The Diggers

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1. A group begun by Gerrard Winstanley in 1649 during Cromwell's England which called for a total destruction of the existing order and replacement with a communistic and agrarian lifestyle based around the precepts of the early Christians. They called themselves the True Levellers to differentiate them from The Levellers. Opponents insultingly called them the Diggers because they advocated an agrarian return to the land.

The Council of State received a letter in April 1649 reporting that several individuals had begun to plant vegetables on St. Georges Hill in Surrey. Sanders reported they had invited "all to come in and help them, and promise them meat, drink, and clothes." Their intentions were to pull down all enclosures and cause the local populace to come and work with them. They claimed that their number would be several thousand within ten days. "It is feared they have some design in hand."

Fairfax duly arrived with his troops, and interviewed Winstanley and another prominent member of the the True Levellers, William Everard.

Everard was astute enough to see the way in which the wind was blowing and soon left the group. Winstanley, however, true to his convictions remained and complained about the treatment which they received. The harrassment from Fairfax's troops was both deliberate and systematic, including numerous beatings and an arsonous attack on one of the communal houses. The might of the Puritan state was effectively turned against them. They were prosecuted as Ranters, who were sexual revolutionaries.

Early in 1650, hemmed in by harrassment and trouble on all fronts, the movement collapsed and St Georges Hill was vacated, much to the relief of the local freeholders.

2. A radical left-wing guerilla theater group from 1966-68, based in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. The group was formed by former members of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Members included Emmett Grogan (cofounder and leader), Peter Coyote (cofounder), Peter Berg (cofounder), Billy Murcott, La Mortadella, Slim Minnaux, Butcher Brooks, Kent Minault. Billy Murcott named the group after the original Diggers and wrote the first edition of the Digger Papers. These Diggers apocryphally claimed that the original Diggers were so named because they were being killed by the king's men, and were constantly being seen digging graves for their brethren.

They opened stores, fed people, organized concerts as works of political art. Some of their events include the Death of Money Parade, Intersection Game, Invisible Circus, and Death of Hippie/Birth of Free.

The Diggers fed people in the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park in Haight-Ashbury for free. They served a stew made from donated vegetables behind a giant yellow picture frame, called the Free Frame of Reference. People who came for the food were given a two-inch-by-two-inch frame to hang about their neck, called the portable Free Frame of Reference. The Diggers popularized whole-wheat bread with their Digger Bread, baked in coffee cans at the Free Bakery.

They opened numerous Free Stores, in which all items were free for the taking or giving in Haight-Ashbury. The stores were funded by money from local merchants afraid of or supporting the Diggers, who paid a one percent tithe to the Free City Bank. The first free store was called Trip Without a Ticket. They also opened a Free Medical Clinic.

They threw free parties with the Grateful Dead and other rock bands, planned on dates such as the solstice or equinox, with such sights as trucks of naked belly dancers driving through the neighborhood in the afternoon with black conga players, wine, and marijuana.

In their publications, the Diggers coined such phrases as "Do your own thing" and "Today is the first day of the rest of your life".

The Diggers inspired later groups like the Yippies. The Diggers felt that Abbie Hoffman stole many of their ideas without giving them credit.

The Diggers fell apart primarily due to heavy drug use, as most members were addicted to heroin.


References

The Digger Archive

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