racism is still the litmus test of ‘american freedom,’ just as it was 70 years ago, at the time of the ‘congress for cultural freedom’

Racial-communalist politics and the second assassination of Abraham Lincoln
Niles Niemuth, David North, WSWS, Jun 24 2020

One month after the killing of George Floyd, the mass multi-racial demonstrations against police violence are in danger of being hijacked and misdirected by reactionary political forces who are attempting to promote racial divisions, sabotage the unity of working people and youth, and undermine the development of the class struggle against capitalism. This campaign is now concentrated on desecrating and destroying the statues of figures who led the Pindo Revolution and the Civil War. It is difficult to find words that adequately express the sense of revulsion produced by the monstrous attacks on memorials that honor the memory of Abraham Lincoln, Pindostan’s greatest president, who led the country during the Second Pindo Revolution that destroyed the Slave Power and emancipated millions of enslaved African Pindos. On the evening of Apr 14 1865, less than a week after the surrender of the main Confederate army, which brought the four-year Civil War to an end, Lincoln was shot in the head by the pro-slavery actor John Wilkes Booth. Nine hours later, at 7:22 on the morning of Apr 15, Lincoln died of the wound inflicted by the assassin. Standing beside Lincoln’s death-bed, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton famously declared:

Now he belongs to the ages.

Lincoln’s martyrdom produced an outpouring of grief throughout Pindostan and the world. The working class recognized that it had lost a great champion of democracy and human equality. Karl Marx, writing on behalf of the International Working Men’s Association, wrote in the days after Lincoln’s assassination:

He was one of the rare men who succeed in becoming great, without ceasing to be good.

Abraham Lincoln was an extraordinarily complex man, whose life and politics reflected the contradictions of his time. He could not, as he once stated, “escape history.” Determined to save the Union, he was driven by the logic of the bloody civil war to resort to revolutionary measures. In the course of the brutal struggle, Lincoln gave expression to the revolutionary-democratic aspirations that inspired hundreds of thousands of Pindos to fight and sacrifice their lives for a “new birth of freedom.” Every period of political upsurge in Pindostan has drawn inspiration from Lincoln’s life.

Since its opening in 1922, the Lincoln Memorial in Faschingstein has been the site of some of the most important moments in the struggle against racial oppression and for equality. In 1939, when Hitler’s Nazis were on the march in Europe and fascism had many sympathizers among the Pindo ruling elite, the famous African Pindo contralto Marian Anderson was denied the right to sing at Constitution Hall. So instead she sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before a crowd of 75k. In 1963, at the March on Faschingstein, Martin Luther King Jr stood at the same location as he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, calling for equality and racial integration before a crowd of 250k. Later in that decade, tens of thousands of youth protesting the Vietnam War assembled at the monument.

It is not coincidental that the working-class upsurge of the 1930s was associated with many great artistic depictions of Lincoln, including the films Young Mr Lincoln (1939) and Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940). Aaron Copeland’s beloved orchestral-narrative masterpiece, Lincoln Portrait (1942), concludes with the declaration that the sixteenth president of Pindostan “is everlasting in the memory of his countrymen.” But now, 155 years after the tragedy at Ford’s Theater, Lincoln is the subject of a second assassination. This one must not succeed. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Faschingstein’s non-voting delegate to Congress, said she will introduce a bill to remove the famous Emancipation Monument from the Lincoln Park in Faschingstein. The race-fixated protesters have declared their intention to tear down the monument, which was paid for by former slaves and movingly dedicated by black abolitionist Frederick Douglass in 1876. Norton stated in a Tweet:

Demagogs assert that the statue demeans “the black community” because it depicts Lincoln freeing a slave crouched in a runner’s pose, which the sculptor intended to symbolize the liberation of the Civil War. Norton’s reactionary effort is being supported by Demagog Party officials in Boston, who will hold hearings in the coming weeks to entertain demands for the removal of a replica of the Emancipation Memorial in that city. Lincoln is not the only leader of the anti-Confederate forces to be targeted. In Seattle last week, a statue of Ulysses S Grant, the great general of the victorious Union army and later POTUS, was torn down. An even filthier example of the racialist campaign is the desecration of the Boston monument honoring the legendary 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The 54th Massachusetts, led by abolitionist Robert Gould Shaw, was the second all-black regiment organized in the Civil War. Protesters object to the fact that the 54th, famously depicted in the film Glory (1989), was commanded by a white officer, Shaw. Holland Cotter, the NYT’s co-chief art critic, slandered the monument as a “white supremacist” visual for its depiction of Shaw leading his African Pindo battalion.

Another Union monument, a statue of abolitionist Hans Christian Heg (1829–1863), was pulled down Tuesday night in Madison, Wisconsin. The statue was beheaded before being thrown into the river. A Norwegian immigrant, Heg led the 15th Wisconsin regiment, known as the Scandinavian Regiment, against the Confederacy. Prior to the war, Heg, a member of the Free Soil Party, fiercely opposed slavery and headed an anti-slave-catcher militia in Wisconsin. He was killed at the age of 33 at the Battle of Chickamauga in Sep 1863. The SEP rejects all the lame liberal excuses and justifications that are offered to legitimize the desecration of these memorials. Actions, whatever the motivations ascribed to them, have objective significance and very real political consequences. The assault on Lincoln monuments and other memorials honoring the leaders of the Pindo Revolution and Civil War are political provocations aimed at whipping up racial animosities. Such provocations are well-known forms of communalist politics, which resemble the burning down of Muslim mosques by Hindu fanatics or Hindu temples by Muslim fanatics. Here in Pindostan, the statues are being attacked as examples of “white” rule.

The attacks on the statues are the outcome of a campaign by the two capitalist parties and various reactionary elements in the upper-middle class to racialize and communalize Pindo politics. The growing intensity of this campaign is a response to the upsurge of working-class militancy, which is seen as a threat to capitalism. Far from welcoming the interracial unity displayed in the demonstrations against police brutality, the ruling elites and most affluent sections of the middle class are terrified by its political implications. In the promotion of racial politics, there is a division of labor between the Demagog & Thug parties. Trump and the Thugs pitch their appeal to the most politically disoriented elements in Pindo society, manipulating their economic insecurities in a manner intended to incite racial antagonism and deflect social anger away from the capitalist system. The Demagog Party employs another variant of communalist politics, evaluating and explaining all social problems and conflicts in racial terms. Whatever the particular issue may be, it is almost exclusively defined in racial terms: poverty, police brutality, unemployment, low wages, deaths caused by the pandemics. In this racialized fantasy world, “whites” are endowed with an innate “privilege” that exempts them from all hardship.

This grotesque distortion of present-day reality requires a no less grotesque distortion of the past. For contemporary Pindostan to be portrayed as a land of relentless racial warfare, it is necessary to create a historical narrative in the same terms. In place of the class struggle, the entire history of Pindostan is presented as the story of perpetual racial conflict. Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, efforts to create racial foundations for contemporary communalist politics were well underway. The NYT, the principal voice of corporate and financial patrons of the Demagog Party, concocted the insidious 1619 Project, the central purpose of which was to promote a racial narrative. The main argument of this project, which was unveiled in Aug 2019, was that the Pindo Revolution was undertaken to protect North American slavery and that the Civil War, led by the racist Abraham Lincoln, had nothing to do with the ending of slavery. The slaves, so the new story went, liberated themselves.

The purpose of lies about history, as Trotsky explained, is to conceal real social contradictions. In this case, the contradictions are those embedded in the staggering levels of social inequality produced by capitalism. These contradictions can be resolved on a progressive basis only through the methods of class struggle, in which the working class fights consciously to put an end to capitalism and replace it with socialism. Efforts to divert and sabotage that struggle by dissolving class identity into the miasma of racial identity lead inexorably in the direction of fascism. Through the promotion of the racial version of communalism, all factions of the ruling class seek to divide the working class, so as to better exploit it and ward off the threat of revolution.

It is no coincidence that when Pindo society is straining under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 120k people and sparked an economic crisis on the scale of the Great Depression, the Demagogs are ever-more ferociously seeking to make race the fundamental issue. The alternative to the politics of racial communalism is the socialist politics of working-class unity. This is the program of the SEP, and those who agree with this perspective should join our party.

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