Comment: Taborites

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From Rothbard

"The following century, the 14th, brought the first attempt to initiate the KGE, the first brief experiment in totalitarian theocratic communism. This attempt originated in the left, or extreme, wing, of the Taborites, which in turn constituted the radical wing of the revolutionary Hussite movement in Czech Bohemia of the early 15th century.

The Hussite movement, led by Jan Hus, was a pre-Protestant revolutionary formation that blended struggles of religion (Hussite vs. Catholic), nationality (popular Czech vs. upper-class and upper-clergy German), and class (artisans cartelized in urban guilds trying to take political power from patricians). Building on the previous communist KGE movements, and especially on the Brethren of the Free Spirit, the ultra-Taborites added, with considerable enthusiasm, one extra ingredient: the duty to exterminate. For the Last Days are coming, and the Elect must go forth and stamp out sin by exterminating all sinners, which means, at the very least, all non-ultra-Taborites.

For all sinners are enemies of Christ, and "accursed be the man who withholds his sword from shedding the blood of the enemies of Christ. Every believer must wash his hands in that blood." This destruction was of course not to stop short of intellectual eradication. When sacking churches and monasteries, the Taborites took particular delight in destroying libraries and burning books.

For "all belongings must be taken away from God's enemies and burned or otherwise destroyed." Besides, the Elect have no need of books. When the Kingdom of God on Earth arrived, there would no longer be "need for anyone to teach another. There would be no need for books or scriptures, and all worldly wisdom will perish." And all people too, one suspects.

The ultra-Taborites also wove into the reabsorption theme a return to the alleged early condition of Czech communism: a society lacking the sin of private property. In order to return to this classless society, determined the Taborites, the cities, those notorious centers of luxury and avarice, must be exterminated. And once the communist KGE had been established in Bohemia, the Elect must forge out from that base and impose such communism on the rest of the world.

The Taborites also added another ingredient to make their communist ideal consistent. In addition to the communism of property, women would also be communized. The Taborite preachers taught that "Everything will be common, including wives; there will be free sons and daughters of God and there will be no marriage as union of two — husband and wife."

The Hussite revolution broke out in 1419, and in that same year, the Taborites gathered at the town of Usti, in northern Bohemia near the German border. They renamed Usti "Tabor," i.e., the Mount of Olives where Jesus had foretold his Second Coming, was ascended to heaven, and where he was expected to reappear. The radical Taborites engaged in a communist experiment at Tabor, owning everything in common, and being dedicated to the proposition that "whoever owns private property commits a mortal sin." True to their doctrines, all women were owned in common, and if husband and wife were ever seen together, they were beaten to death or otherwise executed.

Characteristically, the Taborites were so caught up in their unlimited right to consume from the common store that they felt themselves exempt from the need to work. The common store soon disappeared, and then what? Then, of course, the radical Taborites claimed that their need entitled them to claim the property of the non-Elect, and they proceeded to rob others at will.

A synod of the moderate Taborites complained: "many communities never think of earning their own living by the work of their hands but are only willing to live on other people's property and to undertake unjust campaigns for the sake of robbing." Moreover, the Taborite peasantry who had rejoiced in the abolition of feudal dues paid to the Catholic patricians found the radical regime reimposing the same feudal dues and bonds only six months later.

Discredited among their moderate allies and among their peasantry, the radical communist regime at Usti/Tabor soon collapsed. But their torch was quickly picked up by a sect known as the Bohemian Adamites. Like the Free Spirits of the previous century, the Adamites held themselves to be living gods, superior to Christ, since Christ had died while they still lived (impeccable logic, if a bit shortsighted)."