“The ‘Communist Manifesto’ of Marx and Engels was written against the background of these communistic ideas which they christened Utopian. The first number of the ‘Communist Journal’, which appeared in London in September 1847, opened with a criticism of Cabet’s projected American colony. So, too, Marx was critical of Babeuf. “To take Babeuf as the theoretical exponent of communism”, he declared irritably on one occasion, “could only have entered the head of a Berlin schoolmaster”. But in 1845 he allowed, accurately enough, the place of Babeuf in socialist thought, and drew the conclusion we might expect. “The most logical communists (in England, the Levellers, and in France, Babeuf, Buonarroti, and so forth) are the first to stress social questions. In ‘Gracchus Babeuf et la conjuration des égaux’ written by Babeuf’s friend and comrade, Buonarroti, we read how these republicans learned by practical experience that, even if such ‘social questions’ as monarchy versus republic could be settled, this would not solve one single ‘social question’ in the proletarian sense of the words”. In the activities of the later Babouvists, particularly of Buonarroti and Blanqui, Marx and Engels saw this original Utopian communism finding, at last, its true proletarian level. In the ‘Communist Manifesto’ Marx and Engels mentioned Babeuf and the legend of Babouvism as the French precursors of their own movement; of the insurgence of proletariat against bourgeois society. (…) And elsewhere Marx admitted more generously than in the ‘Manifesto’ his debt to Babeuf. He wrote: “The French Revolution gave birth to notions which went beyond the ideas of the established state of things. The revolutionary movement, which in 1789, with the ‘Cercle Social’, which found its main representatives in the course of its evolution, Leclerc and Roux, and finished with the conspiracy of Babeuf, gave birth to the Communist notions which Buonarroti, friend of Babeuf, re-introduced into France after the Revolution of 1830. This idea, enhanced by its consequences, is the idea of the new state of things”. And Engels declared that one of the merits of Babeuf was to have drawn the “final conclusion from the idea of equality embodied in the Constitution of 1793″” [David Thomson, The Babeuf Plot. The Making of a Republican Legend, 1975]

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