Wednesday, 7 October 2020

What we can learn form the Levellers.

 On Mastermind on Monday one of the contestants specialised subjects was on the Levellers which I did vaguely recall were an early movement to improve our democracy so I looked up further details and discovered the following.

They were prominent during the Civil War in the 1600s with the political aims of extending the franchise and achieving manhood suffrage as they believed that everyone had equal rights to the  vote.

They were called the 'Levellers', as they wished to level out society. They had many ideas on how they thought society should be and their political and religious objectives were put forward to Parliament in 'The Agreement of the People' in 1647. This document was much more radical than those before it. Along with their political aims they wanted to reform the legal system to give equality to everyone before the law and achieve recognition of people's fundamental rights and liberties.

They were however not sucessful primarily because they
didn’t gain popular support which meant that they could easily be ignored and thus defeated.They also failed to make inroads into the army with only limited rank and file support, despite their aims being to their advantage, as soldiers were more interested in their pay and conditions than in theoretical schemes of government. They also had no support from the officers, the so-called 'Grandees', like Cromwell and Ireton as their power could be curbed by the Levellers ideas. This meant they had little support in Parliament because the rich and wealthy landowners felt threatened by them for if their objectives were achieved they would lose power, money and land and there would be a major destruction of the social order.

Interestingly as with the Chartists, some 200 years later, the Levellers emerged at a time when there was severe economic hardship and this made their policies attractive to working class people, who would have mostly benefited from their reforms. However, as the economic situation improved support for the Levellers started to decline. This was the major reason as to why they lacked popular support.

Coming right up to date for our agenda to achieve mass support we sadly need the economic conditions to seriously deteriorate so that the people are forced to consider how badly the current system of governance
in this country has let them down. At that point they should hopefully focus on the necessary improvements needed to give them a far greater say in the way they are governed which needs to start with a recognition of the people's inherent sovereignty.

Next year of course with the double economic whammy of Covid and at best a limited trade deal with the EU the conditions should be ripe to advance our six demands.
If the people want politcal reforms they will have to wake up and demand them - it is up to them.

 As Tomasi di Lampedusa wrote in The Leopard “If we want things to stay as they are, everything will have to change. 


  1. It is informative to look at The Levellers because, as I understand its history, it grew out of discontent in the army. Many in The Model Army saw themselves as fighting for a step towards universal suffrage and democracy but saw members of parliament living in considerable comfort while they risked their lives. The Levellers was already a movement when its demands were still being agreed and formulated and became a threat to those holding the strings of power. Until THA becomes a movement, nothing will happen.

    Yes, ”If the people want polit[i]cal reforms they will have to wake up and demand them” and ”it is up to them” or rather, us.

    Yes, ”the double economic whammy of Covid” with the EU non-deal and not forgetting a bursting debt balloon will bring about discontent, but with no movement behind THA, why wont people gather behind one of the other movements for reform that will spring up when people suffer economic collapse?

    How about a movement to persuade people to stand for parliament, in the next election, with them stating that they associate with THA but that they are independent candidates. Some support could be given in the form of information to help them stand for parliament. Maybe there are some other ideas as to how a movement could start, but no movement = no progress.

  2. Any system depends on having people who can be trusted.

    1. Exactly any 'movement' is only as good as the people prepared to support it and currently the people are simply not ready to 'move' against the 'Establishment'.