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and for a suitable payment.
The  Eighth  Article.  –  In  the  eighth  place,  we  are  greatly  burdened  by  holdings  which
cannot  support  the  rent  exacted  from  them.  The  peasants  suffer  loss  in  this  way  and  are
ruined, and we ask that the lords may appoint persons of honour to inspect these holdings,
and  fix  a  rent  in  accordance  with  justice,  so  that  the  peasants  shall  not  work  for  nothing,
since the labourer is worthy of his hire.
The Ninth Article.  –  In  the  ninth  place,  we  are  burdened  with  a  great  evil  in  the  constant
making of new laws. We are not judged according to the offense, but sometimes with great
ill will, and sometimes much too leniently. In our opinion we should be judged according
to the old written law so that the case shall be decided according to its merits, and not with
The  Tenth  Article.  –  In  the  tenth  place,  we  are  aggrieved  by  the  appropriation  by
individuals of meadows and fields which at one time belonged to a community. These we
will  take  again  into  our  own  hands.  It  may,  however,  happen  that  the  land  was  rightfully
purchased.  When,  however,  the  land  has  unfortunately  been  purchased  in  this  way,  some
brotherly arrangement should be made according to circumstances.
The Eleventh Article. – In the eleventh place we will entirely abolish the due called Todfall
(that  is,  heriot)  and  will  no  longer  endure  it,  nor  allow  widows  and  orphans  to  be  thus
shamefully  robbed  against  God’s  will,  and  in  violation  of  justice  and  right,  as  has  been
done  in  many  places,  and  by  those  who  should  shield  and  protect  them.  These  have
disgraced and despoiled us, and although they had little authority they assumed it. God will
suffer this no more, but it shall be wholly done away with, and for the future no man shall
be bound to give little or much.
Conclusion. – In the twelfth place it is our conclusion and final resolution, that if any one
or more of the articles here set forth should not be in agreement with the word of God, as
we think they are, such article we will willingly recede from when it is proved really to be
against the word of God by a clear explanation of the Scripture. Or if articles should now
be conceded to us that are hereafter discovered to be unjust, from that hour they shall be
dead and null and without force. Likewise, if more complaints should be discovered which
are  based  upon  truth  and  the  Scriptures  and  relate  to  offenses  against  God  and  our
neighbour,  we  have  determined  to  reserve  the  right  to  present  these  also,  and  to  exercise
ourselves  in  all  Christian  teaching.  For  this  we  shall  pray  God,  since  He  can  grant  these,
and He alone. The peace of Christ abide with us all.
The Peasant War in Germany
– 94 –

Comments by D. Riazanov

Four  hundred  years  have  passed  since  the  great  Peasant  War  in  Germany.  It  differs  from
similar  peasant  uprisings  of  the  Fourteenth  Century  in  Italy,  France  and  England,  in  that
these uprisings were of a more or less local character and were directed against the money
economy  then  in  the  process  of  development,  while  the  Peasant  War,  unfolding  in  the
epoch of early capitalism which was creating a world market, was intimately related to the
events  of  the  Reformation.  This  more  complex  historic  background,  compared  with  the
background  of  the  Fourteenth  Century,  rendered  more  complex  the  class  grouping  whose
struggle determined the whole course of the Peasant War. The role of proletarian elements
also becomes more pronounced compared with earlier uprisings.
It was natural that, with the growth of a democratic movement in Germany, especially
after  the  July  Revolution  in  France,  attention  should  be  directed  towards  the  study  of  the
great Peasant War. A series of popular brochures and works examining individual phases of
the  movement  made  their  appearance,  and  in  1841  there  was  published  the  monumental
work  of  [Wilhelm]  Zimmermann,  which,  to  the  present  time,  remains  the  most  detailed
narrative of the events of the Peasant War in Germany.
It  was  also  natural  that  the  German  communists,  confronted  with  the  necessity  of
determining  how  far  the  peasantry  could  be  relied  upon  as  a  revolutionary  factor,  should
have  carefully  studied  the  history  of  the  Peasant  War.  Their  attention  was  particularly
drawn  to  the  leaders  of  the  Peasant  War,  one  of  whom  was  Thomas  Muenzer.  It  is
characteristic  that  as  early  as  1845,  Engels,  in  one  of  his  first  articles  for  the  Chartist
“Northern  Star,”  called  the  attention  of  the  English  workers  to  this  “famous  leader  of  the
Peasant War of 1525,” who, according to Engels, was a real democrat, and fought for real
demands, not illusions.
Marx and Engels, who very soberly regarded the role of the peasantry in the realization
of a social revolution never underestimated its role as a revolutionary factor in the struggle
against  the  large  landowners  and  the  feudal  masters.  They  understood  very  well  that  the
more  the  peasantry  falls  under  the  leadership  of  revolutionary  classes  which  unite  it,  the
more  capable  it  is  of  general  political  actions.  Led  by  the  revolutionary  proletariat,
supporting its struggle against capitalism in the city and the village, the peasantry appeared
to be a very important ally. This is why Marx and Engels, during the revolution of 1848–
49, mercilessly exposed the cowardly conduct of the German bourgeoisie, which, currying
favour with the Junkers and afraid of the proletariat, had refused to defend the interests of
the peasantry.
It  was  with  the  aim  of  instructing  the  German  bourgeois  democracy  that  in  1850,
The Peasant War in Germany
– 95 –


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