Levellers or Diggers?
anticapitalist2 at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Apr 15 11:33:43 BST 2002
In 1999 at the end of April a few hundred demonstrators occupied the
site of the old Wisley airfield near George's Hill, in Surrey. This was
where in 1649, the Diggers had set up a communist community with the
aim of starting a movement to make the Earth "a common treasury for
all" again. The demonstrators called themselves the "New Levellers".
This was appropriate because, like the original Levellers (but unlike
the original Diggers), they were demanding a reform of the laws
governing land ownership and use rather than the abolition of private
property, as the leaflet we distributed pointed out.
Many of the Levellers of the 1640s, being inexperienced in rebelling
against the injustices of the market, and yet to recognise the
incompatibility between FREEDOM and PROPERTY, sought to reform and make
just property relationships. For example, the Leveller leader,
Lilburne, in March 1648 wrote that the Levellers had "been the truest
and constantest asserters of liberty and property (which are quite
opposite to communitie and levelling)".
THE TRUE LEVELLERS were the Diggers. Their ideas can serve as an
inspiration to those of us in the 2000s who detest and reject the
iniquities of the commercial system. The Diggers stood not for state
ownership but COMMON OWNERSHIP: "The earth with all her fruits of Corn,
Cattle and such like was made to be a common Store-House of Livelihood,
to all mankinde, friend and foe, without exception" (A Declaration From
the Poor Oppressed People of England).
Where all wealth is commonly owned there will be no need for money. In
the above-quoted Declaration the Diggers proclaimed that "we must
neither buy nor sell. Money must not any longer . . . be the great god
that hedges in some and hedges out others". Production must be solely
for use and all people able to take from the common store on the basis
of FREE ACCESS. As Winstanley explained in his Law of Freedom:
"As everyone works to advance the Common Stock so everyone shall have
a free use of any commodity in the Storehouse for his pleasure and
comfortable livelihood, without buying and selling or restraint from
any." This is a wonderful, and compelling socialist vision of a society
where all things in and on the Earth are the common property of all;
where all people give according to their abilities and take freely
according to their needs; where money and other time-wasting features
of property relationship are done away with. It is a practical
alternative to capitalism's property mania.
Modern Labour defenders of property assert that owning things makes us
free. This false equation between liberty and property was spread by
the 17th century defenders of property power, and was also accepted by
several well-intentioned Levellers, just as it has been by subsequent
leftists who have feared to break with the ideas of THE MONEY SYSTEM.
In truth, property and money make us unfree. As Winstanley stated:
"True freedom lies where a man receives his nourishment and
preservation, and that is in the use of the Earth." Those in Britain
living beneath the poverty line and the millions in the world dying
from starvation should see the sense of that.
Socialists must learn from the wisdom of our Digger predecessors and
have the boldness to state the case for A MONEYLESS WORLD SOCIETY a
case now more materially feasible and globally urgent than ever.
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