The USian political revolution against the British monarchy's attempt to limit the movement of American settler colonialism — as the monarchy had no intention of not being an empire, was never a social revolution. As Gerald Horne argues, 1776 may have marked the beginning of a counter-revolution.
Elites capture ideas as much as they do labor, the earth, and other fetish-commodified resources. Beginning in the 15th Century, contrary to inherited enlightenment history, the revolutionary ideas about freedom, liberty, and equality were not emerging from elite colonists, merchants, slave-holders, and other portends of global capitalism.
Revolutionary ideas were emerging from people who were in the process of being colonized, dominated, indentured, and enslaved to provide the bodies, labor, and, most importantly, the political imagination to resist maintaining the fetish of commodity production. It is from enslaved people, bonded laborers, women in the marketplace, captive sea workers, and the places they lived, worked, ate, frolicked, and created joy amid elite capitalist politicians claiming freedom in their name.
The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic, by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, invites us into the worlds of life, living, love, and labor of the people and communities whose stories made freedom real through resisting the violent land occupations of settler colonialism, racial capitalism, plantation, and urban slavery, and patriarchal labor relations, on the land and the seas.
"Long before the American Revolution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man, a motley crew of sailors, slaves, pirates, laborers, market women, and indentured servants had ideas about freedom and equality that would forever change history. The Many Headed-Hydra recounts their stories in a sweeping history of the role of the dispossessed in the making of the modern world.
When an unprecedented expansion of trade and colonization in the early seventeenth century launched the first global economy, a vast, diverse, and landless workforce was born. These workers crossed national, ethnic, and racial boundaries as they circulated around the Atlantic world on trade ships and slave ships, from England to Virginia, from Africa to Barbados, and from the Americas back to Europe.
Marshaling an impressive range of original research from archives in the Americas and Europe, the authors show how ordinary working people led dozens of rebellions on both sides of the North Atlantic. The rulers of the day called the multiethnic rebels a 'hydra' and brutally suppressed their risings, yet some of their ideas fueled the age of revolution. Others, hidden from history and recovered here, have much to teach us about our common humanity."