Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Two texts by Emile Digeon

Anarchist history is just full to overflowing with characters who seldom receive more than a footnote in the histories, but were major players in some aspect of the history of anarchist struggle. And it's no secret that I am very fond of these lesser-known figures. Sometimes, though, it's hard to justify taking the time to translate texts which do not have some fairly general application to contemporary issues. Even when dealing with the "big names" of the movement there are frequently lots of writings, or parts of writings, which are hard to make much sense of without delving fairly deeply into the details of history. But one of the reasons for doing the translation work is to present the style and preoccupations of the writers, whether or not those preoccupations focused on particularly timeless themes. Part of what I get out of doing the work is a chance to get to know a wide variety of anarchists, and I'm trying to allot a certain amount of my time to doing work which allows others to get acquainted with a broader range of anarchist types as well. That's why someone like Eliphalet Kimball would be important, even if he wasn't one of the earliest explicit anarchists in the United States, and it's part of why I'm dedicating some time over the next month or so to try to complete translations of the major works of Emile Digeon, one of the leaders of the Narbonne Commune, one of the outlying uprisings in sympathy with the Commune of Paris. Digeon's major works were "Revolutionary Remarks" and "Rights and Duties in Rational Anarchism," which make an interesting case for a sort of radical democracy as the proper form for anarchistic government. A similar concern with governmental process marks two other works by Digeon: "The Voice of One Hoodwinked, December 2," the title which refers to Louis Napoleon's coup d'etat, but the text of which consists largely of a response to Emile Ollivier's book, Le 19 Janvier, and a series of comments on imperative mandate and the loyalty oath; and "Proposal for Indictment of Gambetta and the Ministers," which takes the form of a legal document calling for the impeachment of Gambetta and others, based on the fact that they had exceeded their mandate with regard to events in Tunisia. I've translated these latter two texts, and they're available in pdf form, together with the obituary I posted awhile back. This is a rough translation, pulled together to share at the bookfair this weekend. With a little luck, I'll be able to compile a more complete compilation within a month or so.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Anselme Bellegarrigue, "The Electoral Law"

Along with the essay "The Revolution," the second issue of Bellegarrigue's Anarchy: A Journal of Order also contained this essay:


In the first issue of this journal, we have clearly, even audaciously expressed our opinion regarding the present character of electoral rights. The attitude of the people in the face of the partial suppression of this right proposed by Parliament has proven to us that our doctrine was in conformity with the general sentiment. The electorate is not a principle.

The popular instinct is more sure than the reasoning of the sophists, for that instinct bears on the facts. The so-called democratic parties have cried loudly that universal suffrage is the sole guarantee of progress, the sole principle from which well-being should result. The facts respond that universal suffrage, the exercise of which has up to this day softened the position of a few elected officials, has considerably compromised the individual interests and, as a consequence, public prosperity.

Does that mean that suffrage, as it has pleased the majority to formulate it, would resolve the question? It would be foolish to suppose it. The truth is not in the election; nothing can come from the election, the election is the guarantee of the government and the government is the cause of the unrest, it is thus in abstention and not in the election we will find the solution of the difficulty.

The people will come to abstention, as they will come to the refusal of taxation; it is necessary and inevitable. They have started down the road which must lead then there by falling into political skepticism, into doctrinal indifference. It is when the people no longer believe in anything that they will believe in themselves. That last belief determines the estimation of the act, and, positivism come to this point, the people leave the domain of interpretations to take fixed quantities; they no longer let themselves be led, they speculate; they no longer agitate, they amass; they no longer shout, they seek to enjoy.

Do you know, from the popular point of view, what is signified by the debates which have taken place in the Assembly between the majority and minority on the subject of the electoral law? They debates signify that the members of the majority believe that they can only be reelected by neutering universal suffrage, and that the members of the minority are convinced that universal suffrage is essential to them to remain where they are. That is the true sense of the discussion; but, in fact, what can the people expect from the majority or from the minority? Nothing. Both have well proven it, and, even when they have not proven it in practice, we believe we have, in this publication, furnished some very clear arguments on this point.

Have we so much to gladden us from the electoral regime that there would be cause for us to act to defend it? What has it produced? Some volumes of laws that, for my part, I would gladly pass on,—and you?

Certainly, it is universal suffrage which has produced the assemblies to which we owe all the prohibitions which crush us; would limited suffrage have produced worse results? We do not assume so. From now on what is the meaning of that enthusiasm that one wants to give us for universal suffrage, when it is proven that the assemblies have only led to disturbing and ruining us?

The right is wary of one part of the population.

The left mistrusts the other part.

What do you take us for? Whose creatures are we? We mistrust the right ad the left, and we reserve our votes; that is what it is best for us to do to put in agreement the whites and reds who only want our money.

That is the reason for the calm that has greeted the electoral law. The most naïve of the journals of Paris, as well as the most smug, L'Evénement and la Presse, have recommended calm to the population, and, the calm having taken place, they are pleased at having been obeyed. To hear them tell it, the wisdom of the people is their work; without them, the agitation would have torn up the paving stones and disturbed the city, which is pitiful.

The calm is in the force of things. The people have become deeply skeptical. They do not believe the troubadours or sellers of specifics. However much one professes a deep and tender love for them, however much one wants to assure them, they do not get more tenderness, nor more assurance, and they ask who are these bold or crazy sorts who dare put themselves high enough to love them, and who is the sovereign or schemer who has separated from them enough to promise them security.

The times of exploitation by big words have already passed. The labels no longer fool anyone. The devotion has delivered its bill. It is too costly. We no longer believe in chivalrous selflessness, so that from the very moment when a man separates himself from others in order to command them, some legitimate suspicions arise about him. In that state, the people no longer have leaders, and equality begins. When the people no longer have leaders, no movement is possible any more, and calm inevitably descends. Now, that calm is the Revolution, no longer the Revolution of the schemers, everyone’s Revolution, that of the interest and wealth.

The politicians do not want to abandon questions of form, but it is the question of content which is debated in the heart of society. The government, the men of the government, the manner of constituting the government, the antecedents and doctrines of various individuals, the preeminence this system or that one: all that is of little importance to the people. What matters to them is well-being, and it is clear that no one can realize well-being except for themselves; it is proven that it cannot be obtained by delegation, and it is established in fact that it is independent of the form. It is thus with full and complete reason that people become indifferent with regard to the form, with the government, and they pay attention to the content, which is nothing but the people themselves, and their own business.

So let come, after the electoral law, the decennial presidency, the presidency for life, the empire—the devil come, provided that the good-for-nothings are condemned to silence by the prudence of the workers. The governmental form, however lofty it may be, will be overcome by the content; the people will devour the government.

The government is not a fact; it is only a fiction. The immutable and eternal fact is the people. We are, for our part, with the fact, and a time is coming which seems bad for those who do not want to separate from the fiction.


[The back page of the journal contained the following advertisement: ]

ANARCHY will appear regularly on the first of each month. In the next issue (June 1) we will apply ourselves to the presentation of the picture of liberty in its industrial and economic exercise. Returning to February 24, 1848, epoch when the parties and governments had disappeared, to make place for fraternity and universal security, we will explain what would have been done materially, industrially, and financially by Liberty, if the speech-makers had not revived that school for theft and murder that we call Politics. These explanations, we are confident, will do more for the revolution and for the public peace than all that has been said and done in the last sixty years.

In the later numbers, the editor of Anarchy will examine the origin of wealth and credit, and will prove that the antagonism which exists between capital and labor is purely governmental fact which would not exist in an anarchic state. He will begin from this principle to demonstrate the supreme absurdity of the right to work, of free credit, of the tax on capital and other errors sustained in recent times by socialist childishness.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

God, Women and Proudhon — Eugène Stourm

Slowly, but surely, I'm assembling the various feminist responses to Proudhon. The pages of L'Opinion des Femmes is rich with that sort of thing, since it was Jeanne Deroin's primary forum at the time she proposed herself for political office, and drew fire from Proudhon and others. In the May, 1849 issue, the following essay, by Eugène Stourm, appeared. I think it's an interesting mix of fairly accurate critique and misunderstanding. Certainly, the more details emerge, the more interesting the conflict looks. I think this project is going to be a lot of fun.

God, Women, and Proudhon.

The enemies of socialism are tireless in their slanders. They exhaust against the new truth by which they sense that the world will be invaded all sorts of malicious ruses, but also all the contradictions of a mind at bay. It is thus, for example, that, after having presented socialism as the most infernal inspiration that has taken possession of the human brain, it is not rare to see the same adversary opposing to it as a flat refusal the impossibility of finding people pure enough, or perfect enough to be worthy and capable of realizing it. Each of the points of which socialism rests is the source of an accusation aiming to alienate the noblest souls and most generous hearts. It invites all the children of God, without exclusion, to the banquet of life, and those who want to sit down alone at that banquet, who push their unfortunate fellows from it, claim that the socialists are materialists, sensualists exclusively concerned with the needs of the body.

There is for socialism, in this situation that we have made of it, an absolute need to make the world understand that all these insinuations are the sophisms of selfishness, attacked in its essence and principle, et, and for this is it first necessary that socialism demonstrate clearly to all sincere minds that it deserves none of the reproaches addressed to it.

But, in order to achieve that socialism must establish, so to speak, its moral independence by not indenturing itself to any of its particular expressions, or to any of the men whom one could consider as the leaders of the schools; it must not hesitate, each time  that the occasion presents itself, to distance itself from the more or less eccentric assertions that some thinker or another has taken it upon themselves to risk in the absolute development of their eccentricities. This work of purification made in the name of the common sense of humanity implies no ingratitude with regard to the men of genius to which socialism owes its brightest illuminations. Recognition does not entail servility of thought. There is one that has more reason that any particular socialist, and that is socialism itself, in its greatest generality. We say that boldly, because we believe that attitude of the most advanced minds necessary to their own progress, and is at the same time indispensable to the progressive constitution  of the true social science. De plus, it is incontestable that whatever reproaches we could legitimately address to an individual could not justly be applied to socialism as a whole. Thus it is good not to hesitate to establish that salutary distinction that the old world has so much interest in not admitting.

That said, we are comfortable speaking about one of the most curious and most powerful minds of our era, of a man who has had the formidable privilege of announcing the world some truths, by exerting over it a sort of moral terror that his frame of mind has perhaps made him spread involuntarily. Proudhon glimpses all the elements of which truth is composed, in the form of an incessant antagonism, thesis and antithesis, which should finally be reconciled in a higher term, the synthesis; but, it must be admitted that, by his moral temperament, Proudhon is not the man of that last term. Where his genius excels, is in making apparent that sort of duel between the two aspects of a single idea; it is to highlight what he calls the antinomy in all the possible objects of human knowledge. Thus he appears like the spirit of destruction simply because he has a genius for analysis. Those who are aware of this psychological phenomenon, which certainly has, like every other, its providential purpose, are not frightened at all, but the minds who stick to appearance recoil in dread, as before the most horrible monstrosity. Proudhon is always the most skillful anatomist of the social body; no one has dissected it with more boldness, to penetrate the most invisible structure; in the midst of that disintegration, and as he only considers the various parts that he has separated one by one, it happens that he casts a light at time more proper to lead astray than to lead well; but his paradoxes always overexcite the intellectual faculties of those who attempt to rectify them. Proudhon is the thinker who thinks the most. When we are not in agreement with him on a point, we must, in order to respond to him seriously, take up anew his previous studies, and delve deeper into the principles that we believe we have must fully plumbed.

But that daring intelligence has, like every other, its domain which is proper to it and apart from which it not only no longer has ordinary superiority, but even the most common rectitude, the most vulgar good sense. Proudhon is very powerful in the exercise of pure reason, but there is more than just reason in us. There is not only one order of truths in our conception. There are truths of external and material observation which fall within the realm of the senses, logical and mathematical truths, conforming to the laws of our understanding, and, finally, there are truths of sentiment which have their source and certainty in the heart. Well, Proudhon understands neither the importance, nor the legitimacy of that last order of truths; he does not accept that the heart is the seat of its own lights, which complete the illumination of our life and self-consciousness. He relegates everything that comes from there to the sphere of illusion, and that philosophical exclusivism dramatically limits his competence on certain subjects, before which, however, he does not stop. Like at metaphysicians, at all times, he does not wish to be contained, and readily imagines that his specialty is universal being.

It is easy to see that universality does not depend on any individuality. God does not permit that absolute dictatorship to one of his children. There are always some gaps in his capacities which oblige other minds not to completely abdicate in his favor; when he tackles subjects which are not, so to speak, of his intellectual vocation, he falls beneath himself, and, at times, even below the average minds. That is, in our opinion, what has happened to Proudhon every time he has wanted to tackled questions that reason by itself does not suffice to treat well. We have two example to cite: the woman question, and the question of God. both can only be explored effectively when the insights of the heart are combined with the lights of reason. Reason is crushed by these complex problems; to account for the nature and destiny of woman, requires the most extreme sensitivity of heart. God appeared only to hearts ablaze with his love! When reason judges women, it is empiricism which notes what has been in this regard, without being able to discover what should be. Reason determining God, is reason idealizing itself in the notion of the absolute. It is really an idolatry of the intelligence; it is not God.

We do not have the time to justify the propositions that we have expressed here. We have only wanted to faire entendre that socialism, in its essential spirit, cannot, at least without putting itself in contradiction with itself, accept the ideas of Proudhon on women and God. To aspire to the unlimited, successive improvement of human sociability, and preserve the traditions, the prejudices of the old world on half the human race, is to commit a logical error which profits those who want the social order to rest eternally on material force. To give to his thought the least appearance of atheism or blasphemy against the highest good is to perpetuate the misunderstandings, to fortifier the calumnies of those who want to make believe that socialism is essentially irreligious, when it is, on the contrary, the only living religion of humanity in the present state of its development.

Socialism, based on the idea of right, cannot have the opinion about women of a society based on brutal facts; socialism, which is like a sort of new flowering of the conscience and heart of humanity, cannot have the ideas about God of a selfish world. Women and God will be transfigured in the human mind.

Eugène Stourm.

[Working Translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Monday, March 19, 2012

Feminism in Lyon before 1848: Eugénie Niboyet and Flora Tristan

I've posted a working translation of both sections of Maximilien Buffenoir's "Feminism in Lyon before 1848." I had worked up the section on Eugénie Niboyet last June, and finally got a chance to finish up the section on Flora Tristan. Those inclined to chase footnotes in the original French may find some interesting material in the archive of L'Echo de la Fabrique. And those interested in Niboyet's work can read one poem, "The War," in French or English translation in the Libertarian Labyrinth archive.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Proudhon's "Toast to the Revolution" (revised translation)

Proudhon's "Toast to the Revolution" was the first major translation I posted on the blog, back in July of 2007. Little did I know at the time how much translating I would end up doing, and I certainly didn't dream that it would become my primary activity as a radical scholar. But here we are. I've winced more than once as I've been revising these early translations, but I was pleased to find that there wasn't much in this one to make me cringe. I've clarified a couple of key sections, which were hard to make sense of, either grammatically or conceptually, until I was more familiar with Proudhon's voice. And working with the text, I as reminded just how powerful parts of it really are, so rather than simply modify the posted translation, I'm going to repost the essay for new and old readers alike.

Toast to the Revolution

October 17, 1848
When our friends of the democratic republic, apprehensive about our ideas and inclinations, cry out against the qualification of socialist which we add to that of democrat, for what do they reproach us?—They reproach us for not being revolutionaries.
Let us see then if they or we belong in the tradition, whether they or we have the true revolutionary practice.
And when our adversaries in the middle class, concerned for their privileges, pour calumny and insult upon us, what is the pretext for their charges? It is that we want to totally destroy property, the family, and civilization.
Again, let us see whether we or our adversaries better deserve the title of conservatives.
Revolutions are the successive manifestation of justice in human history.—It is for this reason that all revolutions have their origins in a previous revolution.
Whoever talks about revolution necessarily talks about progress, but just as necessarily about conservation.  From this it follows that the revolution is always at work in history and that, strictly speaking, there are not several revolutions, but only one permanent revolution.
The revolution, eighteen centuries ago, called itself the gospel, the Good News. Its fundamental dogma was the Unity of God; its motto, the equality of all men before God. Ancient slavery rested on the antagonism and inequality of gods, which represented the relative inferiority of races in the state of war. Christianity created the rights of peoples, the brotherhood of nations; at the same time, it abolished idolatry and slavery.
Certainly no one denies today that the Christians, revolutionaries who fought by testimony and by martyrdom, were men of progress. They were also conservatives.
The polytheist initiation, after civilizing the first humans, after converting these men of the woods—sylvestres homine, as the poet says—into men of the towns, became itself, through sensualism and privilege, a principle of corruption and enslavement. Humanity was lost, when it was saved by the Christ, who received from that glorious mission the double title of Savior and Redeemer, or, as we put it in our political language, conservative and revolutionary.
That was the character of the first and greatest of revolutions. It renewed the world, and by renewing it conserved it.
But, supernatural and spiritual as it was, that revolution only expressed the more material side of justice, the enfranchisement of bodies and the abolition of slavery. Established on faith, it left thought enslaved; it was not sufficient for the emancipation of man, who is body and spirit, matter and intelligence. It called for another revolution. A thousand years after the coming of Christ, a new upheaval began within the religion the first revolution founded, a prelude to new progress. Scholasticism carried within it, along with the authority of the Church and the scripture, the authority of reason! In about the 16th century, the revolution burst forth.
The revolution, in that epoch, without abandoning its first given, took another name, which was already celebrated. It called itself philosophy. Its dogma was the liberty of reason, and its motto, which follows from that, was the equality of all before reason.
Here then is man, declared inviolable and free in his double essence, as soul and as body. Was this progress? Who but a tyrant could deny it? Was it an act of conservation? The question does not even merit a response.
The destiny of man, a wise man once said, is to contemplate the works of God. Having known God in his heart, by faith, the time had come for man to know him with his reason. The Gospel had been for man like a primary education; now grown to adulthood, he needed a higher teaching, lest he stagnate in idiocy and the servitude that follows it.
In this way, the likes of Galileo, Arnaud de Bresce, Giordano Bruno, Descartes, Luther—that whole elite of thinkers, wise men and artists, who shone in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries as great revolutionaries—were at the same time the conservatives of society, the heralds of civilization. They continued, in opposition to the representatives of Christ, the movement started by Christ, and they suffered no lack of persecution and martyrdom for it!
This was the second great revolution, the second great manifestation of justice. It too renewed the world—and saved it.
But philosophy, adding its conquests to those of the Gospel, did not fulfill the program of that eternal justice. Liberty, called forth from the heart of God by Christ, was still only individual: it had to be established in the tribunal. Conscience was needed to make it pass into law.
About the middle of the last century a new development began, and, as the first revolution had been religious and the second philosophical, the third revolution was political. It called itself the social contract.
It took for its dogma the sovereignty of the people. It was the counterpart of the Christian dogma of the unity of god.
Its motto was equality before the law, the corollary of those that it had previously inscribed on its flag: equality before God and equality before reason.
Thus, with each revolution, liberty appeared to us always as the instrument of justice, with equality as its criterion. The third term—the aim of justice, the goal it always pursues, and the end it approaches—is brotherhood.
Let us never lose sight of this order of revolutionary development. History testifies that brotherhood, the supreme end of revolutions, does not impose itself. Its conditions are, first, liberty, and then equality. It is as if justice said to us all: Men, be free; citizens, become equal; brothers, embrace one another.
Who dares deny that the revolution undertaken sixty years ago by our fathers, the heroic memory of which makes our hearts beat with such force that we almost forget our own sense of duty—who denies, I ask, that this revolution was a progress? Nobody. Very well, then. But was it not both progressive and conservative? Could society have survived with its time-worn despotism, its degraded nobility, and its corrupt clergy, with its egotistical and undisciplined parliament, so given to intrigue, with a people in rags, a race which can be exploited at will?
Is it necessary to blot out the sun, in order to make the case? The revolution of ’89 was the salvation of humanity; it is for that reason that it deserves the title of revolution.
But, citizens, if our fathers have done much for liberty and fraternity, and have even more profoundly opened up the road of brotherhood, they have left it to us to do even more.
Justice did not speak its last word in ’89, and who knows when it will speak it.
Are we not witnesses, our generation of 1848, to a corruption worse than that of the worst days of history, to a misery comparable to that of feudal times, to an oppression of spirit and of conscience, and a degradation of all human faculties, which exceeds all that was seen in the epochs of most dreadful cruelty? Of what use are the conquests of the past, of religion and philosophy, and the constitutions and codes, when by virtue of the same rights that are guaranteed to us by those constitutions and codes, we find ourselves dispossessed of nature, excommunicated from the human species? What is politics, when we lack bread, when even the work which might give bread is taken from us? What to us is the freedom to go or to become, the liberty to think or not to think, the guarantees of the law, and the spectacles of the marvels of civilization? What is the meager education which is given to us, when by the withdrawal of all those objects on which we might practice human activity, we are ourselves plunged into an absolute void; when to the appeal of our senses, our hearts, and our reason, the universe and civilization reply: Néant! Nothing!
Citizens, I swear it by Christ and by our fathers! Justice has sounded its fourth hour, and misfortune to those who have not heard the call!
—Revolution of 1848, what do you call yourself?
—I am the right to work!
—What is your flag?
—And your motto?
Equality before fortune!
—Where are you taking us?
To Brotherhood!
Salute to you, Revolution! I will serve you as I have served God, as I have served Philosophy and Liberty, with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my intelligence and my courage, and I will have no other sovereign and ruler than you!
Thus the revolution, having been by turns religious, philosophical and political, has become economic. And like all its predecessors, it brings us nothing less than a contradiction of the past, a sort of reversal of the established order! Without this complete reversal of principles and beliefs, there is no revolution; there is only mystification. Let us continue to interrogate history, citizens.
Within the empire of polytheism, slavery had established and perpetuated itself—in the name of what principle? In the name of religion.—Christ appeared, and slavery was abolished, precisely in the name of religion.
Christianity, in its turn, made reason subject to faith; philosophy reversed that order, and subordinated faith to reason.
Feudalism, in the name of politics, controlled everything, subjecting the laborer to the bourgeois, the bourgeois to the noble, the noble to the king, the king to the priest, and the priest to a dead letter.—In the name of politics again, ’89 subjected everyone to the law, and recognized among men only citizens.
Today labor is at the discretion of capital. Well, then! The revolution tells you to change that order. It is time for capital to recognize the predominance of labor, for the tool to put itself at the disposition of the worker.
Such is this revolution, which has suffered sarcasm, calumny and persecution, just like any other. But, like the others, the Revolution of 1848 becomes more fertile from the blood of its martyrs. Sanguis martyrun, semen christianorum! exclaimed one of the greatest revolutionaries of times past, the indomitable Tertullien. Blood of republicans, seed of republicans.
Whoever does not dare to acknowledge this faith, sealed with the blood of our brothers, is not a revolutionary. The failure is an infidelity. He who dissembles regarding it is a renegade. To separate the Republic from socialism is to willfully confuse the freedom of mind and spirit with the slavery of the senses, the exercise of political rights with the deprivation of civil rights. It is contradictory, absurd.
Here, citizens, is the genealogy of social ideas: are we, or are we not, in the revolutionary tradition? It is a question of knowing if we are at present also engaged in revolutionary practice, if, like our fathers, we will be at once men of conservation and of progress, since it is only by this double title that we will be men of revolution.
We have the revolutionary principle, the revolutionary dogma, and the revolutionary motto. What do we lack in order to accomplish the work entrusted to our hands by Providence? One thing only: revolutionary practice!
But what is the practice which distinguishes the epochs of revolution from ordinary times?
What constitutes revolutionary practice is that it no longer proceeds by details and distinctions, or by imperceptible transitions, but by simplifications and enjambments. It passes over, by broad equations, the middle terms proposed by the spirit of routine, which would normally have been applied in the past, but which the selfishness of the privileged or the inertia of the governments has dismissed.
These great equitations of principles, these enormous shifts in mores, also have their laws, and they are not at all arbitrary. They are no more a matter of chance than the practice of revolutions.
But what, in the end, is that practice?
Suppose that the statesmen we have seen in power since February 24, these short-sighted politicians of small means, of narrow and meticulous routines, had been in the place of the apostles. I ask you, citizens, what would they have done?
They would have fallen into agreement with the innovators of the various conferences, concluding, in secret consultations, that the plurality of gods was an absurdity. They would have said, like Cicero, that it is inconceivable that two augurs could look at one another without laughter. They would have condemned slavery very philosophically, and in a deep voice.
But they would also have cried out against the bold propaganda which, denying the gods and all that society has sanctified, raised superstition and all the interests against it; they would have trusted in good policy, rather than attacking the old beliefs, instead of interpreting them. Instead of abolishing  the worship, they would have purified it. They would have knelt before Mercury the thief, before impudent Venus and incestuous Jupiter. They would have spoken with respect and esteem for the Floralia and the Bacchanalia. They would have made a philosophy of polytheism, retold the history of the gods, renewed the personnel of the temples, published the payments for sacrifices and public ceremonies, granting, as far as it was in them, reason and morality to the impure traditions of their fathers. By dint of attention, kindness and human respect, instead of saving the world, they would have caused it to perish.
There was, in the first centuries of the Christian era, a sect, a party powerful in genius and eloquence, which, in the face of the Christian revolution, undertook to continue the idolatry in the form of a moderate and progressive republic; they were the Neo-Platonists, to whom Apollonius of Tyana and the Emperor Julian attached themselves. It is in this fashion that we have seen with our own eyes certain preachers attempt the renovation of Catholicism, by interpreting its symbols from the point of view of modern ideas.
A vain attempt! Christian preaching, which is to say revolutionary practice, swept away all the gods and their hypocritical admirers; and Julian, the greatest politician and most beautiful spirit of his time, bears in the histories the name of apostate, for having been madly opposed to evangelical justice.
Let us cite one more example.
Let us suppose that in ’89, the prudent counselors of despotism, the well-advised spirits of the nobility, the tolerant clergy, the wise men of the middle class, the most patient of the people—let us suppose, I say, that this elite of citizens, with the most upright vision and the most philanthropic views, but convinced of the dangers of abrupt innovations, had agreed to manage, according to the rules of politics, the transition from despotism to liberty. What would they have done?
They would have passed the promised charter, after long discussion and mature deliberation, letting at least ten years elapse between each article. They would have negotiated with the pope, and with all manner of submissiveness, the civil constitution of the clergy. They would have negotiated with the convents, by amicable agreement, the repurchase of their goods. They would have opened an investigation into the value of feudal rights, and the compensation to be accorded to the lords. They would have sought compensation to the privileged for the rights accorded to the people. They would have made the work of a thousand years what revolutionary practice might accomplish overnight.
All of this is not just empty talk: there was no lack of men in ’89 willing to connect themselves to this false wisdom of revolution. The first of all was Louis XVI, who was as revolutionary at heart and in theory as anyone, but who did not understand that the revolution must also be practiced. Louis XVI set himself to haggle and quibble over everything, so much and so well, that the revolution, growing impatient, swept him away!
Here then is what I mean, today, by revolutionary practice.
The revolution of February proclaimed the right to work, the predominance of labor over capital.
On the basis of that principle, I say that before overriding all reforms, we have to occupy ourselves with a generalizing institution, which expresses, on all the points of social economy, the subordination of capital to labor; which, in lieu of making, as has been the case, the capitalist the sponsor of the laborer, makes the laborer the arbiter and commander of the capitalist; an institution which changes the relation between the two great economic powers, labor and property, and from which follows, consequently, all other reforms.
Will it then be revolutionary to propose here an agricultural bank serving, as always, the monopolizers of money; and to create there a certified loan office, a monument to stagnation and unemployment; and elsewhere, to found an asylum, a pawn-shop, a hospital, a nursery, a penitentiary, or a prison, to increase pauperism by multiplying its sources?
Will it be a work of Revolution to sponsor a few million workers, sometimes a company of tailors, and sometimes of masons; to reduce the tax on drink and increase it on properties; to convert obligations into losses; to vote seeds and pick-axes for twelve thousand colonists leaving for Algeria, or to subsidize a trial phalanstery?
Will it be the speech or act of a revolutionary to argue for four months whether the people will work or will not, if capital hides or if it flees the country, if it awaits confidence or if it is confidence that awaits it, if the powers will be divided or only the functions, if the president will be the superior, the subordinate or the equal of the national assembly, if the first who will fill this role will be the nephew of the emperor or the son of the king, or if it would not be better, for that good purpose, to have a soldier or a poet, if the new sovereign will be named by the people or by the representatives, if the ministry of reaction which goes out merits more confidence than the ministry of conciliation which comes, if the Republic will be blue, white, red, or tricolor?
Will it be revolutionary, when it is a question of returning to labor the fictive production of capital, to declare the net revenue inviolable, rather than to seize it by a progressive tax; when it is necessary to organize equality in the acquisition of goods, to lay the blame on the mode of transmission; when 25,000 tradesmen implore a legal settlement, to answer them by bankruptcy; when property no longer receives rent or farm rent, to refuse it further credit; when the country demands the centralization of the banks, to deliver that credit to a financial oligarchy which only knows how to make a void in circulation and to maintain the crisis, while waiting for the discouragement of the people to bring back confidence?
Citizens, I accuse no one.
I know that to all except for us social democrats, who have envisioned and prepared for it, the Revolution of February has been a surprise; and if it is difficult for the old constitutionals to pass in so short a time from the monarchical faith to a republican conviction, it is still more so for the politicians of the old century to comprehend anything of the practice of the new Revolution. Other times have other ideas. The great maneuvers of '93, good for their time, do not suit us now any more than the parliamentary tactics of the last thirty years; and if we want to abort the revolution, we have no surer means than to take up again these errors.
Citizens, you are still only a minority in this country. But already the revolutionary flood grows with the speed of the idea, with the majesty of the ocean. Exercise again some of that patience that made your success, and the triumph of the Revolution is assured. You have proven, since June, by your discipline, that you are politicians. From now on you will prove, by your acts, that you are organizers. The government will be enough, I hope, with the National Assembly, to maintain the republican form: such at least is my conviction. But the revolutionary power, the power of conservation and of progress, is no longer today in the hands of the government; it is not in the National Assembly: it is in you. The people alone, acting upon themselves without intermediary, can achieve the economic Revolution begun in February. The people alone can save civilization and advance humanity!

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur; revised 3/18/2012.]

Friday, March 16, 2012

Translations from Coeurderoy, Dejacque, Nettlau, etc.

I've just posted working translations of an 1850 appeal "To the Socialist Democrats of the Department of the Seine," signed by various prominent radicals of the day, including Felix Pyat and Ernest Coeurderoy, and Alfred Darimon's "Notice on the Journals of Proudhon," an appendix to his A Travers une Révolution (1884). The first is an interesting look at the plight of exiles even before Louis Napoleon's coup, and the latter gives a little fuller account of the papers that Proudhon collaborated with. I have also posted the opening section of Max Nettlau's biographic notice on Coeurderoy. And here is Joseph Dejacque's speech from the funeral of radical poet Louise Julien. The wind-up at the end is particularly fascinating, being a mix of Fourierist passional science and fire-breathing revolutionary rhetoric.

Discourse Pronounced July 26, 1853
 on the tomb of Louise Julien, exile

by Joseph Déjacque

Again a grave is opened... And this time, it is not a man. It is a woman that exile... that the circus devours to the applause of Caesar and his praetorian rabble.

A poor and valorous woman, a humble martyr for an idea, which, like the Christian idea eighteen centuries ago, when it was a revolutionary idea, — rises in its turn on the fragments of the old idols, a heroic apostle of the social revolution, a woman-Christ! No, your death will not be useless in the reform of society. It is necessary, alas! that women also suffer the tortures of prison and exile, that they are crucified by the dictatorial reactions in order to redeem by suffering and death, — by struggle, — their sisters from submission to man, from the sin of slavery.

Oh! Let the Republic come, and who then would dare to contest equal rights to those who have sealed with their liberty and their blood the confession of their revolutionary faith?

Today it is an obscure female citizen, with the heart and brow of a poet; it is the feeble voice of a woman buried in the depths of the proletariat, but a voice heightened by the idea, a stylus-voice, which makes successful crime pale and shakes a throne bristling with thousands of cannons and a hundred thousand bayonets! It is a sick and infirm woman, who, — her body supported by a crutch, her soul was supported by a thought of the future, — challenged a scepter, and broke under the effort, but did not bend...

Yesterday, it was Pauline Roland, succumbing, like Louise Julien, at the bloody gallows of brutal force. Touching and sublime rivals in heroic sacrifices, vanquished? No. Killed in the bodily struggle, but living and imperishable in the martyrology of socialism, triumphant and dazzling under their torture-victim’s halo with the propaganda which wins hearts and minds by the distressing and dolorous spectacle of their agony and their end.

But it is not today only nor tomorrow that the woman of progress, — the woman, that nature sensible and frail, — pays the minotaur of the resistance her tribute of blood and tears! Just a few years ago, — under another Caesarism, — it was some socialist workers, some chaste young girls, some dignified mothers as well, that were thrown to the wolves in the bilges of the prisons, to those monsters of stone and mud which are called St.-Lazare and Clairvaux! I have seen in 49 — what a horrible thing! — an unfortunate mother restored to liberty and — cruel irony, — to her affections. I saw her ask again and agin in vain for the two little children that had been snatched from her arms the day when she and her husband were each cast into one of the sheds of the prefecture: the upholders of the family no longer knew what had been done with them...

Well! Despite this terrible sacrifice, this butchery of human flesh and feelings that all the governments which pass by spill on the altar of the old society, oh worshippers of force, is there then one of these government saviors which has been able to save themselves for sixty years? The foolish, they devote themselves to the persecution even of women, and they do not notice that it is above all by the martyrdom of women that in the past Christianity was able to invade pagan populations, and that in this way Socialism will conquer the popular masses.

Before this earth covers your shroud, Louise Julien, I salute you, woman, for all the women who, like you, break by strength of heart and thought from the narrow little circle of the family, that collar that grips social sentiments around the throat, — thrust into the great human family and spread there their ineffable and extravagant love, that infinite love that Christ, expiring on the cross, exhaled in a last sigh.

Oh, you whose death was necessary for us to learn about life, sister, whom few of us have know, go! It is not the somber oblivion, the funerary angel which has breathed on your eyes today closed, it is the angel of memory, the angel of renown which, laying you on its robe of light, has kissed you on the forehead, spreading its wings.

Those die who, having lived walled up in a corner of their being, descend into the coffin wrapped in their idiotic selfishness; but when one has lived in humanity and for humanity, when one has left their heart in all hearts, left their tears on all the miseries, left their blood in all the massacres, oh! then, one does not die: the tomb is only the cradle of immortality.

On this grave whose gravedigger is not here, but at the Tuileries, in the salons of the aristocracy, under the frock of the priest and soldier’s coat, on the flagstones of the Exchange and the parquet of the boutiques, under the skull shrunken by mercantilism and agio; on this grave—Well! No!—we will not invoke the furies of vengeance. What would be the good? Socialism does not take revenge; it destroys obstacles—whether men or things—without regard for their past. It does not chastise, it clears away. But, victim that we mourn, I wish at least to embalm you with this wish that I form; and it is to labor without rest and with all my strength for the realization of my dream, the edification of your idea; it is, — contrary to paganism which denies one of the faces of human nature, to Christianity which denies the other, — it is – according to the new science which understands the individual with all its physical and moral sensations, the entire human being — it is, I say, to unite everywhere and always the cause of the proletarians to that of women, the emancipation, the liberation of the first to the emancipation, the liberation of the others; it is to push all those oppressed with the saber and the strong-box, with the toga and the aspergillum, the disinherited of our terrestrial hell, to the hatred and scorn of the exploiters; it is to employ in the service of the social revolution, at the triumph of the egalitarian idea, thoughts and words, arms and action, ink and saltpeter; it is to march, finally, to the overturning of the old society and the promised land of liberty and harmony, the torch in one hand and the blade in the other: the light in one hand in order to spread it, and iron in the other, to guard the worker’s way.


Joseph Déjacque

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Coeurderoy and Vauthier, "The Barrier of the Combat" (1852)

I've posted a working translation of The Barrier of the Combat, by Ernest Coeurderoy and Octave Vauthier. For some explanation of the title, see my earlier post on La Barrière du Combat. The essay, which is aimed at squabbling socialist exiles, ends with Coeurderoy's famous argument that liberty in Europe could only be made possible if a Cossack invasion first wiped away civilization.

Of the early anarchists, Coeurderoy was probably the most accomplished and literary writer, which posed a slightly different set of translation problems than I faced with Bellegarrigue and Déjacque. I've learned a number of things about the language in the course of working through this short pamphlet, and it was a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to getting to work on some sections from Hurrah!!! or Revolution by the Cossacks. Coeurderoy, who was a physician before the 1848 revolution, found a champion in the medical community after his death, who produced a short biographical account which I'll post in translation soon.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Transcribing Liberty

There is a new initiative to systematically transcribe the contents of Benjamin R. Tucker's Liberty, a project near and dear to my heart, but one I've never found enough support for to pursue seriously and consistently. Put Transcribing Liberty in your blogroll and show some love for this sort of difficult, and all too frequently thankless, sort of work.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Bellegarrigue's "To the Point! To Action!!" and "Le Commanditaire"

I've posted a revised translation of Anselme Bellegarrigue's "To the Point! To Action!!" ("Au Fait! Au Fait!!") It is considerably more finished than the first version, though I reserve the right to come back and tinker with it some more one of these days. I find Bellegarrigue's prose challenging, but I've grown rather fond of his style. He has a lot of the youthful brashness of Déjacque and Coeurderoy, but also a no-nonsense, bottom-line focus which means he often delivers his largely mutualist message in the voice of a jaded trader, and the result is often as entertaining as it is jarring to modern sensibilities. 

As it happens, it has been the peculiarities of his voice that have helped me to verify what seems to be an unknown project of Bellegarrigue's from 1856, a paper called Le Commanditaire, which may only have lasted three issues. Some time back, I ran across three articles in this paper signed "Bellegarrigue," but it took some time to translate enough to make a guess whether this was Anselme Bellegarrigue. There are, it turns out, quite a number of similarities to the essays from Anarchy and the essay I have just revised, but there is also a development of Bellegarrigue's project in a more practical direction, as he apparently was attempting to show the implications of changes in partnership laws for the workers. As in "The Revolution," concern with commerce is front-and-center. Here's a taste of the prose:

“The world is only a vast market, where the individual appears at once as merchant and as merchandise.”
To those who ask me if it is good that the social traffic or speculation be extended beyond things and take in even persons, I would respond that I do not know and do not want to know if that is good or if it is bad; that it is fully sufficient for me to be certain that it is the case; that, all things considered, we have need of people of every branch of knowledge and every gender at least as frequently as we need a toothpick; that it is fortunate that the market should be established in such a manner that all necessities are satisfied; that the right to sell the product does not seem to exclude the possibility of alienating the machine; and that, finally, by trafficking with their character, their strength, and their genius, individuals dispose of properties the legitimacy of which it would be difficult to contest.
I am not unaware that, despite the natural and fundamental uprightness of all transactions, there are some of them that are charged with irregularity by public opinion and suppressed by its magistrates. In order to remain in agreement with the principle established above, I must not, as my confreres have always done, take a position on this point for or against the public opinion represented by its magistrates; considering that everything in the world is industry or commerce, I take the delinquents for competitors for that opinion and the repression as the triumph of a current method over another method which would like to become current. If the magistrates punish adultery and smuggling, it is obviously because the opinion that they represent flow from practices opposed to those [repressed] practices to deal with love and tobacco; in this case, as in all, the competition turns inevitably to the detriment of that which is not in vogue.
I said then and I maintain that it is to the industrial order that we must logically reduce all the social facts. The Americans understood and practiced the thing before us, and they have found it good. ("Of Partnership in General," 1856)