Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Gerrard Winstanley, True Leveller

Gerrard Winstanley (1609 – 1676) was a Quaker reformer and political activist during The Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. Winstanley was one of the founders of the English group known as the True Levellers or Diggers for their beliefs, and for their actions. The group occupied public lands that had been privatized by enclosures and dug them over, pulling down hedges and filling in ditches, to plant crops. True Levellers was the name they used to describe themselves, whereas the term Diggers was coined by contemporaries.

For libertarian socialist scholar Murray Bookchin there is a coincidence of political projects between German Protestant revolutionary Thomas Müntzer and Winstanley. For Bookchin "In the modern world, anarchism first appeared as a movement of the peasantry and yeomanry against declining feudal institutions. In Germany its foremost spokesman during the Peasant Wars was Thomas Muenzer; in England, Gerrard Winstanley, a leading participant in the Digger movement. The concepts held by Muenzer and Winstanley were superbly attuned to the needs of their time — a historical period when the majority of the population lived in the countryside and when the most militant revolutionary forces came from an agrarian world. It would be painfully academic to argue whether Muenzer and Winstanley could have achieved their ideals. What is of real importance is that they spoke to their time; their anarchist concepts followed naturally from the rural society that furnished the bands of the peasant armies in Germany and the New Model in England."

from "Ecology and Revolutionary Thought" Lewis Herber. (Murray Bookchin).

Cover Design from the remastered 1976 film Winstanley

"So long as the earth is intagled and appropriated into particular hands and kept there by the power of the sword......so long the creation lies under bondage."

~ Gerrard Winstanley Fire in the Bush 1650

"England is a Prison; the variety of subtilties in the Laws preserved by the Sword, are bolts, bars, and doors of the prison; the Lawyers are Jaylors, and poor men are the prisoners; for let a man fall into the hands of any from the Bailiffe to the Judge, and he is either undone, or wearie of his life."

"Buying and Selling is an Art, whereby people endeavour to cheat one another of the Land.......and true Religion is, To let every one enjoy it."

~ Gerrard Winstanley A New-years Gift for the Parliament and Armie 1650

By North Utsire

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