Peasant Uprisings, 1475-1517

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Peasant Uprisings, 1475-1517

Post by AlbertCurtis on Mon Apr 18, 2011 1:43 am

"Peasant Uprisings, 1475-1517

About fifty years after the suppression of the Hussite movement, the first symptoms of a budding revolutionary spirit became manifest among the German peasants.

The first peasant conspiracy came into being in 1476, in the bishopric of Wuerzburg, a country already impoverished "by bad government, manifold taxes, payments, feuds, enmity, war, fires, murders, prison, and the like," and continually plundered by bishops, clergy and nobility in a shameless manner. A young shepherd and musician, Hans Boeheim of Niklashausen, also called the "Drum-Beater" and "Hans the Piper," suddenly appeared in Taubergrund in the role of a prophet. He related that the Virgin had appeared to him in a vision, that she told him to burn his drum, to cease serving the dance and the sinful gratification of the senses, and to exhort the people to do penance. Therefore, he said, everybody should purge himself of sin and the vain lusts of the world, forsake all adornments and embellishments, and make a pilgrimage to the Madonna of Niklashausen to attain forgiveness.

Already among these precursors of the movement we notice an asceticism which is to be found in all mediaeval uprisings that were tinged with religion, and also in modern times at the beginning of every proletarian movement. This austerity of behaviour, this insistence on relinquishing all enjoyment of life, contrasts the ruling classes with the principle of Spartan equality. Nevertheless, it is a necessary transitional stage, without which the lowest strata of society could never start a movement. In order to develop revolutionary energy, in order to become conscious of their own hostile position towards all other elements of society, in order to concentrate as a class, the lower strata of society must begin with stripping themselves of everything that could reconcile them to the existing system of society. They must renounce all pleasures which would make their subdued position in the least tolerable and of which even the severest pressure could not deprive them.

This plebeian and proletarian asceticism differs widely, both by its wild fanatic form and by its contents, from the middle-class asceticism as preached by the middle-class Lutheran morality and by the English Puritans (to be distinguished from the independent and farther-reaching sects) whose whole secret is middle-class thrift. It is quite obvious that this plebeian-proletarian asceticism loses its revolutionary character when the development of modern productive forces increases the number of commodities, thus rendering Spartan equality superfluous, and on the other hand, the very position of the proletariat in society, and thereby the proletariat itself becomes more and more revolutionary. Gradually, this asceticism disappears from among the masses. Among the sects with which it survives, it degenerates either into bourgeois parsimony or into high-sounding virtuousness which, in the end, is nothing more than Philistine or guild-artisan niggardliness. Besides, renunciation of pleasures need not be preached to the proletariat for the simple reason that it has almost nothing to renounce.

{Of course as it turns out Engels is not correct in the above assessment except in that ANY thing that is NOT in line with his utopia ie Communist world is Bourgeois, reactionary....etc. The masses all these years out still cling largely in the poorer and working sections of town and country to a hard ascetic and thus not only is Spartan or if one wills Stoic manliness not superfluous it is more necessary than every before. Now it is true that the middle to upper middle and upper classes are largely caught up in the consumerist society and its valueless hedonistic 'lifestyle' but that will come to an end when the consequences of world wide wars, empire, and off shored production comes home to roast,and the mighty land of the service economy goes belly up amid plenty in the great race to second world banana republic status -- I predict that asceticism and that fraternal collective action will make a come back big time, as disillusionment and its complementary dissatisfactions set in right good. Anyways back to the history lesson, which Engels does a good job at outlining in the main, if you understand that he has a coded language in which anything 'bad' is merely not in line with his and Marx's totalitarian violently anti-religious, anti-traditionalist view on matters.}

Hans the Piper's call to penitence found a great response. All the prophets of rebellion started with appeals against sin, because, in fact, only a violent exertion, a sudden renunciation of all habitual forms of existence could bring into unified motion a disunited, widely scattered generation of peasants grown up in blind submission. A pilgrimage to Niklashausen began and rapidly increased, and the greater the masses of people that joined the procession, the more openly did the young rebel divulge his plans. The Madonna of Niklashausen, he said, had announced to him that henceforth there should be neither king nor princes, neither pope nor other ecclesiastic or lay authority. Every one should be a brother to each other, and win his bread by the toil of his hands, possessing no more than his neighbour. All taxes, ground rents, serf duties, tolls and other payments and deliveries should be abolished forever. Forests, waters and meadows should be free everywhere.

The people received this new gospel with joy. The fame of the prophet, "the message of our Mother," spread everywhere, even in distant quarters. Hordes of pilgrims came from the Odenwald, from Main, from Kocher and Jaxt, even from Bavaria and Suabia, and from the Rhine. Miracles supposed to have been performed by the Piper were being related; people fell on their knees before the prophet, praying to him as to a saint; people fought for small strips from his cap as for relics or amulets. In vain did the priests fight him, denouncing his visions as the devil's delusions and his miracles as hellish swindles. But the mass of believers increased enormously. The revolutionary sect began to organise. The Sunday sermons of the rebellious shepherd attracted gatherings of 40,000 and more to Niklashausen.

For several months Hans the Piper preached before the masses. He did not intend, however, to confine himself to preaching. He was in secret communication with the priest of Niklashausen and with two knights, Kunz of Thunfeld and his son, who accepted the new gospel and were singled out as the military leaders of the planned insurrection. Finally, on the Sunday preceding the day of St. Kilian, when the shepherd believed his power to be strong enough, he gave the signal. He closed his sermon with the following words: "And now go home, and weigh in your mind what our Holiest Madonna has announced to you, and on the coming Saturday leave your wives and children and old men at home, but you, you men, come back here to Niklashausen on the day of St. Margaret, which is next Saturday, and bring with you your brothers and friends, as many as they may be. Do not come with pilgrims' staves, but covered with weapons and ammunition, in one hand a candle, in the other a sword and a pike or halberd, and the Holy Virgin will then announce to you what she wishes you to do." But before the peasants came in masses, the horsemen of the bishop seized the prophet of rebellion at night, and brought him to the Castle of Wuerzburg. On the appointed day, 34,000 armed peasants appeared, but the news had a discouraging effect on the mass; the majority went home, the more initiated retained about 16,000 with whom they moved to the castle under the leadership of Kunz of Thunfeld and his son Michael. The bishop, by means of promises, persuaded them to go home, but as soon as they began to disperse, they were attacked by the bishop's horsemen, and many were imprisoned. Two were decapitated, and Hans the Piper was burned. Kunz of Thunfeld fled, and was allowed to return only at the price of ceding all his estates to the monastery. Pilgrimages to Niklashausen continued for some time, but were finally suppressed."
Engles is a decent historian, if you accept that he is a fanatic and anti-medieval. He is not telling you this tale to tell you this tale. Objective is not the word. But he is a good source for this subject if these limitations are accepted. Also I have noticed that the website that hosts this material seems to truncate documents to suit their agenda as well, especially the non-Marxist materials that they host. This should be keep in mind as well.


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