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1776 Revolution Much Like Occupy Movement

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Headlined to H3 5/19/12

Green Night Out, on May 12, welcomed Nathan Kleinman, Occupy Philadelphia activist, who lead a discussion of ways in which the American Anti-Colonial Revolution in 1776 provided examples for today's Occupy Movement.

While consuming a delicious meal, Kleinman told the diners, "Aspects of the American Revolution, which have been left out of the history books, are useful for emulation by today's Occupiers. Most people are not aware that the American Revolution was a people's insurgency which lasted ten years."

Kleinman then explained that Paul Revere and Molly Pitcher are actually composite characters, whose mythical role in the American Revolution actually combined the actions of several different people. "For instance, Paul Revere was a footnote to history until Longfellow made him famous with a poem many decades later," Kleinman explained. "Details of the "Midnight Ride' are mostly fabricated, and the outcome of the Revolution would likely have been the same regardless of Revere's ride."

Historians generally agree that various Molly Pitcher tales grew in the telling, and they regard Molly Pitcher as folklore rather than history. "Molly Pitcher was quite obviously two individuals blended into one," according to Kleinman, "and neither was actually called "Molly Pitcher' during her lifetime."

The point for Kleinman was that the 1776 Revolution was a mass action of many working people, although their actual activities have been reduced into mythical characters. In this way, the historian as myth-maker has removed the examples of mass action from our history books. This is one of the lessons which Kleinman finds useful for activists in the Occupy Movement.

Another aspect of the 1776 Revolution was the reliance on mass democracy, often in the streets. "Crowds of thousands, in the years before 1776, forced crown officials to publicly resign under threat of violence or public humiliation," explained Kleinman. "Yet these crowds were not uncontrollable mobs: they acted democratically based on the opinion of the participants."

"In one case, a nighttime throng of Revolutionaries succeeded in coercing a sheriff to abandon a particular warrant. Because it took place on a Sunday, they then debated among themselves whether or not to shout in celebration." According to Kleinman, "They ultimately voted to remain silent out of respect for the Sabbath."

This method of decision-making through consensus sounds like an early General Assembly, the process used by today's Occupy activists. Kleinman said, "There are clear echoes of the early patriots' commitment to democracy in the decision-making practice of today's Occupy Movement."

Green Night Out takes place monthly at Singapore Kosher Vegetarian Chinese Restaurant, , in Philadelphia, PA. Green Night Out is sponsored by the Green Party of Philadelphia, . For more information about future Green Nights Out, please contact 215-243-7103.


Chris Robinson is a graduate of Central High School (#219) in Philadelphia, PA. He lives in Germantown and is an at-large member of the Green Party of Philadelphia ( City Committee. Chris Robinson is also a member of United Food and (more...)
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