Sunday, 29 September 2019

Stand up for Greta Thunberg and all those fighting to save the planet

Climate activist Greta Thunberg gave an impassioned tongue-lashing to politicians, business leaders and even climate activists  when she delivered a heart wrenching speech to the UN Climate Action summit in New York about the human reality of our changing climate while the world’s leaders stand by and do nothing. Her message was clear "This is all wrong. I shouldn't be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean," she said with tears in her eyes. " Yet, you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams in my childhood with your empty words. Yet, I, I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying and entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?””

To get to the UN event, Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic on a zero-emissions boat to avoid the carbon emissions that would have come from flying.
For most of us Greta’s candour and firm resistance in the face of ecological breakdown is the breath of fresh air we so desperately need in order to give our world leaders a kick up the backside, they so deserve when it comes to climate change. She is right, "she shouldn't be up there" we should not be at this tipping point, our house is on fire, as a result of climate change and our Governments are failing to act fast enough. We should not forget that capitalism is the problem too, alongside the industrial military complex, these are the  systems that continue to wreak havoc,and destroy our planet, but in the meantime  we should thank Greta for being the lightning spark that so many of us had been waiting for.
Incredibly though Greta  is facing a deluge of hate across the globe and is being portrayed by some,   as a precocious schoolgirl with absolutely no idea what she’s talking about, and there are actually people jeering and mocking the warnings from a  solitary 16-year-old girl who made a stand for what she believed in, attacking her character and wilfully misinterpreting her motivations
Greta Thunberg has been  demanding that politicians act to prevent catastrophic climate change, that the scientists have been warning us for years about. We are facing droughts, floods and storms  that are devastating communities across the world every day, and thousands of species are going extinct, while those in power are carrying on as normal.
Climate change is having a devastating effect on our seas and on the frozen ice caps of the world, a new report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns.The more than 100 scientists who contributed to Wednesday's report made projections of rising sea levels, and assessed different scenarios based on different levels of warming.
Worryingly, there may reportedly be some impacts that we're no longer in a position to stop, such as the amount of sea level rise. The report, which makes grim reading, concluded that that the global ocean has now warmed without pause since 1970. Greta Thunberg has made  it clear to world leaders that they can not ignore these facts any longer. No wonder students question whether there’s any point in carrying on learning. You can read the report in full here.
Greta marched into the public eye in August 2018 when she skipped school, aged 15, to protest climate change outside the Swedish parliament building. The sole person there, her parents warned her against going, her classmates declined her invitation to attend, but her skolstrejk för klimatet (school strike for climate) banner stood tall.
One year later, her homemade sign has been translated into dozens of languages and her protests have travelled across over 70 countries. She has just been named GQ’s ‘Game Changer of the Year’ but for some Greta's  message makes them uncomfortable.
For those who hold the reins of power across the world, it must be hard to be told by a 16 year old that they have failed at their job. But that’s kind of her point. She wants them to be nervous. Greta told political leaders and billionaire entrepreneurs in Davos: ‘I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.’
As the clock ticks down on our time left to make a positive impact on the climate crisis, Greta has devoted her time and energy on educating our world leaders on why we need to act now, but smear campaigns have followed the teenager from the moment she stepped into the limelight fighting for her cause, and despite being accused of spreading panic and conspiracy theories about our planet, she continues to prove time and time again, that she’s  actually more mature than many politicians and media outlets.
A 16 year old who doesn’t wear makeup or conform to any of the Instagram-worshipping, generation Z stereotypes that politicians love to belittle? No wonder they don’t know how to handle her power.
Beyond attacks on her mission to force a change for our environment, some journalists have taken it upon themselves to hit below the belt, with Andrew Bolt, a columnist for The Herald Sun, an Australian paper owned by climate denier business tycoon Rupert Murdoch, called her ‘deeply disturbed’ and commented on her ‘many mental disorders.’ The 16 year old has Asperger’s and has been very open in the past about her condition. In an interview with BBC journalist Nick Robinson, Thunberg said that "being different is a gift." If she didn't have Asperger's, Thunberg added, she wouldn't have become such a passionate climate activist. Thunberg has also tweeted about her condition, saying that having Asperger's is a "superpower."
Greta has delivered a clear action for the world leaders gathered at the United Nations to respond and we should keep standing up to her and all those that keep on speaking truth to power, those that are revolting and rebelling against being exploited and abused, against an economy which puts profit above people and planet, children like Greta shouting at us to hear their voices. They’ve been forced to become the adults because we’ve become the children. They are right and we are wrong. They are the future and we are the dead, broken, failed past.
Governments have a  stark choice, to either come up with concrete action plans for large-scale CO2 reduction, or condemn Greta and future generations to more extreme heat, forest fires, drought and rising sea levels. While we hold our breath waiting for an answer from the politicians and corporations, what else can we do?
 If you have three minutes and 40 seconds today, watch the video below. In it, Greta and journalist George Monbiot simply explain that – alongside stopping burning fossil fuels immediately – nature is a tool for fighting runaway climate change. Mangroves, peat bogs, jungles, marshes, swamps and coral reefs. They’re all perfectly designed to capture normal amounts of CO2 from the air.
Yet an area of forest the size of the UK is lost to deforestation each year. With the embers of the Amazon tragedy still hot, just when we need nature the most, we’re destroying it faster than ever.
In the video, they warn how the world spends 1000 times more on global fossil fuel subsidies than on natural based solutions. Just 2% of all money spent on tackling climate change goes on projects that protect, restore and use nature.
But the message Greta and George give ends hopefully. We can support campaigns to protect forests. We can plant trees to help ecosystems bounce back. And we can stop funding things that destroy nature on a massive scale.
Vote for people who defend nature. Join natural climate movements. Tell everyone you know. While Greta wakes our leaders up, let’s protect, restore and fund natural climate solutions, do not however support a system that fuels destruction, keep holding to account fossil fuel executives as they attempt to greenwash their records and push false solutions to the climate catastrophe,help nature do what it’s designed to do, and  provide  constant solidarity and support to the Youth of the Planet,  and all those fighting to save the planet, who all play a fundamental role in shaping the better society that we currently can only dream about.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Freezing the Snowball

Here's some food for thought
As the power lines spit and crackle
The PM currently has nowhere to hide
After attempt to subvert democracy failed
The masses now hungry for some change
With voracious appetites, belly's yearning,
Creating new recipes to heal the nation
After Johnson misled us to get prorogation,
Who once said while arrogantly boasting
"Our policy is to have our cake and eat it"
Adding lines typical of his bluff and bluster
"We are Processo, but by no means anti- pesto"
But breaking the law with contempt was his game
Now this jokers luck has finally flamed out
No more whitewash cards to play
Scheming agenda now transparent and indisputable
His ferocious duplicity unveiled
The myopic mission manacled
The floundering  fish has fallen flat
As belated comeuppance mercilessly delivered
His just desserts felicitously garnished
The final scenes curtains dance shut.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

I Fought the Law - Boris Johnson x The Clash

One nation, under prorogation. Boris Johnson fought the Law and the Law won.

Amazing news The Supreme Court in  London has agreed with the Scottish Supreme Court that Boris Johnsons  controversial decision  to  prorogue Parliament  for 5 weeks was unlawful and misled the Queen. Making the PM of the United Kingdom an actual criminal.  Which could lead him to becoming the shortest  serving prime minister in history.
Speaking at the Supreme Court, the court's president Lady Hale declared that " the descioin to adise her Majesty to proroque Parliament  was unlawful - because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without proper justification."
Hale went on to state that, as the  decision to prorogue was unlawful, Parliament has not actually in effect been proroqued and could therefore be recalled immediately. The Supreme Court's decision was unanimously agreed between all 11 judges.
Immediately.  following the rulng, the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow issued a statement declaring that Parliament would be recalled as soon as possible. Naturally many have responded to this decision by calling for Boris Johnson to resign, claiming that his position as Prime Minister is now untenable.
Whilst speaking at the Labour Conference, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said:
 " I will be in touch immediately to demand Parliament is recalled so we can question the Prime Ministter, demand he obey the law that has been  passed by parliament. I invite Boris Johnson to consider his position."
Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said :
"Boris Johnson should resign and Parliament out to be recalled immdiately."
The Supreme Court Juudgement is a victory for the rule of law. It is a reminder that in this country no one is above the law and  that our judges should hold the powerful to account wtihout fear or favour. Whatever you think about the decision to prorogue Parliament and whatever you think about Brexit, this is our constitutional system working exactly as it should – the judiciary independently scrutinising the actions of the Government.
This welcome news also serves to  highlight the fact that the Queen was given an instruction to do an unlawful thing, and she did it, despite being told she has the benefit of decades of experience, she couldn't see what was obvious to everyone else, that Johnson's motives were not honest. The "I was doing what I was told' is no defence.
Yes, refusing prorogation would have been dangerous territory for the monarchy, but that's the job. Truth is, this whole episode exposes the monarchy as a pointless and ineffective institution.The Queen has abdicated all responsibility for her actions and that is not a sustainable position. With the political system in disarray, and a government that has shown a willingness to go  above the law, we  need a general election and a democratic alternative to the monarchy, a written constitution  and an accountable and effective head of state.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

To Autumn - William Blake (1783)

Today in the Northern Hemisphere, is the Autumn Equinox the point of balance between summer and winter, the time when day and night are equal, as the sun is directly over the Equator. It is the halfway point between the Winter and Summer Solstices and marks the turning point of the year.
It reminds us that the long, lazy days of Summer are drawing to a close and it is time to prepare for the darker, colder months ahead.  This marks a change in our energy flow patterns, as, ideally we draw our focus more inwards and become more reflective on what the summer experiences have taught us.  
This is also the time of ‘Harvest’ – of harvesting the lessons from the summer experiences, learning what worked and what did not, what could have been done differently, what different approaches we might take next time.
 In ancient times, it was vital to our survival that we knew and honoured the equinoxes. A time to pause and surrender in refection. Our disregard for the seasons and the changes they bring has rather alienated us from our roots. We need to reconnect with our seasonal rhythms, because our body still recognises them, even if we don’t! Despite its changefulness, autumn can be the stillest time of the year.  Like a great pause.
 William Blake's works have been used by people rebelling against a wide range of issues, such as war, conformity, and almost every kind of repression. In the present day among our own progressive idylls we can be like Blake and continue to dream of heaven on Earth, building the new Jerusalem, the new moral world and a restored Albion of free and equal imaginations.
“To Autumn” from his first book, Poetical Sketches. is one in a set of four season poems by Blake, aptly including “To Winter,” “To Spring,” and “To Summer.” These seasonal invocations can be read alone, but Blake also intended them to interconnect.  The cycle of the seasons is often interpreted as the cycle of rebirth and death, themes that apply to human nature as well. Each of the season songs can be read as Blake’s reference to the different stages of human life. “To Autumn” is not a particularly personal poem, but is significant in that it, along with the other seasonal songs, seems to correlate mythology that Blake created. The personas of the seasons can be read as counterparts to Blake’s spirits: Tharmas (most like spring), Orc (most like summer), Los (most like autumn), and Urizen (most like winter). Thus, “To Autumn” can be read as a particular view of human nature, or in a way which relates more to Blake’s later works. .In the poem  Blake hints at the promise of future growth. Within the harvest are the seeds for future crops. As Autumn flies over the bleak hills to make way for Winter, he leaves behind “his golden load”: an abundance of food, seeds for the Spring, and a feeling of joyous celebration, reflecting his particular view of human nature. Happy Autumn Equinox.

To Autumn - William Blake

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stainèd
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of
Morning, and Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.“
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Flavio Costantini (21/09/26 - 20/5/13) - Artist of Anarchy

 Flavio Costantini: self portrait. Tempera, 1980

 Flavio Costantini was a Italian anarchist,graphic artist and printmaker who was born in Rome on 21st September, 1926. He became a  Sea Captain and worked in the navy as second lieutenant. Then, he wouldl switch to the merchant ship  where he developed a  passionate interest  in literature.  In particular, he was inspired by the writer  Franz Kafka and would  go on to illustrate his America and The process. 'I started to draw because I read the Kafka books… it was impossible to write like Kafka, so I began to draw'. Other writers followed, but it was the human condition as portrayed by Kafka that was to remain the dominant influence in Costantini’s world.


 Once he went ashore, in 1954, he  would  dedicate  himself to activities that let him probe his passion for creativity. He nurtured his interest in painting and literature,and  in 1959, after a trip to Spain, he mades a number of paintings about Bullfighting.  He was a member of the artists' group that founded the Galleria del Deposito in Boccadasse, Genoa. Other members were Eugenio Carmi, Emanuele Luzzati, Carlo Vita.. 
The period between the early 1960s and mid 1970s coincided with a flood tide of intense democratic hopes for large numbers of people. Costantini had been a communist until 1962, but a month long visit to Moscow when he was 36 caused him to reconsider his beliefs. In Moscow he saw “an endless stream of tourist peasantry who were strangely silent, neither sad nor happy, but were canalised in a disenchanted, unconscious pilgrimage … The revolution had ended… In the squalid vertical squares of New York or in the equally squalid horizontal squares of Moscow, reaching beyond the languid reminiscences of old Europe, this was perhaps an alternative, an isolated but insistent voice, an ancient Utopia which, however, had nothing in common with the Fabian longings of HG Wells. Since then, since 1963, I have tried, within the scope of my possibilities, to publicise this uncompromising alternative.”
He reread a book he had disliked some years previously, Memoirs of a Revolutionist by Victor Serge. Serge’s description of the heroic period of French anarchist activism that highlighted the end of the last century provided Costantini with a social theme that was to be his inspiration for the next two decades. He felt, like Serge, that although shot through with contradictions, the French anarchists were “people who demanded, before anything else, harmony between words and deeds”. They were very often lonely and isolated individuals, sensitive in their own way, whose reaction to confusion and alienation was to act, to refuse to submit.
Costantini’s work during these two decades is a documentation of this dramatic period in mankind’s odyssey towards a free society based on the principles of social justice described by Bakunin over a century ago: “It is the triumph of humanity, it is the conquest and accomplishment of the full freedom and full development, material, intellectual and moral, of every individual, by the absolute free and spontaneous organisation of economic and social solidarity as completely as possible between all human beings living on the earth.
There is irony here, too: the faces of the policemen, for example, firing on strikers in Chicago, 1886, are those of four US presidents.

 Another tempera, depicting the capture of Ravachol, has Toulouse-Lautrec as the arresting officer.
Costantini’s haunting faces, drawn directly from contemporary sources, provide an element of photographic realism that contrasts starkly with the decorative backdrop. Whether it is in the faces of the protagonists, the architectural or stylistic minutiae, there is a lovingly researched detail, harmony and structural perfection.

The ebbing of revolutionary hopes and expectations in the mid 1970s gave Costantini the sensation that he was witnessing the end of an era. He came to believe that the act of revolution, as a cathartic means of achieving the good society, was no longer possible without serious risk of sinking into a sea of anomie. His later work presented a pessimistic view of civilization. He created series of paintings exploring historical themes: Anarchy, the wreck of the Titanic, alchemy and Mozart, the French Revolution and its victims, Yekaterinburg and the murder of Nicholas II and his family. His last series offered a dark reading of Pinocchio, which he considered one of the three or four greatest Italian novel.

He would never abandon his love for literature, as witnessed by numerous portraits dedicated to writers and poets. But also ilustrations produced in volumes such as  The fire horse by Vladimir Majakovskij (1969; reprinted 2006), Heart by Edmondo De Amicis (1977), The shadow line by Joseph Conrad (1989), Memories from the underground by Fëdor Dostoevskij (1997). Furthermore, portraits for national newspapers such as La Domenica del Corriere, Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica, L’EuropeoPanorama e L’Espresso.
In 1980 Costantini began to immerse himself in a series of light-hearted portraits of the authors who had contributed most to his understanding of the world. Each is accompanied by rebus-like objects associated with the subject, or which provide an important theme in their work. Thus, Kafka is shown with his beetle; Poe with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey; Stevenson with a seagull, lifebelt and a killed figure; Conrad with a compass and a photograph of a steamer, and so on.
He died in Genova on the 20th of May 2013, after suffering from lung cancer, he had devoted his life to using his brushes to reproduce the pure song of the revolutionaries who rejected all compromise— and who never disappointed.. The Archive of Flavio Costantini, aims to encourage, foster, save guard and spread the knowledge of his works and research. His works have appeared  in galleries across the world, and he has been prominently featured in dozens of international art magazines, and has  illustrated several books including The Art of Anarchy (1974), The Shadow Line (1989) and Letters from the Underworld (1997).
A short  biography by Stuart Christie  can be found here.…
And a selection of his artworks here…

Friday, 20 September 2019

Support The Global Climate Strike

Today, September 20, three days before the UN Climate Summit in NYC, which will discuss their plans for aggressive action to address the current climate emergency, young people and adults will strike all across the world to demand transformative action be taken to address the climate crisis. This  global climate strike, represents a crucial opportunity for the movement against climate catastrophe and for people. to demand a right to a future.
This movement has already mobilised hundreds of thousands of students in over 40 countries, with young people around the world participating in incredibly militant strikes and marches,  the aim of which is to force governmental action on climate change.Students across the world are planning today to walk out of class to call attention to the issue. But everyone is invited to express solidarity and "disrupt business as usual," organizers say."Together, we will sound the alarm and show our politicians that business as usual is no longer an option," they say. "The climate crisis won't wait, so neither will we."
People are finally joining the dots. We are one planet, one interconnected ecosystem, and there are no single issues. War, social injustice and climate breakdown are inter-connected, and so must be the response. Today’s wars are caused increasingly by struggles for resources like water and arable land, and they cause drought, climate breakdown and displacement.
Today’s refugees not only flee violence and political persecution ,but also grueling poverty, the denial of basic human rights, the daily culture of violence that is the legacy of war and injustice. A global economic order that benefits few and impoverishes many destroys the futures of the young and of generations to come.
Fundamentally, the problem is that Capitalism in its current guise ranks short-term, often volatile growth over long-term stability. It’s a beast that needs constant feeding. We exploit the earth’s limited natural resources to produce plastic, metal, and paper. We burn fossil fuels to generate the energy that powers our way of life. We drive other species to the brink of extinction for food, fashion and more space. We turn our fellow humans into commodities,  their labour often valued at less than the equivalent of £1 a day.
And worse is to come if we don’t act. Most scientists agree that we have just 12 years until warming reaches the tipping point of 1.5C. The evidence warns us that there’s no coming back from that, leading to rising seas, stronger storms, heat waves and yes ecological catastrophe.The Extinction Rebellion demonstrations and school strikes  have at least created a justifiable sense of urgency. The younger generation is showing us the way: the onus is now on governments, businesses and society to work together before it's far too late.
Todays school strike, which adults around the world have been asked to join, is the largest mobilisation yet attempted by the youth climate movement launched last year by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. As such, it is an event of international significance.
There will be strike events in at least 137 countries. Trade Unions and workers across the world are organising to support the Global Climate Strike on 20th which will begin the week of action. Trade Unions for Energy Democracy have collated some of the statements and union support and action planned across the world.
The TUC has unanimously passed a motion to support the school student Global Climate Strike  and has called on TUC affiliate unions to organise a 30 minute work day campaign action to coincide with the school students strike, and  Amnesty International has  called on head teachers worldwide to back the global protests.
On its website Global Climate Strike says, “This September, millions of us will walk out of our workplaces and homes to join young climate strikers on the streets and demand an end to the age of fossil fuels.  “Our house is on fire — let’s act like it. We demand climate justice for everyone.”
.Don't let young people fight alone, we need to show the powerful  that the whole world is acting with them. When your children or grandchildren ask what did you do to stop the climate crisis, say you joined the September 20 climate strike and demanded a better world. The fate of our planet is at stake. .Go out and make yourself heard.

Find your local climate strike event below :

Thursday, 19 September 2019

The Dirty War on the NHS – a film by John Pilger. Support John Pilger’s urgent new film

The NHS was the supreme achievement of the post-war welfare state ,subsequently becoming one of Britain's best loved institutions, and the one most likely to keep you alive. It is currently in crisis . Yet far from being accidental, this crisis  has been deliberately designed by the Tories to accelerate NHS privatisation, forcing hospitals to compete against low-cost private companies to provide services. Since the Conservatives took power, the percentage of the NHS budget going to private healthcare providers has doubled – £1.5 billion of which went to companies with direct financial links to Tory MPs. Please support John Pilger's latest film that unearths the hidden agenda:

My last film, The Coming War on China, was only completed because of the generosity and solidarity of the hundreds of people whose names appear in the end-credits. For me, watching those names roll is one of the proudest moments of the film.
Initially, I was reluctant to crowd-fund and said so in the preamble on the crowd-funding site; I believed most people needed the money in their pockets and it was up to me and my colleagues at Dartmouth Films to convince likely institutions or rich donors with a conscience (yes, they exist) to impart their loose change.
But when one of the major funders of the film suddenly pulled out, it looked like the film and its editing would grind to a halt.
The crowd-funders came to our rescue: people who gave a fiver or what they could afford (and often couldn’t afford). What struck me was the entirely gracious way people offered to help. They weren’t giving charity, they said; they were delighted, even honoured, to be partners in the making and success of a film they considered important.
Today, I am again making an appeal for support – this time for a film whose urgency touches all our lives, literally.
It’s about the NHS, the last bastion of a truly people’s institution without which so many of us would stumble and fall and perhaps not survive.
The film is certainly a tribute to the NHS; but, above all, it’s a warning.
Under our noses, often secretly and deceptively, our National Health Service is being undermined and sold off: piece by precious piece to the likes of Richard Branson and the giant American health insurance companies that are at the root of the misery that is American healthcare.
The privatisation of the NHS has been mostly insidious – by “stealth”, as one of Mrs. Thatcher’s cohorts once advised. But since 2010, the “reforms” have speeded up. It’s got to the point that if we don’t act now, we’ll wake up one day to an unrecognizable health service that is no longer ours.
As with my previous films, this film will be in cinemas and on network TV, bringing a vital public message, and warning, to a mass audience
With this urgency in mind, please support this work – again, with whatever you can afford. Your name will appear with special honour as the credits roll. Thank you.
John Pilger
05 September 2019

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Wednesday, 18 September 2019

The Last Poets - Transcending Toxic Times

Have just managed to get hold of  the latest album  by the Last Poets. Formed in 1968,they are wideely  heralded as the godfathers of hip hop alongside the likes of Gil Scott-Heron. Their brand of politically charged poetry has inspired some of the biggest names such as al music released by African American musicians including Marvin Gaye, Funkadelic, Curtis Mayfield and Quincy Jones, and they eventually inspired hip hop giants like Dead Prez, Common,Public Enemy and Kanye West. Transcending Toxic Times features original The Last Poets Poets members Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan alongside longtime percussionist Baba Donn Babatunde and cclaimed bassist/producer Jamaaladeen Tacuma. Other poets on the album include Ursula Rucker, Wadud Ahmad, and Malik B (a founding member of The Roots).
50 years ago, Abiodun Oyewole was mourning the deaths of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King among many others lost in the struggle of the time. Looking to speak truth and challenge the thinking of both the oppressors and the oppressed, he formed The Last Poets. Soon after the group's inception, Oyewole met Umar Bin Hassan at a black arts event in Ohio, and Umar made the trip to New York to join them. Baba Donn Babatunde showed up later, adding percussion to their poetry.They were young men living in the black ghettos of Akron, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, Jamaica Queens and The Bronx – all desperately seeking a different life to that of their parents, who in their eyes were too subdued, too damaged by racial oppression.
Inspired by the music of John Coltrane, the glamour of the Temptations and the politics of black pride, they started performing on street corners in Harlem where they immediately gained a following.The Last Poets got their name from revolutionary South Africn poet, Keorapetese Kgositsile poem that states that ‘’this is the last age of poems, and essays, guns, and rifles will take the place of poems and essays, therefore we are the last of poems of this age.’’ Ever since, The Last Poets, led by Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, who died last year,  have lived up to that name and line. Starting with their debut self-titled album in 1970, ‘This Is Madness’ in 1971, and ‘Chastisment’ in 1972. The latter fully introduced The Last Poets’ mix of jazz and poetry, doing away with the minimalist percussion of earlier albums. The Last Poets enjoyed a huge resurgence in popularity from the early 1990s onwards, appearing alongside the Beastie Boys and A Tribe Called Quest on the 1994 Lollapolooza tour and collaborated with Common on the Kanye West produced track ‘The Corner’ which was nominated at the Grammy Awards in 2006 for Best Rap Performance.
The three men have persevered through decades of personal and political challenges, while still adhering to the higher principles of love, respect, and kindness to all humankind , they have long  been a force to reckon with, known as conscious, enduring and politically potent poetry messengers, becomming mouthpieces for a socially downtrodden and unheard people.The huge impact made by The Last Poets’ words and music is still strongly felt until today.They are one of the more captivating spoken word Hip-Hop groups we’ll ever hear.

The Last Poets - When the Revolution Comes

The inauguration of Donald Trump as US President in 2016 inspired Hassan and Oyewole to resurrect the group to create a brand new record,Understand What Black Is’,  that was modern and edgy, and deeply relevant and reflective of our times. 
Now comes Transcending Toxic Times which according to band members, is “not poetry set to music, nor is it music made for poets. This is a seamless transfiguration of the groove, the words, and the essential human elements that live between the notes and the words.” Moreover, the album is “a broad work of human emotion: anger, scorn, frustration, challenge, beauty, sorrow, love,"
This record blends poetry, jazz, Hip-Hop, and Soul, intertwining the groove of Black culture with The Last Poets powerful words and cadence. The spoken word is rhythmic, melodic at times,but politically charged throughout, and as with previous efforts, there are also socio-cultural messages that comment on the conditions of African American lived experience,  the basslines and the groove are irresistible, intoxicating and the message is unavoidable, as they continue to press their nation for truth and equality, The Last Poets' standpoint is as important today as it ever was, and this album could not come at better time, in the recent past our society has witnessed many horrific events from War and Man Made Natural Disasters to Citizen turning against Citizen it is clear things have not changed much since 1968.  The Last Poets words are as relevant today as they were then and even more so and reflective of the times we live in now..
To highlight the new album , members the Last Poets released a single  "For the Millions." Initially published as a tribute to the Million Man March back in 1995. Oyewole's commanding voice details the African-American experience from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to a present-day celebration of our resilience and the continuing quest for freedom. "Even when we have nothing to say / We are the sounds / That put color and spice in the day," he booms over Babatunde's percussion.

A glance at the album's tracklist reveals that 50 years after their inception, The Last Poets remain steadfast in their mission of shining a light on the issues of truth and equality.’Rain Of Terror’’ is a truth sermon come to life in the form of reggae and drums. Starting a poem with the word ‘’America is a terrorist’’ and then riffing on everyone from Jack Johnson, Trayvon Martin, the Black Panthers, and the government approved groups that killed those individuals and groups.
The title track “Toxic Times” is a politically charged poem, where Oyewole calls attention to the current political climate in the United States, issues of police brutality against people of color, the consequences of climate change, and gender inequality. To these issues, Hassan points out that we must “learn to be humane, use power and not become vain,” and ultimately, “understand what love is…and make it a fact!” 
This record is truly essential listening so thank you the Last Poets for continuing to make music that truly matters, for the mind, body and soul, challenging the listener to wake up.

The Last Poets Transcending Toxic Times tracklist:

1. We Are The Last Poets
2. For The Millions
3. A.M. Project
4. Heartbeat
5. If We Only Knew
6. Young Love
7. Black Rage
8. Soul Reflection
9. Don't Know What I'd Do
10. Personal Things
11. Love
12. JuJu JIMI
13. Rain Of Terror
14. Toxic Times

A.M Project - The Last Poets 

The Last Poets - Toxic Tmes

Monday, 16 September 2019

Remembering the Sabra-Shatila massacre.

“Sabra and Shatila Massacre” (1982-83), by pioneering Iraqi artist Dia al-Azzawi

Over three bloody days from September 16 through  to 18, 1982, up to 3,500 Palestinian defenceless refugees in Shatila camp and Sabra neighborhood in Beirut, Lebanon were slaughtered at the hands of Phalangist militiamen, encircled, trained and supported by Israeli occupation forces who had besieged West Beirut for 88 days before launching a full-scale occupation-day period, members of the Lebanese Christian militias, with the support of Israeli troops, killed mostly women, children and the elderly living in the camp complex. Exactly how many were actually killed  remains unknown as the real number is hard to determine because bodies were buried quickly in mass graves or never found and many men were marched out of the camp and “disappeared.” Israel actually supplied the bulldozers to bury the dead and later  tanks entered the camps and ran over the whole area, destroying houses and clearing any signs of crime.
Shortly before the massacres, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation was evacuated from Lebanon as a result of an agreement reached after the Israeli invasion of the country. That meant the residents of Sabra and Shatila no longer had protection, despite promises made to them by Philip Habib, an envoy for then US President Ronald Reagan, that their security would be guaranteed.
The massacre was presented as retaliation for the assassination of newly elected Lebanese president Bachir Germavel, the leader of the Lebanese Kataeb Party. It was wrongly assumed that Palestinians militants had carried out the assassination. The incident would cause outrage and condemnation across the world.Sadly the Sabra and Shatila crimes were not the first crimes against the Palestinian people and would not be the last.
Over three decades later, the massacre at the Sabra and Shatila camps is remembered as one of the most notorious chapters in modern Middle Eastern history. Today, not a single person (Israeli or Lebanese) has been charged with  involvement in the crime. The amnesty law that came into affect after Lebanon’s Civil Wars ended in 1991 let many of those involved in the massacre off the hook, including those who now form one of Lebanon’s ruling political parties, the Kata’eb. The forces who led the massacre were under the direct leadership of Elie Hobeika, intelligence chief of the Lebanese Forces. .
The Kahan Commission, later set up in 1983 in response to widespread international pressure, concluded that that Israeli leaders were “indirectly responsible” for the killings and that Ariel Sharon, then the defense minister and later prime minister, bore “personal responsibility” for failing to prevent the massacre Ariel Sharon, bore personally responsible, among others, for the massacre. Elie Hobeika later became a long-serving Member of the Lebanese Parliament as well as serving in many minsterial roles. Despite the findings of the Kahan Commission, Ariel Sharon held many influential ministerial roles in the Israeli government, serving in fact as Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006. Thus were the engineers of one of the bloodiest and most appalling massacres in contemporary history rewarded.
It is quite simply one of the greatest human tragedies that we should never simply forget.
Israel continues to abuse Palestinian rights without consequence. Settler attacks on Palestinian property, lands, and persons have terrorised thousands and killed almost entire families.Palestinian complaints filed against settlers go unindicted by Israel. In fact, the Israeli military serves the settlers by allowing the attackers to simply walk away". When they do take action, Israeli soldiers are more likely to support the settlers, often allowing them to continue attacking Palestinians rather than shielding innocent civilians.
The dehumanisation of Palestinians by Israel continues and the Israeli military itself continues to commit war crimes with impunity, as evidenced by Israel's repeated attacks on the tiny besieged Gaza Strip over the past decade, which have killed thousands of innocent Palestinians with disproportionate and indiscriminate force. Today there are more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, most barred from owning property and earing decent wages. They make up part of the nearly 5 million Palestinians refugees living in the West Bank, Gaza and throughout the Middle East, descendants of the 750,000 displaced after the establishment of the Israeli State.
Israel's years of dispossession and half-century of military rule still ongoing and is supported by unconditional American military aid and diplomatic backing. International bodies like the UN Security Council have repeatedly made note of Israel's human rights violations. Injustices continue to this day  through land confiscations, home demolitions, mass imprisonment, collective displacement, racist discrimination, assassination and killing.
The conscience of the world was terribly wounded on this  day and we cannot, should not and will not ever forget or forgive.With sorrow and with struggle, we  must remember Sabra and Shatila and pledge to continue to work for justice.The international community is obliged to remedy its moral responsibility to the victims of the  massacre by working to end Israel's occupation and other abuses of Palestinian rights.For the Palestinians, the tragedy of Sabra and Shatila remains a powerful reminder  of their endless cycle of displacement.
I conclude this post with the following powerful, moving poem from the pen of the late great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

Sabra and Shatila  by Mahmoud Darwish

Sabra — a sleeping girl
The men left
War slept for two short nights,
Beirut obeyed and became the capital…
A long night
Observing the dreams in Sabra,
Sabra is sleeping.
Sabra — the remains of a dead body
She bid farewell to her horsemen and time
And surrendered to sleep out of tiredness.. and the Arabs who threw her behind them.
Sabra — and what the soldiers Departing from Galilee forgot
She doesn’t buy and sell anything but her silence
To buy flowers to put on her braided hair.
Sabra — sings her lost half, between the sea and the last war:
Why do you go?
And leave your wives in the middle of a hard night?
Why do you go?
And hang your night
Over the camp and the national anthem?
Sabra — covering her naked breasts with a farewell song
Counts her palms and gets it wrong
While she can’t find the arm:
How many times will you travel?
And for how long?
And for what dream?
If you return one day
for which exile shall you return,
which exile brought you back?
Sabra — tearing open her chest:
How many times
does the flower bloom?
How many times
will the revolution travel?
Sabra — afraid of the night. Puts it on her knees
covers it with her eyes’ mascara. Cries to distract it:
They left without saying
anything about their return
Withered and tended
from the rose’s flame!
Returned without returning
to the beginning of their journey
Age is like children
running away from a kiss.
No, I do not have an exile
To say: I have a home
God, oh time ..!
Sabra — sleeps. And the fascist’s knife wakes up
Sabra calls who she calls
All of this night is for me, and night is salt
the fascist cuts her breasts — the night reduced — 
he then dances around his knife and licks it. Singing an ode to a victory of the cedars,
And erases
Quietly .. Her flesh from her bones
and spreads her organs over the table
and the fascist continues dancing and laughs for the tilted eyes
and goes crazy for joy, Sabra is no longer a body:
He rides her as his instincts suggest, and his will manifests.
And steals a ring from her flesh and blood and goes back to his mirror
And be — Sea
And be — Land
And be — Clouds
And be — Blood
And be — Night
And be — Killing
And be — Saturday
and she be — Sabra.
Sabra — the intersection of two streets on a body
Sabra, the descent of a Spirit down a Stone
And Sabra — is no one
Sabra — is the identity of our time, forever.

(translation by Saad El Kurdi)

Here is a link to a post from a few years ago:

Sunday, 15 September 2019

International Democracy Day !


International Democracy Day is observed on 15 September every year to raise awareness among people about democracy. This day provides an opportunity to review the democracy of the state in the world.  The United Nations created the day to celebrate the system of values democracy promotes, giving citizens the power to make decisions regarding all aspects of their lives.The UN’s specific goal  for International Democracy Day is to promote government’s role in maintaining open democracy among all member nations of the UN Charter.  From democracy’s birth in ancient Greece thousands of years ago through trial and error up to today, most of the world’s nations choose democracy over all other forms of government. More fundamentally, democracy is supposed to let people speak their minds and shape their own and their children’s futures.
 Democracy is a theory of government where the law reflects the will of the majority as determined by direct vote or elected representatives. Typically, the legitimacy of a democracy begins with the adoption of a constitution, which establishes the fundamental rules, principles, duties, and powers of the government and some set of rights for individuals against those of the government. The enumeration of rights attempts to protect individuals from the whims of a democratic majority, a concept developed as republicanism during the overthrow of monarchism.
Across the world, though people are increasingly losing faith in the electoral system. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, less than 5% of the world’s population lives in a ‘full democracy’. The most recent report records the worst decline in global democracy in years, with freedom of expression, in particular, facing new challenges from both state and non-state actors.
 What is surprising is that Australia and New Zealand are the only "full democracies" in the entire Asia-Pacific region, while the United States is among those that couldn't find its way into the top category.
There are also eight countries (Algeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Timor-Leste, Ethiopia, North Korea, Laos, Nepal and Sri Lanka) whose full titles include the word "democratic", but the EIU says not one of these countries is actually fully democratic.Democracy in Europe has ‘declined more than any other region,’ signalling a ‘democratic malaise,’ the Index found.
To rank the countries the EIU gives a score out of 10 for a number of categories, such as political participation and the functioning of government, then classifies each country as either full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime or authoritarian.
Winston Churchill famously called democracy "the worst system of government, except for all the others that have been tried.' Many others  argue the case that democracy is flawed , philosophically, morally, and empirically. Democracy is controlled by the few and corporate elites. For decades these interests have steered public opinion with unscrupulous methods,  aided by a media controlled by them.
In the later parts of the Republic, Plato suggests that democracy is one of the later stages in the decline of the ideal state. One which is so bad that people ultimately cry out for a dictator to save them from it. This idea was big for Plato, democracy would lead to tyrants.
Aristotle, for his part, listed democracy as the failed version of rule by the multitudes. “Timocracy”, rule by the propertied class or even just a more constitutional form of republican government was the ideal kind of rule by the many, in his mind. He would have seen Athens as an ever-decaying city, moving away from its original timocratic constitution as laid out by Solon.
The idea that democracy is fundamentally flawed even had sponsors in later, more liberal, thinkers. Voltaire, who supported all of the liberal freedoms of speech and religion, told Catharine the Great of Russia that, “Almost nothing great has ever been done in the world except by the genius and firmness of a single man combating the prejudices of the multitude”In the uncritical history of representative democracy, it’s never mentioned that democracy in ancient Greece meant citizens, not career politicians, taking it in turns to debate and take decisions (as long as you were a man and not a slave).
Democratic governments are supposed to be accountable, and officials and politicians answerable for their decisions and actions. This is meant to reduce the opportunity for corruption. Democracy also is meant to subject governments to the rule of law, which means the law treats everyone, including the government, equally. But democracy and freedom  certainly do not work together, if you  happen to be are starving and hunry or your human rights are being violated.
An unrestricted democracy means that the majority decides over the minority. This leaves the minority relatively powerless, and the smaller it is, the less power it wields. Which means that the smallest minority of all, the individual, is effectively depending on his agreement with the majority.
To account for this problem, mature democracies have developed a set of checks and balances in an attempt to make sure that it doesn’t happen; chief among these is the separation of the powers of the State. But this actually makes a system less democratic, since it interferes with the principle of “people’s power.” The end result being the complete alienation of many people. Essentially democracy does not create  unity but only serves to foster division.
The UK is a representative democracy that very occasionally holds referendums. Although referendums have been reserved for constitutional issues, it is not the case that constitutional issues are always decided by referendums. Instead they often tend to be used by governments to put to rest major internal debates over constitutional issues. David Cameron promised to hold a referendum on EU membership in order to  silence internal debates within the Conservative party,  and we are probably about to take the huge step of leaving the EU that a majority of the population no longer want. The end result being  the subversion of democracy that is Brexit, which  has divided the country as never before, and which  might result in the break up of the UK.
Whichever party is in government, the prime minister has the power to appoint over 100 MPs into well-paid ministerial positions. This creates a climate in which the vast majority of MPs do what the prime minister wants because they want a job. Representational democracy has a special vulnerability to lobbying, in which special interest  groups spend extremely well-paid people after our elected representativ to persuade, threaten, barter or bribe them into delivering legislation, government funding, or other favors for their group. Because elected officials frequently come from industries, business sectors, religions and  the upper class, they  thus have many vested interests beyond the will of the people when they take office.
On top of this many  believe elections bring little change, that  politicians are corrupt, uncaring and out of touch. Boris Johnson unelected Prime Minister is currently taking the complete piss, It should not be forgotten  that  only about 160,000 Conservative party members, 0.35 per cent of the 45.8m national electorate, got to vote for him.  As a result we have a very angry divided nation, and our version of democracy is facing a test like none since we faced the threat of the Nazis. Never before, except perhaps 1930's Germany, has a country been so badly served by a government.
Fundamentally are so called democracy is currently not working. No single party can claim support from more than about a third of the adult population. One-party government is therefore a recipe for endless political confrontation, with its own polarising dialectic. At this present time trust in Parliament is at an all time low. Only one in 10 people in the UK think the Westminster Parliament "works well and is fit for the 21st century," according to a ComRes poll published today. The poll commissioned by the Sunday Express also shows that just 14% think Parliament is "sufficiently representative of the nation's views," and just 125 feel Parliament "can be trusted to do the right thing for country"
In France, the Gilets Jaunes have been demonstrating for seven months against a government indifferent to inequality and deaf to their voices. In Britain, the Extinction Rebellion (XR) has already altered the way we talk about the climate: no longer ‘change’ but an ’emergency’. But street movements cannot govern and protest alone cannot change the basic model of a capitalist economy governed by an allegedly ‘representative’ democracy. This fundamental structure, how we govern and indeed our whole way of living together, needs to change.
We need a new system where the few govern the many, the already privileged, the rich the corporate. Radical change must become the new order of the day, that would create a more harmonious society where all people are  fairly treated and equally valued. We should demand this with all our might.It's time for power to be truly given to the people, and  humanity to devise some new modes to overcome democracies present flaws and repairing Britains current damaged model. .
 I will leave you with the following. an anonymous poem published in the Northern Star, a Chartist newspaper, in 1840. 

 “Hurrah for the masses,
The lawyers are asses,
Their gammon and spinach is stale!
The law is illegal,
The Commons are regal,
And the judges are going to Jail!”


Saturday, 14 September 2019

Harvest Moon

Harvest moon iridescently comforting
captures the evenings drifting thought
time and time she has called
whether calm or unstable
intoxicated and wild
her shadows have passed through us
searched us out, softened lunacy
while stars twinkle in the sky
sheep fall asleep and politicians lie
shining brightly clears cobwebs from minds.
under her influence and placebo pulse
enables us to dance with the universe
to swing away the blues, to forget about the past
beyond the veritable ugliness of the world
allows distant galaxies  to sing out
empowering hearts, eyes of doubt
her light overcomes the darkness
as we wait for the changing tides
in eternity lingers, a creation of beauty
enjoying the sense of mystery
encloses all around, releases synergy.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Daniel Johnston, Influential artist and singer-songwriter, dead at 58


Highly influential  and iconic Austin based artist Daniel Johnston,whose fans included some of music’s top names and whose influences were in the realm of outsider and lo-fi sound, has died at the age of 58  has died of a heart attack at 58.according to The Austin Chronicle, who confirmed the news with his former manager.
Johnston who  was born in Sacramento on January 22,  1961 and grew up in West Virginia, to Mable and Bill Johnston, who were  fundamental Christians who belong to the Church of Christ.He and his family soon moved to New Cumberland, West Virginia, where his father, an engineer and World War II fighter pilot, landed a job with Quaker State, but it was in Austin where he developed a cult following by handing out cassette tapes on the street, and even appeared on MTV in 1985, but it wasn’t until the early ’90s, when Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain started appearing in a T-shirt bearing the cover of Johnston’s “Hi, How Are You?” album that Johnston’s fame took off. However, it was short lived, as Johnston was soon hospitalized for mental health issues. Johnston struggled with mental illnesses throughout his life, and was diagnosed at various points with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and spent time in psychiatric institutions.
Johnston a huge Beatles fan, a primary musical influence, released 17 albums over a period of 30 years that though fragile, delicate, possess a surprising durability. Through sheer dint of his irrepressible enthusiasm and charmingly simple songcraft and despite dealing with manic-depression, Johnston became one of the most lauded and popular outsider musicians of the 20th century and was  subsequently revered by artists like Kurt Cobain, Tom Waits, the Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, Jad Fair and Yo La Tengo, many of whom who covered his lo-fi songs that encompassed significant whimsy and great angst. 
Called everything from an eccentric genius to a childlike loner, Johnston made his bones and his reputation for oblique, yet touching lyrics, yelping vocals and oddly contagious melodies with a handful of homemade cassettes, such as "More Songs of Pain," "Yip/Jump Music," and "Hi, How Are You".
 In 2005, Jeff Feuerzeig made a Sundance-award-winning documentary titled The Devil and Daniel Johnston that focused on Johnston's bipolar disorder and how it led to demonic self-possession and detailed the musician’s experience with his mental health issues.
Starting In 1988, and into the early '90s during the recording of his first studio produced albums, Johnston's mental health suffered, and he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. While heading to a small music festival in Austin in 1990, he suffered a psychotic episode while his plane was in mid-flight , he actually removed the key from the ignition leaving the plane's pilot, his dad, to crash-land the plane. After this episode, Johnston was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.
For all his troubles, however, Johnston maintained a level of artistic excellence and a signature, fuzzy sound, one that, by 1994 found him releasing albums such as "Fun" on a major label, Atlantic Records, beating out Elektra only because potential label mates Metallica were devil worshipers in his eyes.
Johnston eventually headed back to smaller, independent labels like Tim/Kerr and Jagjaguwar, better suited to release his intimate, non-commercial sounds. Yet, Johnston still maintained a rep as a lo-fi overlord, even releasing a "duets" album of sorts in 2004, the double-disc "The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered" where Beck, TV on the Radio, and Death Cab for Cutie made the most of his scattered songwriting.
In 2017 Johnston  played his last major shows in 2017  backed by musicians who have been inspired by him throughout the years, such as  Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Built to Spill, Modern Baseball and The Districts. In a New York Times profile, he denied believing that it would be his swan song. "Why would it be?" Johnston asked.
As the Times put it then, "the idea of him quitting the road isn't unreasonable. He has battled manic depression and schizophrenia most of his adult life, and in recent years endured multiple physical ailments, including diabetes, a kidney infection and hydrocephalus, a condition in which fluid on his brain caused him to frequently lose his balance. In the last year, his mental health also worsened. ... Mr. Johnston's psychiatric treatment has required extended stays at inpatient facilities, and although he now lives with some degree of independence, he requires considerable assistance."
Although he had moved closer to Houston, Johnston though  was still  a revered enough figure in Austin, in 1993, he painted an iconic mural outside of a now-closed record shop of his “Jeremiah The Innocent” frog (from the cover of his 1983 album Hi, How Are You) that became a landmark and the city would designate an annual "Hi, How Are You? Day" in his honor on his birthday.

The singer released his final album, Space Ducks: Soundtrack in 2012,  and a biopic titled, Hi, How Are You Daniel Johnston, starring Johnston as himself was released in 2015. As well as being a prodigious singer-songwriter, Johnston was also an artist and comic book-writer, with his drawing of a happy frog from the cover of his 1983 album, Hi, How Are You, the subject of countless T-shirts and murals. In 2006, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York featured Johnston’s work in a major exhibition.
A true artist of much depth, who despite the personal demons that he battled, managed to release from the darkness, some of  the most profoundly moving songs that I have encountered. He wasn't an “outsider” at all, just another precious human being who created brilliant music in-spite of his mental health issues, not because of them. So cheers Daniel Johnston, be at peace, hopefully your songs  will continue to inspire people to rise above their limitations to create beauty, the world needs this pulse more than ever..

 Daniel Johnston -  Some things last a long time


Daniel Johnston - Don't let the Sun go down on your grievances

Daniel Johnston - True Love Will Find You In The End

Daniel Johnston - Like a Monkey  In A Zoo

 Daniel Johnston -  Don't be scared

Story of an Artist - Daniel Johnston

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Gerrard Winstanley (19/10/1609- 10/09/1676) Vision Still Burning Bright

Gerrard Winstanley was the founder of the Diggers, visionary, land squatter and early communist pamphleteer. His writings, as well as the Digger manifestos, advocated absolute human equality - and the emphasis on the common ownership of land and natural resources, as relevant today as when they were first written. Less concerned with individual scarcity than in sharing what little there was, and in increasing it for and by the community. The Diggers or True Levellers as they described themselves anticipated the conservationist and commune movements of the present day.
Born in Wigan, Lancashire on October 19th 1609, he moved to London in 1630, where he became an apprentice in the cloth trade and became a freeman in 1637. In September 1640 he married Susan King and the couple moved to Walton-on-Thames.  Influenced by the ideas of John Lilburne and the Levellers he commenced to see his own visions, from his earler mystical writings he develoved his own thought, that clearly displayed a revolutionary design,  which led him to a form of communism. Although influenced by Christian thought, his movement was not just symbolic, it was a political one, using religion as a dialectical base, he boldly declared that it was the Diggers not the priests who observed true religion. By action and deed.
He denounced the domination of man by man, proclaiming the equality of women, basing their reason not just on God's but also Nature's Laws. The times that these activities were happening, were set at the backdrop of the English Civil War,  and a time of great social unrest in England where old reasonings were being cast away,  a time of revolution and change. He and the Diggers were part of a radical ferment that was sweeping the country at the time, a broad movement which had at its heart a radical template, a yearning for something new, a society based on harmony and happiness and a sense of community. Though Winstanley infused these ideas with a religious sensibility he also bought with it a  reasoning grounded in living here on earth.
In 1649, the Parliamentarians had won the First English Civil War but failed to negotiate a constitutional settlement with the defeated King Charles I. When members of Parliament and the Grandees in the New Model Army were faced with Charles’ perceived duplicity, they tried and executed him.
Government through the King’s Privy Council was replaced with a new body called the Council of State, which due to fundamental disagreements within a weakened Parliament was dominated by the Army. Many people became active in politics, suggesting alternative forms of government to replace the old order.
Royalists wished to place King Charles II on the throne; men like Oliver Cromwell wished to govern with a plutocratic Parliament voted in by an electorate based on property, similar to that which was enfranchised before the civil war;  a radical group of agitators called the Levellers, influenced by the writings of John Lilburne, wanted parliamentary government based on an electorate of every male head of a household; Fifth Monarchy Men advocated a theocracy;but it consisted of small property owners who argued for universal manhood suffrage. The Levellers in the army came nearest to all of the radical groupings in winning their gains. But the Levellers disowned the landless poor to avoid the accusation that they were against private property. They ignored the issue of enclosures until they realised that Cromwell was not going to implement their demands for reform of the franchise. As small property owners, the Levellers were actually scared of the revolt of the radical poor, unlike the Diggers.
Winstanley was the spokesman for a much wider layer in society. He generalised from the struggle that was already taking place, articulating a way forward for the dispossessed, giving it shape and form. While the revolution benefited the wealthy capitalist, it made things worse for the poor. However, the Diggers were more than just a reaction to economic hardship. The execution of the king was a traumatic act that cowed the nobility and thrilled the radicals, many of whom expected wonderful things to happen. God was 'shaking the heavens and the earth', throwing down the thrones of kings. The Diggers felt that they had won the war and they were due their just rewards. Was it going to be the few rich or the many poor who would control the common lands? Winstanley had a worked out programme of how to achieve his new society, based on a movement of the poor that was already taking place. This was despite the fact that Winstanley claimed that his idea to dig the commons was revealed to him in a vision from god!
Winstanley’s vision was as much religious as political; he was strongly influenced by the mystical writings that were so popular among seventeenth-century radicals, and he shared fully in the millenarian excitement of the age. He used the Bible to justify his actions, as did every other person in the 17th century. Religion was central to the English Revolution. Radicals believed it was not the king or priests who interpreted the Bible but the individual. This doctrine meant that the word of god could be in each person, and because any one person could be talking directly for god this led directly to equality.
It did not concern Winstanley whether the Bible was true or not. He used it to justify what he already believed in. For Winstanley the biblical stories were, at best, allegories. Many of the religious ideas that Winstanley expressed were not new. They had existed in society before and persisted after Winstanley. What made him radically different was that he put into practice what his religious theory preached. It was this synthesis of theory and practice that created the revolutionary challenge that was the Digger colonies.
On  April 26 1649 Gerrard Winstanley and 14 others published a pamphlet[ in which they called themselves the “True Levellers” to distinguish their ideas from those of the Levellers, and contained many of their key demands, which they would repeat in other pamphlets. I reprint it here.

The True Leveller's Standard Advanced

' The State of the Community opened, and presented to Sons of Men: A Declaration to the Powers of England, and to all the Powers of the world, showing the cause why the Coommon People of Engald have begun, and gives Consent to dig up, manure and sow corn upon George Hill in Surrey, by those that have subscribed and thousands more that gives consent.

In the  beginning of Time, the great Creator, Reason, made the earth to be a Common Treaury, to preserve Beasts, Birds, Fishes and Man, the Lord that was to govern this Creation; for Man had Dominion given  to him over the Beasts, Birds and Fishes; but not one word was spoken in the beginning, that one branch of mankind should rule over another.

   And  the reason is this, every man, Male and Female, is a perfect creature of himself; and the same Spirit that made the Globe dwells in man to govern the Globe; so that the flesh of man being subject to Reason, his Maker, hath him to be his Teacher and Ruler within himself, therefore needs not to run abroad after any Teacher and Ruler within himself, therefore needs not to run abroad after any Teacher and Ruler without him, for he needs not that any man should teach him , for the same Anoynting that ruled in the Son of Man, teacheth him all things.

  But since human flesh (that king of Beasts? began to delight himself in the object of Creation, more than in the Spirit and Reason and Righteosness... Covetousness, did set up one man to teach and rule over another; and thereby the Spirit was killed, and man was brought into bondage and became a greater Slave to much of his own kind, than the Beasts of the field were to him.

 And hereupon the Earth (which was made to be a Common Treasury for relief for all, both \beasts and Men) was hedged in to the Inclosures by the teachers and rulers, and the others were made Servants and Slaves; And that Earth that is within this Creation made a Common Store-House for all, is bought and sold, and kept in the hands of a few, whereby the great Creator is mightily dishonoured, as if he were a respector of persons, delighting in the comfortable livelihood of some, and rejoicing in the miserable povertie and straits of others. From the beginning it was not so.'

 Once they put their idea into practice and started to cultivate common land, both opponents and supporters began to call them “Diggers”. The Diggers’ beliefs were informed by Winstanley’s writings which envisioned an ecological interrelationship between humans and nature, acknowledging the inherent connections between people and their surroundings. Winstanley declared that “true freedom lies where a man receives his nourishment and preservation, and that is in the use of the earth”

On April 1 1649 he and his comrades took to digging and manuring land on St George's Hill, and later at Cobham in Surrey, in order to encourage the people to dig and plough up the commons, parks and other untilled lands, to break down the pales of the enclosures that existed at the time. Their struggle was essentially against private property in  land, civil law and tyranny in matters of government.  As Winstanley expressed it, ‘To dig up George Hill . . . we may work in righteousness and lay the foundations of making the earth a common treasury for all, both rich and poor. . . . Not enclosing any part into a particular hand, but all as one man, working together, and feeding together; . . . not one lording over another, but all looking upon each other, as equals’. Moreover, ‘every single man, male and female’ should have equal access to what is a ‘common store-house for all’.
What Winstanley envisaged was a movement from private to communal ownership. At first the two systems would co-exist, but increasingly, with the withdrawal of hired labour, the privately owned estates would cease to be viable and the communal system would prevail. As he explained,
No man can be rich, but he must be rich either by his own labours, or by the labours of other men helping him. If a man have no help from his neighbour, he shall never gather an estate of hundreds and thousands a year. If other men help him to work, then are those riches . . . the fruit of other men’s labours as well as his own.
Winstanley knew very well that ‘all rich men live at ease, feeding and clothing themselves by the labours of other men, not by their own; which is their shame, not their nobility’. And when the rich give charity, as if this justified oppression and exploitation, ‘they give away other men’s labours, not their own’. Without the labour of others, the rich would have to work the land themselves and it would become impossible for them to continue to maintain their large estates. In such circumstances, he argued, the rich would join the poor in the communal cultivation of the land. The result would be the end of private property, buying and selling, alienated labour, and the political authority which helped produce and reproduce all three.

A famous rhyme written at around the same time still has much potency, you can here it below as sung by the band Chumbamwamba

The Diggers Song

You noble Diggers all, stand up now, stand up now,
You noble Diggers all, stand up now,
The wast land to maintain, seeing Cavaliers by name
Your digging does maintain, and persons all defame
Stand up now, stand up now.

Your houses they pull down, stand up now, stand up now,
Your houses they pull down, stand up now.
Your houses they pull down to fright your men in town,
But the gentry must come down, and the poor shall wear the crown.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

With spades and hoes and plowes, stand up now, stand up now,
With spades and hoes and plowes stand up now,
Your freedom to uphold, seeing Cavaliers are bold
To kill you if they could, and rights from you to hold.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

Theire self-will is theire law, stand up now, stand up now
Theire self-will is theire law, stand up now.
Since tyranny came in they count it now no sin
To make a gaole a gin, to serve poor men therein.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The gentrye are all round, stand up now, stand up now,
The gentrye are all round, stand up now.
The gentrye are all round, on each side they are found,
Theire wisdom's so profound, to cheat us of our ground.
Stand up now, stand up now.

The lawyers they conjoyne, stand up now, stand up now,
The lawyers they conjoyne, stand up now,
To arrest you they advise, such fury they devise,
The devill in them lies, and hath blinded both their eyes.
Stand up now, stand up now.

The clergy they come in, stand up now, stand up now,
The clergy they come in, stand up now.
The clergy they come in, and say it is a sin
That we should now begin, our freedom for to win.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The tithe they yet will have, stand up now,stand up now,
The tithes they yet will have, stand up now.
The tithes they yet will have, and lawyers their fees crave,
And this they say is brave, to make the poor their slave.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

'Gainst lawyers and gainst Priests, stand up now,stand up now,
'Gainst lawyers and gainst Priests stand up now.
For tyrants they are both even flatt against their oath,
To grant us they are loath free meat and drink and cloth.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The club is all their law, stand up now, stand up now,
The club is all their law, stand up now.
The club is all their law to keep men in awe,
Buth they no vision saw to maintain such a law.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

The Cavaleers are foes, stand up now, stand up now,
The Cavaleers are foes, stand up now;
The Cavaleers are foes, themselves they do disclose
By verses not in prose to please the singing boyes.
Stand up now, Diggers all.

To conquer them by love, come in now, come in now,
To conquer them by love, come in now;
To conquer them by love, as it does you behove,
For he is King above, noe power is like to love,
Glory heere, Diggers all.

Powerful stuff, but at the time the diggers were seen as mad extremists and were  brutally dealt with. It quickly became clear that the Diggers represented something new; they were not squatting in the hope that local landowners would take pity on them and allow them to stay; rather, they were challenging the very idea of land ownership.
The attack on the Diggers included an economic boycott, harassment, violent assaults by hired thugs, and legal actions. It was all organised by local landowners. They even employed a clergyman, whose sole purpose was ‘to preach down the Diggers’. The men of property were determined to prevent the Diggers establishing themselves on the commons and the example this would set. When the Diggers moved their activities to Cobham Heath in August 1649, the opposition intensified, continuing what had gone before, but now burning dwellings and furniture, and hiring thugs to chase the Diggers from the area.
 In 1651, after the defeat of the communes, Winstanley produced a utopian blueprint entitled Law of Freedom. His previous writings were a savage criticism of existing society and a direct appeal to ordinary people to take action. This later pamphlet was a detailed plan for a future society. While during 1649 and 1650 he appealed to Cromwell and the army merely not to interfere with the communes, in 1651 he directly addressed Cromwell, asking him to create the new society. The experience of the communes and the violence of the landlords had led Winstanley to abandon pacifism.
Though they were short lived and as a movement they were unsuccessful, their various manifestos and pamphlets continue to hold much resonance,  inspiring people to search out new ways of living, feeding our dreams. Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers were prepared to put their beliefs into action, and since that time many political movements have come to recognise the Diggers as pioneers of their own beliefs, their hostility to rule of law and strong governments still resonates with much appeal. Their ideas can be seen in modern movements that put people first and not the thirst for profit, echoed in environmental groups and the occupy movements and others seeking social justice. His message too, rings loud and clear at the moment with the present governments austerity measures, leaving many people vulneravble, and facing the prospect of losing their homes, and their attacks and criminalisation of the squatting movement. Little is known of Winstanley's later life, he died in a place called Cobham, pm the 10th of September 1676 but his contribution to our countries radical spirit looms large and his vision, for all its limitations,continues to inspire, making sure his legacy will surely live on.
As with the Levellers, Winstanley and the Surrey Diggers struck a blow at the halls of wealth and power of 17th century English society. Their efforts and their philosophy were not wasted on later generations seeking the same spirit of liberty and freedom in a more democratic social structure and s have since been celebrated as precursors of land squatting and communalism. Winstanley's memory, and that of his fellow Diggers, has in recent years also been invoked by freeganists, squatters, guerrilla gardeners, allotment campaigners, social entrepreneurs, greens and peace campaigners; and both Marxists, anarchists and libertarians have laid claim to him as a significant precursor. In 1995 The Land is Ours activists set up camp at the disused Wisley airfield in Surrey and briefly invaded the fairways of St George’s Hill golf course. Four years later, on the three-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the start of the Digger experiment, activists marched to St George’s Hill – now an exclusive housing estate – and set up their tents, yurt and compost toilets on North Surrey Water Company land near the summit. The occupation lasted for just under a fortnight, when the site was abandoned before a possession order could be put into effect. Other land occupations soon followed. TLIO’s activities and their thoughtful publicity material helped draw attention both to pressing land-access issues, and to the continuing relevance of the Diggers’ example for modern activists.  In 2011, an annual festival began in Wigan to celebrate the Diggers. The memory of Winstanley and the Diggers will no doubt be kept alive,so that future generations of activists will be reminded of the example and relevance of their seventeenth-century predecessors. The following song written by Leon Rosselson,  The World Turned Upside Down,  powefully resonates  today, it  opens with the words ‘In 1649 …’ and still feel like it was ripped from the headlines. Billy Bragg later popularised it further, but personally much prefer the following version by the inimitable Dick Gaughan.

Dick Gaughan - The World Turned Upside Down..

In sixteen forty-nine to St. George's Hill
A ragged band they called the Diggers came to show the people's will
They defied the landlords, they defied the laws
They were the dispossesed reclaiming what was theirs
'We come in peace,' they said, 'to dig and sow'
'We come to work the land in common and to make the wasteground grow'
'This Earth divided, we will make whole'
'So it can be a common treasury for all'
'The sin of property we do disdain'
'No one has any right to buy or sell the earth for private gain'
'By theft and murder they took the land'
'Now everywhere the walls spring up at their command'
'They make the laws to chain us well'
'The clergy dazzle us with heaven or they damn us into hell'
'We will not worship the god the serve'
'The god of greed who feeds the rich whilst pepole starve'
'We work, we eat together, we take up swords'
'We will not bow to the masters or pay rent to the lords'
'We are free people though we are poor'
You Diggers all stand up for glory, stand up

'Action is the life of all, and if thou dost not act, thou dost nothing' - Gerrard Winstanley

Further Reading:

The World Turned Upside Down; Radical Ideas During the English Revolution
- Christopher Hill, Penguin

Gerrard Winstanley and the Republic of heaven - David Boulton
Dales Historical Monographs 1999

  Gerard Winstanley The Diggers life and legacy - John Gurney

Their is also in my opinion a rather fine film , Winstanley that came out in 1975 , made by Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollow, that is very good for historical accuracy, that deals with Winstanley's life and that of the Diggers. It has recently been reissued in D.V.D by the British Film Institute.