Thursday, July 28, 2016

Communism and Reconstruction

Page from Marx's
"Communist Manifesto"
The Communist Manifesto was written by Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels in 1847. This Manifesto spawned a series of Communist revolts throughout Europe in 1848. These revolts failed and many of the Communists fled Europe and came to the United States. Nearly all of them supported the North during the War for Southern Independence, many of them joining the Union army. In fact, throughout the war Marx was a contributor to the New York Tribune, a strongly pro-Union paper in New York City. Marx and Engels also contributed articles that supported the Union position to newspapers throughout Europe during the war. Marx was an admirer of Abraham Lincoln.

The following ten points are from Part II of the Communist Manifesto. This is the list of measures Marx and Engels said must be carried out within a country to transform it into a communist society. Remarks below each point show to what extent these measures were imposed on South Carolina during the 'reconstruction' years of 1865 to 1877. It is clear that eight of the ten were implemented in some fashion during the so-called 'reconstruction' era.

"1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes."
At the state level the primary means of raising revenue was the property tax. State property taxes during 'reconstruction' were shifted to focus on land instead of industrial and commercial assets. In addition, the tax rate was dramatically increased. This resulted in a massive confiscation of land due to the inability of owners to pay taxes. For instance, in 1873 there were 270,000 acres seized and in 1874 over 500,000 acres were seized for failure to pay taxes. South Carolina still has property taxes today.

"2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax."
A graduated income tax was implemented in the Union in 1862 in order to raise money to fight the War for Southern Independence. The tax rates for this tax were increased in 1864, although at this time an exemption was included for all Federal salaries. Following the end of the war this tax was imposed on South Carolinians during 'reconstruction.' This tax was repealed in 1872. However, the 16th amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1913, which ensured that a progressive income tax was legal. A progressive income tax has been in force ever since.

"3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance."
A graduated inheritance tax was implemented in the Union in 1862 in order to raise money to fight the War for Southern Independence. The tax rates in this tax were increased in 1864. Following the end of the war, this tax was imposed on South Carolinians during 'reconstruction.' The tax was repealed in 1870. However, the tax was reinstated in 1916 and remains in force today.

"4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels."
The Union government passed the First Confiscation Act in 1861 and the Second Confiscation Act in 1862 authorizing the military and civilian authorities to confiscate the property of anyone supporting the Confederacy. These acts were not strictly enforced until after the war. A former Confederate had to sign the Oath of Allegiance and request a pardon from the President in order not to have their property confiscated. President Johnson refused pardons to many Confederate leaders and wealthy businessmen and confiscated their property.

"5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly."
The National Banking Acts of 1863 and 1864 in the Union created a national currency and introduced the chartering of national banks. In addition, these acts levied taxes on state bank currency, effectively eliminating state bank control of the money supply. Following the end of the war, this system was imposed on South Carolina during 'reconstruction,' thus eliminating nearly all state banks in the state. This system continues in force today.

"6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state."
During 'reconstruction' there was an attempt by factions within the Federal government to put railroads and the telegraph under government control. This failed. In 1887, after 'reconstruction,' congress passed an Act to Regulate Commerce, which created the Interstate Commerce Commission. This commission and the regulations it issued created partial government control over rail and truck transportation. This continues through today.

"7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan."

Central planning of the South Carolina economy was one of the few government controls not attempted during 'reconstruction.' Nor did the government take direct control of industrial or commercial enterprises. However, Lincoln did implement the US Department of Agriculture in 1862 which has grown into a burdensome regulatory system.

"8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture."
In 1865 congress created an arm of the Federal Army called the Freedmen's Bureau, which was to assist former slaves and both white and black refugees recover economically. The Freedmen's Bureau applied equally to men and women who had to join this arm of the army and agree to work to get benefits. Freedmen's Bureau representatives developed and enforced labor contracts between landowners and laborers. The Freedmen's Bureau was disbanded in 1868 due to corruption. By then sharecropping had begun to be the dominate form for the employment of labor in South Carolina. Sharecroppers were obliged to work in order to receive a share of the crops.

"9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country."
During the war, the two major urban centers in the state, Charleston and Columbia, were virtually destroyed by Union forces. Reconstruction policies urged freed slaves to stay at their former plantations and work as sharecroppers. During reconstruction the port of Charleston was not rebuilt, so there was little work to be had in Charleston. Population density data is only available for the years in which a national census took place. In 1870 during reconstruction the percent of South Carolina population in urban areas was 8.6%. By 1880, after seven additional years of reconstruction, the urban population in South Carolina had dropped to 7.5%

"10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc."
The reconstruction-era South Carolina Constitution of 1868 established the requirement for the state to provide free public schools for students to receive government education and created the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. This agency continues to this day.