by Al Benson Jr.
Member, Board of Directors, Confederate Society of America
2018 is the 170th anniversary of the 1848 socialist/communist revolts in Europe that I have so often written about. The year I was born, 1938, was only the 90th anniversary of those revolts. When I was born they were less than a century past. Just goes to show you how fast time passes when you’re having fun.
Often I have reflected back on those revolts and how they have affected our history in this country and just who was ultimately responsible for those revolts. I think you can trace the original sources responsible for those revolts back to the French Revolution and those that hired a third-rate political hack, Karl Marx, to write the Communist Manifesto.
From time to time I check out the internet to see what has been posted there about the Forty-Eighter socialists lately. There is material about them on the internet that was not there when Donnie Kennedy and I wrote our book, Lincoln’s Marxists, several years ago. This proves that this is a subject that is still of interest and concern to some folks, because new material always seems to be turning up. Some of the people posting new material don’t always get the history right, but at least they are still discussing it, or propagandizing about it, depending on which side of the spectrum they are coming from.
One article I came across recently was from October of 2012. It was on https://rosamondpress.com and the headline for the article was Forty-Eighter Socialists Found Republican Party which is a bit of an understatement. The article was a bit of a mixed bag, but the author noted that: “Jessie and John Fremont were friends with Louis Kossuth who lived with Mazzini in Britain for three years. The Freemont bodyguards were foreign socialists. Folks who think Obama is a socialist are morons.” I reckon that makes me one of the head morons in the country, though I have lots of company. The author of this internet article was right about the Fremonts and totally in error regarding Comrade Obama.
The author noted: “The Forty-Eighters were Europeans who participated in or supported the socialist revolutions of 1848 that swept Europe. In Germany, the Forty-Eighters favored unification of the German people, a more democratic government, and guarantees of human rights.” The accuracy of that statement begs the question of how you define “a more democratic government” and the “guarantees of human rights” are for who??? Bear in mind that those on the Left do not always define such nebulous terms the way we have been conditioned to define them.
There was also an article about Carl Schurz on the New York Times opinion pages in June of 2012 by Andre M. Fleche in which he dealt with Schurz and the Forty-Eighters. Fleche observed that before the 1848 revolts “…the German states were a divided patchwork of independent and absolutist kingdoms, and many people, including Schurz, dreamed of a strong German nation that would earn respect abroad and protect freedoms at home.” What he is really saying here is that these people wanted a strong, centralized government–and, in all honesty, where have you ever heard of such a government “protecting freedoms?” Mostly such governments work at dispensing with freedoms–they seldom protect them. So what the Forty-Eighters claimed they wanted was really at odds with the kind of government they advocated to get it. Were the Forty-Eighters aware of this. Most undoubtedly were. A few among the less politically aware among them had probably not thought it through. Fleche said: “The Forty-Eighters, as they came to be known, brought with them (to America) their commitments to participatory democracy and radical reform.” The key word here is “radical.” Again, these comments depend on how you define “democracy” and the Leftists do not define it as normal Americans do. He observed that the German socialist revolutionaries were really hostile to slavery. He neglected to mention that they were, the majority of them, Freethinkers, and therefore, also hostile to Christianity. That little tidbit usually gets left out of articles about these people.
When the War started, Lincoln planned to use Schurz as a US representative to Europe, and he bundles him off to Spain. Although the frustrated Schurz went, he didn’t stay all that long. He felt that “…a true revolutionary belonged in the field…” Having taken part in the 1848 socialist revolts, he wanted a military command. According to Fleche: “He finally got his chance in 1862. In April, Congress confirmed his appointment as brigadier general, and in June he joined John C. Fremont’s command in the Shenandoah Valley. There he was reunited with fellow Forty-Eighters Franz Sigel, Alexander von Schimmelfennig and many others who had fought for freedom in Germany. Together, their presence in the Army would endow the Union cause with a moral urgency and worldwide significance.” You will have to pardon me, please, if I make one small comment about this last statement of Fleche’s–it’s total rubbish!!!
We have to learn to get it through our thick heads that the Forty-Eighters did not, ever fight for freedom in the sense that Americans understand that word. If we take Fleche at face value, collectivism is supposed to represent freedom. So we should ask the question–for who, and to do what? Fleche is an assistant professor of history at Castleton State College, or at least he was when he wrote this. He is also the author of a book–The Revolution of 1861: The American Civil War in the Age of Nationalist Conflict. I haven’t had a chance to read the book, but it’s interesting that he recognizes the War as a revolution. So did Karl Marx!
Professor Fleche also wrote an article that appeared on http://jacobinmag.com called America’s First Red Scare. Sorry, I don’t have a date for this one. I don’t recall one on the article I read but you may be able to do a search by typing in the article name and author. In this instance, Fleche was, naturally, referring to the Forty-Eighters just before (and during) the War. He noted Confederate sympathizers in Missouri saying “These reds and forty-eighters are to blame for everything.” He noted that such complaints sounded like what we heard in the “Red Scares” in the early twentieth century. And he commented: “Though little recalled today, in the years before the Civil War Americans debated not only the future of slavery but also the future of free wage labor. Americans argued over the merits of socialism, communism, and the meaning of the revolutions that has swept the Western world during the preceding century. The Civil War engaged all of these issues.” Even Fleche has to admit that the whole thing was lots more complicated than deciding what to do about the slavery issue, which was peripheral at best.
He noted that Southern intellectuals, some of whom were clergymen, were very concerned about the direction the North was going in, theologically as well as politically. They took a long look at what was happening in the North (rank apostasy) and decided the South would be much better off without all that socialist drivel. Seeing where socialism (progressivism) has taken us in our day, can you blame them for wanting to avoid it?
All the problems we had in 1848 and in 1861-65 and following, we are still beset with today. The War solved none of them. It was never intended to. Rather it amplified many of them–as it was intended to, while the perpetrators of these problems sought to cover up the fact that they existed.
The spiritual descendants of the Forty-Eighters remain with us today. They are alive and well, mostly in soft political positions in Washington and various state capitols–where they are still at work, Trump notwithstanding, to implement the agenda of their ideological ancestors.
Taken from The Copperhead Chronicle newsletter for the first quarter of 2018