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dissatisfied.  A  price  revolution,  due  to  the  abundance  of  silver,  caused  a  general  dearth.
Besides,  the  masses  of  the  people  in  Bohemia  were  Czechs,  while  the  exploiting  upper
layer,  the  lay  and  ecclesiastical  authorities,  were  Germans.  Therefore  the  class  struggle
here  assumed  the  character  of  a  religious  and  national  struggle  of  the  Bohemians  against
the  Germans  and  the  pope.  In  this  revolutionary  medium,  the  ideas  of  the  English
reformist,  Wycliffe,  penetrated  into  Bohemia.  Jan  Huss  was  the  literary  defender  and
propounder of Wycliffe’s ideas.
Huss  was  born  in  1369,  in  a  well-to-do  peasant  family.  He  was  professor,  and  at  one
time  rector,  in  the  then  famous  Prague  University,  and  also  preacher  in  the  Chapel  of
Bethlehem, where services were held in the Czech language. When the Prague University
took a stand against the forty-five theses of Wycliffe, Huss came to their defence (1409). In
1412,  Pope  John  XXIII,  being  in  need  of  money,  organised  the  sale  of  indulgences  in
Prague.  Huss  came  forth  with  a  heated  sermon  against  the  corruption  of  the  Church,  and
demanded  the  termination  of  the  traffic.  He  also  opposed  ‘miracles.’  In  a  special  treatise,
Huss proved that true Christians needed no miracles, and that true faith was contained only
in the Holy Scriptures. Huss asserted that the Church was only an assembly of the faithful
destined for Heaven, whereby he provoked the hatred of the ruling clique, who saw in the
Church the dominance of the higher clergy.
On  June  6,  1410,  the  books  of  Huss  were  burned,  and  he  was  excommunicated.  In
1414,  the  Church  council  at  Constance  accused  him  of  heresy,  and  though  Huss  declared
that  he  wished  to  receive  guidance  and  instruction  from  the  princes  of  the  Church  as  to
wherein his opinions differed from the Word of God, he was turned over to the authorities
and burned at the stake (June 6, 1415). His ashes were thrown into the Rhine.


(Taborites and Calixtines). The execution of Jan Huss set a revolution afoot in
Bohemia. All the classes of the Bohemian people arrayed themselves against the power of
the pope – for a church reform, and against the Germans – for national independence. In
this nationalist religious struggle the masses of the people revealed their social hatred for
the propertied classes. At the beginning, however, all classes of Bohemia acted in unison.
The slogan of the struggle was the demand for communion under two forms. The rites of
the Catholic Church gave to the layman in communion bread alone, and to the priests bread
and  wine.  The  masses  rising  against  the  privileges  of  the  Church  demanded  equality  in
communion.  ‘A  chalice  for  the  layman!’  –  that  was  the  slogan  of  the  movement.  The
nobility  which  joined  the  movement  used  this  struggle  to  annex  the  lands  of  the  Church;
and  the  clergy  held  no  less  than  one-quarter  of  the  kingdom’s  territory.  The  rich
bourgeoisie saw in the Hussite war also a means of gaining more riches from the clergy and
the  possessions  of  the  German  Catholic  cities  (Kuttenberg,  with  its  famous  silver  mines
The Peasant War in Germany
– 106 –

was the most desirable of all). The nobility and the rich Bohemian bourgeoisie that joined
the  Hussite  movement  formed  the  moderate  party  of  the  Calixtines  or  Utraquists.  Their
centre was the city of Prague. Side by side with this moderate movement, however, there
existed also a democratic one. Its bulk was formed by the peasants who wished to be free
owners of the land, especially after the nobility had appropriated the land of the clergy. The
lower  middle-class  of  the  cities  and  the  proletarians  were  with  the  peasants.  They  were
concentrated in the smaller cities of Bohemia. The democratic elements later began to call
themselves  Taborites  after  the  name  of  their  military  and  political  centre,  the  communist
city of Tabor. The Hussite movement was now headed by a group of communists.
In 1414, the people drove King Wenceslaus out of Prague, after which heretics began to
flow into Bohemia from all parts of Europe.
The  Beghards  and  the  Waldenses  found  in  Bohemia  a  refuge  from  persecution.  The
communists  fortified  themselves  in  Tabor  where  they  started  their  propaganda.  They
declared that the Millennium of Christ had come, that there would be no more servants and
masters,  and  that  the  people  would  return  to  the  state  of  pristine  innocence.  In  various
cities, particularly in Tabor, the insurgents began to organise communist centres. Tabor was
located in the vicinity of gold mines. Commerce and industry flourished there. When the
communists became strong in Tabor they attracted large masses of the people. It is said that
one gathering numbered 42,000 (July 22, 1419). The inhabitants of Tabor called each other
brother and sister, and recognised no difference between ‘thine’ and ‘mine.’ The Taborites
taught that ‘there should be no kings, no masters, no subjects on earth, and that taxes and
duties  should  be  abolished.’  According  to  their  doctrine  there  was  to  be  no  coercion,
everything  was  to  belong  to  all,  and  therefore,  they  said,  he  who  possesses  property
commits  a  mortal  sin.  This  communism,  however,  was  of  a  Christian  nature.  It  was  a
communism of consumption, not production. Every family worked for itself, contributing
its  surplus  to  the  general  treasury.  There  were  among  the  Taborites  the  most  extreme
communists,  who  allowed  no  concessions,  and  denied  the  family.  Those  ‘brothers  and
sisters  of  the  free  spirit’  called  themselves  Adamites.  The  majority  of  the  inhabitants  of
Tabor  and  the  knights,  under  the  leadership  of  Zizka,  launched  a  struggle  against  the
The  communist  community  of  Tabor  was  surprisingly  well  organised.  As  a  military
community it alarmed the German princes for a long while. The Taborites represented the
first regular army, and they were the first to use artillery in battle. That the Taborites could
hold their own for almost a generation is explained by their attention to education, by the
order  and  discipline  in  their  community.  Tabor  fell,  due,  mainly,  to  a  split  among  the
Hussites. The moderate Calixtines, having appropriated the land of the clergy, did not wish
The Peasant War in Germany
– 107 –


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