There are things that happen in the world that are bad, and you want to do something about them. You have a just cause. But our culture is so war prone that we immediately jump from, “This is a good cause” to “This deserves a war.”

You need to be very, very comfortable in making that jump.

The American Revolution—independence from England—was a just cause. Why should the colonists here be occupied by and oppressed by England? But therefore, did we have to go to the Revolutionary War?

How many people died in the Revolutionary War?

Nobody ever knows exactly how many people die in wars, but it’s likely that 25,000 to 50,000 people died in this one. So let’s take the lower figure—25,000 people died out of a population of three million. That would be equivalent today to two and a half million people dying to get England off our backs.

You might consider that worth it, or you might not.

Canada is independent of England, isn’t it? I think so. Not a bad society. Canadians have good health care. They have a lot of things we don’t have. They didn’t fight a bloody revolutionary war. Why do we assume that we had to fight a bloody revolutionary war to get rid of England?

In the year before those famous shots were fired, farmers in Western Massachusetts had driven the British government out without firing a single shot. They had assembled by the thousands and thousands around courthouses and colonial offices and they had just taken over and they said goodbye to the British officials. It was a nonviolent revolution that took place. But then came Lexington and Concord, and the revolution became violent, and it was run not by the farmers but by the Founding Fathers. The farmers were rather poor; the Founding Fathers were rather rich.

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

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

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

Did blacks benefit from the American Revolution?

Slavery was there before. Slavery was there after. Not only that, we wrote slavery into the Constitution. We legitimized it.

What about class divisions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ve got to rethink this question of war and come to the conclusion that war cannot be accepted, no matter what the reasons given, or the excuse: liberty, democracy; this, that. War is by definition the indiscriminate killing of huge numbers of people for ends that are uncertain. Think about means and ends, and apply it to war. The means are horrible, certainly. The ends, uncertain. That alone should make you hesitate.

Once a historical event has taken place, it becomes very hard to imagine that you could have achieved a result some other way. When something is happening in history it takes on a certain air of inevitability: This is the only way it could have happened. No.

We are smart in so many ways. Surely, we should be able to understand that in between war and passivity, there are a thousand possibilities.

Howard Zinn is the author of “A People’s History of the United States.” The History Channel is running an adaptation called “The People Speak.” This article is an excerpt from Zinn’s cover story, "Just Cause Does Not Equal Just War." in the July issue of The Progressive.

To read the entire piece, please subscribe here electronically, or go to www.progressive.org, and sign up for the digital edition.

Comments

Nice writeup
Before we jump on the band wagon about how nasty England was and the nonsense about the Colonist escaping England for a better life, we ought to explore history a little deeper. EVERYTHING in this world is but an illusion! Lets go back just a little further to 1491 and the run up to the 4th., Blood Moon Tetrad of 1493. In 1491 the Moors made treaties (still valid) with the east coast Anishinabe. Those treaties were sold to a woman who would head a new corporation; Isabell/Spain. She "donated" the treaties to pope as a tie diem then she quickly "died". In order to silence as many as possible re: treaties, the Moors were 'rounded up, tortured then enslaved. Many were murdered. This was the start of the so-called "African Slave Trade". So, what was Colonization all about? Colonization of the 15th., to current, is very much like the current Norman Refugee Crisis, which is similar to the Syrian Refugee Crisis of 1066! Tell a bunch of brain dead "we found this land and anyone can have it" was THE way to dilute the population, and, if you send enough criminals you can give them $5.00 for each "Indian" ear thereby establishing the "blue bloods" here. The so-called Revolution involved the genocide of the Anishinabe and the; bondage, slavery and captivity of the Tribes of Y'isra'El, of which the Moors belonged. The next reason for the so-called Revolution was, like in Canada, to create a "treadmill of debt" through the Bank of England fractional reserve and other Hittite-Edomite financial slights of hand. The Bank of England "loaned" the Freemason revolutionary leaders with the proviso of repayment of 1,000,000 of silver per year for 18 years. They paid from 1776-1789 then defaulted owing a few million. This created the illusion "there must be more money" (Rocking Horse Winner) thus the need to take over other land not subject to international contracts, still valid today! Lets look at Canada now. In 1862 the Duke of ("Nuke") Newcastle, one Henry Pelham-Pelham-Pelham CLINTON (Had 5 kids, one a daughter who was concubine for Edward VII hmmmm) borrowed 12,000,000 pounds of silver from the papal Bank of England to build useless papal railways thus creating a ribbon of steel costing them nothing and in preparation for their commercial fascist onslaught. The loan ran from 1862 to December 1867 thus the need to refinance or essentially go bankrupt. Consequently, the Dominion of Canada was invented. What many don't know is this; pre 1867 there were two financial funds; 1. the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the Indian Fund. IN 1867 the Lord Privy Seal aka HER MAJESTY QUEEN VICTORIA c. o. b. and the man in that place at that time, ordered the Privy Council Office (England) to roll the Indian Fund into the Consolidated Revenue Fund which was nothing more and nothing less than money laundering! By the way, the British North America Act 1867 was never properly constructed or given Royal Assent. It was private law. From 1867 we find the stepping stones to land laundering which invariably involved the likes of Buffalo Bill and others who laid siege on the plains Anishinabe by taking out their main food supply, the buffalo! Then came the private legislation such as, but not limited to, the so-called "Indian Act" and Residential Schools! We don't learn slavery and genocide are under our belts we are about to taste the same thing from this Muslim bastard influx (Muslims come from Genesis 36-Edom marrying a daughter of Ishmael... Ishmael comes from Abrah and abide by the 4 Wills of All_h; the Muslims don't subscribe to the 4 Wills). In the event you don't recognize who the Edomites are lets take a look at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Who are those men who push their face and smash their heads against that wall? Do they call themselves "Jews"? Whats a "Jew"? Better yet, lets explore exactly who built that wall. The wall was part of a fortification built long after the Second Temple of Solomon was built. Who built that wall? Herod built the wall. Herod murdered 1/2 his family and tried to murder the Messiah. Herod also happened to be an Edomite who was answerable to Rome. If the Edomites are answerable to Rome then who does Rome represent? If you look at Genesis 35-36 we find Esau flat broke and mixed with the Cana'anites. so, not answerable to brother Jacob Esau-Edom must be responsible to Cana'an thus Rome, in present terms. It is ALL "religious"occult! And exactly who is running what? In Canada they have "Ministers". The Prime Minister could be considered the Arch Bishop. In the 13 Colonies they have "Secretaries". John Kerry is Secretary of State. What kind of work do secretaries do? They do "clerical" work. What is a "cleric"? A cleric is an ecclesiast! So, does Canada run the 13 Colonies or do the 13 Colonies run Canada? Finally, the Queen's purported authority over Turtle Island/North America is found under s. 25(a) of the "Canadian's" Charter of Rights and Freedoms 1982. ALL but the 13 Colonies is the Indian Territory, unamended and unproclaimed! The Lord Privy Seal alias HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH THE SECOND c. o. b. as Tina Stowell currently calls the shots. Insofar as the world's number one terrorists it is a toss up between the Lord Privy Seal and the "American" voter! Voting over and over and over all the while expecting to vote in some other than a descendant of King John LackLand who, in 1213 signed a contract with pope binding John and his heirs and successors for ever and a day to pope. This is why ALL presidents "elected" in the 13 Colonies are rooted in King John; Clinton and Trump are both related. Oh, King John was called John Lackland because he had no land! Yet, in 1213 he also gave England to pope! Do we believe there are 50 States? With Texas a Republic and Hawaii is British by virtue of its PROVINCIAL flag! Rather amazing what Cain has been able to accomplish! We are back to the good olde daze of Nimrod and its attempt to create a New World Order of slavery. In my opinions.

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The United States is the only nation in the world that sentences children to life in prison without parole.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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