Monday, July 4, 2016

New home for Working Translations

Most of my old blogs have been integrated into the new Libertarian Labyrinth site over the last couple of years, but my translations have remained scattered in various places. I'm finally starting to remedy that situation, with the launch of a new Working Translations site, attached to the Labyrinth archive. The Index page there contains a recently updated list of translations archived throughout the Labyrinth, and the blog itself features side-by-side dual-language presentations of selected works. Gradually, I'll revise everything and pair it with the text in the original language. 

So if you are here and not there, you are probably missing some good stuff.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Ernest Lesigne, Socialistic Letters — IX (1881)



Ten years ago, I wrote a study from which emerged the somewhat unexpected conclusion that every error is, as well as every truth, the product of experiment.
In the case of error, the experiment is incomplete. That is all. But as those who are mistaken have seen, or what is called seeing, we mustn’t be surprised to see so many of them become hot and bothered when one assures them that they are mistaken.
So I simply say this to the collectivists:
You have concluded without having seen enough.
It is always the story of that Englishman who, reaching one of our shores, encountered a woman; the woman was a redhead; the Englishman reembarked, having written in his notebook: In France, the women are all redheads.
The intellectual fathers of the collectivism that is called scientific, Karl Marx, for example, can only cite one name, belonging to that generation that was adult in 1330, and their conclusions date from before 1848.
We were lost in the revival of the memories of the Revolution; the historians sang the great epic, the abolition of serfdom and privilege, the proclamation of liberty for all, of equal rights for all, the disappearance of the aristocracy.
Doubtless we just saw it aped, that nobility of days gone by, by an aristocracy of the leather breeches; doubtless we had seen it returning, listless, in the wagons of the enemy; but it had been a bad dream, and, thanks to the Three Glorious Days, if there was still a king, at least there were no more seigneurs.
It was the brisk march toward complete equality.
Suddenly an unknown thing loomed up, a sort of raised tower like in the old manors, with a high plume of smoke. And some walls are erected all around, bare and straight like those of a fortress. The walls open and close at fixed hours, and under the arch pass multitudes of the gaunt, the exhausted, and the stooped, and one does not know if it is fear or fatigue that prevents them from straightening their torsos. In these modern castle-keeps, [we find] the lords. A new servitude is born.
The tall chimneys multiply, and also the number of masters. A new aristocracy is born, brutal, grasping, uncouth, plundering, arrogant, heartless, inhuman, obsessed with numbers and gain, a predatory race, for whom the man counts less than the beast of burden, for the beast is purchased and it has the man for nothing; irresponsible; for, more skillful than its predecessors who had to feed the slave and protect the serf, it has been able to rid itself, with regard to the proletarian, from any sort of obligation.
And yet the proletarians compete for the honor of filling these modern donjons, to row in these galleys; they rush, jostle, and beat on the doors to enter.
It is because the growth of all these tall chimneys has created hunger in the homes of all the laborers; the connecting rod of the great machine has replaced human arms.
There remains only one recourse, to make oneself a cog in the factory, vehicle, lackey of the monstrous machine, servant of the master of this monster.
Those eager for equality, the sons of the revolutionaries would dream; and those who were to become the communists and then the collectivists were struck to the point of dizziness by the noise that came out of these modern keeps, which rose in blackish stains, like prisons on a soil that was verdant the day before.
They would have attention, concern only for that calamity of an aristocracy that accumulated more each day, and that other calamity of a proletariat enslaved.
That was the fact of the moment. What would the future be, if someone did not set it right?
They concluded immediately:
Since the aristocracy gathers more and more capital, means of production, and wealth, a time will soon come when it will have taken everything and when the nation will form two nations, one, a ruling minority, possessing all; the other, servants, having nothing, living at the mercy of the first. So things must be put in order, and since it is machinery that is the reason for that accursed aristocracy, which is its strength, which has created and maintains it; since the machine is, however, indispensable, we will keep the machine, but abolish the aristocracy. How? By giving back to the State, to the government, all the means of production.
From which arises a pile of systems, solidly constructed, very fine on paper, but which would be rather dangerous in practice; for, to the tyranny of the aristocracy, which is so dreaded, the substitute the tyranny of the political powers, no less dreadful, no less iniquitous, odious, and degrading, not less detestable.
Ah! Let us be wary of deductions!
Now, while the pot-bellied aristocracy ate the fat in the manner of the Eskimos, and while the system-makers systematized, a mass of good people of practical natures, manipulators of tools, learned men, small artisans, and engineers, who had no intention of letting themselves be devoured by the capitalist ogre, nor enslaved by the communist despot, set themselves to the work, once the first moment of stupor had passed.
At all times there have been these temperaments of free men wanting to remain free. They vanquished the aristocracy of the Middle Ages and the despotism of the monarchic State. They will overcome the aristocracy of the nineteenth century and maintain the dreams of communist despotism in the cloudy realm of the imagination.
Here, says this free, intelligent people to itself, are some big machines, very threatening, cumbersome and monopolizing. Modern lords, you have there a very fine armament. They are for you what high walls, armor and shields were to your predecessors in olden days. No peasant could penetrate them.
Perfect, but gunpowder was invented and the castle-forts were deserted by the serfs, abandoned by the masters themselves, who could no longer live there. There remain some miserable ruins, to serve as an example to the lords to come.
For more than thirty years, but after Karl Marx had built up his conclusions, we have invented small engines, small tools that will deliver us from the mechanical monsters; we reorganize the small industry of the artisan, which has been momentarily disoriented; the machine is democratized, made portative, commode, cheap, accessible, and, what makes it superior to the monsters of the large factory, it can wait without harm in the moments of unemployment; it no longer holds the worker at its service, and becomes at the service of the individual.
In a near future, all the laborers, even the proletarians of today, each by themselves or in association with others, will have their own machine, their tool, and the industrial fortresses of today will be deserted wastelands, around high, smokeless chimneys, between dilapidated walls. The sons of the aristocracy of iron and money will work for their livelihood, which will not be a great calamity, and the historians recount how the industrious people have regained their liberty, compromised for a moment by the beginning of mechanization, and by the first expansion of industrialism.
Such are the scientific facts that the communists of the time of Louis-Philippe could have foreseen, and that the contemporary collectivism, called scientific, neglects to see.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Joseph Déjacque, et al, to the machine-breakers (1848)



We learn that in the midst of the joy and triumph, some of our own, misled by dangerous advice, want to tarnish the glory of our revolution by excesses that we condemn with all our energies. They want to break the machinery.
Brothers, that is wrong! We suffer like them from the disturbances that have been led to by the introduction of machines into industry; but, instead of taking it our on the inventions that shorten labor by multiplying production, let us accuse of the selfish and improvident governments for our sorrows. They can no longer be the same in the future.
So respect the machines!
Moreover, to attack the mechanical presses is to slow down, to hold back the approach of the revolution. It is, in the graves circumstances where we are, to do the work of the bad citizen

Nouguès, printer; Pascal, id.; Joly, tailor; Bérard, id.; Pénéan, cork-maker; Gilland, locksmith; Gaumont, watchmaker-mechanic; Bourdin, id.; Déjacque, paper-hanger; Abraham, binder; Gauthier, printer; Pasquier, id.; Desbrosses, draughtsman; Danguy, printer; Chardenot, joiner; Roce, carpenter; Lambert, bookkeeper; Gaillard, printer; Garnier, bookkeeper; Capron, id.; Fornet, jeweler; Leroy, id.; Corbon, worker in marble; Ronce, printer; Viez, id.; Scott, id.; Trapp, id.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Alexandre Ghé, "Open Letter to P. Kropotkin" (1916)

Open Letter to P. Kropotkin



Dear Master,
After an entire series of public declarations in favor of the Triple and Quadruple Entente, which have produced consternation in the anarchist and internationalist milieus, there has recently appeared a new Manifesto, which the bourgeois press has hastened to describe as an “Anarchist Manifesto.”
In that Manifesto, also signed by you, you follow the line of conduct that you have mapped out since the beginning of the war, inviting us to support the belligerent Entente.
I will not dwell, for the moment, specifically on the Manifesto, because its detailed critique would lead us too far afield. But, as the social character of your public assessments with regard to the facts of the European war give each of us the right to demand explanations of you, because these assessments touch directly on the very principles of Anarchy, I will allow myself to submit these lines to you.
For us, everything in your recent public declarations is an enigma. We differ with you, one of the greatest theorists of Anarchy, not only in the individual evaluation of the events, but on the principled relations that the anarchists must have with these facts. And, above all, it poses for us the question: what is the cause of our divergence? Is it that we are bad anarchists and you are good, or, on the contrary, have we remained anarchists while you have ceased to be one? There are not two different anarchisms in existence and this is why I think I have the right to formulate my question in precisely this way.
Additionally, — and this second question is also of great importance, — I would ask you to clarify from what moment our disagreement dates. Did a community of ideas exist between us before the war? Was the divergence only produced by the fact of the hostilities?
Finally, — a third and last question, — does your present conduct follow logically from all that you taught and maintained before the war or is it in contradiction with your previous writings?
In order to facilitate your responses to the questions posed, I will clarify the points on which we have held common ideas and on which we are today in opposition.
Formerly, you would find, that, without exception, all the forms of the State are in the same measure instruments of oppression of the working classes, and that is why you were anti-democrat. In 1883, before the Criminal Court of Lyon, you declared: “We want liberty and we think that it is incompatible with the existence any statist power, no matter its origin and form. What does it matter if it is imposed or elected, monarchist or republican, resting on divine right or the right of the people, of the coronation or universal suffrage? History teaches us that all governments are the same and that one is as good as the other. Some are more cynical, and others are more hypocritical; the best often appear the worst: all have the same language, everywhere the same intolerance. Even the most liberal keep deep down in the dust some old codes, some convenient little laws against the International, in order to apply them in the favorable cases against their troublesome adversaries. In other words, the anarchists do see the evil not in one form of government or another, but in the idea of government and in the very principle of power.”
Later, you proclaimed the same ideas in several works. Notably, in Anarchie you said: “The State has been produced, created by the centuries, in order to maintain the domination of the privileged classes over the peasants and workers. Consequently, neither the Church, nor the State can not become the force that would serve for the annihilation of those privileges.” And then: “The weapon of oppression and of enslavement cannot become a weapon of liberation.”
You did not protest when, in the columns of the newspaper Pain et Liberté, of which you were one of the originators, printed the article of Elisée Reclus, in which the author said: “We have tolerated enough the kings anointed by the Lord or seated by the will of the people; all these ministers plenipotentiaries, responsible or irresponsible; these legislators who manage to obtain a bit of power from an emperor or from a flock of voters: these judges who sell what they call Justice to those who pay the most; these priest who represent God on earth and who promise a place in paradise to those who become their slaves here below.” And in the same place: “We anarchists do not want to reconstruct anew the State that we have always disavowed.”
Ten years ago, you said, with regard to the Russo-Japanese War, responding to a Frenchman in an article that I have before me: “Each war is an evil, whether it ends in victory or defeat. It is an evil for the belligerent powers, an evil for the neutral powers. I do not believe in beneficial wars. The Japanese, Russian or English capitalists, yellow or white, are equally odious to me. I prefer to put myself on the side of the young Japanese socialist party; however small in number, it expresses the will of the Japanese people when it declares itself against war. In short, in the present war I see a danger for progress in all of Europe in general. Can the triumph of the lowest instincts of contemporary capitalism can aid in the triumph of progress?”
So you have adopted the anti-statist way of seeing, proper to anarchists, not only as regards the future society, but also the present society. And we have always believed, in agreement with you, that true liberty is not compatible with the existence of any statist power, whatever its form and origin. From your point of view, and ours, the evil (and, consequently, the good) is not only in one or the other form of government, but in the very principle of power.
Like you, we have also accepted that the instrument of oppression cannot be the instrument of deliverance. On the foundation of that truth, which has always been for us an axiom, we have refused the collaboration of classes, practiced by the socialists, and we have attempted to wrest the proletariat from the struggle based on a statist legislation. We have pushed that formula to the maximum, as far as the absolute exclusion of all mitigating circumstances. In an article “Pour la caractéristique de notice tactique,” in the fourth number of the newspaper Pain et Liberté, we have underlined this point: “There can be no alliance, no coalition, even temporary, with the bourgeoisie. Between it and us there exists no other field of activity than the field of battle, where each wants to bury the other in the tomb. We are fully convinced that there exists no moment in history that will demand of the proletariat a collaboration with the bourgeois parties, for the proletariat cannot, even temporarily, ally itself with them without interrupting its struggle against the bourgeoisie.”
So to think like our common master, Bakunin, detested by all the bourgeoisie and by all the state socialists. Still in the era of the First International, he foresaw what would happen to the working class, by participating in bourgeois politics, and that his why he withdrew from the International, which had become Marxist, as soon as it had begun to march openly down the path of political struggle. In his remarkable article: “The Policy of the International,” which is, in places, prophet, he said:
“The people have always been misled. Even the great French Revolution betrayed them. It killed the aristocratic nobility and put the bourgeoisie in its place. The people are no longer called slaves or serfs, they are proclaimed freeborn by law, but in fact their slavery and poverty remain the same.
“And they will always remain the same as long as the popular masses continue to serve as an instrument for bourgeois politics, whether that politics is called conservative, liberal, progressive, or radical, and even when it is given the most revolutionary appearances in the world. For all bourgeois politics, whatever its color and name, can at base only have one aim: the maintenance of bourgeois domination; and bourgeois domination is the slavery of the proletariat.
“What then was the International to do? It first had to loose the working masses from all bourgeois politics, it had to eliminate from its own program all the political programs of the bourgeois.”
Thus you have, before the war, maintained without reservations an equally negative conception for all the forms of bourgeois statism, and thus you accept the formulas of Bakunin. Before the war you declared that the existence of liberty is incompatible with the existence of the statist power, whatever its form and origin. Then, you have found that all the governments are alike and that one is as good as another; that not one of those existing can become an instrument of liberation.
As for war, you have always reckoned without reservations that it was an evil and that, being the lowest consequence of capitalism, it could never serve the triumph of progress.
And now you say: “At the present moment, each man who wants to do something useful for the rescue of European civilization and for the prolongation of the struggle in favor of the workers’ International, can and must do only one thing: to aid in the defeat of the enemy of our dearest aspirations — of Prussian militarism.”
That phrase alone already contains a full denial of all that you have said before, for if, for the rescue of European civilization, you should go to war against the Germans, it is probably because liberal England or republican France, with their militarisms, represent greater values that Germany. So why did you maintain before that all the governments are equal?
Then if France and England contain more elements of communist progress than Germany, and if the victory of the allies should open the gate wider for the continuation of the struggle in favor of the workers’ International than a victory for Germany, we must admit, consequently, that France and England, representing a more elevated culture, are an instrument of liberation to a greater extent than caesarian Germany. And why then have you taught before that none of the present governments cannot become an instrument of liberation?
Now you advise us to go to war as volunteers to fire on the German workers with 50 cm. guns, in order to save civilization and European culture. Where then is the superiority of Anglo-French culture over German culture? Does it guarantee the workers the “equality in fact” that the French Revolution had wanted to attain? You have said that “only in an egalitarian society will we find justice.” Well, is there a gram more justice and economic equality in Anglo-French culture than in German culture? “The full development of the personality is only permitted to those who are not dangerous to the existence of bourgeois society,” you have also said. But does the French republic or the English democracy allow any more attacks on their integrities, in the bourgeois and capitalist sense of that word, than the German caesarism? Finally, it seems to me that the watchword: “we must defend the highest culture,” — if we admit that such of taxonomy of cultures exists, which is not anarchist, but properly bourgeois, — such a watchword would lead us to practical conclusions that are statist and nationalists. Then we would often be obliged, in future wars, to take the side of some State who culture appears to us more elevated. In that case, in the interest of the defense of the preferred culture, we would never have the right to be antimilitarists, but we would be obliged to vote for the military credits on the demand of the respective State that defends that high culture, and we would always be obliged to support militarism, which fulfills the sacred mission of its defense. Then we should also admit that if our participation in war is necessary in the continuation of the war in favor of the workers’ international, that militarism that, in this case, helps us to clear the road toward our communist ideal, must be inscribed as a categorical imperative in our anarchist tactics.
Finally, one more point, of secondary important. In inviting us to actively support the Entente, you say: “After the defeat of Napoleon III, the old Garibaldi rose up suddenly for the defense of France.” Certainly, it was a very generous impulse on the part of the great Italian idealist, but I do not understand what that could have to do with our tactics. Was Garibaldi an anarchist? On the contrary, I remember that article 7 of his “Propositions” at the First Congress of the League of Peace and Liberty, in 1867, was conceived as follows: “The religion of God is adopted by the Congress.” Should that also serve as an example to us, because it was Garibaldi who said it? And wouldn’t it be better and more justified in such circumstances, if one should have already invoked the authority of Garibaldi, to recall article 12 of his “Propositions,” which says explicitly that “only the slave has a right to make war against tyrants” and that “this is the only case where war is permitted”?
There, dear Master, are the questions that I have to pose to you and to which, I am persuaded, I will not have to wait long for your response.
Alexandre GHÉ.

P.-S. — I have received, with regard to this “Letter,” some reproaches on the part of comrade Brocher, who, in addition, accuses me of “germanophilia.”
Just a few words in response.
The German tyranny is as detestable to me as any other tout tyranny. The crimes of the Germans in Belgium, in Lorraine, at Malines, Reims, etc., etc., are, for me as well, abominable acts, like all vandalism. But the crimes of the Russians in Poland and in Galicia are not less than them. And the crimes of the Belgians in the Congo, those of the English in the Indies, of the French in Morocco — not more.
Moreover, we are not here now to find “the most guilty” among the brigands. They are all guilty to the same degree. But since where has there been, for a revolutionary, no other conception “germanophilia” and “francophilia”?
Obviously to console me, comrade Brocher refers me to a glorious tomorrow. “After the peace it will be time to take up again the libertarian activity,” he says.
Not at all in agreement. We were never opportunists, which means that our action never depended on the politics of the governments. We could not only be anarchists “before the war” or “after the peace,” but always, in all circumstances. So, we are also anarchists during the war. And during an imperialist war we cannot, if we claim to be anarchists, stand on the side of any belligerent group. Our action cannot be either “ententeist,” or “allianceist.” But, of course, we cannot be “neutral” either. During an imperialist war we only have to oppose to the criminal action of the governments our international action against the carnage of the peoples, against the war and for the complete accomplishment of our revolutionary program.
A. G.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Speeches of Paschal Grousset and François Jourde on the Paris Commune (San Francisco, 1874)







MAY 24, 1874



Before the banquet offered to the ex-members of the Paris Commune was opened, citizen Mibielle first congratulated those present for the promptness that they had shown in responding to the appeal that had been made to them; he declared, besides, that he was very honored to direct the Banquet, but on the condition that the citizen Blanqui was declared honorary president. That proposition was met by thunderous applause.
Citizen Mibielle continued, and it very forthright terms, he painted a striking picture of the character presented by men dedicated to the defense of the municipal laws of the city of Paris, and in conclusion he presented the citizens Paschal Grousset and Jourde, indicating them to the assembly, which rose spontaneously, all together, cheering these two names by repeated bursts of applause.
At the opening of the speech the reception committee for the escapees, through its secretary, raised this toast:

To our fellow citizens, Paschal Grousset and Jourde,
defenders of the Commune!

(New applause resounded.) The secretary then made the following speech:

It is from a feeling of deep gratitude and admiration that we applaud all the acts of these two citizen who have participated in the defense of those rights that, inviolable on this American soil, have been violated in Paris.
We applaud them because we have the certainty that their energetic resolution is to pursue the course that they have traced, however painful it may be, to arrive at the claim of the rights of the people, and to make it so that the great word Equality will not always be a placard at which all the acrobats who govern us in succession laugh.
We applaud them because they have proven by their sacrifices, their self-sacrifice, their perseverance, and their courage, because, in a word, their lives are consecrated to insuring the existence of true equality; because they will always assist by their efforts the creation of all the fundamental laws, linking to civic instruction and education, basis of all social progress; because all their intelligence constantly tends to insure the existence of liberty by forcing our pitiless adversaries to bow down before the inviolability of the laws that should guarantee our persons, our domiciles, our papers, that authorize us to speak, to write, to arm ourselves, to establish ourselves in popular assemblies, to protect our associations; that grant us the right to pursue our unfaithful and incompetent civil servants, finally to make it so that the people can organize their own affairs, regulate their own interests and direct their own destinies.
In it with this conviction that the principles and sentiments that we express here are ardently shared by our friends to whom we raise this toast:

To our fellow citizens, Paschal Grousset and Jourde,
defenders of the Commune!

Citizen Paschal Grousset then responded with the speech published in this pamphlet; and after the toast of citizen Ravère came that of citizen Jourde.
The advanced hour of the evening did not allow the president to give the floor to all the orators who were signed up; after the citizens Paschal Grousset, Jourde, Lafaix, Guinard, Ravère, Day, Koster and some others, the president granted it only to the citizen Royon, who raised the last toast, which was cheered with all the transport that such profoundly moved hearts will feel; all repeated with citizen Royon: To our captive friends—of New Caledonia! To their deliverance!


The cordial and fraternal welcome that has been given us by some French citizens, two thousand leagues from the homeland, at our escape from the tomb where we had been buried alive, will remain the great memory and honor of our lives. I do not thank you for it, gentlemen, because it is not addressed to our persons, but to the great cause of which we are the devoted soldiers, the principles that we represent, the qualities invested in us by the free vote of the people of Paris, and the vicissitudes that we have just passed through. We accept that welcome is in the name of the entire proscription, because it belongs to the entire proscription. Let us tell you, however, that our three years of prison and exile are erased by the warm expression of your sympathies, and that there are hours in life that compensate and pay a hundred times over all the sorrows and all the outrages:… (Applause.)
As sweet as this is, it is somber, as will be all our celebration until the day of triumph, until the day of justice, by the thought, always present to our mind, of the terrible suffering that we leave behind us, and that four thousand Parisian laborers endure at the antipodes de la France, on the Oceanian reef, where the rage of our enemies has cast them. That rage, gentlemen, has not been quenched by the rivers of blood that they have spilled in Paris. Ten days of carnage was not enough: the mass massacres were followed by the legal murders, and the legal murders were followed by the transportations. At the hour when I speak, the military courts still function, and every day new names are added to the funereal lists. But it was not enough to shoot us down or suppress us; it was also necessary to dishonor us. A vast system of slander was organized; our adversaries, alone having the opportunity to speak, have fabricated from whole cloth, for export, an artificial public opinion, and if, by an unheard of Fortune we escape from the black abyss into which we were plunged, it is in order to have thrown in our face, on the first land where we landed, the names of assassins, incendiaries, and robbers. Gentlemen, it is time for that sinister banter to finish. We are here in a nation of businessmen: allow me, in some rapid comments, to sketch for you the balance sheet of the two parties; we will see to what side the balance tilts, on what side are the drinkers of blood. (Applause.)
They always blame the Commune: the murder of two general, Lecomte and Clément Thomas; the fusillade of the Place Vendôme; the execution of sixty-four hostages; some arrests; some requisitions; some fires. On these various points, here are my explanations:
The generals, Lecomte and Clément Thomas, were shot on March 18, that is eight days before the Commune existed, in a day of popular effervescence, while Paris, deserted by the government of Mr. Thiers, had still not had the time to give itself a provisional government. The responsibility for these acts did not belong to the national guard, but to the army: it is certain that the majority of the actors in the drama of the Rue de Rosiers were soldiers of the regular army. They applied to Lecomte the summary trial that he had commanded that very morning against an innocent crowd, against women and children. As for general Clément Thomas, surprised in civilian garb at the moment when he examined the barricades of Montmartre incognito, he received the death that the laws of war have always reserved for spies.
The day of the Place Vendôme! Some among you know the history of it. At the moment when the Central Committee of the national guard, borne to the Hotel de Ville by the movement of March 18, announced to the population that it would only use its power to make the municipal elections proceed, a group of men notoriously compromised in all the Bonapartist plots, summoned the adversaries of the movement, by the voice of the press, with thousands of posters, to a demonstration against the Central Committee. A few hundred adherents responded to that call and assembled on the boulevard; all were armed; they fallowed the Rue de la Paix, uttered seditious shouts and death threats, arrived at the Place Vendôme, and, stopped by the cordon of the guards who had stationed themselves in front of the residence of the general staff, they threw themselves at the national guards, tried to disarm them, and fired some shots that the national guard answered; the demonstration dispersed, some corpses strewn on the ground. I ask every man of good faith: an armed force attacked—how was the national guard—how could it hesitate to use its weapons? It shouldn’t have… (No! No!)
The hostages! It is the great accusation, which is constantly repeated. Here are the bare facts: The struggle was engaged on April 2 between Paris and Versailles, I mean between the republic and the monarchy… (applause). In the first engagement, a great number of national guards were surprised by General Vinoy on the plateau of Chatillon; in the midst of them were Duval, that young man so pure that he seemed a hero of ancient Greece, who only passed through history in order to leave an immortal page; scorning the laws of war and humanity, Vinoy had the prisoners shot. The same day another criminal, Galliffet, applied the same summary procedure to some national guards, arrested by some men in the Isle of Grande-Jatte, where they were peacefully having lunch. So that none could be unaware of it, Gallifet proceeded with the execution on the public square of Chatou, after having summoned the inhabitants with the sound of his tambour; he did more, he bragged of his sad exploit in a poster placarded everywhere. What did the Commune do? What would it respond to the women and children of these victims, to the indignant public, quo imperiously demanded justice and vengeance. The Commune? Ah! It is savage. It is thirsty for blood. The Commune! It announced to the Assembly of Versailles that if the soldiers continued to murder the prisoners, it would be force to some reprisals. What is new in this, gentlemen? Isn’t it the eternal means to which it is necessary to have recourse, in order to impress upon war, that immoral thing, a relative morality? But at least, in these inevitable reprisals the Commune wanted to surround itself with all the legal guarantees; it did not want to strike at random, to murder blindly as its adversaries have done. It decided that a jury, a jury drawn by lot from among all the citizens, would pass judgment, after examination of the case, on the prisoners that the twists and turns of the struggle had cast into its hands and say who could be called to serve as hostage. The Commune did more: it delayed the execution of that decree, which it promulgated in order to respond to the indignation provoked by unspeakable murders, hoping to gain time, to escape a sorrowful necessity. And it did still more: it offered to Mr. Thiers, to the assembly, to deliver all the hostage to them, all, without exception, in exchange for a single man, of a great citizen that Versailles kept prisoner, in exchange for our dear, venerated Blanqui. (Prolonged applause.) Mr. Thiers refused, and shied away from this agreement. And now, if in one day of defeat and fury, after two months of carnage, when the streets streamed with blood, a maddened crowd went to the prisons, dragged out the hostages and their guardians and piled on these sixty-four men the weight of its anger, tell me who must be accused for all this spilled blood: is it the Commune?... (Numerous shouts: No! No! Versailles!) You have said it before me. It is Versailles. It is Mr. Thiers.
The arrests, the requisitions, the fires! Must I tell you that these are facts of war inseparable from any armed struggle? Must I recall the all too justified suspicions of a population overexcited by six months of siege and famine, and the constant plots hatched in Paris, even in our own ranks, by those who fought? War is a great evil, and we do not deny it, gentlemen; but, by accepting this evil we must accept its necessities and consequences: often arbitrary arrests, requisitions of foodstuffs and transport, compensated by legitimate indemnities, are among those that we cannot avoid.
For the fires that were produced in the last days of the struggle, I hardly believe it necessary to remind you that they have more often been the result of the battle, of the rain of shells exchanged by the two parties, than the result of a firm and voluntary entente: in barely two or three cases the fire was intentional, accepted as a final means of halting the advance of the army. I must clearly declare in this regard that the army did not appear to me more immoral than any other and that I believe it was authorized by the customs of war.
That, gentlemen, is the point of view from which I envisage the acts of the Commune; I do not claim to impose that estimation: if you wish I would accept the facts without commentary, as our enemies present them (No! No!)… I would only ask permission to place some acts of the Commune, without qualifications, opposite the acts of Versailles, without qualifications as well.
Versailles provoked the struggle and entered it; Versailles began on April 2 to shoot the prisoners, to bombard the ambulances, to massacre the wounded on the field of battle. Versailles led up to the general massacre with the explosion of the Rapp Cartridge Factory; since its troops entered Paris, they have butchered thirty thousand men, women and children. Thirty thousand, you hear, that is the figure that the leaders of the army themselves gave. I have seen, I have seen with my own eyes, the murder of young girls, accused of having given water to some combatants; I have seen, I have seen with my own eyes, a child of six months ripped from its mother, crushed on the pavement by the gunstocks of the soldiers. That is not all. When the butchers had grown weary, when the machine-guns of the Lobau barracks, of the army, of Père Lachaise, of twenty other human abattoirs refused to function, sixty thousand prisoners still remained squeezed in at Satory, in all the ports, in the cattle-cars of all the railroads. Overwhelmed with blows and outrages, delivered up to the stupid fury of the populace en habit noir who awaited their passage, the prisoners have know on the road all the sorrows that it is given to man to feel; in the hulks, in the jails, they have been subject to the degrading despotism of a soldierly squalor; deprived of everything, insulted at every turn, beaten pitilessly, murdered at the least gesture. Then, one day they emerge to appear before a so-called tribunal, made up of their adversaries of the day before, to see themselves accused of all the crimes that the Code considers useable to condemn [citizens] to death, to prison, to exile, to the penal colony. The transports have come to be filled in our harbors: one by one, slowly, as if to distill the torture and make despair enter drop by drop into the hearts of the vanquished, the black ships have taken route for the antipodes. How to recount this six-month voyage? Or find words to paint its moral and physical sorrows? We were sustained by the hope that never deserts man, by the anticipation of the unknown, perhaps also by those deceitful promises with which the monarchical hypocrisy had enveloped what it calls the “dawn of the deportation.” On the new land where our civil struggles “cast” a Parisian population, the exiles would find, they said, liberty, abundance, and an easy life; their families should join them; they would enjoy such a rapid ease, such a complete happiness, that the amnesty could reach them without convincing them to return to the other country. This is what the press said, and that is what they declared in the court of Versailles; a man of imagination, Mr. d’Haussonville, spokesman for the bill relating to these measures, went even farther: he cast a rapt glance at the future and he saluted with a patriotic joy, in New Caledonia, the cradle of a future French empire. (Ironic laughter.) We heard these things, and half-accepted them, but the most pessimistic would not have dared predict the sorrowful reality. Instead of the Eldorado that was promised to us, we found sandy, sterile lands, a soil without riches in a burning climate, scarcity of water, an inept regime of budgeting, and absolute lack of work and, to say it all in one word, misery. Of four thousand deportees, there are not two at the Ducos peninsula and the Isle of Pines who have been able to create a tolerable existence; there are not two who have succeeded in gaining by their labor enough to suffice, let alone enough to suffice for the needs of their families. A very small number, moreover, were imprudent enough to bring them. Now the experiment has been made, and it is decisive: the deportation is nothing but an imprisonment at the antipodes, it is not less strict, it is no less onerous to the state, it is no less useless to the individual, the family, and society.
But it was not enough send four thousand of our own to trainer in Caledonia an empty, miserable existence, to fill with republicans all the prisons of France, to depopulate for the benefit of foreigners the workshops that were the finery and honor of Paris, our adversaries required a more refined and delicate delight: three hundred of our own have been cast into that cesspool that they call the penal colony; and do not believe that they are separated from the murderers and thieves. One minister said one day to a tearful mother who asked pardon: “I only know on penal colony!” The soldiers of the Commune are coupled there to the most infamous criminals, chained to the same bar, eating from the same trough, compelled to the same servile labors, subject to the same rule, treated familiarly, insulted and beaten by the same convicts; some children like Maroteau and some old men like Roques, have suffered this fate; for a gesture they are condemned to the torture of hunger; for a word, to the torture of the lash… (profound sensation). They only really know how to whip in the penal colony, I wrote recently to one of our brothers; twenty blows is enough to stun the most robust man, and there is not an example that anyone has been able to endure fifty without dying… (cries of indignation.)
That, gentlemen, is a small part of what we have hastened to make known to the world, those are the unspeakable tortures to which, for thirty years, coldly, with bias, with premeditation, the assembly of Versailles has cast men whose only crime has been to desire a Republic, of wanting to set it on its true cornerstone, the Commune, to wish to give it its true meaning and necessary consequences, the liberation of the proletariat.
These goods, these precious goods, citizens, you enjoy them in the free land where you come to seek them; you know their value, and experience has taught you that a true regime of equality and liberty gives development to individual power, serenity to the intelligence, vigor to the body, physical and more health to the entire human being. We, we have wanted to gain these goods in France and our effort has been powerless to bring them to us. Greater miseries have been the immediate and obvious result of that fruitless effort. Is that to say that it will remain fruitless? No, do not believe it. And I would wish for guarantee of it, if needed, only the fraternal gathering that brings us together here to toast the Commune, barely three years after the Commune was crushed. It will be fecund in the future, and allow me to say with some pride that it has already been fecund in the past.
There are no lack of people, in France and abroad, to say that the Commune was all but fatal to the Republic: this superficial judgment has become a commonplace, we see it printed everywhere, and there is not a day that we do not hear it resound in our ears. Could one at least grant to us that such a result, if it was produced, would have been precisely the opposite of the one that we pursued… but, no, they do not even wasn’t to grant us the benefit of our intentions. And yet, gentlemen, not only has our aim been to found the Republic, but this aim was achieved by us in our very defeat. Without March 18, the monarchy would have been made in France; that is the truth, and that supreme calamity, the only one that remains for us to dread, was warded off by the heroic sacrifice of Paris. Say to those who deny it that they do not know the majority of the assembly of Versailles and the plans that they did not fear to announce; tell them that an electoral surprise had thrown to the head of France some men who knew no other homeland than the Vatican, whom the glory of their fathers of 1858 prevents from sleeping; say that nothing less was demanded than the insurrection of Paris and the treat of a general insurrection, in order to force them to postpone their plots; and also say that it was the passionate resistance of the great republican city that gave to all the forces of the party the time to group and se reformer; remind them that it was the unequivocal demonstrations wrested from the nation by the spectacle of the struggle that forced the oldest and most skillful of the monarchic servants to bow their head before the Republic, to declared themselves converted, and to make the republican declarations accepted, as an imperious necessity of the moment, at that royalist assembly!... (Prolonged applause.)
The history of Paris on March 18 is an old history, gentlemen: it is that of Leonidas. The numberless army of barbarians approached the Peloponnese and threatened to inundate it; with a handful of brave men, he put himself across the rout and struggled in despair. He perished, but behind him Greece had time to gather its forces and prepare the victory… our sacrifice has been more sorrowful for us. It is not three hundred men that the barbarians have killed, but thirty thousand. But at least the generous effort has not been sterile, and before the rampart of corpses the enemy flood had to withdraw… (Prolonged applause.)
Now there is nothing more to fear. The wait has thrown division into the camp of that majority, [once] so compact against us. Three factions tear at it and reciprocally undo it. Powerless to found anything it is reduced to destroying, and it attacks what, universal suffrage… It will break its old teeth on that steel, believe it well. (Applause.) Such a mad attack can only presage for us an imminent and definitive triumph. For my part, it is with an absolute confidence that I await it and that I invite you to drink with me, citizens, to the victory, to the city of Paris, champion of the universal Revolution, to the workers exiled for it! (Prolonged applause.)


The fraternal welcome that you have reserved for us inspires two sentiments in me that I want to make known to you. The first is a feeling of unspeakable joy at finding myself, after three years of prison and deportation, again in the midst of citizens whose hearts beat in unison with ours.
The second is a feeling of lively gratitude for the sympathy that you have born witness to some of the defeated of 1871, despite the attacks, the insults and slanders of which they have been the object. No doubt, you have said to yourself that the no light was shed on the revolution of March 18, that the executioners of the day before were made the judges of the day after, and that, in order to obscure the great act they had not hesitated before the massacre of thirty thousand men, before the transportation, deportation and imprisonment of ten thousand citizens. (Applause.)
That welcome makes it a duty for me to say a few words to you about the Commune and its acts.
Among the attacks of which the republican party is the object, there is one that has always profoundly surprised me: it is the accusation raised against us that we always have recourse to violence. But if we look behind us, do we not see that it was always the government that, scoring the legal manifestation of the will of the people, has had recourse to force in order to break that will, and has forced the people to defend by force the sacred rights of which they wanted to refuse them the use…? (Approbation.)
1789—1830—1848. Aren’t they the irrefutable proof that the revolution has always been provoked by the violent attempts of the powers that be?
When the people have exhausted all the legal forms in order to express its will and it has not been heard, insurrection, as it has been said, is the most sacred of duties… (Applause.)
— After the ratification of the preliminaries of peace: the national assembly, elected in abnormal circumstances, composed of monarchists who had profited from the trouble cast into the ranks of the republicans by the disasters of the homeland, in order to surprise the voters, the representatives, I say, openly published their intention of restoring the monarchy.—The people of Paris were in arms. Certainly they did not want the civil war before the Prussians who took France by the throat, but they also did not want to let the Republic sink.
The so-called national assembly declared war abruptly; it attempted on March 18 to disarm the Parisian national guard; the guard resisted and became mistress of the city.—Paris named a Commune and waited with conciliation for the recognition of the Republic and of the municipal liberties.
The assembly of Versailles wanted to hear nothing and advanced soldiers against the defenders of the Republic; and for two months we were constrained to war, to the war that it made bloody and savage for us.
That is what happened on March 18.
We have been blamed for the massacre of the hostages. For my part, I frankly accept responsibility for the blood that we have spilled, but on the condition that Versailles will accept the responsibility for the crimes that is has committed and of which my friend Grousset has just made the sinister balance sheet.
We have been blamed for having displayed the red flag. It is because the red flag has only one color, as society must only have one class of citizens. We do not know, we of the Commune, the meaning of the words bourgeois classes, directing classes. What we know with the economists,—(for we have not found that formula)—is that Labor is the source of wealth and we believe that this wealth produced by Labor should belong to it. We have been called “Partageux.” In fact for many centuries the worker gives his labor and life in exchange for a morsel of bread… (Applause.)
I return to the accusation of violence that we have often encountered. Well, if tomorrow the government of the “illustrious” marshal (I would willingly give him that qualification of illustrious if I had seen him beside Bazaine account for his conduct before Sedan.) If tomorrow, I say, that government, pushed by the real manifestation of the opinion of France, attempted a coup de force, who then would reproach us for demanding of the force a means of defending our unrecognized rights, which are once more attacked?
But in order to have that force that is so greatly necessary to us, we must employ against our enemies the weapon that has always served them well: Their Union against the People.
It is by [our] union, by the strict solidarity of the workers, who would certainly be ready to re-conquer their rights if their enemies compelled them, that we would found, as the first proclamation of March 18 said, the Republic, with all its consequences, ending forever the era of invasions and civil wars. I propose to you a toast—to that Union… (Applause.)

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Proudhon, Letter to the editor of the Dictionnaire Larousse (1864)

Letter to the editor of the Dictionnaire Larousse

Passy, August 20, 1864

Sir, I have received from our common friend, M. D.... the seven issues of your gigantic dictionary; I already possessed the first. I cannot wish too much for the success of your publication, and I admire the courage, the devotion to science, of Mr. Larousse, who has not shrunk from such an enterprise. During my convalescence, I have thumbed through some of your articles, and I am more and more astonished at the mass of material that you have gathered in your column. I would learn with true joy that you have found a placement for its installments; this proves to me once more that our nation is not dead; a people that reads, that shows itself hungry for science, who seeks it in all its forms, has not given his resignation.
I have read the articles that you have recommended, Abstention and Anarchy, and I thank you for the manner in which you have spoken of me on this occasion. I only regret not having been in a position to explain myself at the moment when you wrote them. On abstention, I would have told you something more positive and more decisive than what I have found in the dictionary. As for anarchy, its composition appears better and more exact. I wanted to mark, by that word, the extreme term of political progress. Anarchy is, if can express myself in this way, a form of government, or constitution, in which the public and private conscience, formed by the development of science and of right, is sufficient by itself to maintain order and to guarantee all freedoms, where, consequently, the principle of authority, the police institutions, the means of detention or repression, the system of civil service, taxation, etc., find themselves reduced to their simplest expression; even more so, where the monarchic forms, large-scale centralization, will disappear, replaced by federal institutions and local customs. When political life and domestic existence will be as one; when, by the solution of economic problems, social and individual interests will be in balance and connected, it is obvious that, every constraint having disappeared, we will enjoy full liberty or anarchy. The social law will be fulfilled by itself, without supervision or commands, through universal spontaneity.
When you come to the articles God and Property, I would be grateful if you would let me know. You will see by a few words of explanation that there is something other than paradoxes in these propositions: God is evil, and Property is theft, propositions whose literal sense I maintain, without thinking of making a crime of faith in God, nor of abolishing Property.
I greet you, sire, very sincerely.
P.-J. Proudhon.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Proudhon, "Ideas," Chapter I (from "Justice")

[This translation is based on a working text, compiled from bit and pieces by me, Jesse Cohn and at least one translation engine. I have gone back to the original text to double-check everything, and all the final choices are my responsibility. Some of the pretty parts are definitely all Jesse.]


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Jesus replied to the Pharisees who questioned him about the adulteress: “He who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
Speaking for myself, as a sinner, I cannot use the language that the holiest of the holy, defending a sinner, allowed himself to use towards the hypocritical and fornicating Pharisees, with regard to you, an archbishop who, not content to indict my ideas, throws suspicion on my morals. I do not therefore accuse you or any of your colleagues in the priesthood of sin; I believe your life to be as pure as your faith, and abstain from any recrimination. Odiosa restringenda. You strike me in my person: I shall make no reprisal in kind.
But here is what I shall say to you all, pontiffs of the Most High: Those of you who know the law have cast stones at me.
Yes, I would consent to any shame if you could prove to me that the Church knows Justice, and having been raised in her bosom, I would say that it is my fault, my fault alone, and my very great fault, to have been guilty; I should wish, I say, to be humiliated, punished, chastised, as if I were the first and only prevaricator.
But you know nothing of law or right. With regard to all aspects of life, you lack principles and rules. I have already proven this five times over; allow me, at the beginning of this study, to remind you of this.
With respect to Persons, you have no morals. Your Decalogue is a catalogue of categories, your Gospel a collection of parables, your charity merely the first stammering of Justice. Far from having a theory of individual right, your dogma recoils from it, and the Church having founded its hierarchy and its discipline on this dogma, your priestly interests oppose any theory that would contradict it.
Regarding Goods, you have no morals: your dogma recoils from it, and your interests are opposed to it.
In matters of Government, you have no morals: your dogma recoils from it, and your interests are opposed to it.
In matters of Education, you have no morals: your dogma recoils from it, and your interests are opposed to it.
In matters of Labor, you have no morals: your dogma recoils from it, and your interests are opposed to it.
And I will show you that with regard to Ideas, you have no more morals; that in this, as in everything else, your maxims reduce to pure arbitrariness; that the application of Justice to the intellect is incompatible with your dogma, and that your most valued interests opposed it.
“What!” you cry, “a morality of ideas! What is this? We have never heard morality spoken of in such a connection. What could the precepts of the conscience and the conceptions of intellect have in common? That which enters the brain is not what pollutes man, only that which comes from the heart. Will you argue that logic, metaphysics, dialectic, are all branches of morality?”
Patience, monsignor, and you shall see what this is all about. It is a discovery of the Revolution. It cannot be taught in the seminary, and the archbishop would turn up his nose at it.

Idea of a method for directing the mind in search of truth, in accordance with modern science. — Elimination of the absolute.

I. — Man is subject to error: this is an imperfection of his nature which cannot be attributed to crime.
But strangely, and only for our species, from this infirmity of judgment man has made crime into a specialty. The more he knows himself to be subject to error, the more likely he is to lie, so much so that, in general, there are no greater hoaxers than the people who know best how man errs. Rather than extend a hand to their brother, they knock him down: Omnis homo mendax.
It is therefore of great interest, not only for the health of our minds, but for the integrity of our conscience, that we learn, from the outset, to direct ourselves without the help of anyone in the search for truth, then to check each other in our judgments and safeguard each other against all kinds of lies: our honor and our freedom depend on it.
Where can I find this guidance?
As I wish, even when dealing with ideas, to stay faithful to my system of experimentalism, I will give the floor to one of our most positive scientists, one who is least suspected of any metaphysical and revolutionary tendency, M. Babinet, of the Institute.

Question. — Why, wonders M. Babinet, have the end of the last century and the first half of this one seen so many physical inventions, so new, so beautiful, so useful, and so wonderful, while the progress of the imaginative arts, or even of the metaphysical and philosophical sciences, has utterly lacked such brilliance?

You see, my lord, the witness whom I call should not frighten you at all. M. Babinet, a popularizing mind who does not engage in empty talk, excludes from the progress made over the past century the metaphysical and philosophical sciences; in which regard I have no doubt that he is in agreement with you. Of course, if he dared say what he thought, he would add to the metaphysical and philosophical sciences the moral and political, in which, my lord, your religion greatly rejoices. But read between the lines. M. Babinet, by listing the modern discoveries of railways, the electric telegraph, the daguerreotype, the stereoscope, the bioscope, the electrotype, electrical gold- and silver-plating, all relating to physics, allows us to clearly understand what he includes in the category of the philosophical. He will not count as part of our progress English political economy, free trade, moral restraint, centralization, popular suffrage, the principle of nationalities and natural boundaries.

Answer. – When schools and books have concerned themselves with knowing whether matter could be conceived without the concept of space and time, if the essential qualities of existence depended on such and such necessary quality, if matter, space and time, these three major foundations of the universe in which we live, or rather in which we think, if, as I say, these three major events are indispensible to the existence of beings, so that, for example, we might create a world with no physical substance, without space or time: what intelligence could manage to solve such questions?
But modern science is more modest. It does not seek the absolute, which is so difficult to discover; it contents itself with relations, which are not easily accessible to our intelligence. So I do not know the essence of the material substance, but I can compare a given weight, the gram, and state what some body weighs in grams and milligrams. The essence of the space is unknown to me, but I can measure a given space, the whole earth, France, or Paris, in kilometers and meters. I do not know what time is in itself, but I can say that this duration is so many seconds, the second being the 86400th part of the day, with invariable periods. I do not know what mechanical force and movement is in itself, but I imprison steam, and I measure its elasticity in order to use it later on to move huge masses ... Man no more knows the inmost nature of the power of the steam locomotive he has created than he has known, for some thousands of years, the nature of the force in the horse, camel, or elephant that served his locomotion ... (Revue des Deux-Mondes, July 1853.)

II. — Manibus et pedibus descendu in tuam sententiam, M. Babinet. All this is supreme good sense, I would even dare say great philosophy. After all, it should not be the word that frightens us, or that the learned M. Babinet should forget it: this beautiful method, which does honor to the physicists of the past hundred years, is a discovery of the philosophers, who have borrowed it from those engaged in labor and industry; I would venture to say that it is the first article of any real philosophy. But, without going back to the ancients, who first groped with experimentation, without even speaking of the people of the Middle Ages, who also made some progress in the art of experimenting with things before venturing to speak of them aloud, was it not Bacon who, in the seventeenth century, signaled this decisive renovation, marked in advance in the fifteenth century by the Renaissance and by the Reformation in the sixteenth.
And notice how, when ideas are ripe, everything contributes to their spread.
The world, for the past few thousand years, disdaining the crude empiricism of its artisans, has lost itself in abstractions, universals, and categories. Because the understanding, analyzing acts of spontaneity, as we said in the previous study, had attained its own ideas, its own instrument of thought, its own tools of knowledge, it had imagined it possessed the truth of nature in its notions, and that it no longer needed, in order to grasp this truth, any data of experience. God knows how much time humanity lost in chasing after chimeras! The reaction of observational and operational common sense had yet to arrive: now it has arrived.
It is Bacon first of all who, under the name of induction, invites science to seek the truth, not in the unobservable substance, but in the relations of the phenomena observed; it is Descartes who recommends the creation of precise classifications, according to these same relations; it is Montesquieu who defines law as the relation of things; it is freemasonry that symbolizes relations by the compass, the level, and the square, and personified them in its great architect; it is Aug. Comte who makes relations the basis of his positivism, and thereby excludes metaphysics and theology; it is M. Cournot who gives as the sole purpose of philosophy the search for the reason of things; finally, it is M. Babinet, a good witness, who attributes all the discoveries, all the advances of modern science exclusively to the discovery of relations. Is it not true that the reign of the relation has begun for civilization, which from now on swears only by this idea?
What distinguishes the philosophical movement after Bacon, it is not, as has been said, and as M. Frédéric Morin took quite useless pains to it, having invented the experiment, but having reduced the pure idea to the technical operation technique that gave rise to it, it is having learned, by putting philosophical reason at the service of experience, to formulate conclusions methodically, always relative to reason, to the relations of things, whereas previously the experiment, being subject to philosophical reason, seeking with it the in itself of things, the absolute, concluded nothing at all. This was the tendency of Descartes, who, completing the work of Bacon, tried to transport into the study of the human mind the method of which he had so well proven the power in the physical sciences and mathematics, and by that supreme attempt achieved the renewal of philosophy and made the Revolution possible. Because, you see, most of those who, in our modern age, were reputed as philosophers—Bacon, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Newton, Pascal, Galileo, Rousseau, Kant, etc.—had started by doing experiments of physics, practicing a profession, inventing machines, calculating, measuring, etc. They were, to be honest, industrious men of the first rank, men who remade philosophy all by themselves, with hand and brain.
Descartes was mistaken in his metaphysics, as he was mistaken in his vortex, and this can prove just one thing: how much experience, what a difficult are experiment and observation is, and what traps the imagination lays for the philosopher. But the sort of spiritualist reaction brought about by Descartes, which we can look regard as completed, has itself served progress, since it confirmed, by a final and memorable example, the principle of Bacon, namely that pure ideas, concepts, categories and universals, removed from the fertilization of manual work and experience, are only proper to maintain in the mind a sterile daydream, which depletes and kills it.
The principle of M. Babinet is thus impeccable, and for my part I do not hesitate to make it mine. There are in things only relations that are accessible to our intelligence: as for nature in itself, it escapes us. To concern ourselves with it, is to demonstrate an anti-scientific spirit. Neglecting the absolute, as Babinet says, to deal only with relations: this is the summary of the method that industry pursues in knowledge, that philosophy has spent two thousand years formulating, to which we owe all the knowledge that we possess of physics, which has earned us already, in the sciences of the mind, the valuable researches of Montesquieu, Vico, Herder, Lessing, Condorcet, and the raw materials of social economy.
Thus, here is what is understood. What Mr. Babinet calls the things in themselves, as when he speaks of matter in itself, time in itself, space in itself, force in itself, or the Absolute, is just that which philosophy calls the metaphysical, ontological, or transcendental aspect of things, in opposition to the observable, measurable, comparable part, which constitutes the phenomenal aspect. To the examples cited by Mr. Babinet, we can add cause, substance, life, soul, mind, matter, and all the pure concepts or ideas, up to and including that of God.
And the scientific method, that which has produced all modern discoveries, consists, as it have just been said with incomparable lucidity by Mr. Babinet, not of negating the in itself of things, that which the mind conceives as their subject, substratum, or support, without which it is able to penetrate it and understand nothing, but in leaving behind this in itself, this transcendental aspect, caput mortuum of the intellectual alembic, in order to attach itself exclusively to phenomenality, to relations.

III. — Here monsignor, I imagine that you are ready to reply, with an ironic smile:
“We know the high pretensions of modern philosophy. We know that it aims at nothing less than to submit all ideas, all beliefs, to the test of its empiricism, to render perceptible to the crudest intelligences what can only be achieved by a deep meditation, further aided by a long preparation of the heart. The grace of Jesus Christ, in our view, does not only justify, it illuminates. Philosophy flatters itself that it may speak cogently of Justice and morality without the help of grace; that it may penetrate the secrets of the Divine without the aid of revelation; that it may govern society without religion. In short, since Bacon, philosophy has aspired to do without God. Diderot, Buffon, La Place and so many others, did not hide their intentions in this regard. Rather than admit his intervention anywhere, they set limits to his power, they attributed it to the universe. What the eye cannot see, the ears cannot hear, induction or generalization cannot explain, in their view, does not exist. These are their maxims, and we understand them fully.
“Unfortunately, we see that this philosophical pride cannot be sustained. Hardly was its career begun, its method given, its goal indicated, before philosophers began to theologize more than the Scholastics ever had. Certainly they made some fine discoveries in the physical sciences: but it was only ever to return with even greater force to metaphysical things, those things that, according to their own definitions, they should not be concerned with at all, since according to them, they do not exist. Galileo comments on the Bible, Descartes demonstrates the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, Pascal writes on grace and refutes the Jesuits, Newton explains the Apocalypse; Spinoza—like Malebranche, who sees everything in God—reconstructed religion after his own fashion; Kant declares the impotence of Pure Reason to reach God, from whence he returns to practical reason; Rousseau and Voltaire are deists, in other words, libertine and inconsistent Christians; Leibniz invented his pre-established harmony, his monads, his best of all possible worlds, all in order to reconcile God’s prescience with the philosopher’s freedom. What particularly torments them is to know, in the absence of God and his religion, upon what moral law and political order may be established: it is then that we must see them theologize and metaphysicize with a vengeance. And to achieve this, oh, my God! One of them, the skeptic Bayle, had vainly maintain—and he certainly was, in this respect, perfectly in agreement with the method—that an atheist society was possible: the proposition was regarded as a philosophical eccentricity. Nobody followed him. The only one who wanted to follow him, Hobbes, took the side of denying Justice; he replaced it with power and despotism. This was the signal for a retreat. Spinoza, that Hercules of the Absolute, entitles his book the Theologico-Political Treatise, and the first book of his Ethics is a proof of God’s existence. Voltaire took for his motto: god and freedom. Rousseau declared that he does not believe that an atheist can be an honest man. Robespierre decreed the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. Napoleon makes the Concordat. Let us not speak of others, who have neither the merit of audacity, nor the good faith to repent: they are Tartuffes.
“How then, if philosophy is so sure of its method — if, since Bacon, it has really renounced any research on the in-itself of things — why is it that, since Bacon, philosophy has continually returned to this? Why has it not yet been able to apply itself to moral and political affairs, where it would be so useful, where it would be so interesting to see it prove itself? What prevents it from advancing? Why is it that, particularly over the past century, while the physical sciences have given us in rapid succession the steam engine, railroads, the electric telegraph, etc., the progress of the moral and political sciences, represented by one of the five classes of the Institute, in which there is always one or more scientists, has been so mediocre, if not absolutely zero? What do I say? Why is our whole moral philosophy reduced to a perpetual tribute to the Absolute, to religion? Would that not be proof that matters of morality and politics are not within the competence of human knowledge, that revelation is necessary here, etc., etc.?”
IV. — Whence comes all this, monsignor? Is it for you, minister of the Church, in possession for over eighteen hundred years of a monopoly on education and morality, charged by divine authority to agitate the conscience and intimidate the mind, to whom the secular arm has never denied its office for the suppression of free thinkers, is it your place to pose such a question? Eh! Otherwise, there is barely two centuries ago that the world began to philosophize with a little result and method, to observe before concluding. It is not a hundred years since the Revolution has freed philosophers and their books from the pyre, and you are surprised that we have not made more progress! You do not know, or you feign not to know, that the first in philosophy were almost always the first in faith, and that it is for the religious and reasoning soul at the same time a terrible crisis that the moment where we are must cross, never to return, the chasm separating philosophy and religion from one another! You do not understand that prejudice, when it is so deep, so universal, so perfectly organized, and so well defended, takes a long time to destroy; that truth is acquired only at the cost of enormous effort, that if the intuition is quick, generalization is slow and difficult, and that in every revolution there are retreats and relapses? Yes, certainly, what stops, since Descartes, the materialistic, pantheistic and idealistic philosophers, makes them all grapple, and fosters contradiction and doubt among them, what has put the philosophy at your feet and is always consideration of this in itself, sometimes mind, sometimes matter, sometimes universe or soul of the world, sometimes pure idea, which sensualism and spiritualism accustom us from infancy to seek in all things, by which we return ceaselessly like the pagan to his idol, and for whom we are fighting in our books, until we meet on the public square. But do not lose patience: the spectacle you are witnessing is the last battle given by positive philosophy to the Absolute. The lost time will soon be regained. Already we are beginning to recognize ourselves. Do you not sense the ironic intent of this scientist who, in speaking of metaphysics, embraces all your theology?
See how far M. Babinet would have led you with his argument, if academic caution had not closed his mouth!
V. — We have spoken of the physical sciences, you say. Let us speak of the sciences of life and society.
If we consider the vital phenomena in the animal kingdom, I can classify the animals by genera and species, according to the laws of their organizations. I can compare the events of life in all conditions of structure and environment. This study will provide me with zoology, or the science of living beings, but as for life itself, I know nothing about it. Truly, I see Zoological phenomena as relating to some je ne sais quoi, some fluid or anything you like, which I call life or the for principle of, which chooses its materials and organizes them, protects them against chemical attraction and dissolution, distributes them throughout the organized bodies, particularizes them, animates and sustains them all, as the waterspout supports sustains the bodies that it carries off in its vortex. For all these reasons, I can conceive of life as an essence, a particular in-itself, an absolute, to which I relate vital phenomena; it is even necessary for me to conceive of it as such, in order to distinguish the facts of organic nature from those of inorganic nature. The confusion of physiology and physics, based on the hypothesis, impossible to prove, of the identity of the vital principle and the chemical principle, becomes for me the cause of a disorganization of science itself. But science, which goes just as far as the concept and posits it, can no longer tell whether the object conceived is matter or something other than matter, if it is a substratum different from matter or a particular state of matter; it does not penetrate so far, and so stops short. Not to deny the in-itself of life, but to suppose it, to distinguish it, is all that I can do. Before science, this life becomes an intelligible reality only within phenomena; beyond that, it is no longer anything but a hypothesis—a necessary one, it is true, but a hypothesis.
Any speculation on the vital principle considered in itself, and apart from the organisms in which it appears and is determined, therefore, is prohibited to me: it could only lead to confusion in science. Is life a principle apart, or the same thing as attraction, heat, and electricity? Do crystals form like plants, and plants like quadrupeds? What is the universal life that some religionists propose to put in place of the crucifix? Does the ensemble of all organized beings form an organism, and does that organism form another along with inorganic bodies? Are the earth and sun living or dead? Is the universe a great animal? What makes life enter a body, or, more accurately, what makes up a body, and then abandons it?... Such questions are of the ultra-experimental order; they exceed science, and pursued to the end, can lead to superstition and madness.
VI. — Considering, then, the manifestations of life in a given animal—the human animal, for example—I can, by distinguishing among these manifestation those that that have as an object the life of relationship, sensation and intelligence, conceiving them as a distinct system design separate, whose substratum will always be borrowed from life, widespread in the universe, but which, because of the form it has received, will no longer be the same as that which I place in the lion or horse. To this animic totality, within which I discern some organs which are supposed to contain and serve it, I give the name of soul, anima, ψυχή; then, confining myself to the observation of its abilities, its attributes, its modes, as they are manifested in the relationship of man with his fellow man and with the universe, I can make these new researches into a separate science, what I might call psychology. And as I have spoken of the soul of man, the psychology of humanity, I could also speak of the soul and psychology of animals. Up to this point, the science is of good quality; it is not based on abstractions, but on phenomena.
But what is the soul itself? Is it simple or compound? Material or immaterial? Is it subject to death? Does it have a gender? What is a soul separated from its body, and what was meant by the departure of heroes, as Rabelais put it? Where do souls go after death? What is their occupation? Do they return to inhabit other bodies? Can a man’s soul become the soul of a horse, and vice versa? Can we further distinguish, in the soul, the spiritual principle from the physical principle, in the same way that we distinguished the physical principle from the vital principle? Are there angels, and what is the nature and function of these pure spirits? Are they above or below humanity? Must we believe in apparitions? What are we to make of the rapping spirits that, at this time, disturb the Americans’ reason?
Ultra-scientific questions, says Mr. Babinet, which reason can not help giving a few hours, if only to consider them, but the pursuit of which could only lead to charlatanism, hypocrisy, the degradation of truth, the corruption of the mind and the stultification of the people. In order for us to be entitled to assert the existence of separate souls, it would have to be because that existence was revealed to us by specific phenomena, other than those that have gave risen to the conception of these transcendental natures. But we only know the human soul through manifestations of which the body is the essential vehicle, so that, since physical phenomenality has physiological phenomenality for its condition, and vice versa, we find ourselves, having distinguished the soul from the body for the necessities of scientific observation, we are equally powerless to conclude that the soul apart from the body, or the body apart from the soul, is anything. The most learned philosophy, that of Spinoza, identifies the soul and the body, spirit and matter, as two modes of being of the cosmic substance, the quid of which is increasingly mysterious. It is the concept of the fusion of two concepts: what a beautiful science!
VII. — Considering, finally, each soul, each self, as a focal site in which are reflected and combined all the relations of things and society, I give to this soul, in so far as it receives the representations or ideas of things and their relations, comparing, combining, and evaluating them, giving or withholding its support to them, the name of intelligence; in so far as it observes, compares, and combines the relations of the society of which it forms a part, drawing general formulas from them, from which it then constructs mandatory rules, I give it the name of conscience.
But while distinguishing in the soul the conscience and intelligence, with their respective manifestations, I am not going to take these two faculties, in themselves, as the object of my study, as if I wished to make myself acquainted with these new characters directly. I remember that life, as well as matter, is only one way to conceive of the in-itself of unobservable things, the soul, another in-itself, the intelligence, another in-itself, a concept grafted onto another concept, something that is not nothing, as it is a function of the soul, which is, like life, gravity and light, a function of life, but which, apart from the use that philosophy makes of them, in order to tie up the thread of its observations, becomes as nothing for us.
It is on this condition that there exists, for the intelligence and for the conscience, as for the soul and life, a whole order of phenomena, events and relations to study, and consequently a whole science of phenomenal realities to be constructed. This is what the Academy of Philosophical and Moral Sciences was established for. Mr. Babinet must know this better than anyone.
The science of the laws of the intelligence, will be called, if you like, logic. The science of the laws, or the rights and duties of conscience, shall be Justice, or, more generally, moral science. For both, as for all the sciences without exception, the first condition of knowledge will be to guard very carefully against any intermixture of the absolute. For it is obvious that if, for the mathematical and physical sciences, research on matter in itself, force in itself, or space in itself, now offer little danger, if, for anthropology, zoology and history, the belief in spirits [manes] is still basically harmless, it is no longer such when it comes to the direction of the understanding and the conscience. Here the slightest eccentricity gives rise to charlatans and rogues.
VIII. — Let us conclude this review of things-in-themselves.
What if now, having distinguished, with each successively emerging science that arises, a series of the in-itself, absolute, distinct from one another, first an in-itself of matter, then an in-itself of movement or force, then the in-itself of life, and so on, we conceive through thought all of these in-themselves of which science has no right to speak, even though it presupposes them, but that it has no right to deny, although observation teaches nothing of them; if, I say, we conceive of all these various in-themselves as the parts or facets of a single and universal in-itself that contains them all, then we will have an idea of a first and final subject, the father and substratum of all things.
We can say, therefore, that the in-itself of the universe, resulting from all part that of which it is made up, which we instinctively posit when we think about the universe, is substance, life, mind, intellect, will, Justice, and so on; that it necessarily exists, that it is eternal, etc. But as, according to all our analogies, an in-itself without manifestations, without phenomenalities, without perceptible relations, is the same thing, for knowledge, as pure nothingness, it follows from this deduction, which summarizes all of metaphysics, that the in-itself of the universe, the absolute of absolutes, is nothing for us, and that only creation is something; that our science begins with visible things; and that the invisible, these in-themselves, of which the Nicene Creed speaks, of which we could well, through the progress of our science, see the number increase, are a plague on reason and the conscience, considered in themselves.
IX. – Here is what science would say, if it had the courage of its own discoveries, but what the prudence of scholars conceals, what the hypocrisy of philosophers will never avow, providing, as needed, some sophistries to the theory of the absolute and again, as in the past, putting reason in the service of theology.
Who could deny the defection of the princes of science? The reign of the absolute draws to a close: for sixty years, the systems it has produced have barely lasted an hour, as the progress of observation impoverishes, disrupts, and kills transcendentalism. And here, suddenly, with the connivance of those learned in us, es and xs, we are carried away by all the fantasies of the most hyperbolic gnosis!
The gnostic, whom the Orthodox Church declared anathema after having looted him, was not content to seek what matter and life are in themselves, to speculate on the soul of the world and eternal Being; he wondered about reason in itself, Justice in itself, ideas in themselves; about where these last were before entering into the human understanding; if they resided in God or on the surface of things; how they flew into the soul and crashed into the intelligence, etc. From this came about a genesis of metaphysical entities divided into groups and families, of which the most notable, the only one retained by Christianity, is the famous Trinity.
There exists, said the gnostic, in the womb of the divine soul, a reason that is coeternal with it and that emanates from it, the principle and type of all of our own reasons, we poor mortals: this is the word, the logos, the sophia, which enlightens every soul being born into life, uniting itself with it by a mysterious infusion. Then there is a conscience, a love, equally eternal, arising out of the supreme soul and the protogenic reason that inspires all conscience on earth, illuminates all charity, as the word illuminates all intelligence. This is the spirit, source of grace, consoler, sanctifier, life-giver.
The Father, the Son, the Spirit; Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis: we have seen great philosophers, men endowed with all the gifts of intelligence, eclectics, pantheists, mathematicians, chemists, dedicate themselves to this formula as if to the last word of science, and attach their ship to it like the anchor of safety for liberty.
The human conscience, following these respectable visionaries, thus constituting itself as transcendental, and Humanity arriving at the knowledge of its duty only through a divine revelation, whether internal or external, mediate or immediate, asks itself when and how this revelation is accomplished, by what sign it may be recognized, who may testify to it, and who is the custodian of its authority. According to some, this authority is the Church, instituted by the personified logos; according to others, it resides in the masses, in which inspiration is unwavering. Once there, there is no more difficulty: the Church crowns kings, the multitude delegates its powers or bleats its will; and the world goes on by itself, pulled by an invisible string.
The conclusion is known. More than two centuries after Bacon, when the physical sciences give us steam, the railways, the electric telegraph, and so many inventions—so new, so beautiful, so useful, so magnificent—European society feels its conscience fail, France loses its freedom with its manner, and e wonder with Mr. Babinet: How did this philosophy that animated the eighteenth century and produced the Revolution die? Quomodo cecidit potens qui sahum faciebat populum Israël?
Who will deliver us from metaphysical entities, innate ideas, and the logos, from the immortality of the soul and the Supreme Being? Who shall rid us of adoration and authority? For the fact is visible in all regards, this is the source of our sorrow, and our decadence has no other cause. The method, the morality of ideas, if I may put it that way, exists; physics, all the natural and positive sciences, show us its fruits. But now that it is a question of ourselves, we no longer know how to philosophize, and return to our vomit. When we consider what is above us, the in-itself of our soul, of our reason, of our consciousness, we no longer perceive what is in us—I mean the phenomenality of our selves, the only aspect of this self that we are permitted to know. Instead of gradually elevating ourselves to Justice by observation, we plunge more and more, headlong, into the absolute. The confusion of ideas leading in turn to the subversion of morals, we are punished for the hallucinations of our brains by the degradation of our hearts. Can we not finally eject from moral philosophy all these hypotheses on the afterlife, celestial essences, and the grand master of destinies, and then, having made this elimination, occupy ourselves with what we see?

[ to be continued in Chapter II]