Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jules Allix, a most unusual Communard

I've been spending a lot of time this month working on the "Black and Red Feminism" project, trying to expand the pilot pamphlet into something a little more broadly representative, for release as a small hardcover volume. That's meant a lot of exploring, a few new figures of the "usual suspects" gallery here, and a little burst of new translations, like the Séverine story I just posted, and a Paule Mink story I hope to complete tomorrow. While I have not been looking as closely at the male feminists of the 1848 and Paris Commune periods, a few individuals have certainly caught my eye. Jules Allix is at the very top of that list, as much for his personal peculiarities as for his feminism. I have a women's rights address that I'm hoping to include in the "Black and Red Feminism" sampler, and I'm assembling the pieces for a collection of Allix's "scientific" writings for late-summer release, but here's a bit of (not entirely sympathetic) biography, to introduce Comrade Allix.



8th arrondissement. — 2,028 votes.

Allix (Jules) had one of the most curious physiognomies that we have studied. Born September 9, 1818, at Fontenay (Vendée), Allix called himself a professor; indeed, he formerly taught reading in fifteen lessons, and had occupied himself with universal physics. Allix was recognizable among all his colleagues for his eccentricities: he constantly held in his hand a pince-nez that he leveled, with an imperturbable aplomb, at those who found themselves in front of him. He also had a mania for always wanting to talk, and his colleagues tried in vain to cure him of that malady, a true calamity for those obliged to listen to him.

Allix stood, in 1848, as a candidate in Vendée for the Constituent Assembly; he defended, in his circular, religion and the family, but he promised to demand the right to work, and the radicalism of his opinions, and perhaps other reasons, prevented him from being elected. Allix gave himself entirely to an invention of which he had, it appeared, found the secret, and which he called the télégraphe escargotique—the snail telegraph. This mode of correspondence, which Allix wanted to substitute for the ordinary telegraph, is grotesque enough to merit an account. It was necessary to choose sympathetic snails (?), et en putting one of them on the letter of a special alphabet, the second snail being immediately placed on the same letter of the corresponding alphabet. That invention—which appeared to have considerable influence on the mind of its inventor, and which led him to Charenton [Asylum], where he remained for some time—that invention found credit with Mr. Emile de Girardin, who, for a long time, held Mr. Allix in great esteem.

In 1853, Allix was implicated in the plots at the Hippodrome and the Comic Opera, and condemned to eight years of banishment, after the admission of extenuating circumstances. The performance of Allix in this trial, where nearly all the other defendants had a proud and dignified countenance, with the defense presented by his lawyer, Mr. Didier, would not have led one to suppose that Allix had ever had the pretention of becoming a politician. His recent sojourn in a nursing home, from which he had come far from completely cured, was not, moreover, an excellent recommendation to the voters.

Allix organized, at the moment of the elections of 1869, after his departure from Charenton, some socialist conferences at Belleville, where he could not manage to get himself elected. He was part of the board that supported the candidacy of Althon-Shée, at the Gymnase Triat, with a truly monstrous partiality and lack of propriety.

One would have thought that Allix, an insipid orator in the public meetings, was well enough known to the votes that none would want to confer on him even the mandate of representative to the Commune, but Allix, who had, with the revolutionary party, made a small pedestal of his January 22 arrest, had the sense to offer himself as a candidate, not in Belleville, but in an arrondissement where he was completely unknown, the 8th, which gave him 2,028 votes!

Allix was installed at the municipal hall of the 8th where he was only the organizer of gymnasiums for women. He wore the insignia of Chef de Légion, a rank to which he had appointed himself. More myopic than ever, Allix regarded his neighbors more closely and insolently than before; he was also consumed by a constant desire to talk, which was only equaled by the desire of his colleagues not to hear him.

Allix formulated his vote in favor of the Comittee of Public Safety in this way: "I vote in favor, considering that the Commune will destroy the Committee of Public Safety whenever it wants."

My 10, the Commune ordered the arrest of Mr. Jules Allix; it was a question of forbidding and preventing his madness from disturbing, by bizarre municipal decrees, the entire organization of an arrondissement.

Allix remained thus detained almost until the fall of the Commune, never ceasing to protest against the arrest of which he had been the object, without his colleagues appearing to be moved by his constant recriminations. Released some time before the entry of the troops, Allix was arrested on orders from the government and returned to Charenton, from which he would never leave again.

(Other accounts make it clear that Allix was released and went on to work with radical and feminist organizations.)

[Translation: Shawn P. Wilbur]

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