The American Revolution, which July 4 celebrates, freed the American colonies from the yoke of the British king and empire. It established the beginnings of a democratic republic, which enshrined the rights of individuals and the idea that “the people,” not kings nor queens, not churches nor religious leaders, would govern. With all its shortcomings — keeping slavery intact, stealing Native Americans’ land, restricting the voting franchise to property-owning white men — it nevertheless represented a leap forward for humanity, and inspired millions.
Like all revolutions, that American Revolution was not complete. It took many more struggles and shedding of blood — by the slaves themselves, free African Americans and abolitionists of all races, pursuing the undying dream of freedom — before slavery was ended by the Civil War. That second American Revolution liberated millions of people and swept in a new era of democracy for all through Reconstruction.
Since the betrayal and demise of Reconstruction, countless ongoing battles have been waged to defend and enrich the gains won by these two revolutions. The heroic fighters against fascism and lynchings, for unions, for women’s rights, the courageous warriors of the civil rights movement, all are among the millions who helped to push our revolutionary traditions forward.
But reactionary forces — powerful corporations in the first place — have always opposed democratic progress. The ruling class, entrenched in the system of exploitation and profit, has a stake in keeping the status quo and even rolling back many democratic rights gained.
Today a powerful enemy of democratic rights, the ultra-right, the most reactionary sector of the ruling class, is embedded in the White House and Congress. The battle for democracy is as important and urgent now as it ever has been.
This July 4 let’s take inspiration from those who came before us, and renew our commitment to defeat these enemies of progress. Let’s look toward a third American Revolution, which will fulfill the promises of the first two by forever ending exploitation, building upon individual and collective rights that have been so hard-won.