Comments by readers
09 Jun 09, 9:37pm (about 13 hours ago)
Where is the man for our time who would terrify Westminster and the world in the way Tom Paine did?
clearly the blessed margaret from the apprentice.
to paraphrase: "westminster is not what it used to be"
As you rise, so must you fall
she has seen it all.
09 Jun 09, 9:37pm (about 13 hours ago)
I am in Catford.
09 Jun 09, 9:46pm (about 13 hours ago)
Paine was the greatest practical political thinker and visionary the West has ever produced.
Shame he is largely unheralded in the land of his birth.
The world would have a better place with more Paine and less Marx.
09 Jun 09, 9:47pm (about 13 hours ago)
CatfordLoony lol :)
You should speak to Sarka on the all women government thread - she has put together a cabinet - I'm sure she'd find somewhere for you if you asked her nicely and brought cakes.
09 Jun 09, 9:47pm (about 13 hours ago)
"Round Sperical Objects....!"
"The Meek shall inherit the Earth.... If thats OK with youse Guys and Gals....!"
"The Rich shall not enter the Kingdom.... But if you put in your Claim Forms... we look look favourably on youse.....!"
"Pa Broone says...."He is the man for the Job......!" that is so true....... There are plenty of Public Khazis that need cleaning......!"
The Labour Party, as it is currenlty formatted, is as much use as Fart in a Gale.......
"Confusion say..... A Turd is still a Turd, no matter how many times it is polished...!"
09 Jun 09, 9:50pm (about 13 hours ago)
The world would have a better place with more Paine and less Marx
Those who praise or decry either usually show signs they've read neither.
09 Jun 09, 10:04pm (about 12 hours ago)
Her was a great thinker, a great writer and a very brave man, but in saying
Most compelling of all was Paine's burning desire to meet the arguments of his foes, not with gunpowder or the sword, or haughty bitterness, but with words from Isaiah: "Let us reason the matter together." Both that command and its egalitarian sentiments are badly needed in a Britain bruised by new corruption.
you have to remember that in 1797 he was prepared to advise Napoleon on how to invade and conquer England - Paine wrote a rather creepy letter to Jefferson justifying his actions. Napoleon invaded Egypt instead, and in September 1799, Paine published a plan in a French newspaper for the conquest of the American republic.
When Paine returned to New York in 1802, he was roundly booed - not just for being a religious freethinker as is sometimes said, but also for his shifty politics.
In 1819 Cobbett dug his bones up and brought them back to England, prompting an appallingly vicious epigram from Byron.
Paine is undoubtedly a major figure; but like many intellectuals he was a bit too much in love with power.
09 Jun 09, 10:04pm (about 12 hours ago)
Fond memories of Tom Paine must be kept green in our souls, according to the principle he so powerfully helped to fashion: democracy among the living demands democracy among the dead.
Certainly. We should also remember that Paine viewed the struggle against tyranny as an international struggle. Little has changed since Paine's time. We are still a very long way from social equality. The international ruling elite can only be defeated by an international opposition.
09 Jun 09, 10:12pm (about 12 hours ago)
The Guardian's got it finger firmly on the pulse on this one.
Well, firmly on the pulse of bringing in a load of rent a gob nobodies to talk shite about nothing much at all then claiming to be leading the debate. Fatuous nonsense yet again.
09 Jun 09, 10:38pm (about 12 hours ago)
perhaps the greatest English champion of clean, open, humble government
Good old Tom Paine, who, it is said, fled for France after being warned by William Blake.
So far as English government is concerned, however, the obvious candidate for the championship was Cobbett, who was also a rather more complex and profound thinker. And, in the end, much more influential.
As to Paine's bones; it helps to put the matter in context. He was buried in a corner of a field on the farm he owned in New Rochelle, having been denied burial in hallowed ground (even the Quakers denied their friend). The chances were that his grave would be forgotten and, when the land was sold, ploughed up. Cobbett was doing a fellow countryman, with whom he had fallen out in 1792, a service. As to Byron, the only decent thing he ever did was to deliver a speech on the Luddites, and that was to spite his mistress's husband.
Spare a thought too, for the author of these lines, which have a very topical ring to them now that the IMF looms:
Public debts, which at first were a security to governments, by interesting many in the public tranquility, are likely, in their excess, to become the means of subversion. If governments provide for these debts by heavy impositions, they perish by becoming odious to the people. If they do not provide for them, they will be undone by the most dangerous of all parties; I mean an extensive discontented monied interest. If the men who compose this interest find the old governments not to be of sufficient vigour for their purposes, they may seek out new ones that shall be possessed of more energy; and this energy will be derived not from an acquisition of resources but from a contempt for justice.
It is often forgotten that Edmund Burke has some claim, too, to the admiration of those who honour his antagonist Paine.
09 Jun 09, 10:53pm (about 12 hours ago)
Now are the times that try the electorates' patience.
09 Jun 09, 11:22pm (about 11 hours ago)
he has been effectively silenced by the prevalence of corporate media, but he is well known, his books are available, and his speeches are available over the net, along with a progressive magazine website where you can access lectures, speeches, recommendations &c. and the genius is still alive.his name is noam chomsky.
09 Jun 09, 11:24pm (about 11 hours ago)
lead the debate.
09 Jun 09, 11:40pm (about 11 hours ago)
"The period is now arrived in which either they or we must change our sentiments , or one or both must fall.
And what is a tory? Good God! what is he? I should not be afraid to go with a hundred Whigs against a thousand tories, were they to attempt to get into arms.
Every tory is a coward; for servile, slavish, self interested fear is the foundation of toryism; and a man under such influence, though he may be cruel, can never be brave." Paine. Crisis Number 1.
As much could be applied, today, to all the political paties that express conservative (tory) sentiments, and of course that includes new labour.
Electoral servility to the state through the panopticon of labours' social control and an undemocratic political system. The Electorate as slaves as all will surely be under the high taxes that will be extorted by the governments to pay the rentiers' their interest. Self interest is all that drives these conceited fools who think they can govern with fear, when all that fear is to them is unemployement and no taxpayers money to syphon off.
" But before the irrevocable separation be drawn between us, let us reason the matter together." Paine Crisi Number 1.
09 Jun 09, 11:44pm (about 11 hours ago)
"Where is the man who would terrify Westminster and the world?" That would be Lord Mandy, an unelected man who accumulates power the way humbler mortals accumulate nectar points, and who is at the heart of The Bottler's plans to reinvigorate democracy in Britain. It's enough to make a horse laugh.
09 Jun 09, 11:47pm (about 11 hours ago)
...you have to remember that, in 1797, he was prepared to advise Napoleon on how to invade and conquer England...Napoleon invaded Egypt instead...
And that turned out so well for Old Boney (see, nobody bloody listens).
...and in September 1799, Paine published a plan in a French newspaper for the conquest of the American republic.
Maybe, 23 years on, he could see what the Founding Fathers' project was really about (capitalist oligarchy, not popular democracy).
And he published his plan in a newspaper? (dear, oh dear; you're not going to win that way, are you?).
Still, his writings can still stir and are still relevant. And nobody's 'poifect', as they say in New York (I understand).
...Shame he is largely unheralded in the land of his birth...
US servicemen, based in East Anglia during WW2, raised a fund to erect a memorial statue to Paine in his native Thetford. The local burghers dismissed the offer with something like contempt (a rather thoughtless way to treat the sensibilities of the fighting representatives of Britain's primary ally and arsenal of the Western world, but that's rural district councils for you).
10 Jun 09, 12:00am (about 11 hours ago)
He's still hiding in Afghanistan yes?
10 Jun 09, 12:04am (about 10 hours ago)
How I have longed to hear civilised voices among the howling. This thread has been a tonic. But I fear it is only a nostalgia for an age in which the English imagination was capable of genius. How is it possible in our hyperactive times for a Paine, a Burke, a Blake or Cobbett to gain a purchase on the people's minds? How can a public opinion be formed in this atomised culture in which the entire world is presented on screens in an endlessly shifting bombardment of thirty second packages?
I can think of no figure able to wield the moral authority needed to reveal the truths of the age in ways the people are able to hear. The public intellectual is just another celebrity flitting accross our screens.
10 Jun 09, 12:20am (about 10 hours ago)
For Edmund Burke
"From the part Mr Burke took in the American Revolution it was natural that i should consider him a friend to mankind; and our acquaintance commenced in that ground, it would have been more agreeable to me to have had cause to continue in that opion than to change it." Paine
Burke in citing Dr Price's sermon of the 4th November 1789 denied that the people of England had acquired three fundamental rights:
1st : To choose our own governors
2nd : To cashier them for misconduct
3rd : To frame a government for ourselves
Burke denied these rights existed in the whole; rights resident in the nation. Burke even said:
" the people of England utterly disclaim such right , and that they will resist the practical assertion of it with their lives and fortunes ."
Burke's method to prove his assertion was to quote the declaration of parliament to WIlliam and Mary:
The lords spiritual and temporal , and commons, do, in the name of the people aforesaid (meaning the people of England then living) most humbly and faithfully submit themselves, their heirs, and posterity , FOREVER.
In response Paine wrote:
" There never did , nor can ever exist a parliament , or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding or controlling prosperity to the "end of time", or of commanding forever how the world shall be governed, or who shall, govern it; and therfore all such clauses, acts, or declarations, by which the makers of them attempt to do what they have neither the right nor the power to do, nor the power to execute, are in themselves null and void. Every generation must be as free to act for itself, in all cases, as the ages and geneartions which preceded it." Rights of Man 1
Burke argued for servility and slavishness of the English people, to the crown, to the end of time.
In this country, today it would seem that Burke was correct in his assumption that the Eglish people would resist the practical assertion of a true democracy.
10 Jun 09, 12:29am (about 10 hours ago)
My apologies to my fellow readers.
In my opening quote from Paine I wrote opion when it should read opinion.
10 Jun 09, 7:17am (about 3 hours ago)
...and that the ELECTED might never form to themselves an interest separate from the ELECTORS, prudence will point out the propriety of having elections often: because as the ELECTED might by that means return and mix again with the general body of the ELECTORS in a few months, their fidelity to the public will be secured by the prudent reflection of not making a rod for themselves. And as this frequent interchange will establish a common interest with every part of the community, they will mutually and naturally support each other, and on this, (not on the unmeaning name of king,) depends the STRENGTH OF GOVERNMENT, AND THE HAPPINESS OF THE GOVERNED...
'Common Sense' by Thomas Paine
The 1832 Reform Bill was essentially centred upon doing away with rotten boroughs, where there'd be two MPs representing a small number of persons, and nobody to represent some of the growing cities. It didn't immediately make much difference to the engagement or numbers of people involved with voting. However, it's good point was that it really peeved off the Tories.
Whilst our problem is rotten politicians (not all of them, but far too many of them), and a government representing hardly anyone but themselves.
Resulting in a state that misappriopriates the taxes of those who aren't wealthy enough to dodge them, and then insists those same persons pay for all that's been thrown away, and that it's the fault of the individual if their circumstances decline into need under those arrangements.
That is, we have a State which punishes the victim and not the perpetrator, who in most cases manages to have put themselves beyond justice.
Absolute governments, (tho' the disgrace of human nature) have this advantage with them, they are simple: if the people suffer, they know the head from which their sufferings springs; know likewise the remedy; and are not bewildered by a variety of causes and cures. But the constitution of England is so exceedingly complex, that the nation may suffer for years together without being able to discover in which part the fault lies; some will say in one and some in another, and every political physician will advise a different medicine.
The Common Sense response is to establish a much closer link between the represented and the representative, and to have a law which applies in the same way to every citizen of the land.
(i) If a commoner grabs your wallet/purse - that is an act of assault and theft. You will, however, usually still have your home, job and family security.
(ii) If the government does the equivalent with the filching of your funds - that is your responsibility - even if it causes you to lose your home, job and family security.
Thomas Paine was a restless revolutionary, at a time when revolution was in the air. Our times are very different; but too many of the injustices he outlined between the advantaged and disadvantaged could have been written this week.
However, we can write whatever pamphlets we like, and be sure that they won't take any notice.
10 Jun 09, 7:20am (about 3 hours ago)
Am going to suggest that we should have a series on British radical thinkers from the 17th century on - actually I would like a series just for Paine himself, but I have an awful feeling we only got this one because Obama quoted him.
Incidentally, does anyone know why the Thetford statue of Paine is holding The Rights of Man upside down?
10 Jun 09, 8:38am (about 2 hours ago)
Hero worship again is it?
You could all become heroes if you tried hard enough. If you were to become heroes then people like Biggles and Brown would be finished.
There is a lot to be said for champagne anarchism.
10 Jun 09, 9:06am (about 1 hour ago)
He hurled his quill at the indignity of poverty, the pity of war, unrestrained markets and greedy banks. He did everything he could to prevent the abuse of citizens' rights by governments. He disliked parochialism ("where liberty is not, there is my country", he reportedly told Benjamin Franklin); and he drew from the principle that the earth is common property the conclusion that the most vulnerable in society – especially the young and the old – ought to be guaranteed as of right their fair share of its wealth.
If you change the date from 1832 to 2009 and then ask the question.
Is any of the above still present today?
We need a new Tom Paine and a government that has courage to change our outdated Voting System, reform our Parliament and give us a Constitution. Neither Labour (our present government if you can call it that) or our Government in waiting the Tories will give us that.
Until they do we will continue to see the voting turnout figures continue to fall.
10 Jun 09, 10:30am (2 minutes ago)
People could do worse than elect Craig Murray as MP of Norwich North in the forthcoming by-election.
Anyone who can publish the following on their blog is not afraid to speak the truth: