Here gather the ghosts of ‘liberty’, ‘equality’ and ‘justice’; those immortal phantoms which haunt whomsoever would betray kith, kin or society just to line their own pockets. Here is the icy breath of fate that the rich feel on the back of their bloated necks – a constant reminder that the great Levelling was not defeated, merely postponed.

“‘The past is not dead, it is living in us, and will be alive in the future which we are now helping to make.’”

William Morris

Ian Bone has been enthusing about various anti-election strategies of late – Vote Nobody, None of the Above etc etc – but you just know they’ll all be an inconsequential wash out in reality and I’ve long since realised that most people who cant be arsed to vote couldnt be arsed to save you from drowning either! Theres an interesting article in the latest FREEDOM about the anarchist holy principle of not voting and arguing for a vote. It’s always amused me that many anarchists say ‘By any means necessary’ – being apparently keen to wage havoc with a machine gun but not to vote! So let’s debate the unthinkable – standing candidates at the General Election:

Thanks to everyone who’s contributed to the mostly thoughtful thread on standing for election.  Surprisingly most people were in favour of standing candidates which must indicate a bit of a sea change in ideas…but…Where now?

The seagreen society are seriously considering standing in the next elections, but if we ever going to achieve any real and lasting change then we need (collectively) to consider long term strategies. Most importantly we have to create a coherent and continual identity for our movement.

The following idea has more to do with marketing than politics and it will count for nothing if it is not combined with solid groundwork in working class communities. But I think it’s safe to say that, thanks mainly to moribund left, we have some work to do on the identity front.

With regard to creating a cohesive identity I think we could do a lot worse than look at the first (and possibly the only…) people’s political party in England, The Levellers.

This idea isn’t half as crazy as it sounds. The Levellers were committed broadly to the abolition of corruption within the Parliamentary and judicial process, toleration of religious differences, the translation of law into the common tongue, and the expansion of suffrage… Any of this sound remotely relevant today?

A new Leveller Party could celebrate what E.P.Thompson identified as the core working-class values of solidarity, collectivism, mutuality, political radicalism and self-determination. Furthermore, by citing these values historically, we can counter the right’s stranglehold on ‘tradition’.

Last but not least the use of colour has always played a major role in party politics and the sea-green ribbons associated with the original Levellers can provide us with a very powerful visual identity. Sea-green flags and rosettes could prove to be very effective marketing tools.

It’s just an idea (albeit a bit of a weird one), but I think it has some merit. What do other people think?

In July, 1646 ‘Freeborn’ John Lilburne was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London for denouncing his former commander, Edward Montagu the 2nd Earl of Manchester, as a traitor and Royalist sympathiser. It wasn’t unusual for Lilburne to be imprisoned – he remains the only man to be tried for treason by both king and parliament – but on this occasion the campaign to free him led to the formation of the political party known as the Levellers. The Levellers are arguably the first ever (some may argue only ever…) party of the people.

The Levellers were committed broadly to the abolition of corruption within the Parliamentary and judicial process, toleration of religious differences, the translation of law into the common tongue, and the expansion of suffrage. Sadly many of the Leveller’s aims remain relevant today.

363 years later we’re still suffering the effects of corruption in Parliament and we have a judicial system controlled by a non-elected self-serving elite who use a language all of their own. So the question we have to ask ourselves is where is our Leveller Party?

“I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under.”

Thomas Rainsborough

The Levellers knew a thing or two about political corruption and the open abuse of power. When we read the Great Leveller Petition of September 11th, 1648 we can’t help thinking that democracy would be a lot healthier if this document had become law. Whilst we have seen some improvements in the last 360 years reading the Levellers reminds us just how undemocratic modern democracy is. These are the principles put forward in the petition…

The truth is ( and we see we must either now speak it, or for ever be silent, ) We have long expected things of an other nature from you, and such as we are confident would have given satisfaction to all serious people of all Parties.


1. That you would have made good the supreme authoritie of the people, in this Honourable House, from all pretences of Negative Voices, either in King or Lords.

2. That you would have made laws for election of representatives yearly and of course without writ or summons.

3. That you would have set expresse times for their meeting Continuance and Dissolution: as not to exceed 40 or 50 daies at the most, and to have fixed an expresse time for the ending of this present Parliament.

4. That you would have exempted matters of Religion and Gods worship, from the compulsive or restrictive power of any Authoritie upon earth, and reserved to the supreme authouritie an un-compulsive power only of appointing a way for the publick, whereby abundance of misery, persecution, and heart-burning would for ever be avoyded.

5. That you would have disclaimed in your selves and all future Representatives, a power of Pressing and forcing any sort of men to serve in warrs, there being nothing more opposite to freedom, nor more unreasonable in an authoritie impowered for raising monies in all occasions, for which, and a just cause, assistants need not be doubted; the other way serving rather to maintain injustice and corrupt parties.

6. That you would have made both Kings, Queens, Princes, Dukes, Earls, Lords, and all Persons, alike liable to every Law of the Land, made or to be made; that so all persons even the Highest might fear and stand in aw, and neither violate the publick peace, nor private right of person or estate, ( as hath been frequent ) without being lyable to accompt as other men.

7. That you would have freed all Commoners from the jurisdiction of the Lords in all cases: and to have taken care that all tryalls should be only by twelve sworn men, and no conviction but upon two or more sufficient grown witnesses.

8. That you would have freed all men from being examined against themselves, and from being questioned or punished for doing of that against which no Law hath bin provided.

9. That you would have abbreviated the proceedings in Law, mitigated and made certain the charge thereof in all particulars.

10. That you would have freed all Trade and Marchandising from all Monopolizing and Engrossing, by Companies or otherwise.

11. That you would have abolished Excise, and all kinds of taxes, except subsidies, the old and onely just way of England.

12. That you would have laid open all late Inclosures of Fens, and other Commons, or have enclosed them onely or chiefly to the benefit of the poor.

13. That you would have considered the many thousands that are ruined by perpetual imprisonment for debt, and provide for their enlargement.

14. That you would have ordered some effectual course to keep people from begging and beggery, in so fruitful a Nation as through Gods blessing this is.

15. That you would have proportioned Punishments more equal to offences; that so mens Lives and Estates might not be forfeited upon trivial and slight occasions.

16. That you would have removed the tedious burthen of Tythes, satisfying all Impropriators, and providing more equal way of maintenance for the publike Ministers.

17. That you would have raised a stock of Money out of those many confiscated Estates you have had, for payment of those who contributed voluntarily above their abilities, before you had provided for those that disturbed but of their superfluities.

18. That you would have bound your selves and all future Parliaments from abolishing propriety, levelling mens estates, or making all things common.

19. That you would have declared what the duty or business of the Kingly office is, and what not, and ascertained the revenue, past increase or diminution, that so there might never be quarrels about the same.

20. That you would have rectified the election of publike Officers for the Citie of London, and of every particular Company therein, restoring the Comunalty thereof to their just Rights, most unjustly with-held from them, to the producing and maintaining of corrupt interest, opposite to common Freedom, and exceedingly prejudicial to the Trade and Manafactures of this Nation.

21. That you would have made full and ample reparations to all persons that had bin oppressed by sentences in High Commission, Star-Chamber, and Counsel Board, or by any kind of Monopolizers or Projectors; and that out of the Estates of those that were Authors, Actors, or Promoters of so intollerable mischiefs: and that without much attendance or seeking.

22. That you would have abolished all Committees, and have convayed all businesses into the true method of the usual Tryals of the Common-wealth.

23. That you would not have followed the example of former tyrannous and superstitious Parliaments, in making Orders, Ordinances, or Laws, or in appointing punishments concerning opinions or things super-natural, stiling some blasphemies, other heresies; when as you know your selves easily mistaken, and that divine Truths need no humane helps to support them: such proceedings having bin generally invented to divide the people amongst themselves, and to affright men from that liberty of discourse by which Corruption and tyranny would soon be discovered.

24. That you would have declared what the business of the Lords is, and ascertain their condition, not derogating from the Liberties of other men, that so there might be an end of striving about the same.

25. That you would have done Justice upon the Capital Authors and Promoters of the former or late wars, many of them being under your power: Considering that mercy to the wicked, is cruelty to the innocent: all your lenity doth but make them the more insolent and presumptuous.

26. That you would have provided constant pay for the Army, now under the command of the Lord General Fairfax, and given rules to all Judges, and all other publike Officers throughout the Land for their indempnity and for the saving harmless all that have any waies assisted you, or that have said or done any thing against the King, Queen, or any of his party since the beginning of this Parliament without which any of his party are in a better condition then those who have served you; nothing being more frequent with them, then their reviling of you and your friends.

The things and worthy Acts which have bin done and atchieved by this Army and their Adherents ( how ever ingratefully suffered to be scandalized as Sectaries and men of Corrupt Judgements ) in defence of the just authority of this honourable House, and of the common liberties of the Nation, and in opposition to all kind of Tyranny and oppression, being so far from meriting an odious Act of Oblivion, that they rather deserve a most honourable Act of perpetual rememberance, to be as a patern of publik vertue, fidelity, & resolution to all posterity.

27. That you would have laid to heart all the abundance of innocent bloud that hath bin spilt, and the infinite spoil and havock that hath bin made of peaceable harmless people, by express commissions from the King: and seriously to have considered whether the justice of God be likely to be satisfied, or his yet continuing wrath appeased, by an Act of Oblivion.

The full petition can be read here.

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  1. Pingback: Electoral fronts are not enough we need to Make The Middle Class history: « project-sheffield

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