Washington Post - July 27, 2019

"Marx was intensely interested in the plight of American slaves. In January 1860, he told Engels that the two biggest things happening in the world were “on the one hand the movement of the slaves in America started by the death of John Brown, and on the other the movement of the serfs in Russia.”

It was December 1861, a Tuesday at noon, when President Abraham Lincoln sent his first annual message ⁠ — what later became the State of the Union ⁠— to the House and Senate.

By the next day, all 7,000 words of the manuscript were published in newspapers across the country, including the Confederate South. This was Lincoln’s first chance to speak to the nation at length since his inaugural address.

He railed against the “disloyal citizens” rebelling against the Union, touted the strength of the Army and Navy, and updated Congress on the budget.

For his eloquent closer, he chose not a soliloquy on unity or freedom but an 800-word meditation on what the Chicago Tribune subtitled “Capital Versus Labor:”

“Labor is prior to and independent of capital,” the country’s 16th president said. “Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

If you think that sounds like something Karl Marx would write, well, that might be because Lincoln was regularly reading Karl Marx.

President Trump has added a new arrow in his quiver of attacks as of late, charging that a vote for “any Democrat” in the next election “is a vote for the rise of radical socialism” and that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and other congresswomen of color are “a bunch of communists.” Yet the first Republican president, for whom Trump has expressed admiration, was surrounded by socialists and looked to them for counsel.

Of course, Lincoln was not a socialist, nor communist nor Marxist, just as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) aren’t. (Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) identify as “democratic socialists.”) But Lincoln and Marx ⁠— born only nine years apart ⁠— were contemporaries. They had many mutual friends, read each other’s work and, in 1865, exchanged letters. ...
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