The South and the Reconstruction’s Results: class and race aspects

Civil War changed the class forces placing. As a result all the power was passed to bourgeoisie which in the most decisive way took in its hands the matter of socio-economic reorganization of the southern states; the conditions for capitalism development of agriculture in a farm way were created. Southern plantocracies prepared for the battle for Reconstruction to take a revenge for their defeat in the Civil War and convert the South into their protected patrimony. That couldn’t correspond the class interests of bourgeoisie which undertook energetic assault on the positions of planter reaction. Reconstruction affected farming of the North only indirectly, because the land requirements were satisfied by the Homestead Act; and the working class was not mature and organized enough to take an active part in a fight on the new stage. So, emancipated blacks became the main revolutionary force. However, not all the tasks of the second American bourgeois revolution were solved. Emancipated slaves did not get land, civil and political rights; plantocracy latifudiums in the South were saved.

A law on Reconstruction of March, 2, 1867 was a remarkable event in the USA post-war history. Its acceptance meant completion of post-war reaction period, of the so-called Presidential Reconstruction, and beginning of the new, revolutionary stage, period of radical Reconstruction of the South.

After the war the task of the government was not only to liquidate the former authorities in the South replacing them by the new ones but also break different establishments, laws and traditions, ingrained during long years of slavery. Among the concrete measures of Reconstruction acceptance of 13th and 14th amendments to Constitution (1865-1866), which fastened abolition of slavery and legalistically gave blacks their voting right, was especially important. A law on most Confederation supporters’ amnesty was also accepted. Considerable part of the former rebels’ confiscated property was in some form returned.

The years of reconstruction passed in the persistent fight of black people; former slaves became an important political force of the South.

Starting from the “presidential Reconstruction” period there formed black public conventions, which required “Black codes” abolition, equalization of black and white population in economic and political rights. The most mass organizations of the South were those organized by the Union League Republican Party, consisting of both blacks and whites. Blacks actively participated in 1868 constitutional conventions elections in the southern states. Conventions produced new bourgeois-democratic constitutions, proclaiming reorganization of the southern states socio-economic system on the bourgeois basis. During the years of Reconstruction for the first time in the history of the country 16 Afro-Americans were selected to the USA Congress.

Especially great success was obtained by new local authorities in the area of public education. Many new schools were opened, the number of black student exceeded to the half a million. The management and judicial system was reorganized. Encouragement of capitalist enterprise resulted in expansion of industry, transport and trade.

A key task in bourgeois-democratic transformations was the agrarian question decision: plantocracy latifudiums confiscation and their division among blacks and poor whites whose main demand was “40 acres and mule”. The result of radical Reconstruction was the former slave-owners political defeat. However the agrarian question uncertainty resulted in bourgeois-democratic government’s falling in the South. Plantocracies again succeeded to heave up a head.

Though the return to the former economic orders was already impossible, bourgeois relations appeared to be firmly established in the South. A strongest blow was inflicted to the former slave-owning latifudiums. One part from them was confiscated, other ones were broken. After the war the easy money seekers (called gripsacker) went from the North buying lands and becoming rich on speculation. Large plantations were divided now into small areas rented by black sharecroppers. Black people, having neither land nor tools, were forced to agree to the difficult terms of sharecropping lease. Debt-serfdom called peonage became wide-spread.

Evolving after the Civil war industry, trade, railway building growth strengthened the positions of Northern bourgeoisie, focused its attention to capitalist speculative promotion and averted it from revolution problems in the South. Bourgeoisie grew rich; the “gilded age” came as it was later called by Mark Twain. In this period Rockefeller made his fortunes, the railway king Vanderbilt got amazingly wealthy.

After General Grant was elected a president in 1868 the upper class concentrated in its hands even more state power and carried out domestic and external policy in its own interests. The withdrawal of the depreciated in the war-time paper money (greenbacks) and introduction of gold currency started. It hit farmers-debtors interests. Tariff regulation mainly saved the high customs duties imposition of war times. During Grant’s 8-year term the corruption reached extremely high level even for the USA. Grand affaire of millionaire Goold who made an effort to buy all gold of New York for speculations; stealing of public funds by Tweed, controlling the Democratic Party in New York; bribery of congressmen practiced by the railway company “Credit Mobilier” became the symbols of corruption of that time.

Labour movement strengthened during Reconstruction. The main requirement of the American proletariat was a 8-hour working day. Labour organization the “National Labor Union” formed in 1866 and headed by William Silvis was the initiator of this movement. The questions about equality of rights of blacks and whites and about black workers trade unions foundation were put for the first time by working class organizations of that time. The rise of labour movement in the North objectively rendered support to the revolutionary movement in the South. However there wasn’t direct unity of actions between them. It was one of reasons why Afro-Americans did not manage to obtain realization of their demands on that stage.

Completion of Reconstruction period is related to the election campaign of 1876 and acknowledgement of Hayes’s victory. Political power in a country was obtained by bourgeoisie. Plantocracies lost political dominance in the state, and during the Reconstruction period their position were weakened in the southern states. All of these factors cleared the coast for the rapid economic progress of the USA.

However, the bourgeois-democratic transformations were not completed. Emancipated blacks did not get land, and the firmly established on former slave-owning plantations sharecropping didn’t differ much from feudalism holdovers. This circumstance played an important role in the maintenance of the racial oppressing in the USA. The South remained a prison for emancipated blacks.

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