from AndrewGavinMarshall Website
The Century of Social Engineering
I am not attempting to serve it justice here, as there is much left out of this historically examination than there is included.
The purpose of this essay is to examine first of all the rise of class and labour struggle throughout the United States in the 19th century, the rise and dominance of the 'Robber Baron' industrialists like J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, their convergence of interests with the state, and finally to examine the radical new philosophies and theories that arose within the radicalized and activated populations, such as Marxism and Anarchism.
not attempt to provide exhaustive or comprehensive analyses of these
theoretical and philosophical movements, but rather provide a brief glimpse
to some of the ideas (particularly those of anarchism), and place them in
the historical context of the mass struggles of the 19th century.
The 19th century, from roughly the
1830s onwards, was one great long labour struggle in America.
The new capitalists favored monopolization over competition as a method of achieving 'stability' and "security to your own property."
The state played its traditional role in securing business interests, as state legislatures gave charters to corporations, granting them legal charters, and,
However, as Howard Zinn wrote in A People's History of the United States:
In the 1830s, "episodes of insurrection" were taking place amid the emergence of unions.
Throughout the century, it was with each economic crisis that labor movements and rebellious sentiments would develop and accelerate. Such was the case with the 1837 economic crisis, caused by the banks and leading to rising prices.
Rallies and meetings started taking
place in several cities, with one rally numbering 20,000 people in
Philadelphia. That same year, New York experienced the Flour Riot. With a
third of the working class - 50,000 people - out of work in New York alone,
and nearly half of New York's 500,000 people living "in utter and hopeless
distress," thousands of protesters rioted, ultimately leading to police and
troops being sent in to crush the protesters.
Thus, middle class politicians,
Another economic crisis took place in 1857, and in 1860, a Mechanics Association was formed, demanding higher wages, and called for a strike.
Within a week, strikes spread from Lynn, Massachusetts, to towns across the state and into New Hampshire and Maine,
While European workers were struggling for economic justice and political democracy, American workers had already achieved political democracy, thus,
The Civil War (1861-1865) served several purposes.
First of all, the immediate economic considerations: the Civil War sought to create a single economic system for America, driven by the Eastern capitalists in the midst of the Industrial Revolution, uniting with the West against the slave-labor South. The aim was not freedom for black slaves, but rather to end a system which had become antiquated and unprofitable.
With the Industrial Revolution driving people into cities and mechanizing production, the notion of slavery lost its appeal: it was simply too expensive and time consuming to raise, feed, house, clothe and maintain slaves; it was thought more logical and profitable (in an era obsessed with efficiency) to simply pay people for the time they engage in labor.
The Industrial Revolution brought with it the
clock, and thus time itself became a commodity. As slavery was indicative of
human beings being treated as commodities to be bought and sold, owned and
used, the Industrial Revolution did not liberate people from servitude and
slavery, it simply updated the notions and made more efficient the system of
slavery: instead of purchasing people, they would lease them for the time
they can be 'productive'.
Thus, as the Civil War was sold to the public on the notion of liberating the slaves in the South, the workers of the North felt betrayed and hateful that they must be drafted and killed for a war to liberate others when they themselves were struggling for liberation.
Here, we see the social control methods and reorganizing of society that can take place through war, a fact that has always existed and remains today, made to be even more prescient with the advances in technology. During the Civil War, the class conflict among the working people of the United States transformed into a system where they were divided against each other, as religious and racial divisions increasingly erupted in violence.
With the Conscription Act of 1863, draft riots erupted in several Northern U.S. cities, the most infamous of which was the New York draft riots, when for three days mobs of rioters attacked recruiting stations, wealthy homes, destroying buildings and killing blacks. Roughly four hundred people were killed after Union troops were called into the city to repress the riots.
In the South, where the vast majority of people
were not slave owners, but in fact poor white farmers "living in shacks or
abandoned outhouses, cultivating land so bad the plantation owners had
abandoned it," making little more than blacks for the same work (30 cents a
day for whites as opposed to 20 cents a day for blacks). When the Southern
Confederate Conscription Law was implemented in 1863, anti-draft riots
erupted in several Southern cities as well.
In New York alone, 100,000 people lived in slums. These conditions brought a surge in labor unrest and struggle, as 100,000 went on strike in New York, unions were formed, with blacks forming their own unions.
However, the National Labor Union itself suppressed the struggle for rights as it focused on 'reforming' economic conditions (such as promoting the issuance of paper money),
Yet, economic crises, while being harmful to the vast majority of people, increasing prices and decreasing jobs and wages, had the effect of being very beneficial to the new industrialists and financiers, who use crisis as an opportunity to wipe out competition and consolidate their power. Howard Zinn elaborated:
In 1877, a nation-wide railroad strike took place, infuriating the major railroad barons, particularly J.P. Morgan, offered to lend money to pay army officers to go in and crush the strikes and get the trains moving, which they managed to accomplish fairly well.
Strikes took place and soldiers were sent in to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Indiana, with the whole city of Philadelphia in uproar, with a general strike emerging in Pittsburgh, leading to the deployment of the National Guard, who often shot and killed strikers.
When all was said and done, a hundred people were dead, a thousand people had gone to jail, 100,000 workers had gone on strike, and the strikes had roused into action countless unemployed in the cities.
Following this period, America underwent its greatest spur of economic growth in its history, with elites from both North and South working together against workers and blacks and the majority of people:
The bankers and industrialists, particularly Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Mellon and Harriman, saw enormous increases in wealth and power. At the turn of the century, as Rockefeller moved from exclusively interested in oil, and into iron, copper, coal, shipping, and banking (with Chase Manhattan Bank, now J.P. Morgan Chase), his fortune would equal $2 billion. The Morgan Group also had billions in assets.
In 1900, Andrew Carnegie agreed to sell his
steel company to J.P. Morgan for $492 million.
had continued and exacerbated throughout the decades following the Civil
War. In 1893, another economic depression took place, and the country was
again plunged into social upheaval.
The Supreme Court went along with this reasoning, and even intervened in state legislative decisions which instead promoted the rights of workers and farmers.
It was in this context that increasing social unrest was taking place, and thus that new methods of social control were becoming increasingly necessary.
Among the restless and disgruntled masses, were radical new
social theories that had emerged to fill a void - a void which was created
by the inherent injustice of living in a human social system in which there
is a dehumanizing power structure.
While these various critical philosophies expanded human kind's understanding of the world around them, they did not emerge in a vacuum - that is, separate from various hegemonic ideas, but rather, they were themselves products of and to varying degrees espoused certain biases inherent in the hegemonic ideologies.
This arose in the context of increasing class conflict in both the United States and Europe, brought about as a result of the Industrial Revolution.
Two of the pre-eminent ideologies and philosophies that emerged were,
Marxist theory, originating with German philosopher Karl Marx, expanded human kind's understanding of the nature of capitalism and human society as a constant class struggle, in which the dominant class (the bourgeoisie), who own the means of production (industry) exploit the lower labor class (proletariat) for their own gain.
Within Marxist theory, the state itself was seen as a conduit through which economic powers would protect their own interests. Marxist theory espoused the idea of a "proletarian revolution" in which the "workers of the world unite" and overthrow the bourgeoisie, creating a Communist system in which class is eliminated.
However, Karl Marx articulated a concept of a "dictatorship of the proletariat" in which upon seizing power, the proletariat would become the new ruling class, and serve its own interests through the state to effect a transition to a Communist society and simultaneously prevent a counterrevolution from the bourgeoisie. Karl Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto (1848) also on the need for a central bank to manage the monetary system.
These concepts led to
significant conflict between Marxist and Anarchist theorists.
No other philosophy or political theory had the potential to unite both socialists and libertarians, two seemingly opposed concepts that found a home within the wide spectrum of anarchist thought, leading to a situation in which many anarchists refer to themselves as 'libertarian socialists.'
As Nathan Jun has pointed out:
Susan Brown noted that within Anarchist philosophy,
The word "anarchy" is derived from the Greek word anarkhos, which means "without authority."
Thus, anarchy "is committed first and foremost to the universal rejection of coercive authority," and that:
The first theorist to describe himself as anarchist was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, a French philosopher and socialist who understood,
While this was a common concept among socialists, anarchist conceptions of equality emphasized that,
Mikhail Bakunin, one of the most prominent anarchist theorists in history, who was also Karl Marx's greatest intellectual challenger and opposition, explained that individual freedom depends upon not only recognizing, but "cooperating in [the] realization of others' freedom," as, he wrote:
Anarchists view representative forms of government, such as Parliamentary democracies, with the same disdain as they view overtly totalitarian structures of government.
The reasoning is that:
Mikhail Bakunin wrote that,
Thus, with any hierarchical or coercive
institutions, the natural result is oppression and domination, or in other
words, spiritual death.
The first anarchists in America could be said to be,
These various religious groups came to develop,
One of the leaders of these religious groups, Adin Ballou, declared that,
Thus, a Christian,
This development occurred within the first
decades of the 19th century in America.
Many others joined Warren in identifying the state as "the enemy" and,
Philosophical anarchism grew in popularity, and in the 1860s, two loose federations of anarchists were formed in the New England Labor Reform League and the American Labor Reform League, which,
American anarchists were simultaneously developing similar outlooks and ideas as Proudhon was developing in Europe.
One of the most prominent American anarchists, Benjamin Tucker, translated Proudhon's work in 1875, and started his own anarchist journals and publications, becoming,
Tucker viewed anarchism as,
Thus, Tucker, like other anarchists,
Anarchism has widely been viewed as a violent philosophy, and while that may be the case for some theorists and adherents, many anarchist theorists and philosophies rejected the notion of violence altogether.
After all, its first adherents in America were driven to anarchist theory simply as a result of their uncompromising pacifism.
For the likes of Tucker and other influential anarchist theorists,
Thus, the act of revolution,
Revolution, to anarchists, was not an imminent reality, even though it may be an inevitable outcome:
In the 1880s, anarchism was taken up by many of the radical immigrants coming into America from Europe, such as Johann Most and Emma Goldman, a Jewish Russian feminist anarchist.
The press portrayed Goldman "as a vile and unsavory devotee of revolutionary violence." Goldman partook in an attempted assassination of Henry C. Frick, an American industrialist and financier, historically known as one of the most ruthless businessmen and referred to as "the most hated man in America."
This was saying something in the era of J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. Emma Goldman later regretted the attempted assassination and denounced violence as an anarchist methodology.
However, she came to acknowledge a view similar to Kropotkin's (another principle anarchist philosopher), "that violence is the natural consequence of repression and force":
The general belief was that,
Thus we have come to take a brief glimpse of the social upheaval and philosophies gripping and spreading across the American (and indeed the European) landscape in the 19th century.
As a radical reaction to the revolutionizing changed brought by the Industrial Revolution, class struggle, labor unrest, Marxism and Anarchism arose within a populace deeply unsatisfied, horrifically exploited, living in desperation and squalor, and lighting within them a spark - a desire - for freedom and equality.
They were not ideologically or methodologically unified, specifically in terms of the objectives and ends; yet, their enemies were the same. It as a struggle among the people against the prevailing and growing sources of power: the state and Capitalist industrialization. The emergence of corporations in America after the Civil War (themselves a creation of the state), created new manifestations of exploitation, greed and power.
The Robber Barons were
the personification of 'evil' and in fact were quite openly and brazenly
ruthless. The notion of 'public relations' had not yet been invented, and so
the industrialists would openly and violently repress and crush struggles,
strikes and protests. The state was, after all, firmly within their grip.