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(Unsuccessful) Bloody revolution in Barnsley, 1820 & Georgia, 2013: How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?

A story in the Huffington Post, spotted by Occupy Posters (well worth following: ):

Georgia Men Used Facebook To Plot Anti-Government Militia Uprising, Prosecutors Say
Three Georgia men were charged in federal court this week with plotting an attack against the government designed to trigger martial law and encourage other militias to join their violent uprising.

The men were trapped by an FBI informant:

Cannon told an FBI cooperating source on Feb. 8 that the group was planning to “start a fight” with the government by attacking power grids, transfer stations and water treatment facilities, which they hoped would trigger martial law, according to prosecutors. Cannon said he would invite the FBI’s source to a private Facebook group, where plans were being made, according to the government.
Later, on Feb. 15, Cannon told another FBI informant the types of weapons that Peace allegedly wanted. The FBI gave the cooperating informant 12 non-working pipe bombs and two high-temperature thermite devices. The three men met with the cooperating informant, who handed over the thermite devices. The three suspects were arrested as the cooperating informant went to obtain another box of supplies.

So, that’s good: we’ve had quite enough Christian terrorism (or, more precisely, terrorist acts carried out by those purporting to be Christians) over the last century or so.

Occupy Posters took the trouble to track down some of the Facebook posts from the accused:

..which make interesting reading. I was puzzled to start with by Cannon’s term SHTF, but realised it’s when the Shit Hits The Fan. I’m not sure if this is the breakdown of civilisation as we know it, or when the Revolution kicks off, or maybe both/either.
On reading these, however, I was reminded of stuff I’ve just been reading written by English revolutionaries in the early 19th century, in Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class. This was a time when there seem to have been (according to Thompson, at least) groups of disaffected people all over England planning real, bloody revolution with sword, gun and pike. Of course, they never got it together to actually do anything, and, as above, plots were defused by government spies and informers (and maybe provocateurs), as in the Pentridge rising and the Cato Street Plot. There was a real expectation among some people that once the levolution had started, people would join in and make an unstoppable wave – if only people would step up and join in. In Georgia in 2013, Brian Cannon moans:

I am absofuckinglutely sick and tired of all the keyboard commandos that only know how to run their mouths!! Sure they claim to train but what the fuck for? Seriously, why waste the time and energy if you are not willing to do something with that training?
(First link above)

The English revolutionaries had similar problems:

The Barnsley Radicals expected all the north and the Midlands to rise on the same night. They were to proceed to Grange Moor, where they would rendezvous with other contingents, and then proceed:
‘…through Barnsley to Sheffield and on to London. It was said the Scotsmen would be at Leeds as soon as us or not above a day’s march behind us.’
Perhaps 300 assembled, with drums, weapons, haversacks (with three days provisions) and a green flag with black fringe: ‘He that smiteth a man so that he die, shall surely be put to death.’ They were marshalled by two former soldiers, Comstive (a ‘Waterloo man’ and a ‘good penman’) and Addy (who wore the symbolic white hat). They trudged the twelve miles to Grange Moor, picking up small parties on the way, arriving in the small hours to find the rendezvous deserted. After waiting for some time, the rumour of a Government plot spread through the ranks, and they scattered in dismay. For these two attempts, Comstive, Addy, and several others were transported.
[…] On 14 April a weaver, Joseph Tyas, was apprehended near Huddersfield, and in his wife’s cap a letter was found, addressed by him to ‘our brethren in Lankaster Shire’:

Dearly beloved—
We hope you are comeng on pretty well though your Captifeity is painful. . . . Our Musick in Yorkshire as played twise where yours in Lankashire has never struck at all, is your Musicians sick? …
Melancholy, Melancholy, Melancholy Yorkshire, your Reformers stand true. … About 300 at Grange Moor, they marched all night, each man had is Blanket Spare [Spear] or Gon & well filed with ammunition poor Men to be so deceived by short sighted men it would have tuck an afect on your feelings to have seen the brave men stand under their arms all that weet night after a march of 12 miles and Not one Man to meet them according to Apointment all their pike shafts were left on the more the blades taken out except 3 or 4 which was to feast in [too fast in], the poor Men stud with charefull [cheerful] hearts till daylight beating the drums and their breast but no other partity joyned them. All at a loss to know what to do. Return to Barnsley they could no think of but when there was no other prospect they all begain to shed tears Most bitterly with Crys of the most distracted …
‘I hope,’ the letter concludes, ‘that we may all meet in one Body and one Voice yet.. ‘(Thompson pp776-7)

I’m sure I could find a similar sort-of religious piece from around 1820 to match Tony Kinsey’s:

I ask that you [God] be with all the good men, women and children that will stand up in defiance of the wicked rulers and in defense of our Country and the world. I ask that you shield us and those we protect from harm and injury. Give us great speed and accuracy, make us invisible to our enemies and our enemies easily seen. Help us to destroy those that make this world painful and miserable so that one day all hearts will radiate your love freely without constraint.
(Second link above)

– but I had to take Thompson’s book back to the library, so I can’t search for quotes at the moment.

I have some sympathy (at a comfortable distance of 200 years) with the English radicals, and none at all with modern right wing terrorists, but as well as similar laments (better expressed, though with worse spelling, by Tyas than by Cannon), there’s the same underlying problem: the rich grinding the faces of the poor.
That fits with something else I found online. A posting from one of the ‘53%’ (the 53% of US workers who pay Federal tax, according to Mitt Romney in his presidential campaign, and who may see themselves as supporting the rest of the idle, feckless scum who probably voted for Obama), in the genre of posting a selfie holding up a handwritten testament started by ‘I am the 99%’ (fascinating stuff: just do a Google image search for “I am the 99%”: try “53%” and “47%”, too). The text reads (you can see the image in the Daily Kos link below. I can’t find the original, so I’m not able to credit it):

I am a former Marine.
I work two jobs.
I don’t have health insurance.
I worked 60-70 hours a week for 8 years to pay my way through college.
I haven’t had 4 consecutive days off in over 4 years.
But I don’t blame Wall Street.
Suck it up you whiners.
I am the 53%.
God bless the USA!

Which really socks it to the ‘99%’ whiners, but as Max Udargo gently but very effectively points out in his ‘Open Letter to That 53% Guy’: …the statement itself shows the reality of the problem the whiners are on about: is that really what it takes for an ordinary person to get along in the richest country around? And how could you raise a family that way?

And if so, it’s not so surprising that there are people looking for ‘the Second American Revolution’ and thanking God for ‘for the opportunity to kill the bad guys that are wicked and vile’ (Tony Kinsey in the Cory Williamson link above).

As Blind Alfred Reed asked at another difficult time How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?
Best ever modern version: Ry Cooder & Flaco Jimenez: (you can find a Springsteen version on YouTube, too)

DISCLAIMER: I’m not advocating violent revolution here, either in Barnsley or Georgia, and yes, I have checked my privilege, as someone who isn’t a poor man and is living very comfortably in these times, but I think there are fascinating – and worrying – parallels here.

Thompson,EP (1980)  The Making of the English Working Class London: Gollancz

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