November 30, 1795: Babeuf’s Le Tribun du peuple, No. 35
The “Conspiracy of the Equals” of François Noël Babeuf and his associates took place in 1796 and led to their arrest in that year and to the execution of Babeuf in 1797. Thus in 1796 and 1797, along with the mature expressions of a social philosophy justifying absolute monarchy and the group-oriented society of the old regime, there appeared out of the same revolutionary tempering a communist conspiracy. The element of conspiracy was real, although its prospects for success were minuscule; what is perhaps more important in the realm of methods is that Babeuf and his innermost circle of friends took for socialism the idea of dictatorship that they had seen in practice in the revolution. What is most important in the realm of objectives is that Babeuf, at least, was extraordinarily alienated, not only from the society that was being left behind but from that which was emerging in the revolutionary years, and that this alienation took the form of a communist version of equality backed by an extreme moral fervor. Again, it is not the chance of success that counts, or the small number of persons who shared his views, but the crystallization of an idea that was to have a history. Babeuf had arrived at this point at the age of thirty-four or thirty-five, in 1794 or 1795, from a peasant background, from a profes-sion of feudiste before the revolution (a worker in manorial records to justify the income-producing claims of gentry landlords), from a reading of the philosophes, from continually frustrated attempts to hold office in the revolution and spread the idea of the agrarian law (the partition of properties), with poverty and personal difficulties pursuing him, and with a background of periods in jail. That Babeuf passed from the agrarian law to socialism, however, is clear from his newspaper, Le Tribun du peuple ou le dé f enseur des droits de l’homme, par Gracchus Babeuf (Paris, Imprimerie du Tribun du peuple), of which No. 35, dated Paris, 9 frimaire, an 4 de la République (November 30, 1795), has been drawn upon below for the principal passages of its climax, a section called (in the table of contents) “Précis du grand Manifeste â proclamer pour rétablir l’égalité de fait.”
KeywordsMature Expression Social Body Personal Difficulty Organic Depravity Individual Quota
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