[Marxism] Day of the People: Gracchus Babeuf and the Communist Idea

Daniel Koechlin d.koechlin at wanadoo.fr
Thu Feb 21 17:17:52 MST 2013

Babeuf was only one among the many Utopian Communists of the 17th to 
19th centuries. In England, Winstanley was in many regards even more 
forward-looking than Babeuf.

All those figures had many things in common, including a hatred of the 
existing social order and a sense that the dispossesed never had a voice 
of their own. Every time I read Winstanley's "Declaration of the Poor 
and Oppressed People of England" (1647) I feel the voice of the 
disempowered welling up :

 >>"We whose names are subscribed, do in the name of all the poor 
oppressed people in /England/, declare unto you, that call yourselves 
lords of Manors, and Lords of the Land, [...] That the earth was not 
made purposely for you, to be Lords of it, and we to be your Slaves, 
Servants, and Beggers; but it was made to be a common Livelihood to all, 
without respect of persons: And that your buying and selling of Land, 
and the Fruits of it, one to another, is /The cursed thing,/ and was 
brought in by War; which hath, and still does establish murder, and 
theft, In the hands of some over others, which is the greatest outward 
burden, and unrighteous power, that the Creation groans under: For the 
power of enclosing Land, and owning Property, was brought into the 
Creation by your Ancestors by the Sword; which first did murder their 
fellow Creatures, Men, and after plunder or steal away their Land, and 
left this Land successively to you, their Children. And therefore, 
though you did not kill or thieve, yet you hold that cursed thing in 
your hand, by the power of the Sword; and so you justify the wicked 
deeds of your Fathers; and that sin of your Fathers, shall be visited 
upon the Head of you, and your Children, to the third and fourth 
Generation, and longer too, till your bloody and thieving power be 
rooted out of the Land.

And further [...] our hearts begin to be freed from slavish fear of men, 
such as you are; and that we find Resolutions in us, grounded upon the 
inward law of Love, one towards another, To Dig and Plough up the 
Commons, and waste Lands through /England;/ and that our conversation 
shall be so unblameable, That your Laws shall not reach to oppress us 
any longer, unless you by your Laws will shed the innocent blood that 
runs in our veins.

For though you and your Ancestors got your Property by murder and theft, 
and you keep it by the same power from us, that have an equal right to 
the Land with you, by the righteous Law of Creation, yet we shall have 
no occasion of quarrelling (as you do) about that disturbing devil, 
called /Private propriety/: For the Earth, with all her Fruits of Corn, 
Cattle, and such like, was made to be a common Store-house of Livelihood 
to all Mankind, friend, and foe, without exception.

And to prevent your scrupulous Objections, know this, That we Must 
neither buy nor sell; Money must not any longer (after our work of the 
Earth's community is advanced) be the great god, that hedges in some, 
and hedges out others; for Money is but part of the Earth: And surely, 
the Righteous Creator, who is King, did never ordain, That unless some 
of Mankind, do bring that Mineral (Silver and Gold) in their hands, to 
others of their own kind, that they should neither be fed, nor be 
clothed; no surely, For this was the project of Tyrant-flesh (which 
Landlords are branches of) to set his Image upon Money. And they make 
this unrighteous Law, That none should buy or sell, eat, or be clothed, 
or have any comfortable Livelihood among men, unless they did bring Gold 
or Silver in their hands.

[...] Buying and selling is the great cheat, that robs and steals the 
Earth one from another: It is that which makes some Lords, others 
Beggers, some Rulers, others to be ruled; and makes great Murderers and 
Thieves to be imprisoners, and hangers of little ones, or of 
sincere-hearted men.

And while we are made to labor the Earth together, with one consent and 
willing mind; and while we are made free, that every one, friend and 
foe, shall enjoy the benefit of their Creation, that is, To have food 
and rayment from the Earth, their Mother; and every one subject to give 
accompt of his thoughts, words, and actions to none, but to the one 
onely righteous Judg, and Prince of Peace; the Spirit of Righteousness 
that dwells, and that is now rising up to rule in every Creature, and in 
the whole Globe. We say, while we are made to hinder no man of his 
Priviledges given him in his Creation, equal to one, as to another; what 
Law then can you make, to take hold upon us, but Laws of Oppression and 
Tyranny, that shall enslave or spill the blood of the Innocent? And so 
your Selves, your Judges, Lawyers, and Justices, shall be found to be 
the greatest Transgressors, in, and over Mankind.

But to draw nearer to declare our meaning, what we would have, and what 
we shall endevor to the uttermost to obtain, as moderate and righteous 
Reason directs us; seeing we are made to see our Privileages, given us 
in our Creation, which have hitherto been denied to us, and our Fathers, 
since the power of the Sword began to rule, And the secrets of the 
Creation have been locked up under the traditional, Parrot-like 
speaking, from the Universities, and Colledges for Scholars, And since 
the power of the murdering, and thieving Sword, formerly, as well as now 
of late years, hath set up a Government, and maintains that Government; 
for what are prisons, and putting others to death, but the power of the 
Sword to enforce people to that Government which was got by Conquest and 
Sword, and cannot stand of it self, but by the same murdering power? 
That Government that is got over people by the Sword and kept by the 
Sword, is not set up by the King of Righteousness to be his Law, but by 
Covetousness, the great god of the world; who hath been permitted to 
raign for a time, times, and dividing of time and his government draws 
to the period of the last term of his allotted time; and then the 
Nations shall see the glory of that Government that shall rule in 
Righteousness, without either Sword or Spear,

And seeing further, the power of Righteousness in our hearts, seeking 
the livelihood of others as well as our selves, hath drawn forth our 
bodies to begin to dig, and plough, in the Commons and waste Land, for 
the reasons already declared, [...]

Therefore we are resolved to be cheated no longer, nor be held under the 
slavish fear of you no longer, seing the Earth was made for us, as well 
as for you. And if the Common Land belongs to us who are the poor 
oppressed, surely the woods that grow upon the Commons belong to us 
likewise: therefore we are resolved to try the uttermost in the light of 
reason, to know whether we shall be free men, or slaves. If we lie 
still, and let you steale away our Birthrights, we perish; and if we 
Petition we perish also, though we have paid taxes, given free quarter, 
and ventured our lives to preserve the Nations freedom as much as you, 
and therefore by the law of contract with you, freedom in the land is 
our portion as well as yours, equal with you: And if we strive for 
freedom, and your murdering, governing Laws destroy us, we can but perish.

Therefore we require, and we resolve to take both Common Land, and 
Common woods to be a livelihood for us, and look upon you as equal with 
us, not above us, knowing very well, that /England/ the land of our 
Nativity, is to be a common Treasury of livelihood to all, without 
respect of persons.

So then, we declare unto you, that do intend to cut our Common Woods and 
Trees, that you shall not do it; unlesse it be for a stock for us, as 
aforesaid, and we to know of it, by a publick declaration abroad, that 
the poor oppressed, that live thereabouts, may take it, and employ it, 
for their publike use, therefore take notice we have demanded it in the 
name of the Commons of /England/, and of all the Nations of the world, 
it being the righteous freedom of the Creation.

Likewise we declare to you that have begun to cut down our Common Woods 
and Trees, and to fell and carry away the same for your private use, 
that you shall forbear, and go no farther, hoping, that none that are 
friends to the Commonwealth of England, will endeavour to buy any of 
those Common Trees and Woods of any of those Lords of Mannors, so 
called, who have, by the murdering and cheating law of the sword, stoln 
the Land from younger brothers, who have by the law of Creation, a 
standing portion in the Land, as well, and equall with others. Therefore 
we hope all Wood-mongers will disown all such private merchandise, as 
being a robbing of the poor oppressed, and take notice, that they have 
been told our resolution: But if any of you that are Wood-mongers, will 
buy it of the poor, and for their use, to stock the Commons, from such 
as may be appointed by us to sell it, you shall have it quietly, without 
diminution; but if you will slight us in this thing, blame us not, if we 
make stop of the Carts you send and convert the Woods to our own use, as 
need requires, it being our own, equal with him that calls himself the 
Lord of the Mannor, and not his peculiar right, shutting us out, but he 
shall share with us as a fellow-creature.

For we say our purpose is, to take those Common Woods to sell them, now 
at first, to be a stock for our selves, and our children after us, to 
plant and manure the Common land withall; for we shall endeavour by our 
righteous acting not to leave the earth any longer intangled unto our 
children, by self-seeking proprietors; But to leave it a free 
store-house, and common treasury to all, without respect of persons; And 
this we count is our dutie, to endeavour to the uttermost, every man in 
his place (according to the nationall Covenant which the Parliament set 
forth) a Reformation to preserve the peoples liberties, one as well as 
another: As well those as have paid taxes, and given free quarter, as 
those that have either born the sword, or taken our moneys to dispose of 
them for publike use: for if the Reformation must be according to the 
word of God, then every one is to have the benefit and freedom of his 
creation, without respect of persons; we count this our duty, we say, to 
endeavour to the uttermost, and so shall leave those that rise up to 
oppose us without excuse, in their day of Judgment; and our precious 
blood, we hope, shall not be dear to us, to be willingly laid down at 
the door of a prison, or foot of a gallows, to justifie this righteous 
cause; if those that have taken our money from us, and promised to give 
us freedom for it, should turn Tyrants against us: for we must not 
fight, but suffer.

And further we intend, that not one, two, or a few men of us shall sell 
or exchange the said woods, but it shall be known publikly in Print or 
writing to all, how much every such, and such parcell of wood is sold 
for, and how it is laid out, either in victualls, corn, ploughs, or 
other materials necessary.

And we hope we may not doubt (at least we expect) that they that are 
called the great Councel and powers of /England/, who so often have 
declared themselves, by promises and Covenants, and confirmed them by 
multitude of fasting daies, and devout Protestations, to make/England/ a 
free people, upon condition they would pay moneys, and adventure their 
lives against the successor of the /Norman/ Conqueror; under whose 
oppressing power /England / was enslaved; And we look upon that freedom 
promised to be the inheritance of all, without respect of persons; And 
this cannot be, unless the Land of /England/ be freely set at liberty 
from proprietors, and become a common Treasury to all her children, as 
every portion of the Land of /Canaan/ was the Common livelihood of such 
and such a Tribe, and of every member in that Tribe, without exception, 
neither hedging in any, nor hedging out.

We say we hope we need not doubt of their sincerity to us herein, and 
that they will not gainsay our determinate course; howsoever, their 
actions will prove to the view of all, either their sinceritie, or 
hypocrisie: We know what we speak is our priviledge, and our cause is 
righteous, and if they doubt of it, let them but send a childe for us to 
come before them, and we shall make it manifest four wayes.

First, by the National Covenant, which yet stands in force to bind 
Parliament and people to be faithful and sincere, before the Lord God 
Almighty, wherein every one in his several place hath covenanted to 
preserve and seek the liberty each of other, without respect of persons.

Secondly, by the late Victory over King /Charls/, we do claime this our 
pnviledge, to be quietly given us, out of the hands of 
Tyrant-Government, as our bargain and contract with them; for the 
Parliament promised, if we would pay taxes, and give free quarter, and 
adventure our lives against /Charls /and his party, whom they called the 
Common enemy, they would make us a free people; These three being all 
done by us, as well as by themselves, we claim this our bargain, by the 
law of contract from them, to be a free people with them, and to have an 
equall priviledge of Common livelihood with them, they being chosen by 
us, but for a peculiar worke, and for an appointed time, from among us, 
not to be our oppressing Lords, but servants to succour us. But these 
two are our weakest proofs. And yet by them (in the light of reason and 
equity that dwells in mens hearts) we shall with ease cast down, all 
those former enslaving /Norman/ reiterated laws, in every Kings raigne 
since the Conquest, which are as thornes in our eyes, and pricks in our 
sides, and which are called the Ancient Government of /England. /

Thirdly we shall prove that we have a free right to the land of 
/England/, being born therein as well as elder brothers, and that it is 
our equal right with them, and they with us, to have a comfortable 
livlihood in the earth, without owning any of our own kinde, to be 
either Lords, or Land-Lords over us: And this we shall prove by plain 
Text of Scripture, without exposition upon them, which the Scholars and 
great ones generally say, is their rule to walk by.

Fourthly, we shall prove it by the Righteous Law of our Creation, That 
mankinde in all his branches, is the Lord of the Earth and ought not to 
be in subjection to any of his own kinde without him, but to live in the 
light of the law of righteousness, and peace established in his heart.

And thus in love we have declared the purpose of our hearts plainly, 
without flatterie, expecting love, and the same sincerity from you, 
without grumbling or quarreling, being Creatures of your own Image and 
mould, intending no other matter herein, but to observe the Law of 
righteous action, endeavouring to shut out of the Creation, the cursed 
thing, called /Particular Propriety/, which is the cause of all wars, 
bloud-shed, theft, and enslaving Laws, that hold the people under miserie.

Signed for and in behalf of all the poor oppressed people of /England,/ 
and the whole world.

/Gerrard Winstanley
John Coulton
John Palmer
Thomas Star
Samuel Webb
John Hayman
Thomas Edcer
William Hogrill
Daniel Weeden
Richard Wheeler
Nathaniel Yates
William Clifford
John Harrison
Thomas Hayden
James Hall /

/James Manley
Thomas Barnard
John South
Robert Sayer
Christopher Clifford
John Beechee
William Coomes
Christopher Boncher
Richard Taylor
Urian Worthington
Nathaniel Holcombe
Giles Childe, /senior
/John Webb
Thomas Yarwel
William Bonnington /

/John Ash
Ralph Ayer
John Pra
John Wilkinson
Anthony Spire
Thomas East
Allen Brown
Edward Parret
Richard Gray
John Mordy
John Bachilor
William Childe
William Hatham
Edward Wicher
William Tench. /

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