Thursday, July 5, 2012

Audio of my interview with Richard Marshall on Resonance Radio London

On its program Clear Spot, Resonance Radio FM 104.4 in London did two hour long interviews with Richard Marshall of 3:AM magazine talking with me about Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War of Independence. Listen here and at 3:AM here.

Familiar with my work in philosophy - see here - Richard had read the book subtly before the interview and had many interesting questions. The discussion was wide-ranging, focused on the novelty of considering the struggle for freedom in the United States as extending to slaves (the revolution for abolition is, in fact, the completion of the revolution for independence, that all men are created equal includes blacks and native americans as well as whites). In addition, the book novelly sets the discussion of black fighters on both sides in the American Revolution in the context of revolutions of black and brown people for emancipation to the South (there were some twenty slave uprisings in the Caribbean between 1750 and 1770, and the movement later extended to Nova Scotia, Sierra Leone and Saint-Domingue/Haiti in 1791, inter alia).

We also discussed, for example, counterfactuals - that gradual emancipation might have occurred just after the Revolution even in the American South. The second revolution for abolition was very strong, simultaneous with the American Revolution and often clashing with it. Defying racism in the study of revolutions, Black Patriots and Loyalists looks to the great liberations in Central and South America. It emphasizes that the slaves made Haiti - hence, the long enmity for Haiti of American slave-owner/Presidents - the American President for 52 of the first 72 years of the Republic - and their descendants down to the two Bushes who overthrew the democracy led by Aristide after the Cold War. In addition, in Venezuala, losing to Spanish imperialism, Bolivar retreated to republican Haiti and was supported in exchange for declaring gradual emancipation. Elsewhere in the Hemisphere, despite economic backwardness and the continuing genocides against indigenous peoples, gradual emancipation accompanied independence revolutions. Though the clash of Northern capitalists and Southern slaveowners was an important factor, one did not "have to wait" for more capitalist development and the Civil War for emancipation.

For sailors who had been seized or pressed by the British and identified with the slaves played a huge role in inspiring and disseminating abolitionist views from the 1750s on. Their views are registered in James Otis's 1764 pamphlet in Boston: The Rights of the British Colonists Asserted and Proved, which defends the natural rights of each man, black as well as white.

These views enormously influenced revolutionary crowds like the Boston Tea-party (only the elite were pro-slavery). Maintaining slavery during and after the American Revolution was thus much more of a problem than has been thought; a Civil War, four-score and some years later, unusual, unique. Parallel to Venezuela, gradual emancipation occurred throughout the North by 1804, including in large slave-owning states like New York (New York had as many slaves as South Carolina). There are differences with the plantation culture of South Carolina and Georgia but these are not decisive.

Rarely are counterfactuals - alternate historical paths - so vivid, so near that one can touch them. This one is...

Richard reads all the work of the philosophers he interviews (his many interviews at 3:AM) are all worth reading. His father and brother worked in the coal mines; he described to me walking home at 3 in the morning with the fires burning at steel plants on a hill between the mines - all this productivity and way of life has now vanished from England. He understands exploitation and the 99%...

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