Following the assassination of the five police officers in Dallas, TX, the New York Post, the Murdoch Empire’s seamy tabloid in the United States, posted a front page headline proclaiming “Civil War.” (I have with care chosen the word “assassination” to describe the killing of the police officers in Dallas. For the word originated in Arabic, and means, literally, “political murder.”) A couple of days later, Newsday, a respectable tabloid which is the leading newspaper on New York State’s Long Island, posted a headline which read, “America’s Anguish.” The New York Post headline has been heavily criticized as provocative, and consistent with the generally racist line taken by the newspaper over the years and also taken by its sister TV/tabloid, the Fox”News”Channel. But this is one instance in which I agree with The New York Post. As for the Newsday headline, “America’s” Anguish? I don’t think so. For many U.S., on both sides of the struggle, it is just the continuation of business-as-usual, except that this time five policemen happened to receive a shooter’s bullet, rather than the other way ‘round.
I have come to the conclusion that what happened in Dallas, although quite rare, is just another instance of the continuation of what most historians and other observers refer to as “The Civil War,” which came to an official end on the battlefield, at the Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. For quite some time, I have referred to that conflict as “The First Civil War.” I have predicted that there will be a Second Civil War, and in my book The 15% Solution (originally published in 1996), I described one form that that war might take. Indeed, I have also described the South as having, de facto, won the Civil War of 1861-65. After all, as that column shows, in the long term the South achieved all of its War objectives other than the perpetuation of chattel slavery.
However now, following the most recent police murders of black men, in Baton Rouge, LA and St. Paul, MN, and the Dallas assassinations, I have come to the conclusion that actually the U.S. Civil War has never ended. It has just taken a different form: primarily in the ongoing oppression and repression of the U.S. African-American population that has been underway since almost the day after the implementation of Emancipation Proclamation in the states of the former Confederacy, shortly after the conclusion of the military action.
Further, I have come to the conclusion that this repression, based on the continuation, and indeed spread across the nation, of the Doctrine of White Supremacy that provided, for the Southern Slavocracy, the justification for the institution of slavery, has served a vital class interest for the capitalist ruling class in the United States, down to this very day.
The continued repression of the bulk of the African-American population of the United States has been played out, over time, by for example: the violent institution of what was politely called “Jim Crow” in the post-Civil War South, led by the original Ku Klux Klan, the practice of lynching, designed to put forth a powerful image of what could happen to “uppity ni__ers.” Images of lynching were actually disseminated by postcard throughout the South for many decades. As for the Ku Klux Klan, its original, stated, primary objective was the prevention of voting by the newly freed slaves.
There have been breaks in the chain, from the Federal Employment Practices Commission of the New Deal through the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. But we are now in the midst of a very well-planned Republican campaign all across the country to repress the votes of various African-American communities all across the country. (Ku Klux Klan politics, anyone?) Then there is the well-known ghettoization of African-American communities, the (historically) recent mass incarceration of black young men, often for non-violent “drug” offenses (see my book on the “drug war” a lengthy explication of that one), the second- (or third-) class education provided for many African-American communities, and so on and so forth.
But how, one is justified in asking, does this history and social-economic situation (only very briefly summarized above), justify the conclusion the Civil War never ended, but just took on a different form? Well, first of all, there has always been a political party representing particular economic interests that in the national government has taken the part of those interests. During the Slave Era, after the original Federalist Period it was primarily the regional Democratic Party, helped by the “Southern Whigs.” From the time of the end of Reconstruction to the late 1960s it was the post-Civil War Southern Wing of the Democratic Party which staunchly defended Segregation. From the time of the institution of President Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” in the late 1960s, accompanied by the launching of the “drug war” which singled out the African-American community, for political reasons (see chap. 3 of my book), it has been the Republican Party which has promoted the Doctrine of White Supremacy and the continued repression of the African-American community.
Slavery itself (at its base, very cheap labor) served the economic interest of the Southern white ruling class. But it was the Doctrine of White Supremacy which enabled the almost total co-opting of the poor white, non-slave-holding farmers and small businessmen of the South to support that ruling class and indeed die by the several hundred thousand in defense of the institution of slavery. (There was, however, the occasional, class-based, poor-white resistance to the Confederacy, exemplified by the recent movie, The Free State of Jones. See an splendid review of this film right on this site.) And the white Southern ruling class kept their dominant position through the continued use of the Doctrine of White Supremacy. But then the Doctrine began to spread North.
For example, from the time in the 1880s of the first attempts to form trade unions among the newly minted “wage-slaves” that built the industrial North, the northern, then national, industrial ruling class has used the same doctrine to help it keep control of the white working class. And that effect has lasted down to this very day. It is seen in the attraction of white workers to the openly racist and xenophobic Republican candidate for the President (as of the time of writing) and in the adherence of many of those same people to the openly racist Propaganda TV Channel of the Republican Party. It, of course, is being less and less successful in hiding behind its “dog-whistle” racism, as its candidates succumb to the Rightward Imperative of becoming ever more open about their racial and gender bigotry.
But how does all of this mean that the Civil War never ended, but just continued in a different form? The basis of the original Civil War was the Northern opposition for a wide variety of reasons, from the moral to the economic, to the oppression of vast numbers of people, who happened to be of African descent and the use of the Doctrine of White Supremacy to justify that oppression. Since that time, the oppression of (now) African-Americans (and it is ironic how much “white blood” flows in their veins but they still don’t make it out to full equality) has been used by the national capitalist ruling class, firmly now represented by the Republican Party (but hardly challenged on the basic issues by the other wing of the political Duopoly), to help them maintain their rule, a rule that has now produced the widest gap in wealth and income in the history of the nation. Indeed, it is the widest in the world.
Oddly enough, it was Bill Clinton who put it very well when he announced for the Presidency in October, 1991:
“ ’For 12 years, the Republicans have tried to divide us, race against race’ Mr. Clinton said. ‘Here in the shadow of this great building, all of us, we know all about race-baiting. They’ve used that old tool on us for decades now. And I want to tell you one thing: I understand that tactic, and I will not let them get away with it in 1992.’ ”
We have never heard anything like that from the man since that time, but it did sound good at the time.
Thus it is The Doctrine of White Supremacy, in place since the time of Slavery, that has been significantly employed by the national ruling class, as it has evolved in this country, in order to maintain and expand its dominance of the political economy. There is continued and unending violence employed against the African-American community, which extends from random and arbitrary police violence against black men to the non-random but equally repressive violence committed by the so-called “criminal justice system” to discrimination in living space, education, employment opportunity, and so on and so forth.
It is in this sense that the Civil War has never ended. That does not mean that there will not be a formal Second Civil War in the future. There will be. But it will simply be the re-ramping up to the broadest and most violent of stages of what the nation has been living with since the first slaves arrived on these shores in 1619.
Post Script: Ms. Swin Cash, a star player for the New York Liberty of the Women’s National Basketball Association, summed it all up very well:
“The scariest part for me right now is that stories that I used to hear from my grandmother, stuff that happened in the civil rights [movement], how she used to talk about how the world was and things that needed to change. It’s like the bogeyman’s come back out of the closet and those things that used to be are now being brought to the forefront once again.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Senior Editor, Politics, Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being Senior Editor, Politics, for The Greanville Post, he is: a Contributor for American Politics to The Planetary Movement; a “Trusted Author” for Op-Ed News.com; a contributor to the “Writing for Godot” section of Reader Supported News; and a contributor to From The G-Man. He is the Editorial Director and a Contributing Author for TPJ magazine.us. Further, he is an occasional Contributor to TheHarderStuff newsletter, BuzzFlash Commentary, and Dandelion Salad.
Dr. Jonas’ latest book is Ending the “Drug War”; Solving the Drug Problem: The Public Health Approach (Punto Press, 2016). His last political title was the provocative The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and available on Amazon.