Take Down this Flag, Tate Reeves

Long overdue. Why ever fly a flag representing any part of a defeated nation, a nation that put central to its civilizational claims racialized chattel slavery? In a letter to the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, Karl Marx put it best: 

“When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world, ‘slavery’ on the banner of Armed Revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century; when on those very spots counterrevolution, with systematic thoroughness, gloried in rescinding ‘the ideas entertained at the time of the formation of the old constitution,’ and maintained slavery to be ‘a beneficent institution,’ indeed, the old solution of the great problem of ‘the relation of capital to labor,’ and cynically proclaimed property in man ‘the cornerstone of the new edifice’—then the working classes of Europe understood at once, even before the fanatic partisanship of the upper classes for the Confederate gentry had given its dismal warning, that the slaveholders’ rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy crusade of property against labor, and that for the men of labor, with their hopes for the future, even their past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. … 

The Mississippi state flag

“While the workingmen, the true political powers of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war.”

Here’s what I heard Marx saying: the American proletariat did not die in the hundreds of thousands to free black people from bondage to see the flag of a slave nation flying at the capitols of defeated insurrectionists. The only flag worthy of the Confederacy is the white flag of surrender. So take down this flag, Tate Reeves. Be the good Republican Lincoln (and Marx) was and relegate the symbol of slavery to the museums.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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