A history blog written by Seaford College A level student Tom Hennessy. The primary focus is modern European history, but the blog encompasses an increasingly large geographical and chronological sweep. My Content includes articles about areas of interest, historical debates, autobiographical travel accounts, book reviews and pieces applying history to current affairs.
Mazdak - the original Bolshevik
The roots of Bolshevism extend as deeply as the fifth century in Persia.
Its exponent was a man named Mazdak, who was a Zoroastrian priest before he
became a prophet. His doctrine taught that there were two original principles
of the universe: Light, the force for good; and Darkness, the evil entity.
These had been mixed by a cosmic accident, tainting everything except God.
Light is characterised by knowledge and feeling, and acts by design and free
will, whereas Darkness is ignorant and blind, and acts at random. Mankind's
role in this life was, through good conduct, to release the parts of himself
that belonged to Light.
Mazdak preached freedom of the variety desired by anarchists.He believed that without any laws, there were
no criminals.His second revelation was
that all men are born equal and have a right to maintain this equality through
life.His third principle is that
everything belongs to God and it is sinful to claim the property of God.A distinguishing factor of Mazdak's teaching
was the reduction of the importance of religious formalities—the true religious
person was the one who understood and related correctly to the principles of
the universe.He also criticised the
strong position of mainstream clergy, who, he believed, had oppressed the
Persian population and caused much poverty.
Mazdak emphasised good conduct, which involved a moral and ascetic life,
no killing and vegetarianism, being kind and friendly and living in peace with
other people.In many ways Mazdak's
teaching can be understood as a call for social revolution, and has been referred
to as early ‘communism’ by many.He and
his followers were also advocates of free love.
According to Mazdak, God had originally placed the means of subsistence
on earth so that people should divide them among themselves equally, but the
strong had coerced the weak, seeking domination and causing inequality. This in
turn empowered the ‘Five Demons’ that turned men from Righteousness – these
were Envy, Wrath, Vengeance, Need and Greed. To prevail over these evils,
justice had to be restored and everybody should share excess possessions with
his fellow men. Mazdak allegedly planned to achieve this by making all wealth
common or by re-distributing the excess. Opposing sources to Mazdakism mostly
dwell on the alleged "sharing" of women, or free love. the resulting
sexual promiscuity and the confusion of the line of descent was regarded as
heresy. Despite this accusation, it is likely that Mazdak took measures against
the widespread polygamy of the rich and lack of wives for the poor.
Mazdak's teaching acquired many followers, to the point when even King
Kavadh I, ruling from 488 until 531, converted to Mazdakism. With the King's
backing Mazdak could embark on a program of social reform, which involved
pacifism, anti-clericalism and aid programs for helping the poor. Mazdak had
government warehouses opened to help the poor.