Posts Tagged ‘Jess’

Radical Balladry: Folk Protest Songs against the Credit Trap

May 31, 2014

On Thursday I published a post about the way the Bulgarian peasants’ party, BANU, attempted to provide reasonable credit from banks lent to peasant credit cooperatives as a way of destroying the moneylenders that had plagued Bulgarian rural society, as a result of whom hundreds of villages had found themselves in serious debt. I suggested that we needed something similar to act against usurers, such as Wonga and the other payday loan companies. Thousands of people in Britain have now also found themselves heavily in debt because of the way they have been forced to rely on such companies, as well as criminal loan sharks, because of low wages and the repeated slashing of benefits by successive governments. People have also been caught in the credit trap through the absurdly easy terms on which it was available during the boom years. Advertisers must share their responsibility for this, has the television adverts for the services of Wonga and the various credit cards suggest that this is all free money, which the borrower doesn’t need to worry about paying back. It’s a seductive message, and all too many people have been taken in and deceived by it.

Jess has also commented on this post with her encyclopaedic knowledge of the long tradition of radical British folk music. She notes that there was an outcry at the way many people were finding themselves in debt through hire purchase when this was introduced in the 1950s. Then as now, Right-wing think tanks attempted to justify the creation of easily available credit, which could lead the poor and vulnerable into a never-ending cycle of debt. This indeed occurred, and was bitterly criticised in song by Graham Gouldman and Jeff Beck. Jess writes

“Britain too in the 21st century has seen the return of the loan shark and moneylender as thousands, perhaps millions, have got into serious debt. Some of this has been through the absurdly easy credit that was offered in the boom years, ”

The availability of ‘absurdly easy credit’ was one of the cornerstones of the neo-liberal agenda.

Way back in 1958 the IEA published their apologia for the money-lending industry ‘Hire Purchase in a Free Society’ [Harris, Naylor & Seldon]

A typical IEA publication of the period, it contains a few gems;

“Social Impact;
Criticism of hire purchase has not come only from moralists who condemn the practice on the grounds that it ensnares people into debts they cannot afford to repay’ morphs into, with an aside from Walter Greenwood’s condemnation of ‘tick’ in ‘Love on The Dole’ to the assertion that;

“Harry [the character condemned by supposedly old-fashioned notions of debt as a weekly ‘mill-stone around the debtors’ neck’ got his new suit…”

Just how deeply the tally-man was disliked, generally, is suggested in this song from Graham Gouldman, (recorded with great reluctance by Jeff Beck)

“To our house on a Friday
A man calls every week
We give him a pound
When he calls on his round

To our house on a Friday
A man calls every week
We give and we get
And we’re always in debt

With his plan he carries all we’re needing
With his plan most anything is ours
He’s the Tallyman, oh yeah
He’s the Tallyman

Shoes and socks, hard wearing for the children
Village frocks all in the latest style
From the Tallyman, oh yeah
From the Tallyman

To our house on a Friday
A man calls every week
We’ve made him a friend
So he’s here to the end

From cradle to grave
We expect him to say
Here’s tick to the end
So we’ve made him a friend
Here’s tick to the end
So we’ve made him a friend”

[Beck objected to Mickie Most’s insistence on a ‘catchy’ follow-up to ‘Silver Lining’ and hated the production, rather than Graham Gouldman’s lyrics]

The debt problem is likely to become even more severe with the government’s cuts to the buffer amount of money allowed to families before they are considered to have been overpaid tax credit, and the use of private debt collectors to pursue the poor, who have been mistakenly overpaid. So this is another song that could reasonably be revived and adapted to suit the new conditions created by Wonga and the like, and now the Inland Revenue.

As for the latter, one of the experts on Japanese monster movies on TV – I think it may have been the great Phil Jupitus – once said that the only time you ever heard cheering during a Godzilla movie was when the epic fire-breathing radio-active dragon from the depths trashed the headquarters of their Inland Revenue in Tokyo. If only something similar would happen to the house of whichever vicious Tory apparatchik dreamed up this bill.

Godzilla

Godzilla: First the Japanese Inland Revenue offices in Tokyo, but will he trash Osbo? We live in hope!

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Radical Balladry and Tunes for Toilers: The Agitator, Part 3

May 28, 2014

Ballad Seller pic

Last week, I posted the tune for the radical song, ‘The Agitator’, from Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of England. As with nearly all the other tunes from that book, I hadn’t noted down the words. Jess kindly supplied further information on them, pointing out that it was written in the 1870s to support the Agricultural Labourers’ Union. She also supplied further background information about the Union and the songs written by its members in their campaign for recognition and better wages and conditions. See the post ‘Radical Balladry and Tunes for Toilers: The Agitator, Part 2’. Now she’s kindly supplied the lyrics for the song itself.

The Union’s founder, Joseph Arch, said

Of course I was called an agitator; so I was, because everyone, who stirs people up to do things is an agitator, but those who so named me attached a bad meaning to the word. I was agitating for the right and not for the wrong; I was no ‘Arch Apostle of Arson’, as some one chose to call me. The Bishop of Gloucester (Dr Ellicott) was one of my worst enemies in the early days of the movement. He wanted me, and those, like me, ducked in the horse pond. As to the parsons generally, I never expected them to have much sympathy with us. Their stock argument against the Union was that it was ‘setting class against class’. This was their poll-parrot cry. ‘Oh yes, said they, ‘the men have a perfect right to try and improve themselves, and we will help them; but the Union is setting class against class’.

According to Palmer and Pamela Horn, who wrote a biography of Arch in 1977, the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union was founded in 1872. He believes that ‘The Agitator’ was written the following year, 1873, by the Union’s secretary, Henry Taylor. Taylor was a carpenter, who was admitted to the Union because of his previous trade union experience. The farm labourers’ unions produced a great number of songs, which were collected into a pamphlet, Songs for Singing at Agricultural Labourers’ Meetings (London and Leamington). These proved to be popular. According to Harold Evans in his Radical Fights of Forty Years, the pamphlet sold 120,000 copies.

The lyrics go

The Agitator
Tune – The Nobby Head of Hair

A jolly, jolly ploughboy I am, as you may see,
But never mind, I always strive to live by honesty;
I’ve always done my very best, by hard work, fare, and sweat, –
To get about the winid, boys, but I’m never out of debt.

Chorus
So I’ll agitate, I’ll agitate, whatever folks may say,
Till all have joined the Union, and get a fair days’ pay.

We care not what the Parsons say, -though they’re the chaps to know,
They say that all who agitate, to their dark friend must go;
And if ’tis tru, ’tis very clear, themselves had best look out,
So milt their agitation is, they often get the gout.
We’ll agitate, etc.

The farmers say they can’t afford to pay us proper wage;
But still they keep their carriages, and follow fashion’s rage;
‘Tis true that some poor farmers have their necks beneath the heel
Of selfish Lords, and unjust laws, which soon we must repeal.
We’ll agitate, etc.

The ‘Lords’ complain their rent of land, per cent. enough don’t pay,
‘Political Economy’s’ a law we must obey,-
If so, they’ll very soon become defunct throughout the land,
For ‘mongst the People I’m quite sure, for Lords there’s no demand.
We’ll agitate, etc.

They say the Labourers are not Serfs, – that we have liberty;
With our wages and our perquisites, how happy we might be;
But if we join the ‘Union’ chaps, say nought of better wage,-
O what a flare-up all at once! don’t they go into a rage?
We’ll agitate, etc.

They turn us out of house and home, they sack us there and then,
But off we go to other jobs,- we’ll do it, boys, like men;
For if to be successful with our cause we are inclined,
Why, then, a little sacrifice, my boys, we must not mind.
We’ll agitate, etc.

Our cause will prosper in the end, for all th’oppressors might;
We’ll do our best to help ourselves – ‘God will defend the right’;
‘The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower’,
So let us all take heart again, and whilst we have the power,
We’ll agitate, etc.

Like very many of the other songs I’ve posted up here, it’s very much of its time. Nevertheless, also like the other songs, parts of it are still very relevant. People are being forced heavily into debt, and forced from their homes. And we are being led by an aristocratic government that keeps invoking economics to justify their attacks on the poor and working and lower middle classes. So let’s show them that, as the song says, there’s no demand for lords in 21st century Britain.

Radical Balladry and Tunes for Toilers: The Ranters

May 27, 2014

Ballad Seller pic

Yesterday, I put up the sheet music for the Diggers’ Song, from Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of England. As usual, I didn’t have the words, but Jess kindly supplied them, as well as the another Digger song, The Diggers’ Christmas Carol. As well as the Diggers, another radical Civil War sect were the Ranters. Jess in her comment to my post of the Diggers’ Christmas Carol, has also provided two examples of their poetry, expressing their radical, pantheist, Christian beliefs, along with another poem by Gerrard Winstanley, the Diggers’ ideologue. Jess writes

Ranter Poems

“The Saints in virtue, which did aye excel,
This hainous heresie condemn’d to hell;
The General Councils with considerate ire
Adjudg’d these crimes to be calcin’d with fire.
Yee that so boast of spirit to be brim full,
Which say yee have no sin, your selves yee gull.
Com all yee missed, erring, gross mistakers,
Vain glorious Ranters, or censorious Quakers;
Bring all your tricks, your toies and wrested sleights,
Let’s poise them by the Sanctuaries weights.
Lord, if wee sin against thee and offend,
(For who sin’s not, that here his dayes doth spend?)
Wash me, O wash nee throughly from my sin,
Blood, and pollution which I wallow’d in. ”
[Divine poems being meditations upon several sermons, ….. And put into vers by William Wood of Eckington, Gent. 1655]

Another group of dissidents from round the same period as The Diggers were those termed ‘Ranters’. They are generally believed to have evolved from the Familist sect of Elizabethan times, whose core beliefs were ‘that perfection may be attained in this life’, denial of the Sabbath as a holy day, everyday should be a sabath and repentence must precede remission of sins’ [Hill, p.184]

They were known to hold their ‘meetings’ and festivals in pubs where the use of tobacco and alcohol was intended to heighten spiritual vision’. To more straight-laced sects ranter behaviour was licentiousness. The classic text on the group is A.L. Morton’s ‘World of The Ranters’, Nigel Smith edited a collection of their pamphlets whilst Christopher Hill devotes two chapters to them in his ‘World Turned Upside Down’

The pieces here come from two sources. Hill reprints the first in his ‘World Turned’

A Christmas Carol
They prate of God; Believe it fellow creatures”
There s no such bugbear; all was made by Nature.
We know all came of nothing, and shall pass
Into the same condition once it was,
By Nature’s power and that hey grossly lie
That say there’s hope of immortality.
Let them but tell what a soul is, then
We will adhere to these mad brain-sick men.
[Hill World Turned….” from ‘The Arraignment and Tryall, with a Declaration of the Ranters” (1650)]

The second two were found in the Clarke Mss [Also the original source of the better known ‘Diggers Song’] by Anne Laurence and published by her in ‘The Review of English Studies, Vol 31, 1980’ and are dated by her to c.1650. ‘ I have kept the spelling of her transcriptions from Clarke 18

Peter Davidson ‘Poetry and Revolution’ (1998) collects a lot of verse from the period, including a couple of other Winstanley poems. I

My Flesh the plagues of God consume,
With all Relacions of the same,
The which now makes mee out of Tune,
And I shall not bee in right frame;
Untill the vialls of Gods wrath.
Uppon this Earth of mine be powr’d,
And all the Idolls of the same.
Hee quite hath turned out of doores
For Christ our Kinge shall all things chuse
Out of his Kingedome that offend,
All things therin that are impure
Hee bringeth to a totall end,
And when those thinges are fully wrought
Such libertie then wee shall see
Within the Temple of our God
For Wee his Temple then shall bee,
For wee shall then rejoice and singe
Still praysing him that is our might
And ever Triumph in our Kinge
Hee is our libertie and Light.
[From Valentine Sharpe to J. Radman Castle Mary & Margery.]

Radical Balladry and Tunes for Toilers: The Diggers’ Christmas Carol

May 26, 2014

Ballad Seller pic

Not only has Jess provided the words to tune of the Diggers’ Song, which I posted this morning and which I’ve put up in my last post, but she also sent the lyrics for another Digger Song, The Diggers’ Christmas Carol. This expresses the Diggers’ hatred for the forces they felt were oppressing society and preventing humanity from enjoying true fraternal love, in which the Earth and its fruits and bounty would be held in common. These were priests, and the tithes which supported them, lawyers, the manorial lords and the monarchy itself. Lawyers were resented because it was felt that they were venal and exploitative, prolonging and exacerbating disputes in order to fleece their clients. Lastly, the people were oppressed by the feudal lords and the monarchy, who owed their position in society only to their descent from the Normans, who conquered England in 1066. This followed the standard 17th century liberal view that feudalism was a result of the Norman Conquest. It’s not actually true. Anglo-Saxon England was also a feudal state, though rather less developed. Nevertheless, this view of the origins of the feudal aristocracy continued as part of the Liberal view of history into the 19th century. The Diggers rejected the aristocracy and feudal rule, not just because of the injustice of elite, oligarchical rule, but also because the aristocracy’s tile to the land was based on warfare and violence, something the Diggers themselves profoundly detested.

Here are the lyrics, as Jess has given them. She also mentions the work of Christopher Hill and Andrew Hopton and his Aporia Press, who have published editions of Gerrard Winstanley and other Digger writings.

This, though, is not usually included in ‘Digger Collections

“The Diggers Christmass-Caroll.

This for a Christmasse-Caroll was invented,
Which here unto your view is now presented;
‘Twas writ at that time which you Christmasse call
And had come forth then; but this is all
The reason why it came not forth before,
Because we thought for to have added more.
Accept of this therefore with all thy heart,
Thou maist hereafter see a Second part.

To the Tune of the Spanish Gypsie.

1.
You people which be wise,
Will Freedom highly prise;
For experience you have
What ’tis to be a slave:
This have you been all your life long,
But chiefly since the Wars begun.
2.
When great Men disagree
About Supremacy,
Then doe they warn poor men
To aid and assist them
In setting up their self-will power,
And thus they doe the poor devour.
3.
Yet they cunningly pretend
They have no other end
But to set the poor Free
From all their slavery:
And thus they do the poor deceive,
In making them such things believe.
4.
Their blinde Guides will not spare,
These things for to declare;
Ye they aloud will cry,
Stand for your liberty;
The Gospel that lyes at the stake;
Rise therefore ’tis time to awake.
5.
The Priests very sensible be,
If the poor their Liberty see;
Their Tythe-plundring trade will fall,
And then farewell Tythes all.
Then would they not be finely fed,
But they must work for their own bread.
6.
The King an Army did gain,
His power for to maintain;
That Army did pretend
For to be England’s friend,
In saving of their Libertie
Which lay at stake and like to die.
7.
Another Army then
Was raised by mighty Men,
That Army to oppose,
Looking on them as Foes:
Likewise these powers did agree
To make the English Nation free.
8.
A Covenant they did take,
And promises they did make
All burthens to remove,
And to unite in love;
Yet we cannot see that good hour,
The taking down of Kingly power.
9.
The Nation willingly
Did maintain this Army,
Their Freedom for to gain;
But as yet all in vain:
For still a Kingly power doth stand
In many persons of this Land.
10.
A Kingly power I say
Doth in most men bare sway,
But chiefly in Lords of Mannors,
And in the Priests and Lawyers:
This Kingly power is their Self-will,
Which in this manner they do fulfill.
11.
The Priests they tyrannize,
By taking of the Tythes;
The poor they much oppresse
By their pride and idlenesse:
No Scripture warrant they can show,
Why any of these things they do.
12.
Therefore I pray consider,
And lay your heads together;
For you will never thrive,
Whilst Priests do gain the Tythe.
But let them work as well as you,
For Reason bids them so to do.
13.
They neither plow nor sow,
Nor do they reap or mow,
Nor any seed do finde,
But Priests the people grinde:
The tenth of all things they do crave;
And thus each man is made a slave.
14.
The Lawyers they are next,
By whom the poor are vext;
Their practice is most base,
For they will plead mens Case,
According to the length o’th’ Purse,
And so the Lawyers prove a Curse.
15.
Another trick they have,
The Nation to inslave;
Mens quarrels they’ll maintain,
Their Moneys for to gain:
Therefore if Lawyers you uphold,
They’l cheat you of your silver & gold.
16.
Therefore my brethren dear,
The Lawyers quite Cashiere;
Go not to them for Law,
For they your sides will claw;
They’l tell you that your case is good,
When they doe mean to suck your blood.
17.
Therefore be rul’d by me,
And do not Lawyers Fee,
But end your suits at home,
Lest you be overthrown;
For if Lawyers gain your estate,
You may repent when ’tis too late.
18.
Besides the Priests and Lawyers,
There be the Lords of Mannors,
Who lay claim to waste Land,
Which by blood-shed was gain’d;
For Duke William the Norman King,
By much bloodshed this land did win.
19.
When he this Land had gain’d,
He presently Ordain’d,
That his chief Souldiers should
This Land by parcels hold,
Owning him to be the Supream,
In paying tribute unto him.
20.
From hence came Lords of Mannors,
VVith Fines, quit-Rents and Heriots,
And all such cursed things,
Which are payed to these Kings:
And thus the people be broughtdown
By Lords of Mannors who wear the Crown.
21.
The Lords of Mannors, I say,
Do bear a mighty sway;
The Common Lands they hold,
Herein they are too bold:
They will not suffer men to till
The comon Lands, by their good wil.
22.
But Lords of Mannors must know,
Their title to Commons is low;
For why their title came in
By WILLIAM the Norman King.
But now the Norman successor is dead,
Their Royalty to th’ Commons is fled.
23.
Therefore let me advise
All those which Freedom prise,
To Till each Heath and Plain,
For this will Freedom gain:
Heriots and Fines this will expell,
A bondage great men know full well.
24.
For we do plainly see,
The Sword will not set’s free,
But bondage is increased,
Because our wealth is wasted
By paying Taxes and Free-quarter,
Expecting Freedom would com after.
25.
But Freedom is not wonn,
Neither by Sword nor Gunn:
Though we have eight years stay’d,
And have our Moneys pay’d:
Then Clubs and Diamonds cast away,
For Harts & Spades must win the day. ”

Robert Coster; “The Diggers mirth or, certain verses composed and fitted to tunes, for the delight and recreation of all those who dig, or own that work, in the Commonwealth of England. Wherein is shewed how the kingly power doth still reign in severall sorts of men. With a hint of that freedom which shall come, when the father shall reign alone in his Son. Set forth by those who were the original of that so righteous a work, and continue still successful therein at Cobham in Surrey. ”

Christopher Hill edited a selection of Winstanley’s work “The |Law of Freedom”, 1973. But mention should also be made of Andrew Hopton’s “Selected Writings of Gerard Winstanley, 1989.

Hopton’s publishing venture, Aporia Press, reprinted many scarce and otherwise unobtainable tracts from the Thomason Collection.
http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelprestype/prbooks/thomason/thomasoncivilwar.html

One of the bizarre works of 17th century mysticism from the British Civil War, A Fiery Flying Roll, published by Aporia, was for a long time one of the items listed in the Counterproductions’ catalogue. Counterproductions were a radical London bookshop, specialising in Anarchist and radical artistic literature – Decadent, Dada and Surrealist, as well as contemporary fringe literature and general high weirdness. Another of Aporia’s items which was also included in their catalogue was a radical appeal to stop people enlisting in the army for Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland. That’s important, and it’s a pity more people didn’t take heed of it, as then the atrocities Cromwell committed against the Irish people would never have occurred, and relations between Britain and the Emerald Isle would have been just that bit better.

Radical Balladry and Tunes for Toilers: The Diggers’ Song, Part 2

May 26, 2014

Ballad Seller pic

This morning I posted up the tune to The Diggers’ Song, from Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of England. I didn’t have the words, however, and so was unsure whether it was about the Diggers, the 17th century radical Communist movement inspired by the mystical writings of Gerrard Winstanley, or just about labourers, who had to dig for their living. Jess has kindly got back to me, and assured me that it is indeed about them, and supplied the lyrics. She has also provided the link for a site about them. She writes

Here’s the words

And yes, its a song of the Diggers

“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 gaol a gin, to starve 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 tithes 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 againnst 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,
But 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 itt does you behove,
For hee is King above, noe power is like to love,
Glory heere, Diggers all.

This is a good site for Digger Literature;

http://www.diggers.org/english_diggers.htm

I think it’s truly amazing that Winstanley and this band of idealists are still inspiring people, and that their literature is still being sought after and read, after almost four hundred years.

Tunes for Toilers: A Political Christmas Carol, Part 2

May 26, 2014

Peterloo Massacre

George Cruikshank’s Cartoon, Manchester Heroes, attacking the Peterloo Massacre of 1819.

Yesterday I put up the sheet music to the 19th century ballad, A Political Christmas Carol, from Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of England. Unfortunately, I hadn’t noted the words when copying down the tune, so I had little idea of what it was actually about. Jess has kindly filled me in on this, pointing out that it’s by the radical journalist, William Hone. It attacks Lord Castlereagh, the prime minister responsible for the Peterloo Massacre, in which a crowd gathered to listen to the radical politician, ‘Orator’ Hunt, were charged by the a group of Hussars as a seditious mob. It also prompted Shelley to write his bitter attack on Castlereagh and the Conservative social order, The Mask of Anarchy. She states

You are almost certainly referring to this piece by William Hone, published, with an illustration by George Cruikshank, in 1820

“God rest you, merry Gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
Remember we were left alive,
Upon last Christmas day,
With both our lips at liberty
To praise Lord C———h
With his ‘practical’ comfort and joy!

He ‘turn’d his back upon himself’
And straight to ‘Lunnun’ came,
To two two-sided Lawyers
With tidings of the same,
That our own land must ‘prostrate stand’
Unless we praise his name –
For his ‘practical’ comfort and joy!
‘Go fear not’ said his L——p
‘Let nothing you affright
‘Go draw your quills, and draw five Bills,
‘Put out yon blaze of light;
‘I’m able to advance you,
‘Go stamp it out then quite –
‘And give me some “features” of joy!’

The Lawyers at those tidings
Rejoiced much in mind,
And left their friends a staring
To go and raise the wind,
And straight went to the Taxing-men
And said ‘the Bills come find –
‘For “fundamental” comfort and joy!’

The Lawyers found majorities
To do as they did say,
They found them at their mangers
Like oxens at their hay,
Some lying, and some kneeling down,
All to L—d C———h
For his ‘practical’ comfort and joy!

With sudden joy and gladness
Rat G-ff—d was beguiled,
They each sat at his L——p’s side,
He patted them and smiled;
Yet C-pl-y on his nether end,
Sat like a new born Child, ­-
But without either comfort or joy!

He thought upon his Father,
His virtues, and his fame,
And how that father hoped from him
From glory to his name,
And, as his chin dropp’d on his breast,
His pale cheeks burn’d with shame: –
He’ll never more know comfort or joy!

Lord C———h doth rule yon House,
And all who there do reign;
They’ve let us live this Christmas time –
D’ye think they will again?
They say they are our masters –
That’s neither here, nor there:
God send us all a happy new year!”

Also cited here
http://ruthmather.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/a-political-christmas-carol/
From Roy’s book

It is directed against Castlereagh, the target of Shelley’s ‘I ‘Mask of Anarchy’, and the butt of countless contemporary radical poets.

“The Mask of Anarchy
(Written on the occasion of the massacre at Manchester.)
“As I lay asleep in Italy
There came a voice from over the Sea,
And with great power it forth led me
To walk in the visions of Poesy.

I met Murder on the way—
He had a mask like Castlereagh—
Very smooth he looked, yet grim ;
Seven blood-hounds followed him :

All were fat ; and well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.

Next came Fraud, and he had on,
Like Lord Eldon, an ermined gown ;
His big tears, for he wept well,
Turned to mill-stones as they fell.”
……..
http://www.poetsgraves.co.uk/Classic%20Poems/Shelley/the_mask_of_anarchy.htm

Castlereagh’s part in Lord Liverpool’s administration, along with Sidmouth, made him universally loathed.

Twenty years later Chartists would denounce the regime that gave the country Peterloo and Oliver the Spy. So hated was the government of the time that several armed insurrections were attempted, Spa Fields in 1817, Scotland’s Radical Rising of 1820 (and associated attempts in Lancashire and Yorkshire) along with Cato Street the same year

Shelley, incidentally, was an occasional customer of Clio Rickman, bookseller, printer, radical and close friend of Paine mentioned elsewhere.

Hone and Rickman frequented similar circles, though Rickman was also closer to the various Spenceans in his neighbourhood, forming business partnerships with them occasionally to publish radical ditties.

I might also add that Rickman printed and edited the second, expanded edition, of the first identifiably radical songbook.in 1798.

So, this is another ballad to remember and hum the next time an innocent person is killed or injured by the police, heavy-handedly trying to control a crowd of protesters. Especially as Boris Johnson is now trying to purchase those three water cannon from the Germans. They also suffered massive radical demonstrations in the 1960s and 1970s after a left-wing demonstrator was killed by one.

Cato Street is, from what I can remember, also quite significant from the point of view of Black history. One of the conspirators caught drilling on Spital Fields and prosecuted for preparing to take in an uprising against the government was the mixed-raced son of a West Indian planter and one of his slaves. I’m afraid I really can’t remember the man’s name, but apart from his involvement with the radical Spenceans he had launched a huge debate in the press about the morality of slavery as he denounced the system, which had allowed his father to exploit his mother. I believe he’s one of the Black lives covered in Gretchen Herzen’s book on the history and lives of Black Brits before the abolition slavery, Black England: Life Before Emancipation.

Radical Balladry and Tunes for Toilers: The Agitator, Part 2

May 25, 2014

Ballad Seller pic

Last week I posted up a number of radical British folk songs and ballads, including the 19th century tune, ‘The Agitator’, from Roy Palmer’s A Ballad History of England. I’d only managed to note the music for this, and assumed that it dated from the Chartist agitation for the extension of the franchise to working men. I was wrong about this. The ever-informative Jess, put me right about it in her comment on the post. She pointed out that it actually came from the 1870s, and was part of a number of tunes composed to promote the Agricultural Labourers’ Union, composed by the radical journalist, Howard Evans. She wrote

‘The Agitator’ dates from the 1870’s

Roy Palmer probably garnered it from Howard Evans’ “Songs for singing at Agricultural Labourers’ meetings”, 1875

Evans, a Radical journalist;
[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Evans_(journalist)]

later recalled;

“Early in the labourer’s movement I conceived the idea of bringing song into service by using popular tunes. I am no singer, but at a meeting in Sundridge, in Kent, I ventured a first experiment. It was heartily received and published in the ‘Labourer’s Chronicle’ others followed in quick succession, and before long was issued a Labourer’s Song Book, with a few songs by other writers, which from start to last reached a circulation of 120,000 copies” “Evans, Radical Fights of Forty Years 1913, p.42

But when the proprietors of the paper attempted to revive Feargus O’Connor’s Land Scheme (borrowed from the ideas of Thomas Spence [See Chase; The People’s Farm]);

“A violent quarrel broke out in our ranks. Ward and Vincent, the proprietor of the ‘Chronicle’, conceived the absurd idea of buying land with the twopences of the labourers. Of course most of them would be in their graves before they could get even a small piece of land…Ward and Vincent hoped to get [Joseph] Arch on their side, because he was at variance with Taylor, the secretary; but Arch was too level-headed a man to entertain such an absurd project. It became necessary to save the Union by starting another paper”

For a broader ‘portrait of the agricultural labourer in the nineteenth century’ I suggest Roy Palmer’s ‘The Painful Plough’

Mike Yates’ valuable essay on Walter Pardon adds another dimension to these songs
http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/pardon.htm

The linked essay on the folksinger, Walter Pardon, mentions a number of his songs, some sadly only now half-remember fragments. Many others have been recorded whole, with the article reproducing several of them: Come All Ye Swaggering Farmers, The Labourer’s Union, An Old Man’s Advice, and Sons of Labour.

Working Class Experience and the Tories’ Hatred of International Human Rights Legislation

May 19, 2014

Democrat Dissection pic

William(?) Dent, ‘A Right Honble Democrat Dissected’, 1793. In Roy Porter, Bodies Politic: Death, Disease and Doctors in Britain, 1650-1900 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 2001) 243. The caption for this reads: The various portions of his anatomy display every form of hypocrisy and immorality, personal and political.

The Tories Attack on Human Rights Legislation

Last week I reblogged Mike’s piece, ‘The Tory Euro Threat Exposed’, which demolished some of the claims the Tories were making about the EU, including their promise to hold a referendum on Europe. One of the criticisms Mike made was against the Tories’ plans to withdraw Britain from the European Court of Human Rights. Mike pointed out that the Court is actually nothing to do with the EU, and if Britain withdrew, it would mean the Tories could pass highly illiberal legislation ignoring and undermining the human rights of British citizens. He specifically mentioned workfare, the right to a fair trial and the current laws protecting the disabled as areas that would be under threat. It is not just European human rights legislation and international justice that the Tories are opposed to. They also plan to repeal Labour’s human rights legislation at home.

The Memoir of Robert Blincoe and 19th Century Working Class Political Oppression

Jess, one of the commenters on mine and Mike’s blog, suggested that the part of the problem was that most people now don’t recall a time when there was no absolutely no respect for human rights in Britain, and people were genuinely oppressed and jailed for their political beliefs. As a corrective, she posted a link to The Memoir of Robert Blincoe, a 19th century working-class activist, who was jailed for setting up a trade union. She wrote

Part of the ‘problem’ convincing people of the validity of human rights legislation is they have no concept, or memory, of what things were like before such things began to be regulated. Or the fight it took to force such legislation through Parliament.

This small book, ‘Memoir of Robert Blincoe’, now online, courtesy of Malcolm Powell’s Northern Grove Publishing Project
http://www.malcsbooks.com/resources/A%20MEMOIR%20OF%20ROBERT%20BLINCOE.pdf

“The Memoir….” was first published by Richard Carlile in his journal ‘The Lion’ in 1828. It was republished as a pamphlet the same year, and then re-serialised in ‘The Poor Man’s Advocate’ later the same year.

The pioneer Trades Unionist, John Doherty republished it in 1832, with the co-operation of Blincoe and additional text. Caliban reprinted Doherty’s text in 1977. For some reason it was not mentioned in Burnett, Mayall and Vincent (Eds) Bibliograpy (of) The Autobiography of The Working Class.

19th Century Oppression, thatcher’s Assault on the Unions, British Forced Labour Camps and the New Surveillance State

She has a point. For most people, this was so long ago that it’s no longer relevant – just another fact of history, along with the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Great Reform Act and the Workhouse. It’s an example how things were grim back in the 19th century, but it doesn’t really have any direct significance today. In fact, it’s extremely relevant as the Tories are doing their best to strangle the Trade Unions with legislation following their decimation with the Miners’ Strike under Thatcher. The Coalition has also passed legislation providing for the establishment of secret courts, and Britain is being transformed into a surveillance society through the massive tapping of phones and other electronic communication by GCHQ. And I reblogged a piece from one of the other bloggers – I think it was Unemployed in Tyne and Weare – about the existence of forced labour camps for the unemployed here in Britain during the recession of the 1920s. I doubt anyone outside a few small circles of labour historians have heard of that, particularly as the authorities destroyed much of the documentation. Nevertheless, it’s a sobering reminder that Britain is not unique, and that the methods associated with Nazism and Stalinism certainly existed over here.

Britain as Uniquely Democratic, Above Foreign Interference

Another part of the problem lies in British exceptionalism. There is the view that somehow Britain is uniquely democratic, with a mission to spread freedom and democracy throughout the world. This conception of one’s country and its history is strongest in America, and forms a very powerful element of the ideology of the Republican party and the Neo-Cons. America has repeatedly refused to allow international courts jurisdiction in America and condemned criticism of American society and institutions by the UN, on the grounds that these organisations and the countries they represent are much less democratic than the US. To allow them jurisdiction in America, or over Americans, is seen as an attack on the fundamental institutions of American freedom. Thus, while America has demanded that foreign heads of states responsible for atrocities, such as the Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, should be tried at the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, it has strenuously resisted calls for the prosecution of American commanders accused of similar crimes.

Britain Not Democratic for Most of its History

This sense of a unique, democratic destiny and a moral superiority to other nations also permeates the British Right. Daniel Hannan, the Conservative MEP for Dorset, who wishes to privatise the NHS, has written a book, on how the English-speaking peoples invented democracy. It’s a highly debatable view. Most historians, I suspect, take the view instead that it was the Americans and French, rather than exclusively the English-speaking peoples, who invented democracy. Britain invented representative, elected government, but until quite late in the 19th century the franchise was restricted to a narrow class of propertied men. Women in Britain finally got the right to vote in 1918, but didn’t actually get to vote until 1928. Part of the Fascist revolt in Britain in the 1930s was by Right-wing, die-hard Tories alarmed at all of the proles finally getting the vote, and the growing power of Socialism and the trade unions. Technically, Britain is still not a democracy. The architects of the British constitution in the 17th and 18th centuries viewed it as mixed constitution, containing monarchy, aristocracy and democracy, with each component and social class acting as a check on the others. The House of Commons was the democratic element. And the 17th and 18th century views of its democratic nature often seem at odds with the modern idea that everyone should have the inalienable right to vote. It seems to me that these centuries’ very restricted view of democracy ultimately derived from Aristotle. In his Politics, Aristotle considers a number of constitutions and forms of government and state, including democracy. His idea of democracy, however, is very definitely not ours. He considers it to be a state governed by leisured, landed gentlemen, who are supposed to remain aloof and separate from the lower orders – the artisans, labourers, tradesmen and merchants, who actually run the economy. In his ideal democracy, there were to be two different fora – one for the gentlemen of the political class, the other for the rude mechanicals and tradesmen of the hoi polloi.

How seriously the British ruling class took democracy and constitutional freedom can be seen in the very rapid way they removed and abolished most of it to stop the proles rising up during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Burke is hailed as the founder of modern Conservatism for his Reflections on the Revolution in France, in which he argued for cautious, gradual change firmly grounded and respecting national tradition, as opposed to the violence and bloodshed which occurred over the other side of the Channel, when the French tried rebuilding their nation from scratch. At the time, however, Burke was seen as half-mad and extremely eccentric for his views.

Imperial Government and Lack of Democracy in Colonies

The lack of democracy became acute in the case of the countries the British conquered as they established the British Empire. The peoples of Africa, the Middle East and Asia were largely governed indirectly through their indigenous authorities. However, ultimate authority lay with the British governors and the colonial administration. It was not until the 1920s, for example, that an indigenous chief was given a place on the colonial council in the Gold Coast, now Ghana. Some governors did actively try to involve the peoples, over whom they ruled, in the business of government, like Hennessy in Hong Kong. For the vast majority of colonial peoples, however, the reality was the absence of self-government and democracy.

British Imperial Aggression and Oppression of Subject Peoples

And for many of the peoples of the British Empire, imperial rule meant a long history of horrific oppression. The sugar plantations of the West Indies have been described as ‘concentration camps for Blacks’, which have left a continuing legacy of bitterness and resentment amongst some West Indians. The sense of moral outrage, as well as the horrific nature of imperial rule for Black West Indians and the indigenous Arawak and Carib peoples in books on West Indian history written by West Indians can come as a real shock to Brits, who have grown up with the Whig interpretation of history. Other chapters in British imperial history also come across as actually quite sordid, like the annexation of the Transvaal, despite the fact that the Afrikaaner voortrekkers who colonised it did so to get away from British rule. The Opium War is another notorious example, the colonisation of Australia was accompanied by the truly horrific genocide of the Aboriginal peoples, and the late 19th century ‘Scramble for Africa’, which saw much of the continent conquered by the French and British, was largely motivated by the desire to grab Africa and its resources before the Germans did.

Whig Interpretation of History: Britain Advancing Freedom against Foreign Tyranny

All this gives the lie to the Whig interpretation of history. This was the name the historian Butterfield gave to the reassuring, patriotic view of British history being one natural progression upwards to democracy and the Empire. There’s still an element of it around today. The view of the Empire as promoted by patriotic text books like Our Empire Story, was of Britain establishing freedom and justice against foreign tyrants and despots, civilising the backward nations of Africa and Asia. Similar views can be found in Niall Ferguson, who in his books states that Europe and America managed to overtake other global cultures because of their innately democratic character and respect for property. Ferguson presented this idea in a television series, which was critiqued by Private Eye’s ‘Square Eyes’.

Another, very strong element in this patriotic view of British history is the struggle Between Britain and foreign tyrants, starting with the French in the Hundred Years War, through the Spanish Armada, and then the Napoleonic War and Hitler, and finally as part of the Western free world standing against Communism. In fact, many of the regimes supported by Britain and the Americans weren’t very free at all. Salvador Allende of Chile, although a Marxist, was democratically elected. He was over thrown in the coup that elevated General Pinochet to power, sponsored by the CIA. Similar coups were launched against the democratic, non-Marxist Socialist regime of Benz in Guatemala. And it hasn’t stopped with the election of Barak Obama. Seumas Milne in one of his pieces for the Guardian, collected in The Revenge of History, reports a Right-wing coup against the democratically elected government in Honduras, again sponsored by America. at the same time Britain and America supported various Middle Eastern despots and tyrants, including the theocratic, absolute monarchies of the Gulf States, against Communism. If you are a member of these nations, in South and Central America and the Middle East, you could be forgiven for believing that the last thing the West stands for is democracy, or that it’s a hypocritical pose. Democracy and freedom is all right for Britain, America and their allies, but definitely not something to be given to the rest of the world. And certainly not if they don’t vote the way we want them.

Origin of Link between Britain and Democracy in Churchill’s Propaganda against Axis

In fact, it’s only been since the Second World War that the English-speaking world has attempted to make itself synonymous with ‘democracy’. While Britain previously considered itself to be a pillar of freedom, this was certainly not synonymous, and in some cases directly opposed to democracy. Some 18th and 19th century cartoons on the radical ferment about the time of the French Revolution and its supporters in Britain are explicitly anti-democratic. Martini Pugh in his book on British Fascism between the Wars notes that large sections of the colonial bureaucracy, including the India Office, were firmly against the introduction of democracy in England. According to an article on the origins of the English-Speaking Union in the Financial Times I read years ago, this situation only changed with the Second World War, when Churchill was faced with the problem of winning the propaganda battle against Nazi Germany. So he attempted win allies, and hearts and minds, by explicitly linking British culture to the idea of democracy. This may not have been a hugely radical step, as Hitler already equated Britain with democracy. Nevertheless, it completed the process by which the country’s view of its constitution, from being narrowly oligarchical, was transformed into a democracy, though one which retained the monarchy and the House of Lords.

House of Lords as Seat of British Prime Ministers, Not Commons

And it wasn’t that long ago that effective power lay with the upper house, rather than the Commons. During the 19th and early 20th centuries a succession of prime ministers were drawn from the House of Lords. It was only after Lloyd George’s constitutional reforms that the head of government came from the Lower House, rather than the chamber of the aristocracy.

Most of this is either unknown, or is just accepted by most people in Britain today. The British’ idea of themselves as uniquely democratic is largely accepted unquestioningly, to the point where just raising the issue of how recent and artificial it is, especially with regard to Britain’s colonies and the Empire’s subaltern peoples, is still extremely radical. And the Conservatives and their fellows on the Right, like UKIP, play on this assumption of democratic superiority. Europe, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter, isn’t as democratic us, and has absolutely no right telling us what to do.

Need to Challenge Image of Britain as Uniquely Democratic, to Stop Tories Undermining It

And so the British image of themselves as innately, quintessentially democratic and freedom-loving, is turned around by the Right to attack foreign human rights legislation, courts and institutions, that help to protect British freedoms at home. This needs to be tackled, and the anti-democratic nature of much of British history and political culture needs to be raised and properly appreciated in order to stop further erosion of our human rights as British citizens, by a thoroughly reactionary Conservative administration determined to throw us back to the aristocratic rule of the 19th century, when democracy was itself was highly suspect and even subversive because of its origins in the French Revolution.

Radical Balladry: John Clare, the Enclosures and the Destruction of the Environment

May 18, 2014

Ballad Seller pic

Jess also posted up this poem by John Clare, the 19th century poet and agricultural worker, in her comment to one of my pieces on radical working class music and poetry, as another piece that continues to speak to modern needs and issues today from over a hundred years ago. In this instance it’s the threat to the environment from intensive commercial agriculture.

The Mores

Far spread the moorey ground a level scene
Bespread with rush and one eternal green
That never felt the rage of blundering plough
Though centurys wreathed spring’s blossoms on its brow
Still meeting plains that stretched them far away
In uncheckt shadows of green brown, and grey
Unbounded freedom ruled the wandering scene
Nor fence of ownership crept in between
To hide the prospect of the following eye
Its only bondage was the circling sky
One mighty flat undwarfed by bush and tree
Spread its faint shadow of immensity
And lost itself, which seemed to eke its bounds
In the blue mist the horizon’s edge surrounds
Now this sweet vision of my boyish hours
Free as spring clouds and wild as summer flowers
Is faded all – a hope that blossomed free,
And hath been once, no more shall ever be
Inclosure came and trampled on the grave
Of labour’s rights and left the poor a slave
And memory’s pride ere want to wealth did bow
Is both the shadow and the substance now
The sheep and cows were free to range as then
Where change might prompt nor felt the bonds of men
Cows went and came, with evening morn and night,
To the wild pasture as their common right
And sheep, unfolded with the rising sun
Heard the swains shout and felt their freedom won
Tracked the red fallow field and heath and plain
Then met the brook and drank and roamed again
The brook that dribbled on as clear as glass
Beneath the roots they hid among the grass
While the glad shepherd traced their tracks along
Free as the lark and happy as her song
But now all’s fled and flats of many a dye
That seemed to lengthen with the following eye
Moors, loosing from the sight, far, smooth, and blea
Where swopt the plover in its pleasure free
Are vanished now with commons wild and gay
As poet’s visions of life’s early day
Mulberry-bushes where the boy would run
To fill his hands with fruit are grubbed and done
And hedgrow-briars – flower-lovers overjoyed
Came and got flower-pots – these are all destroyed
And sky-bound mores in mangled garbs are left
Like mighty giants of their limbs bereft
Fence now meets fence in owners’ little bounds
Of field and meadow large as garden grounds
In little parcels little minds to please
With men and flocks imprisoned ill at ease
Each little path that led its pleasant way
As sweet as morning leading night astray
Where little flowers bloomed round a varied host
That travel felt delighted to be lost
Nor grudged the steps that he had ta-en as vain
When right roads traced his journeys and again –
Nay, on a broken tree he’d sit awhile
To see the mores and fields and meadows smile
Sometimes with cowslaps smothered – then all white
With daiseys – then the summer’s splendid sight
Of cornfields crimson o’er the headache bloomd
Like splendid armys for the battle plumed
He gazed upon them with wild fancy’s eye
As fallen landscapes from an evening sky
These paths are stopt – the rude philistine’s thrall
Is laid upon them and destroyed them all
Each little tyrant with his little sign
Shows where man claims earth glows no more divine
But paths to freedom and to childhood dear
A board sticks up to notice ‘no road here’
And on the tree with ivy overhung
The hated sign by vulgar taste is hung
As tho’ the very birds should learn to know
When they go there they must no further go
Thus, with the poor, scared freedom bade goodbye
And much they feel it in the smothered sigh
And birds and trees and flowers without a name
All sighed when lawless law’s enclosure came
And dreams of plunder in such rebel schemes
Have found too truly that they were but dreams.
John Clare
http://ecohist.history.ox.ac.uk//readings/clare-poems.pdf

Firth and Arnove include it in the section, ‘Land and Liberty’, in their The People Speak, as an example of popular protest against the Enclosures, which saw thousands of tenant farmers and agricultural workers forced off their land as they were enclosed and developed by the landlords.

Historians now take the view that before the rise of the Romantic movement, and particularly before Shell published their motoring guides to the British countryside in the 1920s and 1930s, people had a much more utilitarian attitude to the environment. Rather than seeing it simply or primarily as a place of beauty, it was seen instead as a working environment, valued by the people who lived there for the resources they could exploit.
This changed when Shell published their motoring guides, which opened the countryside up to city dwellers, who were now able to travel by car into the countryside to enjoy its beauty and quaint, historic buildings.

I’m not entirely convinced by this. While people I know who’ve come from a farming background have said that the farming and agricultural community does have a much less romantic attitude to the countryside, and does indeed see it in terms of what can be used, people down the centuries have always celebrated it’s beauty. You can see it as a far back as one of the Viking romances. There is a tale where a Viking warrior decides to leave his home due to harassment from other, hostile warriors. Travelling on the road away from his farmstead, he takes one last look at it. He is struck by the beauty of the sun shining on his farm in the valley, and so changes his mind. He turns back, determined to fight for his land and his home.

And of course there are all the songs and poems written during the Middle Ages about the beauty of the countryside in spring time.

As for modern attempts to preserve the environment, these date to the late nineteenth century, when Ruskin and others up and down the country started a movement to preserve the local countryside from development so that local people could continue to enjoy it, over two decades before the Shell Guides appeared. The enjoyment of the countryside, not just as a place of work, but also as a place of leisure and beauty, goes back a long way.

Radical Balladry, and Songs of Protest, Folk and Punk

May 17, 2014

Ballad Seller pic

I posted a few pieces this week on Rob Young’s Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music (London: Faber & Faber 2010) and radical and Socialist British folk song and verse, including examples from the 19th century. This started an interesting debate between Untynewear and Jess over the nature of radical folk song, its influence and its appeal today compared to other genres.

Untynewear commented that the folk music he tried after reading Young’s book was largely too twee for his tastes, and was too middle class, ‘nice music for nice people’, for which he blamed the very middle class folk music collectors like Cecil Sharp. It’s a fair point, as after the raw energy and nihilistic rage of punk, some British folk music can indeed seem safe and twee, celebrating an idealised bucolic idyll that never existed except in the minds of Conservative Romantics and urban city dwellers. You consider all the jokes about Morris dancing. The new masses of the rapidly expanding Victorian towns reacted against the horrors of the new mass industrial society while unaware of the grinding poverty and squalor that also existed in the countryside, and which forced their parents and grandparents to move to the city to find work in the first place.

In response, Jess pointed out that some of the folk bands and artists did recover and perform the angry, radical songs of the past. She recommended in particular Ashley Hutchings’ Albion Band, who had ‘recorded ‘Battle of the Field’ a couple of years before punk, but inspired many later bands such as the Levellers and The Men……”

And his ‘Kicking Up the Sawdust’, 1977, with Bob Cann, though not overtly political, can hold its own in any musical company.’

She also points out that there was a considerable difference at the time between the point of view of the collectors of the songs and dances, with some being far more radical in their beliefs and the material they collected. She writes:

As Gergina Boyes points out, there was quite an ideological battle went on within the ;’collectors’ (one that paralleled the arguments between the Jacobin John Ritson and tory Walter Scott in the 1790′s) . If you look at the work of Frank Kidson you will find an entirely different attitude to the music and the people who made it than the one held by Sharp and his cohorts.

She also pointed out that the people composing and performing the music were largely ignored by the middle classes and the music industry:

Despite the polite interest from above, the people who made the music, just carried on doing so. Fortunately some of it was recorded (try Veteran CD’s) , though not much made it onto the airwaves, let alone the jukeboxes.
Try http://www.veteran.co.uk/Veteran%20Catalogue.htm

She also traces the influence that this radical music has had on modern pop through Lonnie Donegan, whose interest in music was inspired by an American folk artist.

Donegan, she writes, started off as an aficionado of Josh White an American folk singer whose music reached this country through the airwaves of the BBC, courtesy of a slightly left wing (Labour) presenter called Charles Chilton.(we will meet Charles in another context, another time)

Unable to find the records he heard over the airwaves, he found them at Collets Book shop in Charing Cross Road (Formerly Hendersons, a syndicalist bookshop). The end result, as someone once said was ‘the Beatles’

Untynewear championed punk as the modern music of protest that appealed to him, as well as the music of the British West Indian community that emerged at the same time, like Steel Pulse and Linton Kwesi Johnson. He particularly recommended Johnson’s ‘Inglan’ is a Bitch’ and ‘Wat About Di Workin Class?’ Johnson has a sizable following, including many writers and bloggers for his left-wing music attacking racism and capitalism. Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove include ‘Inglan is a Bitch’ in their anthology of radical, democratic and socialist texts, The People Speak: Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport. Untynewear gives the lyrics to ‘Wat About Di Workin Class’, which goes

‘From Inglan to Poland Every step across di ocean
The ruling class is dem in a mess, oh yes
Di capitalist system are regress
But di Sovjet system nah progress
So wich one of dem yuh think is best
When di two of dem work as a contest
When crisis is di order of di day
When so much people cryin’ out for change nowadays
So what about di workin’ claas? ??
What about di workin’ claas?
Dem pay the cost, dem carry the cross
An’ dem nah go forget dem ??
Dem nah go forget dem plans’

While this seems very dated after the Collapse of Communism, in the 1950s and ’60s, it should be remembered, the Western ruling class was very definitely in a mess because it looked like the Communist bloc would overtake the West in affluence and material prosperity. See the book Red Plenty for a partly novelised account of this period from the point of the view of the Soviets. Buddyhell over Guy Debord’s Cat has also included Johnson’s ‘Reggae fi Peach’, protesting against the murder of Blair Peach by a member of the SPD at an anti-racism demonstration.

This isn’t an either/ or situation. The idea that folk music is somehow a unique expression of a nation’s essential nature, somehow isolated and different from the music of other nations and cultures, as viewed by some of the 19th century Romantic folklorists, has been rejected. Writers and researchers on folk music have pointed out that folk music has always drawn on international influences since at least the 16th and 17th century. A German writer then described how musicians from all over Europe, including England, toured the Continent and the fairs of Germany to pick up the latest tunes, which they then took back with them to their own countries. Sea Shanties are a particularly mixed genre. One book I read said it was impossible to work out from which country’s musical tradition the genre as a whole developed from, while noting that there was a distinct African element to the music. Which is pretty much what you’d expect from an industry, whose very nature was international trade and the transport of goods and people. And the influence of other nation’s culture and the adoption of their musical forms continued in the 19th century. One type of music that entered British folk music in the 19th century was the Polka, which originally came from Poland.

And far from being the anonymous expression of a nation’s collective soul, some folk music was written or composed by distinct individuals, whose identities are known, or entered the tradition from Broadside Ballads. With this in mind, it’s entirely fair to regard modern radical pop artists, like Johnson and the politically engaged Punk bands, as forms of modern folk, even though some of the artists themselves may have reacted against being lumped in with the genre. Jess herself agreed with Untynewear about the quality of Johnson’s music. Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove, in The People Speak apart from Johnson, also include songs by The Clash, ‘Know Your Rights’ and Elvis Costello, ‘Shipbuilding’, along with folk songs like Hamish Henderson’s ‘The John Maclean March’ and ‘Freedom Come-All-Ye’, Frank Higgins’ ‘The Testimony of Patience Kershaw’ as well as anonymous 19th century ballads like ‘Hunting A Loaf’. They’re all songs of popular protest and attacks on social injustice, with the same roots in the experience of the poor, the working and lower middle classes, and the marginalised and oppressed, like many ethnic minorities.