The book begins with a brief review of the historiography of civil war London. Contemporary authors such as the earl of Clarendon and Thomas Hobbes saw the “rebellious city” as chiefly to blame for the conflict, in that it provided the support necessary for parliament to go to war with the king. This explanation is still broadly accepted today, but revisionist scholars such as Valerie Pearl, Stephen Porter, and Keith Lindley have offered significant challenges that emphasize the divisions that existed within the City’s population. Their accounts have been bolstered by recent work on the civil war and revolution that reconceptualizes the ways in which people participated in the conflict, shifting the emphasis from the long-term causes of the war to people’s particular mobilizations. The chapter proceeds to lay out the approach of the book, which seeks to use the full range of contemporary media to relate the dynamics of metropolitan mobilization in the early 1640s. This media includes parochial records, company records, and an abundance of manuscript sources, from petitions and private correspondences to lampooning songs. What emerges are “topographies of mobilization,” rough sketches of London’s participatory political landscape.
Although America has had moments of sharp anti-communist hysteria, and although the pattern of American history has been declared “exceptional” in that its individualist culture and capitalist consensus resists the Marxian prognosis of class contestation and socialism, the United States of America has also had a vibrant Marxist tradition capable of great bursts of creativity and a certain degree of intellectual and political influence. Beginning by charting the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels on the United States, this introduction to a book collection of eleven scholarly essays on Marxism and the United States posits a “Marx-America dialectic” generative both of frisson and productivity.
Chapter 1 explores how Londoners responded to the crisis of the Irish Rebellion between November 1641 and spring 1642. Offered up is the first systematic look at the ways in which the Irish Rebellion impacted daily life and politics in the metropolis and how, in turn, the war prepared Londoners ideologically for war at home. Metropolitan inhabitants donated supplies and loaned vast sums of money in the hope that they might relieve their beleaguered Protestant neighbors. But their efforts were not entirely selfless. Beyond the immediate significance of their actions, Ireland’s circumstances provided a crucial framework through which Londoners articulated their personal religious and political worlds, and in particular in terms of notions of an overarching “Protestant cause,” a collective concern over the extent to which Protestantism might supersede Catholicism. Metropolitan responses to Ireland reveal, on the one hand, long-term concerns over the international health of Protestantism; on the other hand, they lend crucial insights into how Londoners conceptualized religious – and thus providentially sanctioned – war. Popular responses to Ireland thus provide crucial explanations for the ways in which concerns over an international conflict mutated in 1642 to provide justifications for the coming civil war. Chapter 1, in short, suggests how Ireland helped to prime Londoners for a domestic war, from fears over an amorphous Catholic threat to popular opposition to episcopacy. Highlighted here are some of the critically important ways in which the Irish Rebellion presaged, both ideologically and structurally, the coming civil war.
Summer 1643 marked a low point for parliament’s war effort. Chapter 4 contextualizes this important period through the dual lenses of propaganda and the “general rising,” an attempt by militants to conscript London’s able-bodied men for an army capable of overwhelming the king and his supporters. Although the “general rising” never came to fruition in its intended capacity, it did create a movement of tremendous political importance. Spurred forward by the renewed threat of peace, Mayor Pennington and likeminded militants redoubled their efforts to mobilize Londoners for parliament’s cause. They sought to achieve these ends by way of three main efforts that included the revelation of a spurious plot to create a loyalist uprising in London, the implementation of a radical “Vow and Covenant” oath that bound takers to mutual military support, and finally by way of calls for a “general rising” of able-bodied volunteers. In the aftermath of the “failed” rising, Pennington and his allies coordinated their political efforts, harnessing what support could be generated for the rising and agitating London’s crowds by way of demotic printed tickets. Their efforts succeeded when a crowd of Londoners descended on Westminster’s Palace Yard the following day, calling out in favor of war and threatening Members of Parliament who sought renewed peace proposals. A remarkable scene thus unfolded in early August 1643, a time when seemingly disparate groups (from the Lord Mayor to the so-called “rude multitude”) converged to see the continuation of war trump the possibility of peace.
In Marxism and America: New appraisals, an accomplished group of scholars reconsiders the relationship of the history, political culture, and political economy of the United States to the theoretical tradition derived from Karl Marx. A dozen essays (an introduction and eleven chapters) offer fresh considerations arcing from the nineteenth century, when Marx wrote for American newspapers, to the present, when a millennial socialism has emerged inspired by the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Contributors take up topics ranging from memory of the Civil War to feminist debates over sexuality and pornography. Along the way, they clarify the relationship of race and democracy, the promise and perils of the American political tradition, and the prospects for class politics in the twenty-first century. Marxism and America sheds new light on old questions, helping to explain why socialism has been so difficult to establish in the United States even as it has exerted a notable influence in American thought.
A. J. Muste, Louis Budenz, and an “American approach” before the Popular Front
This essay revisits the historiographical debates about the “Americanism” of the Popular Front era. It shows that efforts to Americanize Marxism and build a cultural front began in the 1920s as organized workers and their radical intellectual allies came together in the workers’ education movement, the magazine Labor Age, and the relatively unstudied Conference for Progressive Labor Action to construct a democratic theory and practice of Marxism. By focusing in particular on the movement’s two leading lights, A. J. Muste and Louis Budenz, this essay argues that their “American approach,” at its most expansive, offered an interpretation of the world that centered and validated working-class American experiences and agency, while simultaneously promoting transnational solidarities. At its most limited, it devolved into a sentimental nationalism that could be easily co-opted by the dominant culture. In the end, the movement was undermined by the American labor left’s culture of sectarianism, even as its guiding ideas and leading personalities were incorporated into the Congress of Industrial Organizations and the broader Popular Front of the 1930s.
Chapter 2 considers London’s mobilization and descent into war with special attention to financial expedients, soldier recruitment, and the first experiences of war. Prior to this, however, it considers political developments surrounding the rise of Isaac Pennington, London’s zealous Lord Mayor who replaced the loyalist Richard Gurney, and came to champion parliament’s cause in the City. Pennington and likeminded activists and agitators engaged in concerted schemes to silence parochial opposition and promote parliament’s efforts. Their engagement is crucial to understanding the early war period and the narrative of metropolitan mobilization that henceforth unfolds. Following this important introduction, which sets the tone for the remainder of the book, is a systematic consideration of early wartime finance, including explorations of dynamics of livery company lending, parochial lending, ward assessments, and collections (especially in terms of the establishment of parliament’s Committee for the Advance of Money and the Weavers’ Hall subcommittee), and other important financial expedients. Next is a consideration of the ways in which early financial and military mobilizations shifted popular opinions about war, from breeding notions of urgency to competing ideas about how to best end the conflict. Ultimately, these early efforts laid fractured foundations that would give rise to party divisions and “peace” and “war” movements. Chapter 2 reveals London’s part in making parliament’s nascent war effort possible, but it also exposes conflicting sentiments that would in time shake parliament’s wartime coalition to its core.
Created in 1969 out of ideological discord within the Students for a Democratic Society, Weatherman typified the disillusion of the late-stage New Left, which grappled with how to consolidate competing approaches to gender inequalities, the Vietnam War, the conservative turn in domestic politics, and the problem of imperialism. Tensions quickly emerged within Weatherman between its Marxist ideological leanings and the expectation that a group fronted by high-profile women leaders might have more fully embraced the cause of women’s liberation. After four decades, key Weather activists have sought to redefine Weatherman as feminist. However, contemporary critics—even within Weather itself—highlighted the leadership’s inability to see the possibility of a happy marriage between Marxism and women’s liberation, and thus to contribute to the shaping of what we now call intersectional feminism. This chapter examines the ways in which Weatherman deployed Marxist ideas and language to justify their antagonism to hegemonic feminism, and argues that the dismissal of feminism as “self-indulgent bullshit” can help to explain the group’s slide into irrelevance.
This chapter situates Howard Zinn’s popular and controversial book A People’s History of the United States (1980) in relation to the development and reception of Marxist ideas in twentieth-century America. It uses close readings of the historian’s work along with archival materials from his personal papers. In doing so, it advances three arguments: first, that Zinn’s eclectic articulation of historical materialism was influenced by both the Old and New Lefts; second, that his skepticism about capitalism was inseparable from his radical analysis of racial inequality; and third, that the reception of A People’s History by general readers demonstrates the striking influence of Marxism on popular understandings of U.S. history. To contextualize Zinn’s political ideas in this way reframes the intellectual cultures of American radicalism in the late twentieth-century United States, pointing to the enduring influence of historical materialism not only in the academy but also among the reading public.
By late 1643, London had proved to be both a fail-safe and a cornerstone of parliament’s war. Yet the City, with its dozens of parishes and livery companies, with its new fortifications and its seemingly endless capacity to care for the displaced and wounded, was buckling under the pressures of war. Chapter 5 accounts for London’s mobilization under a new Lord Mayor, John Wollaston, and a new parliamentary leadership, centered in the new Committee for Both Kingdoms, and the impact of growing war weariness. Depleted of their reserves, livery companies continued to negotiate loans, but some bordered on insolvency; parishioners meanwhile opined their struggles with the sick and wounded. Parliament, for its part, looked increasingly outside of London for support. This was readily found in the shape of an alliance with Scotland, based on the Solemn League and Covenant, and elsewhere in terms of support from the powerful Eastern Association. London’s ministers persisted, moving their auditors with weekly sermons and exhortations for “the cause”; but “the cause” itself had permutated, becoming less about lending arms than it was about caring for the sick and wounded. While political and religious divisions deepened within the parliamentarian coalition – and not least between the Commons and the Lords – Londoners remained steadfast in their support, sending brigades into the field and eventually lending £80,000 to contract the New Model Army. It was in these efforts, the subject of Chapter 5, that London saw parliament’s cause past a crucial hurdle in the war against Charles I.