If we are to find a way through the webs of deceit that surround and ensnare us we need to go back to the history of resistance against despotism and tyranny. Despotism and tyranny might sound a little strange if you find yourself reading this seated comfortably in a warm and comfortable home with money in your bank, but if you are not so fortunate you will have an inkling of the appropriateness of these terms. Of course those that have the greatest understanding of despotism and tyranny are those that cannot read this essay because they are illiterate, uneducated, too poor or all of the above. Of course, there are also the many thousands who have been imprisoned without trial, often in our name.
There is an expression that we don't appreciate something until we have lost it. This is particularly true with respect to equality and liberty; the loss of which is initially painless for most people as we have seen these last seven years. The keenness of this loss can however be better felt if we have an appreciation of how hard fought the struggle to gain each aspect of our lost freedoms was. With this in mind let's continue our look back at the making of modern day England.
We come across the phrase "due process of law" for the first time in the Magna Carta of Edward III in 1354 chapter 29 which states:-
No man of what state or condition he be, shall be put out of his lands or tenements nor taken, nor disinherited, nor put to death, without he be brought to answer by due process of law.A remarkably clear piece of law that established that a man must have done something for which he is required to answer and that the answering be by "due process of law" before he can lose that which he has - his freedoms . When we consider the history of Enclosure and the resulting hardships and deprivations of the ordinary people of England we must ask ourselves what happened to this key chapter of Magna Carta, the one that states clearly that to lose what was taken during Enclosure a man must be "brought to answer by due process of law"? Remarkably it has survived, along with just two other chapters, the bulk of Magna Carta having been repealed in various Acts of Parliament in 1863 , 1897 , 1925 , 1948 , 1967  and 1969 .
Magna Carta was a great law of freedom that provides for certain rights to freedom and equal treatment "to be kept in our Kingdom of England forever"  yet this law has all but disappeared. We also find through the very act of Enclosure, that the fundamental tenet of one of its three remaining chapters (clauses) has been cast aside, for it is very doubtful that Magna Carta meant that a man could be deprived of his inheritance, lands or tenements, by the simple process of writing new law, the means by which Enclosure was legitimised.
This single example points to the fact that the ruling elites of England have used Parliament as a fig leaf to go about doing whatever they please. They pass laws through the Parliamentary process as if that process were legitimate, have those laws enforced through extreme violence and murder because "they are the law of the land" yet all the while they are in flagrant breach of far older laws themselves, not to mention morality. The same is true in the US and many other democratic nations.
The Petition of Rights
Men and women have struggled against the yoke of abuse and oppression, despotism and tyranny for great periods of history. In 1607 a revolt broke out in the English Midlands against the enclosure of common land, the protesters used no violence and simply uprooted hedges and filled ditches. The traditional means of dealing with unrest and crime was to call up the people of an area in pursuit of a felon or to call the local militia to arms in the event of a military need. Neither of these forces heeded the call up so the local landowners and their servants took up arms and attacked the protesters killing forty to fifty. The leaders were hanged and quartered. This was typical of the treatment meted out to the ordinary people by the ruling elite.
When it came to the ruling elite not being happy with the status quo matters were handled somewhat differently. In 1626 Charles I introduced two taxes without going through parliament, he also began billeting soldiers in civilian homes, a practice akin to forcing modern citizens to house police officers and agents of the government in our homes today. The burden of these taxes and forced billeting fell upon the landed and mercantile classes. Five Knights refused to pay, were imprisoned by the king but not charged. The king was served writs of Habeas Corpus, refused to answer them properly arguing that royal prerogative overrode Habeas Corpus. The Five Knights argued that they had a right to "due process". The king won, keeping the Five Knights imprisoned.
The House of Commons, not wishing to be seen to challenge the Royal Prerogative, responded with the Petition of Rights in 1628 which it was argued were a restatement of existing rights while in fact being a list of grievances against the king and a significant expansion of the recognised rights of men. The king eventually signed the Petition, which gave it legal effect, only after secretly agreeing with senior judges that it would not damage his prerogative; he signed because he had no intention of honouring the Petition! In other words, George W. Bush did not invent "signing statements"!
The Petition of Rights was the landowners and merchants means to prevent taxation without Parliament's consent, prevent forced loans (effectively another form of taxation), protect themselves from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment in contravention of Magna Carta, ensure "due process", protect them from arbitrary interference of property rights, ensure enforcement of Habeas Corpus and stop the forced billeting of troops and the use of martial law. The Petition is considered to be the origin of the Third Amendment to the US Constitution which reads, "No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law".
It is sobering to observe the similarity between the demands of the Petition of Rights of 1628 and the simple wishes for justice and equality of billions on the planet today. It seems that whoever is in power grants unto themselves power equivalent to Royal Prerogative, absolute powers, while loudly proclaiming otherwise, thus bearing witness to the truth of the expression that "power corrupts while absolute power corrupts absolutely".
The similarities with today are striking in other regards, most notably the control of the media. In our time the control is through ownership, in the 17th century it was through the licensing of printing presses and their publications and the taxation of newspapers. In 1638 John Lilburne was arrested for distributing unlicensed religious pamphlets, he was brought before the Court of Star Chamber where he was not charged with an offense but instead told to plead; he refused, he said, until charges were brought against him and the law on which those charges were based was shown him in English. He was flogged, pilloried and imprisoned but remained resolute. His stand against King Charles and the Court of the Star Chamber is cited as the basis for the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution which reads:-
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.John Lilburne was also cited in Miranda vs Arizona 1966, the case that established the Miranda Rights and the Miranda warning that has to be read to any person arrested in the US. The ruling states:
...The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he or she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says may be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he or she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he or she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent him or her.John Lilburne fought for the Parliamentarians in the First Civil War, was captured by the Royalists in 1642 and later released in exchange for a Royalist officer. In 1645 he was imprisoned for denouncing Members of Parliament who lived in comfort while the common soldiers fought and died for the Parliamentary cause; he was freed on petition of two thousand leading London citizens; he resigned from the army the same year as he refused to sign the Solemn League and Covenant which restricted religion in the Army to Presbyterianism on the basis that it infringed his freedom of religion. He was imprisoned again in 1646 for denouncing his former commanding officer, the Earl of Manchester, as a Royalist sympathizer; the campaign to release him spawned the Levellers movement.
Lilburne and the Levelers were highly influential among the soldiers of the New Model Army, the Parliamentary army. The Civil War was essentially a war between Catholicism and Protestantism and between Royalist and Parliamentarians. The soldiers of the New Model Army were strongly Protestant but were also mindful of their own rights and were without doubt fighting as much if not more for these than for religion. The attitude of the Levellers was simple, the ordinary man was fighting, dying and suffering in pursuit of the freedom of Parliament from royal supremacy and had every expectation that he would gain equal freedoms in victory.
An Agreement of the People
The Army Council of the New Model Army provided the forum for the soldiers to put their views before their commanding officers via representatives called Agitators. Under the influence of Leveller ideas the soldiers appointed new Agitators in 1647, who were inherently distrustful of the King and demanded that England be settled from 'the bottom up' rather than the 'top down' by giving the vote to most adult males. Their views and demands were set out in An Agreement of the People("An Agreement of the People for a firm and present peace upon grounds of common right",) presented to the Army Council in October 1647. It called for the redrawing of electoral boroughs so that each borough had roughly the same number of voters; elections to take place biennially with parliament to sit between April and September of each of the two years of its term; that the power of the House of Commons was inferior to the power of the people, and that the House of Commons could have power over the creation and repeal of laws, "the erecting and abolishing of offices and courts, the appointing, removing, and calling to account magistrates and officers of all degrees, the making war and peace, [and] treating with foreign States"; freedom of religion; freedom from conscription; equality before the law and that "as the laws ought to be equal, so they must be good, and not evidently destructive to the safety and well-being of the people". It is important to be aware that even in these highly religious times the chief draftsman of the Agreement, John Wildman, believed that the Bible provided no model or guidance for civil government; a position that contrasts with the brazenly religious tones of many in Washington and London today and in the recent past.
The republican and democratic nature of An Agreement of the People was strongly resisted by the senior officers of the army who had already agreed another less radical document, The Heads of the Proposals which they hoped the king would accede to. The first part of the Proposals deal with parliament but critically omit the supremacy of the people over parliament, equality before the law and justice of the law while granting essentially 'police powers' to those of parliament; the remaining parts accrue additional powers to parliament including the Cromwellian agenda for the suppression of Ireland.
The Agreement of the People sought genuine freedom for all people while the Head of the Proposals sought power for a select group, the landowners and merchants who made up the House of Commons and its limited electorate. These documents were debated for two weeks after which there were to be three meetings between the various camps. Despite the assurances of good faith given at the debates Cromwell and Fairfax, the army commanders, had no intention of acceding to the pressure of the soldiery so imposed the Heads of Proposals on the army. Those that refused were arrested while one of their leaders was executed. Under threat of being dismissed the army agreed to the Heads of Proposals.
Ten months later in September 1648 the Levellers largest petition, signed by one third of all Londoners and many others, To The Right Honovrable The Commons Of England was presented to Parliament. The funeral of a leading Leveller and member of the House of Commons in October became a substantial Leveller demonstration demonstrating widespread support for their ideas.
A modified version of the Agreement of the People of 1647 was presented to the House of Commons on 20th January 1649; on 30th January King Charles was tried and executed; in February the senior officers of the army banned the petitioning of Parliament by soldiers; in March five Levellers were cashiered from the army after demanding the restoration of the right to petition; in April three hundred infantrymen refused to serve in Ireland until the programme of An Agreement of the People had been implemented, they were dismissed from the army; the same month soldiers in London made similar demands, fifteen were arrested and court martialled of whom one, a former Leveller agitator was hanged.
At his burial a thousand men, in files, preceded the corpse, which was adorned with bunches of rosemary dipped in blood; on each side rode three trumpeters, and behind was led the trooper's horse, covered with mourning; some thousands of men and women followed with black and green ribbons on their heads and breasts, and were received at the grave by a numerous crowd of the inhabitants of London and Westminster.In May 1649 soldiers in Banbury rose in mutiny over pay and politics. The pay issue was quickly resolved by Cromwell but not the politics; four hundred men with Leveler sympathies, under the command of Captain William Thompson marched to meet other soldiers to discuss their demands, they were assured safe conduct but were ambushed at night by Cromwell. Captain Thompson was killed a few days later and three of the leaders of the mutineers executed; thus removing the influence of the Levellers from the army.
Lilburne continued to write against the injustice and hypocrisy he saw around him. In the following years he was imprisoned, tried, acquitted twice and exiled. In the end he remained in prison under orders from Cromwell until his death in 1657. By the time of his death he had rejected the hypocrisy and narrowness of Puritanism becoming a Quaker.
One of Lilburne's fellow Levellers, William Walwyn had this to say on the eve of the Second Civil War. It speaks truth directly to power, a truth which is as relevant today as it was 360 years ago.
In all undertakings, which may occasion war or bloodshed, men have great need to be sure that their cause be right, both in respect of themselves and others: for if they kill men themselves, or cause others to kill, without a just cause, and upon the extremest necessity, they not only disturb the peace of men, and families, and bring misery and poverty upon a Nation, but are indeed absolute murderers.In 1649 another group, the Diggers, one of a number of non-conformist groups active at the time, began planting vegetables on common land. The local landowner, who had enclosed substantial areas of common land, tried to get the army to evict them; the army refused on the basis the Diggers were doing no harm. The landowner then hired thugs to attack the Diggers, beat them and burn one of their houses down; he brought them to court in a case in which no defense was allowed and for which a trumped up conviction was obtained. The Digger communities across the country faced similar harassment often being subject to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. Under the unrelenting pressure familiar to all those who seek to camp on common land in England to this day, the movement had died out by 1651.
The great 'crime' of the Diggers was that they had an idea that if "the common people of England would form themselves into self-supporting communes, there would be no place in such a society for the ruling classes. The ruling elite would be forced to join the communes or starve, as there would no longer be anyone left to hire to work their fields or pay rent to them for use of their property." 
A pattern emerges
A clear pattern can be discerned throughout the events chronicled. The Levellers were not a marginal group of crackpots but a rationale and reasoned political body who espoused ideals of equality and freedom. Their history illustrates that those in power never relinquish it without a fight. The methods and weapons that the incumbent power of the 1640s wielded had at their core much of what we see throughout history and up until the present day:-
▪ The will of the people is irrelevant; only being recognised as an expediency to buy time.In the end it is the use, and threatened use, of extreme violence that is the hallmark of those that seek to remain in power. While seeking power they portray themselves as the champion of the ordinary people but once in power, often on the blood and suffering of the ordinary people, they turn on their foot soldiers and behave in this time-honoured pattern. Nothing has changed although the methods have become more refined.
▪ The enacting of arbitrary law to suit their momentary and long term needs. The laws of the land are designed not as a means of ensuring a just and equitable society but as a means of ensuring the status quo and protecting the ruling elite of the time.
▪ The application of the law is arbitrary and brutal. The excuse of the potential or imagined "violence of the mob" is used to justify the real and extreme violence of the state.
▪ Widespread use of cruel and inhuman punishment - although not unusual in the literal sense.
▪ The Courts are bound to apply the law but the judiciary, being of the same class at the ruling elite, apply unjust, inequitable and immoral laws as if they were just, equitable and moral.
▪ They will negotiate and draw moderate and reasonable people into discussion while having no intention of acceding to any of their demands. The process of negotiation allows them to identify the most eloquent and able leaders of the people and those most able to be manipulated. The debates and discussions are always designed to lead nowhere with any agreement being reneged upon as soon as the immediate threat that caused negotiations to commence has passed. The capable leaders of the people having been identified are imprisoned, executed or murdered when the opportunity arises. Those that can be manipulated are used as agents, often to promote violence while also often being imprisoned or executed in order to spread fear among the resisters.
▪ Once the leaders are out of the way and an example has been made of a handful of those that protest then under threat the bulk of people buckle. The threat is however often one that would be impossible to fulfill or be self-defeating of those in power if only protesters realised. In the Cromwellian case if all the soldiers had refused to sign The Heads of Proposals the army could never have cashiered them all for then there would be no army left.
But, as V said in the film V for Vendetta, ideas are bullet proof, you can't kill an idea. The Levellers pioneered the basic ideas of political democracy and sovereignty of the people; the Agitators pioneered the participation of workers in the running of the workplace; and the Diggers pioneered communal ownership, cooperation and egalitarianism; the underpinnings of modern democratic socialism.
Cromwell died in 1659. The monarchy was restored in 1660 and with it a new wave of religious intolerance. The Church of England was to be dominant with a swath of laws enacted to enforce this dominance. Amid the waves of tyranny thought and ideas circulated and found fertile ground; for it seems that true suffering creates the fire in which truth becomes of paramount importance and all other petty considerations burn up in the flames.
The Bill of Rights
From this cauldron came the Habeas Corpus Act 1679 and the 1689 Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights stipulated the basic rights of all men in England, the ones of particular relevance today are:-
▪ Freedom from royal interference with the law. Though the sovereign remains the fount of justice, he or she cannot unilaterally establish new courts or act as a judge. The actions of George Bush and other political leaders of the present in the establishment of the kangaroo courts for terrorism stand in contrast to this conceptAlso in 1689 John Locke published, anonymously, his Two Treatises of Government which is considered to have been highly influential in the framing of the US Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.
▪ Freedom from taxation by Royal Prerogative. The agreement of parliament became necessary for the implementation of any new taxes. This is the basis of no taxation without representation.
▪ Freedom to petition the monarch.
▪ Freedom from the standing army during a time of peace. The agreement of parliament became necessary before the army could be moved against the populace when not at war. This right has been trampled by subsequent Acts of Parliament such that the army is now able to be brought out to break strikes and whenever it is deemed by the Home Secretary that the police cannot deal with civil unrest. The brutal occupation of Northern Ireland by the British Army is the most extreme example of the negation of this right. This right of protection is also reflected in the US Posse Comitatus Act 1878
▪ Freedom for Protestants to bear arms for their own defence, as suitable to their class and as allowed by law. This right is reflected in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution - "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
▪ Freedom to elect members of parliament without interference from the sovereign. The basis of free and fair elections - a concept that is increasingly a hollow joke in numerous 'democracies'.
▪ Freedom of speech in parliament. This means that the proceedings of parliament can not be questioned in a court of law or any other body outside of parliament itself; this forms the basis of modern parliamentary privilege. This freedom also extended to the freedom from all harassment in parliament. It has been decisively trampled by the current Labour government in the UK with the recent police raid on the parliamentary offices of Damien Green. Mr Green having been involved in the leaking of information the UK government didn't want to people to know.
▪ Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, as well as excessive bail. This right is repeated almost verbatim in the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution which states, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." Similarly, "cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments" are banned under Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
▪ Freedom from fine and forfeiture without a trial. The enclosure of land in England breached this right almost immediately upon its enactment. This is also the basis for the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution which states, "No person shall be ... deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law ..." and the Fourteenth Amendment "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law ..."
We can perceive the line of inheritance of ideas of equality and freedom from the suffering of the 17th century, ideas that became law and constitution for both the British and Americans as well as peoples of the British Empire. Britain, having no singular constitution, relies upon a bed of enacted law and common law instead. The underlying premise of the British system is the separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. A similar but constitutional system exists (in theory) in the US. History makes it clear how crucial it is to maintain a true separation, for without it tyranny quickly rises. This essential separation has been lost in our time both in the US and in Britain.
The 17th century ideas and laws of freedom and equality seem to have been quickly forgotten in England. As we discussed last week, Enclosure increased apace, legitimised through Acts of Parliament yet wholly illegal when the previous laws of England are considered together, especially Magna Carta, the Petition of Rights and the Bill of Rights. Denial of "due process" was key to the theft.
However, in America these ideas took root and ultimately bore fruit in the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The rights of men were considered to be natural rights, from Locke amongst others, and therefore not subject to the will of men. Central among these rights is the right of revolution. The Declaration of Independence begins:-
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, - That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."The ethical and moral nature of the Declaration of Independence stands as a shining example of the potential of ordinary people to organise for themselves representative and just government and the basis that such government can either be maintained, or overthrown, should the need ultimately arise.
There are however more sober lessons to be gleaned from events following the Revolutionary War. As Laura Knight Jadczyk put it:-
Contrary to popular conceptions and teachings, the American Revolution did not create the American nation as we know it today. The Articles of Confederation actually bound thirteen new nations, each theoretically sovereign in its own right, into a loose confederacy. The Continental Congress could legislate but not enforce. However, the effects of the Revolution had been financially disastrous to everyone. The national and state debts went unpaid (monies owed to the wealthy elite who had financed the war - and for those who wonder, yes, some were Jews and some were not, so don't go off on the Jews on this one!), trade declined and credit collapsed.Thus the money power of capitalism gained a principle foothold in the new nation.
Left to their own devices, the New Americans would have eventually sorted these problems out based upon emerging priorities and systems involving barter and mutually satisfying personal agreements. A real Democracy might have flourished, though it wouldn't have been necessarily Capitalistic.
Tradition teaches us that a group of "noble patriots" called a Constitutional Convention to "further the principles of democracy", as spelled out in the Declaration of Independence. Again, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Constitution actually checked the development of democracy.
In some of the states, a moratorium on debt was enacted to relieve the farmers who had fought in the war. But, in the largest and wealthiest states, the planters of Virginia, the manor lords of New York, and the merchants of Massachusetts and Connecticut, refused to give an inch. Massachusetts went so far as to prohibit barter and mutual support schemes to which the impoverished returning soldiers had been forced to resort. Daniel Shay, a Revolutionary captain who had been cited for bravery at Bunker Hill, had come out of the war, as had many others, with nothing. (General Lafayette had presented him with a sword which he was soon forced to sell.) Seeing so many others like himself, he was filled with the injustice of the actions of the wealthy elite. He organized a force of 800 farmers and attempted to prevent the sitting of the courts which were foreclosing the properties of the returning soldiers. Shay's army was dispersed by the state militia but his action thoroughly frightened the upper classes. Samuel Adams begged Congress for federal aid to protect "property rights" and Congress authorized a force designed to prevent any further rebellion. General Henry Knox wrote:
"The people who are the insurgents have never paid any, or but very little taxes -- But they see the weakness of government'... They feel at once their own poverty, compared with the opulent, and their own force, and they are determined to make use of the latter, in order to remedy the former. Their creed is 'That the property of the United States has been protected from the confiscations of Britain by the joint exertions of all, and therefore ought to be the common property of all. And he that attempts opposition to this creed is an enemy to equity and justice, and ought to be swept from the face of the earth.' In a word they are determined to annihilate all debts public and private and have agrarian laws, which are easily effected by means of unfunded paper money which shall be a tender in all cases whatsoever."
Now notice what the good general was saying: he tells us that the PEOPLE of the new land wanted - demanded - that the property of the United States be "the common property of all."
That sounds a bit "Socialistic," doesn't it. Can you believe it? Our forefathers demanded a Socialist government! I don't know about you, but I have half a dozen Revolutionary War soldiers (or more) in my family tree, and it surprised me to learn that my ancestors were demanding Socialism, especially when we all know - or have been told - that Socialism is that evil first step toward Communism; and we all know how evil Communism is, right? Well, we'll come back to this. For now, let me just comment that the "insurgents" may have paid very little taxes, but they paid much blood. (It is also interesting to note that Knox referred to the New Americans as "insurgents." Isn't this word being used pejoratively against those Iraqis who are opposing the US invasion of their country at the present time? My, my!
Nevertheless, seized with fear that a democracy would actually be enacted, the wealthy classes murmured for a government by "the rich, well-born, and capable." (John Adams) Ezra Stiles and Noah Webster were vocal opponents of democracy. Webster claimed that:
"The very principle of admitting everybody to the right of suffrage prostrates the wealth of individuals to the rapaciousness of a merciless gang."
They were well and truly indoctrinated by Calvin, weren't they? And being such good "Christians," it is surprising that they never noted (or at least didn't want to notice) that funny little remark in the New Testament about the "Jesus People" sharing one with another and that they owned "everything in common."
In any event, taking advantage of the situation, Alexander Hamilton induced Congress to call a convention in 1787 to ostensibly revise the Articles of Confederation. Hamilton made no bones about his views that only the wealthy and educated were fit to rule.
"It is usually stated that Hamilton's great achievement was to bring the men of wealth to the support of the new nation, but it could equally well be stated that he brought the new nation to the support of the men of wealth. Indeed it might be said that the new nation was created largely for that very purpose."
Those who met for the Constitutional Convention were, and knew they were, the elite -- wealthy, educated and intellectual. They believed that others like them must continue to rule for their own protection. The public good was a secondary issue (if it was an issue at all). They meant to create a system in which this could be perpetuated, constitutionally, legally, and peacefully.
Adopting strictest rules of secrecy, they proceeded to create the American Constitution. M.L. Wilson wrote in Democracy Has Roots, that the Constitution was "a remarkable achievement in the avoidance of majority rule." It is not surprising that the ratification of this Constitution was popularly opposed. The conventioners promised to amend it at the first regular session of Congress. These promised amendments came to be known as the "Bill of Rights" and it is in these first ten amendments that Americans have their supposed "Constitutional Rights." A sobering thought when one considers that amendments have been repealed in the past.
But for the "Bill of Rights," hundreds of years of blood-letting for personal liberty would have been tossed on the trash heap by the new American Federal Government. This new "Constitutional" government, rapidly propagated the ideals of materialism and capitalism. And, in a process of unadulterated propaganda, these ideals have been inextricably linked with "democracy" as though the two were identical. The result of this has been a vast chasm between the "haves" and the "have-nots" which grows wider and deeper every day, while the former continue to dupe the latter into believing in and sacrificing their lives for that which does not exist and never did.
By the early 19th century the conditions in the towns and cities of Britain were deplorable. Prior to 1829 there was no police force to maintain law and order throughout the country, the system established under the Statute of Winchester, 1285, and the Justices of the Peace Act, 1361, only began to breakdown with the advent of industrial capitalism. Prior to 1361, every town and hamlet was responsible for maintaining the Kings Peace under threat of fine; each town appointing as 'constable' one of its members to be responsible for its collective obligation. In the event of the constable needing assistance everybody was obliged to assist.
The Justices of the Peace Act, 1361, formalized the appointment of Justices of the Peace (or magistrates) by the King, thus relegating the elected constables to mere subordination of the Kings agents. The magistrates were responsible for law and order, were the judicial and administrative authority for their area and were responsible for keeping the peace. With the rise of mercantile capitalism their authority spread to dealing with vagrants and paupers and with the regulation of wages and working hours. The explosion of poverty occasioned by Enclosure and the Industrial Revolution led to rising crime. The response of the ruling elite was predictably repressive. They doubled the number of offenses liable to capital punishment; resorted to using the standing army against the ordinary people; increasingly used the militia and yeomanry (equivalent of the UK Territorial Army or the US National Guard) against the people and started paying blood money to informers. The middle classes formed voluntary protection societies. Many of these actions were flagrantly in violation of the Bill of Rights.
It wasn't until Patrick Colquhoun's ports and river police force of 1798 was legalised in 1800 that a formal police structure was established at which time the magistrates controlling the police became answerable to the Home Secretary (the equivalent of the Secretary of State in the US). The formation of this police force is important for our history for it was motivated to protect the business interests of the merchants using the port of London and it resulted in the change from workers being paid in kind to being paid a money wage. "From the very outset, therefore, there was nothing impartial about the police. They were created to preserve a colonial merchant and an industrial [capitalist] class the collective product of West Indies slavery and London wage labour".
With the emergence of Luddism in 1811 the working class were taking their first tentative steps to organizing themselves against the growing industrial capitalism. The Luddites, contrary to popular myth, a myth no doubt propagandised to denigrate their memory and credibility, were not opposed to the new technology of the textile mills. They were textile artisans who opposed the breaking of traditional working practices by the textile mill owners. The new wide frame automated looms could be operated by cheap unskilled labour so the mill owners drove down wages and hired unapprenticed labour. Naturally, faced with poverty, unemployment and the removal of their traditional skilled status, especially at a time of severe economic depression, the skilled artisans were desperate. There being no legal recourse for them the only avenue available was the one they took, the destruction of the machines and the mills that were taking away their livelihood.
The propagandised history of the Luddites fails to mention that they targeted only those mills and mill owners who broke with the old practices and cut prices, those that did not were not attacked. 
The movement spread rapidly across the country in 1811 and 1812. As should be familiar to us by now, the reaction of the government was to introduce new repressive law, this time in the form of the Frame Breaking Act 1812 which made frame breaking a capital offense. It is worthy of note that Lord Byron opposed the Act in the House of Lords on the basis that the Luddites were justified in their grievances and that negotiation and just settlement were the better route to restoring the men to work and the country to peace. Unsurprisingly, he was unsuccessful in his opposition for negotiation and justice were (and remain) foreign words to the ears of those afflicted with the ancient diseases of greed, avarice and power. To the mill owners and merchants it was entirely logical for them to use the full power at their disposal, ignore the grievances of those they exploited, and call upon the military and hired thugs to prevent recourse by their victims.
It is at this point that another method of ruling elites comes to the fore, the use of spies and agent provocateurs. The mill owners' thugs and the military were responsible for the deaths of many Luddite protesters while magistrates were clearly intent upon using the Frame Breaking Act to set examples and thereby dissuade protesters from further action. To justify, in the public mind, the use of extreme violence the authorities needed to portray the protesters not as men with legitimate grievances who only acted against property but as a violent mob. John Taylor writing in 1819 described the fact that at a meeting in 1812 ten or eleven of the forty attendees were spies employed by Colonel Fletcher, a Manchester magistrate. Two weeks after this meeting a violent attack upon a factory took place. Taylor is clear in his conclusion that the presence of so many spies was in order to direct the actions towards the resulting violence rather than in seeking intelligence so as to prevent the attack. Twelve men were arrested for taking part in the attack of which four, including twelve year old Abraham Charlston, were executed.
Further executions, including eight in Lancashire and fifteen in York, together with numerous sentences of transportation to Australia broke the back of the Luddite movement which ceased to be active after 1813.
Despite the level of brutality used by the state against those who opposed industrial capitalism ordinary people kept rising against their oppressors, a mark of just how desperate they must have been and a sobering reminder to us all of the price to be paid in opposing free market capitalism today.
In June 1817 workers in Pentrich rebelled unsuccessfully, twenty three being sentenced to transportation and three hanged and beheaded. 1819 saw the Peterloo Massacre, which we discussed last week, in which 11 to 15 people died and over 600 were wounded.
1830 saw rural uprisings, the Swing Riots, across England. The demands of the protesters were a rise in wages, a cut in tithes/taxes and the destruction/removal of the threshing machines that were forcing labourers into unemployment and poverty. Warnings were given to landowners, magistrates and parsons after which, if the demands were not met, workers would assemble and destroy tithe barns, threshing machines and workhouses. Many farmers and magistrates sympathised with the grievances of the protesters so put up little resistance. The government, had different views, responding with familiar brutality, hanging nine protestors and transporting 450 while in 1834 changing the Poor Laws under the Poor Law Amendment Act to make conditions for the rural poor even worse by the mandatory limiting of relief to the workhouse. Needless to add, agreements for increased wages and lower tithes were widely reneged upon.
The uprisings of the ordinary people are always referred to, even today, as "riots", the facts however speak for themselves. These were ordinary people who were time and time again driven to desperation. In our own time, with greater economic woes lapping at our doorsteps, we would be wise to learn the lessons of history, particularly the methods of the ruling elite including their mendacity and treachery.
We should also be cognisant of the observation of G Rude in Paris and London in the 18th Century (1970):-
From my (no doubt) incomplete and imperfect record of the twenty-odd major riots and disturbances taking place in Britain between the Edinburgh Porteous Riots on 1736 and the great Chartist demonstration of April 1848 in London, I have totted up the following score: the crowd killed a dozen at most; while, on the other side, the courts hanged 118 and 630 were shot dead by troops.The actions of ordinary people are generally directed at the property of the ruling elite while the reactions of the ruling elite are directed at the person. When considered under the light of morality the immorality of the actions of the ruling elite through history beggars belief.
Ian MacDonald, in Race Today, Dec 1973 summarised the ruling elite's masterful next move; a move necessitated by the fact that it was becoming readily apparent that the continued use of the outright brutality of the army would not guarantee a stable society in the long term.
Once the [working] class begins to organise, begins to agitate, begins to demonstrate, you need a force which has all the appearance of independence, which cannot be seen to be visibly taking sides in the class struggle, but which is merely there to enforce the law. The genius of the British ruling class is that they realised the need to have such a force and set about creating it.It took until 1870 to realise the idea such that the police could be relied upon to deal with crime and public order through Britain. Today, the Police and especially the Special Branch remain potent political weapons in Britain.
We have seen the tactics used by the state and those that control it up to 1832. They controlled a corrupt and unrepresentative political system through which they cynically used the ability to enact laws solely for their own advantage all the while using all and any method to suppress, frustrate and remove all opponents. The depths to which the elites sank to retain power knew no limits yet the history of Britain is presented with most of these facts omitted.
The near complete hijacking, save for the Bill of Rights, of the new United States by the same power that dominated Britain (and many other nations), the money power of capitalism, placed the new country in a precarious position.
Since then the rights and protections established to protect equality and freedom have been cynically abused to effect the whittling down of both. Parliamentary supremacy has been used to enact and impose unjust and wicked laws that seek to sanctify evil acts. The right to "due process" has been removed at both ends of the spectrum such that we can all now be fined without due process and innocent men languish in Guantanamo Bay Torture Camp.
The history of oppression is matched by the history of resistance just as, unfortunately, the history of hope is matched by the history of repression. We are driven to ask ourselves how it is that the ruling elite of every age use the same tactics to retain and expand their power. Many might point to conspiracy but such a conspiracy would have to be multigenerational and of extraordinary complexity. There is a far simpler yet more terrifying explanation, it is the explanation given by biology, that ordinary people are subject to the power of a predator.
This predator was described, in part by Carlos Castaneda:-
I want to appeal to your analytical mind. Think for a moment, and tell me how you would explain the contradictions between the intelligence of man the engineer and the stupidity of his systems of beliefs, or the stupidity of his contradictory behavior. Sorcerers believe that the predators have given us our systems of belief, our ideas of good and evil, our social mores. They are the ones who set up our hopes and expectations and dreams of success of failure. They have give us covetousness, greed, and cowardice. It is the predators who make us complacent, routinary, and egomaniacal.Our predator is the psychopath, a being that appears to be human but isn't; a being that can mimic every aspect of human behaviour yet has none of the emotions nor conscience of a normal human, a being that has an incredible knowledge of the inner workings of normal people such that it can predict our every move and manipulate us at will.
'But how can they do this, don Juan?' I asked, somehow angered further by what he was saying. 'Do they whisper all that in our ears while we are asleep?'
'No, they don't do it that way. That's idiotic!' don Juan said, smiling. 'They are infinitely more efficient and organized than that. In order to keep us obedient and meek and weak, the predators engaged themselves in a stupendous maneuver - stupendous, of course, from the point of view of a fighting strategist. A horrendous maneuver from the point of view of those who suffer it. They gave us their mind! Do you hear me? The predators give us their mind, which becomes our mind. The predators' mind is baroque, contradictory, morose, filled with the fear of being discovered any minute now.
'I know that even though you have never suffered hunger... you have food anxiety, which is none other than the anxiety of the predator who fears that any moment now its maneuver is going to be uncovered and food is going to be denied. Through the mind, which, after all, is their mind, the predators inject into the lives of human beings whatever is convenient for them. And they ensure, in this manner, a degree of security to act as a buffer against their fear. ...
What I'm saying is that what we have against us is not a simple predator. It is very smart, and organized. It follows a methodical system to render us useless. Man, the magical being that he is destined to be, is no longer magical. He's an average piece of meat. There are no more dreams for man but the dreams of an animal who is being raised to become a piece of meat: trite, conventional, imbecilic.
History become less of an enigma when we understand that those that rise to power and those that enforce that power have the same mind, the mind that is "baroque, contradictory, morose, filled with the fear of being discovered any minute now". It is that fear that drives the brutality we see through history for the predator sees any concession as weakness and any weakness as the beginning of its discovery and ultimate destruction. When we see power acting in the brutal and paranoid way that we have examined in these excepts from history we can now know that we are dealing with the predator, the psychopath, in all its terrifying reality.
Just as a religion can be judged by the level of brutality used to enforce it so can an economic system. It is clear from the pages of history that capitalism has fought the ideals of man for equality and freedom at every step. Very few, if any of us have any conception of the precariousness of life during the crucial periods in history when men and women stood against the tyranny of unjust rulers. We have no way of reliving the lives of the Levellers, the proponents of the English Bill of Rights, the American Revolutionaries, the Luddites, the Chartists or the thousands who have opposed tyranny and particularly the tyranny of capitalism throughout the world. It is however essential that we develop our empathy for these people for their struggle and suffering enabled us to benefit from our relative freedoms, before 911 that is.
It is now incumbent upon us to go further and gather their spirit of resistance and learn from the lessons that they have left us. We are at war, we did not declare the war nor did we seek it, it is a war that has been thrust upon us. It is not the "War on Terror' it is the War of Terror waged by the elite of the capitalist system upon us all. Today's ruling elite are the successors of the rulers that hounded John Lilburne to an early death at 42, that perpetrated the great theft of Enclosure, that enacted and enforced laws that forbade ordinary people to gather and form associations, that executed and transported Luddites and Chartists and established our modern system of policing and laws to protect, not society as they loudly claim, but their own narrow economic interests.
With the benefit of history we cannot now stand and claim surprise at the economic collapse that we see taking place, almost in slow motion as in 1929, while the thieves pull off another massive heist of the people no less audacious than Enclosure. What is incredible is that unlike in the past there has yet to be any resistance, or at least any sufficient enough to blast through the wall of lies that passes for modern news. The reasons behind this apparent lack of resistance need to be examined for the lethargy of the bulk of people does not bode well for the survival of any kind of freedom nor for the creation of an economic order based on anything other than exploitation supported by the use and threat of state violence.
The lessons of history point to the nature of our adversary and the methods that are used to suppress those that seek a different order. It is clear that armed rebellion, while arguably entirely legitimate will do nothing other than spread bloodshed and suffering. It is also clear that new peaceful methods of change need to be found, methods that acknowledge the true nature of the war in which we find ourselves.
To be continued....
 This wording differs from the 1297 wording which states, "No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor [condemn him,] but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right."
 Statute Law Revision Act 1863
 Civil Procedure Acts Repeal Act 1879
 Administrations of Estates Act 1925
 Statute Law Revision Act 1948
 Criminal Law Act 1967
 Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1969
 Magna Carta 1297
 John Lingard, A History of England
 M.L.Wilson, Democracy has Roots
 Radzinowicz, A History of English Criminal Law
 E.P Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class