Thursday, April 28, 2011

Paule Mink, "Broken Arm" (1895)

"Bras cassé" originally appeared in La Revue socialiste in November, 1895.  The author was Paule Mink (sometimes "Minck," 1839–1901), born Adèle Paulina Mekarska, a French radical and feminist whose early political work seems to have been in the mutualist women's organizations that thrived at various times, despite Proudhon's severe and very public flounderings on questions of gender, sexuality and the family. I have a collection of Mink's political writings requested through interlibrary loan, and a couple of things, including a discussion of abortion rights from the 1890s, slated for translation for a future project. In the meantime, here's another lovely, if not cheerful, tale of proletarian woe. As someone who did a lot of work on formula fiction in a past academic life, the mix of romantic and coming-of-age conventions in this strike me as well-selected to tell the story of a strong man in a weak position.



Fruit of the sewer or flower of love, stream-scum or hedge-bud, result of a brutal crossroads passion or of naive tenderness: what was his origin? He did not know...

Picked up in the street, one morning, between a pile of rubbish and some rubble from demolition, abandoned like a small cat someone wants to be rid of, he was carried to the alms-house, and then placed among some farmers who raised him, giving him bread, in exchange, when he got to be a little bigger, for a labor that was very hard for a child, but who never had for him either affection or caresses.

He had a roof, under which he could lie down, and a portion of the soup, but not of the familial affection. Mama!... that word, cuddly and sweet, the first stammering of every little one, he had never murmured except in the fever dreams of his abandoned childhood...

He had never known the soft maternal embrace, nor the supreme happiness of tears shed and quickly dried by the kisses of the one who makes a soul bloom by giving all the love in her heart.

Alone, he had always been alone.

Yet he wanted so much to love! He felt a great void in him, a vague melancholy that nothing could console.

When he was bigger and took a state job, the gloom of his isolation increased still more. With youth raising feelings in him which gripped his heart and smothered it. His comrades in the workshop all had brothers, sisters, a mother — a mother! — and he was alone in the midst of all these loves.

Often on returning to his small room, cold and naked, he would throw himself on his bed, sobbing sorrowfully, biting his pillow in despair when he heard to children of the house laugh and embrace.

How often tears mounted to his eyes in seeing a mother on the arm of her son, a little sister on her big brother’s knee! And he always went alone through life, without his heart being able to expand with any tenderness.

When he was twenty years old, his horizon brightened: love shone down on him its prism of happiness, his life was transfigured.

A little working-woman, fresh, pure and beautiful, loved the orphan and gave him all her heart.

To love, and to be loved! Him, the found child, the abandoned!... To have someone of his own, whose whole life was his, who had smiles and kisses for him, when thus far all these joys had been unknown to him!...

That was for him an infinite euphoria, a superhuman happiness!

The young man attached himself with an intense to this woman, whom he made his fiancée, giving her his whole soul, devoting to her his entire existence.

And what superb plans they made!... Yes, she would be his wife, the dear girl whom he loved, the companion of his life, the other half of himself! He delivered up all his heart to her and consecrated to her his whole existence. He, the result of a failure of love, did not want to fail the one who relied on him. He would marry her, and right away. Their little household would be poor, but oh so happy! With courage and strong arms one needn’t fear poverty. Wasn’t that right? Talented locksmith that he was, he could earn well for his wife and children. His children! These words made a tear tremble in his eye, which shone then with happiness: his children!... Oh! How he would love them, his dear little alls! He who had not been loved and who had suffered so much from it! What a sweet, happy life he would make for them and their mother!...

These thoughts spun him, but with joy and endless laughter.

His heart filled with happiness, he fervently redoubled his work, to earn the means to set up his household; and the future appeared to him happy and clear, all lit by the sun.

One obstacle arose that stood between him and this fine plans: he could not be married until he had performed his military service. He had no mother, but he still had a motherland.

He despaired; to go, to leave his beloved, for two or three long years, to live against amidst often hostile strangers, without affection, without tenderness!... He joined his regiment filled with sadness, and dark forebodings: his Marie, would he ever see her again? What kisses, what tears, what oaths were exchanged! She promised to wait for him, to keep him in her heart, to write him often; but two years of separation is so long for those who love!...

He was big, and robust; they put him in the cavalry, he who did not like horses, who even had an instinctive fear of them! So much the worse; he had perform his service regardless; “What a fine thing the army would be, if we occupied ourselves with the tastes and the caprices of the soldiers,” said the captains.

To mount a horse! A painful and difficult exercise, especially for he who had never engaged in it!... Awkward, mixed-up, he did not know how to mount or how to dismount, or how to keep himself on this enormous beast who reared and frightened him at time.

One day an arrogant and brutal junior officer assisted in the equitation exercises that filled the young man with so much fear.

— Ah! you're afraid of the beast. You blasted idiot, said the officer, you'll see.

He came up close to the young cavalier, and commanded that someone tie his hands behind his back and make him mount a horse without saddle or cover: To harden him, he said, laughing.

Despite his supplications, his fright, the unfortunate was obliged to jump thus a large ditch more than a meter wide.

— I beg of you, my lieutenant, implored the frozen soldier.

— Do it, you blasted animal!

The poor man resisted, begged.

— But I’ll be hurt! I’ll crack my head! He cried, his face drawn and pale.

— You will jump, I tell you, even if you jump clean out of your skin!

And giving a blow from the whip to the flank of the horse, which took of at a gallop, the officer uttered a well-chosen oath.

The obstacle was clear once, then twice; at the third attempt a terrible crack, followed by a frightful cry was heard: the unfortunate horseman had fallen from the horse and his right arm was snapped clean above the elbow...

They carried to the infirmary the young soldier whose broken arm hung piteously.

The amputation was considered necessary, and the entire arm was cut off.

Le patient courageously endured the operation, but after it he had an intense fever and was soon delirious. Always he called for his fiancée, his Marie, with painful sobs.

For long days, his life was in danger. He recovered, but he was one-armed, crippled for ever...

In the dreary hospital room he paced sadly, thinking of his beloved; since he was in convalescence, this was his only thought: thus maimed, he could no longer work!... his life was now finished; for him there was no more future, no more love, no more marriage, no more children, never, never!... All his dreams of happiness, so sweetly caressed, were destroyed!...

A shiver shook him... To live now, he must beg... To beg!... to live by holding out his hand! He whose sturdy arms and courage to work would have guaranteed a life and dignity for himself and his family, who had never lowered himself before anyone!... No, no, such a life could not be endured... He must then end it, and as quickly as possible.

Oh! the dreams of yesteryear! Their pretty nest, the cradles! All that was gone, was broken, destroyed by the violence and brutality of a minor officer!

His heart gripped by pain, he sent a letter to his fiancée by a comrade, to recount his accident, tell her that he could no longer marry her and address to her a tender and final adieu...

A terribly breaking ran then through all his being; he, the pariah, the orphan who had never been loved, he would have to renounce that love which was his life! Alone, he would always be alone!... Never again would there be smiles for him, never tenderness, never joy... The gloom of his sad youth enveloped him anew... It was too much!

His head on fire, with faltering steps he wandered the barracks, seeking a rifle. He found one, belonging to a sentinel, leaning against a wall, close to the door. He took it quickly, and sat down on a stone, securing it between his trembling legs; with his good hand he lowered the hammer and took the shot. A detonation rang out... He fell, his head shattered...

The brutal officer, whose hardness of heart had caused the death of the unfortunate one, was simply placed under arrest for one month.

Was that enough to pay for the death of a man?

Soon afterward he was promoted: it is necessary to teach the soldiers to respect commands.


[Translation: Shawn P. Wilbur]

Stirner's Critics

Hurry over to the Vagabond Theorist page and check out the full translation of "Stirner's Critics," Max Stirner's reply to Szeliga, Hess and Feuerbach. There's a lot of very valuable clarification in the essay. Bravo! for making the entire thing available.

Responses to Proudhon

The critical response to Proudhon's work during his lifetime was extensive. Much of it was also relatively uninteresting nay-saying and sectarian quibbling, but certainly not all of it. And I think that, in general, anarchists are really only aware of a few key responses, such as Marx's Poverty of Philosophy and some of the feminist critiques, which have remained interesting because of subsequent debates.

One of the things that the increase in digital archives has changed dramatically is the accessibility of many of the early responses to Proudhon. I've started working to dig out as much of this critical material as I can find, and have listed the results of that research on the Proudhon Library site. There are some obvious omissions and probably a few errors, and there are lots of article-length responses still to add to the list. But I think even this small beginning to a very big job helps indicate the extent of the debate of which Proudhon put himself at the center.

There are links to electronic texts, where I could find them, and some of this material is at the very least a lot of fun. Enjoy!

Jules Allix, a most unusual Communard

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



8th arrondissement. — 2,028 votes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Translation: Shawn P. Wilbur]

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Séverine, Liberty—Equality—Fraternity


Séverine (Caroline Rémy de Guebhard)



That night, on the asphalt beach that dominates the view from my window, some human wreckage, a father, mother, and two babies, had washed up on a bench. From the heights where, much despite myself, I glide, one could distinguish nothing but a pile of gray flesh and soiled rags, from which emerged, here and there, an arm, a leg, with a movement slow and painful as a crushed crab’s leg

They slept, clutching one another, huddled in one pile, from habit, as if they would die of cold — even on this warm summer night!

Some policemen had come who circled around, sniffing and staring at them, with that hostile curiosity of guard dogs and sergeants towards the poorly dressed — not too mean, however. They tapped on the shoulder of the man, who started, rubbed his eyes, and stood up with an effort, shifting the group where the kids, awakened suddenly, had begun to cry.

From his gestures, I understood that he was telling their story; I could sense the silent tears of the woman, wiping her eyes with the corner of her apron, while the other, by recalling them, revived her pains.

Not louts, nor bohemians — but workers! Workers brought to the most extreme limits of distress; having committed everything, sold everything, and lost everything!

Only one consolation could remain for this unfortunate: that of having lived as a free man in a free century; and the flags decorating the inn of La Belle Étoile (his last home!) recalled eloquently how fortunate it was, for him and his, to have been “delivered” a century before!

He was miserable, yes — but a voter and a citizen! How very profitable it is that we have freed plebs and glebes!

When he had finished, the guardians of the peace held a consultation, with great gestures which seemed to say: “What is to be done?”

Nothing, obviously, but to obey the orders, to carry out the law... the equitable law which has replaced the dreadful reign of good pleasure!

In the name of liberty, they have taken the free man and his brood to the station — he, resigned, bending his back; the mother and children, creatures unconscious of the benefits of independence, nearly sportive at the idea that their captivity reserves them a bed and bread...


Again, under my windows, yesterday around two o’clock, suddenly, a stampede of cavalry, a sound of fast-moving wheels, shouts! In his carriage, the President passes...

The enthusiasm is in no way excessive, but nonetheless, people raise their hats, yell, and run along behind, with a great show of domesticity.

How fortunate it is, when you think about it, though, a hundred years ago we beheaded a king; twenty-one years ago, we overthrew an emperor! No more scepters, no more thrones, no more crowns!

Nothing but the currency of the monarchy: kinglets at the l'Hôtel-de-Ville, kinglets at the Palais-Bourbon, kinglets at the Luxembourg, and this specter of a sovereign, costing dear, but not ruling at all. Ah! the nation has truly gained from the change!


On the pavement, still the footfalls of the horses, the rolling of the artillery, a steady tumult from the horde that passes, with the rattle of steel. It is some regiments on their way to be reviewed.

And the hurrahs, the bravos, go less to these brave little soldiers with ruddy faces, all sweaty and breathless under the sharp eye of the brass, than to the formidable butcher’s apparatus that they drag along.

Ah! The fine rifles, borne so straight and so well cared for! Ah! The pretty cannons, worked and finished like clockworks, with their necks like greyhounds, their hollowed flanks, their long muzzles which kill at such a distance!...

Won’t that all make things course, with blood! All that will dice, fine, fine, finer, like mincemeat, the meat of human beings!

And with their regard, with their voices, the multitude flatters these slaughtering beasts who will, however, at the first sign — you know it, proletarians! — will sink their fangs as well in French skin as in that of the Teutons!


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

And, while the clamors of the passersby mount towards my melancholy dwelling, I think of the cunning ancients, opening Rome for one day to those who were oppressed thought the year; giving them, for twenty-four hours, more than liberty: license; allowing them to treat as equals the highest of the Republic, fraternizing with them among the festivities, — and profiting from the torpor from their drunkenness in order, the following day, at dawn, to increase their chains, augment their tasks, and deny them all justice and every right!

Dance and laugh, good people of France, if such is your fancy; but open your eyes at the same time! The anniversary that you celebrate is not your own; the victory that we fete is not yours; and for you, suckers, like the Golden Calf, the Bastille is always standing!

When will we take it?...

[Translation: Shawn P. Wilbur]

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Joshua King Ingalls update

Last week, a colleague provided me with copies of Josiah Warren's articles "To the Friends of the Social System," which appeared in the Western Tiller, and that put me back into bibliographic mode, since the Warren/equitable commerce bibliography has been hovering somewhere just short of publishable for a long time now—and those essays filled a major hole in my research. I should be able to say more about the content of those articles, and the status of the bibliography, later in the week. But diving back into the Warren project naturally also means reopening my on again, off again work on Joshua King Ingalls, whose work appeared in many of the same periodicals.

Indeed, Ingalls has been in the back of my mind a lot lately. The "black and red feminism" project, which received a warm reception at the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair (where I sold enough copies of the pilot pamphlet to pay for a little bit of research travel) and at the SCRAP reuse-craft fair I tabled this last weekend, is going to take me back into the 19th century American women's press, where I've found work by Ingalls in the past. And a previously scarce Ingalls title, Periodical Business Crises, has recently appeared online. He was a long-lived, prolific contributor to a wide range of radical publications, so the chances of finding "new" material is always there, provided you look carefully and far-and-wide. We know, in fact, that there is at least one periodical that he published, The Landmark, which is out there somewhere, but pretty well unaccounted for in any detail in existing histories.

It turns out that there was also another periodical, The Journal of Progress, which Ingalls helped to edit, and to which he contributed the following articles:
  • Joshua King Ingalls, "The Power of Right," The Journal of Progress, I, 2 (May 7, 1853), 20-21.
  • Joshua King Ingalls, "Indestructibility of Right," The Journal of Progress, I, 3 (May 14 1853), 36-37.
  • Joshua King Ingalls, "Capital and Labor," The Journal of Progress, I, 6 (June 4, 1853), 85-86.
  • Joshua King Ingalls, "Capital and Labor," The Journal of Progress, I, 7 (June 11, 1853), 100-101.
  • Joshua King Ingalls, "Man and Property, their Rights and Relations," The Journal of Progress, I, 9 (June 25, 1853), 132-133.
  • Joshua King Ingalls, "Man and His Rights," The Journal of Progress, I, 10 (July 2, 1853), 145-147.
  • Joshua King Ingalls, "Property and Its Rights," The Journal of Progress, I, 11 (July 9, 1853), 1-3.
  • Joshua King Ingalls, "Relations, Existing and Natural, between Man and Property," I, 11 (July 9, 1853), 3-5. 
If some of the titles look familiar, it's because the last four articles are partially (and in some places substantially) rewritten versions of the essays on rights that appeared in The Spirit of the Age. I'll have a better idea over the next couple of days just what the nature of the revisions was. In the meantime, here's a fairly substantial update to the J. K. Ingalls bibliography.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Down with the Communists! (by a communist)

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


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

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

The Bourgeois. — Down, down with the Communists!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bourgeois. — They are drunkards!...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bourgeois. — You don’t say...

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


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

Help Christie Books publish Antonio Téllez Solà's "Facerías"

Passing along a note from the Kate Sharpley Library: "Christie Books is planning to publish Facerías: Urban Guerrilla Warfare (1939-1957) by Antonio Tellez Sola and translated by Paul Sharkey, but needs your help. Please check out the link and consider donating to the publication fund through the chipin link on their page."

 This looks like a publishing project worth supporting.

Bakunin on Proudhon and Marx

James Guillaume, in the "Biographical Notice" in his French edition of Bakunin's Works, includes part of an 1870 manuscript written by Bakunin on the subject of Proudhon and Marx:
Proudhon, despite all his efforts to shake off the traditions of classical idealism, nonetheless remained all his life an incorrigible idealist, inspired, as I told him two months before his death, sometimes by the Bible, sometimes by Roman law, and always a metaphysician to the fingertips. His great misfortune is that he never studied the natural sciences, and he never adopted its methods. He had some instincts of genius that made him glimpse the right path, but, led by the bad idealist habits of his mind, he always fell back into the old errors: so that Proudhon has been a perpetual contradiction, — a vigorous genius, a revolutionary thinker always struggling against the phantoms of idealism, but never managing to vanquish them.

Marx, as a thinker, is on the right track. He has established as a principle that all the political, religious and legal evolutions in history are not causes, but effects of the economic evolutions. It is a great and productive thought, that he has not absolutely invented: it has been glimpsed, expressed in part, by many others than him; but finally, to him belongs the honor of having solidly established it and having posited it as the basis of his whole economic system. On the other hand, Proudhon had understand and felt liberty much better than him. Proudhon, when he did not engage in doctrine and metaphysics, had the true instinct of a revolutionary: he adored Satan and he proclaimed an-archy. It is very possible that Marx could theoretically raise himself a still more rational system of liberty than Proudhon, but he lacks the instinct of liberty: he is, from head to foot, an authoritarian. [The full manuscript letter from which this was taken is now available on the Bakunin Library blog.]
This is obviously the sort of "damning with faint praise" that has been Proudhon's legacy among many anarchists. But it raises all sorts of questions. It is tempting to think that, despite rejecting some aspects of Proudhon's economic analysis (though Bakunin seems to credit Proudhon with "glimpses of the right path" at best), the anarchist collectivists at least inherited the theory of collective force and collective persons from Proudhon's mutualism. But could Bakunin really have adopted even this much from Proudhon, and still dismissed him as "always a metaphysician to the fingertips"? The relationship between metaphysics and the natural sciences was a fairly important issue to Proudhon, and he certainly seems to have thought he had adopted natural-scientific methods, at least where they were appropriate.

Iain McKay has gone to some lengths to paint the collectivist anarchists as fundamentally faithful to Proudhon's thought, except in those cases where they were more faithful to its logics than the mutualists themselves. But what Bakunin actually said about Proudhon's method suggests very little actual engagement with it (and De Paepe was enough more dismissive that the translation work is slow, because it actively annoys and depresses me.) Iain acknowledges that the land-tenure debates in the First International were much more about the future of farming practices than they were about property theory. But that is certainly not the case in the general disagreement between collectivists and communists on one side, and the various forms of mutualists on the other. The "future of farming" debate, together with hand-waving about "metaphysics," has simply served as a substitution for a more serious debate about property, and about the questions of science and method that led Proudhon and the mutualists to different conclusions about a range of issues, starting with, but certainly not limited, to property questions.

As pleased as I am to see Property is Theft! available (and I'm finally getting a chance to settle down with the printed version and see what other translators have provided for it), there is a sense in which even this considerable dose of Proudhon's work is as much a anti-mutualist management of Proudhon's legacies as a celebration of his thought. Reading Iain's continuing comments on my translations, you would never know that I have presented (as have others) a reading of Proudhon's method, and an rather in-depth account of his property theory, that is not subordinated to the evolutionary account, according to which collectivism and then communism "fix" the follies of "reformist" mutualism.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Proudhon to Jeanne Deroin

[A letter, apparently not included in the Correspondence, from Proudhon to Jeanne Deroin. The date is uncertain. Working translation; all the usual cautions apply.]

Paris, August 4 [1848?].


You have understood me perfectly: what I pursue under the name of the abolition of usury and of property, is the restoration of the family, it is the advent of the man-king, and of the woman-queen.

Until this great reform is accomplished, men and women will not love one another: cupidity will infect their union, and behind cupidity comes brutality of the senses. Libertinism replaces love, and murder, finally, takes its place at the domestic hearth, and chases off devotion, sanctity and decency. I say nothing to you of my religious opinions: that is too grueling and difficult a text. But what does that matter to you, if I want everything that is, according to you, desired by the Divinity?

But it is not enough, Madame, to discuss these things: it is necessary to put them into practice, and do what will not be done by the men on whom the destinies of France, at this moment, depend.

Poverty increases, winter approaches and if we do not bring about a quick and efficacious remedy for the growing pauperism, the industrial and financial disorder, we run the risk, in a few months, of finding ourselves like the castaways of the Medusa, obliged to commandeer everything, put ourselves on rations and live in community until we decide to live in liberty, equality and fraternity, under the law of labor and devotion.

Thus it is appropriate that the citizens, both male and female, who take to heart the interests of the People and the Revolution, seek to put themselves in a position to oppose these calamitous times, to which I still do not see an end several months from now and which will inevitable worsen

We must, in a word, organize, if not labor, at least aid and charity.

Let women sustain one another, let them create relief funds; in addition, let them continue to labor, even at a reduced price, for it will be better to gain five cents than to do nothing; let them solicit the return of work by this decline; finally, let them engage in a sort of mutual and fraternelle association until we escape from poverty.

Let us not remain spectators to the fire that consumes us: let us work at the pumps, and try to extinguish the flames. Let us resign ourselves for awhile to a sort of division of goods; but at the same time let us strive to use our time, and, since one part of our brethren must be fed by the other, let us occupy the first with something, make it labor, even if that labor must be given for nothing.

It is with this thought, Madame, that I would pray you to welcome the visit that I have enlisted a poor widow, Mme Gueyffier, to make you: being absolutely unable to occupy myself with private distresses, in this moment when I have to uphold the question of the general poverty, and to defend myself against the enemies of the Republic and their cowardly auxiliaries.

I am, Madame, your very humble servant.


P. S. - Madame, I would receive with pleasures any communications that you would make to me in the name of the meeting where you preside regarding the organization of mutual aid that I have proposed to you. It is by organization, by labor, that we will vanquish the enemy. To date, we have spoken too much, but we have done nothing.

Mme Jeanne Dervin,
Rue Miromesnil, 4.

[Translation: Shawn P. Wilbur]

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Han Ryner on the "Subjective" (from the Anarchist Encyclopedia)

I suppose if the stuff that keeps me from getting important translation done is also translation of a useful sort, then my failure to stay on task isn't quite so serious. In any event, chipping away at the entries in the Anarchist Encyclopedia is useful, and Han Ryner (Henri Ner) remains a rather under-represented voice in English. (These are working translations; all the usual cautions apply.)
Subjective, Subjectivism, Subjectivity. These words are directly opposed to objective, objectivism, objectivity. The senses of the words subject and object and their compound forms are so varied in philosophy that their semantic history would be long to relate and barely intelligible. Explaining the sense that Descartes gave to the word object would alone require a few pages. A nearly contemporary philosopher, Charles Renouvier, who died in 1903, still used object and subject in a sense almost opposite to the usage generally adopted today.

The modern meaning has its origin in the terminology of Kant. Madame de Staël says excellently (De l'Allemagne, III, 6) : “In German philosophy, one calls subjective ideas those that arise from the nature of our intelligence, and objective ideas all those which are aroused by sensations.” In a still more general fashion, and in order to speak in the customary, substantialist language, the subjective is all that which relates to the Self and the interior life; the objective, all that relates to the Non-Self.

On page 1817 of this Encyclopedia, Ixigrec has clearly explained the scientific point of view and condemned every subjective method. He is absolutely right, in the realm of general affirmation. That which is subjective must remain individual and never attempt to impose itself on others. I have not even offered or proposed my metaphysics or ethics; I have explained them. And that is not so that others may dream my dream or act according to my conscience. Those who have, like me, the taste for that particular poetry that is called metaphysics must neither allow themselves to impose a single poem—I mean a single system, nor intend that others adopt their dream and their system. If, by perhaps enlarging the present sense of the word, I have given the title “Subjectivism” to a presentation of my ethics, it is for several reasons. I indicate in this way that, despising all morals which would be universal and dare to command, I strive to stylize my life according to the counsels of a “wisdom that laughs,” which has no pretension of being able to serve for all. Let it encourage me stoically or cradle me “epicureanly,” the wisdom that I hear always teaches me that the outside, the objective, the material of my life has less importance than the manner in which I accommodate it: there are few circumstances in which I can not give it in myself, if I am a sufficient artist, the form of happiness. In the end, the first counsel of wisdom appears to me to be the famous “know yourself,” and the intellectual part of wisdom is only a critique of my powers and my wants.

In metaphysics, what I call subjectivism is only the denial of all authority, for others as for myself, or, if you prefer, an affirmation of free thought and individualism. But, in ethics, would I be immodest to believe that my subjectivism is a deepening of ordinary individualism?
As a bonus, here's Ryner's entry from "The Congress of Poets," August 1894.
M. HENRI NER.—If science and skill were the great poetic merits, I would name José-Maria de Hérédia as the master of today and Jean Moréas as the guide of tomorrow. But to the hollow in the proud armor of the first, to the void within the supple doublets of the second, I prefer the heart that cries in Verlaine, so penetrating and so profound, and the spirit that laments in Sully-Prud'homme, so noble and so loud. Rather than the stiff warrior and the handsome page, my salute would be to the sorrowful man and the melancholy thinker.

However, I know a complete poet, a poet who already has glory and to whom respect must go without reserve. Whoever reads both French languages cannot refuse his vote to Mistral, to Mistral equal of Lamartine in “Mireille”, superior to Hugo in “Calendal” and, since Aubanel is no more, the first among living lyrical poets for his “Iles d'or.”
[Working translations by Shawn P. Wilbur; revised 2/26/2012]