USED the BIBLICAL JUBILEE against CAPITALISM, with SOME SUCCESS
“My recent hypothesis that the vuvuzela is becoming the protest instrument of choice for the emerging movement against austerity has received some independent confirmation. Bat020 spotted one on the demonstration outside the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham last weekend.
All of this put me in mind of Peter Linebaugh‘s classic article ‘Jubilating; or, how the Atlantic working class used the Biblical Jubilee against capitalism, with some success‘ first published in the journal Midnight Notes in 1990. In this text, Linebaugh looks at how the Biblical notion of Jubilee as the periodic cancellation of debt and slavery has inspired radical movements through the ages.
And he notes how this is heralded by the sounding of a trumpet: ‘Jubilee. Etymologically, jubilee comes from yobel, a Hebrew word meaning ‘ram’s horn’. Ever since, it’s been associated with music, a horn, a cornet, a trumpet, and later with singing. The cornet descends from the shepherd’s cornu; the trumpet and bugle from the Roman soldier’s buccina; these horns are instruments of gathering and militance.
In the West Indies and the South Sea Islands the spiral conch emits a very large sound. It was used by the Tritons of ancient mythology, and by the Haitian slaves on 21 August 1791 as a call to the war of liberation in the first successful slave revolt of modern history. The first thing about the jubilee, then, is that it is heard’.
Linebaugh quotes from the Bible: “You shall send the ram’s horn around. You shall send it through all your land to sound a blast, and so you shall hallow the fiftieth year and proclaim liberation in the land for all its inhabitants” (Leviticus 25:9-10)
WHEN ABOLITIONISTS UNITE
Uses of Jubilee by British and Americans to Resist Exploitation by Capitalist Advance / by Ross & Gloria Kinsler
“Jubilating; or, How the Atlantic Working Class Used the Biblical Jubilee Against Capitalism, with Some Success” (Peter Linebaugh in The New Enclosures, 84-98) begins with a summary of the biblical jubilee teachings and then explores various attempts by workers, farmers, slaves, and reform movements on both sides of the Atlantic to sing and to apply that vision in their struggles for survival against capitalism over the last 200 years. Understandably, oppressed and impoverished people were largely the ones who found meaning and hope in the jubilee themes of good news to the poor, release to the captives, liberation for the oppressed, and redistribution of the land.
The perceived threat of this message to the structures of power and privilege in the New World, above all slavery, led to the silencing of such preaching and singing, the forbidding of prayer meetings at night, and sometimes hangings. “Yet still African-American Christianity remained a religion of action—shouting, dancing, singing, weeping, jerking, speaking in tongues. The Sabbath and the jubilee remained its theological essence.”(88)
Jamaican Robert Wedderburn, an influential pamphleteer, learned about jubilee from Englishman Thomas Spence, and Spence, outstanding leader in the struggle for the common lands, learned about slavery from Wedderburn. In 1800 Denmark Vesey, born in the Virgin Islands, won the lottery, bought his freedom, and became a leader in the free Black community and in the Methodist Church in the USA. In 1854 William Goodell began publishing The American Jubilee, which called for the abolition of slavery.
“The original accumulation of capital in England was the result of the enclosure of land and imperial trade and conquest. The former turns common lands into private property by the erection of fences or hedges… . Imperialism plunders peoples of other countries and turns them into wage-slaves or slave-slaves.”
Linebaugh calls this “a period of massive theft: between 1801 and 1831 3,511,770 acres of common land were stolen from the agricultural population.”(92) Poor families lost access to grazing land, gleanings from open fields, their cottages, animals, fuel, and hunting grounds.
Thomas Spence wrote and spoke against the enclosures, proposed the abolition of private property, and called for the parishes to take back their rights on an appointed day he called jubilee. He opposed the oppression of “the lordly overclass,” high taxes, inflation, and imperialism. His “agrarian communism … included all capital—the mines, the pit-heads, the canals, the ships, the machines.”(89)
“By the third decade of the 19th Century jubilee was present on both sides of the Atlantic, an idea and a practice common to workers of both the cotton plantation and the cotton factory. It possessed both prophetic leaders and an insurrectionary experience.
Linebaugh summarizes his historical review with these words: “Jubilee expressed liberation against imperialism in the 13th Century B.C. It opposed slavery, landlordship, credit-and-debt, the work ethic, pollution of the earth, and it advised revolution every fifty years.
For several thousand years its meaning was distorted or ignored. With the advent of industrial capitalism the enclosed working class of England and the enslaved African-American working class rediscovered jubilee. They adapted jubilee to freedom and anti-capitalism; they expanded its meaning and gave it bite.” (97)
In the decades to follow … the jubilee tradition grew. In America it concentrated on slavery and found victory in the Civil War. In England it concentrated on land and found power among the Chartists,” who “called for land nationalization.”(95)
JUBILEE as PARTY PROPOSAL
EARNING ONE’S KEEP
MASS DEBT CANCELLATION
in FAVOR of SLAVERY