Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jenny d'Héricourt's "Appeal to Women" and "Profession of Faith"

I've been working on an anthology of Jenny P. d'Héricourt's works, combining her two-volume Woman Affranchised with an assortment of other works of feminist philosophy. d'Héricourt was, of course, one of Proudhon's opponents on the question of women's rights, and her response to him makes up an important part of the first volume of Woman Affranchised, but the second volume (about two-thirds of which was not included in the existing English translation) shows her as an accomplished social thinker and activist. I've been revising and completing the translation of the first volume of that work, and hope to have at least a small edition available for the August bookfairs, and I'm starting to wade into the untranslated sections of the second volume. Here are the first two part of the final section of that second volume. The first, an "Appeal to Women," is the unrevised 1864 translation, and the second, the "Profession of Faith," is my own new working translation.



Progressive women, to you, I address my last words. Listen in the name of the general good, in the name of your sons and your daughters.
You say: the manners of our time are corrupt; the laws concerning our sex need reform.
It is true; but do you think that to verify the evil suffices to cure it?
You say: so long as woman shall be a minor in the city, the state and marriage, she will be so in social labor; she will be forced to be supported by man; that is to debase him while humbling herself.
It is true; but do you believe that to verify these things suffices to remedy our abasement?
You say: the education that both sexes receive is deplorable in view of the destiny of humanity.
It is true; but do you believe that to affirm this suffices to improve, to transform the method of education?
Will words, complaints and protestations have power to change any of these things?
It is not to lament over them that is needed; it is to act.
It is not merely to demand justice and reform that is needed; it is to labor ourselves for reform; it is to prove by our works that we are worthy to obtain justice; it is to take possession resolutely of the contested place; it is, in a word, to have intellect, courage and activity.
Upon whom then will you have a right to count, if you abandon yourselves?
Upon men? Your carelessness and silence have in part discouraged those who maintained your right; it is much if they defend you against those who, to oppress you, call to their aid every species of ignorance, every species of despotism, every selfish passion, all the paradoxes which they despise when their own sex is in question.
You are insulted, you are outraged, you are denied or you are blamed in order that you may be reduced to subjection, and it is much if your indignation is roused thereby!
When will you be ashamed of the part to which you are condemned?
When will you respond to the appeal that generous and intelligent men have made to you?
When will you cease to be masculine photographs, and resolve to complete the revolution of humanity by finally making the word of woman heard in Religion, in Justice, in Politics, and in Science?
What are we to do, you say?
What are you to do, ladies? Well! What is done by women believing. Look at those who have given their soul to a dogma; they form organizations, teach, write, act on their surroundings and on the rising generation in order to secure the triumph of the faith that has the support of their conscience. Why do not you do as much as they?
Your rivals write books stamped with supernaturalism and individualistic morality, why do you not write those that bear the stamp of rationalism, of solidity morality and of a holy faith in Progress?
Your rivals found educational institutions and train up professors in order to gain over the new generation to their dogma and their practices, why do not you do as much for the benefit of the new ideas?
Your rivals organize industrial associations, why do not you imitate them?
Would not what is lawful to them be so to you.
Could a government which professes to revive the principles of ‘89, and which is the offspring of Revolutionary right, entertain the thought of fettering the direct heirs of the principles laid down by ‘89, while leaving those free to act who are more or less their enemies? Can any one of you admit such a possibility?
What are we to do?
You are to establish a journal to maintain your claims.
You are to appoint an encyclopedic committee to draw up a series of treatises on the principle branches of human knowledge for the enlightenment of women and the people.
You are to found a Polytechnic Institute for women.
You are to aid your sisters of the laboring classes to organize themselves in trades associations on economical principles more equitable than those of the present time.
You are to facilitate the return to virtue of the lost women who ask you for aid and counsel.
You are to labor with all your might for the reform of educational methods.
Yet, in the face of a task so complicated, you ask: what are we to do?
Ah, ye women who have attained majority, arise, if ye have heart and courage!
Arise, and let those among you who are the most intelligent, the most instructed, and who have the most time and liberty constitute an Apostleship of women.
Around this Apostleship, let all the women of Progress be ranged, that each one may serve the common cause according to her means.
And remember, remember above all things, that Union is Strength.



Yes, union is strength; but on the condition that it is founded on common principles, not on devotion to one or several persons. For persons pas and can change: principles remain.
Thus our nucleus of crystallization, ladies, should be less the Apostolate than the principles that it professes, its Credo, its profession of faith; for such a profession is needed to rally hearts and minds, and direct them towards a single goal.
Allow me, ladies, to attempt here a sketch of that Credo, which we will divide in to six headings and twenty-four articles.

the law of humanity.

1) The law of humanity is Progress.
2) What we call Progress is the development of the individual and the species in preparation for the realization of an ideal of Justice and happiness, a less and less imperfect ideal, which is the product of the human faculties.
3) The law of Progress is not purely inevitably, like the laws of the world; it combines with our own law, our free will; so it happens that humanity can, for a certain time, like the individual, remain stationary or even retrogress.

the individual, its law, its motives.

4) Each of us in an ensemble of faculties destined to form a harmony under the direction of the Reason or principle of order.
5) Reason recognizes for each of the faculties the right of exercise, with an eye to the good of the ensemble, and so far as [allowed by] the equal rights presented by the other faculties.
6) Each of us has for incentive of their acts the desire for well-being and happiness, and must propose to itself as an aim the triumph of our liberty over everything in the general laws of the which is harmful to our organism; and, in the moral order, the triumph over the constant tendency of our selfish instincts to sacrifice the higher instincts of Justice and Sociability.
7) The destiny of the individual is fulfilled by the development of its faculties, labor, and Liberty in Equality.

physical good and evil.

8) Suffering is nothing but a discord put in us by our own error, by a bad environment, or by the solidarity of the blood. It is a product of our inadequacy, of our errors, or of those of our predecessors in life.
9) Suffering and evil are stimulants to Progress, by the struggle that one maintains in order to cure them and to safeguard oneself and one successors against it: if we did not suffer, we would not progress, because nothing keeps the intelligence and other faculties in wakefulness and action.
10) To resign ourselves to suffering without committing moral evil, is to weaken our being; it is an evil, an error, or a cowardice.
11) To impose suffering on ourselves, except those necessitated by the struggle against the exaggeration of the penchants, it is an act of folly which tend to disharmonize our being, and render it unfit to fulfill its function in humanity.

moral evil and more good.

12) Evil and good, in the moral sense, are not substances, beings in themselves, but the expression of relations, judged true or false, between the act of our free will and the ideal of good posed by the conscience.
13) The soul of a nation is the Good and the Just: what is proven by these two facts: the fall of civilizations and empires by the weakening of the moral sense; decadence, from this single fact, despite literary, artistic, scientific and industrial progress.
14) The weakening of the moral sense is the result of the absence of a higher ideal of the Good and Justice, and produces the growing predominance of the selfish faculties over the social faculties.
15) The struggle is within in us, as a result of the very constitution of our being, because there is an antagonism between the instincts which tend towards our own satisfaction, and those which connect us with our fellows; because, on the other hand, the first are given to us in all their harsh vigor, while the others are only given in germ, so that we have the glory of raising ourselves from animality to Humanity. From these facts, it results that virtue, the exercise of free will and morale strength against the encroachments of the selfish faculties, is and will always be necessary to keep them within their legitimate limits, and to prevent them from oppressing the higher faculties.

humanity, its destiny.

16) Humanity is one. The races and nations which make it up are only its organs or elements of organs, and they have their special tasks. The modern ideal is to connect them in a intimate solidarity, as the organs in a single body are connected.
17) Humanity is the author of its own Progress, its Justice, and it ideal, which it perfects to the extent that it becomes more aware, more rational and better understands the universe, its laws, and itself.
18) The attentive study of the history of our species shows us that the collective destiny of Humanity is to raise itself above animality, by cultivating the faculties which are special to it, and at the same time to create arts, sciences, industry, and Society, in order to assure more and more, and to an always greater number, liberty, the means of improvement and well-being.
19) The history also tells us that Progress is the consequence of the degree of liberty, the number of the free, and the practice of Equality. From this it results that individual Liberty in social Equality is an imprescriptible right, the sole means of giving to each individual the power to accomplish their destiny which is an element of the collective destiny: That is why, since 1789, France proposed as ideal the triumph of Liberty and Equality.

equality of the sexes.

20) The two sexes, being of the same species, are, before Justice, and should be, before law and Society, perfectly equal in Right.
21) The couple is a Society formed by Love; an association of two distinct and equal beings, which cannot absorb one another, to become one single being, an androgyne.
22) The woman does not claim her rights only as a woman, but only as a human person and member of the social body.
23) The woman must protest, as wife, human being and citizen, against the laws that subordinate her, and demand her rights until they have been recognized.
24) What some call the emancipation of the woman in Love, is her slavery, the ruin of civilization, the physical and moral degeneration of the species. The woman, sadly emancipated in this manner, very far from being free, is the slave of her instincts, and the slave of the passions of the man.
However incomplete and imperfect this provisional profession of faith may be, if you gather yourselves around it, ladies, you will restore an ideal to your sex which will subvert the other and drive it into the abyss.
You will impress on education a seal of Justice, unity, and rationality that it has never had before.
You will magnify and transform Morals.
Imbued with a lively faith in human solidarity, you will work earnestly at the reform of social mores.
Instead of disdaining the lost souls of both sexes, you will use every resource to put them back on the right road: for not one of us can think themselves innocent, as long as there are the guilty among us.
You will moralize work and the workers.
In short, you will prove by your works that you are worthy of enjoying the rights you claim; and you will shut the mouths of those insipid babblers who raid in verse and prose against the activity women, the capacity of women, the science of women, the rationality and practical spirit of women.
A thousand years of denials, ladies, are not worth five years filled with useful labors and active dedication.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Adrien Ranvier — Jeanne Deroin, A Feminist of 1848 — I



This study of Jeanne Deroin is the work left by Adrien Ranvier, who died September 18, 1905, at Asniéres (Seine).

Adrien Ranvier, born in 1807, son of Gabriel Ramier, member of the Commune, was raised, from 1871, by Madames Vincent and Mauriceau.

Her father, Gabriel Ranvier, imprisoned after October 31 1870, was elected mayor of the XXth arrondissement and member of the Commune, March 26, 1871; was one of the last combatants of the Commune and only escaped from prison thanks to the shelter than he found in Asniéres, with the Girard and Mauriceau families. Conducted by his friends to Creil, he made it to Belgium. His friends did not stop there; the got his oldest son, Henri Ranvier, currently conseiller municipal du XIth arrondissement, out of the Chantiers Prison, at Versailles, and received the young Adrien, on whom they never ceased to lavish maternal care; their charge, fortunately gifted, developed his natural talents through brilliant studies at the College of Melun.

In 1892, Adrien Ranvier was engaged, in London, to the daughter of Antoine Arnaud, ancient member of the Commune. It is there that he was introduced, through Louise Michel, to Jeanne Deroin, who entrusted to him some manuscripts on the events in which she had taken part in 1848.

Il profita de son séjour à Londres to study, in the libraries, the writings concerning the period of the Commune. A collaborator of the Revue féministe, he published numerous articles on the demands formulated by the women, and took an active part in the Feminist Congresses de 1889, 1892, 1896 and 1900.

Adrien Ranvier was attached to the Exposition of 1900 as authenticator of the works of the Petit Palais. Later, he passed eighteen months in Tunisia, where he directed some important works. In 1904, he had been named inspector of the works of public assistance at the hospice of Brévannes, when death took him prematurely, at the age of 38. The review l’Entente, in its number for November 1905, has dedicated an obituary to him.

V. Vincent.


In the first days of April, 1894, in foggy weather, as is often the case in London, the promenaders watched with astonishment as there passed before them a procession grandiose in its simplicity. Behind a poor hearse came, making escort, the notables of the English socialist world; they could also see in the procession some French residents of London. And these people seemed moved; they accompanied a friend to her final residence, one of the most remarkable women of our century, as much for the elevation of her thoughts and ideas as for her courage in developing and defending them; a woman who had dedicated her existence to a single cause, with two different forms: the emancipation of women, and the liberation of the workers: a woman finally who, all her life, had preached peace, concord and union for the greatest happiness of the suffering and disinherited. Arrived at an advanced age, she departed without being able to see any of her hopes realized. On that tomb, given to enclose the mortal remains of the valiant fighter that woman had been, one of the leaders of the English socialist party, as well as one of the best poets and artists with which England has been honored, the late lamented William Morris, since dead, pronounced, in a discourse vibrant with emotion, the elegy of the deceased and addressed to her the supreme adieu.

What was it then about this woman whose death gathered around her tomb so many diverse sympathies? What had she done that was so great, that these people came to pronounce words of farewell and of hope over her casket? That is what we are going to tell.

Jeanne-Françoise Deroin was born in Paris on December 31, 1805. She was still a child, when she witnessed the invasions of 1814 and 1815. She was struck by the evils that afflicted her homeland in that era, and retained such memories of it, that later she could not hear talk of war without manifesting the greatest horror. She witnessed the end of the extraordinary that was the Empire and which ended with the fall of Bonaparte, followed by the return of the Bourbons. She saw the reaction develop and it was with joy that she witnessed the Revolution of 1830, which put an end to the bigoted despotism of the eldest branch of the Bourbons.

She was of that generation of thinkers, enthusiastic admirers of the ideas of 1789, and, like them, the days of 1830 gave her the hope of soon seeing public liberties take a great step. Alas! All had figured without the stupid vanity of a La Fayette and the duplicity of the citizen-king.

Around 1832, she felt herself attracted to the Saint-Simonians, whose doctrine of fraternity and love was well formed to evoke her sympathies. The apologue of Saint Simon and the laborers struck her imagination and made her understand just how unjust was the situation of the proletarian class was vis-à-vis the other classes of society. Did she become a Saint-Simonian? We do not know, nor would we affirm it; but all converges to make us believe it to be true.

The relations of pure amity that she long maintained with Olinde Rodrigues helps further to confirm our belief.

First, the theories of the Saint-Simonians were in too much conformity with the thoughts of Jeanne Deroin for us to be surprised that she could have been Saint-Simonian. It is certain that a school that takes as its fulcrum this motto: — To each according to his ability, to each ability according to its works; — and which declares the following four as necessary reforms:

1° Abolition of all the privileges of birth;

2° Transformation of property;

3° Social and professional education;

4° Equality of man and woman;

such a school, we say, was well calculated to please the reformer’s spirit of Jeanne Deroin. She had known Blanqui and Pierre Leroux there; and by the study of Fourierism and Cabetism, which she ended by adopting completely, she managed to give to her mind the orientation that it preserved until the end of his life.

It was at the meetings of that school that she met the man who would be her husband, Mr. Desroches. Her marriage was purely civil; for, something of a deist, Jeanne Deroin did not believe in the dogmas of the Church, something for which she would have to suffer later.

In this regard, we recall that in London we became acquainted with a woman, who combined a great good sense with an erudition no less great. Mistress Sibthorp, who edited “Shafts,” is a notable figure in the English feminist party; she is a convert who, after having long sought her way, exactly like Jeanne Deroin, she arrived at a formula of doubt: she is neither absolutely deist, not absolutely atheist, neither a believer, in the absolute sense of the word, nor a free-thinker, as we understand that one can be such; but she is a liberator of firm and thoughtful mind. We will return one day on her account. She has the character of Jeanne Deroin, doubled with the cool temperament of the Anglo-Saxon race.

For several years, Jeanne Deroin withdrew entirely into her duties as a mother, and was occupied above all with giving instruction and education to the three children that she had with her husband. Until the Revolution of 1848, we turn up no salient detail of her existence; the moment has not come for her to reveal herself; the ideas which presented themselves in a mass to her mind did not yet, she thought, have sufficient clarity to be expressed. There was a period for Jeanne Deroin during which she devoted herself to the study of the socialist theories; so that later, at the time of her trial, a journalist hardly suspected of being favorable to the cause, the editor of the Gazette des Tribunaux, giving an account of the trial, could write this phrase: “That woman, Jeanne Deroin, is small, thin and very pale; she is coiffed with a hood of black crêpe garnished with ribbons of a very bright red. She responds with a great calm; she has given proof, in the exposition of her ideas, of a great erudition regarding socialism.”

The desire to give to her children, two daughters and a son, a solid instruction and a good education, suggested to her the thought of founding a school where she would instruct poor children at the same time as her own. But in order to obtain the necessary authorization, she needed a diploma; she prepared herself to pass the examination that would procure it for her; she failed several times, for two reasons: her religious ideas, which she had already demonstrated by her civil marriage, and her poor handwriting stemming from the fact that as a child she had been accustomed to write in printed characters; it was only later that she learned to write in script and to count; for her mother, a woman of another era, judged that instruction was useless for women. That circumstance, apparently secondary, caused her to reflect on the lot and situation of women in society and decided, as it were, her life and her future.

She obtained, however, the certificate she so desired, thanks to the benevolence of the Abbé Deguerry, who aided her in that affair. She was able from then on to conduct her school, which she preserved until 1848, at the moment when the Revolution broke out. She saw it arrive with as much joy as apprehension. For, along with a great number of innovators, she believed herself predestined, she thought that she had a mission to fulfill, a task accomplish. According to the promise that he had made her at the moment of their marriage, her husband left her completely free of his acts.[1] After having commended her husband and children to the benevolence of her friends, Jeanne Deroin, convinced and full of ardor and faith in the ideas of social renovation, once again took her maiden name and launched herself into the revolutionary turmoil.

From that moment, the life of Jeanne Deroin can be divided into two fractions: the first, all of active struggle, goes from 1848 to 1855; the second, when Jeanne returned to private life, extends from 1855 until her death. But, in the two periods, whether she wrote or spoke of active politics, on morals and social religion, her work can be summarized with one word: emancipation.

[1] That did not prevent the attorney from writing and saying of her in the proceeding:
“Jeanne Deroin, teacher, founder of the journal: l'Opinion des femmes, Madame Desroches, as a sort of protest against marriage, has abandoned her married name to reassume her maiden name.”
To which, Jeanne Deroin responded with much dignity:
“If I do not bear the name of my husband, it is first because I do not wish to render him accountable for my acts.”

[to be continued...] 

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Monday, May 28, 2012

Notes on a "mutualist minimum"

One of the more "collectivist" economic heresies that I'm interested in is the notion of a "basic minimum." As expressed by the followers of Fourier, and people like Joseph Charlier, it was one of the long list of intrusive measures that Proudhon hoped to avoid through the establishment of the Bank of the People. And I appreciate that sentiment, but I am also tempted by Pierre Leroux's assertion that a basic subsistence is a basic right. In any event, in response to one of those constant "what would a mutualist do?" questions on Facebook, I sketched just a bit of how a mutualist minimum might work.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Molinari's "Soirées" in translation

Good translation news, with a tip of the hat to Roderick Long: the Liberty Fund will be publishing an English translation of Gustave de Molinari's 1849 work, Les Soirées de la rue Saint-Lazare: entretiens sur les lois économiques et défense de la propriété (Evenings on Saint Lazarus Street: Discussions on Economic Laws and the Defence of Property), and a draft is already online. I think mutualists will find plenty here to disagree with, but it will be very useful to have a translation of the work available. So far, it seems very well done, and rather massively footnoted.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Splendors of the Combined Order

I've finally made a start at a blog-archive of material related to Charles Fourier, passional economy, attractive labor, etc. There is a real wealth of such material tucked away in the pages of various 19th century radical periodicals, and my own work is beginning to draw more directly on parts of the tradition, so it will be nice to have the relevant texts available for readers. It will be an on again, off again affair, but I think many of you will enjoy The Splendors of the Combined Order.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Séverine — The Anarchists of Chicago


They have taken these four men full of life and health, cast over their shoulders the shrouds that shall, some few minutes later, wrap their twisted limbs, and hide their contorted faces—eyes bulging out of their orbits to punish them for having seen too far and too high into the future of humanity; tongues bulging from mouths, gags of purple flesh sealing forever these lips guilty of speaking of justice and truth!

Their gait was unsteady, for their ankles were cut by the cords which hobbled their feet, as the legs of beasts are tied before on the way to the slaughterhouse.

They were pale, for the night before their dearest friend, Louis Lingg, had sacrificed his life, stoically, in the hope of saving their four lives. They had heard the sudden explosion, the commotion among the prisoners, and the cries of suffering wrung from him by his frightful wounds. They had counted the minutes of his agony, and their sleep had been troubled during that ultimate night by a double pounding of hammers: the coffin was nailed, as the gallows was erected...

The day before, they had cut off their hearts from this world. The wives, the mothers, had sobbed in their arms, wailed against their chests, hugged their knees. There had been, in these dungeons, some dreadful scenes. The companions of Fisher and Parsons, the mother of Spies, and his fiancée, had watered with their tears the stone of the cells.

Parsons’ wife had returned in the morning. She had dragged herself to the door of the jail, had knocked softly, and had begged, with words fit to move beasts, to be allowed to embrace one last time the still-living one whose widow she already was.

— No.

She said nothing, did not shout, and cried no more; but her fingernails, embedded in the edges of the door, came loose suddenly, and she fell back with a cry so terrible that it was heard all through the prison.

No one knew if Parsons had recognized the dear voice; but, from that moment, dreadful wrinkles cut at his face; he seemed sixty years old when the hangman took him.

The four condemned men listened, proudly—a superhuman thing to see—to the reading of the death sentence. Then, walking toward the scaffold, Fisher— the German, Fisher—began to sing the heroic Marseillaise whose red wing hovered over these martyrs.

The executioner seized them. The ignominious cords were knotted around their necks, the trapdoors opened—and the four bodies swung in space, like four bell clappers sounding the alarm of reprisals in the terrified air..

Before dying, Spies said: “The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”

Engel cried out: “Hurrah for Anarchy!”

Fisher cried: “Hurrah for Anarchy!”

The last phrase of the testament of Lingg was: “Long live Anarchy!”...

November, 1887.

 From En Marche (1896)

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tentative outline for the Bakunin Project

From this point on, I'll be directing most of the Bakunin-related material to the Bakunin Library blog, but I wanted to let my readers here, and on the aggregators where this blog appears, know that I have posted a tentative outline for the Collected Works of Bakunin and would welcome feedback.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Introducing the Bakunin Library blog

I've launched the Bakunin Library blog, as part of our effort to translate Bakunin's works into English, and posted a first new translation, from a manuscript essay on Shakespeare's Hamlet, from 1837, by a young Bakunin.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

More on the Bakunin project

Thanks to those who have responded. Here's a few more details about the project:

Bakunin's works were published in nine languages, with the majority in French, and then most of the works in other languages were translated into French for the CD-ROM that was issued in 2000. Ideally, we'll be able to have everything carefully checked against the original language, but, given the translators available and the grassroots nature of the project, we may well take advantage of the French translations to develop working drafts in English.

It looks to me like the division of labor is likely to involve:

* translators to work up raw, working translations
* readers familiar with the original languages to check translations
* English readers of varying degrees of expertise to check readability
* editors to maintain consistency

My ideal case scenario would involve a bit more collaboration and cross-checking than volumes generated by the movement sometimes get, just to make sure that we're producing something that will have lasting value, both to scholars and activists concerned with our history. I think we might learn some things about practice in the process.

To issue a volume every year would require the equivalent of *completing* a couple of pages each day, scattered among the various participants, although ideally the first year should involve about twice the work, so that the first and second volumes can follow fairly regularly on the heels of the introductory collection. That means that small contributions -- the equivalent of a couple of pages each month -- could cover the ground, assuming we have a number of people able and willing to split the load. Also, if we are able to split up the workload to the point where it isn't devouring individuals -- and we all, myself included, have plenty of other projects on our plate -- then it actually shouldn't be any particular challenge to also translate a number of related collectivist anarchist texts, from Guillaume, Schwitzguebel, de Paepe, etc. and fill in a fairly major hole in the English-language literature.

I've committed myself to the job of doing a hefty chunk of translation, roughly 25% of what I imagine will be necessary for each volume, and then editing, completing, standardizing, etc., the rest of the material as needed. I'm willing -- happy really, given our need for more translation -- to work with less experienced translators, so I would encourage folks who would like to give it a try to say so, and we'll find something manageable to start with.

I'm hoping that some more experienced folks with full plates will be willing to consult a bit along the way.

At the moment, this is all on "labor of love" terrain, but it seems like an eminently crowd-fundable sort of project, at least at a level where we could get translators some level of compensation -- though the level will necessarily depend on the support. I'm happy to sweeten the deal for participants with the some early contributor-only pamphlet releases or hand-bound volumes, depending on the degree of contribution, from my Corvus Editions project.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Works of Bakunin in English - call for translators and readers

As I announced here a month or so back, PM Press has decided to move ahead with the oft-mentioned Collected Works of Bakunin project, and I've been asked to coordinate and edit the thing. The prospect is equally exciting and daunting.

I'm in the early stages of planning the introductory sampler volume and getting a general sense of what could, and what should, be included in the subsequent volumes. My inclination is to be as inclusive as possible, but the "possible" will depend a good deal on how much participation there is in the translation and editing process.

I've volunteered for the blame and a good deal of labor. I'm happy to spread around the rest of the labor, and much of the credit. The project will need both translators and readers, and can probably accommodate a range of levels of expertise. The works range from very short to book-length, and if it can be sustained the project might well run ten years or more. So if you have any interest in participating, please let me know, and we'll figure out how to match your available time and skills with some part of the project.

I'll be rolling out a blog with some new working translations and archive finds in the next week or two. And I'll follow that up with a project email list once we have a few folks onboard.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Labor and subjective value

Debates about anarchist economics would probably be frustrating and difficult under the best of circumstances, but the truth is that we steer well clear of even relatively good circumstances much of the time, returning again and again to a few debates which, in practice, can't be resolved because they are merely symptoms of hardened, irreconcilable presuppositions, but which, under those elusive "best of circumstances" might well turn out to be no big deal—and may be at least a very different deal than our disagreements seem to suppose. 

Take the standard attack on mutualists for their adherence to the labor theory of value (usually identified as "the discredited labor theory of value.") Now, there are certainly circumstances in which it might be useful to explore the fine point of a number of Austrian or marginalist theories of price, cost or value, or to engage closely with the niceties of the Marxian notion of "socially necessary abstract labor time," or to look at the potential in/compatibilities between them. Approached with a sufficiently open mind, and enough patience and rigor, there's a lot of a certain kind of fun to be had. But let's be honest: that is not what is going on in the vast majority of cases where "the LTV" and "the STV" are opposed, and subjective valuation is opposed to an "objective" or "inherent" theory of labor valuation.

I would happily go out on a limb and say that most of the time anarchists and libertarians tilt over the questions of "subjective" vs. "labor/objective/inherent" value, the debate is really being driven by almost everything but some basic divide in approaches to valuation. We know, after all, that hour-for-hour, labor-for-labor exchange was theorized, and practiced, on a pretty thoroughly subjectivized model, in Josiah Warren's experiments in "equitable commerce," as early as the 1820s. Of course, Warren did not subscribe to a theory in which some "objective" quantity of labor literally "inheres" in a product, and more than he believed that value is just subjective—but this just means that he was like just about every other specific individual who has embraced some fleshed-out theory of value.

Let's look at the most inflexible form of labor-valuation: a simple hour-for-hour labor exchange, without even any consideration of the "intensity" of a given hour's labor. Is there no subjective-value defense possible for this sort of system? Surely, our time is a non-renewable resource subject to individual valuation—upon which we are each individually likely to place a fairly high value, however incommensurable our individual valuations may ultimately be, and how little we may value other people's time. The sort of conclusions this leads us to regarding value in exchange will necessarily depend on other factors, and particularly on where we choose to focus our attention. If we are solely concerned with our "toil and trouble" as producers there is certainly no reason to value others' time and toil as more valuable than our own. And if we are inclined to think of production primarily as individual expression, rather than as a prelude to exchange, our approach might be radically individualist and thoroughly subjective, and still bring us to a point where, forced by social limitations on that expression-production, we might well still champion a direct exchange of time. Indeed, starting from that basis (and either Stirner or Fourier might well lead us there), the most convincing arguments against hour-for-hour exchange would almost certainly depend on some appeal to the objective inequality of the products of those hours. But that would involve several shifts: a move from an emphasis on production to an emphasis on exchange and consumption, the introduction of objective criteria of comparison, and a shift in emphasis from individual motives and values to function within the market.

If we stick close to the specific question of approaches to valuation, it seems to me that perhaps things look rather different than is generally assumed.

Now, this particular insight only takes us so far, before we are forced to deal with all of the other factors which are really driving the "STV vs. LTV" debates: notions of property, profit, incentive, human nature in general, and, perhaps most importantly, that thorny issue of the "right of increase." But we're certainly more likely to do those questions justice if we focus on them directly, instead of by proxy, in debates about valuation which may ultimately obscure more than they illuminate.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Joseph Déjacque, "The Revolutionary Question" (conclusion)

 Here's the concluding section of Déjacque's "The Revolutionary Question," which undoubtedly contains a couple of the most fire-breathing footnotes in the literature:

The Revolutionary Question


Thus, as solution, liberty, equality and fraternity.

Liberty of thought,

Liberty of love,

Liberty of labor,

Liberty of action :

Liberty in everything and for everyone.

Equality of rights, equality of duties: social equality.

Fraternity, that is social character impressed by the simultaneous action of liberty and equality on the page of humanity; vignette which follows from the text; last syllable which concludes the formula according to the spelling out of two others; qualifier of solidarity and unity.

And, as means of operation, as transitional means, direct legislation.

And let no one repeat that the people are too ignorant; that it is to put into their hands an instrument of which they will no know how to make use; that they must wait, and wait for those who have the science to govern them. No, I would respond to these leather-breeches of the revolution, to these Decembraillards of the dictatorship. It is only by working at the forge that one learns to be a blacksmith; it is only by making law that the people will learn to make them well. I know well that the apprentice blacksmith strikes himself more than once on the fingers before knowing to forge well. That teaches him to pay more attention to what he does, and, as they say, “to make the trade enter the fingers.” The people, apprentice legislators, will also sometimes strike themselves by legislating, which will teach them to examine more closely the propositions and better manage their vote. And if, one day, it makes bad laws, the next day, it will be done with them, and put them on the scrap heap, to forge and pound out better ones.

But, before arriving there, there is one material obstacle to overcome, – it is the empire; another means of operation to employ, – it is insurrection. Despite his seven or eight million votes, the emperor is enthroned on a crater. The lava bubbles in the bottom of the pit. The torment of June 48 and the fruitless agitations which preceded or followed have in part, it is true, exhausted the enthusiasm, quelled the insurrectionary energies of the generation which passes; – but the younger generation rises; the social idea boils in their brains and will soon attain its degree of upward force. If Bonaparte does not himself make some larges vents to reduce the pressure and allow the passage of socialism, it will be done for him: one day or another, he will be swept away by a volcanic eruption. The earth trembles under the flowering of the reaction, and the old society, like another Pompeii, will soon be swallowed up by the incandescent flood of the revolution.

To work then! For it is not a question of sitting back and waiting for the day of atonement. We must prepare. Each day, women and proletarians, and in the measure of our strength and convictions, in the household, in the workshop, on deserted street-corners, starting today, at every hour, and at every instant, we must act, rise up, and make revolution.

To the work! And let those who are hungry and want to eat;

Let those who are thirsty and want to drink;

Let those who are naked and want to be clothed;

Let those who are cold in body and soul, and want to warm themselves with the caloric of the brazier of with love;

Let those who carry in their hands and on their face the furrows plowed by a homicidal labor and no longer want to plow their flesh to fatten some idlers;

Let those who feel themselves withering under the fog of physical privations and want to fast and clear their lungs in the climate of less deleterious institutions;

Let those who incubate in their bosom the consumption of moral sorrows and want to cure it;

Let all those who suffer and want to enjoy;

Finally! Let all those who have palms and crowns of misery, rise!... and let their number and their rebellion chill will terror the spectators, organizers and executors of their martyrdom!

Stand up everyone!

And by the arm and the heart,

By speech and by the pen,

By dagger and rifle,

By irony and imprecation,

By pillage and adultery,[i]

By poisoning and fire,[ii]

Let us make, – on the highway of principles or in the corner of individual rights, – by insurrection or by assassination, – war to society!... war to civilization!...[iii]

Stand up! – And if, by some misfortune, there are some who fall into the hand of governmental authority, – let each of us, – accused at the bar, condemned under the rod, in the dungeons or on the block of detentions or executions, – let each of the new believers confess, – before humanity and taking nature as witness, – that they have acted only by virtue of their right and in order to obey the religion of their conscience...[iv]

Stand up, proletarians, everyone stand! – And, unfurl the flag of social war! Stand up! And, – like the fanatics of the Koran, – in the thick of the insurrectionary fray, where those who are slain die to be reborn in the future society – lot us repeat that cry of anathema and extermination for religion and the family, for capital and government; that cry of hate and love, – of hatred for privilege, love for legality; – that vengeful cry, that cry of our faith:

– the REVOLUTION is the REVOLUTION, and LIBERTY, – today vilified, in order to be hounded, hunted, but tomorrow victorious and powerful and always immortal, – LIBERTY is its PROPHET!…

Jersey, 1852-53.

[i] By adultery, which is to say, by making the greatest possible disorganization in the household. Let no husband be able to say: “I am the father of that child.” And, finding in marriage only fatigue and disgust, an insupportable existence, let him be constrained, in order to escape it, to demand amorous liberty himself, and give up his authority.–In all things, let the good be born from the excess of evil, since, by their résistance to progress, the criminals in power require it thus.

[ii] Let every revolutionary choose, among those among whom they believe they can count the most, one or two other proletarians like themselves. And let all,–in groups of three or four, being unconnected and functioning in isolations, so that the discovery of one of the groups does not lead to the arrest of the other,–act with the common aim of destroying the old society, and putting the privileged in peril so well and at so many moments of the day, that they will be obliged, in order to escape ruin and death, to make common cause with the proletarians to demand equality; let it be for them so that they can see salvation only in the destruction of their privilege, and let their interest, finally, legislate for them a desire to return to the realm of common right.

Let, for example, each group proceed in this way: if, of the three or four members of the group, there is a construction worker, let him take the imprint of the keyholes of the apartments of the wealthy where he should be called to labor, and let him inspect the exits well, let him skillfully question the domestics, in order to have all the indispensable information, and then, having taken these measures, let him inform the other members of his group,–his accomplices, if you like,–and at the moment determined, let them enter by night the apartment of these rich folks, stabbing or strangling the master or masters, forcing, breaking or opening with the aid of false keys the furniture where silverware, jewelry and coin can be found; let them carry all they can, and when they go let them put fire to the house. But above all let them not use the product of their plunder to improve their condition. That would be their downfall: a change in their position would betray then by alerting the police. Let them kill and loot in order to destroy. Only let them bury underground all the gold that they have been able to gather, so that if they or one of their fellows comes to be suspected or discovered, that gold can serve their escape. Let the group which, with the product of these night conquests among the rich, could obtain a clandestine printing house, do so, and let bulletins, proclaiming the aim and means of action of the terrible society, reveal each day to the public that all the murders, thefts, poisonings, and arsons which are committed in the city and the country are the work of the revolutionaries, of the new Jacques, and that they will go on so long as equality has not dethroned privilege.

In another group where there is a confectioner worker, the worker should make every effort to be employed in one of the big houses which furnish the aristocracy, and on New Year’s Eve, I suppose, or the day before, let them poison on, or ten, or twenty bowls of bonbons, as many as they can, and on that next day let a hundred or a thousand aristocrats cease to live. Let the secret society, through its clandestine printers, then claim the responsibility for it, and let the stoic poisoner vanish, fleeing to escape an arrest.

Let the perfumer do likewise. If they can, let them also poison champagne, the fine wines, the linens, the cakes, the ices and sorbets. In the country, let them burn the crops of the rich, along with their houses, and the churches; in the cities, let them do likewise with the houses, churches, ministries, town halls, and all the offices of commerce and government. Let the sword of Damocles be constantly suspended over the heads of the privileged; let the serpents of terror, like those of Nemesis, hiss day and night in their ears and make the tremble for their gold and their lives; let their position no longer be bearable and let them, weary from so much anguish, be forced to fall their knees and ask for mercy and beg the proletariat to grant them their lives in exchange for their privilege, and common happiness in exchange for general misfortune.

[ii] Civilization, being now a synonym of barbarism, is to be destroyed, like the barbarism that opened the era of Civilization. Humanity, which has grown, rejects it today like a garment which is too tight, in order to enter into a new phase of progress called harmony.

[iii] Civilization, being now a synonym of barbarism, is to be destroyed, like the barbarism that opened the era of Civilization. Humanity, which has grown, rejects it today like a garment which is too tight, in order to enter into a new phase of progress called harmony.

[iv] Let the individual or group appearing before the assizes hold their heads high, let them stand there not as defendants, but as enemies, and as always formidable enemies anyway, or potentially so, prisoner or free, dead or living, for the principled individual vanquished in struggle is never entirely dead and that is their consolation and strength, their fellows surviving them.–Let them say then to those who are there to condemn them: “Tomorrow, if you do not acquit me, you will be dead. I call in a loud voice to you, the daggers of the secret societies of which I am a member, and that invocation, know it well, is for all of them an order!... And now strike me, if you dare!” And the next day, if that revolutionary is condemned, let the secret societies make perish, at any price and whatever peril there is in doing it, the judges and juries who have handed in the sentence. – Ah! Gentlemen of the family and property, of religion and government, you want privilege, well! Suffer the consequences... Do you think that your life, your world, your worm-eaten society hold on long against such revolutionary means? What do you say, children of Malthus? But, unfortunately, the energies are weak, today, and it is probably only on the day after some other, still stifled revolution, after some new days of June, that this idea could bear its fruits. Meanwhile, I sow the seed in the hearts of all the suffering, and, come on! you will not escape this new jacquerie. May it begin without delay!

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]