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Gracchus Babeuf, considered by posterity as the head of the “first active communist party” (Marx 1845), never claimed to be a communist. And yet this word appeared in political vocabulary in 1795. But even in 1796, Babeuf still spoke at the most of “communitism,” of real equality, and of founding a society of co-partners. The expression of “common happiness,” which is found everywhere in his writing, is ambiguous in itself. To search the reason for this choice of words equals questioning the very approach of the “people’s tribune”: did he tactically avoid taking over a word used by other activists of his time, in order not to divide the fighters for equality? Or did he aim at something different from what the nineteenth and twentieth century called communism? What was Babeuf’s philosophy?
Coming from a poor family, the young man remains a feudist until the Revolution abolished feudal right. It is therefore, according to his own words, “in the dust of the seigniorial archives” that he...
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