The Peasants’ Revolt: A Translation for Christmas 2010

The Revolt was precipitated by the government’s heavy-handed attempts to increase taxes and cut public services, in order to repay the debt which had been incurred by the speculative losses of the bankers, who continued to pay themselves massive bonuses. The government actions affected some of the poor more than others and the wealthy, including the bankers, not at all.

After many years of lost opportunity under New Labour, the peasants were frustrated by their lack of social progress. They wanted justice and some measure of equality. The government’s actions caused real anger and frustration.

The first incidents, which presaged the Revolt, were led by students. Their anger had been caused by the rise in student fees. That was a side issue to the main thrust of the government’s proposed cuts, which would have a more immediate and damaging impact on the main body of peasants. Initially, the peasants’ leaders were reluctant to come out in open opposition to the government knowing that their actions, such as a general strike, would inevitably harm the peasants more than anyone else. And have little impact on the wealthy.

However, it was realised that ‘no pain, no gain’ was true for the peasants as well, and the main revolt commenced, initially with small outbreaks in towns and cities across the country, and eventually taking over the capital with the peasants issuing their famous three points:
1. Fair pay – income to be capped at 10 times the annual minimum wage.
2. Fair tax – progressive rates up to 100% for the wealthiest.
3. Fair punishment – British earnings to pay British tax, calculated avoidance to be punished.

The now nervous bankers threatened to leave Britain and therefore stop paying taxes altogether. That only angered the mob more, who greeted them with Anglo-Saxon fervour. The government, also nervous, but pragmatic, made some concessions on all three counts, with the result that some taxes were lost and for some years Britain’s economic growth was hindered.

The most lasting outcome of the Peasant’s Revolt was to show the wealthiest few that the peasants were angry, and, as Wickipedia expressed it, ‘capable of wreaking havoc’. That had an ideological outcome: putting the final nails in the free market coffin, leaving room for what became known as ‘sustainability economics’ to replace it as the new orthodoxy.

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