Yes, reading. Might help with attempting coherence, distinguishing between a grievance and a demand, stuff like that. Call me a patronizing elitist — you won’t get any argument from me! — but in a world where sincerity is equated with the inarticulate and cogency is supposedly only a telltale sign of privilege and hierarchy, these readings show that sounding authoritative does not equal selling out to authority.
The Putney Debates. 1647. Rank and file in Cromwell’s Army believed they deserved the vote. Cromwell disagreed. The “Levellers” lost — but this is one of the first articulate demands for disconnecting rights from property.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail. 1963. Martin Luther King, Jr., argues for the validity of taking direct action in the street, not just waiting for courts to catch up.
The Port Huron Statement. 1962. In a time not of recession but of immense prosperity, students who had benefited from that very prosperity questioned its basis and demanded a renewal of American political values, at home and around the world. Prescient or self-fulfilling or both? Anyway, at once passionate and crystal clear.
The Populist Party Platform. 1892. “We meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench. The people are demoralized; most of the States have been compelled to isolate the voters at the polling places to prevent universal intimidation and bribery. The newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled, public opinion silenced, business prostrated, homes covered with mortgages, labor impoverished, and the land concentrating in the hands of capitalists.”
Common Sense. 1776. Paine’s call not only for American independence but also, and more importantly — and this is the part routinely and deliberately ignored or marginalized by liberal “consensus” historians — for social equality, in a new kind of American republic.
That’s a start. . . .
Would adding Marx & Engels be grounds for dismissal here?
Thanks for this… Much appreciated. We’re all in this together!
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any primary sources on the 18th century radicals you focus on available?
I’m going to the meeting in Pittsburgh in an hour. I’ll mention some of these books and let you know how it goes.
Brilliant. Always nice to locate current discontent with our institutions in a historical context. Not only does such a context show to us that we are not alone and/or that we are part of a river of creative resistance, it also shows that our current anxieties and insights are both justified and correct.
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