A Stroud Broadsheet
In the year of our Lord, 1649,
England became a republic,
And that word: ‘Commonwealth’
(‘In the beginning was the Word’),
Another mistaken step on the road
Towards constitutional monarchy,
And parliamentary democracy –
Or so the history books so often tell us;
That quintessential English evolution
From King John and Magna Carta,
To the enfranchisement of all women,
In the year of Stanley Baldwin, 1928:
A line of presumed continuity,
And peaceful, reforming contiguity;
And even when the history books mention
That un-English word, ‘Revolution’,
With a political denotation,
It is ‘The Glorious Revolution’ of 1688,
Which merely guaranteed that the monarchy
Would be protestant and not catholic.
But there is another optic to use,
When scrying this Whig history:
See how the possession of property
Was a prerequisite for liberty;
See how the law was used to impose
The tyranny of wage-slavery,
Upon those without property and liberty,
And all in the name of the Law,
Rather than rack-renting and usury.
Whipping and branding for the motley ranks
Of vagabonds, beggars and tramps
In dear Old Merrie Englande –
‘Kicked to and fro like footballs in the wind’;
Families torn apart by press gangs –
Such Hearts of Oak -
‘For who are so free as the sons of the waves?’
Enclosure robbing cottagers and squatters:
‘Without a class of persons willing to work for wages,
How are the comforts and refinements
Of civilised life to be procured?’
And transportation of child paupers to the colonies:
‘Britons never, never, never shall be slaves!’
The Royal Africa Company saw to that.
The loom, The mill. The factory. The clock.
Clocking in. Clocking out. Wage-slavery.
The triangular trade.
The middle passage.
Two and a half million people
Enslaved from Africa in British ships.
But we shall rescue this perspective
From ‘the enormous condescension of property’,
And instead of kings and queens and admirals and slave ships,
John Ball! Robin Hood! Poachers! Smugglers! Dick Turpin!
The gypsy liberty of John Clare’s vision!
Democratic pirate ships and a freed Man Friday!
Free-born miners from the Forest of Dean!
As Gerard Winstanley said in 1649:
‘Quietly enjoy land to work upon,
That everyone may enjoy the benefit of their creation,
And eat their bread by the sweat of their brow.’
Remember this in this the year of our Lord, 2021,
The year of our Lord of Bet Fred,
The year of our Lord of Paupers’ Burials,
The year of our Lord of Universal Credit,
The year of our Lord of Universal Cruelty,
The year of a Tory MP who claims
That taking the knee by ‘my beloved England team’
Means ‘they are supporting a political movement
whose core principles aim to undermine
our very way of life’ …