Sunday, April 24, 2011

Down with the Communists! (by a communist)

Just for fun, here's a short, entertaining dialogue by "utopian" communist Étienne Cabet (undated, but probably 1848-9.)


DOWN WITH THE COMMUNISTS!

A Bourgeois. — Yes, sir! Down with the Communists!

An Icarian.— No, sir. You shouldn’t say “Down with the Communists!”

The Bourgeois. — Down, down with the Communists!

The Icarian. — But why do you want that so badly?

The Bourgeois. — Because they are brigands!...

The Icarian. — Really! If that was true, you would be right, and I would cry out with you... But why do you say that they are brigands ?

The Bourgeois. — Because they are looters and robbers!...

The Icarian. — But no, no! That is not true! On the contrary they have, everywhere, prevented pillage and theft.

The Bourgeois. — They are incendiaries, men of  violence!...

The Icarian. — No, no, no! That is a slander, and abominable calumny on the part of some, a monstrous error on the part of others! On the contrary, they are the sweetest of people, the most peaceful, the most humane, the most benevolent, and the most brotherly!... You slander these Communists! What would you say if someone slandered you, your wife, and your children?

The Bourgeois. — They want an agrarian law, and the division of the land!...

The Icarian. — No! You have been mislead, for the fact is quite the contrary! They want association, combination, the concentration of land so they can form large gardens and large farms, in order to achieve great economies, and to increase production and abundance in the interest of all!

The Bourgeois. — They are lazy, and want to take the goods from the laborers, so they can live in sloth and idleness.

The Icarian. — But, the Icarians don’t want to take anything, or steal anything! On the contrary, they think only of assisting and rescuing their comrades, of working for the good of all, without exception...

The Bourgeois. — You believe that an honest, hard-working, thrifty worker can be content to see some riffraff ravish the fruits of his sweat and savings?...

The Icarian. — No, sir, but someone has been deceiving you! They are the most hard-working people, who only seek well-being in labor, and demand that each pay his debt by working!

The Bourgeois. — They are drunkards!...

The Icarian. — Sir! No! They are slandered, as some slandered the first Christians, who were the gentlest and most humane people, but who were accused of killing infants in order to drink their blood! The exact opposite is true! The Icarian Communists are sober and moderate, and try hard to draw all of their brothers out of the cabaret...

The Bourgeois. — Surely you don’t deny the depravity of those who want promiscuity of women, the abolition of marriage and the end of the family!...

The Icarian. — No, no, No! Always slander or error! It is unbelievable that you could let your self be fooled this way! It is just the opposite! The Icarian Communists are the most ardent defenders of marriage and the family, which they want to purify and perfect.

The Bourgeois. — Among them, there are no husbands, nor wives, nor children, but only males, females and little ones!...

The Icarian. That is a shameful slander! On the contrary, there are husbands, most fair and most devoted to their wives, wives most respected and most faithful, mothers and fathers most tender, children most cherished and most happy!

The Bourgeois. — They are immoral... Down with the Communists!

The Icarian. — But that’s not so, sir; they are the most honest people, who practice the purest of moralities, and who take for their guide this wise precept: Do unto others only as you would have them do unto you; do unto others all the good that you would receive from them.

The Bourgeois.— Go on, now! They are impious, without religion... Down with the Communists!

The Icarian. — But it is you who has not the least religious sentiment, since you would banish so cruelly and unjustly people who are your brothers, and who adopt the purest and most sublime ideal, by taking for their principle the Fraternity of people and of peoples.

The Bourgeois. — Well! You see well enough that the workers themselves reject Communism and the Communists!...

The Icarian. — No! All the journals and writings on the subject recognize, on the contrary, that the peaceful and legal Icarian Communism has made immense progress; that the mass of workers in Paris, Lyon, Nantes, Rouen, Reims, Tours, Vienne, Toulon, Toulouse, etc., etc., are Communists; that everywhere the elite among the workers, the most studious and reflective, have adopted Communism; and that the Communists are generally people full of intelligence and heart....

The Bourgeois. — But you see well enough that there are masses of workers who cry: Down with the Communists!...

The Icarian. — That is because they don’t know Communism, because they have been deceived, because they have been led astray, because someone has made them believe that the Communists are their enemies, when they are really their best friends, their comrades and their brothers! The poor workers are very unfortunate! They have been overburdened with work, with no time to read; they have been kept in ignorance and poverty: and when reformers come along who devote themselves to improving their condition, Christians or Communists, the privileged, the aristocrats, the priests, and the exploiters of every sort, rouse them against those who desire their deliverance and happiness, as the Pharisees roused the Jewish people against Jesus Christ and his apostles!....

The Bourgeois. — Say what you like, but the French are not the Jews....

The Icarian. — Doubtless; and today there are among the People many more workers who are studious and remarkable for their education than at any other time in history; but the mass of those who can be deceived or misled, or who allow themselves to be bribed or intoxicated, is still sadly much too great; and that is not their fault, these unfortunates! It is the fault of the society that give them no education, and which binds them in such an ignorance that, when apostles present themselves who want to  enlighten them, in order to make them happy, the Pharisees can easily lead them to stone to death their best friends.

The Bourgeois. — I am a republican: Long live the Republic! Down with Communism!

The Icarian. — But Communism is the same thing as the Republic; it is the truest Republic, the purest Democracy: the Communists are the firmest Republicans and most sincere Democrats; for they adopt the Republican and Democratic motto, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and accept all its consequences. You have always been a Republican, have you?

The Bourgeois. — No! At first I was a legitimist, with Louis XVIII and his race; then a constitutionalist with Louis-Philippe; at since February 24, I am a republican... I am a man of progress: but I don’t want communism: down with the Communists!

The Icarian. — The Communists are more republican than you, for you have cried, “Down with the Republicans!” while they have always cried, “Long live the Republic!”

The Bourgeois. — But your Communists are not Christians,...

The Icarian. — Excuse me, but Icarian Communism, based on Fraternity, Equality and Liberty, is nothing other than Christianity in its primitive purity. The Icarian Communists are true Christians who want to fulfill the Gospel. In fact, they are the only ones who deserve the title of Christians; for it is impossible to be Christian without practicing fraternity and, consequently, without being an Icarian Communist.

The Bourgeois. — Today I shout: Long live Liberty, Equality and Fraternity!

The Icarian. — Yes. You shout…; but you don’t want liberty, since you banish Communism; nor do you want equality or fraternity, since you cry, “Down with the Communists!” when fraternity and equality have no more ardent defender than the Icarian Communists.

The Bourgeois.— But these words — Icarian, Icarian Communism — what do they mean?

The Icarian. — What! You don’t know, and you shout them down! You proscribe them! Icarian Communism is the system of Communism which is found outlined and developed by the citizen Cabet in a work called: Voyage en Icarie.

The Bourgeois. —Ah! the Voyage en Icarie, of which so much is spoken!

The Icarian. — Yes: you have not read it?

The Bourgeois. — Certainly not! I don’t want to waste my time reading dreams and utopias. Long live the Republic! Down with communism!

The Icarian. — What! You haven’t read it, and yet you condemn it! You don’t know, and yet you forbid! But that’s sinful, disgustingly so.

Read, examine, study, and then you can judge knowledgably; you can approve, if you find that this doctrine is the truth; you can reject it, if you find that it is an error. But even in that case, you will say that the Communists are the most honest of people, who only desire justice, order, peace, and the happiness of the People and of humanity. You will see that they are the workers’ best friends, that they want to suppress poverty, to abolish taxes on staple items, to insure work for all by organizing it, and finally to progressively improve the condition of the worker, his wife and his child; and they want all of this brought about without violence, by discussion, by persuasion, by public opinion and national will... Before the revolution, they wanted to emigrate in order to attempt their Republic in America; the next day, they rallied around the provisional Government; and now they are once again occupied with preparations for their departure to Icaria...

The Bourgeois. — You don’t say...

The Icarian. — Study then; don’t cry “Down with the Communists!” And we will all shout together, from the bottom of our hearts, “Long live the Republic!”

Cabet.

 [Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur; revised March, 2012]

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