Friday, December 28, 2012

Ernest Lesigne, "Socialistic Letters," No. 8



These socialistic letters have earned me, as it should be, some unfriendly observations, with which I find nothing wrong, strong partisan that I am of the freedom of the press.
Before such a touching agreement to criticize both content and form, to declare that writing in French, I must know nothing of what I say, and that it is very bold of me to dare address social questions without first being awarded a diploma by the regular doctors, there is nothing to do but make a strong mea culpa for the great liberty and recognize that there are some very astounding geniuses in the world, these days.
But where I have failed to be moved, is when I have seen that the accord extended to completely refusing me the title of socialist.
Oh, illustrious colleague, you are very difficult!
Not communist, certainly; but not socialist, come on then!
Is he a socialist, who urges all the groups, associations, and syndicates, all the free assemblies of individual forces, as the sole means of providing prevention and remedy against the hazards of life, accidents, disasters, miseries, maladies, lay-offs, and disabilities that can affect one today, and strike another tomorrow?
Is he a socialist, who would like to see the poor portion given to the child by nature supplemented by a well-stuffed and wide-open fund, which would make itself creditor of every individual born, with the simple responsibility of reimbursing it in their adult years and, giving them full liberty, free initiative, complete choice of teachers and of profession, would furnish them all the pecuniary means proper to insuring their complete development?
Is he a socialist, who wants for all the complete expansion and free functioning of all their faculties of production and consumption, the maximum of liberty and the maximum of well-being, the complete satisfaction of activities and needs, the right to labor and the rights of labor; the harvest after the sowing, enjoyment after labor?
Is he a socialist, who produces the elimination of all the parasitism, the end of all monopolies?
Is he a socialist, who proclaims men, women and children equal in rights, who asks the communal power to safeguard the rights of children against men and women; to safeguard against men, the rights of women, who asks the national power to safeguard the right of the individual against the oppressive commune, and who asks popular suffrage to protect the individual and every association, communal or otherwise, against the oppression of the state?
Is he a socialist, who encourages the means of transforming sterile France into a true garden of abundance, capable of meeting the needs not of thirty-eight, but of a hundred millions inhabitants?
Is he a socialist, who advises the use of the current political tools, as detestable as it is, to destroy the whole odious arsenal of laws, decrees, orders, ordinances, veritable war measures dictated by the monopolists of goods against the accession of the workers to property, to the possibility of living in liberty?
Is he a socialist, who wants to see undertaken seen through in our generation that immense labor, wonderful source of prosperity, which shall distribute the fertilizing waters over fifty million hectares of cultivable land, to make sure that no drop descending from the hills and mountains could be lost in the sea; who declares it possible to go, by fast roads, from one end of France to the other for ten sous, to talk from one end of France to the other for a few centimes, to traverse by railroads all the corners of the country, even to the villages most deprived today, which tomorrow would become prosperous if we would apply the socialism of these Socialistic Letters?
Is he a socialist, who says: “The must no longer be servants among us; there must be no more poor among us; and, to accomplish that, all the workers must be possessors and sharers of their instruments of labor; that the cultivators have their lands, the industrial workers their tools, their workshops, their factories, their mines; that the postal workers have their offices, the professors their colleges, their schools, the telephone operators, the telegraphers, their telephones and telegraphs, all being able to receive orders, credits, commissions or profit sharing from individuals, communes or the state concerned?
Is he a socialist, who report, with profound joy, the coming of a next economic revolution, as beneficial as decisive, the advent of the little mechanization, which will make liberty where the large machine had made slavery; the reappearance of art, of individual skills in labor, the disappearance of the proletariat, and consequently the conquest, by the laborer, of dignity, liberty, and security?
You see very well that he is a socialist.
Ernest Lesigne

Le Radical, July 19, 1887, p. 2.

Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Max Nettlau, Biographical Notice of Ernest Coeurderoy





In June 1852, two events, quickly covered with the veil of silence, would deeply effect the exile community in London. Ledru-Rollin, Louis Blanc, Pierre Leroux, Cabet, Félix Pyat and their friends, some Blanquists, Proudhonians and independent socialists, some refugees from May 15 and June of 1848, as well as June 13, 1849, and the great majority of the outcasts from the coup d’état, rubbed elbows then in a common exile. It was the time of the “Unions Socialistes” and other efforts, destined to fail, to create a fictive solidarity between people who, as the history of September 1870 to May 1871 has demonstrated, would fight again, to death, as soon as one of their groups came to power.

Three men saw clearly from that moment and protested. The “Verse Recited June 24, 1852 at the Grave of an Exile,” by Joseph Déjacque, was one of these acts; recalling June 1848, said to the exiles and former men of state gathered there:

... Today as then, assassins and victims
Find themselves present... Sublime teachings!
Those who banished us are banished in their turn.
.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

Crime is always a call to crime.
The coup d’État of June, that nameless vampire,
In you, Tribunes, in you, Bourgeois, is incarnated;
And December is only its legitimate child!...
.    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
There is only one talisman for all: Liberty...

The other act was the publication of the little booklet The Barrier of the Combat, by Ernest Cœurderoy and Octave Vauthier (Brussels, 1852). “The political comedy that plays out around us has wrung the same cry from our heart, and we have published The Barrier of the Combat; this was like kicking an anthill,” wrote Cœurderoy a little later; “Like me, you curse all authority,” he said to his collaborator, the brother of Louis-Léger Vauthier, the Fourierist engineer, representative in 1849 and prisoner of June 1849. Octave Vauthier appeared to be limited to this single public protest; Joseph Déjacque, the worker, was driven by poverty to America; he did not stop, and la Question révolutionnaire, the libertarian utopia l’Humanisphère, and the journal le Libertaire which he wrote by hiself, from 1858 to 1861, in New York, show him as an isolated, but tireless propagandist of the most advanced ideas of his time. Cœurderoy, a refugee from June 13, 1849, was limited, in his articles published from 1849 to 1851, to an impersonal propaganda of socialist and revolutionary ideas without a distinct school; by The Barrier of the Combat he finally regained his complete independence, and from 1852 to 1855 he gave us four books and two booklets, among which the two parts of the Jours d’Exil constitute his principal work.

The fate of these publications, the most majestic expressions of liberty and revolt of their times, is a little unknown chapter full of intrigues and adventures. The irreverence with which the authors of The Barrier of the Combat had yanked the beards of the pontiffs of the proscription was a welcome pretext to dispense with seriously discussing the ideas of Cœurderoy; only Alfred Talandier discussed them courteously, in 1854. For the rest, “the conspiracy of silence, the most odious conspiracies, then, to every extreme, calumny, choler and hate, exhausting their rage on this collection of heresies and on its unfortunate author” (words of Cœurderoy on the subject of his first book.) He was made “an exile in exile.” This explains how his writings, banned equally by the governments and the exiles, have been lost, to the extent that, of the six volumes and booklets, we know of perhaps fifty copies, the majority of which are in the hands of three or four collectors. The years from 1856 to 1862 in the life of Cœurderoy are so little known that we do not know if he had suddenly ceased all publication after 1856, for reasons which are a separate problem, or if some publications have been completely suppressed, destroyed, or if instead, despite long years of research, they remain still elusive? Although his memory has received a belated satisfaction in the well-done article dedicated to him, in 1869, in the Dictionary of his compatriot from Yonne, Pierre Larousse, the oblivion into which the work of the writer had fallen was so great that between 1880 et 1883, his mother, octogenarian, isolated and perhaps discouraged by her long sufferings, made a resolution — which she executed with her own hand — to burn the writings of her son, of which she had gathered a very great quantity; and probably she also destroyed what she possessed of the manuscripts, letters, etc., of the neglected thinker.

Thus only rare copies of the six publications from 1852 to 1855 and the articles published from 1849 to 1851 have survived all these vicissitudes; and all those who have read one of the writings from 1852 to 1855 have been struck by the originality and literary power of Cœurderoy, of his absolute sincerity, of his love of liberty and beauty, of his wide-ranging conceptions of a free and happy future, of his hatred of oppression in all its forms, — in sum, thinking they were opening a good book of propaganda, of which there are so many, they have been astonished to find themselves face to face with a work of art which, from the point of view of the intimate union of art and ideas, is probably unique. That is especially true of the Jours d’Exil, of which the second part, the last work of Cœurderoy, also marks the apogee of his talent.
[to be continued...]

Emile Digeon, The Voice of One of the Hoodwinked (1869)







Page 13.

“In 1848, being hardly 22 years of age, I was named commissioner general in the departments of Bouches-du-Rhône and Var, by Mr. Ledru-Rollin, who had goodwill for me and friendship for my father…

Page 103.

“June 19, 1857. — Voters, it is not necessary for me to expound my faith to you: My name and my past have taught them to you...”

Page 11.

“Thursday, January 10, 1867, at five o’clock in the evening, I was introduced at the Tuileries, into the cabinet of the Emperor…”

Page 290.

“...Why should I not have accepted the audience offered to me? There is some reluctance that I will explain: I understand that no approach can appease those who complain about the coup d’état only because it was made against them, instead of being done with them. THEY HAVE BEEN HOODWINKED.”

II .

We know how, and with what ease Mr. Ollivier let himself be appeased by the steps of the Emperor.
But it is difficult to see how he dared to imply perfidiously that there exist, among the victims of December 2, some men who would have taken part in the bloody overthrow of the Republic, if the president Louis Bonaparte had invited them!
He knew however that, if that had, like him, begged at the door of the victors, they would, like him, have obtained mercy and favor for themselves and their own.
They have preferred prison, exile, transportation, and death.
Oh! Mr. Ollivier will never be among the hoodwinked. He has placed himself among the ranks of the hoodwinkers.



Among all the questions raised by the electoral agitation, there is one which should, above all, attract the attention of the true democrats, — I mean by true democrats those who reject every system of under which the people are not allowed to exercise their rights in a direct and continual manner.
That question is the limitation and determination by the voters of the mandate entrusted to the deputies: — limitation of duration, without stopping at that fixed by law; determination of the solutions of certain political or social problems.
We have been surprised to see all the candidates, even those who call themselves radical democrats, refuse to submit to these conditions. — Their dignity will not allow them, they have said, to enter the legislature with that mark of mistrust.


And these same me accept each day, from a private individual, for private business, some mandates very carefully determined in advance, the duration of which depend solely on the will of the principal.
They understand that a friend, that a relative even, should take the precaution of limiting their power and imposing them some business solutions.
Their dignity is not appalled by it.
Indeed, where is the man who can believe himself shielded from error or aberration, and have the complete certainty of doing nothing contrary to the interests of those who have given him his mandate?
Are the public interests, where faulty results can be disastrous, less sacred than those of individuals?—Are they less worthy of precautions?
In this respect, therefore, no acceptable reason authorizes the candidates to refuse to submit to the will of the voters.


Several propositions have been made as to the restriction of the duration of the mandate.
Some are based, above all, on the obvious utility of the periodic public meetings which can only, according to the present law, take place during an electoral period, — it is a question of causing, by the resignation of the deputies, the more frequent repetition of elections.
The others attach themselves principally to the strength that opposition deputies would draw in successive reelections, which would demonstrate the continuation of their perfect agreement with the will of the people.
It is easy to think that, in the face of these periodic affirmations, the other deputies would eventually understand that, by their immobility, they could be reproached for no longer being representatives of the national will.
Those who had a bit of modesty would be carried along by the movement, and the electoral law would find itself modified in fact.
In any case, it is incontestable that the resigning deputies who were reelected would return to the chamber with a greater authority, as much because of the ratification of their mandate, as because they would be able, in the midst of their electoral meetings, to realize the new aspirations of their electors.
From all points of view, then, we must reject the claims of the candidates to escape a formal commitment as to the restriction of the duration of their mandate.


No doubt can any longer be admitted on the subject of the necessity of determining in advance the solution of certain vital questions. — These solutions are precisely what should constitute the program of each democratic candidate.
They must be embraced in the professions of faith—like, for example: the suppression of the budget for religions; the abolition of the permanent armies; the more equitable division of the taxes which should only weight on the excess, since everyone will not have the necessities; the organization of labor by free association; etc., etc.
They should be especially recommended with an eye to a future which could be forthcoming — it is no longer necessary to risk being taken by surprise.


It is important that the voters say loudly, that they do not intend to send to the legislature conciliators in order to obtain, by an arrangement with the men of the government, the arbitrary restitution of our liberties, who could, after the concession of some of these liberties and even to accomplish that, think themselves authorized to accept honorific posts, either in the commissions named by a reactionary majority, or in the scientific missions or other missions organized by the government.
Our deputies must know that their mission is to struggle energetically to arrive at the final and complete triumph of the eternal principles of our great revolution, that the irresistible logic of history has inscribed at the beginning of the constitution.
No weakness for beloved names, no attentions for unjustified sensitivities— let us demand some formal commitments.


Let us think back to the elections of 1857 and those of 1863:—With what indignation would we not have rejected the idea of subjecting Mr. Ollivier and Mr. Darimon to the commitment of not crossing the threshold of the Tuileries.
We would not want to consider even the possibility of aberration, in the presence of men whose past seemed, to nearly everyone, to respond to the future.
Let us beware of committing the same carelessness, and arriving at the same result.
History demonstrates that, by a singular contrast, the people always show, either an excess of confidence, or an excess of mistrust.—And, a stranger thing, it is when its representatives find themselves faced with a power armed with all the seductions that it takes fewer precautions regarding them; it is for the day of triumph that they reserve their strictness and demands.
As long as it will be thus the nation will be deceived or led astray.
When then will we understand that all those who, to any degree, aspire to the honor of representing the people should be subject, at least as much as the courtiers are to the Imperial Majesties of which they are the sovereign.


As long as the law does not subject the deputies à the constant possibility of revocation, it will be indispensable to take the most rigorous precautions in their regard.
In a truly democratic government, the national representation, the aforementioned word, should only be the consistent expression of the progressive modifications of public opinion,—so that, if a deputy ceased to be in harmony with their electors, they must be able to recall him.
When this will be so, the mandate of representative of the people will only be sought or accepted by men of real devotion.
It will be useless to require the commitment to accept no public function; for then the constituents will directly choose their administrators.—The jobs which demand special knowledge, will be given, after competition, by juries drawn by lots from among those who will fill the job immediately above.
In such a system there would only be, apart from the direct election of the people, ministers and ambassadors, who will be named by the Chamber of Deputies and revocable at its will.


We know in advance that those who have an interest in maintaining the abuses of favoritism will cry out against utopia!
They will not dare say that such an organization would be bad—they will declare it impossible to achieve, especially in that which concerns the dismissal of the deputies.
But the men of good will should not recoil before the alleged impossibility of resolving such a problem.
They should say: It must be resolved.
Let all put themselves to work, in order that, when the hour arrives, each can bring their stone for the rebuilding of the social edifice.


Meanwhile, we must seek, in the legal mechanism of the Constitution, all possible means to bring us to the goal: The constant ability to freely and directly exercise our collective sovereignty.
Since the Constitution does not oppose it, let us compel our representatives to limit the legal duration of their mandate, and to follow our instructions for the solution of vital questions.
If we lack the time to obtain their prior commitments, we could, after the elections, address by writing, to those who are appointed, some collective notifications so that they have to take our desires into account.
Let us profit from the lessons of the past.
Voters, the moment is solemn:
Take care of yourselves!



To the future Representatives of the People.

By deciding to pass courageously before the dragon which, according to the mythological expression of Barbes, guards the entrance of the legislative body, you have certainly not intended to let yourself be devoured by it.

The oath incorporates two distinct commitments,—The first, obedience to the Constitution,—the second, fealty to the Emperor.
The idea of obedience to the law excludes that of reciprocity,—the idea of fealty to a person, on the contrary, logically implies, if it is true that slavery is abolished.

The law could have said obedience to the constitution and to the Emperor. In the presence of human fallibility, it did not want to.
It must have foreseen the case where he would misunderstand the obedience that he owes to the law itself.
And, so that no doubt exists in that regard, it declared him responsible.

You all know that the invincible logic of history has put the Constitution under the superior guarantee of the formal recognition of the principles of our glorious revolution, in the forefront of which appears liberty.
It follows, then, that by first taking the oath of obedience to the Constitution, you have, foremost, made a commitment to affirm, demand, and defend, for and against all, without exception, these eternal principles.
Read them attentively: you will find there the enumeration of our rights and instructions on the means of enforcing them.

The lawfulness of the previous arguments cannot be contested.
It is, doubtless, by some similar considerations that Mr. Emile Ollivier has been logically led to write, in his January 19, page 304, the following phrase:
“The responsibility of the Emperor, which could only be put into action by a plebiscite or by a revolution, is the constitutional recognition of popular sovereignty, in the name of which the english revolution of 1688 and the french revolutions of 1830 and 1848 were made.”

But while recognizing the accuracy of the legally revolutionary assertion of the author of the 19 Janvier, do not follow him in his foolishness!—Do not seek to become married.
Let his example serve as a lesson for you—you would soon be reduced, like him, to mourning your lost virtue, saying;
“They are like those bad sorts who compromise honest girls and do not marry them.” (19 Janvier, page 353.)
It is true that M. Ollivier does not give up so easily;—he is like those girls who always love the bad sorts who have seduced them, and stray, more and more, from the friends they had when they were wise.
He seeks again for those who have... compromised him.
The question is to know if he will be married to his little bundle of slowly allocated liberties—or if he will marry the large bundle of arbitrary restrictions.

As for you, do not accept as restored what one can still give you, as one has already taken it.
Do not forget the cry of alarm of the old Trojan:
“Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.—I fear the Greeks, even when they bring gifts.”
And I would add : It is especially than that it is necessary to mistrust them.
They are Greeks, and that is enough.

And if they say they are regenerated by the absolution.
Respond to them with all the moralities:—that the validity of the absolution is always subordinated, not only in the absence of violent pressure on the one who gives it—but also to the sincerity of the remorse manifested by complete restitution and by definitive renunciation.

[1] Émile Ollivier, Le 19 janvier: compte rendu aux électeurs de la 3è circonscription de la Seine, 1869.

Emile Digeon, "Proposal for the Indictment of Gambetta & the Minister" (1881)





Whereas it is clear,
That Gambetta has, for several months, pursued in his paper, La République Française, a campaign to depreciate Tunisian values;
That, as a result of that campaign, these values have been cornered at the lowest prices: by a politico-financial gang, evidently accomplices of the author of the depreciation;
That the expedition against Tunisia has allowed the monopolists of Tunisian values to resell them with an illegitimate profit of more than fifty millions;
That Gambetta has exerted a corrupting action to assemble a docile majority, in order to obtain the vote for the credit for an expedition already undertaken without the consent of the legislature;
Whereas Gambetta has flagrantly departed from his remit as Speaker of the House by interfering in all the branches of the governmental administration, thanks to the blameworthy insouciance of Mr. Jules Grévy;
That, in many circumstances, he has taken, without status, with regard to civil and military authorities, the attitude of head of state, thus bringing confusion among the powers;
That his constant intrusion in the selection of functionaries has resulted in skewing universal suffrage to his advantage in the last legislative elections;
That, by all these maneuvers he has usurped an executive power of a nature to make fall back on his head the primary responsibility for the misdeeds committed by the Ministers that he has inspired, or that he controls;
Whereas, with regard to these Ministers, not only have they impinged on the rights of the nation by involving it, without its consent, in an unjust and fatal war,—but they have also far exceeded the credit extracted from the culpable complacency of the assembly;
That these Ministers have not provided effectively for the needs of an army in the field, and have thus brought about the death of a great number of soldiers;
Whereas, from the point of view of the administration of responsibilities, Gambetta and the Ministers have done everything to insure their impunity by bringing back, by reprehensible means, in the new legislature, the greater part of the Deputies who made up the majority of the old Assembly;
That the refusal of the indictment would constitute a denial of justice;
Considering that, from all of the above, there results against Gambetta and the Ministers sufficient presumptive evidence of guilt that they may be indicted by virtue of the letter and the spirit of the constitutional laws, such as articles 179, 258, 259, 401, 419, 423, 432 and 433 of the Penal Code:
The popular assembly, gathered today, October 30, 1881, in the 15th Arrondissement of Paris, Salle de la Victoire, declares it will adhere to the resolutions taken, the 16th of this month, by the Meeting at the Salle de Tivoli Waux-Hall.
It affirms in advance—save for the people choosing its favorable hour—the legal beginning of the right of insurrection, in case the legislature will not order the indictment of Gambetta and the Ministers;
It considers in advance these accused by the people as outside the law, in case a miscarriage of justice will not allow their guilt to be established properly their culpability and a legal punishment inflicted on them;
It invites the population of all of France to organize public gatherings in imitation of the reformist banquets which proceeded the Revolution of February 24, 1848.
Paris, October 30, 1881.

By mandate of the steering committee of the 15th Arrondissement :