Ye Are Many, They Are Few!
The Peterloo Massacre
Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many, they are few!
Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote his poem “The Masque of Anarchy”, from which the above quotation is taken, in response to the Peterloo Massacre, which took place at St. Peter’s field, Manchester on the 16th of August 1819. Cavalry soldiers of the government charged a crowd of 60,000 citizens who were peacefully assembled to ask for better representation in Parliament. They were suffering from unemployment and from famine produced by the Corn Laws. The cavalry slashed down hundreds of the protesters with their sabres. including women and children. Shelley’s poem advocating nonviolent resistance to tyranny was an inspiration to Thoreau, Tolstoy and Gandhi.
How do elites keep their monopoly on wealth and power?
In a democracy, the power of judging and controlling governmental policy is supposed to be in the hands of the people.
This book tries to address the question of how oligarchs maintain their grasp on an excessive share of wealth and power when, as Shelley points out, the have-nots are many, while the powerholders are few. In trying to answer this question, it is interesting to look at the lives of some of the heroic figures who sympathized with the suffering of the poor and who have tried to make the world more equal. Out of the many possible choices, I have focused on Voltaire, Rousseau, John Locke, Joseph Johnson, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, the Marquis de Condorcet, William Blake, Thomas Paine, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Robert Owen, Henry David Thoreau, Count Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Why did British aristocrats support Hitler?
One of the chapters in this book examines the question of why so many members of the British “establishment” supported Hitler’s rise to power. The evidence presented in the chapter points to the conclusion that they did so out of fear that the Russian revolution, or a similar socialist movement, would be repeated in the west, and that it would lead to a more equal society, thus robbing them of their power and wealth.
The recent worldwide protests following the murder of George Floyd have focused attention on the injustice of racism. Chapter 11 examines some horrifying historical examples.
Secrecy versus democracy
Can a government, many of whose operations are secret, be a democracy? Obviously this is impossible.
In a democracy, the power of judging and controlling governmental policy is supposed to be in the hands of the people. It is completely clear that if the people do not know what their government is doing, then they cannot judge or control governmental policy, and democracy has been abolished.
John Scales Avery