Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Exemplary Moments in English History. 1649

Signed for and in behalf of all the poor oppressed
people of England, and the whole world.

Gerrard Winstanley (and 44 others)

"That the earth was not made purposely for you, to be Lords of it,
and we to be your Slaves, Servants, and Beggers; but it was made
to be a common Livelihood to all, without respect of persons: And
that your buying and selling of Land, and the Fruits of it, one to
another, is The cursed thing, and was brought in by War; which
hath, and still does establish murder, and theft, In the hands of
some branches of Mankinde over others, which is the greatest
outward burden, and unrighteous power, that the Creation groans

Gerrard Winstanley, a creationist one must admit (though in his
writing God and Reason seem to be interchangeable) was a
founding member and guiding theoretician of the English Diggers.

They believed that land was a "common treasury" which belonged
collectively to the people. Especially poor people.

Great believers in direct action, in the spring of 1649, they proceeded
to cultivate a stretch of common land on George's Hill Surrey.

Needless to say this utopian experiment in agrarian communism
lasted less than a year. Not for nothing are the ill-gotten gains of
private property generally connected with the "power of the
murdering and theeving sword."

But it's hard to keep a good idea down and it keeps popping up:

The anarchist agrarian collectives of the Spanish Civil War,

The San Francisco Diggers in the 60's.

Indirectly innumerable projects to give access to land to the poor
in Latin America.

All share something of Winstanley's vision.

Even the Queen, 11th in the Forbes richest monarch ranking
and worth a mere $600 million, is not immune.

Winstanley was a great promoter of the "Common-wealth."

Unfortunately I don't think Lizzie quite got the message right.

And even more unfortunately that old sword is still alive and

1 comment:

Jon said...

Hi Valerie, I helped myself to the image and the Winstanley quote, although I made it a point to link to you. Thanks for the link to the SF Diggers, my friend, Quinton, was a digger. Looking back, they are as much a part of the American radical tradition as anyone. Thanks for the Winstanley especially, many years ago, when I fell out of love with Trotsky, I fell in love with Winstanley, mostly thanks to Christopher Hill's "The World Turned Upside Down." (Trotsky and I are still on speaking terms.)