The Atlantic Roots of Working-Class Internationalism: A Historical Re-Interpretation
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This dissertation offers a historical re-interpretation of working-class internationalism by situating its development within the early modern Atlantic-world economy (c. 1600-1830). Through an exploration of various moments of insurgency and revolt of an emerging Atlantic class of workers, among them slaves, sailors, servants, and others, it demonstrates that profound and decisive traditions of proletarian solidarity across borders existed prior to the nineteenth-century classical age of working-class internationalism. In doing so, this dissertation alters the prevailing standpoint of the free, white, waged, industrial worker of Europe by bringing in that narrative the agency of the unfree, black (and racialized), wageless, plantation-slave worker of the Americas. Underpinning this intervention is a more generous and complex understanding of capitalism as a mode of production inclusive of unfree forms of labour. In order to recover and foreground early formative moments of working-class internationalism in the Atlantic-world economy, this dissertation proposes to re-theorize this development in terms of processes of transboundary proletarian solidarity in a longue durée frame. Rooted in a multidisciplinary framework of analysis situated at the intersection of Historical Sociology, Global Labour History, Atlantic Studies, and Social History, this strategy has allowed me to illuminate two world-significant moments of proletarian solidarity played out across colonial and imperial borders. The first is golden age piracy (1714-26), when thousands of insurgent seafaring workers of all nationalities revolted against capitalist exploitation at sea and took possession of their ships, instituting their own self-governments and creating multicrew alliances against imperial navies. The second moment expressing a durable process of transboundary proletarian solidarity is offered by the Saint-Domingue revolution (1791-1804), when thousands of African slaves rose up to overthrow slavery, leading to the formation of the first independent black republic in the Americas. This dissertation highlights that during the revolution, underground channels of communication entertained by black sailors and corsairs linked revolutionary Saint-Domingue to other slave revolts elsewhere in the Atlantic world, which cumulated in, and intersected with, the wake of working-class internationalism during the 1848 revolutions in Europe.