I. The Forefathers of the First American Revolution
My ‘founding forefathers’ are the ‘founding forefathers’ of the American Revolution of 1776, in the struggle by the colonies in North America to free themselves from the imperialist domination by England to establish their own nation. To these ‘founding forefathers’ are the members of Sons’s of Liberty, the Committees of Correspondence, and their leaders, Sam Adams, Nathan Hale, Ben Franklin etc., who gained fame, during this epoch, as some of the greatest of revolutionary writers, organizers, and strategists.
On March 5, 1770, of the first victims of the struggle, against British rule, was Crispus Attucks, an escaped Negro slave, who was a Boston sailor and a leading radical fighter in the street demonstrations. The murder of these unarmed men has since borne the name: the Boston Massacre.
In 1773, he organized the Boston Tea Party in opposition to against the import tax, Tea Tax. “The Boston Tea Party developed over a period of several months, and the masses throughout the colonies were kept well informed by the radicals of the events as they took place. When the deadlock was broken, a nationwide support had rallied behind Sam Adams, and when the British Ministry answered the Tea Party with the Coercive Acts, the battle was joined.” (Harry Frankel, Sam Adams And the American Revolution, Chapter 10, The Boston Tea Party)
(A year later, in 1774, one of my actual ‘forefathers’, Abraham Sheppard, was part of the ‘tea burners’ party in Greenwich, N.J.)
. . .The initial skirmishes of the Revolutionary War occurred on April 19, 1775, at Concord and Lexington. The first event was the clear act of defiance by the Massachusetts radicals, while the second event marked the outbreak of war. Sam Adams’s task during the intervening sixteen months was to make sure that when war began, New England would not fight alone. He applied himself consciously to that end, and every policy, every move, made under his leadership was considered from this point of view. It is very easy to sally out to fight tyranny and to get yourself eliminated in the process. The whole trick of great revolutionary leadership, however, is to fight with a mass movement on your side and thus to have a reasonable chance of victory. Sam Adams understood this, and his object was to bring a powerful, nationwide movement to a floodtide simultaneously in all parts of the country.”. . . (Harry Frankel, Sam Adams And the American Revolution, Chapter 14, From the Boston Tea Party to Concord and Lexington )
He then organized the “network of Committees of Correspondence. This name is misleading: it gives the impression of letter-writing groups that simply kept the colonies in touch with one another. Actually, the Committees were the closest approach to a revolutionary party formed in the first American Revolution.”(Harry Frankel, Sam Adams And the American Revolution, Chapter 9, The New Party)
The final battle cry to organize the masses for a successful insurrection was Declaration of Independence. The opening lines of this declaration are/were:
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
The declaration had declared that “All Men are created equal”, With “certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And that “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.” And that we have a right and a duty to overthrow an unjust government! What new concepts!
II. Forefathers of the 1st American Counter-RevolutionAmerica’s founding fathers signing the Declaration of Independence
The American Revolutionary War lasted eight years, from initial skirmishes in 1775 to 1783. A Constitutional Convention was called in 1787, to draft the constitution.
Those whom, the powers that be, now call the ‘Forefathers of the Constitution’, were the ones who led the counter-call to the Declaration of Independence.
Instead of codifying the constitution to guarantee our “certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, they refused to include the 1776 Virginia Declaration of Rights and even the 1689 English Bill of Rights in the original draft of the constitution!
Due to the revolutionary consciousness at that time, it became very clear that the States would not ratify the constitution, these ‘forefathers’ had to declared that the first act of congress would be the enactment of the Bill of Rights, in order to get the states to approved the constitution. (Rhode Island held out, until the actual deed was done.)
Never the less, the constitution was written to allow only white males of property to vote, legalized slavery, and stated that Black People were only 4/5 human.
As Noam Chomsky stated in his interview on American History and Democracy:
. . . If you go back to the record of the Constitutional Convention, which took place in 1787, almost immediately after the end of the war, you see that they are already moving in another direction. James Madison — who was the main framer, and one of the Founding Fathers who was most libertarian — makes it very clear that the new constitutional system must be designed so as to ensure that the government will, in his words, “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority” and bar the way to anything like agrarian reform. The determination was made that America could not allow functioning democracy, since people would use their political power to attack the wealth of the minority of the opulent. Therefore, Madison argues, the country should be placed in the hands of the wealthier set of men, as he put it. . . .
To this day, we have a government and state apparatus that is designed to “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority” — there is no Democracy! It has been endemic to this society to expand westward which included the genocide of the Native Americans.
III. Forefathers of the 2ndAmerican Revolution
The second American Revolution was due to the conflicts between the ‘Slaveocracy’, in the South, and its economic need to expand its territory and the needs of the newly developed northern Industrial Capitalists and their own economic need to expand their territory. These conflicts led to the civil war which lasted from 1861 to 1865.
My favorite forefathers of the Second American Revolution, were Harriet Tubman, Underground Railroad Conductor, Abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, the Abolitions and the Radical Republicans, who worked for the abolition of slavery. In order to win the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, a moderate Republican, was forced to sign the Emancipation Proclamation which declared “all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Nonetheless, the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation. Lincoln recognized that the Emancipation Proclamation would have to be followed by a constitutional amendment, the 13th Amendment, in order to guarantee the abolishment of slavery.
This lead to my other favorite forefathers of the this battle—the slaves who rose against slavery and the armed battle against slavery
The 13th Amendment reads as follows:
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
It abolished slavery but not for prisoners. (I will take this up later.)
IV. The Forefathers of the Second American Counter-Revolution Worse Than Slavery
After the Civil War and the defeat of the Slaveocracy, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, his successor, Vice President Andrew Johnson immediately started to process to overthrow the the Reconstruction of the South. The Radical Republicans, who were the majority in the legislature, immediately opposed Johnson, and where forced to Impeach Johnson.
The following is my 1999 essay that I wrote of the subject The First Impeachment Trial: Andrew Johnson in 1868:
For the second time in United States history there is an impeachment trial in the Senate.
The defenders of President Clinton, including the Congressional Black Caucus, argue that Clinton is not guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
They state that Clinton is the victim of partisan politics just like Andrew Johnson was over 130 years ago. They equate today’s Republicans with the Radical Republicans of 1868 who tried to impeach President Andrew Johnson. Maxine Waters even stated: “they [the GOPers on the HJC] have decided to discard our history… to ‘get’ our president when they say they are doing the opposite… In 1868 it was also Radical Republicans who abused impeachment…” — American Politics Impeachment Debate
Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a disservice to Thadeus Stevens and the rest of the Radical Republicans, and the historical record, that this is being done.
The Radical Republicans were fighters for racial equality. Their position was that the former slaves (freedmen), who were homeless, landless, and not educated had to be rewarded for their loyalty to the union and needed to be made whole in order to have equality.
They tried to enforce the Confiscation Act of July 1862. This act included giving land to the former slaves (“40 acres and a mule”). They also set up the Freedmen’s Bureau, designed to provide education, health, and welfare for Black people in the transition from slavery to freedom.
President Johnson defended the Southern slaveocracy and violated the law of the land as passed (over Johnson’s veto) by the Radical Republicans in Congress. Johnson’s argument was that Congress was illegal, for it did not include the former Confederate states.
Johnson ended the Freedmen’s Bureau and opposed all actions to give freed male slaves the right to vote. He refused to enforce the law when former slaves were prevented from exercising their rights by force and violence by the Southern police forces and/or the Ku Klux Klan, which was formed in 1865.
Johnson also supported the Black Codes passed by several Southern states. These codes said that unemployed Blacks were vagrants, who could be arrested and hired out to the highest bidder and forced to work for that person for a prescribed time. (This later upheld by the Supreme court due to the fact that slavery for prisoners was not abolished by the 13th amendment.)
Employers were also given the right to physically punish these workers. These codes also made it illegal for Blacks to bear arms.
To thwart Johnson’s refusal to enforce the laws of the land, the legislature passed the Tenure of Office Bill-over Johnson’s veto. This was done to protect the remaining cabinet officers and government officials that had been appointed by Lincoln and who tried to carry out the laws that Congress had passed.
When Johnson violated this law, even the moderate Republicans were for impeachment.
If Johnson had been impeached, Benjamin Wade would have become President. Wade was an advocate for land reform (“40 acres and a mule”), Black and women’s suffrage, and radical Reconstruction.
February is Black History month. An important part of Black history is the destruction of Reconstruction and the establishment of Jim Crow and racial segregation. Those who today support the fact that Johnson was not impeached are, in reality, giving backhanded support to the establishment of Jim Crow.
In present circumstances, the radical Republicans of the 1860s and advocates of Black civil rights would be advocating the impeachment of Clinton for the unconstitutional bombing of Afghanistan, the Sudan, and Iraq!
My 2010 addition to this essay:
Many people still consider John Fitzgerald Kennedy to be an advocate for civil rights, but one of his heros in his book, Profiles in Courage, was Edmund Ross, who cast the deciding vote against the impeachment of Andrew Johnson and consequently for the establishment of Jim Crow.
From the Kennedy Library’s Summary of the Chapter on Edumund Ross in John Kennedy’s book Profile in Courage:
Edmund Ross, a Kansas Republican, cast the deciding vote that ended the impeachment proceedings against President Andrew Johnson. The proceedings began because doctrinaire ‘Radical Republicans,’ then in control of the Senate, passed a Tenure of Office Act to prevent a president from firing cabinet members without Senate consent. This was done to try to stop Johnson from firing Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Johnson believed Stanton was a tool of the Radicals who wanted to establish a military dictatorship in the South. Johnson felt the wiser course would be to reconstruct the Confederate states back into the Union as quickly as possible without unnecessary military intervention, as Lincoln had intended. When Johnson fired Stanton, the impeachment began.
The House voted for impeachment and the trial then moved to the Senate. As the trial went on it became clear that the Republicans had no intention of giving Johnson a fair trial; rather, their emphasis was on convincing enough Senators to find Johnson guilty. Ross was overheard saying that while he had no sympathy for Johnson, he would do his best to see that he was fairly tried. Because Ross had previously been such a partisan Republican, he became the principal target of abuse from the press, the public, and his fellow Republican legislators. Nonetheless, Ross voted against convicting Johnson, reasoning that if a president could be forced out of office by insufficient evidence that was based on partisan disagreement, the presidency would then be under the control of whatever congressional faction held sway. Ross’s action unleashed relentless criticism. Neither he nor any other Republican who voted to acquit Andrew Johnson was reelected to the Senate, and Ross and his family suffered ostracism and poverty upon their return to Kansas in 1871. Eventually, Ross was vindicated by the Supreme Court, which declared the Tenure of Office Act to be unconstitutional, and praised by the press and the public for having saved the country from dictatorship.
The final act of the counter-revolution was the Compromise of 1877 that settled the disputed 1876 Presidential election and ended Radical Reconstruction. This proclaimed Rutherford Hayes to become President , with the understanding that Hayes would remove the federal troops that were propping up Republican state governments in former slave states.
The incumbent President Grant immediately removed the remaining troops in South and as soon as the troops left, many Republicans also left or became Democrats and the former slave owners retook control of the South. This eventually led to the establishment of Jim Crow. And the first ear of Robber Barons and laissez-faire capitalism, unfetter by government restrictions.
‘Founding Fathers’ of the Trade Union/Social Movements
The founding fathers of this fight developed in opposition to living conditions the laissez-faire capitalism, of that time, and the beginnings of a trade union movement. This epoch of 1880s and 90s was sparked by the the fight for the eight hour day, the Haymarket Massacre and its transition to the First May Day on May 1, 1886. On that day thousands of workers in the larger industrial cities poured into the streets, demanding eight hours. About 340,000 took part in demonstrations in Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Baltimore, Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Boston and other places. Of these nearly 200,000 actually went out on strike. About 42,000 won the eight-hour day. Another 150,000 got a shorter day than they had had before. (May Day as an International Working Class holiday was proclaimed by the First Socialist International in July 1889.)
Part of this struggle, was the natural formation of political organizations in the United States to fight politically against the Democratic/Republican boss’s government. Led by the activists in the working class struggles for a better and in defense of their standard of living, the International Workers of the World IWW (‘The Wobblies’), the Socialist Labor Party, and the Socialist Party mass movements were formed. (Eugene V. Debs, got 913,664 write-in votes, while in jail for his opposition to World War I.
In the 1930’s, my ‘founding fathers’ were those workers and workers’s leaders, like the leaders of the San Francisco, Toledo, Minneapolis, and the Flint Sit Down Strikers who build the CIO, which was described by Toledo leader Art Price in his book, Labor’s Giant Step: Twenty Years of the CIO.
From then through the 1960s the ‘found fathers’ that I admire where the founders and organizers of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the 1960 Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) ‘sit ins’, Malcolm X the Black Power Movement, and the Anti-Vietnam War movement.
Constant Bi-partisan Counter Attack Upon The Labor Movement And The Social MovementsThe US Government
From then through the 1960s the ‘founding fathers’ that I admire were the founders and organizers of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the 1960 Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) ‘sit ins’, Malcolm X the Black Power Movement, and the Anti-Vietnam War movement. Since then, there has been a constant bi-partisan attack upon the labor movement and the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Read my essays The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights Movement and The Fall of the Trade Union Movement. Both of these declines were orchestrated by the betrayals by the leadership of these movements — not to extend the gains of the movements for a better standard of living and improve our unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — but to subordinate these past victories, to the election of lesser evil Democrats.
In todays world, with their pathetic record, the Democrats opened the way for Republicans to do well on November 2. That’s why any challenge to government will have to come from below.
Both of the declared ‘lessor evil politics’ and ‘partnership with the boss’ polices of the United States Trade Union Bureaucracy, and their counterparts in the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement , etc., have lead to a the recent quick economic decline of working people, and small businesses, in this country.
Best Government That Trillionaires Can Buy!
- Being ‘partnership with the boss’ means that they cannot campaign for the taxation of the rich, but rather they support the ‘lessor evil’ Democratic Party, which has either proposed/voted for every ‘tax reform’, since Kennedy, to reduce the taxes of the rich at an expense of tax increases for the working class and small businesses — a ‘Robin Hood in Reverse’ Program, which has brought forth the largest transfer of the national wealth in American/World history, from a majority of the population to a small percentage of the country’s wealthiest families.
- Being in ‘partnership with the boss’ also means to bail out the rich and hope for a few pennies to trickle down to the working class, the oppressed minorities and the poor. This happens in the context with an all out attack upon the social gains that were won by the working class Trade Union struggles in the 30s and 40s and the civil rights movement of the 60s.
- And being ‘partnership with the boss’ also means that you cannot opposed the US wars and war spending abroad, to bring the money home to put people to work.
What has been the response of these bureaucracies to these ‘Robin Hood in Reverse’ policies? They organized an October 2, 2010, demonstration, not to oppose this evils, but proposed that we vote for ‘Progressive’ Democrats, the political party that has been in the forefront of these bipartisan ‘Robin Hood in Reverse’ policies to oppose the Republican Party in the November 2010 elections!?
Since the Trade Union Bureaucracy along with their counterparts in the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement , etc., defaulted, from their leadership responsibilities, and proposed no alternative to oppose these unjust ‘Robin Hood in Reverse’ policies.
Even though the majority of the people fed up with the government being in partnership with the Banks and Wall Street. The rich, were able to seize this opportunity, by vacuum of leadership due to this default of leadership, to use this unjust taxation and their Media Monopoly for their plundering attacks on government spending for social security, social welfare, and education, etc..
Just as the rich created the illusion of a mass movement for Obama as a ‘change’ candidate in 2008, they created the illusion of a mass movement for the ‘change’ Tea Party.
In his article, Toxic Brew, , George Monbiot wrote: “The Tea Parties didn’t arise spontaneously: they were boiled up by big business.. The Tea Party movement is remarkable in two respects. It is one of the biggest exercises in false consciousness the world has ever seen. And it is the biggest astroturf operation in history. These accomplishments are closely related.”
An astroturf campaign is a fake grassroots movement: it purports to be a spontaneous uprising of concerned citizens, but in reality it is founded and funded by elite interests. Some astroturf campaigns have no grassroots component at all(1). Others catalyze and direct real mobilizations. The Tea Party movement belongs in the second category. It is mostly composed of passionate, well-meaning people who think they are fighting elite power, and who are unaware that they’ve been organized by the very interests they believe they are confronting. We now have powerful evidence that the movement was established and has been guided with the help of money from billionaires and big business. Much of this money, as well as much of the strategy and staffing, were provided by two brothers who run what they call ‘the biggest company you’ve never heard of.’
The rich who look to their ‘founding fathers’, the organizers of the first counter revolution and the subsequent constitution, use the terms of the the 1776 revolution — ‘Tea Party’ and ‘No Taxation Without Representation’ to help create the illusion of a movement to further destroy our rights through Obama’s current bipartisan austerity pogrom.
In order to regain what has been lost and win equal rights for all, we must stop supporting those who are oppressing us — the US capitalist class and their Democratic and Republican political parties. And go back to what made all movements powerful — opposing all capitalist parties and relying upon ourselves to build our own economic and independent political power.
That means organizing in our own interests as the working class majority and the oppressed national minorities to unite the protectors of humanity’s habitat, anti-war fighters, all those opposed to the injustices of capitalism, to stop the unending ‘war on terrorism’.
For the good of the working class, it is time for the leadership of the social movements to resign or be replaced along with the ‘partnership with the boss’ and created a partnership with the oppress minorities — their natural allies! To begin anew the policies that won our basic rights in defense of our standard of living — through our own actions, independent of the tiny minority minority, that own this country and the Democratic and Republican Parties. To follow the example of France and take our opposition to the streets!
The labor movement could then use its wealth, not to support Democrats, but to start our own national newspaper and media formations, to counter the Media Monopoly and its lies, in defense of the the rich. We will then able to act in our own interests and build our own political party in opposition to oppression by the rich, as the Sons of Liberty did at the original Boston Tea Party in opposition to British Capitalism.
We must begin to organize our own response to these attacks upon us, by acting as our revolutionary ‘founding fathers’ really did act during the first and second american revolutions — by building a movement committed to act independently of the government and the ruling powers. And as the Declaration of Independence states:
. . . “when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”. . .
Let’s being to organize the third American revolution!