Marx and engels on the US civil war: The 'materialist conception of history' in action

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Marx's analysis, supplemented by that of Engels, of the US Civil War is as instructive, if not more, as any of their writings to illustrate their 'materialist conception of history'. Because the American experience figured significantly in the young Marx's path to communist conclusions, the outbreak of the War in 1861 obligated him to devote his full attention to its course. His application of their method allowed him to see more accurately the course of the War than his partner. Also, he was able to see what President Abraham Lincoln had to do, that is, to convert the War from one to end secession to one to overthrow slavery, before the President himself. Despite its contradictory outcome, Marx's expectation that the War would put the US working class on terra firma for the first time was justified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-198
Number of pages24
JournalHistorical Materialism
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011


  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Engels
  • Marx
  • US Civil War
  • historical materialism
  • race
  • slavery

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