The four-volume Forerunners of Modern Socialism, by Karl Kautsky, is one of the most neglected yet important works concerning Christian communism. Only part of this work has been translated, comprising the last section of volume one and all of volume two, as Communism in Central Europe in the Time of the Reformation. The German text is far more extensive. Indeed, so grand was the task that Kautsky was unable to complete it, with the final one and a half volumes written by others. In what follows, I begin by outlining the topics covered, before focusing on the way Kautsky deals with both the Peasant Revolution under Thomas Müntzer (1525) and then the Anabaptist Revolution in Münster (1534–35). Throughout, we need to remember that by heretical or Christian communism Kautsky means a combination of rupture and communalism, of revolution and new ways of living collectively. Both elements, with differing emphases, appear throughout his detailed study.


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