When you think of the protestants, anarchist politics might not spring to mind. But for the 17th century diggers, direct action was a divine mandate. Planting vegetables on public land as food prices surged, they sought to create a new sort of economy, one that advanced collaboration and equity in a fundamental sense. Their calls for land redistribution quickly irked local landowners, who called on the army to intervene. The anti-gentrification movement of their time, they suffered beatings, attacks from local gangs, and arson attempts -- all at the behest of the lords and landowners who were right then busily enclosing and privatizing public land. As these relentless attacks carried on, the diggers split off and were ultimately evicted. But their legacy continues.
Fast forward 3 centuries, to the 1960’s, and the Diggers in San Francisco were distributing free food to the people who needed it. As Danny Goldberg reminds us in his book, In Search of the Lost Chord, the diggers participated in the Be-In’s that took place 50 years ago this summer. Inspired by the 17th century radical Brits, they didn’t believe in money or commercialism - and they also provided free legal aid and a healthcare clinic that’s still around today. The same period saw the Panthers run free breakfast, health, and dental clinics. An integral part of their plan to meet peoples’ needs while changing the world. Which all leads me back to New Economics. For the first diggers it was a spade, for the second a spoon; what’s our new politics serving up for the people today?