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I

SOCIALISM IN THE TIME OF THE

REFORMATION

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The literature of this subject in English is very scanty.

KAUTSKY, Communism in Central Europe in the Time of the
Reformation. London, 1897.

BAX, Rise and Fall of the Anabaptists. London, 1903.
HEATH, Anabaptism. London, 1895.

I

SOCIALISM IN THE TIME OF THE REFORMATION

I

It is during the early years of the Reformation that the first groups of socialists, in the modern sense, are found. The distinctive feature of these new groups was that they proposed what was then a novel principle to govern the ownership of property and the production of wealth. They announced as their basis of social organization what has since been named collectivism. The soil, tools, and other means for the production of wealth were to be owned by the community as a whole, not by individuals, and the product of the common industry was to be shared equally by all. As the development of these groups coincided with the Reformation, it is not surprising to find these economic and social ideas combined with religion. The men who proposed this new social order were men who desired religious liberty also, and had thrown off allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church. They had studied the Scriptures diligently, if not wisely, and they had become convinced that their proposed social order was in conformity, not only to sound economic principles and natural equity, but to the teachings of Jesus and the life of the primitive Church. We need not pause here to inquire if this conviction were well founded, since inquiry into that matter is provided for in a later chapter. It is at present im

portant only to note that this was an honest and earnest religious belief of these people.

These socialistic groups are generally called Anabaptists in the literature of the period, a name not at all descriptive of them as collectivists, and often inaccurate as a designation of their religious affiliations. That is to say, not all those composing these socialistic groups were Anabaptists, though probably members of that religious party were more numerous than any others among socialists. Nor is the inference that some have drawn warranted, namely, that most Anabaptists of the period were socialists. Some of the most influential men among the Anabaptists did not sympathize with this collectivist experiment, and gave it no support.

In the earlier stages of their movement, so far as the Anabaptists avowed any social principles, they were inclined rather to communism than to Socialism. They were impelled to communism by their ideal of Christian brotherly love, and by the example of the Church at Jerusalem. It was supposed that this example of the Jerusalem saints laid an obligation on all Christians to go and do likewise that among true Christians all things must be held in common, to the extent at least that every brother must use his possessions for the advancement of the common Cause and the relief of the more needy brother. Some went so far as to say that the law of brotherly love forbade any Christian to be rich. But there were many among the Anabaptists, demonstrably some of their ablest leaders, who did not take this view of the case. The example of a single group of believers in the apostolic age, in a peculiar emergency, was not believed to be sufficient to impose

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