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A People's History of the United States

by Howard Zinn

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According to Zinn in "Tyranny is Tyranny,"  how does he  suggest that the tyranny he described threatens democracy in the United States?

Zinn sees the tyranny in the American Revolution as being fought not to empower the people and create true democracy, but rather to protect economic interests amongst those that possessed power. Zinn sees this as a threat to real democratic visions.

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For Zinn, the fundamental argument that establishes the American Revolution was one on economic power and control.  Zinn argues that the founding fathers were more concerned about consolidating their own economic control over the growing wealth system in the new nation.  Zinn suggests that the primary motivation was not to transform the ownership of the means of production in the nation, but rather to replace those who control it, swapping British with upper class Patriots.  For Zinn, he suggests that the lack of authentic power distribution with the working class inhabitants of the nation represents the fact that the dislike of the British was more along the lines of class and economic interests, as opposed to being in the name of legitimate transformative visions of power.  In Zinn's mind, had the British enabled greater sharing of wealth amongst the colonists, the Revolution is not fought.  Zinn goes even farther than this in his assertion that economic control was something that the Colonists sought all along:

After 1763, with England victorious over France in the Seven Years' War (known in America as the French and Indian War), expelling them from North America, ambitious colonial leaders were no longer threatened by the French. They now had only two rivals left: the English and the Indians. The British, wooing the Indians, had declared Indian lands beyond the Appalachians out of bounds to whites (the Proclamation of 1763). Perhaps once the British were out of the way, the Indians could be dealt with. Again, no conscious forethought strategy by the colonial elite, hut a growing awareness as events developed.

The emergence of "the colonial elite" is something that Zinn sees as denying the basic premise of revolution in the new nation.  There is a significant threatening to the democratic process for Zinn when he sees it invoked as nothing more than "window dressing," or the idea that it is used to motivate people into action only to protect the economic interests of the very wealthy at the cost of the working class and the poor.  For Zinn, the American Revolution is thus fought on grounds that only changed the faces of the economic elite, and not anything that transformed the state of affairs that enables the elite to exits.  It is here where Zinn sees democracy being threatened.

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