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Babeuf: the first communist?

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yoda's walking stick
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Jul 29 2011 21:30
Babeuf: the first communist?

How would you describe Babeuf's politics?

Was he a communist, or did he completely lose his head? (I'm sorry. I can't help myself.)

Samotnaf
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Jul 30 2011 03:53

There were plenty of "communists" before Babeuf: from Spartacus onwards, via the English peasants revolt of 1381, the Bretheren of the Free Spirit, the social movements at the time of the English Civil War (Diggers, Ranters, etc) and so on; even in France, Jacques Roux was a bit before Babeuf, as were others.

You constantly ask questions, but it's not clear what you want to do with the responses (the "demonising the cops" thread left you silent after the first page or so). When I was in my 20s I often got into question mode because i had nothing to say really, but wanted to give the appearance of being interested/interesting. In fact, they were often a way of avoiding stating what i thought myself, because i was a bit anxious of being knocked down for it. The questions were just questioning for its own sake, without any goal in mind at all (not saying one should always have a clear goal, but some idea of an aim other than vague curiosity is essential if you're serious about your desire to contribute to your liberation and the liberation of humanity; some notion of an experimental strategy has to be behind your questioning). The cops thread at least developed into something interesting, but I doubt that this one will. So, again, why do you ask? And again, why do you ask so many questions before stating your point of view ?

yoda's walking stick
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Jul 30 2011 04:03

Isn't it obvious? I believe most of the people in this forum are better read than I am. When it comes to economic politics I respect their opinion. I like to see the spectrum of debate and see whose argument I most sympathize with.

I got about halfway through R.B. Rose's biography of Babeuf but put it down because it was too dry. I'm wondering if he's an important enough figure that it's worth trudging through, or if I could get by with specific bullet points from his life that could serve as useful lessons.

Not to be rude, but if my threads bother you, perhaps you shouldn't post in them.

Samotnaf
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Jul 30 2011 04:23

I've never found avoiding things that bothered me a useful way of dealing with what bothers me; on the contrary, the more I avoid, the more I'm bothered.

yoda's walking stick
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Jul 30 2011 04:37

I'd say you're too easily bothered then, if my posting threads on a forum has you worked up. Perhaps you should be thinking more of your "your desire to contribute to...the liberation of humanity" as you put it with grandiose condescension. Perhaps that would put my faults in perspective. wink

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Tojiah
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Jul 30 2011 04:38

You don't act like you think highly of people in this forum. In fact most of the time you shoot other people's opinions down. It frankly comes off as attention grabbing, more than anything else.

yoda's walking stick
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Jul 30 2011 04:39

Oh, I actually do think quite highly of a number of the people on this forum, a small minority, not so much. smile

LBird
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Jul 30 2011 07:30
yoda's walking stick wrote:
Babeuf: the first communist?

As Samotnaf has correctly pointed out, there were plenty of others before Gracchus Babeuf who we can consider to have been the forerunners of Communism (including the Gracchi?), but his 'Conspiracy of the Equals' was the first real Communist movement which had learnt the central political lesson of the French Revolution.

That is, that the Liberal dream of 'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity' can only be realised by the abolition of private productive property. Only when L E & F applies to all humans, not just a rich few, will the promise of the Revolution be realised.

yoda's walking stick wrote:
I got about halfway through R.B. Rose's biography of Babeuf but put it down because it was too dry. I'm wondering if he's an important enough figure that it's worth trudging through, or if I could get by with specific bullet points from his life that could serve as useful lessons.

My real comment to you though, yoda, is a methodological one. I'd advise against reading biographies when trying to really understand social history. Babeuf is important because of the times in which he lived, the events that occurred, the ideas that were generated, and his part in them and being influenced by them, rather than him as a personality.

This doesn't mean, of course, you can't read biographies (I do all the time), but that it's usually social and structural characteristics that tell us more about history. Really, biography only really makes sense after one has an understanding of the historiography.

The really 'important enough figures' are classes, not individuals.

From this point of view, the 'political individuals' of history only come alive when placed in a 'socio-economic' context. Only then can one understand their choices of action, the limits of those choices, why they were compelled to take courses of action that we wouldn't have given our later knowledge, why 'atrocities' were committed, etc.

There's more to history than 'good' or 'evil' individuals. Context not morality, understanding not condemnation.

working class
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Jul 30 2011 21:44

One thing about Bebeuf was that he was a vanguardist. Babeuvism is similar in many ways to the barracks communism criticised by Marx on many occasions, as well as latter day ideologies like Bolshevism. Babeuf thought that the revolutionary transition to communism would be achieved by conspiratorial vanguards and did not consider the working class as the agent of revolutionary change.