All Campaigns subcategories:
May 1649 - the Last Stand of the Levellers
In the latter part of the English Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century, the hopes of those who wanted the war against the king and the great landowners to bring fundamental change for the mass of ordinary people were being dashed.
Some groups took direct action - such as the Diggers, who planted food on common land, and argued for common ownership, prefacing later developments of more concrete socialist ideas.
Rank and file soldiers, who had fought for the parlimentary 'Roundheads' against the King's armies, wanted an end to enclosures of previously common land, religious tolerance, an end to church taxes and for democratic rights such as extended suffrage. But the class nature of society was still reflected in the New Model Army.
As Geoff Jones introduction to the classic Dudley Edwards pamphlet 'The Last Stand of the Levellers'. explains: "While army leaders were doing very well out of the war, buying up land of defeated Royalists and raising rents, common soldiers who fought the battles weren't getting paid."
This led to the mutiny of several regiments, who became known as the Levellers - not a term that all would have used to describe themselves, but more used "by country squires and London merchants" as a term of abuse.
The mutinies were defeated and their leaders were shot, imprisoned or exiled. The last mutiny, of two cavalry regiments based in Salisbury, set out on a march to Burford in Oxfordshire.
Cromwell's forces caught up with the 1,500 mutineers, engaged, captured 340 and imprisoned them in Burford Church, where one of the troopers carved his name on the font - 'ANTHONY SEDLEY 1649 PRISNER' - and it's still there today.
Cromwell executed three of the leaders on 17 May, and their names are commemorated on a plaque on the church wall, unveiled by the late Tony Benn.
The detail of the mutiny, it's defeat and lessons for the modern working class, as one of the episodes in our history of militant struggle against exploitation, are contained in Dudley's pamphlet.
The classic pamphlet was written 70 years ago to commemorate the 300th anniversary by Oxford engineering worker, Dudley Edwards, and can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/LastStandLevellers
18 Sep Building a new left in PCS
Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777
Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206
Regional Socialist Party organisers:
Eastern: 0798 202 1969
East Mids: 0773 797 8057
London: 020 8988 8786
North East: 0784 114 4890
North West 07954 376 096
South East: 020 8988 8777
South West: 07759 796 478
Southern: 07833 681910
Wales: 07935 391 947
West Mids: 02476 555 620
Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551