This year, for the first time since the pandemic, it reverted to a live demonstration in defence of democracy and the right to protest. Speakers included the Reverend Canon Professor Mark Chapman, Ann Hughes - whose study of the Civil War in my county of Warwickshire is seminal, John Rees author of the definitive The Leveller Revolution, Richard Burgon MP and, loudest of all, Attila the Stockbroker.
The attendance - a few hundred - did not match some previous, pre-pandemic, years but it was representative of almost every strand of socialist thought - from communists and clerics to academics and activists, from Greens to Labour, from trades unionists and the International Brigades Trust to a plethora of maverick radicals like me.
This demographic and political diversity is appropriate. The Levellers were equally diverse. Those who wore the sea-green colours came from many social classes and espoused many political aspirations. The Diggers originally called themselves The True Levellers. And Henry Denne, in 1649, wrote that “We were an heterogeneal body, consisting of parts very diverse from one another, settled upon principles inconsistent with one another.”
But they united in the common cause.
Today, few of us can argue with any of the demands outlined in the Agreement of the People. And nor did those who organised around it in The Saracen’s Head.
They may have had different emphases, disagreements over detail, more ambitious objectives for the long-term. But in their debates, no-one accused another of factionalism. Such accusations were the tactics of those who would be prominent in the counter-revolution, the Grandees, and the most prominent of their actions is surely the Cromwell’s order and the executions at Burford.
Which is why Levellers’ Day is important. At Burford, on the Saturday nearest to the 17th of May, the broad left can put aside differences and show solidarity not merely with the three martyrs but the commitment of hundreds of thousands of people of all persuasions to the greater good.
We can learn from them.
And if I have one key take-away from the day, it is this from Richard Burgon MP:
“The Tories know what they are doing” he said. “We must be as class conscious as they are.”
Today from the everysmith vaults: I used to love Jacques Loussier’s transcriptions of Bach but seldom play them any more. But I have recently discovered that he has given Erik Satie the same treatment. Playing now are the Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes. Exquisite.