensive films of its time, including an accurate historical recreation of a Civil War episode, hundreds of extras, dangerous stunt sequences, and an actual locomotive falling from a burning bridge into a gorge far below. It was inspired by a real event; the screenplay was based on the book “The Great Locomotive Chase,” written by William Pittenger, the engineer who was involved…The train’s obvious limitations provide Buster Keaton with ideas. An entire Southern retreat and Northern advance take place unnoticed behind him, while he chops wood.
Two sight gags involve his puzzlement when rail cars he thought were behind him somehow reappear in front of him. He sets up the locations along the way, so that he can exploit them differently on the way back. One famous sequence involves a cannon on a flat car, which Keaton wants to fire at the other train. He lights the fuse and runs back to the locomotive, only to see that the cannon has slowly reversed itself and is now pointed straight at him.
Trains running on time while apocryphal is a feature of this problem of minimal states and the space of secessionism as was the problem of telecommunication standards in Reconstruction telephone company development (Kenneth Lipartito, The Bell System and Regional Business: The Telephone in the South, 1877–1920 (Baltimore, 1989). Such territorial expansion also allows the mobility of both positive and negative hegemonic ideas about the Union and the reasons for the Civil War.
The mobility of seccessionist ideas lingering from Reconstruction in reactionary populations who remained in those geographic locations reified ideologies of psedo-sovereignty. Recent stupidity by anti-government ranchers has revealed the resilience of anachronistic and counter-hegemonic ideas, some driven by primitive religious ideologies. The relative autonomy of such enclaves as in Utah have spurred attempts to transfer public lands from Federal stewardship to state-level ownership as yet another example of capital privatization.
Mark Sumner on Italian fascism in the Trumpian USInstead of attacking corporations, that old socialist Mussolini repealed all taxes on capital investments and investment banking. He cut taxes for corporate officers in half. He eliminated the luxury tax. He forced Italian cities to sell off public functions to the private sector and followed suit by doing the same with parts of the federal government. He made a big deal out of balancing the budget and reducing federal programs. Every state monopoly from life insurance to telephone service was passed into private hands
As with interwar Italy the relation between political extremists and criminal networks can be seen in recent euro-terrorist activity.
Property inequity as always is about legal inequality and the maintenance of ruling class exploitation of the underclasses. Libertarian hoarding always trumps(sic) the greater good until the grifted catch up to the grifters. The train winds up in front of us.
According to William Cohan, a former Wall Street banker who has written frequently about billionaires, if the investor class were truly interested in targeting unfairness, its members would try to alter the policies of the Federal Reserve, which tend to help the rich, or do away with inequity-inducing programs such as tax incentives for hedge funds.
Cohan said that proposals such as increasing the minimum wage, a popular rallying cry among those decrying income inequality, would have, at best, a minimal effect on reducing the rift between ordinary people and the 1 per cent.
Most billionaires, he added, are apt to address inequality by donating portions of their fortunes, not by seeking systemic economic change. “Charity? Yes,” Cohan said. “But levelling the playing field? No.”
And yet the extremely wealthy do face an abiding risk from festering inequity: the have-nots might finally lose patience and turn upon the haves.
“That’s the real danger,” Cohan said. “This little thing called the French Revolution.”www.afr.com/…
Not unlike the need for Federal troops again in 1877 both withdrawn from the South and for Northern rail labor unrest suppression, firearms fetishism, and the suppression of people of color by legal and extralegal means seems quite familiar over a century later.
ERIC FONER: Well, the civil rights movement was sometimes called the Second Reconstruction, and that’s a good term, because all these issues became part of the national agenda in Reconstruction. And that was the period when the first national civil rights legislation was passed, the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The 14th and 15th Amendments were added to the Constitution…
ERIC FONER: We have police chiefs with tanks. We have people being shot who are unarmed. So, obviously, that is certainly happening. But, you know, the face of racism, to me, today is a guy in a three-piece suit, a banker at Wells Fargo, for example, who is pushing black people into subprime mortgages, and they’re going to lose their house, whereas a white person with exactly the same financial record is going into a better mortgage. So, you know, there is racism built into all sorts of institutions. Often it’s not quite as visible. But that’s part of what it means to analyze society, to see through the facade and see what’s really, you know, in the depths of the society…
AMY GOODMAN: Eric Foner, we want to thank you so much for being with us. Again, congratulations on your latest book. It’s called Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad. Professor Foner won the Pulitzer Prize for his book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. He also wrote Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877.
Property’s war with labor is so easily exemplified in the political economic thought of the period is no different today, simply more globalized.
When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world, “slavery” on the banner of Armed Revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century; when on those very spots counterrevolution, with systematic thoroughness, gloried in rescinding “the ideas entertained at the time of the formation of the old constitution”, and maintained slavery to be “a beneficent institution”, indeed, the old solution of the great problem of “the relation of capital to labor”, and cynically proclaimed property in man “the cornerstone of the new edifice” — then the working classes of Europe understood at once, even before the fanatic partisanship of the upper classes for the Confederate gentry had given its dismal warning, that the slaveholders’ rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy crusade of property against labor, and that for the men of labor, with their hopes for the future, even their past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. Everywhere they bore therefore patiently the hardships imposed upon them by the cotton crisis, opposed enthusiastically the proslavery intervention of their betters — and, from most parts of Europe, contributed their quota of blood to the good cause.
While the workingmen, the true political powers of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war. (Marx 1864)
The first Reconstruction briefly flourished after Emancipation, and the second Reconstruction ushered in meaningful progress in the civil rights era. But both were met by ferocious reactionary measures that severely curtailed, and in many cases rolled back, racial and economic progress. This Third Reconstruction is a profoundly moral awakening of justice-loving people united in a fusion coalition powerful enough to reclaim the possibility of democracy—even in the face of corporate-financed extremism.