"There is nothing more common than to confound the terms of the American revolution with those of the late American war. The American war is over: but this is far from being the case with the American revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed. It remains yet to establish and perfect our new forms of government; and to prepare the principles, morals, and manners of our citizens, for these forms of government, after they are established and brought to perfection."

Dr. Benjamin Rush, 1787

the clandestine Constitutional Congress                     

    In his Discourse on Inequality, Rousseau showed how from time immemorial capitalists have brainwashed workers into believing the scam that they are forming a government that will guarantee the rights of both the rich and the poor.

"The rich man . . . conceived at length the profoundest plan that ever entered the mind of man: this was to employ in his favour the forces of those who attacked him, to make allies of his adversaries, to inspire them with different maxims, and to give them other institutions as favourable to himself as the law of nature was unfavourable.

"With this view, after having represented to his neighbours the horror of a situation which armed every man against the rest, and made their possessions as burdensome to them as their wants, and in which no safety could be expected either in riches or in poverty, he readily devised plausible arguments to make them close with his design. 'Let us join,' said he, 'to guard the weak from oppression, to restrain the ambitious, and secure to every man the possession of what belongs to him: let us institute rules of justice and peace, to which all without exception may be obliged to conform; rules that may in some measure make amends for the caprices of fortune, by subjecting equally the powerful and the weak to the observance of reciprocal obligations. Let us, in a word, instead of turning our forces against ourselves, collect them in a supreme power which may govern us by wise laws, protect and defend all the members of the association, repulse their common enemies, and maintain eternal harmony among us."

Jean Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, 1754

The Two American Revolutions

     We've been taught to believe that there was only one American Revolution, a struggle to throw off the tyrannies of Great Britain. And relative to that revolution, we're conditioned to believe that the heroes were revolutionary patriots such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Sam Adams, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Otis, the Sons of Liberty, and the Committees of Correspondence.

But in reality there were two American Revolutions:

  • The revolt against British oppression by Americans

  • The revolt against wealthy American merchants and financiers by working class people of America
the nation makers

the struggle against plutocracy
     The first American Revolution was completed with the end of the Revolutionary War in 1781. The second American Revolution is seldom if ever taught in our schools. Because it would make clear just what kind of a country this is: a plutocracy--the rule of the wealthy. And it's this second American Revolution which we must now complete. Only a few of its battles have been won and much work remains in our efforts to rid ourselves of the ideology and practice of plutocracy: predatory capitalism and political fascism.

"We see then, that in the context of the struggle for independence, the specific aspirations of common people put them into conflict with the people we think of as the 'Founding Fathers' or Framers. the Boston tea party The Sons of Liberty, the Loyal Nine, and the Boston Committee of Correspondence and other such groups which the Framers organized were rooted in the 'middling interests and well-to-do merchants' and upper classes. They have been wrongly described as revolutionary. The truth is that they took great measures to keep the peace and defuse revolutionary tendencies.

As mass resistance to British policies mounted, for example, they urged, 'No Mobs or Tumults, let the Person and Properties of your most inveterate Enemies be safe.' Sam Adams agreed. James Otis urged, 'No possible circumstances, though ever so oppressive, could be supposed sufficient to justify tumults and disorders . . .' The Boston Committee of Correspondence actually did its best to contain and control the militancy of activists involved in the Boston Tea Party."

Jerry Fresia, Toward an American Revolution, 1988

"This first phase of the evolution of democracy, during which it was conceived of solely as a substitute for royalty, includes all the so-called republican experiments up to the beginning of the twentieth century, of which, of course, the American Republic was the most important. During this period the democratic idea remained a mere protest against a previous form of government, absolutely without any new positive or vital principle of its own. Although the people had deposed the king as driver of the social chariot, and taken the reins into their own hands, they did not think as yet of anything but keeping the vehicle in the old ruts and naturally the passengers scarcely noticed the change.

"The second phase in the evolution of the democratic idea began with the awakening of the people to the perception that the deposing of kings, instead of being the main end and mission of democracy, was merely preliminary to its real programme, which was the use of the collective social machinery for the indefinite promotion of the welfare of the people at large."

Edward Bellamy, Equality, 1897

What Was Colonial Life Really Like?

John Adams   In Colonial America, the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting much poorer. In 1687 in Boston, the top 1% owned about 25% of the wealth. By 1770, the top 1% owned 44%. In those same years, the poor--those who owned no property--represented 14% in 1687 and 29% in 1770.

  In the various colonies the wealthy merchant class introduced property qualifications for voting in order to disenfranchise the poor and protect their own privileges:

  • In Pennsylvania, white males had to have 50 pounds of "lawful money" or own fifty acres of land.

  • The result was that only 8% of the rural population and 2% of the urban population of Philadelphia could vote

     George Washington was the richest man in America, a man who enslaved 216 human beings who were not emancipated until after he and his wife had both died. Benjamin Franklin had a personal fortune worth at least $20 million in today's money. He was a champion of the Quaker plutocrats in Philadelphia and vigorously opposed the democratic western farmers of Pennsylvania.

John Hancock       John Hancock was an extremely wealthy Boston merchant who had made his fortune as a military contractor during King George's War (1739-1747). In 1748, Hancock engineered a merciless devaluation of Massachusetts currency as a cure to inflation, which reduced huge numbers of workers to poverty. Alexander Hamilton grew rich through his father-in-law's connections. James Madison created a large fortune with his vast slave plantations. The top 10 percent of the white male leaders in America owned half the wealth and held as slaves one-seventh of the country's people.

British King George III   To common people, freedom meant freedom from the oppression of colonial aristocracy as well as freedom from British rule. One of their favorite slogans was: "Common people must be free from all 'Foreign or Domestic Oligarchy.'" They thought in terms of liberation from all oppression, not just "independence from Britain."

  During colonial times, the "common people" were sometimes in control of their local governments. To control the Boston Town Meeting, urban workers, artisans and country farmers formed an alliance in 1768. A group of Boston merchants complained: "At these meetings, the lowest Mechanicks discuss upon the most important points of government with the utmost freedom."

     The "common people" were not taking orders, they were speaking and acting for themselves; they were making it clear that their vision of a new society was not that of the wealthy merchant class.

colonial farm      In Philadelphia, the working class was successful in gaining political power. In 1770, the mechanics held their first political meeting specifically restricted to their own class. By 1772, the working class had organized their own political organization, the Patriotic Society, to promote their own candidates and agenda. By mid-1776, laborers, artisans, and small tradesmen, had taken command in Philadelphia.

     The Pennsylvania constitution was created primarily by farmers and artisans. As one historian describes it, "the extent of popular control" put forward by these common people "exceeds that of any American government before or since." (Kenneth M. Dolbeare, Democracy at Risk, 1986)

  The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 ignored women, slaves, servants and the poor, but it did challenge property rights: all free men who paid any public taxes whatsoever were entitled to the vote. This constitution is of major importance in American history because it reveals that the working class had a clear vision of government and the intelligence and resourcefulness to gain and use political power. By contrast the later federal Constitution is clearly seen as an elitist document which empowered the wealthy class.

  The Pennsylvania Constitution was a high mark of democratic ideals.

"A one-house Assembly whose members were elected annually was made the seat of almost all power. The Assembly was required to function in open public sessions, and to keep full records. Legislation had to indicate its purpose clearly in the preamble, and except in emergencies had to be published and distributed publicly by the Assembly before it could be considered for enactment--but only by the next session of that body, after another election had been held.

"The office of governor and its veto power were eliminated in favor of a weak Supreme Executive Council of 12 members, four of whom were elected each year for three-year terms. Judges were elected for seven-year terms, but were made removable for cause by the Assembly. A council of Censors was to be elected every seven years to review the government's performance and recommend a new constitutional convention if changes in its structure or powers were required. The extent of popular control involved in such a system exceeds that of any American government before or since. Indeed, opponents at the time referred to it as 'mob government.'"

Kenneth M. Dolbeare, Democracy at Risk, 1986

Massachusetts Governor Hancock   During the "War for Independence," many of the colonial states changed the form of their state constitutions to reflect their democratic ideals. In most states there was a movement toward subordinating the executive branch of government and conferring primary power on the legislature. In many states, the governor was elected and in ten states his term of office was one year. In every state there was an executive or privy council which the governor was required to consult on all important decisions. The purpose of such a council, usually appointed by the legislature, was to provide an important check on the governor. In every state, judges could be impeached by the lower branch of the legislature. In none of the states could the courts declare the acts of the legislature null and void.

  The efforts of the working class to build widely popular governments similar to Pennsylvania's in other states failed by and large. In Massachusetts, for example, John Jayproperty qualifications for voting were increased rather than decreased. Ninety percent of the population in Maryland was excluded from holding office because of property qualifications. However, the Regulator Movement in 1766-1771 organized against wealthy and corrupt officials in the colonial states and tried to get middle and lower class people elected to their assemblies.

  The wealthy merchant class grew fearful of the working class's power and made sure that delegates to the first Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774 were selected from the "ablest and wealthiest men in America." John Jay, later to become the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, was elected as president of the Continental Congress. His sentiment was a forecast of what the Constitution would establish: "The people who own the country ought to govern it."

Dangerous Delusions

     After the wealthy merchant class had decided to declare its independence from Britain, it needed cannon fodder for its "war of independence."

"Those upper classes, to rule, needed to make concessions to the middle class, without damage to their own wealth or power, at the expense of slaves, Indians, and poor whites. This bought loyalty. And to bind that loyalty with something more powerful than material advantage, the ruling group found, in the 1760s and 1770s a wonderfully useful device. That device was the language of liberty and equality, which could unite just enough whites to fight a Revolution against England, without ending either slavery or inequality." 1

  As in all wars in our national history, the working class answered the call to arms. However, the war exacerbated the growing class conflict when the working class soldiers experienced grievous inequities:
  • The rich could buy their way out of the draft
  • Officers received much more pay than common soldiers
  • Common soldiers often received no pay
  • During the war some common soldiers who had not been paid attacked the headquarters of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, forcing the members to flee to Princeton across the river
  • After the war, the lack of pay to common soldiers was one of the major causes of the Shays rebellion

Civil strife due to class conflict continued throughout the war in Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. The working class was seeking what President Lincoln would later describe as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, whereas the wealthy class was seeking a dictatorial plutocracy.

The Post-War Era

"[The Framers of the Constitution] . . . had no wish to usher in democracy in the United States. They were not making war upon the principle of aristocracy and they had no more intention than had the Tories of destroying the tradition of upper-class leadership in the colonies. Although they hoped to turn the Tories out of office, they did not propose to open these lush pastures to the common herd. They did believe, however, that the common people, if properly bridled and reined, might be made allies in the work of freeing the colonies from British rule and that they--the gentry--might reap the benefits without interference. They expected, in other words, to achieve a 'safe and sane' revolution of gentlemen, by gentlemen, and for gentlemen."

John C. Milller. (1943). Origins of the American Revolution

the British House of Commons   But after the war, Lord Fairfax, a friend of George Washington, was allowed to retain his five million acres encompassing twenty-one counties in Virginia.

      The first American revolution resulted only in a change in rulers: from the British elite to an American plutocracy. Sixty-nine percent of the signers of the Declaration of Independence had held colonial office under England.

     But not all of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence were plutocratic chickenhawks. Declaration of Independence Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned and two lost their sons who were serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the signers fought and died from wounds or hardships in the Revolutionary War. These men signed the Declaration knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured. They had security, but they valued liberty more. They pledged: "For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

the merchant class versus the workers   The national situation in the post-war mid-1780s was incendiary. The merchants and coastal wholesalers had tried to re-establish large-scale trade with Great Britain, but the British merchants stopped giving credit, demanding cash ("specie"). In turn, wholesalers demanded hard money from shopkeepers and the shopkeepers demanded that farmers immediately repay their loans in cash.

  American farmers had been used to paying back loans in crops, goods, and labor. Suddenly, farmers were dragged into debtor courts, their land or goods seized when they couldn't pay, or they were imprisoned for unpaid debts

  As an example, in the farming community of Hampshire County Massachusetts:

  • 32.4 % of the county's men over sixteen were hauled into court from 1784 to 1786

  • Many were thrown into jail: in one cell, 26 prisoners were held without proper food or ventilation, many got sick and some died

  • Not a single retailer went to jail

  In Massachusetts, the state government (the instrument of the merchant class) shifted the tax burden away from merchants and onto farmers. State laws demanded that taxes be paid in hard money. The excuse for this attack on the working class was that this promoted commerce.

   Nevertheless, there were a number of uprisings by enlightened elements of the middle class and the lower class because they recognized that the nation suffered under an oppressive plutocracy.

  • In May, 1779, the First Company of Philadelphia Artillery petitioned the Pennsylvania Assembly concerning the plight of "the middling and poor" and threatened "those who are avariciously intent upon amassing wealth by the destruction of the more virtuous part of the community."

the Shays Rebellion

  • Following the "War for Independence," debtors took over the Rhode Island legislature and began issuing paper money to pay off their debts.

  • Daniel Shays, a veteran of the Continental army, wounded in action, finally left the army in 1780 because he did not receive the pay promised him. Like hundreds of other unpaid army veterans, Shays found himself in court for nonpayment of debts when he returned home. He organized 700 armed farmers, most of them veterans of the war, led them to the Massachusetts capitol, and broke up a court which was passing judgment on war veterans for nonpayment of debts. In 1787, he marched a thousand men toward Boston but they were defeated by a blizzard and an army unit led by General Benjamin Lincoln supported by money raised by Boston merchants.

  Many farmers, like Daniel Shays, were veterans who had trudged home from the "War for Independence" without having received their pay. They had been given government certificates which soon decreased in value so much that they were sold to speculators. Adding to the farmers' postwar plight, heavy land taxes were levied against the farm towns. Farmers grew irrate as they watched the furniture, grain and livestock of their relatives and neighbors sold off to pay debts. Farmers were hauled into debtors' court, charged high legal fees, and often imprisoned.

Sam Adams, the anti-revolutionary   When the Shays Rebellion broke out, Sam Adams engineered a Riot Act which prohibited 12 or more persons from congregating in public and which empowered county sheriffs to kill rioters. Sam Adams, who in the Declaration of Independence had defended the right of a people to revolt, now reversed himself:

"In monarchy the crime of treason may admit of being pardoned or lightly punished, but the man who dares rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer death."

"The Founding Fathers did lead the war for independence from Britain. But they did not do it for the equal right of all to life, liberty, and equality. Their intention was to set up a new government that would protect the property of slave owners, land speculators, merchants, and bondholders. Independence from England had already been secured in parts of the country by grassroots rebellion a year before the battles at Lexington and Concord that initiated hostilities with Britain.   . . .   It is one of the phenomena of modern times that revolutions are not favored unless they are led by people who are not revolutionaries at heart.

"I would rather recognize the greatness of all those who fought to make sure that the Founding Fathers would not betray the principles of the Declaration of Independence, to make sure that the dead and maimed of the Revolutionary War did not make their sacrifices in vain. And so I would honor the soldiers of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey lines, who mutinied against George Washington and Mad Anthony Wayne. They were rebelling against the luxurious treatment of their gentry officers, and their own mistreatment: 500 lashes for misconduct, Washington decreed, and executed a few mutinous leaders to set an example.

"Add to the honors list in that great generation the farmers of western Massachusetts who resisted the taking of their homes and land for nonpayment of exorbitant taxes. This was the Shays Rebellion, which put a fright into the Founding Fathers, especially as it led to uprisings in Maryland, South Carolina, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. That rebellion persuaded the Founding Fathers that a strong central government was needed to maintain law and order against unruly dissidents, slave rebels, and Indians. These were the true revolutionaries of the Revolutionary generation."

Howard Zinn. "The Greatest Generation,"
The Progressive, October 2001

The Federalist Conspiracy

Patrick Henry speaking at the 1774 Continental Congress   Of the fifty-six men who had signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, only six of those attended the Federal Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 where the specially selected delegates secretly concocted a plutocratic structure of rule. Patrick Henry refused to attend the convention and genuinely democratic patriots such as George Mason, Luther Martin, John Francis Mercer, and Elbridge Gerry participated in the convention but refused to sign the new constitution because it lacked a Bill of Rights and provided inadequate representation of the people.

  John Lansing and Robert Yates attended the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia as members of the New York delegation. As the Hamilton-Madison plutocratic conspiracy group took control of the convention, both Yates and Lansing became disillusioned because they believed it was exceeding its instructions to merely modify the Articles of Confederation. They were dismayed at the Hamilton-Madison-inspired movement to write an entirely new constitution.

Members of the 1787 Constitutional Convention   After six weeks, John Lansing and fellow New York delegate Robert Yates left the convention, explaining their departure in a joint letter to New York Governor George Clinton. They explained that they opposed any document that would consolidate the United States into one government, and indicated that they understood that the convention was going to consider such a consolidation. In their letter to Clinton, they warned that the kind of government recommended by the convention would not "afford that security to equal and permanent liberty which we wished to make an invariable object of our pursuit." As members of the New York ratifying convention in 1788, Lansing and Yates both vigorously opposed the Constitution.

  In 1787, the vast majority of American people lived in a community-oriented culture, on farms or in cities working as artisans and laborers. Their concept of independence was associated with interdependence and cooperation--all for the common good. Women worked with men, families traded labor and animals.

  In this culture of mutual concern and mutual obligation, working class people took care of one another. They shared common values and interests, completely different from the values of a market-driven approach to life. According to this common welfare approach to life, merchants and financiers would be restricted to what the community decided about how resources are used. The working class had put its democratic, interdependent ideals into their state constitutions and in town and city charters when possible.

  The wealthy class--shopkeepers, lawyers, bankers, speculators, commercial farmers--had adopted a completely opposite way of life: every person for himself. The capitalist world view of the wealthy class saw the community as a system of exchange between producers and consumers, "the moneyed" and workers. The holy of holies for the merchant class was the "free market" ideology, according to which each man pursues only his own self-interest. Society is held together, not on the basis of common welfare, but by the "invisible hand of the market" implemented through impersonal contracts.

"Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all."

Adam Smith. (1776). Wealth of Nations

Alexander Hamilton   According to the view of the merchant class, the state is to be controlled by elites or "better people" who decide what is best for the "common people." Government's role is to protect the single human capability of ownership. All other capabilities--learning, pursuit of happiness, freedom, human concern--are to be subordinated to property. The state's only role is to assure that the impersonal market system runs smoothly. This requires that the government use violent force when it becomes necessary to protect personal property and the rights of capitalists over workers.

     The delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia were selected by state legislatures--not by popular vote of the people. The capitalist class was frightened by how much power the working class had been able to muster in the separate colonies and they could see from the Shays rebellion that the people were quite capable of rebelling against the wealthy class when it seized their hard-earned lands, crops, and animals.

"James Madison also linked the motivation of the delegates at the Constitutional Convention to Shays Rebellion. He said that the rebellion in the states 'contributed more to that uneasiness which produced the Convention...than those...from the inadequacy of the Confederation....'"

Jerry Fresia, Toward an American Revolution, 1988

James Madison      Delegates to the Constitutional Convention were instructed that their only job was to amend the Articles of Confederation and that any proposed changes were to be approved by all the states before they were adopted. A conspiratorial junta, led by Hamilton and Madison, had already decided that they would scrap the Articles of Confederation and write an entirely new constitution which would create a centralized government controlled by the wealthy class. The Convention met entirely in secret, and it would be fifty-three years before American citizens were allowed to see the record of what had transpired in this coup d'etat which enshrined predatory capitalism as the imposed way of life for Americans. Of the sixty-two delegates appointed to the Convention, fifty-five showed up. At the Convention, no more than eleven states were ever represented at one time. Of the fifty-five members of the Convention; only thirty-nine signed the final draft.

  The illegal Constitution these conspirators contrived:

  • Was in effect an economic document, enshrining property as the primary value

    the conspiratorial Constitutional Convention

  • Was anti-majoritarian, making sure that the "common people" could no longer gain political power over the minority capitalist class

  • Contained no checks against plutocratic (corporate) power

  • Created the private control of government by the capitalist class, including the creation of domestic and foreign policy

  • Disallowed city or state assemblies to make decisions which the federal government was to make

  • Assured that effective political power was unavailable at the local level

"It has been common to designate our form of government as a democracy, but in the true sense in which that term is properly used, as defining a government in which all its acts are performed by the people, it is about as far from it as any other of which we are aware."

Samuel Freeman Miller, LL.D. ( Associate Justice of U.S. Supreme Court),
Lectures on the Constitution of the United States, 1892

      Knowing that the popular majority in all the states would oppose this oligarchic document, the framers of the Constitution inserted the provision that it would go into effect when ratified by only nine states and then set about to perform all the "dirty tricks" necessary to ensure its ratification.

"Federalist" ratification tactics:

  • The "Federalists" (the junta that had called the Constitutional Convention, subverted its purposes to the writing of a plutocratic document, and pushed through the totally flawed "constitution") pushed for excessively rapid election of delegates to state conventions who would vote on ratification of the "constitution."

  • The "Federalists" made sure that most of the delegates who would vote on ratification were sympathetic to the "constitution."

  • Members of state conventions known to be unsympathetic to the "constitution" were harassed by "Federalist" dirty-trick operators.

  • Mail documents that discussed the pros and cons of the "constitution" were disrupted by "Federalist" operators.

  • Only one-fourth of the adult males in America were allowed (by property requirements and other restrictions) to vote on delegates to the ratification convention.

  • Not more than one-sixth of American adult males voted for ratification.

Completing the Second American Revolution

the Constitutional      The first post-constitutional major skirmish in the ongoing battle of the "common people" against the wealthy class, was the passage of the Bill of Rights in 1791. These first ten amendments to the Constitution embodied many of the working class's concerns which had been expressed during the ratification process. But it is exceptionally important to recognize that the original Constitution and the Bill of Rights omit any protection for common people against corporations or capitalist employees.

     Following the imposition of a plutocratic Constitution on American citizens, there have been continual uprisings by enlightened elements of the working class in America because they have recognized that the nation suffers under an oppressive capitalist class.

  • The Anti-Renter movement in the Hudson River Valley near Albany, New York in 1839 was a protest against the patroonship system, created in the 1660s when the Dutch ruled New York, in which the rich had vast land holdings and the tenants paid taxes and rents. The Rensselaer family, for example, ruled over about eighty thousand tenants and had accumulated a fortune of $41 million. The movement grew to ten thousand men and was finally put down by a cavalry unit of three thousand who came up from New York City.

    the Constitutional

  • The Dorr Rebellion in Rhode Island in 1841-1843 was led by Thomas Dorr, a lawyer from a well-to-do family. He advocated that the twelve thousand working class people in Rhode Island without the right to vote, should not pay taxes or serve in the militia for the five thousand who had land and could vote. Thousands joined the Dorr uprising and in 1841 they organized their own "People's Convention" outside the legal system. The convention drafted a new constitution without property qualifications for voting. In 1842 fourteen thousand people in Rhode Island voted for the new constitution, including about five thousand with property, a clear majority in the state. In April of 1842 they held an unofficial election in which Dorr ran unopposed for governor and six thousand people voted for him. The "official" governor of Rhode Island requested federal assistance to put down the rebellion and President John Tyler sent in federal troops to quash the uprising. In the Rhode Island elections of 1843, the Law and Order group, opposed by former Dorrites, used intimidation on a grand scale. Military officers threatened their men, employers intimidated their employees, landlords their tenants, to elect the proper people. The Law and Order group lost in the industrial towns, won in the agrarian areas, and took over all major offices. Dorr was convicted of treason and spent twenty months in jail before being pardoned.

  • In the early twentieth century, the workers formed the AFL, IWW, CIO, and many other labor organizations to try to force the rich industrialists to provide American workers a living wage and safe working conditions.

  • Even during the second world war, supposedly the most "popular" war in history, there were 14,000 strikes involving 6.7 million workers, more than in any other comparable period in American history. In 1944, a year before the end of WWII, there were a million workers on strike, in mines, steel mills, and in the auto and transportation equipment industries.

    The Obscenities of Irresponsible Wealth

    Kevin Phillips's Wealth and Democracy   Since that time, the rapacious increase in wealth by American plutocrats has been fostered by the U.S. Constitution's plutocratic structure of government. In 1850, 1,000 southern families received about $50 million a year income while all the other 660,000 families combined received about $60 million a year. In 1920s America one-tenth of one percent of the wealthy at the top received as much income as the combined income of 42 percent of the people at the bottom.

      In 1995 American corporate CEO salaries increased by 92 percent; corporate profits rose 75 percent, worker layoffs increased 39 percent, consumer prices went up 17%. The highest paid CEO received more than $65 million in 1995. The top 1 percent in America own approximately 60 percent of all wealth. Approximately 35 percent of American families were living below the poverty line in 1998. For a current exposé of the widespread corruption spawned by a plutocratic society, I would recommend Kevin Phillips's book, Wealth and Democracy.

    Precarious Civil Liberties

    Plato and Aristotle   No nation in humankind's history has ever achieved a true commonwealth. American citizens have historically enjoyed a wider range of liberties than most citizens in other countries. But those American liberties have always been at the sufferance of the rulers. When they have felt it necessary they limited or destroyed American liberties without compunction. Americans have suffered under restrictions to civil liberties throughout our history.
    • The 1780 Riot Act allowed the Boston authorities to keep people in jail without trial

    • The Sedition Act of 1789 made it a crime to say or write anything "false, scandalous and malicious" against the government, Congress, or the President

    • The 1917 Espionage Act led to imprisonment of Americans who spoke or wrote against World War I

    • President Truman's March 22, 1947 Executive Order 9835 initiated a program to search out any "infiltration of disloyal persons" in the U.S. government


    • The 1950 Internal Security Act laid the groundwork for the insane trampling of civil liberties called McCarthyism

    • The 1996 "Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act" deprives Americans of our Constitutional protections of habeas corpus review in federal courts.

    • The tyrannous "Patriot" Act instituted by Bush II creates, among other outrages, "roving wiretap" authority, unsubstantiated subpoena of anyone the FBI chooses and arrest of anyone who tells others of these illegal subpoenas, search and seizure of assets as long it is claimed that the search is "related to terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities," etc, ad nauseam.

    The Struggle of the Oppressed

         Most of what we hear or read today perpetuates the dangerous delusion that we live in a democracy. Even iconoclasts who strip away the democratic myth to reveal the reality of plutocracy often end their discussions with generalized theories of reform which have no hint of reality to them. A more realistic point of view is to outline the elements of a commonwealth way of life and complete the American Revolution of freeing ourselves from the mental and political restraints of imperialistic capitalism.

         First, we need to realize that we don't live in a democracy, that the politicians who buy their way into office don't work for the good of people but for their own monetary gain. The richest one percent of Americans have gained over a trillion dollars in the past dozen years as a result of tax breaks.

         "The decayed condition of American democracy is difficult to grasp, not because the facts are secret, but because the facts are visible everywhere. American democracy is in much deeper trouble than most people wish to acknowledge. Behind the reassuring facade, the regular election contests and so forth, the substantive meaning of self-government has been hollowed out. What exists behind the formal shell is a systemic breakdown of the shared civic values we call democracy.

         "At the highest levels of government, the power to decide things has instead gravitated from the many to the few, just as ordinary citizens suspect. Instead of popular will, the government now responds more often to narrow webs of power - the interests of major economic organizations and concentrated wealth and the influential elites surrounding them.

         "In place of a meaningful democracy, the political community has embraced a permissive culture of false appearances. Government responds to the public's desires with an artful dance of symbolic gestures - hollow laws that are emptied of serious content in the private bargaining of Washington. Promises are made and never kept. Laws are enacted and never enforced."

    William Greider, Who Will Tell the People?, 1992

      With all its shortcomings, the United States still provides its citizens with a wide range of freedom, more than any other country in the world, primarily because of the Bill of Rights that the common people forced on the capitalist class. In our struggle to complete the American Revolution, the people have won some other important partial victories over plutocracy:

    • The women's rights movement

    • The civil rights struggle

    • Vietnam war resistance

    • The growing force of Internet-based news and analysis sources that are exposing the onslaughts of the capitalist cabal against our civil rights

    A Training Program

    "Talk democracy to these men and women. I tell them that they have the vote, and that theirs is the kingdom and the power and the glory. I say to them 'You are supreme: exercise your power.' They say, 'That's right: tell us what to do'; and I tell them. I say 'Exercise your vote intelligently by voting for me.' And they do. That's democracy; and a splendid thing it is too for putting the right men in the right place."

    George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Anglo-Irish playwright, critic
    Boanerges, in The Apple Cart, act 1

         We must begin training ourselves to understand that "democracy" is a concept that has been used throughout the world--including in America--as a scam to control the masses. Instead of a democracy--of whatever kind--we must begin working toward a commonwealth: a nation founded on law and united by compact of the people for the common good

         One of the reasons why ignorant and ill-intentioned thinkers have attacked Plato, is because he was forthright enough to reveal the reality of democracy--that it is in actuality the manipulation of the masses by an elite who fools the common people into thinking they are ruling when they aren't.

    "These will be some of the features of democracy. . . it will be, in all likelihood, an agreeable, lawless, parti-colored society, dealing with all alike on a footing of equality, whether they be really equal or not."

    Plato, The Commonwealth

      Plato had seen this form of swindle practiced on the citizens of Athens, and had seen the deadly results of such a fraud when a pseudo-democratic mob-ocracy sentenced his teacher and friend Socrates to death on trumped-up charges.

      Plato understood that a society must have either of two basic forms of government:

    • Oligarchy: a government in which a small elite group rules for its own benefit

      • Plutocracy: rule of those with wealth

      • Tyranny: rule of a criminal cabal

    • Commonwealth: a government in which politcal and economic principles and practices accrue to the benefit of all members of society

      • This form of government is ruled by some type of aristocracy, those with some kind of special knowledge and skill.

      • Plato believed that a commonwealth should be ruled by those persons who were seekers of wisdom--philosophers.

      One of Plato's major works was entitled Politeia, the Greek word for Commonwealth. The title of this work has been mistranslated as The Republic when its actual title is The Commonwealth.

      Plato saw clearly that democracy quickly degenerates into tyranny--as we have seen throughout American history. The current demonic cabal is simply the most recent embodiment of this swindle.

      All cabal members use the word "democracy" as a shibboleth to fool the ignorant American masses, pretending that they are spreading this magic form of government to as many nations as possible. The few elements of true democratic rule remaining--rule of the people by the people--must be saved from the Trumpites and the totalitarian Republican Party.

         As Howard Zinn made clear in A People's History of the United States,

    "The American system is the most ingenious system of control in world history. With a country so rich in natural resources, talent, and labor power the system can afford to distribute just enough to just enough people to limit discontent to a troublesome minority. It is a country so powerful, so big, so pleasing to so many of its citizens that it can afford to give freedom of dissent to the small number who are not pleased. How wise to turn the fear and anger of the majority toward a class of criminals bred - by economic inequity - faster than they can be put away, deflecting attention from the huge thefts of national resources carried out within the law by men in executive offices."

         We must train ourselves in the commonwealth way of life by:
    1. Learning how to think critically

    2. Gaining an awareness of our world, including an empowering historical perspective

    3. Learning the skills of community organizing

    4. Developing group decision-making skills

         Learning to think critically involves examining our own self-delusions and incapacities and recognizing the essential ingredients in the commonwealth way of life. Certain of our delusions and incapacities make a commonwealth impossible.


    • We've allowed ourselves to become consumed by egomania. Ego-obsession is the image we see everywhere, the individual feeling that he or she is the most important thing in the world. Movies, television, music, literature, all encourage us to feel that we are the center of the universe. We haven't learned to discriminate between ego-obsession, self-respect, and servility. Yes, we want to attain a healthy respect for ourselves and avoid a demeaning feeling of servility, but most people have gone to the extreme of ego-mania--literally becoming crazy about themselves. In a general social atmosphere of ego-obsession, a commonwealth life-style is impossible. People are not able to see beyond their own immediate, momentary interests to the good of a larger group interest which ultimately serves their individual wellbeing as well.

    • We have allowed ourselves to become splintered into special interest groups and factions, based on ethnicity, age, gender, or other characteristics. the necessity of united action A commonwealth is only possible when people see the improvement of their society as a common good and are willing to develop a genuine sense of solidarity with others. One of the major difficulties with our present society is the inability and unwillingness of the wealthy rulers to work toward the good of all the people in our society. They act to serve only their own interests, gaining wealth and power. As we train for a commonwealth, we must learn to work toward a society which will serve the interests of all its citizens, rich and poor, old and young, men and women, and people of all ethnic backgrounds and value orientations.

    • We need to develop group decision-making skills as a foundation for the commonwealth way of life. This requires that we learn how to think critically, resolving issues through the use of evidence, not merely what we happen to feel or what some supposed authority has told us.
         There are specific factors required for the commonwealth way of life.
    • First, we must realize that a commonwealth is not an external condition or system but a way of life. As such, it must be pursued, achieved, and then continually maintained. By definition, it requires of its participants certain values, qualities of character, and capacities. Those values, qualities, and capacities must be central to one's whole life and being.

      • This means that it is not possible to practice a commonwealth life-style in one area of life--say on the job or in a civic organization--and yet remain acquiescent to or unmindful of the fascism of a political-economic system, or remain tyrannical in one's personal relationships.

      • This also means that a commonwealth, by its very nature, cannot be given to us by decree, or mandate, or vote, or constitution, or even political revolt. It is a capability for group decision-making which we must achieve for ourselves and which then requires continual effort and vigilance. A commonwealth is not an end to be achieved once-and-for-all and handed from one generation to another. It is a process used by people in ordering their lives toward critical common goals such as constitutional liberties. Each generation's goals change, so a commonwealth life-style is a process which is never completed or achieved, any more than the process of learning is something we get the hang of and then stop doing.

    • A commonwealth can emerge only when certain persons decide to join with others in selecting and fulfilling common goals. To opt for a commonwealth must come out of the understanding that other seemingly simpler and more efficient processes of decision-making lead inevitably to the oppression of one group by another. We gain this understanding by experiencing oppressive forms of decision-making in the family, the workplace, the community, and the nation. By experiencing the oppression and life-destruction which anti-democratic regimes entail we gain an intense desire for the democratic way of life. We're presently experiencing the oppression of wealth and power under a series of fascistic regimes. Obscenely rich people are using political, economic, and military force to drive America into a society with two classes: the wealthy and the poor.

         Americans have difficulty in understanding what a commonwealth means because we've lived, in the past decades, in a fairly affluent era ruled by a plutocracy masked as democracy. We're only now realizing that the United States isn't a democracy after all--it is a plutocracy controled by an evil cabal.

         It's of importance to recognize the extent to which intelligent independence and self-direction in any realm are an achievement. The ability to be an independent, self-directing personality is present in possibility in original nature; but this possibility is made an actuality only through the proper kind of education. The same is true of a group.
    "Independent, self-directing group conduct is . . . an achievement. Merely to offer democracy to a group does not mean that the group is able to conduct itself democratically. Just as individual independence comes gradually, first in more restricted and then in wider areas of life, so independence in a group comes gradually, first in more restricted and then in ever and ever widening areas of conduct. Whether the group be a family, a gang, a class in school, or a nation, it cannot change suddenly with any success from complete autocratic control to entirely independent self-direction." 2
    Modern Times

         Now that the conditions of widespread affluence and freedom of mobility are no longer profitable for the American plutocracy, some of the more unpleasant and inevitable features of their oppressive order are beginning to affect American citizens directly. Perhaps the harsh realities of unemployment, slave wages, tax-slavery, and government harassment will provide the kind of incentive we need to consider deeper values in life beyond mindless, superficial, addictive entertainment and sports--the "circuses" provided by the present rulers. Perhaps now we can begin to ask what democracy is and how we can train for it.

         We must first realize just what led to our present enslavement under a fascist plutocracy, what characteristics in us allowed for our self-delusion, our being controlled by lust for possessions and social acceptance, our willingness to let others rule us as long as we feel we are getting our share. If we can understand what personal qualities lead to enslavement we can then begin to understand their opposite: the positive qualities that make democratic self-rule possible.

    The Commonwealth Way of Life

          The commonwealth way of life is possible only with people who desire to work toward full human potential. A commonwealth cannot exist in a context where some always say: "I can't do that or I can't understand that, let someone else decide who can do more or who understands more."

         A commonwealth is very difficult to initiate because at almost any moment in time a ruling group is faced with people who've been trained to be and feel incompetent. The ruling group's temptation at that point is to say: "Since the people clearly can't rule themselves, we'll rule them now and continue to rule them."

         A commonwealth can only begin when a small group of persons - having suffered under an oppressive form of rule and having prepared themselves for self-rule - take over the direction of a group or community. This preparation involves, among other things, the close examination of real, as opposed to assumed or imagined capacities, and the development of real competence. Even then there will be some persons in the community who can't yet participate effectively in decision-making. This is one of the major challenges of democratic rule. Will the leaders of democratic reform activate a process whereby others can learn to participate effectively in group decision-making or will they use the undeniable incompetence of others as an excuse for taking more absolute and final control?

         It's hard for us to realize that we lack certain mental and behavioral skills required for a democratic way of life. We must train ourselves in the skills and understanding which a commonwealth requires.

         A commonwealth can only come to those who are willing to work for the best and highest in human development for all. At almost any point in a nation's history it can be said: "Yes, there are problems here, but it could be worse. Instead of being a malcontent working for unnecessary change, be thankful for what you have." That has been said to every enslaved or oppressed group in human history. That's what the white owner said to his black slave, the British trying to mollify the oppressed colonists in America and India in the 1770s. The good is often enemy to the best. Today we hear: "What oppression? We never had it so good. Don't rock the boat." For many people, life under this present plutocracy, which they have been fully programmed to experience as a democracy, appears rewarding and complete.

    "A democratic process is the best way to grow men and women. It is he who does the thinking, who faces the problems, who makes the plans, who alone achieves both the growth and the happiness. Our present idea and practice of leadership reserve these supreme values to the leaders. Life has become, for a large number of people, pure drudgery. Men become "robots, " machines for executing other people's desires. The leaders grow, the individuals in the crowd decline." 3

      Mr. Smith doesn't need to go to Washington; he and other American citizens need to complete the American Revolution and learn to refashion a government of, by, and for the people by training for and building a commonwealth. Mr. Smith and other citizens should look forward to the day when their skills are developed to the point that they can begin to make a difference in their community and their nation, taking back the government that's been stolen from them.

    "The difficulty in securing democracy has been that more attention has been paid to defending it as a philosophy than to developing the methodology by which it could be made to function in life." 4


    1 Howard Zinn, (1995). A People's History of the United States, NY: Harper, p. 58

    2 Harrison S. Elliott, (1938). The Process of Group Thinking,   NY: Association Press, p. 12: Elliott's conception of democracy is in line with what we are calling in this essay a commonwealth life-style.

    3 Harrison S. Elliott, op. cit.., p. 6

    4 Harrison S. Elliott, ibid.


    12/10/2014: Genuine founding fathers opposed torture

    8/14/2011: The Strange Death of the American Revolution

    10/5/2006: An Early Revolt Atainst American Plutocracy


    Beard, Charles A. An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1948)

    Dahl, Robert A. How Democratic Is the American Constitution, (Yale University Press, 2002)

    Dolbeare, Kenneth M. Democracy at Risk: The Politics of Economic Renewal, (Chatham House Publishers, Inc., 1984)

    Elliott, Harrison S. The Process of Group Thinking, (New York: Association Press, 1938)

    Foner, Eric. Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976)

    Foner, Philip. History of the Labor Movement in the United States, Vol. 1, (New York: International Publishers, 1975)

    Fresia, Jerry. Toward an American Revolution: Exposing the Constitution and other Illusions, (South End Press, 1988)

    Goldwin, Robert A. and William A. Schambra, eds. How Democratic Is the Constitution? (Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1980)

    Ketcham, Ralph. The Anti-Federalist Papers and the Constitutional Convention Debates, (New York: New American Library, 1986)

    Latham, Earl, ed., The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, (Boston: D.C. Heath, 1956)

    Main, Jackson Turner. The Antifederalists (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1961

    Manley, John F. and Kenneth M. Dolbeare, The Case Against the Constitution, (New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1987)

    Mee, Charles L. Jr. The Genius of the People (New York: Harper & Row)

    Raphael, Ray. A People's History of the American Revolution, (New Press, 2001)

    Rossiter, Clinton. The Grand Convention (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1966)

    Slaughter, Thomas P. The Whiskey Rebellion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986)

    Smith, David. The Convention and the Constitution (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965)

    Smith, Page. The Constitution (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1978)

    Szatmary, David P. Shays' Rebellion: The Making of an Agrarian Insurrection, (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980)

    Young, Alfred F. ed. The American Revolution (Northern Illinois University Press, 1976)

    Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States, (HarperCollins Publishers, 1999)