The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Monuments to Terror

Aug 26, 2017

Trump declared that “our history and heritage” are being “ripped apart” by the removal of Confederate monuments and statues.

Which history? Whose heritage?

These monuments to the “Confederacy” were not erected out of respect to the hundreds of thousands of laboring people, North and South, black and white, who died in the Civil War.

Nor do they commemorate the many poor whites and ex-slaves who joined together to run local Reconstruction governments after the Civil War – establishing the first medical clinics for the poor population, setting up the first public schools for the children of the poor, black and white.

The “Confederate” monuments came later, a quarter to a half a century after the end of the Civil War. They were paid for by the same plantation aristocracy whose money supported the growth of the Ku-Klux Klan. The monuments were erected as justification for an unending terrorism, which aimed to crush a black population that wouldn’t be pushed back into slavery.

In 1893, 186 people were lynched – 186 men, women and even children in just that one year. Undoubtedly, there were many times more than that – but 186 could be documented by court records and newspaper accounts written by editors who approved of the lynching and published pictures.

These were horrific deaths. Not only were people hung from trees, they were often sexually mutilated and/or burned while still alive.

Thousands of people were lynched, mostly black, but not only. Anyone who opposed the rule of a moneyed landowning class could be targeted. White sharecroppers who tried to organize the poor were also lynched. Populists. Socialists. Union organizers. Jewish people. Sometimes Italians or other darker skin Europeans.

There was unending violence aimed at wiping out all traces of solidarity between poor white and poor black.

So, if Trump wants to talk about history, let’s talk about history. THIS history.

These statues are the concrete face of a history of terrorism – and of dangerous, virulent lies about an idyllic South that never existed.

Such statues don’t exist only in the South. Dearborn Michigan has its statue of Orville Hubbard, the openly racist mayor who famously declared that he wanted “all niggers out of this town by sundown.” Maryland had statues to Roger Taney, the Supreme Court justice who authored the “Dred Scot decision,” which held that black people have no rights that white people are legally required to honor. And what about all those statues strewn throughout the United States proclaiming “victory” over Indian tribes that were exterminated so that the lands they inhabited could be stolen? No, the South hardly stands alone in its celebration of racist violence. Nor in its rush to lynch. Mexicans were lynched in the Southwest. Chinese in California. IWW in the West. Black people in the Midwest.

Of course, many people are outraged that these monuments still exist, justifying the same violence they were originally erected to justify.

But these statues and monuments are only a symptom – of a class society that was born in slavery, and still suffers from the after-effects of this monstrous evil. They are the symptoms of the conscious effort made by the ruling classes of this country, whether Southern plantation owners or Northern capitalists, to divide the laboring people against each other.

That effort to divide the laboring people has not gone away. Trump is the symptom of it today – but, still, only the symptom. Behind Trump stands the disease: a capitalist system based on exploitation, robbery and plunder of all working people. A system whose accumulation of wealth goes hand in hand with racism.

Getting rid of a symptom is not the same as getting rid of the disease. Those who are appalled by the symptoms need look beyond them to the disease. And capitalism is the disease that must be uprooted, pulled out, destroyed – replaced by a communal system built by all laboring people.