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LUMPENPROLETARIATU.S. HISTORY: After the American Civil War (1861-1865), the USA could have fully reconstructed the American South to denounce, not only slavery, but also racism, once and for all. But, instead, the post-Civil War South began to fetishize the Antebellum South, as Confederacy veterans began dying off of old age and some southerners decided to venerate the Confederate States of America (CSA) ‘war heroes’ and whatnot. Nobody put them in check. Groups, like the United Daughters of the Confederacy, started putting up statues of CSA military figures around the South and spreading pro-CSA propaganda. And the “Lost Cause” myth began to take shape and take on a life of its own.

Imagine if Germany did something like that after WWII in the 1950s and ’60s, allowed some Germans to start building Nazi tribute statues around West Germany; and Nazism was left unchecked, to be venerated, praised, and celebrated with statues and other memorials. The world wouldn’t stand for it. But Americans did. Why have so many tolerated the American fetishization of the Antebellum South, of which the defining institution was slavery?

Intentionally or not, this veneration of the CSA in the South, and through cultural diffusion, the North, Midwest, and West, would come to dramatically enmesh Southern identity with the CSA, whether racially-motivated or not. That’s how we get to the point 100 years later, where 1980s TV shows, like The Dukes of Hazzard, become popular culture. And, somehow, the show was not boycotted for featuring the American equivalent of a Nazi flag on the roof of the “General Lee” supercar, the star of the show. [1] The enmeshment of non-racialized Southern identity with CSA veneration was particularly insidious because it provided cover for racially-motivated CSA veneration.

The American North was well within their rights to have denounced the fetishization of the CSA in the South as treasonous, once and for all, during the American Reconstruction Era (c. 1863-1877). But the American state chose not to do so, in the wake of Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 (Whig Party, pre-1854; Republican Party, 1854-1864; National Union Party, 1864-1865). President Andrew Johnson (National Union Party, 1864-1868; Democratic Party, 1839-1864; 1868-1875) served from 1865 to 1869; and President Ulysses S. Grant (Republican Party) served from 1869 to 1877. Neither administration condemned the CSA nor secessionist Southerners, for their defiance, racism, and treasonous calls for secession. And, instead of a meaningful Truth & Reconciliation process, like South Africa would have after apartheid, the United States of America went along with the Southern nostalgia for the Antebellum South. Perhaps, the North was just as racist as the South, even without the institution of slavery. After all, the North had the institution of racism, the foundational institution, upon which the institution of slavery was built and all racist laws and policies flowed, such as anti-miscegenation laws and de facto and de jure segregation codes.

After the Civil War, the unchallenged racist sentiments in the North and South facilitated the spread of the “Lost Cause” myth among historians, and the entrenchment of the D.W. Griffiths 1915 Birth of a Nation narrative, which was backed by President Woodrow Wilson (Democratic Party), a stone-cold racist (in office 1913-1921). Generations of historians continued this “Lost Cause” revisionism until the 1960s American New Left began to influence American historiography and later historians, such as Dr. Eric Foner, became the leading historians on the Reconstruction Era in later decades.

But in the 1920s, by the time the racist Woodrow Wilson (Democratic) administration was replaced by the Warren G. Harding (Republican) administration, America had missed an opportunity for a truly United States of America. Overcoming historical trauma, illiteracy, racism, discrimination, unfair treatment, and white rage, blacks determined to develop their own local economies. White America simply wouldn’t allow it. White America didn’t want integration. But it didn’t approve of self-determination, either. In 1921, white rage burned ‘Black Wall Street’ to the ground during the Tulsa Greenwood Massacre. By this point, America had been reborn in the fires of white supremacist ideology. Any hope for meaningful Reconstruction was a distant memory. America lost its way.

Post-Civil War gains by blacks were rolled back and lynchings of blacks increased again before the 1900s, in the late 19th century and into the 20th century. The “Lost Cause” myth and the Southern “redeemers” (i.e., historical revisionists), such as the United Sons of the Confederacy, United Daughters of the Confederacy, et al., and the decision to unite the nation around an old Confederate ‘war hero’ in the 1898 American war against Spain, etc. all laid the groundwork for Jim Crow and the veneration of the Antebellum South and the institution of American slavery. And, thus, Southern racism defied and resisted Reconstruction (c. 1863-1877); as Antebellum nostalgia began to spread throughout the American body and metastasize.

Today, as the “Lost Cause” myth endures among right-wingers and others, the cancer of racism is destroying the nation with cancerous tumors of hate flaring up across the nation, as the political landscape becomes increasingly polarized, democratic institutions are being threatened, right-wing militias are threatening to kidnap and martyr governors, and congress members are trying to undermine the presidential election by having Republican governors capture their state electoral college votes, and the rule of law, generally, is being challenged by corporate and authoritarian interests. It’s time for a national Truth & Reconciliation process to denounce racism, authoritarianism, and make reparations for America’s racist past, in order to guarantee an anti-racist and anti-fascist future.



Featured video: “Understanding the Lost Cause Myth” by The Cynical Historian, 16 APR 2020, https://youtu.be/5EOhXF5lNgQ


[1] As a kid, I was just amazed at the impressive stunts Bo and Luke Duke could pull off in their shiny orange muscle car. My preteen peers and I had no idea that flag was a powerful symbol of CSA veneration, Antebellum nostalgia, and racist sentiments. We were just kids in the ’80s. I wonder what the adults were thinking back then, though, the post-Woodstock liberal boomers.


[10 DEC 2020]

[Last modified on 10 DEC 2020 at 05:54 PST]