Gosh, I guess I can learn something from a troll. I was cleaning out the spam trap and noticed a message from a particularly persistent and mostly incoherent troll, and I made the mistake of reading it and learned about someone peculiar.
Why have you never said a word about George Fitzhugh, and his very effective argument that slavery is inherently socialistic?! If Capitalism is the cause of racism and inequality, why not rebut his work?! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Fitzhugh
I’ve never said a word about Fitzhugh because this is the first I ever heard of him, simple as that. Fitzhugh was an antebellum crank, a fierce defender of slavery, not the kind of guy I tend to look to for information, but sure, I looked at his Wikipedia entry.
George Fitzhugh (November 4, 1806 – July 30, 1881) was an American social theorist who published racial and slavery-based sociological theories in the antebellum era. He argued that the negro “is but a grown up child” who needs the economic and social protections of slavery. Fitzhugh decried capitalism as practiced by the Northern United States and Great Britain as spawning “a war of the rich with the poor, and the poor with one another”, rendering free blacks “far outstripped or outwitted in the chase of free competition.” Slavery, he contended, ensured that blacks would be economically secure and morally civilized. Nonetheless, some historians consider Fitzhugh’s worldview to be fascist in its rejection of liberal values, defense of slavery, and perspectives toward race.
Fascinating. It’s a very strange perspective on socialism, or what Fitzhugh considered socialism, which was a very confused subject in his mind. He doesn’t argue that slavery is socialistic; quite the contrary, he argued that the North was afflicted with an “alarming” degree of socialism, while simultaneously claiming to be a socialist. So to figure this out, I skimmed his book, Cannibals All! or, Slaves Without Masters, looking for some clarity. I didn’t find it. But boy, is that a trip.
What is his argument? First, one part I can agree with: he considers capitalism to be an oppressive system in which elites profit from the labor of workers. He deplores the Northern system which, he argues, puts white workers in a position worse than that of a black slave. This is practically a pamphlet for communism, except that he also deplores communism, and thinks the Northern capitalist economy is implicitly socialistic. I tried to sort that out, and couldn’t, but can at least confirm that he’s anti-capitalist. Which is anti-socialist. I’m lost.
Probably, you are a lawyer, or a merchant, or a doctor, who have made by your business fifty thousand dollars, and retired to live on your capital. But, mark! not to spend your capital. That would be vulgar, disreputable, criminal. That would be, to live by your own labor; for your capital is your amassed labor. That would be, to do as common working men do; for they take the pittance which their employees leave them, to live on. They live by labor; for they exchange the results of their own labor for the products of other people’s labor. It is, no doubt, an honest, vulgar way of living; but not at all a respectable way. The respectable way of living is, to make other people work for you, and to pay them nothing for so doing—and to have no concern about them after their work is done. Hence, white slave-holding is much more respectable than negro slavery—for the master works nearly as hard for the negro, as he for the master. But you, my virtuous, respectable reader, exact three thousand dollars per annum from white labor, (for your income is the product of white labor,) and make not one cent of return in any form. You retain your capital, and never labor, and yet live in luxury on the labor of others. Capital commands labor, as the master does the slave. Neither pays for labor; but the master permits the slave to retain a larger allowance from the proceeds of his own labor, and hence “free labor is cheaper than slave labor.” You, with the command over labor which your capital gives you, are a slave owner—a master, without the obligations of a master. They who work for you, who create your income, are slaves, without the rights of slaves. Slaves without a master! Whilst you were engaged in amassing your capital, in seeking to become independent, you were in the White Slave Trade. To become independent, is to be able to make other people support you, without being obliged to labor for them. Now, what man in society is not seeking to attain this situation? He who attains it, is a slave owner, in the worst sense. He who is in pursuit of it, is engaged in the slave trade. You, reader, belong to the one or other class. The men without property, in free society, are theoretically in a worse condition than slaves. Practically, their condition corresponds with this theory, as history and statistics every where demonstrate. The capitalists, in free society, live in ten times the luxury and show that Southern masters do, because the slaves to capital work harder and cost less, than negro slaves.
It would help if I knew what his definition of socialism was. I searched the book for a clue, and this as close as I could come: Socialism is the same as Abolitionism and 19th century Republicanism, which I guess means that Abe Lincoln was the American version of Chairman Mao. So sorry, Mr Troll, how can you claim that he argues that slavery equals socialism if he thinks that abolition equals slavery? Now I’m even more confused.
We wish to prove that the great movement in society, known under various names, as Communism, Socialism, Abolitionism, Red Republicanism and Black Republicanism, has one common object: the breaking up of all law and government, and the inauguration of anarchy, and that the destruction of the family is one of the means in which they all concur to attain a common end.
At the same time, Fitzhugh claims to be a socialist, and also opposes a free society.
We (for we are a Socialist) agree with Mr. Carlyle, that the action of free society must be reversed. That, instead of relaxing more and more the bonds that bind man to man, you must screw them up more closely. That, instead of no government, you must have more government. And this is eminently true in America, where from the nature of things, as society becomes older and population more dense, more of government will be required. To prevent the attempt at transition, which would only usher in revolution, you must begin to govern more vigorously.
The whole book is an exercise in paradox. He goes on and on about how capitalism is exploitive and awful, and damn those Yankees with their population of white slaves creating an industrial machine, while also telling us that socialism is anarchy and must be stopped, while also announcing that he is a socialist. I’m sorry, Mr Troll, this isn’t an effective argument for anything. These are the rants of a confused old man who retired to a Southern mansion and spent his time firing off incoherent screeds at newspapers.
There is one thing he is consistent on, though: black slavery is a benign institution, and we ought to expand it to allow white laborers to be enslaved, too. They’ll all be happier under the kindly hand of a master.
The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and, in some sense, the freest people in the world. The children and the aged and infirm work not at all, and yet have all the comforts and necessaries of life provided for them. They enjoy liberty, because they are oppressed neither by care nor labor. The women do little hard work, and are protected from the despotism of their husbands by their masters. The negro men and stout boys work, on the average, in good weather, not more than nine hours a day. The balance of their time is spent in perfect abandon. Besides, they have their Sabbaths and holidays. White men, with so much of license and liberty, would die of ennui; but negroes luxuriate in corporeal and mental repose. With their faces upturned to the sun, they can sleep at any hour; and quiet sleep is the greatest of human enjoyments. “Blessed be the man who invented sleep.” ‘Tis happiness in itself—and results from contentment with the present, and confident assurance of the future. We do not know whether free laborers ever sleep. They are fools to do so; for, whilst they sleep, the wily and watchful capitalist is devising means to ensnare and exploitate them. The free laborer must work or starve. He is more of a slave than the negro, because he works longer and harder for less allowance than the slave, and has no holiday, because the cares of life with him begin when its labors end. He has no liberty, and not a single right. We know, ’tis often said, air and water, are common property, which all have equal right to participate and enjoy; but this is utterly false. The appropriation of the lands carries with it the appropriation of all on or above the lands, usque ad cœlum, aut ad inferos. A man cannot breathe the air, without a place to breathe it from, and all places are appropriated. All water is private property “to the middle of the stream,” except the ocean, and that is not fit to drink.
Uh, yeah. I think he has built his twisty sociological edifice atop some extraordinarily fallacious premises.
Still, he was a fascinating hate-monger and kook, but not someone to look to for an insightful analysis of 19th century American society…or any society for that matter. I wouldn’t even recognize him as a socialist, since he’s not arguing for any kind of placement of any degree of ownership in the means of production to workers — he wants an authoritarian government of hereditary elites who strip all benefit from the workers’ labors and place it in the hands of hypothetically benign slave-owners. Far from being an
effective argument that slavery is inherently socialistic, he’s really just a racist arguing that slavery is good.
Also, he later changed his mind.
He reversed course on capitalism’s pernicious effects, arguing that “the monopoly of property, or capital, by the few” was “the only means of begetting, sustaining and advancing civilization.”
Browsing his book, I recognize that what he really is is a predecessor to the Neo-Reactionary Movement, or the Dark Enlightenment, that libertarian wet dream of replacing the American government with an absolute monarchy in which the rich have total control. I don’t think I need to waste time any further with that horrible racist, Mr Troll: I don’t see anything coherent or true that I need to rebut.