The Digger Concept of ‘Free’ by Peter Coyote + Diggers fed the masses + The Diggers Songs

1960s: Days of Rage by-peter-coyote/ shared with thanks February 16, 2022

“The original Digger movement began in England in April of 1649. Oliver ‘Ironsides’ Cromwell, executioner of King Charles I, was now the protector of the empire.

Cromwell had participated in the great insurgency that established constitutional monarchy in Britain.

For many of his followers, however, this was not enough.

Gerrard Winstanley, a London cloth merchant and dissenting Christian, published a pamphlet, ‘Truth Lifting up Its Head Above the Scandals’, which established what became the basic principles of anarchy: that power corrupts; private property and freedom are mutually exclusive; and only in a society without rulers can people be free to act according to their consciences.

His pamphlet The Law of Freedom in a Platform was dedicated to Cromwell. …


The Digger Free Store

The San Francisco Diggers originated in the conjunction of the visionary acuity of Billy Murcott, a reclusive childhood friend of Emmett Grogran’s, and Emmett’s own genius as an actor and his flair for public theater.

Billy had intuited that people had internalized cultural premises about the sanctity of private property and capital so completely as to have become addicted to wealth and status; the enchantment ran so deep and the identity with job was so absolute as to have eradicated inner wildness and personal expression not condoned by society. …

From the Digger perspective, ideological analysis was often one more means of delaying the action necessary to manifest an alternative.

Furthermore, ideological perspectives always devalue individuals and serve as the justification to sacrifice them when the ideology is threatened.

As a case in point, consider Robert McNamara, sacrificing a generation of youth in Vietnam after concluding that the war was pointless, because he did not want to tarnish the dignity of the nation’s leaders by criticizing them.

We used to joke among ourselves that the Diggers would be ‘put up against the wall’ not by the FBI or other forces of domestic oppression but by our peers on the Left who would readily sacrifice anyone who created impediments to their power and authority. …”
Found SF (Video)

Diggers fed the masses with ‘free’ as their mantra

Jonathan Kauffman San Francisco Chronicle

March 10, 2017Updated: Jan. 19, 2018 10:24 a.m.

Comments

One day in October 1966, freaks on Haight Street found themselves clutching mimeographed flyers that some unknown passerby had pressed into their hands. It read: “Free food. Good hot stew. Ripe tomatoes. Fresh fruit. Bring a bowl and spoon to the Panhandle at Ashbury Street. 4PM 4PM 4PM 4PM. Free food everyday free food. It’s free because it’s yours.”

Irene Deneb

The organizers of the feast called themselves, informally, the Diggers. The good hot stew they dished out that day marked the start of 18 months of a righteous — in both the straight and hip senses of the term — movement to feed, clothe and house the youth showing up in San Francisco with dreams of joining the Love Generation and no practical sense of how to survive the experience.

186 Comments

shemanic1

8 years agoOf course they were neither capitalist nor communists nor socialists in the modern sense, for such words and ideologies were not yet coined.  But nor were they English nationalists or racialists.  Clearly this is about class war, as it took place in pre-industrial feudal societies.  But yes, there is stuff here to inspire modern folk who love freedom.

*********

A few months before, the Diggers had splintered off from the San Francisco Mime Troupe. They called themselves “life-actors,” determined to take their theater into the crowds and erase the distance between the Love Generation’s ideals and its actions.

Diggers giving out food in Golden Gate Park.
Diggers giving out food in Golden Gate Park.© Jim Marshall Photography LLC

“There was no structure, there was no leader,” Digger member Peter Coyote explained to French filmmakers three decades later in the 1998 documentary “San Francisco Diggers.” “There was no ideology except do your thing, do it anonymously and do it for free.”

The Diggers were funny and profane. They lashed out at anyone who attempted to define or co-opt them. They were also among the first to realize the Haight-Ashbury was growing out of control. In the months leading up to the Summer of Love, they called for the city and the Haight Independent Proprietors to prepare for the floods of aspiring hippies. When their concerns were dismissed, they took charge.

Emmett Grogan, one of the original Diggers, printed those first flyers advertising free food. Dozens of his compatriots joined him in the effort, the duties passing from person to person organically, a triumph of principled anarchism.

Chronicle columnist Ralph J. Gleason called the Diggers the city’s “true peace corps.” Rev. Leon Harris of the Episcopal Church of All Saints in the Haight, who offered them a kitchen and office space, called them the “executive branch of the hippie movement.”

A Hippie woman sits next to an amplifier.
A Hippie woman sits next to an amplifier.© Jim Marshall Photography LLC

Early in the mornings, a crew of people (usually women, Coyote later acknowledged) would make the rounds of the Wholesale Produce Market, asking for discards. They’d load up their trucks with spotted lettuce and soft tomatoes. Some supplies were acquired through more unconventional means. One Digger was arrested for skinning a deer someone had found by the side of a road. Another reportedly raided butcher trucks making restaurant deliveries.

Then the Diggers would set up their vats in the park every afternoon, dishing out food for up to a few hundred people. As the Summer of Love kicked off, they began baking “Digger bread,” conical loaves of whole wheat bread made in coffee cans, to distribute as well.

A few weeks into the effort, they began standing a giant yellow frame next to the food. If you wanted to eat, you had to first step through this “Free Frame of Reference.” The act was meant to remind people: The food was free. You were free.

“Free” was the Diggers’ mantra. They set up a series of “free stores,” where they would collect clothing for anyone to take. They set up crash pads to offer free shelter to new arrivals. They threw orgiastic parties for the public and tried, at least for a few weeks, to convert a hotel into free housing.

Summer of Love

The free meals petered out after October 1967, when the Diggers marked the end of the Summer of Love with a riotous funeral march down Haight Street commemorating the “The Death of Hippie.” Soon after, the Diggers renamed themselves the Free Family, dispersing to communes and cabins all over Northern California.

Yet they inspired people all over the country. Free stores appeared in New York and Minneapolis. Groups calling themselves “Diggers” were spotted in Utah and Wyoming. Decades afterward, the Diggers’ ideals made their way into actions like Food Not Bombs and San Francisco’s Really Really Free Market. The ideas were free, after all. They were yours.

Written By Jonathan Kauffman

The World Turned Upside Down     Credits: Leon Rosselson; arranged by Seamus Egan, Karan Casey & John Anthony     Appears On: Songlines     Language: English    

Lyrics:

In sixteen forty-nine to Saint George’s Hill
A ragged band they called the Diggers came to show the people’s will
They defied the landlords, they defied the law
They were the dispossessed, reclaiming what was theirs

“We come in peace,” they said, “to dig and sow
We come to work the land in common and to make the waste ground grow
This earth divided we will make whole
So it can be a common treasury for all

The sin of property we do disdain
No man has any right to buy and sell the earth for private gain
By theft and murder they steal the land
Now everywhere the walls rise up at their command

They make the laws to chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven or they damn us into hell
We will not worship the god they serve
They god of greed who feeds the rich while poor folk starve

We work, we eat together, we need no swords
We will not bow to the masters or pay rent to the lords
Still we are free men though we are poor
You Diggers all, stand up for glory, stand up now”

From the men of property the order came
They sent the hired men and troopers to wipe out the Diggers’ claim
Tear down their cottages, destroy their corn
They were dispersed, but still the vision carries on

You poor, take courage, you rich, take care
This earth was made a common treasury for everyone to share
All things in common, all people one
We come in peace, the order came to cut them down

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