Bacon's Rebellion

Labor rebellion or war against Indians?

Dear ISR,

I have been reading your magazine for about a year now, and I have to say it is very informative. Also, the production quality is outstanding, especially for a “revolutionary” publication. Most others I am familiar with are cheap-looking newsprint publications (which does have its own special charm), or ghastly Xeroxed jobs.

I myself am not a Fourth Internationalist, or even a Marxist for that matter, but your articles shed a refreshing light on many and diverse subjects. I have often found Marxist thought and analyses to be keenly insightful and the conclusions, as often as not, correct. I eagerly anticipate each new issue; thank you sincerely for your diligent efforts.

What has prompted me to write, however, is what I perceive as an oversight on your fine periodical’s part. The otherwise fantastic article “Slavery and the Origins of the Civil War” (James Illingworth, ISR 78, July–August 2011) seems to mischaracterize the events of Bacon’s Rebellion as a labor rebellion. From my understanding the proximate cause of the rebellion was the governor’s unwillingness to allow the colonists to continue their genocidal rampage against the Native Americans, not any concern for labor or related issues.

Moreover, the ensuing conflict was between the landed gentry themselves, not between working people and the establishment powers. I am worried that readers who are unfamiliar with the history of this rebellion will mistake this low point in colonist–Native American relations for a high point in early labor movements.  While it is true that the rebels were co-operating across “racial lines,” and the aftermath of the rebellion saw the passing of racist and divisive legislation, it hardly seems appropriate to characterize this as a moment which should be remembered in a positive light by progressives of any stripe.

Perhaps it is my understanding that is at fault. If there is any source to which you could point me, or a clarification you can offer, I would be most appreciative. Otherwise you may wish to print a notice explaining that while Bacon’s Rebellion was a significant moment in the history of interracial relations in the American colonies, it was essentially a power struggle amongst the landed gentry caused by the colonists’ desire to murder Native Americans against the wishes of the governor, not a labor rebellion.

-Jake Colbert

Issue #86

November 2012

The legacy of the Industrial Workers of the World

Issue contents

Top story

Editorials

Features

Interviews

Critical Thinking

Reviews

  • Lenin and his biographers

    Paul Le Blanc reviews The Non-Geometric Lenin: Essays on the Development of the Bolshevik Party, 1910–1914 by Carter Elwood; Lenin by Lars Lih; Lenin's Brother: The Origins of the October Revolution by Philip Pomper; Conspirator: Lenin in Exile by Helen Rappaport; Lenin: A Revolutionary Life by Christopher Read; Lenin: A Biography by Robert Service; Forgotten Lives: The Role of Lenin's Sisters in the Russian Revolution by Katy Turton; Lenin: The Practice and Theory of Revolution by James D. White; and Lenin by Beryl Williams
  • The Red Dawn of a New Day

    Jason Netek reviews All Power to the Councils: A Documentary History of the German Revolution of 1918–1919 by Gabriel Kuhn
  • How not to build a movement

    Ian Angus reviews Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith and Aric McBay
  • Marxism and ethics

    Tyler Zimmer reviews Marxism and Ethics: Freedom, Desire, and Revolution by Paul Blackledge
WeAreMany.org