Celebrate England's Glorious Tradition (Of Rebellion!)
Today, April 23rd, is England's National Day - though sometimes you wouldn't know it and I am typing this before going to work - the refusal of the British establishment to grant a holiday on this day perhaps qualifying as a minor example of what the old English rebels used to call the "Norman Yoke". Appropriately for a country of many inflowing races, religious and secular currents and cultures the Saint celebrated was a foreigner and is shared with such places as Georgia, Russia, Portugal, Greece and Catalonia. (Incidentally, the Catalans, I believe, have the delightful tradition of giving their loved one a book and a rose on this day) The day is also the alleged birthday/death day? of England's most famous playwright William Shakespeare, though what can be said about this elusive figure with confidence is a matter of historical controversy.
It seems to me that the National Day of England offers an opportunity to celebrate some of the better political examples of English history and some of the heroes and fighters that offer lessons for today. Ironically many of these are what the current establishment would term rebels and malcontents, even "traitors" - but as a Republican and a seeker of freedom and equality claims of treachery to most of the gangsters and tyrants that have sat on the English and then British throne should probably be seen as a plus point, and at least understandable.
So, from the legendary Robin Hood, who stole from the rich to feed the poor, to John Ball, Jack Straw, and Wat Tyler and the revolting peasants who rose against the first Poll Tax, right through to the Poll Tax rebels of more recent history, there is an honourable history and romantic legends of revolt, rebellion and resistance.
Let us today remember the known and unrecorded fighters who strove for an England that was fairer, more just and more free. Let us remember:
The Peasants' Revolt
John Lilburne and the Levellers
Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers
The Western Rising
William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft
The Corresponding Societies
Jeremiah Brandreth and the Pentrich Rebels
The Suffragettes, particularly Sylvia Pankhurst
The squatters after the Second World War
The Miners' Strike
The Poll Tax Revolt
I'll be celebrating 'em all with a pint of English Ale or Porter and perhaps watching a multinational Mancunian team play a multinational Catalonian one!