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Gerrard Winstanley




Introduced by TONY BENN

Published 10th April 2011



TONY BENN in conversation with PAUL MASON at the Southbank Centre on WINSTANLEY, the Diggers and English radicalism.

Monday 23rd May, 2011

Part of the Festival ofBritain

More information and tickets:

”Sick to death of the royal wedding? Then where better to take refuge than in the radical ruminations of Gerrard Winstanley, the voice of revolutionary republican England?…a useful and inspiring collection” — SOCIALIST REVIEW

”With house prices at ridiculous levels and employment plummeting, perhaps this neat introduction to Winstanley’s writings could provide an excellent instruction manual for a new breed of 21st century Digger?” —  MORNING STAR

In Spring 1649, at the end of the English Civil War, Gerrard Winstanley and his comrades, the Diggers, went to St George’s Hill to farm the common land and to distribute the food amongst themselves. Winstanley’s extraordinary writings from this period have remained a huge influence for many on the left, and are cited as some of the earliest examples of communist thought.

Legendary voice of the left, Tony Benn, introduces this collection of Winstanley’s work and shows how it still has the power to inspire us to turn our world upside down. Benn credits the Diggers, along with the Levellers, with helping to launch into the public domain ideas about freedom, equality and democracy which, though now regarded as normal were then hugely threatening of the status quo, and are “some of the most important radical ideas of all time.”

Winstanley and the Diggers saw the earth and its natural resources as belonging to all mankind, a “common treasury”.  Since the 15th century, the enclosure of land by private landlords had meant that the poor were unable to farm and increasingly had to rely on wage labour. The Diggers attempted to seize the revolutionary moment to reclaim these common rights to the land through both argument and direct action.  Protestant agrarian socialists, the Diggers are an example of the long-standing relationship between Christianity and radicalism.

Emerging at the end of the English Civil War, the Diggers started their colony at St George’s Hill on 1st April 1649, just two months after the King, Charles I had gone to the scaffold. While the Diggers were ultimately unsuccessful in reclaiming the common land and destroying the system of “enclosures”, Winstanley’s ideas resonate to this day.

ISBN: 978 1 84467 595 1 / $15.95 / £8.99 / CAN$20 / 192 pages
For more information and to buy the book visit:

Part of Verso’s REVOLUTIONS series

Other titles that may be of interest include:




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‘I believe in the afterlife.

It starts tomorrow,

When I go to work’

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Human Herbs’ at: (recording) and (live)

‘Maximum levels of boredom

Disguised as maximum fun’

Cold Hands & Quarter Moon, ‘Stagnant’ at: (recording) and (live, at the Belle View pub, Bangor, north Wales)  

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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Call for sponsors of a Levellers Association

We are currently organising the launch of a Levellers Association which would aim to popularise the history and heritage of the Levellers and other radicals in the English Revolution.

It would seek to involve students, researchers and academics with amateur historians, 17th century re-enactors, publishers, artists, battlefield preservation societies, trade unionists, and campaigners who want to deepen our knowledge of the English Revolution. The project is at an early stage but current sponsors include:

Tony Benn,
Jeremy Corbyn MP,
Geoffrey Robertson QC, author of The Tyrannicide Brief
Jim Holstun, author of Ehud’s Dagger
Ann Hughes, Professor of Early Modern History at Keele University
Neil Faulkner, editor of Military Times
Andrew Murray, Director of Communications for Unite the Union
Dr John Gurney, Visiting Fellow Newcastle University
Caryl Churchill, playwright.
Rev. Hammer, songwriter
Dr Rachel Foxley, University of Reading
Philip Baker, Senior Research Officer at the Centre for Metropolitan History
Dr Ariel Hessayon, Goldsmiths, University of London

This letter is being circulated on history, academic, trade union and activists lists in the hope of widening he sponsorship base of the project. Please do let us know if you would like to become a sponsor of the Levellers Association.

We are aiming to hold an initial organising meeting on Saturday 22nd May, at 1pm in Room B104, the School of Oriental and African Studies Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG (nearest tube Russell Square). If you would like to attend or if you have any ideas that you would like discussed at the meeting please do let us know.

Please respond to this email address:

We hope that people can help us establish a website, newsletter, conferences, education packs, publications, artistic events and so on…but there is absolutely no obligation on individual sponsors to do any of this.

Thanks for taking the time to look at this.

Best wishes

John Rees, Goldsmiths College, Ben Craggs, Goldsmiths College, Tehmeena Bax, Queen Mary College

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

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