Which side are you on? A short essay on reform or revolution. Luther or Muntzer?

Posted: October 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

This essay is republished as a part of our republishing series of works we wish to share with new readers. It was first published in October 2013. We think it is a pretty good essay to reread this month when Reformation Sunday, November 1st is almost upon us and our friends in the Lutheran Church will be celebrating this important event in our/theirstories. Even all though we were brought up in the Lutheran Church we must in all good and faith side with the revolution of Thomas Muntzer.

Which Side Are you On? A short essay on reform or revolution.

The celebration of the Reformation when Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the door of All Saints  Church in Wittenberg, Saxony is coming soon. Luther ever the reformer, leader of the bourgeoisie and supporter of the political landscape as it was is quite a different cloth than Thomas Muntzer who began as a follower of Luther but soon came to disagree with him. While Luther lead the Bourgeoisie in reforming the Catholic Church, Muntzer lead the proletariat in revolt against the Princes and nobility and the unjust system that kept the peasants under the heavy hand of oppression.

Luther’s work, Against the Murderous Thieving Hordes of Peasants Luther compare rebellion to murder and finds murder to be worse. (1) But Luther explains that the number of casualties that result from a rebellion are much greater and “rebellion is not just simple murder, it is like a great fire, which attacks and devastates a whole land.” As a result, Luther calls for severe punishments against rebels, from any authority, for their faithless actions and mass disruption. Luther did not see the equality he sought for worship to extend into the realm of politics and society. We’ve seen that this alienated many in the lower classes that believed Luther’s vision to be grander and more inclusive. To some extent, this is a primary reason that Lutheranism remained popular among the nobility and upper echelons of German society and why it consequently failed to achieve similar success among the lower classes over the succeeding generations following the Great Peasant Rebellion. For Luther, the Scripture was incredibly clear in that people were to submit to the authority of earthly rulers without reservation or complaint. His campaign against the pope therefore, in Luther’s view, had nothing to do with the relationship between prince and peasant, regardless of how the former was treating the latter. (2)

In all the world, the common man can find no comfort.

The Rebels or the peasants lead by Thomas Muntzer were the same that Luther opposed. Muntzer believed that it was the people’s divine purpose to rebel and that God would come and that those who rebel would be protected by God’s grace. Muntzer believed that Luther and Christianity to be submissive and “of great benefit to the tyrants.” Muntzer argues that the lords and princes, not the merchants, that are “The evil brew from which all unsury, theft and robbery springs.” “they have inflated perceptions of what is considered their property, including the peasants, creatures and land which Muntzer claimed belong to no one but God. Müntzer was against the nobility, against feudalism, against class society and the authorities and called for the armed struggle against the utilization of people. Nobles and priests must leave the castles and palaces, begin to live in ordinary houses and live like all other people.  The peasants realized that they were an oppressed class, that their suffering was widespread and that the masters profited from their pain. These facts as preached by Thomas Muntzer galvanized the peasants to revolt. (3)

But the belief that their salvation that their gains would come by divine intervention that never materialized ended the revolt at the battle of  Frankebausen.  (4)

Of course Muntzer biggest mistake was relying on the outside (divine intervention or God’s grace) to come in and save him his troops, and the peasants. We learn well from the Internationale that no savior on high can come to save us but we must, the people together must rely on each other to fight against the many foes. (5) Muntzer while rising the peasants in a just cause to fight against the oppression of the church, princes landholders read what he thought were the signs from God and read them wrong. Not matter how just the cause was, it  set back victory for the people for many years. But Muntzer by doing so showed the way that the people can stand up and try to fight off the oppressor.

File:Titelblatt 12 Artikel.jpg

The 12 Articles of the Peasants, 1525 (6)

Who today will come up and lead our modern day peasants to revolt? To inspire the underclasses that now is the time but to be well equipped so not to be slaughtered by the powers that be. The powers that be are everywhere. They are certainly ready we know this when we read that police departments in major cities are beneficiaries of weapons from the U.S military. Some departments are buying drones, Yep the people in Ann Arbor rebel drone attack them.  We will bet you $10.00 that the government will defend their actions in putting down threats to their rule and not think anything of it. We’ll up it to $20.00 if the present regime in Washington does it that every liberal within 100 miles will shut their mouths and not make a peep. They are building their armies and weaponry getting ready for the next attempt at a great leveling. Yes who this time will come up and lead the people, who indeed? (7)

So what can we gather from all of this let’s see and we here need some help on this one. Let us start with a few easy ideas:

1. No revolutionary force should depend on someone or something to come in and save them.  But welcome it with open arms if it does.

2. Be careful of your leaders. They must know the strengths of our enemies and our weakness. Do not send anyone into battle ill prepared.

3. Be very very careful of moderate reformers. They are everywhere today and will turn you in to the man in a second flat. They may even write pamphlets against us to add to our misery, turn us in if the heat gets too high, and will work against us and our comrades.

4. Think way outside the box as far as revolt goes. If they have drones and we a pitch fork we will end up dead. Think new ways of leveling that which needs to be leveled.

5. We learned that guerrilla war is very effected. Large masses of folks together can be mowed down by the man with his heavy artillery.

6. Submitting ourselves to earthly rulers will never free us. If we continue on that road we will always find excuses why not to rebel.

7. NO way can we aline ourselves with the bourgeoisie, bosses, liberals or others who seem to blow around in the wind. They can turn on revolutionary folks in a second flat.

8. We must never accept crumbs shaken off the masters table cloth. We never can be satisfied with anyone telling us to wait, be patience, or as the old song told us, “You’ll get Pie in the sky when you die.”

9. Learn everything that we can from history so we do not repeat any of the mistakes. Salute our stories of victory against the man, salute our Sheroes/heroes that kept the needs of the people firmly in their hearts. Salute all of those who stood up and said no.

10. The slogan united we stand divided we fall and the people united can never be defeated are slogans that we must keep close in our hearts and practice it daily.  Smash boundaries, false boundaries that have been set up to keep us apart, speak in the language of the people, and never as sisters and brothers in this struggle put yourself up as leader if you are really not prepared to lead.

11. Any leaders or movement that doesn’t take into account the poorest of the poor and what they need or how any actions will affect them is not worthy of our attention.

12. Any movement or people that yearn to be equal in the eyes of the law should be kept at a great distance from us. Equal in the eyes of the law is just another tool of the ruling class to keep us down.

13. We must never carry the americkkkan flag when in any demonstration or action. Many people around the world see this as a symbol of imperialism. If we carry this we then are saying we too agree with the beating stick used against you.

14. None of us no matter what should go into the military. The military wages war against our working class and the poor classes around the world. Some folks would argue that we should to learn strategy but as Audre Lorde said, “you can not use the masters tools to dismantle the masters house.”

Notes:

(1) Against The Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants.

(2) The Protestant Reformation: Luther and the Peasant War.

(3) The first program containing the idea of the overthrow of the social system—the Letter of the Articles (Artikelbrief)—was written in late 1524 or early 1525 by circles close to Munzer. It called for a struggle to achieve the complete emancipation of the “poor and common people” from the oppression of all masters and authorities and for the reorganization of life on the basis of the “common good” and “divine law.”

(4) One of the most famous battles in the Peasants’ War occurred at Frankenhausen, where the armies of the princes in the cities met the peasants’ bands led by Thomas Muntzer. The princes, by one report, attempted to find an end to the fight. The peasants, however, saw a rainbow in the sky, and Muntzer’s flag had a rainbow on it, harkening back to the rainbow that Noah was given, the covenant with God. And so as the princes load their cannons and the cavalry gets ready to charge, the peasants are singing, “Come, Holy Spirit,” believing that this battle is the final battle of Armageddon, and that God was going to break in and stop it right there. But instead, the cannons fired. The knights charged. Of about 8,000 peasants, about 5,000 lost their lives in this one battle alone. And Muntzer himself was captured, tortured, executed. That was the end of Muntzer’s apocalyptic vision. When the peasants war was over, around 100,000 peasants were slain: men, women and children.

The picture above is but a detail of the large mural at the Panorama Museum in Bad Frankehausen. The cyclorama of the battle was painted by Werner Tubken and a team of artists.  Müntzer was adopted by socialists as a symbol of early class struggle due to his promotion of a new egalitarian society which would practice the sharing of goods. Müntzer’s movement and the peasants’ revolt formed an important topic in Friedrich Engels’s book The Peasant War in Germany, a classic defense of historical materialism. Engels describes Müntzer as a revolutionary leader who chose to use biblical language – the language the peasants would best understand. …Wikipedia

(5) From the Internationale we sing these lines:

No Saviors from on high deliver,
No faith have we in prince or peer.
Our own right hand the chains of must shiver,
Chains of hatred, of greed and fear.
Ere the thieves will out with their booty
And to all give a happier lot,
Each at the forge must do his duty,
And strike the iron while it’s hot!

The above is the British version of the International. The original French words were written in June 1871 by Eugene Pottier1816–1887, previously a member of the Paris Commune, and were originally intended to be sung to the tune of “La Marseillaise”  Pierre De Geyter set the poem to music in 1888. His melody was first publicly performed in July 1888[ and became widely used soon after. 

(6) The Twelve articles can be found at www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/peasant-war-germany/index.htm. This site contains Engels book, The Peasant War in Germany.

(7) See America’s police are looking more and more like the military.

From furbirdsqueerly : This is an appropriation collage. Meaning that these essays are gleamed from many sources to make a whole in service to the people.

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