The Crisis (Pt 10)

The police and the state

On Sunday, June 7, the Minneapolis City Council, by a veto-proof majority, voted to disband its police department over the opposition of the Democratic mayor. This doesn’t mean that Minneapolis police are about to be abolished. To believe this would be naive. For one thing, the abolition of the police would violate the Minneapolis City Character — the equivalent of a city constitution, which mandates the existence of a police department. And even if the Minneapolis Police Department were to be formally abolished, there are many other police agencies such as the Sheriff’s Department and the Minnesota State Patrol that could step into its role.

The significance of the City Council vote lies elsewhere. It represents an attempt by Democratic Party politicians to halt the growing movement in the streets demanding the abolition — not the reform — of the police. Once this is done, the Democrats figure that they can count on the courts to render their vote to “disband the police” harmless. It will then be back to business as usual.

But the real significance of the demand to abolish the police is that, even at this early stage, the incipient U.S. revolution cannot but begin to realize that the state consists of a body of armed men, and now some women, plus material extensions such as prisons. The state exists to defend capitalist private property in the means of production. It cannot be reformed. It must be smashed and replaced by an entirely new system of “public safety.” All this is in line with the writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin on the state.

The demand to abolish or “de-fund” the police is being raised not because the demonstrators have read the Marxist classics — very few have — but because their practical experience in what is, in essence, a class struggle points in the direction of getting rid of — not reforming — the police. Since the May 25 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, which was duly recorded on cell phone video, anti-racist demonstrators have put the demand to abolish the police into the mainstream of political discussion in the U.S. for the first time.

The current movement differs from numerous past attempts to reform the U.S. police system. These included the establishment of police-civilian control boards, the hiring of more African Americans and other “ethnic minorities” to serve as police officers, giving police officers “sensitivity training,” and establishing “community policing” programs. However, none of these programs has put a dent into the violent and racist nature of U.S. police forces.

Over the last few decades, in contrast with the past, African Americans have been hired as police officers. And African Americans have been appointed to serve as police chiefs, particularly in cities with large African-American populations. But it turns out that with few exceptions African-American police officers have been just as brutal toward African Americans as white police officers.

U.S. media popularize the police

The U.S. media and popular entertainment shows have done all they can to popularize and glamorize the police profession. So-called police procedurals (crime dramas) regularly cranked out by Hollywood portray heroic but kindly police officers protecting the weak and the oppressed — particularly people of color — against the rich, the racist, and the powerful. The problem is that such police officers appear only on screen but are not found in real life. Taking advantage of the mythical portrayal of police officers in Hollywood productions, the Democratic and Republican politicians compete with one another on who are the best champions of the police and the “toughest on crime.”

Police violence and the Marxist theory of the state

The writings of Marx, Engels and Lenin, especially Marx’s “The Civil War in France,” where he drew the lessons of the Paris Commune of 1871, and Lenin’s “State and Revolution,” written in the very teeth of the Russian Revolution, explain that the state power only develops once human society has split into classes. The emergence of a class of people that controls the social surplus product produced by the unpaid labor of the direct producers requires a body of armed men — well mostly men, since the development of a ruling class coincided with the defeat of the female sex as explained in Frederick Engels’ “The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State” — and material extensions such as the means of execution and prisons.

As society gets richer, an ever-larger system of prisons, jails, house arrest, unpaid community service, and probation develops. The Marxist analysis of the state holds true for all societies based on class rule. But it takes different forms in different class societies based on the particular history of those societies, shaped as they are by the struggle between the exploiting and exploited classes. Under the capitalist system, where the social surplus product takes the form of surplus value, the state assumes a magnitude far beyond what was possible in earlier class societies with their far lower levels of labor productivity and surplus product.

While all capitalist countries have much in common — for example, their economies are all governed by the economic laws uncovered in Marx’s “Capital” and other works — they all have specific features. For example, while in all capitalist states a police force is necessary defend capitalist private property, U.S. police on an annual basis shoot and kill without the benefit of a trial about a hundred times more people than the police of other capitalist states.

At first glance, it is surprising that the demand to abolish the police and replace it with a new “system of public safety” has emerged in the most conservative of all nations, the United States of America. But it isn’t so surprising at all given the specific features of the U.S and its history, which include an especially brutal and racist police force. And just as we cannot understand the French, Russian, and Chinese revolutions without understanding the particular features that shaped the histories of France, Russia and China, we cannot understand the approaching revolution in the U.S. without understanding not only the general features of capitalism but also the specific features of U.S. history.


There is one feature of U.S. history that distinguishes the United States from virtually all other imperialist nations. That is African chattel slavery. The U.S. shares with other capitalist nation-states that began as “white colonies,” which include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and most recently Israel, the genocide of the native population by “white” settlers. But neither Canada, Australia, New Zealand or Israel ever had a system of what Marx and Engels called “modern slavery.” (1) Marx and Engels used this term to distinguish” the race-based chattel slavery that arose in the “New World” from the 16th century onward from the chattel slavery systems of classical Greece and Rome.

In contrast with the slavery of Greece and Rome, African slavery gave rise to a system of racial oppression. In Greece and Rome, an escaped slave would not immediately be recognized by his or her physical appearance. In contrast, when race-based modern slavery developed between the 16th and 19th centuries, people of African heritage were immediately betrayed by their physical appearance. Even people of African descent who were legally “free” were in constant danger of being kidnapped and “returned” to a master who was only too glad to get an additional slave at no cost.

How modern slavery shaped the peculiar features of American capitalism

People sometimes ask: Why does the U.S. alone among developed capitalist nations lack a system of state-financed universal health insurance? While volumes could be written on this subject, the explanation can be reduced to a single word — “slavery.” This also applies to the question of why the police and the prison systems in the U.S. are more brutal than the police and prison systems of most other capitalist states. Though we can write volumes on the brutality of the U.S. “criminal justice system” as compared to other capitalist states, the answer can again be reduced to a single word — “slavery.”

There is also the question of why a particularly reactionary brand of politics has long dominated the southeastern states of the U.S. South. The reactionary politics of the South have long poisoned U.S. politics as a whole. For example, without the electoral votes of white southerners, there is no way the racist Donald Trump would have carried the Electoral College in 2016. But what are the origins of the peculiarly reactionary politics of the U.S. South? Again, the question can be answered in a single world — slavery.

And in this amazing year 2020, like has been true in every other major turning point in U.S. history, the question of African slavery and its aftermath comes to the fore. This was true in what was the greatest crisis — until now at least — in U.S. history, the U.S. Civil War (2), which is much better described as the war of the slaveholders’ rebellion. The term “Civil War” is not only not descriptive, it is neutral on the question being for or against African slavery.

Slavery has given the U.S. capitalist state, which includes its various police forces whether federal, state or local, their especially brutal and racist character. And what is true of the U.S. police system is also true of the U.S. prison system. Why does the U.S. have more prisoners on a per capita basis than any other nation? Again, the answer can be reduced to a single word — slavery. And throughout the history of the United States, successive (bourgeois) democratic movements have stumbled on first the fact and then the aftermath of race-based African chattel slavery.

The first U.S. revolution began in the city of Boston in 1775. It began as a democratic movement of “mechanics,” as the pre-proletariat of the North American British colonies were called. It was soon joined by the “merchants” of Boston — the emerging colonial capitalist class that was destined to develop into the richest and most powerful national capitalist class the world has ever seen.

But the late 18th-century (bourgeois) democratic movement was to stumble badly when it accepted the leadership of the slave owners of the U.S. South. The man who became the leader of the independence movement was a former British officer who distinguished himself in the Seven Years War — known locally as the French and Indian War — the largest of the commercial wars of the 18th century. He was the richest man in the colonies. His name was George Washington. (3)

Washington came from Virginia and had grown rich as an owner of African slaves as well as land. By all accounts, he was a cruel slave master. The rich merchants of the North — even those who owned no slaves — felt they had far more in common with the wealthy Southern slave owners such as Washington than they had with the enslaved Africans who were forced to do the real work of raising tobacco, sugar and cotton on the Southern plantations. And perhaps even the white democratic “mechanics” and small farmers of the North could more easily identify with their fellow whites who happened to be slave owners — men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison — than they could with enslaved Africans. A time bomb was therefore planted underneath the foundations of the democratic movement among the white working people and of the North American republic that emerged out of the victorious war of independence of 1775-1783.

In the years after the victorious war of independence, U.S. capitalists who dominated the North increasingly based themselves primarily on wage labor rather than chattel slave labor. However, they made one compromise after another with the Southern slave owners. The Northern capitalists did this to keep the expanding North American republic together without having to deal with the need for a (bourgeois) democratic transformation of the Southern U.S. Such a transformation would have required the complete abolition of African slavery with all its consequences.

From the viewpoint of these antebellum American capitalists, while they had differences over economic questions such as tariffs, public works, currency, and banking policies, they recognized the wealthy Southern slave owners as their fellow “gentlemen.” Compromise with these men of “property and substance,” as the Northern capitalists saw it, was both possible and necessary. These capitalists would hardly have recognized the African slaves who owned nothing, not even their bodies or their labor power, as “gentlemen.”

For 90 years, the Northern capitalists put up with the domination of the Southern statesmen who were both slave owners themselves (like George Washington) or slave owners as well as political representatives of slave owners (such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison).

In the end, the attempts at compromise with the Southern “gentlemen” came to nothing. The price for the 90-year delay in dealing with the question of African chattel slavery in the South was more than 700 thousand American dead and, perhaps of more immediate concern to the U.S. capitalists, a huge pubic debt.

By the time the war of the slave owners’ rebellion that began in 1861 finally ended, all further attempts at compromise with the “lords of the lash,” the merchants of 1775 had grown up into a lusty capitalist class dominated by industrial capitalists. And the “mechanics” of the 1770s had developed into a class of industrial proletarians. The dearly bought military defeat of the armies of the slave owners in 1865, both in terms of lives and treasure, created the possibility of a new beginning for what was now called American (bourgeois) democracy.

The America that wasn’t

With its vast wealth and natural resources and its dynamic industrial capitalism, the U.S. could have led the world in developing what is now called the “welfare state.” This includes among other things health care as a human right and not a commodity, as well as unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, and support of those who for no fault of their own cannot work or at last cannot find work on the capitalist labor market. But the democratic America with advanced social legislation that could have been wasn’t to be. The historic democratic opportunities opened up by the military victory over the rebel slave owners again stumbled on the question of how to treat the freed African-American slaves. Let’s briefly review what happened.

As the war raged, Lincoln was more interested in making compromises with the “loyal” slave owners of the border states than he was in supporting the struggle of the African slaves to win their freedom. In what was to prove a disastrous move, Lincoln dumped his first vice president, the anti-slavery attorney Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, and replaced him with the racist pro-slavery Andrew Johnson, who came from the border slave state of Tennessee.

With the war approaching its end, Lincoln in his second inaugural address uttered the words “malice toward none with charity for all.” While these are usually considered fine words, imagine if Lincoln’s attitude had been applied toward such defeated leaders of the Third Reich as Herman Goering, Alfred Rosenberg, Julius Streicher, and others who were put on trial at Nuremberg in 1946.

Before his assassination in April 1865, Lincoln had moved to restore suffrage rights to Southern whites without any re-education. Ever since, these Southern whites, who are indoctrinated in racism from their earliest childhood, have been the backbone of U.S. reaction. They most recently showed this by voting for Donald Trump in overwhelming numbers in 2016.

Even at end of his life, Lincoln — who had begun to modify the more extreme racist views he had held throughout most of his life — was willing to consider giving the right to vote to only a handful of “qualified Negroes.” After Lincoln was assassinated by the pro-slavery actor John Wilkes Booth in April 1865, Andrew Johnson did everything he could to keep African slavery in the U.S. alive in everything but name.

The year 1876 brought the contested election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and racist Democratic Governor of New York Samuel J. Tilden. The Republicans made a deal with the racist Democratic Party whereby Hayes would become president but federal troops would be withdrawn from the South and Reconstruction ended.

By 1876, the Northern capitalists no longer considered Southern reaction to be any threat to them. A second attempt at secession by the Southern reactionaries in light of their complete military defeat in 1865 was unthinkable. The Northern capitalists had gotten what they felt they needed from their military victory over the slave owners.

These gains included first of all that the United States would remain a single country. Its huge and growing internal market would be surrounded by a single tariff wall with no internal tariffs or other trade barriers. Under the new national banking system, there was to be a unified banknote currency with each dollar bill backed by the full credit of the United States. Before the war of the slave owners’ rebellion, the individual commercial banks could issue their own banknotes backed only by their often dubious credit. But under the new system, a dollar bill was equal to any other dollar bill of equal denomination, just as is the case today.

In addition to these gains, the Northern capitalists could expect that the former slaves would be converted into “free” wage laborers, though the capitalists assumed they would work for considerably lower wages than white workers. Under the chattel slave system, the slaves were not free to sell their labor power to the Northern capitalists since they did not own their own labor power. Slavery kept an important part of the workforce out of the “free labor market.” Beyond winning the freedom of Africa-Americans to sell their labor power to them, the capitalists had no interest in promoting African-American equality.

The Republicans save the Democratic Party from extinction

The road to the formation of a party of U.S. wage workers was blocked by the continued existence of the Democratic Party. Just like before the war, the Democrats continued to pose as the party of the white working class and small white farmers. They emphasized schemes to devalue the U.S. dollar through the “free coinage of silver” to divert the movement of the workers, which now included a growing number of African-American wage workers and small farmers. The wage workers, whether white or black, had no particular interest in the devaluation of the currency in which they were paid.

Most importantly, to separate white workers from the black workers and the white small farmers from the black farmers, the Democratic Party used racism in a way the Republicans could not. This included portraying the slave owners’ rebellion and their so-called confederacy as a “glorious lost cause.” The leaders of the rebel slave owners such as Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee were grotesquely portrayed as great American patriots.

Through the generations, Southern whites have been encouraged to think of themselves as the most patriotic of all Americans while at the same time glorifying the leaders of a movement that in addition to defending African chattel slavery carried out the greatest act of treason in all American history. This forms the foundation of the uniquely reactionary politics in the U.S. South.

In doing this, the postwar Democratic Party rendered a service to its new masters — the wage-labor-based capitalist class. If the Democratic Party had disappeared after the war, that would have left the Republican Party as the only major party. Inevitably, the increasingly naked “pro-business” policies of the Republicans would have led to a split in the Republican Party, giving birth to a party of the working class to fight the “pro-business” Republicans. Therefore, the salvation of the Democratic Party — even if the capitalists as a rule “prefer” the Republicans — became a vital question to the ruling U.S. capitalist class.

Today, the myth of the Democrats as some kind of working-class party is still very much alive in the progressive movement as reflected in the two Bernie Sanders campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination. The view is often expressed that the Democratic Party was a working-class party until the “neo-liberals” took over under Bill Clinton and turned it into a second “pro-business” party little different than the Republicans. In reality, the Democratic Party was never a working-class party.

The Democrats certainly weren’t a working-class party under Andrew Jackson. Jackson, who happens to be Donald Trump’s favorite president — after himself, of course — was a wealthy slave owner, a representative of the slaveholders, and both an advocate and practitioner of genocide against Native Americans. This didn’t prevent the Jacksonian Democrats from presenting themselves as the party of the white working class, claiming that the slave owners of the South and the white wage workers of the North had a common interest in preserving slavery.

As long as slavery continued, the Jacksonian Democrats argued, the African-American slaves would be kept off the labor market and thus improve the market strength of white workers vis-à-vis their bosses. Even if this was true in a purely economic sense, it completely diverted the white section of the U.S. working class from its historic role as leader of all oppressed and downtrodden working people. What part of the working people was more oppressed than the enslaved African-Americans?

In this way, the Democrats in the “Age of Jackson” drove a deep wedge between white and black workers that has never been completely overcome. In 2016, this was reflected in the large number of white workers, including many trade unionists, who against the advice of their leaders voted for Donald Trump. (4)

Nor was the Democratic Party a workers’ party in the age of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt did everything he could to keep the Jim Crow Democrats in the Democratic Party, and his New Deal made no moves against Jim Crow. Its policy of encouraging home ownership among white workers did not extend to African Americans. Franklin Roosevelt never said a word against Jim Crow during his entire 12 years in office. During the so-called “war against racist fascism,” the U.S. Army was organized on a Jim Crow basis.

The Roosevelt administration certainly did not attempt to eliminate capitalist exploitation. Instead, it moved to save capitalism through a series of belated minimal reforms that did not include recognizing the right to health care as a human right rather than a commodity. And to the extent that Roosevelt opposed the European imperialism of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, as well as the imperialism of his “ally” Great Britain and the Asian imperialism of Japan, he aimed to replace these lesser imperialist powers with the unbridled power of U.S. imperialism. This is not the policy that a genuine party of the working class would have followed.

The role of the police and the state power

The capitalist state consists of two main groups of armed people. One is the military and the other is the police. The state also includes the so-called intelligence community, sometimes referred to as the secret police. The military, the police, and the spies of the intelligence apparatus exist to defend private property in the means of production. The abolition of private property is unthinkable without the abolition of the military, the spies of the intelligence apparatus, and the police.

However, the military and police are not quite the same, though both are part and parcel of the state. The military is drawn from a far greater cross section of the population. Rank-and-file members of the military serve only for a few years and are encouraged to view themselves as citizen soldiers.

This is most obviously the case in a draft army where in principle every able-bodied man, and now woman, serves for a few years in the armed forces. In the U.S., the draft system prevailed from the early Cold War until the Vietnam War. After the Vietnam War, the U.S. ruling class, alarmed by the rebellious attitude of the rank-and-file soldiers — who increasingly saw the “brass” rather than the “Viet Cong” as their real enemy — decided to abolish the draft and replace it with what they hoped would be a more police-like volunteer army.

However, the economic draft increasingly replaced the forcible military draft somewhat like chattel slavery under capitalism was replaced by “voluntary” wage labor. Under the “volunteer” military, sons and daughters of the capitalists and the middle class shun military service. Working-class youth, in contrast, are essentially forced by economic pressure to sign up with the military to acquire the skills necessary to have any chance of landing one of the increasingly rare decent jobs the capitalists are willing to offer U.S. workers.

Also, soldiers are told that they are defending the country against “foreign enemies.” In reality, the military is the police force of last resort that the ruling class will use — or attempt to use — against the working class and the people when all other options have been exhausted.

We often see this in Latin America. But in these situations, the loyalty of the soldiers is always in question. Every modern revolution without exception involves the soldiers “going over to the people” in one form or another.

Police men and women, in contrast, spend their entire “working lives” in the police force. They view and are trained to view the people of their own country as the enemy. There is no pretense that police are there to defend the country against “foreign invaders.” These basic facts about the police are true of all capitalist states. Under normal conditions, people don’t come into contact with the military and the “intelligence community” but they do have contact with the cops, even if it is only a matter of getting a traffic ticket. Few people can get through their lives without some less than friendly encounter with the police. Therefore, any movement by the working class and people to “smash the capitalist state” will begin with a movement against the police. These facts apply to virtually every capitalist state.

However, each capitalist state has its own peculiar history, and this gives both the military and the police their peculiar national characteristics. In the U.S., the police grew out of slave patrols whose function in the time of slavery was to prevent individual slaves from escaping. In the event of slave rebellions, the slave patrols attempted to nip them in the bud. Members of these patrols in the U.S. South, therefore, considered anybody with “black” skin and African features as the “enemy.”

African chattel slavery existed not only in the South but also in the North until the early 19th century, though unlike the case in the South the slaves were used more in the role “personal service” and slavery did not sink deep roots into the mode of production. In the North as in the South, members of the early police forces were expected to catch escaped slaves. After slavery proper was abolished in the North, the police were expected to catch escaped slaves and return them to their Southern owners. Sometimes the unfortunate African Americans were not slaves. But if they ran into the police, they could be seized and sent to the South to be enslaved for the first time.

Therefore, from the beginning, members of U.S. police forces came to view people with African features as enemy number one. Racism came to be ingrained in “police culture,” and this “culture” has persisted right up to the present. Beginning in the first half of the 19th century, the capitalists began using the most oppressed and exploited part of the white working class — immigrants from Ireland — against the still small but growing Northern African-American proletariat.

Racist views against African Americans were encouraged among Irish-American workers through the Northern Democratic political machines such as New York City’s Tammany Hall. Jobs as longshoremen and construction workers were often provided to Irish immigrants through the local Democratic ward leaders. In the years before the slave owners’ rebellion, these oppressed immigrant workers were told by the Jacksonian Democrats” that if the slaves were ever freed they would undersell them on the labor market.

As part of this policy, Irish immigrants were recruited in large numbers to the police force. Being a member of the “police profession” became stereotyped as an Irish profession much as being a physician, a lawyer, or a liberal journalist was stereotyped as Jewish professions. Indeed, the slang term “paddy wagon” actually means Patrick’s wagon, Patrick being a common Irish name. Later on, this policy was extended to other white immigrant European workers who began to arrive in great numbers in the latter half of the 19th century.

Again, the corrupt Democratic political machines that arranged jobs for oppressed white immigrant workers did all they could to drum racist views into them. The Democrats told them that we are doing all we can to keep these jobs “white,” and if ever African Americans win equal rights you will be undersold in the labor market. Many of these white working-class people were recruited into the police force. All of this further entrenched the extreme racism that remains central to U.S. “police culture” today.

The situation is now so bad that peaceful law-abiding African Americans — especially young African-American men — learn to avoid police officers wherever possible. Even if you are white while in the presence of these heavily armed mostly men, you cannot help but feel nervous. The guns the officers carry are real, not children’s toys.

But if you are white, not protesting the police, nor violating the law, and are polite with the officers, you are probably alright. The same, however, cannot be said if you are an African American, especially if you are a young African-American male. If you are, you are in mortal danger around police officers. Even if the police don’t kill you, they might arrest you and throw you in jail under some pretext or other.

If you are a brown person — of Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Indian or Pakistani or Native American heritage — you are in an intermediate position. Your odds of avoiding serious injury or death or arrest if you run into a cop are better than if you an African-American but considerably worse than if you are white. However, even if you are white in the U.S., you are always in some danger when you are around armed police officers.

To be continued.


1 Many Latin American nations also have a history of modern African slavery. For example, we can’t understand the Cuban Revolution without understanding the history of modern slavery in Cuba. Cuban history in most respects is dramatically different than the history of the United States. Cuba was an oppressed nation and the U.S. was Cuba’s oppressor. However, a history of African slavery is one thing that Cuba and the U.S. have in common. (back)

2 Originally in the North, the war was referred to as the “Rebellion.” Marx called it the slave owners’ rebellion. The founder of scientific socialism, then living as an exile in London, England, pointed out that the Southern rebellion was the only rebellion in world history that put slavery on its banner. In the post-rebellion world where chattel slavery was virtually universally condemned, the Southern reactionaries, to hide the real banner of the rebellion, called it the “War Between the States.” During this war, Southern reactionaries claim, the Northern states invaded the Southern states to subject them. The Southern states, according to this reactionary narrative, were engaged in a just and noble struggle to beat back the unprovoked Northern “invasion.” If you believe the Southern reactionaries, slavery had nothing to do with it.

In reality, many reactionaries in the North sympathized with the South. And there were many in the South — especially the African-American slaves but also many poor whites as well — who sympathized with the North, and not a few actively resisted the rebellion. What determined where a person stood in the U.S. Civil War was not whether they lived in the U.S. North or South but their attitude toward slavery.

Like the “War Between the States,” the term “Civil War” completely hides the real nature of the U.S. civil war. Today, the younger generation of Americans is finally facing up to the real, not fictitious, history of the United States. The statutes of Confederate “heroes” are finally coming down, either removed by votes of city councils or state legislatures, or simply torn down by crowds of young Americans. Even Pentagon generals are finally recognizing that many of their military bases are named after men who in real life were traitors to the United States. Until now, they had somehow overlooked this.

However, the movement to face up the realities of U.S. history must be expanded further. It must be demanded that all places named after the leaders of the slave owners’ rebellion be renamed. There were many authentic American heroes in the days of the slave owners’ rebellion even if few are known to the public due to decades of mis-education both in the North and South. These are the genuine heroes, both black and white, who should be honored instead.

And finally — and this is my personal opinion — we should stop referring to the U.S. “Civil War” and restore the war’s true name — the War of the Slave Owners’ Rebellion or the Slave Owners’ Rebellion, for short. We should demand that U.S. textbooks be rewritten to reflect this change. (back)

3 Washington played a dual role in colonial and early U.S. politics. He was not only a large slave owner but a land speculator. He was far sighted enough to realize that the future of the U.S. — and his personal fortune — lay in the development of wage labor-capitalism and not the African chattel slavery system he used on his Virginia plantation. Washington, therefore, purchased a great deal of land west of the Appalachians where slavery was unlikely to become established but would be expected to gain tremendously in value as wage-labor-based capitalism — not chattel slavery — developed.

As president, Washington, therefore, tended to side with Alexander Hamilton, the far-sighted representative of incipient Northern capitalism based on wage-labor, rather than Thomas Jefferson, who was, like Washington, a large slave owner as well as the political leader of the Southern slave owners. Washington, along with Hamilton, is often viewed as the founder of the Federalist Party, which was a forerunner of the later Republican Party. (back)

4 Most trade union leaders advised workers to vote for the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate Hillary Clinton instead. (back)