Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Levellers’ Day, Burford.

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The Tendance visited the Levellers’ Day event at Burford Oxfordshire ( a beautiful town on the threshold of the Cotswolds)  this Saturday (more information on the day here.).

It is an important date in the labour movement calendar. For East Anglians  it could be compared to the annual Burston Rally.

Gawain Little of Oxford Trades Council gives a good outline of the Day  in this weekend’s Morning Star,

On the night of May 14 1649, at the height of the English revolution, Cromwell’s troops overpowered a group of 400 Levellers in a surprise attack at Burford, Oxfordshire.

A number escaped, including their leader Captain Thompson, but the rest were imprisoned in Burford church and eventually three were shot for mutiny.

This put an end to what was one of a number of Leveller uprisings which took place that year.

Others were stamped out in a similar manner, the civilian leaders of the Levellers were arrested and the Leveller movement ceased to pose a serious threat to Cromwell’s rule.

Just two years earlier, in 1647, the Levellers had been at the height of their strength.

The movement had developed within Cromwell’s New Model Army – England’s first professional force – comprised of volunteers and with an openly political ethos.

Inspired by the parliamentary cause and by the ideas of John Lilburne, Richard Overton and other radical pamphleteers, and faced with the reality of pay arrears and unacceptable orders from Parliament, they quickly became radicalised and organised.

Their demands, set out in a manifesto called the Agreement of the People, included universal male suffrage, the frequent recall of Parliament, abolition of the monarchy and the House of Lords, and the equality of all under the law. (Continued here)

This year Jobs and the Future of Employment were debated.

We missed Paul Mason from the BBC. But we heard Billy Hayes (CWU Gen.Sec). He made a spirited speech, quoting Wittgenstein and John Ross, on the defence of public services and the social nature of human beings. Barbara Harris-White talked on the international economy, and the need to agitate everywhere – including “wine clubs” (unless we misheard her saying ‘whine’).

The 400 strong* march set off through the town. Attending were people dressed as Levellers (The Unsealed Knot), Morris Dancers, local Labour parties, Oxfordshire Communists, SPGB – ‘Socialist Studies’, unions, peace campaigners,  Oxford Green Party and the more radical  ‘Green Bloc’ of the Woodcraft Folk.

A popular mass (age 4) waved at us as we passed.

Canon Tony Williamson, a retired worker-priest (Cowley),  made a resounding eulogy to the memory of the Levellers, particularly  those shot in Burford. He stirred the audience with a call to continue the fight for socialism, and the need to end divisions on the left.

It was good to see an old comrade, Steve, from Oxford.

We also saw Alan Thornett.

The Levellers struggle for democracy and against the powerful is, as they say, of great and continuing  importance.

Full marks to those who organised the Levellers’ Day.


* We corrected this figure after reading the report in the Morning Star today.


Written by Andrew Coates

May 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm

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