Surely Marx, Engels, and Co. were aware of this older episode of “Messianic Communism”. Rothbard’s masterful account deserves reading as a warning to Austrians, Christians, and everyone else.
The first mighty program of this rigid theocracy was, of course, to purge the New Jerusalem of the unclean and the ungodly, as a prelude to their ultimate extermination throughout the world. Matthys called therefore for the execution of all remaining Catholics and Lutherans, but Knipperdollinck’s cooler head prevailed, since he warned Matthys that slaughtering all other Christians than themselves might cause the rest of the world to become edgy, and they might all come and crush the New Jerusalem in its cradle. It was therefore decided to do the next best thing, and on February 27 the Catholic and Lutherans were driven out of the city, in the midst of a horrendous snowstorm. In a deed prefiguring communist Cambodia, all non-Anabaptists, including old people, invalids, babies and pregnant women were driven into the snowstorm, and all were forced to leave behind all their money, property, food and clothing. The remaining Lutherans and Catholics were compulsorily rebaptized, and all refusing this ministration were put to death.
The expulsion of all Lutherans and Catholics was enough for the bishop, who began a long military siege of the town the next day, on February 28. With every person drafted for siege work, Jan Matthys launched his totalitarian communist social revolution.
The first step was to confiscate the property of the expelled. All their worldly goods were placed in central depots, and the poor were encouraged to take “according to their needs,” the “needs” to be interpreted by seven appointed “deacons” chosen by Matthys. When a blacksmith protested at these measures imposed by Dutch foreigners, Matthys arrested the courageous smithy. Summoning the entire population of the town, Matthys personally stabbed, shot, and killed the “godless” blacksmith, as well as throwing into prison several eminent citizens who had protested against his treatment. The crowd was warned to profit by this public execution, and they obediently sang a hymn in honour of the killing.
A key part of the Anabaptist reign of terror in Münster was now unveiled. Unerringly, just as in the case of the Cambodian communists four-and-a-half centuries later, the new ruling elite realized that the abolition of the private ownership of money would reduce the population to total slavish dependence on the men of power. And so Matthys, Rothmann and others launched a propaganda campaign that it was unchristian to own money privately; that all money should be held in “common,” which in practice meant that all money whatsoever must be handed over to Matthys and his ruling clique. Several Anabaptists who kept or hid their money were arrested and then terrorized into crawling to Matthys on their knees, begging forgiveness and beseeching him to intercede with God on their behalf. Matthys then graciously “forgave” the sinners.
After two months of severe and unrelenting pressure, a combination of propaganda about the Christianity of abolishing private money, and threats and terror against those who failed to surrender, the private ownership of money was effectively abolished in Münster. The government seized all the money and used it to buy or hire goods from the outside world. Wages were doled out in kind by the only remaining employer: the theocratic Anabaptist state.
Food was confiscated from private homes, and rationed according to the will of the government deacons. Also, to accommodate the immigrants, all private homes were effectively communized, with everyone permitted to quarter themselves anywhere; it was now illegal to close, let alone lock, doors. Communal dining-halls were established, where people ate together to readings from the Old Testament.
This compulsory communism and reign of terror was carried out in the name of community and Christian “love.” All this communization was considered the first giant steps toward total egalitarian communism, where, as Rothmann put it, “all things were to be in common, there was to be no private property and nobody was to do any more work, but simply trust in God.” The workless part, of course, somehow never arrived.
This now seems like the same old song and massacre. The slightly more equal “leaders” lived in luxury while the slightly less equal peasants starved (or were executed). All in the name of religion. Some might still tell us of the righteousness – Romans 13 and all.
We’ve experienced many episodes of the like since, in God’s name and man’s. Yet, Someone warned us about this sort of thing long before.
John of Leiden, “King” of Munster and All the World, Communist, Murderer, Liar. Wiki.