English Revolution

The split between the New Model Army and parliament was widening, as the former became increasingly radical, particularly the Levellers faction. At the famous Putney Debates, revolutionary ideas (including universal suffrage) were openly discussed. Cromwell swung from revolution to counter-revolution in his attempts to mediate between the propertied parliamentarians and the army. Meanwhile, the stage was being set for the trial, and eventual execution, of King Charles.

With the victory of Cromwell's army at the Battle of Naseby, the first English Civil War came to an end. The defeated King handed himself over to the Scots, hoping to play the New Model Army (likened to a combination of the Soviets, the Red Army and the Bolshevik Party) off against the propertied classes in parliament, who were increasingly worried about this armed, disciplined body of lower-class radicals. Just like after the Russian February Revolution and the fall of the Tsar, England entered into a state of dual power.

After some losses at the hands of the Royalists, Oliver Cromwell and his new army, the 'Eastern Association' (later to become the New Model Army) scored a decisive turning point with a crushing victory at the battle of Marston Moor. But divisions were opening up on the parliamentary side between the radical and conservative elements.

King Charles' patience with his rebellious parliament ran out, and he launched an attempted coup d'état, leading to one of the most famous scenes in English history, with Charles arriving at parliament with a list of names for arrest, only to find "the birds [had] flown" – and leaving empty handed to defiant calls of "privilege!" The city of London was soon in a state of revolutionary insurrection. A fight within the privileged classes had spilled out onto the streets. The masses were in control of the capital. The Civil War had begun.

If King Charles thought Strafford's execution would calm the situation in England, he was dead wrong. Aside from continued opposition from Pym and parliament, the masses were becoming bolder, arming themselves, acquiring revolutionary force, and even starting to worry the more-moderate parliamentarians.

Charles I was determined to enforce his authority in matters of religion and state. His reforms to the church provoked horror and resentment from the people of England, and he exploited loopholes to raise cash through taxes, particularly the hated ship money. Terrible punishment was meted out against anyone who objected. But at the peak of his power, Charles was about to face a fall.

Tune in tomorrow for episode six of Alan Woods' video series on the English Revolution! With parliament suspended, Charles I was determined to enforce his authority in matters of religion and state. His reforms to the church provoked horror and resentment from the people of England, and he exploited loopholes to raise cash through taxes, particularly the hated ship money. Terrible punishment was meted out against anyone who objected. But at the peak of his power, Charles was about to face a fall.

In this episode, Alan describes the escalating conflicts between King Charles and parliament. Charles dissolved parliament several times, culminating in a dissolution that was to last for 11 years. The country was now firmly on the road to war and revolution.

Watch the fourth episode our podcast series, The English Revolution: the world turned upside down. Alan Woods discusses the escalating conflicts between parliament and the machiavellian King Charles, who wanted money to fund various military adventures. These splits at the top were concurrent with a seething discontent at the bottom of society, reflected in the murder of the King’s favourite, the Duke of Buckingham. The outlines of eventual civil war were taking shape. 

Revolutions always start with splits at the top. In episode three of his weekly podcast on the English Revolution, Alan describes the tensions developing between King Charles (and his Catholic wife), firm in his belief in the divine right of kings; and the increasingly powerful English parliament.

In this episode, Alan sets the scene of England on the brink of revolution. The country was facing a profound economic crisis, there was an army of downtrodden poor, and radical religious ideas were taking hold amongst the burgeoining middle classes. Under the surface, these ideas expressed class antagonisms, which were building to a fever pitch as feudalism entered its dying days.