This is a repost from the PSL website:
Confederate anniversary no reason for celebration
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
By: Austin Thompson
Say no to racism!
The Southern region of the United States has a rich tapestry of cultural tradition that includes contributions from Blacks, whites and Indigenous nations. Unfortunately, this collective tradition is constantly overshadowed by a perverted version of white Southern history that shackles the region’s past to the ghosts of 19th-century slaveholders.
Slavery: the true legacy of the Confederacy
The New York Times and other sources are reporting that scores of southerners are planning to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Confederacy’s secession from the United States next year without addressing the legacy of slavery at all. The N.A.A.C.P. has already announced its intention to protest.
Earlier this year, conservative politicians like Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Bob McDonnell of Virginia supported the creation of official holidays celebrating the history of the Confederacy—11 Southern slaveholding states that seceded from the U.S. in 1860 and 1861. Naturally, African-Americans are horrified that public figures can memorialize the Confederate states, despite the hellish abuses suffered by enslaved Blacks in the antebellum South.
Racism is inseparable from Confederate history
Many well-intentioned white southerners have been bombarded with propaganda that the secession of the South was about “states’ rights” and not about slavery, but this is a deep misunderstanding of the Civil War. The principal “right” that the Confederacy defended was the right of a tiny white slaveholding class to own Black laborers as their personal property. In fact, immediately after declaring independence, the Confederacy explicitly made it illegal under their constitution to limit or prohibit slavery.
Revolutionaries recognize the right of all oppressed nations to self-determination and equality, but that does not mean support for wars for independence in every historical circumstance. Our critical position toward the Confederacy is totally justified by a Marxist analysis of the social and class composition of the Old South.
The South had an elaborate class society, held together by a racist ideology of Black inferiority. The ideology of white supremacy was so pervasive that even the writer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, was a proud racist and Southern slave-owner. Under this system, enslaved Africans were brutalized, sexually assaulted and exploited to fuel the birth of a productive economic system in the “New World.”
Contrary to conventional wisdom, poor whites were not equal beneficiaries of the slave system, and white skin privilege was not enough to save most from lives of squalor and hardship.
Despite propaganda in popular films like “Gone With the Wind” that Southern slave society was a “kind” and “gentle” community tied together by values and a prosperous social order, by the time the Civil War began it was an obsolete productive system defined by repression and an insatiable desire for Westward expansion into indigenous lands.
The secession of the Southern Confederacy was a failed effort by the slaveholder class to legitimize and defend their decaying social order through violence. While many white southerners are taught that the Civil War was an offensive by the North against the South, it was actually the aggressive provocations of the slaveholders to maintain their privileges and power that sparked the conflict.
Confederate defeat was a giant leap forward
Regardless of the contradictions within the Union and abolitionist movement leading up to the Civil War, the victory of rebellious slaves, northern free Blacks and abolitionists against the Southern Confederacy was a progressive moment in both American and world history. The destruction of the Confederacy set the stage for a second American revolution during the post-Civil War era, called Reconstruction.
Sadly, this potential revolution was undone by vitriolic hate and institutional racism that maintained a system of Black oppression. Elites were insulated from the threat of rebellion by white workers, by the use of racist ideology that divided the exploited classes. The 150-year celebration of Southern independence from the Union (independence for white southerners only) is more than a simple confusion of history. Reactionaries will use the anniversary to send a message that they are prepared to use violent force again to prevent any profound political or social reform by “big government.”
The celebration of the Southern Confederacy is not only insensitive to African-Americans whose ancestors were victims of slave society, but it also exhibits a callous disregard for the current confrontations of Black communities with racist institutions and discrimination. All progressive and revolutionary people should use this anniversary of the Confederacy as a moment to bring attention to the historical and on-going struggles against racism and exploitation in the South.