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USA : 2 Nations?

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An interesting article from Granma :


''United States: two nations

Manuel E. Yepe

IN the mid-19th century, the Republican Party, representing the interests of nascent industrial capital in the North, won the military battle against the Southern Democratic Party, representing and defending the slave plantation and slavery itself.

However, the Southern institutions – including its religious system which justified slavery and defined whites as superior beings – did not disappear. The defeat suffered by the South profoundly affected its society which, from that point, perceived the North as alien, secularizing and foreign: an enemy that had to be fought. The Civil War which ended for the North in 1865, was only just beginning for the South.

The above is an appreciation by Nelson P. Valdés, a Cuban academic resident in the United States for 40 years, in an email interview.

According to this expert on U.S. history, Valdés who, until his recent retirement, was a professor at the University of New Mexico, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by a Southerner in 1865 signified the first questioning of Northern power. And the same situation has continued up until today.

Since then the South has perceived itself as discriminated against by the power of the North. As family farms gradually disappeared (replaced by agribusinesses) those displaced ranchers opposed to the new capitalism – which, by paying low wages to Mexicans, made it impossible for the farmers to prosper – aligned themselves with the Southerners.

A Southern nationalism developed against the North. If one thinks of the United States as one single nation, this is not perceptible. But, in real terms, the country is made up of two nations with distinct dynamics, Professor Valdés emphasizes.

Those in the South were free traders because plantation owners in the South were dependent on cotton exports to Europe. Those of the North, who were industrializing, were protectionists, influenced by an ideology of self-employed work directed at depending on the labor of farmers in rural areas, with slaves or without them.

In the South, which extends geographically along the eastern coast to Virginia and reaches the doors of Washington, the plantation system dominated.

However, the military defeat of the South was not the defeat of the institutions of the South, nor of its ideology. The North became industrialized and over time (in this period) came to depend on finance, the banks and mortgages – given that industries disappeared with their export to the Third World. On the other hand, the South continued being agricultural until 1920, when large-scale oil drilling began in Texas, Louisiana and Alabama. So, it was in the South that, little by little, the powerful oil cartel developed.

In the South, where whites were in the majority poor but saw themselves as superior to the slaves, the Ku Klux Klan emerged in 1865. Its function was to de facto maintain what was prohibited by law. The prohibition on the black vote remained and only after another Northern intervention with federal troops 100 years later were the civil rights of African Americans legalized.

The nationalist and conservative ideology was founded in the South within a tradition of identifying with the past. After all, the founding fathers acknowledged slavery and did not question it! The original constitution permitted slavery.

The religious aspect should not be overlooked. The ideology of revenge has a basis within the religion of the Southern Baptists. God chooses one group in particular and, for the Southerners, they are the chosen people – as against the Northerners. The expansion of the country before and after the Civil War was led by Southerners. And the same thing happened in the border states with Canada – where it merged with a Lutheran tradition from Northern Europe with its own racist attitudes. Many Southerners also went to Alaska. The state of Utah is populated by Mormons, whose racist theology has a Southern basis originating in the right-wing tradition of Arizona.

Ethnic and African-American groups have been influenced by this ideology via the gospel of prosperity and security that this movement has emphasized since the 19th century.

According to the Southern optic, President Barack Obama represents Northern interests. He is a Northerner (from Chicago), an African American and allied to the world of finance – the three elements that unite the Southern right against the North.

Nelson P. Valdés believes that the points of view of these two poles of U.S. policies on relations with Cuba should be perceived on the basis of the fact that Southerners are conservative and, for that reason, opposed, to the point of hatred, to progressive political ideas. For their part, the Democrats of the North are not interested in wasting political capital on the Cuba issue. This translates into it being a non-issue in the framework of this national situation.

Moreover, "Cubans in government have not understood that there are two nations in the United States, with two foreign policies."

When there is talk in the United States of blue and red states, above all in an election period, this is a reference to two nations. And for Professor Valdés, the one that is growing is the South.''




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Edited by John Dolva
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Truth about empires laid bare

Sunday, August 8, 2010 By Alex MillerReview: The Imperial Controversy: Challenging the Empire Apologists

By Andrew Murray, Foreword by George Galloway

Manifesto Press, 152 pages, paperback £12.95

In the past decade or so, politicians, journalists and academics have attempted to rehabilitate the notions of empire and imperialism. For example, in 2009 then-British PM Gordon Brown told the Daily Mail newspaper: “The days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial history are over. We should move forward. We should celebrate much of our past rather than apologise for it.”

Historians such as Niall Ferguson and Andrew Roberts have promoted similar views. Ferguson said: “I am fundamentally in favour of empire. Indeed, I believe that empire is more necessary in the 21st century than ever before.” According to Roberts: “Imperialism is an idea whose time has come again.”

In this tightly argued book, Andrew Murray, who is chair of the British Stop the War Coalition, takes on both historical imperialism and its contemporary variant.

He points out that in the 18th century, there were 119 recorded wars involving the British Empire, and 72 such wars during Queen Victoria’s reign in the 19th century.

In the 20th century, major colonial conflicts occurred in South Africa, Kenya, Palestine, Malaya, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen and Ireland.

Murray also cites British military involvement in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Iran, India, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Guatemala/Belize, the invasion of Bolshevik-led Russia after World War I, along with the more recent interventions in Greece, Cyprus and Yugoslavia and contemporary colonial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Murray highlights the lives lost due to human-made famine. The mass starvation suffered by the Irish population in 1845-7 was not caused by potato blight.

Crop failure was general across Europe, but only in Ireland did it lead to starvation. Murray quotes historian T.A. Jackson: “The amount of corn, cattle, etc exported from Ireland in these years would have fed all those who hungered twice over.”

Jackson identified the “absolute priority given by the government in London to maintaining the social position of the landlord class in Ireland” as the reason for the mass starvation.

Murray notes that the racist attitude towards the Irish peasants, regarded as subhuman and condemned on the basis of class and religion, as well as race.

This was not an aberration in the history of the British Empire: “Anything from 12 to 29 million people died from starvation across India in the famines largely caused by the structures of economic development imposed by the Raj and greatly exacerbated by laissez-faire dogma and official indifference.”

Murray marshals overwhelming evidence “that imperialism, far from promoting economic advance, actually undeveloped the colonies”.

In colony after colony, as a matter of deliberate policy, “indigenous routes to industrialisation were blocked off, monocultural crop economies were imposed on the widest scale possible, forced labour utilised to maximise profit to capitalist investors and the entire course of development subordinated to the needs of the imperial power”.

None of this was specific to British imperialism: Murray summarises the “achievements” of Belgian, German, French, Dutch and Italian imperialism.

Some interesting political facts emerge. For example, the famous Liberal Party leader William Gladstone is described by the Marxist writer R. Palme Dutt as supporting imperialism “under a rose-tinted eiderdown of pacific sentiments [but] no sooner had he taken office than he continued and carried to new heights Tory imperialist foreign policy”.

Gladstone’s descendant, leader of the British Liberal-Democrats, Nick Clegg, opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq but now serves as deputy PM in a Conservative-led coalition fully committed to the ongoing neo-colonial occupation of Afghanistan.

Moreover, although the Labour Party has contained many committed anti-imperialists, the pro-imperialist sentiments of recent leaders Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were shared by the first Labour PM, Ramsey MacDonald, who advocated “socialist imperialism” based on “pride of race”.

Murray reserves his most scathing arguments for erstwhile “left-wing” journalists such as Christopher Hitchens and Nick Cohen (who described the British army in Iraq as “the armed wing of Amnesty International”). He takes to pieces their arguments in favour of the invasion of Iraq, and shows that the “peace, prosperity and democracy” promised for the Iraqis is as illusory as that cited by 19th century apologists for imperial involvement in India or Ireland.

Overall, Murray’s book provides an important and timely reminder that imperialism, whether in its historical or contemporary form, is in Galloway’s apt phrase “murder in the guise of a civilising mission”. In writing it, Murray has done a great service to the anti-war movement.

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From GLW issue 848

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