Gerrard Winstanley – “A New Year’s Gift sent to the Parliament and Army” (excerpts)

Gerrard Winstanley was the leader of the small group called the Levellers or the Diggers, people who in the spirit of what could be called Christian Communism took over the waste plots of land (nominally belonging to the local landlords) and turned them into fields. The Levellers are a bit of a pet subject for the Civil War historians, and I have a sneaky feeling that it’s more their appeal to the minds of pinko liberal academics than their actual importance which makes them so popular. The text cannot boast as much clarity and force of the argument as Milton’s, maybe because Winstanley not only lacked Milton’s learning, but also because Winstanley is too preoccupied with the visions of the Apocalypse and the world to come. Winstanley’s argument is basically that there are two kinds of kingly power, the good one and the bad one.  Parliament (should I use the definite article?) abolished the bad one by toppling the king. But it’s not enough and by failing to act, Parliament ignores the good kingly powr, God’s power. Getting rid of the king and ignoring the rest is like lobbing off the topeof the tree, which does not stop its other branches from spreading. The bad kingly power (meaning probably the inequality), like the red dragon of the Apocalypse, is still dangerous and needs to be fought.

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