Wednesday, July 02, 2014



In two days to the sound of explosions, to fireworks in the sky, to backyard barbecues and baseball games the USA will celebrate its victory in the War for Independence.  The question raised below is whether or not that victory was a revolutionary one.

Those who argue that our Revolution was a revolution are basically saying that it involved the creation of an entirely new nation and the adoption of democracy.  That's really about it.  

However, even to that we could say, "Well, yes and no."

The American revolution, after all didn't do much for the indigenous people who lived here, going about their business long before the white settlers from Europe showed up.  The founding of the USA can't have been much to celebrate, not that the British were much better when they ran the colonies.  The continuing genocide perpetrated on American Indians was one "glorious" gift of the Revolution. 

For Africans brought to North America as slaves, the war of Independence certainly didn't have much to offer either.  It took another war, and it has taken another century and a half of struggle by African Americans to even begin to gain basic rights granted to white Americans, and that battle against white supremacy continues.

For woman, nothing much changed.  

Still getting rid of old King George and the colonial masters was a step forward, wasn't it?  In 2009, the Progressive took up that question. 

Who actually gained from that victory over England? It’s very important to ask about any policy, and especially about war: Who gained what? And it’s very important to notice differences among the various parts of the population. That’s one thing were not accustomed to in this country because we don’t think in class terms. We think, “Oh, we all have the same interests.” For instance, we think that we all had the same interests in independence from England. We did not have all the same interests.

Do you think the Indians cared about independence from England? No, in fact, the Indians were unhappy that we won independence from England, because England had set a line—in the Proclamation of 1763—that said you couldn’t go westward into Indian territory. They didn’t do it because they loved the Indians. They didn’t want trouble. When Britain was defeated in the Revolutionary War, that line was eliminated, and now the way was open for the colonists to move westward across the continent, which they did for the next 100 years, committing massacres and making sure that they destroyed Indian civilization.

So when you look at the American Revolution, there’s a fact that you have to take into consideration. Indians—no, they didn’t benefit.

Did blacks benefit from the American Revolution?
Slavery was there before. Slavery was there after. Not only that, we wrote slavery into the Constitution. We legitimized it.

What about class divisions?

Did ordinary white farmers have the same interest in the revolution as a John Hancock or Morris or Madison or Jefferson or the slaveholders or the bondholders? Not really.

It was not all the common people getting together to fight against England. They had a very hard time assembling an army. They took poor guys and promised them land. They browbeat people and, oh yes, they inspired people with the Declaration of Independence. It’s always good, if you want people to go to war, to give them a good document and have good words: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Of course, when they wrote the Constitution, they were more concerned with property than life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You should take notice of these little things.

There were class divisions. When you assess and evaluate a war, when you assess and evaluate any policy, you have to ask: Who gets what?

We were a class society from the beginning. America started off as a society of rich and poor, people with enormous grants of land and people with no land. And there were riots, there were bread riots in Boston, and riots and rebellions all over the colonies, of poor against rich, of tenants breaking into jails to release people who were in prison for nonpayment of debt. There was class conflict. We try to pretend in this country that we’re all one happy family. We’re not.

And so when you look at the American Revolution, you have to look at it in terms of class.

Do you know that there were mutinies in the American Revolutionary Army by the privates against the officers? The officers were getting fine clothes and good food and high pay and the privates had no shoes and bad clothes and they weren’t getting paid. They mutinied. Thousands of them. So many in the Pennsylvania line that George Washington got worried, so he made compromises with them. But later when there was a smaller mutiny in the New Jersey line, not with thousands but with hundreds, Washington said execute the leaders, and they were executed by fellow mutineers on the order of their officers.

The American Revolution was not a simple affair of all of us against all of them. And not everyone thought they would benefit from the Revolution.

In fact, there are those who say the American Revolution was really quite the opposite.  They say it was a counter revolution.  Herbert Calhoun in a piece at Op Ed News says, it,

...was not so much a "revolution for freedom against Great Britain, per se," as it was a shrewd and carefully calculated set of moves on the global chessboard of Real Politik, that amounted to a "Counter-Revolution" against freedom: That is to say, it was a revolution against ending freedom for its slaves and other slaves around the colonial empire....

...Against Great Britain's edict to its colonies to end slavery forthwith, brought about through a legal case made by a slave named James Somerset back in London, only the slave-holding colonies of British America flatly refused to follow through. Instead of ending slavery, our much revered and mythologized founding fathers, with the help of one Mr. Thomas Jefferson in particular, launched its own counterrevolution against slavery, and in doing so, unconscionably enshrined the american revolutionary rhetoric forever in the "false" language of "freedom," which all too painfully we have now come to know and understand today that their freedom meant a special kind of "white man only freedom." 

It is obvious, at least it should be, that the American Revolution was not really a revolution at all. I mean, shouldn't a revolution signal the end of one form of class rule, the beginning of another, or the end of one form of economic system and the beginning of another, or, at least, the end of one form of political system and the beginning of another?  The American Revolution was more of a struggle for home rule with no revolutionary aspirations, inclinations, or even theoretical advances of just who should rule at home. It was pretty much the same old same old with a different accent. There weren't really all that many changes from British colonial rule except the British were gone. The American Revolution did not produce a total upheaval of the previously existing social and institutional structures. It also did not replace the old powers of authority with a new social group or class.  Larry Peterson wrote at the Savanna Morning News of all places:

The Founding Fathers wanted to restore and assert as their own, not the “rights of man,” but the old rights of Englishmen.

They weren’t interested in making the world safe for liberty, equality, fraternity — or even democracy.
"Our" revolution was essentially about replacing one ruling structure which originated in  Great Britain with another in America.

And remember, it was here, in America first under the British,  and later without them that White  Supremacy, that White Privilege was truly given birth and expanded.  

If there ever was a really revolutionary period in our history, it commenced in 1859 with John Brown's raid, continued throughout the Civil War (with blacks fighting for their freedom and conducting a complete general strike),  and ended only after the amazing  period known as Reconstruction.  That revolution, unfortunately ended in failure.

The following is from Democracy Now.

"Counter-Revolution of 1776": 

Was U.S. Independence War 

a Conservative Revolt in Favor of Slavery?

As the United States prepares to celebrate Independence Day, we look at why July 4 is not a cause for celebration for all. For Native Americans, it may be a bitter reminder of colonialism, which brought fatal diseases, cultural hegemony and genocide. Neither did the new republic’s promise of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" extend to African Americans. The colonists who declared their freedom from England did not share their newly founded liberation with the millions of Africans they had captured and forced into slavery. We speak with historian Gerald Horne, who argues the so-called Revolutionary War was actually a conservative effort by American colonists to protect their system of slavery. He is the author of two new books: "The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America" and "Race to Revolution: The U.S. and Cuba During Slavery and Jim Crow." Horne is professor of history and African American studies at the University of Houston.

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