Forwarded from Per Rasmussen
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Thu May 25 18:00:46 MDT 2000
The Story of The English Revolution
Told by A.L.Morton
First published by Farleigh Press 10/12/1948.
FOREWORD By Harry Pollitt
TODAY, the Communist Party celebrates one of the greatest events in
Britain's revolutionary history, the three hundredth anniversary of the
When the growing capitalist class, the poor farmers and craftsmen, led by
Oliver Cromwell, shattered the system of feudalism, and executed King
Charles I in the process, reigning monarchs and ruling nobilities
everywhere saw the pattern of future history unfolding. The name of
Cromwell was reviled, then, as much as Stalin's is today, by the ruling
powers of the old and doomed order of society.
The English Revolution is "great", because it broke the barriers to man's
advance. It allowed the capitalist class to open the road leading to modern
large-scale industry. It permitted science to serve the needs of the new,
capitalist society. And, because of these developments, it provided the
basis on which, for the first time, a new class, the working class, began
to grow, to organise and itself to challenge the prevailing system of society.
Capitalism, at first progressive, in so far as it led the way for technical
advance, developed to the point limited by its own structure. It became, as
feudalism was before it, a barrier to the further advance of man. It ceased
to serve a useful purpose. It had built up enormous productive forces, but
was incapable of providing the majority of the people with a decent
standard of life. Throughout the world, the working class, with the
Communist Party at its head, now goes forward to put an end to capitalism
and to build Socialism. The English Revolution set this train of historic
events in motion. That is why our Party is proud to honour its memory.
The Story of The English Revolution
By A. L. MORTON
I. THREE HUNDRED YEARS AGO
When the executioner, holding the head of Charles Stuart high above the
crowds thronging Whitehall, pronounced the ancient formula: "Behold the
head of a traitor!", a cold shudder ran down the spine of every constituted
authority in Europe. That was on January 30, 1649--three hundred Years
ago--but they have never been properly warm since. For that moment marked
one of the turning points of history, the definite and unqualified
emergence into full daylight of a revolution whose consequences are still
by no means exhausted.
It was not merely that a king had been put to death by his subjects: that
was not an uncommon happening. In England, too, kings had been deposed and
afterwards murdered, as were Richard II, Edward II, and Henry VI. But here
was a new class coming to the front, demanding political power and
challenging in the most decisive and symbolic way an order of society and a
conception of authority that had existed unchallenged for a thousand years.
It was feudal England that perished that day on the scaffold in the person
of England's last feudal king. For the monarchy had a double character:
practically the king was the effective head of the feudal State. He
commanded its armies, he presided at its Council, the judges and officers
of State were his servants. But besides all this he was in a sense a sacred
figure. " Such a divinity doth hedge a king ", Shakespeare had written only
half a century earlier. In 1649 the king still retained some of his
divinity, a relic of times far older even than feudalism, when the king was
actually both god and man.
So Charles, in his last words, scornfully declared: "A subject and a
sovereign are clean different things." Yet the very act of his execution
was already making his belief a thing of the past. For the new class, the
merchants and manufacturers and gentry, with the yeoman farmers and
craftsmen behind them, stood for a quite different conception. They
declared that the people were the source of all power and that kings and
governments existed only for and by the consent of the people.
It is true that for many of them "the people" meant the people with
property: that is a point to which I shall have to return later. My present
point is that by putting Charles on ,trial and executing him by due process
of law the new ruling class overturned all the old conceptions of kingship
and put in its place the revolutionary idea that the king is merely a part
of the apparatus of the State, who may be tolerated or dispensed with
according to their needs and wishes.
In 1649 the king was inconvenient to this class, and monarchy was
abolished. In 1660, when it appeared likely to be a useful weapon against
the danger of a rising of the masses, it was restored -- on conditions. In
1688 the person of the monarch was changed by Act of Parliament and still
more stringent conditions were imposed.
And today, a corrupt and decaying capitalism finds it convenient, while
not, of course, allowing the monarchy any real power; to glorify and
refurbish it, to give it a new halo of bourgeois sanctity, in order that it
may act as a rallying point for reaction and a bulwark against the rising
power of the wbrking class.
In this the bourgeoisie denies its own revolutionary past, but it cannot
undo it. They themselves destroyed the sanctity of kings and it cannot be
recreated. Meanwhile the work they began remains to be finished by others.
The object of this pamphlet is to tell the story of the English Revolution,
to show what was done and how, and to indicate something of what, still
remains to do. . .
Full article at: http://home.clara.net/ncp/morton.html
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