Fundamental Principles of Socialism (1849)

Here’s another translation from the work of Proudhon’s associate, C.-F Chevé, the statement of principles from Le Socialiste : journal de l’égal-échange [The Socialist: Journal of Equal-Exchange], which he co-edited. This is taken from the first issue, July 1849. Some differences with Proudhon’s position will be immediately obvious, not the least of which is his tendency to use “anarchy” in the sense of disorder (although, to be fair, Proudhon and nearly all the anarchists of his generation also did this from time to time.) This “general account” is actually fairly lengthy, and was serialized over multiple issues. I’ve provided this first section as an introduction, and will post additional sections as I finish them.
General account of the doctrines of
The Socialist



We are socialists.

That is to say that we do not want the present society because it is the expression of disorder and anarchy raised to their highest power.

Anarchy exists in contemporary society; for human sentiments, penchants, and faculties are in a state of constant antagonism and war.

Anarchy exists in contemporary society; for beliefs, ideas, opinions, and doctrines are in a permanent state of war and hostility.

Anarchy exists in contemporary society; for the wills, the personalities and all the manifestations of human activity and labor clash, combat and do their best to kill each other in a duel to the death, in a struggle without respite and without limits.

The war of man against man in all its aspects; inevitable, inexorable; war everywhere, for all, and always; war for the sake of war: that is our society. It can be depicted in a single word; it is permanent anarchy.

In the face of permanent anarchy, socialism comes to posit the principle of order.

Its name alone indicates it, for it is derived from socio, I associate: it comes to unite that which is divided.

The present society cannot persist, for it is written: “A kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or house that is divided against itself cannot survive.” Socialism comes to save society by give it unity through liberty.

Socialism takes man at his root; and it posits as a basis the right to live by the right to labor.
The life of man is at once moral, intellectual and physical. The right to live is thus the right to sustain and to develop all the faculties of his heart, of his intelligence and of his will, as well as to nourish and preserve his body.

From this the right to a triple labor, at once moral, intellectual and physical destined to satisfy all the needs of these three aspects of his life.

The aim of socialism is thus the organization of labor, moral, intellectual and physical.

Man being mind and body, that organization must have, like him, two distinct parts; that relating to the mind, which is the spiritual order; that relating to the body, which is the temporal order. But just as man is simultaneously, at one and the same time body and mind in an undivided manner, so the temporal and spiritual orders can only be two parts of the same whole, which is the social order.

The right to labor is the right to the instrument of labor, in other words the right to free and reciprocal credit, to the free exchange on an equal footing of all the products of the physical, intellectual and moral world, for all are reciprocally instruments of labor.

Now, we can realize equal-exchange in the physical order only by the abolition of rent, which, by furnishing to each, without any interest or deduction, all the instruments of production, organizes thus the right to existence and the right to labor.

We can realize equal-exchange in the intellectual order only by the method of the identity of opposites which reconciles all ideas, all doctrines, or rather exchanges against one another, by showing that they are reciprocally only the points of view, the diverse terms, of one sole and single idea, identical everywhere beneath the infinite diversity of its modes.

We can realize equal-exchange in the moral order only by the practice of charity or universal love by which all beings living in the others, by the others and for the others, exchanging, in a way, even their will, even their personality, in order to be only one single mind in a single body.

We will lay out successively these three forms of equal-exchange in the physical, intellectual and moral orders, by taking for criterion, for rule of certainty, the facts, the assessment of sentiments by acts, of ideas by works, practical reason, in a word, and by conforming invariably to the evangelical precept: “Judge the tree by its fruits.”

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]
About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.