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'In the name of God, go'

What to do with Parliament? What to do with MPs who have bought and sold properties using taxpayers’ money, who have had their swimming pools cleaned and have even claimed for tons of horse manure on expenses? What to do with an institution that is said to be the cornerstone of the British constitution but whose members are preoccupied with feathering their own nests?

Similar concerns preoccupied Oliver Cromwell, whose statue stands in front of the Commons. In 1653, with the Civil War won, a tyrannical King executed, the rule of Parliament over monarchy irrevocably established and England now a republic known as the Commonwealth, MPs were trying to fix the new system to benefit themselves.

At 11 o'clock in the morning of 20 April 1653, Cromwell led a company of musketeers to Westminster. Having secured the approaches to the House, he addressed the Members in a speech about corruption that is worth repeating in the light of events three and half centuries later:

...It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.
Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter'd your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?
Ye sordid prostitutes, have you not defil'd this sacred place, and turn'd the Lord's temple into a den of thieves by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd; your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse the Augean Stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings, and which by God's help and the strength He has given me, I now come to do.
I command ye, therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. You have sat here too long for the good you do. In the name of God, go!
At Cromwell's signal, Lieutenant-Colonel Worsley marched in with the musketeers to drive out the MPs. The doors were sealed and a wit pinned up a notice outside reading: "This House is to be let: now unfurnished."

Now, this is not 1653 and the revolutionary New Model Army that backed Cromwell’s dissolution is no longer. But history has come a full circle. The parliamentary system of rule that was eventually established (with few people having the vote until 1867) has clearly run its course.

The expenses’ scandal itself reflects a deeper crisis of democracy, where today’s Parliament is toothless and powerless in the face of the executive, who in turn are accountable to powerful corporate and financial interests and not the electorate.

Electing a cleaner, more honest group of MPs would not in itself be sufficient in what has developed into a full-scale crisis of the capitalist political system. It is not inconceivable that a corrupt Parliament becomes an excuse at some stage (especially at a time of social unrest) for direct, authoritarian rule.

What is required is a new, democratic constitution that would transfer power to the people in terms of direct control and ownership of productive and financial resources as well as new forms of more direct representation and participation in political life. If Parliament is to survive, it can only be as part of such a revolutionary transformation of the social system as a whole, in which people themselves are sovereign.

Paul Feldman
AWTW communications editor
12 May 2009
Bruce says:

"In the name of the People, Go" Cromwell evoked the name of God in the eviction of the corrupt M.Ps from Parliament, but it was however his use of the muskets and his godless horses that won the day.

Admittedly, then everything was founded upon faith in predestination and upon a strict religious morality, but running beneath the religious form of Puritanism there was the logic of the historical inevitability of a new class, new form of society and a new way of doing things, and the promise of what was to come. Lets not get carried away, Cromwell was no modern revolutionary as we would recognise today - he was against universal suffrage seeing in it a danger to private property, why should he be for it, it was not in his class interest. He was a bourgeoisie revolutionary, of his time, and for his emerging class, against the rotten corruption of Charles 1, and Feudalism which was stifling society and holding back capitalism not only politically but economically. He was ready and willing to challenge the old forms of rule and society this is something that is often conveniently forgotten by bourgeoisie politicians, the press and their likes especially when it involves ordinary people defending their job or protesting on behalf of the environment, or against globalization, the Miners strike 1984-5 is a good example, its not the way we do things!, its not British!, there always parliament!, undemocratic!, this capitalist system was conceived and birthed through the passion, blood and guts of a civil war the cutting off of a kings head the dissolution of Parliament by force and the dictatorship of Cromwell (dictatorship of the bourgeoisie). Cromwell and the New Model Army, not only politically but in action as well, carried the progressive layers of society or rather was carried, and swept along by them and sometimes over taken by events.

The civil war unleashed the new bourgeois society, but at the more radical end, the levellers (communist) working class tendencies were let out of the bag of history. Cromwell was forced in the end to Clip the wings, of this immature and historically not yet ready force. but it did grow up some what, through the experiences of the chartist movement and after many years of bitter struggle won, the right to universal suffrage, trade unions and parliamentary representation, as is said in the blog, "Now, this is not 1653 and the revolutionary New Model Army that backed Cromwell's dissolution is no longer. But history has come a full circle. The parliamentary system of rule that was eventually established (with few people having the vote until 1867) has clearly run its course".

Now, voting and parliament does not satisfy the needs and wants of the majority of ordinary people any more, and certainly not in the ways that it did. And because of the bailing out the banks and the crisis of capitalism it will have to destroy any rights that remain, Capitalism has evolved to live on the best possible terms with democracy and has control of the state and parliament (the apparatus of democracy) and it has, now become the instrument of global capitalism and transnational corporations.

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