An interesting thread at Marxmail: Re: [marxmail] GOP Still Wants to Pretend the Preservation of Slavery Wasn’t a Major Reason for the American Revolution – You mean the 1619 Project.

Re: [marxmail] GOP Still Wants to Pretend the Preservation of Slavery Wasn’t a Major Reason for the American Revolution –
You mean the 1619 Project.

I have no problem with any of it other than the bizarre understanding of the American Revolution. I’ll restate a few of the big points . . . .

1. The calendar makes its own demands. Britain did not abolish slavery until the 1830s, so it was not under any greater threat under the British Empirem in 1776 than it would be out of it. In fact, with this in mind, slavery would have remained legal for another half centuiry under the empire in states that actually got rid of it between the 1770s and the early 1800s after getting independence.

2. The American War for Independence was “American” in a united sense only in hindsight. It represented the united effort of thirteen then-distinct political entities. Slavery could well have been a factor for the big slaveholders in places like South Carolina, but it hardly existed and had no appreciable weight in the deliberations of a state like Massachusetts. In fact, if we include Vermont–which expolicitly excluded slavery from its beggining–the assertion has the nonslaveholding (and actually antislavery) settlers there waging a war against slaveholding Britain to hand on to their own non-existent slaves. These points don’t argue that the Revolution was an antislavery slavery force in general, but they demonstrate the fallacy of generalizing it as something to preserve slavery.

3. We’re talking about are bourgeois revolutions. The English, French or American Revolutions wound up establishing a new class as the masters. None of it necessarily did much good for the people in general, save in that the people were able to make their weight felt. And each of them has some very horrible results–or certainly sought to have them–for some sections of the population. After the revolution in Paris, the slaveholders on Saint-Domingue went prancing about with tricolor cockades in their hats. Cromwell invaded Ireland. The new United States raised English duplicity in dealing with the native peoples to whole new levels, and made internal compromise that left slavery to the states, guaranteeing its survival for nearly another century. .

Deplorable . . . but that doesn’t make something less bourgeois . . . not today and not in the past. Quite the contrary.

So a slave revolt here or there or greater native resistance in one place than another or workers learning how to organize in their interests–all shape a better result than would have been the case without them, but the general contours of what comes out of those upheavals not be in the hands of a Babeuf. A major consideration in my thinking was what African Americans were writing about the American Revolution in the Civil War period and later..

This isn’t a matter of someone being a Marxist or not based on their analysis of what happened in the eighteenth century. But I have just seen no justification for abandoning the rather traditional Marxist understanding of what a bourgeois revolution was and where the American Revolution fit into it.

When the 1619 Project appeared almost two years ago, I thought making these points about its flawed understanding of the American Revolution was worth noting, though the priority that the World Socialist Web places on this was rather odd. It’s preoccupation with the old news of 1776 has become old news in its own right at this point.

Decades of working for a living has taught me that whatever input I can have, I should make it and just let it ride. If people accept it, great. If they continue to talk around the points . . . well, time and experience will probably make the case better than I have. So, too, on this point.

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