2012 marked the bicentenary of the protests by Nottinghamshire framework knitters who resorted to direct action in an attempt draw attention to their cause by machine breaking.
Workers’ resistance was directed not simply against particular machines, but also against the factory system as a whole which was seen as a deliberate assault on the textile worker’s independence and bargaining power. Craft workers operating hand powered equipment at home had worked as little or as often as they needed to and could bargain for rates of pay, but new techniques drove down wages.
The Luddite revolt, far from being the first uprising against textile machinery, was arguably the final convulsion from a class of independent craftsmen before they were roped into the living death of the sweat shop.
NED LUDD by Theo Simon of Seize the Day. Sung to traditional tune “The Cutty Wren”
Listen to the folk rock band perform this song at http://www.seizetheday.org on the album The Folk Collection.
“Oh where are you going?” Says Miller to Monger
“We may not tell you” says Johnson to Judd
“We’re going t’mill” says Jack to our Jill
“We’re going to the factory” says little Ned Ludd.
“And what will you do there? Says Miller to Monger
“D’ye swear to tell no one?” says Johnson to Judd
“We’ll break the machinery, improve the scenery,
Meet in the greenery after” says Ludd.
“And how will you break ‘em?” says Miller to Monger
“Stick with us, we’ll show you” says Johnson to Judd
“With pikes and with hammers, with fire & spanners,
To teach ‘em some manners” says General Ludd
“Cos if we don’t break ‘em, our lives they will take ‘em
Our craft, our cottage, our village as well –
No freedom or laughter for those who come after,
But servant and master in a factory hell.”
So the door was kicked in & the frames were all broken
And the owner was woken and raised the alarum,
And the yeoman came riding, but we were in hiding,
The people providing, to keep us from harm…
From Notts up to Lancashire, Yorkshire to Derbyshire,
Eighteen eleven to eighteen thirteen,
Ludd’s army enlisted, and the people resisted
The march of the more-money-making machine.
“How now shall we stop it?” says owner to ruler
“With spies and with soldiers” says Tory to Whig.
“We’ll hang every breaker and Luddite oath-taker,
Transport trouble makers” – and that’s what they did.
Fourteen, hung on a beam.
Ugliest justice that you’ve ever seen.
Fifty in all, who took the long fall
In the rising against the machines
And that made a way for the Age of Wage Slavery,
Hungered and homeless and bowed to the boss
Whose factories killed them & crippled their children,
And all for the worship of profit and loss.
Some call it futility – they say the future will be
What the engine of progress demands.
But Ludd called humanity back to reality:
We weave our destiny with our own hands!
All hands that are ready to hold a line steady,
To pull down the fences, or pull up a crop,
Unlock the laboratory, build a home in the tree tops,
‘Til the driving & never arriving has stopped – STOP!
And some call us vandals & some call us hooligans,
Some call us Luddites, and some rent-a-mob.
But we’re standing up proud & we’re shouting out loud:
“For the sake of our family, let’s finish this job”
And when the job’s done, and the long wars are over
And we’ve all recovered the love in our blood,
Our ancestor’s voices will join our rejoicing
And sing to the memory of General Ludd!
Read more at http://www.ludditelink.org.uk