Friday, 2 July 2010

Post-prandial pedagogy

Two fascinating political papers today: Richard on liberal Jewish lawyer Samuel Untermyer's Non-Sectarian anti-fascist boycott movement in the US 1930s, and one by Malcolm on the Earl of Manchester, a key (reluctant, conservative) Parliamentarian figure in the so-called English Civil War. Manchester wasn't a particularly good general, leading to the formation of the New Model Army, and to rifts between moderates, radical conservatives like Cromwell who tried to hold everything together by repressing more revolutionary impulses, and the revolutionaries such as the Diggers, Levellers, Fifth Monarchists and so on, led by heroes of mine such as Lilburne and Winstanley.

Read Winstanley's The Law of Freedom in a Platform; OR, True Magistracy Restored, Winstanley's statement of ideals.

True freedom lies where a man receives his nourishment and preservation, and that is in the use of the earth. For as man is compounded of the four materials of the creation, fire, water, earth and air; so is he preserved by the compounded bodies of these four, which are the fruits of the earth; and he cannot live without them. For take away the free use of these and the body languishes, the spirit is brought into bondage and at length departs, and ceaseth his motional action in the body.
All that a man labours for, saith Solomon, is this, That he may enjoy the free use of the earth, with the fruits thereof. Eccles. 2.24.
Do not the ministers preach for maintenance in the earth? the lawyers plead causes to get the possessions of the earth? Doth not the soldier fight for the earth? And doth not the landlord require rent, that he may live in the fulness of the earth by the labour of his tenants?
And so, from the thief upon the highway to the king who sits upon the throne, do not everyone strive, either by force of arms or secret cheats, to get the possessions of the earth one from another, because they see their freedom lies in plenty, and their bondage lies in poverty?
Surely then, oppressing lords of manors, exacting landlords and tithe-takers, may as well say their brethren shall not breathe in the air, nor enjoy warmth in their bodies, nor have the moist waters to fall upon them in showers, unless they will pay them rent for it: as to say their brethren shall not work upon earth, nor eat the fruits thereof, unless they will hire that liberty of them. For he that takes upon him to restrain his brother from the liberty of the one, may upon the same ground restrain him from the liberty of all four, viz. fire, water, earth and air,
A man had better to have had no body than to have no food for it; therefore this restraining of the earth from brethren by brethren is oppression and bondage; but the free enjoyment thereof is true freedom.
Now if the earth could be enjoyed in such a manner as every one might have provision, as it may by this platform I have offered, then will the peace of the commonwealth be preserved, and men need not act so hypocritically as the clergy do, and others likewise, to get a living. But when some shall enjoy great possessions, and others who have done as much or more for to purchase freedom shall have none at all, and be made slaves to their brethren, this begets offences.

An especially good touch is Malcolm's (ironic?) reintroduction of the Overhead Projector as a presentation tool. I haven't seen one in action since my student days!

As I'm deeply interested in both 1930s American leftist politics (particularly that wonderful monster Huey Long) and in the Civil War, this session's tailor-made for me.

If you're interested in the extent of Nazism and anti-semitism in the US, have a look at Henry Ford's Dearborn Independent newspaper and The International Jew ("The World's Foremost Problem"), a work of such bigotry that the Nazis in Germany translated it for their supporters. He didn't just make cars, you know.

Untermyer's boycott campaign failed partly because, as Richard points out, American Jews at the time were uninterested in European affairs - America was in an isolationist moment, and established American Jews were fairly contemptuous of recent immigrant European Jews. Additionally, Untermyer hated leftists - New York Jews were largely leftwing - and found it difficult to get on even with his own supporters.

No comments: