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various provinces.
The  analogy  with  the  movement  of  1848–50  is  here  also  apparent.  In  1848  as  in  the
Peasant War, the interests of the opposition classes clashed with each other and each acted
of  its  own  accord.  The  bourgeoisie,  developed  sufficiently  not  to  tolerate  any  longer  the
feudal and bureaucratic absolutism, was not powerful enough to subordinate the claims of
other classes to its own interests. The proletariat, too weak to be able to count on skipping
the  bourgeois  period  and  immediately  conquering  power  for  itself,  had,  still  under
absolutism, tasted too well the sweetness of bourgeois government, and was generally far
too developed to identify for one moment its own emancipation with the emancipation of
the bourgeoisie. The mass of the nation, small bourgeois artisans and peasants, were left in
the  lurch  by  their  nearest  and  natural  allies,  the  bourgeoisie,  because  they  were  too
revolutionary,  and  partly  by  the  proletariat  because  they  were  not  sufficiently  advanced.
Divided  in  itself,  this  mass  of  the  nation  achieved  nothing,  while  opposing  their  fellow
opponents  on  the  right  and  the  left.  As  to  provincial  narrow-mindedness,  it  could  hardly
have been greater in 1525 among the peasants than it was among the classes participating
in  the  movement  of  1848.  The  hundred  local  revolutions  as  well  as  the  hundred  local
reactions  following  them  and  completed  without  hindrance,  the  retention  of  the  split  into
numerous small states – all this speaks loud enough indeed. He who, after the two German
revolutions,  of  1525  and  1848,  and  their  results,  still  dreams  of  a  federated  republic,
belongs in a house for the insane.
Still,  the  two  revolutions,  that  of  the  Sixteenth  Century  and  that  of  1848–50,  are,  in
spite  of  all  analogies,  materially  different  from  each  other.  The  revolution  of  1848
bespeaks, if not the progress of Germany, the progress of Europe.
Who profited by the revolution of 1525? The princes. Who profited by the revolution
of 1848? The big princes, Austria and Prussia. Behind the princes of 1525 there stood the
lower  middle-class  of  the  cities,  held  chained  by  means  of  taxation.  Behind  the  big
provinces  of  1850,  there  stood  the  modern  big  bourgeoisie,  quickly  subjugating  them  by
means of the State debt. Behind the big bourgeoisie stand the proletarians.
The revolution of 1525 was a local German affair. The English, French, Bohemians and
Hungarians had already gone through their peasant wars when the Germans began theirs. If
Germany  was  decentralised,  Europe  was  so  to  a  much  greater  extent.  The  revolution  of
1848 was not a local German affair, it was one phase of a great European movement. The
moving forces throughout the period of its duration were not confined to the narrow limits
of  one  individual  country,  not  even  to  the  limits  of  one-quarter  of  the  globe.  In  fact,  the
countries  which  were  the  arena  of  the  revolution  were  least  active  in  producing  it.  They
The Peasant War in Germany
– 89 –

were more or less unconscious raw materials without will of their own. They were molded
in the course of movement in which the entire world participated, a movement which under
existing  social  conditions  may  appear  to  us  as  an  alien  power,  but  which,  in  the  end,  is
nothing but our own. This is why the revolution of 1848–50 could not end in the way that
the revolution of 1525 ended.


The Peasant War in Germany
– 90 –

The Twelve Articles of the Peasants

The  fundamental  and  correct  chief  articles  of  all  the  peasants  and  of  those  subject  to
ecclesiastical lords, relating to these matters in which they feel themselves aggrieved.


cccc, quadratum, Ix et duplicatum


cum transit, christiana secta peribit.
Peace to the Christian Reader and the Grace of God through Christ.
There  are  many  evil  writings  put  forth  of  late  which  take  occasion,  on  account  of  the
assembling  of  the  peasants,  to  cast  scorn  upon  the  gospel,  saying:  Is  this  the  fruit  of  the
new  teaching,  that  no  one  should  obey  but  all  should  everywhere  rise  in  revolt  and  rush
together to reform or perhaps destroy altogether the authorities, both ecclesiastic and lay?
The  articles  below  shall  answer  these  godless  and  criminal  fault-finders,  and  serve  in  the
first place to remove the reproach from the word of God, and in the second place to give a
Christian excuse for the disobedience or even the revolt of the entire Peasantry. In the first
place the Gospel is not the cause of revolt and disorder, since it is the message of Christ,
the promised Messiah, the Word of Life, teaching only love, peace, patience and concord.
Thus,  all  who  believe  in  Christ  should  learn  to  be  loving,  peaceful,  long-suffering  and
harmonious. This is the foundation of all the articles of the peasants (as will be seen) who
accept the Gospel and live according to it. How then can the evil reports declare the Gospel
to  be  a  cause  of  revolt  and  disobedience?  That  the  authors  of  the  evil  reports  and  the
enemies of the Gospel oppose themselves to these demands is due, not to the Gospel, but to
the Devil, the worst enemy of the Gospel, who causes this opposition by raising doubts in
the  minds  of  his  followers,  and  thus  the  word  of  God,  which  teaches  love,  peace  and
concord,  is  overcome.  In  the  second  place,  it  is  clear  that  the  peasants  demand  that  this
Gospel  be  taught  them  as  a  guide  in  life  and  they  ought  not  to  be  called  disobedient  or
disorderly.  Whether  God  grant  the  peasants  (earnestly  wishing  to  live  according  to  His
word) their requests or no, who shall find fault with the will of the Most High? Who shall
meddle  in  His  judgments  or  oppose  his  majesty?  Did  be  not  hear  the  children  of  Israel
when they called upon Him and saved them out of the hands of Pharaoh? Can He not save
His own to-day? Yes, He will save them and that speedily. Therefore, Christian reader, read
the following articles with care and then judge. Here follow the articles:
The  First  Article.  –  First,  it  is  our  humble  petition  and  desire,  as  also  our  will  and
resolution, that in the future we should have power and authority so that each community
should choose and appoint a pastor, and that we should have the right to depose him should
he conduct himself improperly. The pastor thus chosen should teach us the Gospel pure and
simple, without any addition, doctrine or ordinance of man. For to teach us continually the
true faith will lead us to pray God that through His grace this faith may increase within us
The Peasant War in Germany
– 91 –


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