Monday, December 27, 2010

An update and a call

I'm taking the next month or so to write (The Mutualist #2, and "The Anarchism of Approximations"), and to consolidate the lessons of the last year into some kind of routine, both for Corvus Editions and for my scholarly work. Over the next week, much of the Corvus shop will come down, to be replaced with improved content, reflective of the new print catalog I'm currently assembling. It looks like 2011 will start for me, with a new (part-time, unpaid) job, as curator and bookkeeper for a small cooperative retail space in Portland, within which Corvus and a number of other small presses and artisan projects will have their own little slice of storefront within an existing volunteer-run radical bookstore. Details will follow, as we nail things down, but this little project is a big turning point for my various projects, since it allows/forces me to focus on a particular sort of primary outlet for my work, imposes some concrete, periodical deadlines, etc.

The model that we're using for the cooperative space involves breaking the space-rent and general expenses (including some equivalent for the volunteer staffing) down into shares corresponding to shelf-feet, making it possible to bring a small catalog into the store for as little as $5/month [$1.50 - $3.00/shelf-foot, depending on labor volunteered for store staffing.] Expenses are covered up front, so sales go to individual vendors directly, with no consignment fees. I started Corvus Editions to provide low-cost, high-quality materials for bookstores and infoshops with very little money to spend on new stock. I established a constant flow of new releases, from a fairly broad range of traditions, so that tiny, cash-poor operations could always have something new if they could afford even a few dollars to invest on inventory. As it happens, I think identified the right problems, but too late... both because cash-flow concerns, and rising postage costs, have curtailed almost all non-consignment acquisition by many of the shops I was thinking of, but also because distribution channels have collapsed or centralized to such a degree that it's simply a lot harder to reach the right shops. And, of course, for a variety of reasons, "the good old stuff" from the radical traditions doesn't have the street cred it once did. You can bring a hundred different titles to an anarchist bookfair, but you won't necessarily find many browsers.

Live and learn. It turns out that a 19th-century socialist-feminist encyclopedia entry, that's hard to give away (despite its merits) as a $2 pamphlet, is cute and interesting as a tiny $5 book. Recycled paper is good, and farm-waste paper is better, but books bound in recycled Pendaflex folders and upholstery scraps are good enough to take home. If you're going to bother to be a publisher of real books, here at the far edge of the Gutenberg Galaxy, it doesn't hurt to make a statement. Everybody knows you can't judge a book by its cover, but we mostly do it that way anyway.

So a big part of January's labor will be translating the various "libraries" in the Corvus Catalog, and the unpublished catalogs in my various digital archives, into something that will look like a library when placed on the shelf. For the Portland bookfair I brought out some prototype bindings for the New Proudhon Library, and I've got text formatted for a number of uniform hardcover volumes:
  • What is Property? - First Memoir
  • A Letter to M. Blanqui - Second Memoir
  • System of Economical Contradictions, Vol. 1
  • Philosophy of Progress
  • General Idea of the Revolution
  • Gratuity of Credit
  • Galileo: A Drama, with commentary
  • Langlois's P.-J. Proudhon: His Life and Works
 and I've bound several of those (as you can see) with wrap-around spine labels, to look good on the shelf, and bindings that let you open them wide to read and study. And I'm working on the first of a set of Miscellanies, collecting early translations of, and response to, Proudhon's work.

That's where I could use a little help:

The early translations were partial, and often paraphrases rather than real translations, scattered in various odd places. I have, from the period before Benjamin R. Tucker began his work:
  • William B. Greene's translations, from Mutual Banking (and later translations published in The Word)
  • William Henry Channing's translation of "The Coming Era of Mutualism"
  • the partial/paraphrased translation of "Confessions of a Revolutionist" from the London Weekly Tribune, reprinted in The Spirit of the Age
  • Charles A. Dana's articles from The Spirit of the Age, reprinted by Tucker in Proudhon and his Bank of the People
  • the "Hymn to Satan," from the Ladies Repository
  • the excerpts translated in William Lucas Sargant's Social Innovators and their Schemes (1858)
And all of these are of interest, if only as evidence of the specific ways that Proudhon's work was interpreted during his lifetime, or shortly thereafter.

But I'm sure there are more bits and pieces out there, so if anyone knows of things I'm missing, please let me know.

    Sunday, December 26, 2010

    Joseph Déjacque - The Humanisphere (Preface)

    The Humanisphere:
    Anarchic Utopia

    Joseph Déjacque

    UTOPIA: "A dream not realized, but not unrealizable."

    ANARCHY: "Absence of government."

    Revolutions are conservations. (P. J. PROUDHON)

    The only true revolutions are the revolutions of ideas. (JOUFFROY)

    Let us make customs, and no longer make laws. (EMILE DE GIRARDIN)

    So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty…. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

    For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE)

    What is this Book!

    This book is not a literary work, it is an infernal labor, the cry of a rebel slave.

    Being, like the cabin boy of the Salamander, unable, in my individual weakness, to strike down all those who, on the ship of the legal order, dominate and mistreat me, when my day is done at the workshop, when my watch is finished on the bridge, I descend by night to the bottom of the hold, I take possession of my solitary corner and, there, with teeth and claws, like a rat in the shadows, I scratch and gnaw at the worm-eaten walls of the old society. By day, as well, I use my hours of unemployment, I arm myself with a pen like a borer, I dip it in bile for grease, and, little by little, I open a way, each day larger, to the flood of the new; I relentless perforate the hull of Civilization. I, a puny proletarian, on whom the crew, the horde of exploiters, daily inflict the torment of the aggravated misery of the brutalities of exile or prison, I open up the abyss beneath the feet of my murderers, and I spread the balm of vengeance on my always-bloody scars. I have my eye on my Masters. I know that each day brings me closer to the goal; that a formidable cry—the sinister EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF!—will soon resound at the height of their joyous intoxication. A BILGE-RAT, I prepare their shipwreck; that shipwreck alone can put an end to my troubles and to those of my fellows. Come the revolution, will not the suffering have, for biscuit, ideas in reserve, and, for life-line, socialism!

    This book is not written in ink; its pages are not paper sheets.

    This book is steel, turned in octavo, and charged with fulminate of ideas. It is an authoricidal projectile that I cast in a thousand copies on the cobblestones of the civilizées. May its shards fly far and mortally pierce the ranks of the prejudiced. May it split the old society down to its foundations.

    Privileged ones!—for those who have sown slavery, the hour has come to reap rebellion. There is not a worker who, in the hidden reaches of his brain, does not clandestinely fashion some thoughts of destruction. You, you have the bayonet and the penal code, the catechism and the guillotine; we have the barricade and utopia, sarcasm and the bomb. You, you are pressure; we are the mine: one spark can blow you up!

    Know that today, in their iron shackles, beneath their superficial torpor, the multitudes are composed of grains of powder; the fibers of the thinkers are its caps. Also, is it not without danger that one crushes liberty in the face of the somber multitudes. Rash reactionaries!—God is God, you say. Yes, but Satan is Satan!... The elect of the golden calf are few, and hell is full of the damned. Aristocrats, it is not necessary to play with fire, the fire of hell, understand!...

    This book is not a document, it is an act. It has not been traced by the gloved hand of a fantasist; it is filled with heart and logic, with blood and fever. It is a cry of insurrection, a strike of the tocsin rung with the hammer of the idea in the hearing of the popular passions. It is moreover a chant of victory, a triumphant salvo, the proclamation of individual sovereignty, the advent of universal liberty; it is full and complete amnesty for the authoritarian sorrows of the past by anarchic decree of the humanitarian future.

    This is a book of hatred, a book of love!....


    “Know yourself.”

    Social science proceeds by inductions and deductions, by analogy. It is by a series of comparisons that it arrives at the combination of truth.

    Thus, I will proceed by analogy.

    I will try to be brief. The large volumes are not those that are most read. In preference to long dissertations, to classical pedagogies, I will employ the colorful phrase, it has the advantage of being able to say a lot in a few words.

    I am far from being infused with science. I have read a bit, observed more, and meditated a great deal. I am, I believe, despite my ignorance in one of the one of the most favorable places to sum up the needs of humanity. I have all the passions, although I cannot satisfy them, those of love and those of hate, the passion for extreme luxury and for extreme simplicity. I understand all appetites, those of the heart and of the belly, those of the flesh and of the mind. I have a taste for white bread, but also for black bread, for stormy discussions and also for sweet causeries. I know all the appetites, physical and moral; I have the intuition of all intoxications; all that which excites or calms has seductions for me: the café and poetry, champagne and art, wine and tobacco, milk and honey, spectacles, tumult and lights, shadow, solitude and pure water. I love work, hard labors; I also love leisure, soft idleness. I could live a little and find myself rich, consume enormously and find myself poor. I have looked through the keyhole at the intimate life of opulence, I know its hot houses and it sumptuous salons; and I also know from experience both cold and poverty. I have been overfull and I have been hungry. I have a thousand caprices and not one pleasure. I am likely to commit at times what the argot of the civilized blacken with the name of virtue, and more often still what they honor with the name of crime. I am the man most empty of prejudices and most full of passions that I know; proud enough to not be vain, and too proud to be hypocritically modest. I have only one face, but that face is as mobile as the face of the waves; at the least breath, it passes from one expression to another, from calm to storm and from anger to tenderness. That is why, as a multiple passionality, I hope to deal with human society with some chance of success, because treating it well depends as much on the knowledge that one has of one’s own passions, as on the knowledge that one has of the passions of others.

    The world of anarchy is not of my invention, certainly, any more than it is the invention of Proudhon, nor of Pierre, nor of Jean. Each by himself invents nothing. Inventions are the result of collective observations; is the explanation of a phenomenon, a scratch made on the colossus of the unknown, but it is the work of all men and all generations of men linked together by an indissoluble solidarity. Now, if there is invention, I have the right at most to a patent of improvement. I would be rather poorly praised if some hoaxers wanted to apply to my face the title of the chief of a school. I know that one expounds ideas bringing together or straying more or less from known ideas. But what I do not understand is that there have been men who accept them slavishly, in order to make themselves the followers of the first comer, to model themselves on his way of seeing, to imitate him in the least details: and to put on, like a soldier or a lackey, his uniform or his livery. At least adjust them to your waistline; trim them or widen them, but do not wear them as-is, with sleeves too short or tails too long. Otherwise, it is not a sign of intelligence; it is hardly worthy of a man who feels and thinks, thus it’s ridiculous.

    Authority aligns men under its flags by discipline, it shackles them by the code of military orthodoxy, passive obedience; its imperious voice commands silence and immobility in the ranks, autocratic fixity. Liberty rallies men to its banner with the voice of free examination; it does not petrify them in the same line. Each lines up where he likes and moves as he pleases. Liberty does not regiment men under the plume of the head of a sect: it initiates them in the movement of ideas and inculcates in them the sentiment of active independence. Authority is unity in uniformity! Liberty is unity in diversity. The axis of authority, it is knout-archie [literally, government by whip]. Anarchy is the axis of liberty.

    For me, it is much less a question of making disciples than of making men, and one is a man only on condition of being oneself. We incorporate the ideas of others and incarnate our ideas in others; we combine our thoughts, and nothing is better than that; but let us make of that mixture a conception henceforth our own. Let us be an original work and not a copy. The slave models himself on the master; he imitates. The free man only produces his own type; he creates.

    My plan is to paint a picture of society as society appears to me in the future: individual liberty is moving anarchically in the social community and producing harmony.

    I do not presume to impose my views on others. I do not descend from cloudy Sinai. I do not march escorted by lightning and thunder. I m not send by the autocrat of the whole universe to reveal his words to his so-humble subjects and publish the imperial ukase of his commandments. I inhabit the depths of society; I have drawn from them some revolutionary thoughts, and I pour them forth, rending the darkness. I am a seeker of truths, a herald of progress, a star-gazer for enlightenment. I sigh after happiness and I conjure up its ideal. If that ideal makes you smile, do as I do, and love it. If you find imperfections in it, correct them. If it displeases you, create another. I am not exclusive, and I will willingly abandon mine for your, if yours seems more perfect to me. However, I see only two great figures possible; one can modify its expression, that is not to change its traits: there is absolute liberty or absolute authority. As for me, I choose liberty. We have seen the works of authority, and its works condemn it. It is an old prostitute that has never learned anything but depravation and never engendered anything but death. Liberty still only makes herself known by her timid smile. She is a virgin that the embrace of humanity has still not made fertile; but, let man allow himself to be seduced by her charms, let him give her all his love, and she will soon give birth to generations worthy of the great name that she carries.

    To weaken authority and criticize its acts is not enough. A negation, in order to be absolute, needs to complete itself with an affirmation. That is why I affirm liberty, why I deduce its consequences.

    I address myself above all to the proletarians, and the proletarians are for the most part still more ignorant than me; also, before giving an account of the anarchic order, a portrait which will be for this book the last stroke of the author’s pen, it is necessary to outline the history of Humanity. I will follow then its march across the ages in the past and in the present and I will accompany it into the future.

    In this sketch I have to recreate a subject touched with a master’s hand by a great artist in poetry. I don’t have his work at hand; and if I had it, I rarely reread a book, as I have neither the leisure nor courage for it. My memory is my only library, and my library is often quite disordered. If some reminiscences escape me, if I happen to draw from my memories, believing I drew it from my own thoughts, I declare at least that it will be without knowing or wishing to. I hold plagiarists in horror. However, I am also of the opinion of Alfred de Musset, I thus think what another has thought before me. I would desire one thing, it is that those who have not read the book of Eugène Pelletan, Le Monde Marche, will want to read the book before continuing the reading of mine. The work of this brilliant writer all a museum of the reign of humanity up through our times, magnificent pages that it is always good to know, and which will be an aid to more than one civilizee, leaning on his elbows before my work, not only to supply what it lacks, but also to aid in understanding its shadows and lights.

    And now, reader, if you want to travel along with me, stock up on intelligence, and let’s go!

    [to be continued...]

    Jeanne Deroin, "Letter ... on the Organization of Credit" (1851) - 3

    Letter to the Associations on the Organization of Credit

    [Conclusion; continued from Part IPart II]

    Revolutions cannot produce the well-being toward which the suffering classes aspire, they almost always serve as stepping stones for a few ambitious types to come to power.

    And when they are achieved, they continue the habits of the past. They find no other means to combat poverty, when the sufferers grow weary and irritated, than the compression which provokes resistance and prepare new battles.

    And when the sufferers resign themselves, alms, which adds moral degradation to poverty, and which is an outrage to human dignity.

    It is because the rights of the disinherited are misunderstood that revolutions are providentially necessary; and, in that case, the justice of the people is the justice of God.

    And it is the disagreement on the choice of means to combat poverty and constitute well-being which has caused reactions up to the present.

    But social science had come to bring the light.

    Socialism is the synthesis of all the social truths taught by the reformers.

    The various schools differ in the means of organization, but, deep down, they all have the same basis: SOLIDARITY;

    The same principal means: ORGANIZATION OF LABOR;

    The same goal: WELL-BEING FOR ALL.

    They differ on the degree of solidarity;

    On the mode of organization;

    On the nature and enlargement of well-being that suits the human being.

    These differences manifest the wisdom of the ways of Providence, which intended that the teaching of social verities should simultaneously penetrate the various classes of society, in the forms most in harmony with their various needs and aspirations.

    And the discussions that rise from these differences must cast light on the great questions of social economy.

    But practice alone can give a certain solution to these grand questions, rectify the errors of theory, and demonstrate the truth by the facts.

    The suppression of our liberties and the blindness of power, not permitting the various schools to procure the means of putting into practice their systems of organization, which can be put to work in a coordinated manner, and on a vast enough scale, only with considerable capital and a great freedom of action.

    The discussion continues, becomes complicated, and sometimes embittered from the difficulties of the present situation, and minds remind divided.

    It is important then for the laborers, left to suffer and wait, to enter the path of practice by a simple and easy means, which springs, it is true, from social science, but which does not prejudice in anything social and political questions. Already the association of tailors in Clichy has employed the bills of credit. It is necessary only to give it a greater circulation, to centralize operations, and to organize the manner of establishing the exchange of products between a great number of workers in various professions.

    The bill of credit is in reality only an effect of commerce, a simple quittance or receipt, having by itself no numeric value; its guarantee is in labor, it represents some labor and facilitates the exchange of products; it is a means of organizing mutual credit, it is a purely industrial fact, which is not prohibited by any law, and to which one cannot legally put any obstacle, without undermining commercial and industrial transactions.

    The organization of mutual credit is a practical fact, industrial and commercial; but that fact is accomplished with a social aim, which is to acquire by labor, progressively and peacefully, the instruments of labor, necessary to the worker in order to exercise their professions, without being subjected to patronage and exploitation,

    That aim is a social aim. We neither can nor wish to deny it, it is in accord with the aim of the members of all the associations which are really fraternal, and founded in order to free the workers from exploitation and patronage.

    This aim is in agreement with the needs of the situation, and with the political and social opinions of all the democratic socialists, whatever the nuance of those opinions.

    What is the basis of the question for political men? (I do not speak of the intriguers and the ambitious.) Why are they justly irritated when one limits all our liberties. It is because they demand for themselves and their children the right to live by laboring, and because they want to preserve the means of reaching that aim. What do the socialists of all schools demand? What is the aim of what our adversaries call the socialist utopias? It is to insure for all the means of true liberty, the complete development and free exercise of all human faculties by the organization of labor, which is to say by an equitable division of labor, instruments and products of labor.

    And all the socialist democrats, by participating in the organization of mutual credit, will accomplish a work of peaceful liberation and conciliation, without ceasing to watch over the maintenance of the Republic, and without neglecting the interests of a greater and more complete realization. They will only rally around a practical means, in order to immediately improve the situation of the laborers and prepare the way for the organization of labor.

    The organization of mutual credit is a work of conciliation, it is to enter the path of peaceful progress.

    It is the means of demonstrating, by the facts, that the socialist workers want to acquire the instruments of labor only by labor, honestly, progressively and peacefully, and the organization of mutual credit is a work of liberation.

    By gradually substituting the loan in cash with the loan in labor and products of labor, by the circulation of bills of credit, that loan, far from being onerous, facilitates the enlargement of consumption and production, and the direct exchange of products, and it eliminates the interest which, at only 5 percent, becomes, at the end of twenty years, a veritable spoliation.

    And, by gradually substituting remuneration in cash with payment in labor and products of labor, by the progressive extension of the circulation of bills of credit, which would become then a true labor-note, employed only to facilitate exchange, the instrument of exploitation will be paralyzed in the hands of the speculators. Labor being exchanged only against labor and the instruments of labor, the speculators, in whose hands the possession of cash has accumulated the instruments of labor, would exchange those instruments against the labor-notes for their consumer needs.

    The possession of the instruments of labor, by freeing the workers from exploitation, will facilitate the organization of labor, that is, an equitable division of labor, of the instruments of labor, and of the products of labor, and will produce well-being for all.

    The resources of the Credit Bureau increasing with the number of the subscribers to the mutual credit, it will be easy to extend the advantages of credit to the workers who cannot associate in order to labor in common, either because of the genre of their work, or from a preference for isolation, but who will not hesitate to subscribe to the direct exchange of products, and to the mutual loan that will connect them to the association, and free them from exploitation. It will become possible to make the necessary advances, and to give professional instruction to those who, by a fateful effect of social improvidence, have not learned a profession, and are constrained to servitude or exposed to the temptations of poverty and despair: they will be released.

    And it will also be possible to free, from their entry into life, the child of the worker who is born a slave to poverty and deprived of their part of the common inheritance.

    Francois I, claiming his part of the possession of Canada, said: “I would really like to the article of Adam’s will that excludes me from the division.”

    But the child of the poor man could ask more justly which article of Adam’s testament excludes them from their part and their right in the possession of the earth, that instrument of labor that God has given to all the generations, past, present and future, that common heritage the is of divine right, inalienable and indivisible.

    The earth belongs to all in common, like the sun (but happily, God has mot put the sun in the hands of the speculators.)

    The child who enters into life has not asked to be born, and often even its parents have not desire it. It is one more laborer sent by Providence to come to the aid of its brothers and sisters.

    But in order for it to accomplish its mission, it has a right to the complete development of all its faculties. It should receive the complete education and professional instruction, according to his vocation and aptitudes, and the instruments of labor that are necessary to him.

    Then he will be really indebted to society.

    But with the present mode of remuneration of labor, let that remuneration be egalitarian or proportional, the father or the mother of the family having to provide for the needs of their children and sometimes of their parents, not however gaining more and sometimes gaining less than a bachelor, and are obliged to impose on themselves the harshest privations in order to provide for the needs of several with the labor of one or two persons.

    Thus, a numerous family is for the worker a source of poverty and suffering, even in the heart of the association.

    It is still insolidarity, the each by himself, each for himself, that produces all the sufferings of society.

    Association, based on solidarity, should adopt all the children who, bearing equally, by being born, the right to live a complete life, physical, intellectual and moral; it should take care of the sick and infirm, because society is responsible for the health of its members; the majority of maladies and infirmities have for their cause the privations and the excess that result from a poor organization.

    And it should surround with respect and recognition the old age of those crippled by labor and insure for them an honorable and sweet rest.

    It should free from the yoke of poverty and the humiliations of charity those who have contributed to its prosperity, and who have acquired, by labor, the right to repose.

    And when the resources of the bureau of credit allow the advance of the necessities to the children of the laborers subscribed, in order to acquire the complete development of their faculties and the instruments of labor necessary to exercise them freely, it is a debt that they have contracted and of which they will acquit themselves towards the invalid laborers.

    And all the children of the subscribers to the mutual credit having the right to credit, the speculators by coming to exchange the instruments of labor against their consumer needs could insure the future of their infants, often compromised by speculations so dire for the laborers and sometimes for themselves.

    And all will be freed or protected from the yoke of poverty and from the exploitation which produces it.

    And when the workers in the countryside have understood the solidarity which should unite the laborers of all the professions, by subscribing to the mutual credit, they will free their children from all of the miseries with which they are burdened.

    The bill of exchange has contributed to the liberation of the communes from despotism, from nobiliary feudalism.

    The bill of credit will free the laborers from despotism, from financial feudalism.

    The organization of mutual credit, the gradual elimination of cash, of the instrument of exploitation and corruption, is the honest and peaceful struggle against the principles of domination and exploitation.

    It is the liberation of labor by labor.

    It is the means of putting an end to violent struggles and of entering into the practice of a new faith, of the social religion, a religion of love and liberty which wants well-being for all,

    Which has for dogma: SOLIDARITY;

    For worship: LABOR;

    For morality: THE LOVE OF HUMANITY.


    Saturday, December 25, 2010

    Jeanne Deroin, "Letter ... on the Organization of Credit" (1851) - 2

    Letter to the Associations on the Organization of Credit

    [continued from Part I]

    The circulation of these bills of credit assuring to each of the associations adhering to the mutual credit the business of all the other subscribing associations.

    In order to form a mutual credit bureau, it is not necessary to form public gatherings. All that is required, to give the first impetus, is a few associations of various professions which have understood all the present advantages and all the possible results of this mode of credit.

    The bills of credit should have a character of unity, and come from a common center, in order to give the mutual credit a more powerful guarantee, and to avoid making an emission of bills surpassing the resources of the credit.

    But when two or three associations of different professions resolve to establish the mutual credit, and take the initiative to establish a credit bureau, no discussion will be necessary to lead the other associations: those who do not want to take part will not receive the bills, and they will await the results.

    There will be nothing to discuss; it is not a question of a theory, but of a practical fact, and practical means are the best means of propaganda; the least fait accompli often has more value than an axiom.

    The associations that wish to subscribe at the founding of the Bureau of Mutual Credit, will make a loan to that bureau, by subscribing an emission of bills of credit which cannot surpass the amount of consumption that they can make of the products and labors of the other adherent associations for three or six months.

    That loan must be based on consumption, because it is an advance made in proportion to the consumptive needs of the lenders.

    That loan can cause them no inconvenience, it does not put them in a deficit and it assures them the business of the other subscribing associations.

    And each of those associations, by subscribing thus a loan in bills of credit equal to their consumption from the other adherent associations, acquires, by that act, the business of those associations and the right of credit.

    And every association that has need of credit must first subscribe an emission of bills of credit equal to its consumptive needs from the other the other adherent associations.

    The total credits can not surpass the total value of the consumption of the subscribing associations among themselves.

    Thus, for example, if only three associations began the foundation of that Bureau of Mutual Credit, each of them could ne subscribe to an emission of bills of credit which would surpass the value of the consumption that it could make of the labor and products of the two other associations, during three or six months.

    And that credit will be accorded with preference to those of the three of which, its labors or products not being sufficient to the needs of consumption of the other two others, should give more expansion to its operations.

    These bills of credit that it will employ in payment for the labor and products of the two other associations, will give it the faculty of disposing of the cash that would have been necessary for that payment.

    The consumption that each subscribing association could make of the labor and products of the other adherent associations will increase in proportion to the number of associations of various professions which subscribe to the mutual credit.

    And the emission of the bills of credit being in proportion to the consumption of those associations among themselves, the use of the cash will become less and less necessary to them for the greatest part of the objects of habitual consumption.

    They could employ, for the acquisition of the instruments of labor and raw materials that one could not find in the subscribing associations, the cash that they will receive in payment for the products or labor made for non-adherents.

    And the clientele of each of the associations being composed of all the other associations and becoming more and more numerous, the credits would be employed to give the greatest possible extension to production, by facilitating to the associations of which the products and labors could not suffice to the needs of consumption of all the others, the means of procuring the instruments of labor and the raw material necessary, and to increase the number of their associates, in order to always be able to satisfy the demands of the bearers of the bills of credit.

    The subscription of each new association will simultaneously increase production and consumption, and by adding a new loan, will facilitate more and more the mutual exchange of labor and products, by giving a greater extension to the circulation of the bills of credit.

    When the associations of the same profession will subscribe to the mutual credit, they will become committed to not competing for the price of their labors and products, in order that the price be the same for objects of the same quality, because the association have to struggle against competition, it would be obliged to reduce more and more the part of remuneration of its associates, or no longer find an outlet for its products.

    The price of the labors or products of the association subscribed to the mutual credit should no longer be inferior to that of foreign commerce, because competition from without would be so much more difficult to sustain in this regard, that the bosses, manufacturers and merchants in possession of the cash which accumulates in their hands the instruments of labor and allows them to loan them according to their will to the laborers, and when they have made a ruinous competition among themselves, they can reduce more and more the price of hand-labor, in order not to pay the costs of war.

    Competition is contrary to the principles that are the basis of association; it is not liberty for all, but only for those who can withstand it; it is always the right of the strongest; it is not peace and union, but war at the expense of the workers.

    The associations belonging to the mutual credit will have no interest in decreasing the price of hand-work, but, on the contrary, to maintain it as high as possible, in order to lead to the association of a great number of intelligent and industrious workers.

    The emulation of the workers will have for motive the desire to do honor to the bills of credit; being simultaneously lenders and creditors, by the fact of the circulation of these bills, they will all have an equal interest in the success of the operations of the mutual credit bureau. A register must always be open to the claims of the consumers belonging to the mutual credit; the poor quality of the products or labors exchanged against the bills of credit must be a cause of expulsion from the membership of the producers.

    The associations of the same profession will also find in that that bureau a means of withstanding competition from without; with the help of the credit that they receive from it, they could buy in bulk and at a common cost the instruments of labor and the raw materials that they don’t find in the subscribing associations.

    Finally, the foundation of a bureau of mutual credit will be a means of conciliation between the all the classes of society, since all those who would want to testify to their sympathies for the workers could make an advance to labor by depositing, in cash, the quantity of the consumption that they want to make with the associations belonging to the mutual credit, and by accepting in exchange the bills of credit refundable in products or labors of the associations belonging to the mutual credit.

    That advance made to labor will facilitate the acquisition of the instruments of labor and raw materials cannot be obtained from the adherent associations.

    The credits in cash will be preferably granted to the associations that can not procure, except with cash, the instruments of labor and the raw materials necessary to the exercise of their profession.

    And as these associations would also subscribe a loan in bills of credit equal to the value of their consumption from the other associations, they could take part, in that same proportion, in the circulation of the bills of credit, without having to fear that it could hinder their operations.

    The associations belonging to the mutual credit having a real interest in giving the greater extension possible to the circulation of the bills of credit, when the resources of the bureau of credit permit it, one will be occupied more especially to found associations of laborers in professions whose products and labor are lacking and will be necessary to respond to the demands of the holders of the bills of credit.

    It is quite evident that if some workers of ALL the professions belonged to the mutual credit, they could, by means of the circulation of the bills of credit, directly exchange their products and labors, and eliminate between them the use of cash which will no longer be except for the uses of foreign commerce, until the moment when all the laborers will be included: but it is necessary to gradually substitute the remuneration in products of labor for payment in cash.

    Because the products of labor should only be exchanged against labor or the instruments of labor, in order to acquire, progressively and peacefully, by that exchange, the instruments of labor that are in the hands of the capitalists.

    To acquire by labor, by means of the gradual elimination of cash, the instruments of labor: such should be the object of the constant efforts of the laborers.

    This means is the sole peaceful means of attaining the real aim of association, which is the honestly acquired possession of the instruments of labor, in order to be freed from bossism and the salariat.

    It is labor that makes the earth fruitful; it is labor that produces all that is necessary to the needs of life and well-being; it is labor that produces all the marvels of science and the fine arts; cash is only a product of labor and a sign of agreement which produces nothing; let us leave it in the hands of the capitalists, who make an instrument of exploitation of it.

    It is by labor that we must redeem the instruments of labor, that labor has produced.

    It is the sole means, for the laborers, to acquire the possession of the instruments of labor without undermining property.

    The establishment of the mutual credit and the circulation of the bills of credit would be at once a work of emancipation and a work of conciliation: the first step towards the peaceful solution.

    Proletarian and privileged, we have only one single enemy to combat, and it is poverty.

    It causes the sufferings of the former, and troubles the security of the latter.

    It is the true and only cause of revolutions; it is not only political liberties that the people want to win; they only demand them in order to help themselves to acquire true liberty, that is to say the complete development of free exercise of all human faculties, well-being for all by the means of an equitable division of labor, instruments of labor and products of labor.

    [to be concluded...]

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Jeanne Deroin, "Letter to the Associations on the Organization of Credit" (1851)

    The radical literature that any of us are actually familiar with always seems to be just a drop in the bucket. There are masses of largely ephemeral publications in every language, and all of the advances in digital archiving have only really begun to make any sort of dent in the work to be done. We can't ignore all that ephemera, unless we're content with a sort of abstract, top-down understanding of our traditions. After all, for every Proudhon, there were a dozen Greenes and Langlois, and for every one of them there were dozens of Junquas and Blackers, and for every one of them there were hundreds and thousands of rank-and-file radicals, many of them with ideas all their own. When we scour all the radical papers, we'll still only get a sample of the real history of the radical movements—but at least it will be a start.

    In the meantime, a lot of the work to do involves relatively "big names" in radicalism. Some of that is, of course, translation. There's still a lot of work to do on Proudhon, and we've hardly started on his collaborators. We've also hardly started on his critics—and the literature of direct responses to Proudhon is huge by itself. This last weekend, while I was tabling the Portland Anarchist Bookfair, I dedicated my transit time to a pair of pamphlets debating the merits of Proudhon's work: "Histoire de M. Proudhon et de ses principes," by "Satan" and "Réponse à Satan au sujet de M. Proudhon" by "l'Archange Saint-Michel." "Satan" was apparently Georges-Marie Dairnvæll, the author of a number of other works, and the "Response" was published by the Société d'Education Mutuelle des Femmes, a group founded by Jeanne Deroin and Desirée Gay. I recently translated the manifesto of the Fraternal Association of Socialist Democrats of Both Sexes, and have been looking at some of Deroin's other work, though I had no inkling of the connections this weekend, as I was reading the feminist defense of Proudhon (yep!) in the "Response." Indeed, I didn't take the time to research that piece (which was packed up with my bookfair stuff) until after I had tackled a couple of new translation chores. I've been correcting and revising the early, and generally quite good, translation of Louis Blanc's "The Organization of Labor," published in 1848 as "The Threatened Social Disorganization of France." And I've been having a good time wading into the work of Jeanne Deroin, who was both an important critic and an important supporter of aspects of Proudhon's work. Deroin's "Letter...on the Organization of Credit" is a later development in the same series as Proudhon's mutual banking experiments, William B. Greene's American proposals, and the "Mutuality of Laborers" proposed by Lechevalier and his collaborators, when Proudhon was forced to flee in 1849. It is, in some ways, more like Proudhon's than that of his erstwhile collaborators. The question of credit and a circulating medium occupies center stage, with other sorts of solidarity and cooperation being understood as logical results of "the organization of credit." Here's the first third of the letter:


    The delegates of the association and the members of the commission of the Union have been condemned for having acted with a political aim.

    That judgment has just been confirmed by the denial of our appeal.

    I impose silence on my conscience and do no come to protest that condemnation, but to bring out from it that which can be useful to the cause of the laborers, before which personal feelings must be silent and individual interests must step aside.

    In the things that have been done, in that condemnation even, there is still a lesson and an encouragement.

    That it what it is important to demonstrate.

    The accusation, by relying on legal conventions and on the political and socialist antecedents of the accused, and by attributing to them a political aim, has proved that it was impossible to incriminate by itself the solidarization of the associations.

    The constitution guarantees the right of association, and the associations cannot be legally prohibited from associating together in order to exchange their products, and to provide credit to one another with the aim of obtaining an assured clientele and instruments of labor, and in order to come to the aid of children, the elderly, the sick and the infirm.

    That aim, so brotherly and so eminently industrious and peaceful, is not in any way illegal, it is not hostile to individuals, but only to the principles of exploitation and servitude.

    The adversaries that it encounters, the obstacles that it gives rise to, testify loudly to its importance and its power to improve the condition of the workers.

    The workers must then persevere, but in a manner to avoid the obstacles which have stopped us, and to convince our adversaries that it is really a question of a work of conciliation.

    These obstacles rise principally from the suspension of the right of assembly, from the shackles placed on the freedom of the press, and from the opposition of those who imagine that the extinction of exploitation threatens their fortune and the future of the children.

    Finally, the most grievous of all the obstacles is the hesitation to enter seriously on the path of practice.

    The suspension of the right of assembly and the shackles placed on the freedom of the press permits no discussion.

    But what is most important is not to discuss, to formulate theories or plans of organization, but to act, to put into practice the simplest and most certain means for arriving progressively and peacefully at the goal.

    The means that is indicated by the necessities of the present situation, and which has long been proposed in various forms by the most enlightened economists of our era is the organization of mutual credit. It is enough to consider the motives and the aim of that work, in order to deduce the means of giving the first impetus; then the organization will develop and perfect itself progressively by the modifications that will be made to it, step by step, by practice, according to the indications given by experience.

    These motives will emerge from the moral and material situation of the associations.

    The associations have been formed with the aim of liberating the workers from exploitation and patronage.

    The majority have based their act of association on the most elevated principles of democracy and socialism; but the difficulties of the present situation, the habits of the past and the lack of cohesion in this great industrial movement, are obstacles, constantly reborn, to the prosperity of the associations, and alienate from it a great number of workers who dread having to suffer much without attaining the desired result.

    And, in fact, when some laborers want to associate, it is often very difficult for them, with the modest contribution of each, to constitute a social capital sufficient for the acquisition of the instruments of labor, and of raw materials, necessary to the exercise of their profession.

    They loan at interest or take on credit, and they are obliged to impose the harshest privations, and to deduct from the common fund only the minimum of what they normally earn with the bosses, and sometimes they are even reduced to half or a quarter of a day’s or week’s pay, in order to pay for the material that they have acquired through borrowing.

    It is necessary for them to procure, from day to day, what is necessary for the maintenance of this material, and the acquisition of raw materials, that they can only buy en detail, at higher prices, and nearly always, in this case, of inferior quality.

    The need of money often obliges them to hurry, which takes perfection from labor.

    That penury prevents them from admitting as associates some skillful and intelligent laborers, but who cannot contribute their share of the social capital.

    Sometimes also, and it is the most grievous thing that can happen, these same pecuniary difficulties lead them to admit, in view of a sufficient social contribution, either from a loan, from men who have not understood the principle of fraternal solidarity which should be the basis of the associations, or from the secret agents of the reaction who introduce themselves there in order to make trouble, to stir up suspicion, discouragement, and thus bring about disorganization within and discredit without.

    Finally, a great cause of embarrassment, and sometimes of as considerable losses, is credit, as it has been made up to the present among the associations.

    The credits are inscribed on the registers, and are often paid off only at long intervals, or in fractions so negligible, that there results from it a real harm to the lenders.

    And the debtors do not always find, in this mode of credit, all the help that is necessary for them; they often cannot obtain sufficient advances and an extension so distant, to give to their labors all the extension necessary to put them at their ease; and sometimes the period of the payments arrives at the time when they still have to struggle arduously that every new establishment almost always encounters.

    Sometimes also false associations which usurp that title, either to serve the designs of the enemies of association or in view of some particular interest, and which are made up of a personnel very dubious with regard to principles, deplete the other associations by credits obtained in the name of fraternity, in order to continue exploitation under the aegis of the egalitarian level, and thus make splash back on the principles of association the discredit which surround them.

    Thus, if, on the one hand, credit is necessary to advance the workers who want to associate the instruments of labor of which they have need, and in order to come to the aid of associations already formed;

    On the other hand, credit, such as it is practiced now, is often a cause of ruin and discredit for the lenders and debtors.

    But, if we consider that the majority of these credits have been made in products or in labors of the lenders, we will recognize that they could be acquitted more easily by the products and labors of the borrowers, who very often cannot meet their obligations, because they cannot find distribution for their products, or because they lack labor.

    If the creditors’ association, instead of inscribing the credits on their registers, accepted, in payment of their products or labors, some bills of credit having a numeric denomination in order to facilitate exchanges, but payable only in the labor or product of the debtors, they could employ these bills to procure the objects of their habitual consumption, which they would be obliged to pay for with the cash that they have o hand, if that credit remained inscribed on their books.

    By this act they would assure their clientele to the debtors.

    By supposing that the products or labors of the debtors are not objects of habitual consumption for the lenders, the placing in circulation of these bills of circulation will facilitate for them the means of exchanging them against products or labors which will be most useful to them.

    And if a great number of associations of various professions put mutual credit into practice, the debtors would experience difficulty in paying the debt, being able to immediately exchange the bills that they would receive in payment for their labors or products, for the products or labors that they need, until the time when they could be paid off.

    Thursday, December 02, 2010

    Radix Media update

    There are 35 hours left in the Radix Media Kickstarter campaign, and less than a thousand dollars to raise to make sure they get funding for equipment upgrades. Radical media really needs basic infrastructure improvements are pretty much all levels, so that the energy expended by printers, publishers, distributors, retailers, tablers, etc., is not constantly a sort of hamster-wheel affair, where ever-increasing amounts of effort always seem to bring us back to about where we started. A little thing like being able to automate pamphlet-making (the goal of the Radix campaign) can free up critical hours for all the other tasks that keep precarious projects moving forward.

    The thing that is probably not clear about alternative media, to those who have not already been absorbed by its concerns, is that, as often as not, a huge percentage of the work involved in being a successful radical printer, or binder, or bookseller, etc., is not the application of your specialized craft, but all the other tasks that come with working against the grain of "the economy." Like it or not, just keeping a serious zine project afloat generally requires one to be artisan, entrepreneur, diplomat, prognosticator, visionary, one-person army in the fight for social change, etc.—and most of our mutual aid networks are not robust enough to much more than balance the support they give with a new set of energy-demands. We have to work hard, but we would do well to work smart—and to contribute to one another's efficiency when we can. There's a delicate balance of devotion and business sense, defensive capitalization and gift economy, that we have to strike if we are to make alternative media something other than a cross that some of us bear. Fortunately, the costs—all the various sorts of costs—are comparatively small, and become rapidly less onerous when we commit to sharing them.

    Think, while there's still time in this campaign, about chipping in a little to help Radix Media work both harder and smarter.