By Al Benson Jr.
The Communist website http://www.worker-communist.org carries quite a bit of commentary on the War of Northern Aggression. This site claims that the War brought the communists in America and those in Europe “back into regular contact.” Actually, that contact had never been severed. Actually it was reinforced due to the “news” items that appeared in Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune and the New York Daily Herald that were written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Even “Civil War historians” according to the Communist website, have been forced to admit how important Marx’s articles were. If they’ve been forced to admit that, then they must have limited their admissions to each other because they sure haven’t bothered writing enough about it to inform the American public. This has been one of those little secrets among the “historians” that has been studiously ignored, or if dealt with, they briefly mention it in one or two sentences—not enough to give folks any real information.
The Communists claimed that by the end of the War of Northern Aggression, all of the pieces were in place for “an explosive growth of the movement in the U.S. The mass exposure of workers in the U.S.—both ‘native’ and immigrant—to communist political figures and ideas during the war made it possible for the movement to move beyond its previous organizational forms as propaganda societies and ‘experiments’ and work directly toward becoming a mass force in American politics.” I don’t know if they were quite as influential as they like to let on, but they were definitely in place in this country and making their presence felt.
For instance, their website contains a photo of Wendell Phillips, and the caption under his photo says: “…renowned abolitionist who joined the International Working Men’s Association and became a self-described communist following the end of the Civil War.” What book have you ever read that told you this about Wendell Phillips?
The Worker article had a little more interesting info. It stated that: “In 1866, an emissary for the IWMA,…came to the U.S. and met with prominent leftwing Republicans Charles Sumner, Wendell Phillips and Horace Greeley. Orsini interviewed each of them and, when finished, all three joined the International. At the time, Sumner was also the senior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, thus it can be argued that he was the first elected communist official in U.S. history (albeit one who was not elected as a communist per se). Phillips pledged to donate money he received from his lectures and speeches to the International, and Greeley became a regular publicist for both Marx and the International.” More “memory hole” material! And the article refers to “leftwing Republicans. The Republican Party was already to the left in the 1860s. I guess these guys must have been to the left of left.
These people are mentioned in yet another article on http://www.columbia.edu entitled Marx, Woodhull and Sorge. The article notes: “The people who launched a section of the Communist International in the USA were veteran radicals, who had fought against slavery and for women’s rights for many years. They saw the emerging anti-capitalist struggles in Europe, most especially the Paris Commune of 1871, as consistent with their own. They saw revolutionary socialism as the best way to guarantee of the broader democratic movement…The names of some of the early recruits should give you an indication of the political character of the new movement. Included were abolitionists Horace Greeley, Wendell Phillips and Charles Sumner. Feminist Victoria Woodhull joined in and put her magazine Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly at its disposal. The weekly not only included communications from Karl Marx, but spiritualist musings from Woodhull. The native radical movement of the 1870s was a mixed bag. Socialism, anti-racism, feminism, pacifism and spiritualism co-existed comfortably…Victoria Woodhull was unquestionably the biggest irritant, since she defended all these deviations while at the same time she spoke out forcefully for free love, the biggest deviation imaginable in the Victorian age.”
Even the book Radical Spirits by Ann Braude mentions Woodhull in this connection. Braude comments on her “…participation in the formation of Section 12 of the socialist International Workingman’s Association (commonly known as the First International), both of which offered great potential for Woodhulls self-promotion.”
Way back in 1999, about ten years this side of the Neanderthal period, I did an article for my old website http://www.csa-dixie.com/copperheadchronicle which, believe it or not, is still up there, though nothing has been added to it for years now, called Beast Butler and the Free Love Feminist. It goes into the unusual political relationship between the Beast and Ms. Woodhull in which the Beast, then in Congress, arranged for Ms. Woodhull to speak before the congressional committee he was part of. This was somewhat unusual for the day, but then, we are dealing with leftists here all around and so anything they can get by with goes.
Even Wikipedia cannot dodge Woodhull’s involvement with the far left. On http://en.wikipedia.org we are informed that “Woodhull joined the International Workingmen’s Association, also known as the First International. She supported it goals by articles in her newspaper. In the United States, many Yankee radicals, former abolitionists and other progressive activists became involved in the organization which had been founded in England.” However, all was not well in Marxist la-la land in this country. Because in 1871 the Germans managed to expel most English-speaking members in the First International’s U.S affiliates, which contributed to a speedy decline of the group here. Imagine, a communist group founded in London expelling English-speaking members in this country. And even though Woodhull and promoted Marx and his excuses for writing, he approved the expulsions which gave her the boot along with others. There’s just no gratefulness among communists and socialists!
Even though Lincoln had gone to his eternal reward, whatever that might be, in 1865, just about all the people mentioned here in connection with the International Workingman’s Association had had come connection with him somewhere over on the far left of the political spectrum in the Republican Party with the possible exception of Ms. Woodhull, and she had connections with Beast Butler.
I couldn’t possibly go into it all here, but there was an amazing interlocking relationship between many of these people, Republicans, communists, socialists, abolitionists and others that all, to one degree or another, supported each other’s socialist agendas.
Even Hollyweird has, to a limited extent, had to acknowledge Lincoln’s leftism and that of his associates. In a short article on http://www.breitbart.com the actor Tommy Lee Jones notes “Lincoln’s GOP was left-wing.” Jones is supposed to be somewhat of a history expert so he just might know what lots of others don’t seem to grasp. Lincoln’s Republican Party was left-wing. So was Lincoln. Our problems with socialism and communism in this country go back much further than most folks really want to think about. To sum up, might I suggest folks reading Walter Kennedy’s and my book ““Lincoln’s Marxists”? If you don’t want to spend the money to buy it then see if your local library can get a copy so you can read it for free, but read it either way.