The other civil war

Topic: Lecturer: Presentation: Summary Zinn Howard in his article “ The Other Civil War” argues that the periodbefore and after the Civil War was full of politics, elections, slavery and race questions and class struggles. However, class struggles are often ignored by writers. Zinn thus gives an account of these struggles which led to formation of trade unions and the unsuccessful attempts to put in place a socialist form of government by the working class through use of strikes and riots, the ballot and courts. Violent and non-violent riots and strikes were against wage cuts, unemployment, high prices, poor working and living conditions, and the right to vote. This was especially so during economic crisis such as that of 1837, 1857 and 1873. The government and the courts often acted in favor of merchants, businessmen, speculators and capitalists at the expense of workers especially women and blacks thus they continued suffering. This is evidenced by the failure of Anti-Renter movement in 1839, the Dorr rebellion of 1841 for electoral reforms, and flour riots of 1837. In 1850s, money and profit had taken center stage but all that was reported were slavery issues. During the civil war, national issues took center stage over class issues although it was clear that a social revolution was in the offing due to increased strikes. The Morrill tariff, Homestead Act and contract labor law all served to benefit businessmen with cheap labor and high prices for products. After the war, national federations of unions were formed but concentrated on political issues. Examples were the First International and Workmen’s party urging for a socialist republic. Blacks also formed their own unions. However, the federal troops stopped such efforts by killing and jailing many workers. In the end the working class was unable to overthrow the wealthy and ruling class.
The article was very helpful in understanding class struggles in the society before and after the civil war and how such struggles were overtaken by slavery, race issues and the civil war itself. These issues are often given importance over class struggles. A good example of class struggle was that of sheriffs and tenants leading to rent uprisings in 1830s and 1840s. Leaders of such Anti-Rent movements were silenced by life imprisonment. The struggle was between the rich and poor whites hence issues of slavery and race did not materialize yet they are the ones mostly written about in history books. Zinn also attributes racial and religious animosity to class struggles. He explains the hatred for blacks, religious warfare against Catholics and nativist fury against immigrants as reactions of the poor. Another example is the civil war whereby the whites both rich and poor united against the enemy. The North and South fought as blocks hence giving no importance to the issue of class although it was still prevalent. Those who criticized government were jailed without trial. Though many Americans volunteered for the war, most were the poor since the rich were not conscripted and did not volunteer. The article is also a good example of how issues of race, class and gender intersect. This is evidenced by the non-inclusion of blacks in trade unions and other struggles and also exclusion of women both white and black.
Zinn, H. A Peoples History of the United States: The Other Civil war. History is a Weapon. Retrieved March 18, 2014 from www. historyisaweapon. com/defcon1/Zinnother10. html