Babeuf, François Noël

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Babeuf, François Noël

François Noël Babeuf (fräNswä´ nôĕl´ bäböf´), 1760–97, French revolutionary, organizer of a communist uprising against the Directory. Of petty bourgeois origin, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the French Revolution. He settled in Paris in 1794 and founded a political journal, the Journal de la liberté de la presse (later the Tribun du peuple). In it he argued that the Revolution had not gone far enough merely by establishing political equality. He was imprisoned (Feb.–Sept., 1795) for his writings, but emerged an even more violent enemy of economic injustice. Calling himself Gracchus Babeuf, he formed a secret society that plotted to overthrow the government; it became known as the Conspiracy of the Equals. It distributed propaganda and announced a vague program of economic equality—the right of all men to work and to share in the products of the economy. The form of communism desired by the conspirators referred mainly to the distribution of goods rather than to means of production. The plot was betrayed to the government, and after a long trial Babeuf was executed. His doctrines, however, known as Babouvism, were kept alive, largely by secret revolutionary societies and by his co-conspirators.

See his Defense of Gracchus Babeuf before the High Court of Vendôme, tr. and ed. by J. A. Scott with an essay by H. Marcuse (1967); P. Buonarroti, History of Babeuf's Conspiracy for Equality (1836); and biography by R. B. Rose (1978).

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