THOMAS PAINE AND THE QUIET COUP OF FINANCE CAPITAL
[This article published in: graswurzelrevolution Nr. 357, March 2011 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.graswurzel.net/357/paine.shtml.]
The American Revolution in the last third of the 18th century when the colonists of the North American Atlantic coast threw off the yoke of the British “mother country” was a complex iridescent affair.
The “Boston Tea Party” of 1773 in which settlers disguised as Indians dumped the cargo of English ships in the harbor was the protest of well-to-do whites against an unjust taxation.
On the other side, the role of the lower classes – above all African slaves and sailors – in the revolutionary events should not be underrated. With their cry for radical freedom, they were motley crews that fueled the American Revolution and its “Tea Parties.” As in all “great” revolutions, they were later deceived over the fruits of their success.
Therefore it is very bad taste that the furious US coalition of racists, war-fanatics and evangelical warriors against everything that could somehow involve sexuality describes itself today as a Tea Party movement and thereby drags a venerable term through the reactionary mud.
Sarah Palin and her crowd do not want to pay any taxes. Some of these people even call themselves “libertarians” because they reject the state.
The angry Fox hate-preacher Glenn Beck carries this impudent usurpation of revolutionary traditions by rednecks, neoconservatives and neoliberals too far. Beck wrote a book with the title “Common Sense” explicitly referring to the work of Thomas Paine (1737-1809) of the same title, the untiring humanist and founding father of the US.
THAT GOES TOO FAR
The anarchist Californian PM-publisher released a little musical historical primer that protects Tom Paine from such false friends.
The two radical British folk musicians Leon Rosselson and Robb Johnson issued a double CD with the title “The Liberty Tree.” It is the studio version of a program that Rosselson developed in 1987, Tom Paine’s 2150th birthday, as a live program and performed it all over England where Paine was born.
We hear an interplay of quotations from and about Tom Paine that are accompanied by stanzas of the title song and 14 songs from the backlists of the two musicians. Their texts illustrate the relevance of Paine’s ideas in the present. The emphasis is clearly on the texts.
What legacy of Tom Paine is now brought to us? “Governments far from being the cause or instrument of order often represent its destruction.” This true sentence4 is confirmed by the developments in North America. Glenn Beck also repeated this sentence. For him, state overthrow was the prerequisite for a more effective oppression of women and blacks and for the unbridled development of the destructive capitalist orgy. But what did Paine say about women and the oppressed?
Paine deplored the fate of women in his time “all over the earth” and described men “either as insensitive tyrants or oppressors.” He warned of the negative effects of divorce.
Paine condemned slavery and criticized England for devastating Africa’s unfortunate coast year after year and robbing its innocent inhabitants and establishing spheres of control for England.
Paine unmasked the strategy of governments of implanting hatred against other people in their subjects to wage wars. The person is not an enemy of other persons except through the mediation of a false misguided governing system.
Paine declared: “When the rich rob the poor of their rights, this becomes a model for the poor to rob the rich of their property.” He demanded a guaranteed uniform old age pension for all persons from the age of 50.
Paine also spoke on the favorite theme of today’s US rightwing: religion. “I do not believe in the confession of the Jewish church, the Catholic Church, the Greek church, the Protestant church or any church that I know. My own intelligence is my church,”
All this is embarrassing for Glenn Beck and his like. Paine’s quotations are converted in the social realities of the present through the songs written by Rosselson and Johnson between 1968 and 2009. Several texts denounce the current wars and others the worldwide regime of social injustice. My favorite song is Rosselson’s “Don’t get married, girls” which is already 25 years old.
Therefore the album is strongly recommended. Since persons in the German language area with historical interest will follow this recommendation. Two critical points should be underlined. The quotations from and about Paine are printed in a booklet included in the album. The song texts of Johnson and Rosselson can be downloaded from the homepage of the publisher. Source information of these quotations is lacking so seeing the connection is difficult.
Secondly, the whole album is like a hagiography; a certain person cult focusing on Tom Paine. The subtitle is: “A celebration of the Life and Writings of Tom Paine.” This is problematic in the sense of the historiography that doesn’t present any history of “great men” any more.
To hear Noam Chomsky’s 83-minute impromptu address in Eugene on April 20, 2011 “Global Hegemony: The Facts and The Images,” click on