To The Diggers of the Late 1640s (first letter)

Dear Fellows,
Lord knows how difficult it must’ve been to get by without money in 17th century England! That demands sympathy right off the top. Of course you’ve all endured much worse than that. I imagine the anger and frustration amongst you — to fight and survive a civil war only to be deprived of the basic means for survival. Well I envy your moment of possibility nonetheless.
Having made a conscious effort to put my nostalgic longing aside (if that’s ever possible), I try to imagine how and if your short-lived community without property could occur today. Could something that radical take hold today without the pre-emptive necessity of a totalizing apocalypse?
How could we exist now without buying, selling and the blind violence of bureaucracy? Our world is a marketplace. It’s called the triumph of liberal democracy.
Does it remind you of anything?
I am amazed that you even tried back then. When troops were sent to investigate, you managed to convince many of them to join you. They had to call back the army. Amazing.
How did it work — even for a couple of years? Most land today that isn’t policed, governed or owned, harbors terrorists and warlords, near-death refugees and exiles. The land is never arable and there is little or no fresh water. There is nothing of recognized value so the law is absent.
You realized there was a choice and you made it. Do we have a choice? Gerrard Winstanley must have helped you make up your mind:
“For surely this particular property of mine and thine hath brought in all misery upon people. For first, it hath occasioned people to steal one from another. Secondly, it hath made laws to hang those that did steal. It tempts people to do an evil action and then kills them for doing it. Let all judge if this not be a great devil.”
I don’t think you cursed his name when the local landowners and clergy kept sending hired thugs to destroy your settlements, rape your wives and daughters, kill your livestock, beat you senseless, and tear up your gardens. After finally deciding to walk away from it all, your love for him endured. You lived more humanely than any of us in those few years. The dignity of true liberty — you savored that to your graves.
jeremy