The American Revolution was a worker’s strike and the modern Left needs to embrace this tradition to alleviate the accusation that it’s not “patriotic”. The colonists were subjects (contracted workers, i.e., contractors), within chartered colonies (corporations) – thirteen departments to be exact (the Thirteen Colonies)-, whose labor was being exploited for the benefit of shareholders back in the United Kingdom. Our understanding of the Revolution was crafted by the business class who used the proletariat class, for their “hostile takeover of the corporation”, to emphasis a radical worship of individual liberty and anti-taxation, which translates to power for the most powerful private interests.
Part 1. 1776 as a Worker’s Socialist Movement
Part 2. The Left Has a Patriotism Problem, in theory.
I. 1776 as a Worker’s Socialist Movement
Imagine it’s 1776 and somehow, we have TV and the modern mainstream news. Imagine the news talking about a guerilla army in a place called America revolting against the business interests of the British Empire. The news, imaging Tucker Carlson in a powered wig, would likely call the American Revolutionaries, terrorists, and Communist agitators for propaganda purposes.
When we’re taught about American Independence stories of Paul Revere, The Boston Tea Party, the crossing of the Delaware River, etc., come to mind, yet, what we’re not taught is that the energy of the American Revolution wasn’t purely about freedom in the way we understand it now, i.e., individual rights, personal property rights, etc., – which, in and of itself were used by the business class to advance their own interests at the expense of the people – but, also within the American Revolution there was a very Socialist energy. By Socialist it doesn’t necessarily mean Marxist, considering Marxism is just one of the many theories of Socialism, but since Marxism had the most indelible impact on the Socialist movement by providing a scientific framework for analysis, then what I’m saying is partially influenced by Marx such as his notion of class struggle, dialectical materialism, etc.
The colonists were subjects (contracted workers, i.e., contractors), within chartered colonies (corporations), thirteen departments to be exact (the Thirteen Colonies) whose labor was being exploited for the benefit of shareholders back in the United Kingdom.
The colony is the basis for the concept of the corporation where the first corporation, The Dutch East India Company, later inspired other companies such as The British East India Company. Colonies were business enterprises, often risky, which required private military contractors, inmate labor, human trafficked labor (slaves), and volunteers.
So, when the American Revolutionaries revolted, they as workers/slaves were revolting against a corporation, i.e., a capitalist enterprise.
We are often told one side of the coin when it comes the energy of the American revolution. It was not only libertarian in nature, but also socialist in nature. I suppose a merger of these traditions would be what we consider socio-anarchist.
For example, we often hear revolts against taxes as being American, yet even though the colonists (workers) were being taxed unfairly, there’s not much difference between taxes and wages. The workers were basically not being paid well enough, i.e., they weren’t fairly compensated for their labor to begin with, even before on the back end when they had to pay taxes, stamp duties, tariffs, etc. Colonists were getting the “double whammy” of being underpaid (slaves not paid at all) and then taxed (which likely caused harsher exploitation of workers/slaves by managers to make up for losses).
The energy of the revolution could only have happened if the worker classes revolted. In a way you could say the energy of the Revolution was a union movement, or, we could say the American Revolution is the birth of the American workers’ rights movement.
So, how did our conception of the American Revolution come to be? Those with power dictated the narrative, divided the public naturally with a capitalist system that created class struggle, but also layered it all with a racial caste system, so the white poor would identify, i.e., vicariously live through, the white elites.
I do feel that the Founders, some well-read into Enlightenment philosophers, might have speculated of the possibility of what would later become socialism as being a possibility, yet, since “mob rule of the people” would negate their own plans, but by not taking caring of the people would lead to disaster, they left an ambiguous statement within the Preamble, i.e., providing for the good will. Therefore, this one of the reasons why I believe in the Living Document interpretation of the constitution as opposed to the Originalist interpretation such as that of Supreme Court Justices such as Amy Coney Barrett, where the Originalist believe you must view the Constitution based on the time it was written, which is ridiculous, because that method denies the realities of the time at hand, its nuances, etc. (people were also slaves in this time, women had no right to vote in those times, etc.). The Founders were smart enough to know that the Enlightenment Tradition, such as what they were seeing in France, i.e., America’s fraternal brother, had utopian scope that not only emphasized the individual but also the collective.
We often hail the Founding Fathers as sage-life wisemen of virtuous character, but in essence they were of the gentry class, i.e., the middle-management classes, i.e., the managers of trading houses, labor agencies (slave depots), estates, warehouses, and law firms that served British investor interests. They were of the class had Anglophile sensibilities particularly in their education, and we can see this in the schism of the Loyalist gentry class versus the Revolutionary gentry class where Loyalists of the same class migrated to what is now Canada.
The American Revolution was two things, (1) A revolt of the proletariat, i.e., working classes subconsciously channeling what we could consider a Socialist energy, and (2) a “Hostile Takeover” by the middle-management of the colonies who wanted to cut out their foreign investors and become the de facto board of chairmen themselves.
Essentially, middle managers used the working classes, exploiting their unrealized concept of Socialism and worker’s rights, and then applied a concept of unfettered economic liberty which would always serve the ruling classes which the Founders after their victory now owned. It’s no different than workers revolting against a firm, but the leader of that firm simply uses them and turns around and does the same thing.
The very fact that the signers and framers from the upper classes didn’t trust democracy which they called “mob rule” is proof that the conscious and subconscious construction of the USA was based on classism. We can even add to the rebellions which came after the Revolution which weren’t simply about taxes, but about people fearing their wages would be eaten into since they likely didn’t make that much to begin with, such as in Shay’s Rebellion. Shay’s Rebellion on the surface seems like American’s simply protesting taxes, but really, they were protesting the merchant class passing down costs on to them for them to pay their own creditors. It’s no different than a bank steadily increasing your withdrawal fees, as a means of covering their own overhead. The people who revolted at what is now called Shay’s Rebellion were suppressed by a private army funded by the merchant class and commanded by General Benjamin Lincoln, which foreshadows how today private military contractors are used to suppress workers across the globe.
However, the framers and signers of the constitution all had their own personalities and reasons, and their occupations spanned from doctors, lawyers, military, and land holders, etc. We can’t lump all Framers and Signers together since they all had their own philosophy, yet the one thing they did have in common, is they were, even if they had moral reservations about it, were a part of a class system, where many of the signers by the time of Independence had their own special interests in mind, and not necessarily the good will of the American people as claimed.
To add to the claim that the American revolution had a Socialist element to it is that the Enlightenment philosophy of the revolution encompasses Leftist thought, i.e., individualism versus collectivism, both have roots in an Enlightenment thought through the centuries of European history.
Yes, what we consider to be notions of radical freedom, democracy, capitalism, and socialism all have a common ancestry dating back to the Renaissance (thinkers such as Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola), yet over time as history carried on and democratic experiments were burgeoning there was a splintering of ideas, yet, what we consider to be libertarian and socialists both have the same ends but through different strategy, e.g., one posits that individual rights and private property rights somehow ensures liberty, whereas the other posits that collective control over the means of production or an empowerment of the larger collective working class ensures that individual rights are respected, i.e., equality. The issue with the capitalist argument is that you can’t have equality even if equality or liberty exists on paper because the accumulation of capital, often created by robbing one’s labor, i.e., underpaying, creates too much of a vast spread within a hierarchy, i.e., there’s a larger difference between the haves and have nots. Socialism, particularly the specific, I repeat specific framework (since other types of socialism exist) of Fredrich Engels and Karl Marx, i.e., Scientific Socialism or Marxism, is more based within reality, whereas notions of capitalism, despite what we’ve been told, are more based on romantic idealism, i.e., ideas over real-world conditions.
The notion freedom by way of a capitalist system is based more in ideas (romanticism, religion, non-empiricism), rather than realism (understanding negative effects of systems, i.e., externalities, using a scientific framework to study human interactions, the interconnection of things, the inherent social nature of humans and the social nature of transaction, etc.), thus the American notion as we know it of liberty is more in aligned with Hegelian idealism, which is something that Marx disagreed with. Instead of living under “grand ideas”, Marx rather called capitalism what it is, which is a system based on the exploitation of labor for the benefit of a few or an individual. It exists to have people work for you, but you underpay them and collect the surplus yourself.
We can put Karl Marx in the same umbrella of Western philosophy as the thinkers who inspired the Revolutionaries, even though Marx came later, and many thinkers went in their own directions. For example, both Marx and Jefferson were influenced by J.J. Rousseau. Hegel, Kant, Spinoza, Smith, etc.
Both Marx and Jefferson had a materialist view to reality, though unique and modified to themselves, which could be translated as a scientific (observation of nature) or a realist view to nature, i.e., science, such as the science influenced by Newtonian thought. Yet, to not get too much into religion, it could be argued that Jefferson would be agnostic in a modern-day sense with Christian apologetics, whereas Marx would have been an atheist on the deeper end of scientific realism.
Jefferson stated, “Nature has, in truth, produced units only through all her works. Classes, orders, genera, species, are not of her works. Her creation is of individuals.” If Jefferson had survived to read Charles Darwin, he may be interested in the works Darwin such as the interconnectivity of all life.
Marx stated, ““Darwin’s work is most important and suits my purpose in that it provides a basis in natural science for the historical class struggle”.
“Like many other contemporaries he read—e.g., Hutcheson, Kames, Bolingbroke, Tracy, and Hume—Jefferson was an empiricist, and in keeping with Isaac Newton, a dyed-in-the-wool materialist.”
[Source of quotations: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/jefferson/]
II. The Left Has a Patriotism Problem, in theory.
The Left as a Patriotism problem. It’s not that those on the Left, Progressive, or Left Liberal side of the house don’t like the United States. Their efforts to improve conditions is proof they do care about America. Yet, the Left as largely lost the “Patriotism optics” war, despite winning the Culture War as far as mainstream media as mainstream media has become more inclusive over time. Many on the Left might think that not being a radical patriot, waving the Stars and Stripes, posting things about supporting the troops, etc., is all that necessary, and some might even think it’s cringe or nonsensical to do such things because they could be seen as mere figurative gestures that don’t improve material conditions of the American people.
Yet, by not owning more of the Patriotic aesthetic this gives easy ammunition to the political right who can simply rebut any progressive idea as being “un-American”, etc. The Political Right as far as culture, i.e., fashion, optics, aesthetics, attempts to own the soul of the military, police, and even the Revolutionary War. Why do Leftist let this happen? It’s ok to be critical of the American system while still honoring the aesthetics of it. It’s ok to have a post-colonial framework, or even a Critical Theory viewpoint, or to apply intersectionality, and still have the appearance, but also the innate belief of loving your country.
Basically, we need to see more marketing campaigns to stitch the Leftist Framework with Patriotic imagery. Having American Flags at a rally for Bernie or Alexandria Ocasio Cortez is something simple to do. Unifying progressive veteran organizations and focusing on veteran care for troops while still honoring their service, even though the Left might lean towards pacifism, is fine. But the major point is to present the truth that the American Revolution was a worker’s strike (more to come on this below).
Republicans can easily have no policy besides enriching the rich even more, but they capture people with the allure of belonging to a Patriotic Tradition. Yet, the issue with how we understand this tradition is that the Revolutionary War for example wasn’t merely a war to free ourselves from taxes, but was also a worker’s strike, meaning the energy of the Revolutionary had a Leftist framework.
I’m frustrated as an everyday “heteronormative” guy wanting to see the Left succeed.
I surf the internet and on Instagram I constantly see beautiful models with Bible quotes above their LinkTree link (leading to OnlyFans) covering themselves with the US flag (something you wouldn’t see on the political left – which is fine, but it is a powerful tool), I see gun enthusiast pages, Don’t Tread on Me flags, people selling T-Shirts such as “Liberty or Death” or “1776”, truck or off-road vehicle pages, Blue Lives Matter pages, etc. The appeal of the political right is that it makes itself seem like a fun place for the normal person. “We got beautiful woman, we love our country, we admire our heroes, we eat meat, watch sports, we use our hands, we’re manly men and the women who love these men”, etc., etc.
Yet, on the Left things aren’t as monolithic and homogenous, which is fine, but due to ideologies such as Identity politics the Left is left in state where it can’t even agree internally on what can be done without people feeling they’re offending someone of another intersectional component. There’s a lot of “you aren’t down” enough shaming tactics on the Left which further divides things so the unified right can easily pick it apart or obstruct. How can the Left unite if the ideology of feminism (which isn’t bad) does posit itself against men and don’t really care what men think (not necessarily in theory as what a person criticizing this would say, but just look to social media where you see pages after pages essentially not…liking men), and I would say the same thing in reverse, when men on the Left might feel stunned or unable to feel they can articulate their thoughts without fear of being lectured? As crazy as it wounds, sexual politics are a big part of the appeal of the political-right because it coddles the heteronormative ego, whereas the left questions it, yet women on the right are willing to “stand by their men” because it’s beneficial for them to do so, i.e., they get adoring love and admiration.
I’m not saying that women on the Left need to be sexually objectified to lure men to the Left, but what I am saying is that the Right does do that. For example, look at the links of Babes for Bernie vs Babes for Trump. (https://www.instagram.com/babesforbernie/?hl=en) (https://www.instagram.com/babesfortrump2024/?hl=en)
Also for more into the sexual politics of the American Right Wing, see my post about Sex and Fascism relating to the band Tool and murder of George Floyd. https://mitchellrg.com/2020/08/29/tool-pulp-fiction-fascism-frauleins-cops-and-george-floyd-how-pulp-fictions-pawn-shop-scene-is-analogous-to-george-floyds-death-by-quinton-mitchell-c/
You can apply this feeling of awkwardness across race, gender, orientation, assignment, etc. Yet, it’s not bad what the left has achieved as far as advancing the conversation. I almost feel a sense of “existential” growth at pondering intersectionality and I would say the Left has made me into a better person, but what I feel in my head even if it on the right track, and how the world outside of my head are two different things. The Left might feel enlightened but it’s a flimsy reality on the streets, where people like see it as “weak”, “intellectual”, etc.
I always had the idea of trying to reconcile heteronormative masculinity with Leftist thought. And, sure, I bet a critic with the typical “eye roll” response as if attempting such as thing is just proof of “male insecurity”, but I would argue it’s essential since this identity does exists in the material world, and the Right Wing is able to exploit masculinity and make it seem “explicitly” Right Wing. As a man, to be honest, this erks me. Maybe the American Left needs a “Men of Steel” tradition, where the notion of steel goes back to old Socialist imagery of the hammer, and this could help in hedging the culture war of the political right.
Regardless, the Right Wing is a unified force that markets itself with the high horse position of patriotic imagery and it also appeals to a “safe space” of non-intellectual, Football watching, beer drinking, firework shooting, Redneck rigging, “chicks” in daisy duke loving Americana. As a Leftist who grew up an old school Democrat before the passage of NAFTA, in many ways the culture of the right wing, is my culture (I’m watching Sunday Night Football with a beer right now), despite me coming from a tradition that always sympathized with the worker, had disdain for Wall Street, etc.
In many ways, the American Left lost its style of the “Roseanne America” or Axel Foley’s Detroit in Beverly Hills Cop. And, sure, these might not be “representative” of America as is, but ask yourself this question, “How do you help a Southern guy with a truck actually embrace Leftist ideology?”. Beau the Fifth Column for example is a refreshing attempt at inserting culturally conservative chic with the Leftist framework.
The last attempt at making the Left an actual fun place was decried at being “Bernie Bros”. Remember that? When men who supported Bernie were lumped into this category of a “Bernie Bro” because Bernie Sanders posed an ideological threat to Hillary Clinton, yet Bernie’s message even after the loss of Hillary in 2016 helped to re-energize the Democratic Party, going so far as helping first-time female candidates such as Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, Rhasida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar, even though the powerbase of the Democrats are neoliberal capitalist. Were Bernie Bros toxic, or even a thing, or where they simply believers in Leftist ideology, simply using their masculine energy to rebut the appropriate masculine energy of the right-wing, who posed a risk to neoliberal female candidate whose decisions over her long (and impressive) career lead up to the issues we face today?
Seeing how radical Trump supporters are, the Left needs some All American “Bernie Bros” in the mix right alongside strong females, BIPOC communities, service workers, the LGBTQ community, veterans, etc.
It comes off as too erudite now, walking on eggshells, brainy, etc., yet ironically also living off a neoliberal “hipster” culture. It lacks the older aesthetics of the beer drinking truck driving union card holder, or the striking union organizers fighting the Rockefellers at coal mines in Colorado or Appalachia. It lacks the aesthetic of the “anti-war yet still patriotic veteran” such as how things were during the Vietnam War era, i.e., the men who might ride motorcycles with a POW/MIA flag.
The Left to survive needs to figure out its Patriotic and Americana problem, even though I know many intellectuals, content creators, podcasters, etc., on the Left will see this all as a silly attempt that doesn’t improve material conditions. But, why let your opposition have free ammunition, especially when that ammunition is easy the Left’s as well?
It has to also figure out a way of reconciling certain positions such as gun rights, which is a culture war aspect that the right holds onto firmly. There are actual liberal and left leaning gun clubs who could be used to advocate for gun ownership but also with progressive policies for safer gun controls. For example, the Socialist Rifle Association (https://socialistra.org/) and The Liberal Gun Club (https://theliberalgunclub.com/)