A civil war revisited
The history of the English Civil Wars of 1642-1651 is the story of irreconcilable motives, it is the story of the betrayal of the idealists in favour of the tyrannical exercise of power.
Among the Levellers and the Diggers and the other radical groups who supported the cause of Parliament, there was a genuine desire to create a new England, a new society. The Putney Debates, among the evangelical Christian officers of the Parliamentarian army, focused upon a commitment to democracy that was nothing short of revolutionary.
Radicals who helped to facilitate the establishment of the Commonwealth found that Oliver Cromwell did not share their aspirations, the Lord Protector created a society that was oppressive and joyless. Cromwell claimed divine sanction for his rule, just as absolute monarchs appealed to the idea of the divine right of kings.
In Seventeenth Century England, the motives of the ordinary people who had rallied to the New Model Army were irreconcilable with the motives of Cromwell.
The Brexit movement seems likely to be similarly betrayed by powerful men whose motives are irreconcilable with the aspirations of the ordinary people who supported the motive.
The reason ordinary people supported Brexit was that they believed it was possible to create a new England. They believed that the neo-liberal policies and the elitism of the European Union could be replaced by a new society. They believed in the protection of their jobs, the improvement of working class standards of living, the creation of a democracy where ordinary people had a voice. The radical Left supported that aspirations, they believed that without the European Union the constant demands for privatisation and liberalisation of markets would be stopped and there would be a protection of wages and the upholding of workers’ rights.
As Cromwell betrayed the hopes of the Seventeenth Century radicals, so Brexit now threatens to betray the hopes of those who supported it. The motives of those who believe in improvements for working people are irreconcilable with the motives of Johnson and the neo-liberals within the government who see the departure from the European Union as an opportunity for the financial elite within Britain to profit. Without the European Union, they believe that workers’ rights can be reduced, that labour can become cheap, that profit margins can be widened.
After the grim years of the Protectorate, people were so disillusioned that people welcomed the restoration of the monarchy of Charles II, albeit a monarchy that was much humbler than in the time of Charles I. Brexit is in danger of leading to a similar disillusionment.
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