AMERICA: Land, Slavery and Democracy
Legendary Amerikaner film director Herr Spielberg has just finished a film on the life of President Lincoln. No doubt this will be an opportunity to regurgitate the Hollywood spiel about democracy and the ‘Land of the Free’.
But the American Civil War can be better be used as an illuminating example of the relationship between a ‘free’ resource, the means to exploit it and democracy.
Democracy can most accurately be described as a self constituted gang that comes together for the exploitation of a ‘free’ resource that has no ‘owner’ or protector.
The moment that any resource (land, people, knowledge, free speech or money) incurs a price; which is to say the moment that ‘free’ access to it becomes contested, the particular episode of democracy it gave rise to, ends.
Post-colonial American democracy was constituted for the wholesale theft of the American continent. At the time of unhindered territorial expansion, all Saxon invaders enjoyed a democracy against the interests and wishes of the Native Americans.
This state of affairs continued more or less undisturbed until a limit began to emerge on both the ‘free’ resource of land and of secondary importance, the ‘free’ resource of slaves.
At the time that a Civil War was becoming inevitable in America, land democracy questions had been settled in the North. Land was divided among an Anglo Saxon elite and inferiors and immigrants were forced into rapidly expanding conurbations. The nature of these conurbations and the political, social and physical deprivations forced on their inhabitants meant that anyone, immigrant or other, who wanted a piece of America, was forced to look to the newly opening western territories.
By contrast, the South at this time had established their local branch of Saxon democracy with little or no urban centres, using slave power to run large plantations. These slave plantations were relatively highly efficient compared to the small holdings that prevailed elsewhere.
Slave owing states enjoyed a relatively powerful position within the freely associating American democracy. They wanted to expand and reproduce this relative strength in the newly opened up territories of the west. Slave ownership meant that Southern landowners enjoyed a massive advantage in terms of capital for land purchase and manpower to exploit the land in comparison with relatively small scale individual northern and immigrant farmers. If things were allowed to develop along the political lines established after independence, the ‘Southern Gang’ could gain control of all the new western territories and thus the entirety of the American system.
This directly conflicted with the interests of their Northern partners in crime. The moment that this contest of interests emerged, Western territories could no longer be considered ‘free’. If southern states gained then it was to the detriment of the northern model and visa versa.
The Northern Gang were against slavery because of the potential commercial advantage it offered to the South in the Western territory grab. This is the crucial point: The commercial and industrial superiority that the creation of cities had conferred on the Northern Gang was considered irrelevant by elites in both North and South! They were only concerned with the commercial advantages that slave owning had conferred on the South. This is a precise insight into the American Saxon mind at this historical juncture.
This conflict of interest resulted in the southern secession and the attempt by the South to leave their voluntary association with the North. The North forcibly disagreed and that was the de facto end of a free association of equals constituting Saxon democracy on the American continent. Terms would be dictated by the winner of the forthcoming violent conflict; In effect, a northern dictatorship.
The irony is that it was productive power of the industrialised cities of the North that proved decisive in the first modern industrialised war. This productive power was not initially factored into political or military calculations by the elites of the North or South. The South was considered stronger in agrarian commercial terms and this was all that mattered to North and South.
It was considerations of land acquisition both personally and nationally that decided the collapse of American democracy. Slavery was only ever a secondary contributing factor in the minds of both North and South.
The hijacking and exploitation of humans was fundamental to the development and fall of Greek and Roman democracy. It was only ever of secondary importance to the rising and falling of American democracy. In propaganda terms, the slavery question is used to define the Northern Dictatorship as a benevolent necessity for the advancement of America.
Nevertheless the central fact remains: Democracy came into existence for the exploitation of a free resource. It ended when that resource became contested.