The Revolutionary Question
Of the Revolution
Liberty, equality, fraternity
Abolition of government in all its forms, monarchic or republican, the supremacy of one alone or of majorities;
But anarchy, individual sovereignty, complete, unlimited, absolute liberty of everyone to do everything which is in the nature of the human being.
Abolition of Religion, whether catholic or Israelite, protestant or any other sort. Abolition of the clergy and the altar, of the priest,–curate or pope, minister or rabbi;–of the Divinity, idol in one or three persons, universal autocracy or oligarchy;
But the human being,–at once creature and creator,–no longer having anything but nature for God, science for priest, and humanity for altar.
Abolition of private property, property in the soil, in buildings, in the workshop, in the shop, property in everything which is an instrument of labor, production or consumption;
But collective property, unified and indivisible, possession in common.
Abolition of the family, the family based on marriage, on paternal and marital authority, on heredity;
But the great human family, the family united and indivisible like property.
The enfranchisement of women, the emancipation of children.
Finally, the abolition authority, privilege, and antagonism;
But liberty, equality, fraternity incarnated in humanity;
But all the consequences of the triple formula, passed from theoretical abstraction into practical reality, into positivism.
That is to say Harmony, that oasis of our dreams, no longer fleeing like a mirage before the caravan of the generations and delivering to each and all, under the shade of fraternity and in universal unity, the sources of happiness, the fruits of liberty: a life of delights, finally, after an agony of more than eighteen centuries in the sandy desert of Civilization!
Thus, as solution, liberty, equality and fraternity.
Liberty of thought,
Liberty of love,
Liberty of labor,
Liberty of action :
Liberty in everything and for everyone.
Equality of rights, equality of duties: social equality.
Fraternity, that is social character impressed by the simultaneous action of liberty and equality on the page of humanity; vignette which follows from the text; last syllable which concludes the formula according to the spelling out of two others; qualifier of solidarity and unity.
And, as means of operation, as transitional means, direct legislation.
And let no one repeat that the people are too ignorant; that it is to put into their hands an instrument of which they will no know how to make use; that they must wait, and wait for those who have the science to govern them. No, I would respond to these leather-breeches of the revolution, to these Decembraillards of the dictatorship. It is only by working at the forge that one learns to be a blacksmith; it is only by making law that the people will learn to make them well. I know well that the apprentice blacksmith strikes himself more than once on the fingers before knowing to forge well. That teaches him to pay more attention to what he does, and, as they say, “to make the trade enter the fingers.” The people, apprentice legislators, will also sometimes strike themselves by legislating, which will teach them to examine more closely the propositions and better manage their vote. And if, one day, it makes bad laws, the next day, it will be done with them, and put them on the scrap heap, to forge and pound out better ones.
But, before arriving there, there is one material obstacle to overcome, – it is the empire; another means of operation to employ, – it is insurrection. Despite his seven or eight million votes, the emperor is enthroned on a crater. The lava bubbles in the bottom of the pit. The torment of June 48 and the fruitless agitations which preceded or followed have in part, it is true, exhausted the enthusiasm, quelled the insurrectionary energies of the generation which passes; – but the younger generation rises; the social idea boils in their brains and will soon attain its degree of upward force. If Bonaparte does not himself make some larges vents to reduce the pressure and allow the passage of socialism, it will be done for him: one day or another, he will be swept away by a volcanic eruption. The earth trembles under the flowering of the reaction, and the old society, like another Pompeii, will soon be swallowed up by the incandescent flood of the revolution.
To work then! For it is not a question of sitting back and waiting for the day of atonement. We must prepare. Each day, women and proletarians, and in the measure of our strength and convictions, in the household, in the workshop, on deserted street-corners, starting today, at every hour, and at every instant, we must act, rise up, and make revolution.
To the work! And let those who are hungry and want to eat;
Let those who are thirsty and want to drink;
Let those who are naked and want to be clothed;
Let those who are cold in body and soul, and want to warm themselves with the caloric of the brazier of with love;
Let those who carry in their hands and on their face the furrows plowed by a homicidal labor and no longer want to plow their flesh to fatten some idlers;
Let those who feel themselves withering under the fog of physical privations and want to fast and clear their lungs in the climate of less deleterious institutions;
Let those who incubate in their bosom the consumption of moral sorrows and want to cure it;
Let all those who suffer and want to enjoy;
Finally! Let all those who have palms and crowns of misery, rise!... and let their number and their rebellion chill will terror the spectators, organizers and executors of their martyrdom!
Stand up everyone!
And by the arm and the heart,
By speech and by the pen,
By dagger and rifle,
By irony and imprecation,
By pillage and adultery,[i]
By poisoning and fire,[ii]
Let us make, – on the highway of principles or in the corner of individual rights, – by insurrection or by assassination, – war to society!... war to civilization!...[iii]
Stand up! – And if, by some misfortune, there are some who fall into the hand of governmental authority, – let each of us, – accused at the bar, condemned under the rod, in the dungeons or on the block of detentions or executions, – let each of the new believers confess, – before humanity and taking nature as witness, – that they have acted only by virtue of their right and in order to obey the religion of their conscience...[iv]
Stand up, proletarians, everyone stand! – And, unfurl the flag of social war! Stand up! And, – like the fanatics of the Koran, – in the thick of the insurrectionary fray, where those who are slain die to be reborn in the future society – lot us repeat that cry of anathema and extermination for religion and the family, for capital and government; that cry of hate and love, – of hatred for privilege, love for legality; – that vengeful cry, that cry of our faith:
– the REVOLUTION is the REVOLUTION, and LIBERTY, – today vilified, in order to be hounded, hunted, but tomorrow victorious and powerful and always immortal, – LIBERTY is its PROPHET!…
[i] By adultery, which is to say, by making the greatest possible disorganization in the household. Let no husband be able to say: “I am the father of that child.” And, finding in marriage only fatigue and disgust, an insupportable existence, let him be constrained, in order to escape it, to demand amorous liberty himself, and give up his authority.–In all things, let the good be born from the excess of evil, since, by their résistance to progress, the criminals in power require it thus.
[ii] Let every revolutionary choose, among those among whom they believe they can count the most, one or two other proletarians like themselves. And let all,–in groups of three or four, being unconnected and functioning in isolations, so that the discovery of one of the groups does not lead to the arrest of the other,–act with the common aim of destroying the old society, and putting the privileged in peril so well and at so many moments of the day, that they will be obliged, in order to escape ruin and death, to make common cause with the proletarians to demand equality; let it be for them so that they can see salvation only in the destruction of their privilege, and let their interest, finally, legislate for them a desire to return to the realm of common right.
Let, for example, each group proceed in this way: if, of the three or four members of the group, there is a construction worker, let him take the imprint of the keyholes of the apartments of the wealthy where he should be called to labor, and let him inspect the exits well, let him skillfully question the domestics, in order to have all the indispensable information, and then, having taken these measures, let him inform the other members of his group,–his accomplices, if you like,–and at the moment determined, let them enter by night the apartment of these rich folks, stabbing or strangling the master or masters, forcing, breaking or opening with the aid of false keys the furniture where silverware, jewelry and coin can be found; let them carry all they can, and when they go let them put fire to the house. But above all let them not use the product of their plunder to improve their condition. That would be their downfall: a change in their position would betray then by alerting the police. Let them kill and loot in order to destroy. Only let them bury underground all the gold that they have been able to gather, so that if they or one of their fellows comes to be suspected or discovered, that gold can serve their escape. Let the group which, with the product of these night conquests among the rich, could obtain a clandestine printing house, do so, and let bulletins, proclaiming the aim and means of action of the terrible society, reveal each day to the public that all the murders, thefts, poisonings, and arsons which are committed in the city and the country are the work of the revolutionaries, of the new Jacques, and that they will go on so long as equality has not dethroned privilege.
In another group where there is a confectioner worker, the worker should make every effort to be employed in one of the big houses which furnish the aristocracy, and on New Year’s Eve, I suppose, or the day before, let them poison on, or ten, or twenty bowls of bonbons, as many as they can, and on that next day let a hundred or a thousand aristocrats cease to live. Let the secret society, through its clandestine printers, then claim the responsibility for it, and let the stoic poisoner vanish, fleeing to escape an arrest.
Let the perfumer do likewise. If they can, let them also poison champagne, the fine wines, the linens, the cakes, the ices and sorbets. In the country, let them burn the crops of the rich, along with their houses, and the churches; in the cities, let them do likewise with the houses, churches, ministries, town halls, and all the offices of commerce and government. Let the sword of Damocles be constantly suspended over the heads of the privileged; let the serpents of terror, like those of Nemesis, hiss day and night in their ears and make the tremble for their gold and their lives; let their position no longer be bearable and let them, weary from so much anguish, be forced to fall their knees and ask for mercy and beg the proletariat to grant them their lives in exchange for their privilege, and common happiness in exchange for general misfortune.
[ii] Civilization, being now a synonym of barbarism, is to be destroyed, like the barbarism that opened the era of Civilization. Humanity, which has grown, rejects it today like a garment which is too tight, in order to enter into a new phase of progress called harmony.
[iii] Civilization, being now a synonym of barbarism, is to be destroyed, like the barbarism that opened the era of Civilization. Humanity, which has grown, rejects it today like a garment which is too tight, in order to enter into a new phase of progress called harmony.
[iv] Let the individual or group appearing before the assizes hold their heads high, let them stand there not as defendants, but as enemies, and as always formidable enemies anyway, or potentially so, prisoner or free, dead or living, for the principled individual vanquished in struggle is never entirely dead and that is their consolation and strength, their fellows surviving them.–Let them say then to those who are there to condemn them: “Tomorrow, if you do not acquit me, you will be dead. I call in a loud voice to you, the daggers of the secret societies of which I am a member, and that invocation, know it well, is for all of them an order!... And now strike me, if you dare!” And the next day, if that revolutionary is condemned, let the secret societies make perish, at any price and whatever peril there is in doing it, the judges and juries who have handed in the sentence. – Ah! Gentlemen of the family and property, of religion and government, you want privilege, well! Suffer the consequences... Do you think that your life, your world, your worm-eaten society hold on long against such revolutionary means? What do you say, children of Malthus? But, unfortunately, the energies are weak, today, and it is probably only on the day after some other, still stifled revolution, after some new days of June, that this idea could bear its fruits. Meanwhile, I sow the seed in the hearts of all the suffering, and, come on! you will not escape this new jacquerie. May it begin without delay!
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]