The Civil War and the Making of the American Working Class
A talk and discussion with author Mark Lause
Mark A. Lause will provide an overview of his widely acclaimed book Free Labor: The Civil War and the Making of the American Working Class (2016) and discuss his current project on the origins of American socialism, taking up little-known aspects of the emergence of a class-struggle perspective on the American left. He will consider why those dimensions have thus far received little attention from historians and socialists. Northern workers “took up arms because they understood the importance of the conflict in shaping the future value of ‘free labor,’” and a “rolling strike of the slaves” in the South became “the great incontrovertible and irreversible fact of the war”.
Mark A. Lause is a professor of history at the University of Cincinnati who focuses on U.S. labor movements in the nineteenth century. A lifelong radical, his Free Labor: The Civil War and the Making of the American Working Class (2016) is the most recent in a series of works on the Civil War era. Others include studies of land reform, spiritualism, secret societies, and bohemianism, and Race & Radicalism in the Union Army, on the tri-racial experience of the Federal Army of the Frontier. A forthcoming book will address The Great Cowboy Strike and western labor struggles in the 1880s. His reviews and essays on contemporary politics have appeared in Against the Current, Counterpunch, Jacobin, and The North Star, where he serves on the editorial board. A veteran of SDS and the radicalization of the 1960s, Lause has joined various socialist organizations over the last half century – most expelled him and all disappointed him. Long interested in environmental issues, he has been identified with the Green Party since the 1990s and served on the state committee of the Ohio party.