Tuesday 25 February 2014

The Levellers, Then and Now

The Levellers, Then and Now

During the English Civil War many radical groups supported Parliament, one of these groups were called The Levellers. They were Puritans, very religious, very Protestant, and they believed that as God had made man in his image and that as Jesus had wanted all men to follow him and worship God that all men were equal. But they took it a step further not only were all men equal in the eyes of God but that should be how it was on Earth as well. All men being equal, no rich or poor, no landowners and tenants, no rulers and ruled. Everything should be owned by the community. In short, they were very religious Communists. 

One of the reasons Oliver Cromwell overthrow the Long Parliamant and then dissolved the Short Parliament and was made Lord Protector was to stop groups like this from having any political influence. Because in the Long Parliament many of their ideas were quite popular. They lost political power and were banned along with alot of other groups and ideas during the reign of the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell. By the time of the restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 their day was past and many drifted off into Quakerism and other dissident religious groups. 

But while the Levellers of the 1600's are long gone, I bet you've met your share of Levellers, both religious and Atheist. For such an obscure group you can still encounter their ideas, to be fair the ideas they held were ancient in the 1600's. The idea that as all men are equal in the eyes of God there shouldn't be any difference between men (and now women) here on Earth. The idea that private property is wrong, that it is a form of theft. The idea that there should not be any hierarchy between men. Non of these ideas are new and you still encounter them. But only rarely do those who profess these "new" ideas know that in reality these ideas are as old as the hills. 

There is something very appealing about Leveling, it's not complex, it's easy to remember and to explain, it seems fair and equitable. It appeals to the idea that we, you and I can make a better world by ourselves, we don't need God or churches, we don't need Government or Business, we don't even need money. We can form a community and everything is owned by that community, no bills, no taxes, no need for money as everything we need will be provided. Of course the Levellers of the 1600's believed in hard work, but lets be honest thats not one of the appeals of Levelling. 

In fact thats why most communes fail, because those who are hard workers get sick and tired of producing while others consume. Thats the truth in every community not just communes, but it is much more stark in a commune. When everyone is equal but it is plain too see that everyone is not equally contributing it causes resentment. 

Levelling is something we continue to encounter because of it's simple appeal. It is a part of Socialism and Communism, it is a part of Left-Liberalism and Right-Liberalism, it is even a part of Anarchism. When you ignore human nature or pretend it doesn't exist the pitfalls are hard to see. The reality that different people are good at different things, some of those things being much more useful to society than others. That if everything is owned by the community you are never directly working for yourself, your spouse or your children, there is no inheritance you can give directly to them and that means that the results of your hardwork can be given to others with you and yours receiving little or nothing. At first glance it seems fair and equitable but it is no such thing.

We have seen the results of Levelling within Socialism and Communism, that it is easier to make everyone poor than it is to make everyone rich. We see the results of Leveling within Western society, if everyone is the same class then those with the lowest of class will decide what is acceptable, piercing and tattoos, not suits and dresses. We see the results of Levelling within the idea of the Leveling Playing Field, that people of different income levels, different standards of living should compete against each other on the Leveling Playing Field. It means that wages must come down, that living standards must come down, that everything must Level.

Levelling is always presented as something brave and new, innovative, but it is an ancient idea, that we can create the perfect society here on Earth. It has never worked because it denies our true nature and therfore it can never work. No matter how it is presented.

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  1. "Modern socialism is far more a mental state than a doctrine. What makes it so threatening is not the very insignificant changes which it has so far produced in the popular mind, but the already very great changes which it has caused in the mind of the directing classes. The modern bourgeoisie are no longer sure of their rights. Or rather they are not sure of anything, and they do not know how to defend anything. They listen to everything and tremble before the most pitiable windbags. They are incapable of firm will and discipline, of the community of hereditary sentiments, which are the cement of society and without which no human association has hitherto been able to exist….
    Social upheavals always are begun from above, never from below. Was it the people who started our great [French] revolution? Not they indeed! They had never dreamed of such a thing. It was let loose by the nobility and the ruling class......Gustave Le Bon "The Psychology of Socialism"

  2. Dear Karabar

    Thats is a great quote!

    Mark Moncrieff