[I posted some of this about a year and a half ago, but set it down again, not feeling comfortable enough with some of the contexts to be sure I was getting the details right. With the work that I’ve been doing recently translating Charles Fourier, Pierre Leroux, and some other works by Joseph Déjacque, I’m feeling much more certain that I’m catching nuances, so I’m going to start posting sections again, beginning with a considerably enlarged first helping.]
Utopia: “A dream not realized, but not unrealizable.”
Anarchy: “Absence of government.”
Revolutions are conservations.
(P. J. Proudhon)
The only true revolutions are the revolutions of ideas.
Let us make customs, and no longer make laws.
(Emile de Girardin)
So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty…. Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
(Saint Paul the Apostle)
What is this Book!
This book is not a literary work, it is an infernal labor, the cry of a rebel slave.
Being, like the cabin boy of the Salamander, unable, in my individual weakness, to strike down all those who, on the ship of the legal order, dominate and mistreat me, when my day is done at the workshop, when my watch is finished on the bridge, I descend by night to the bottom of the hold, I take possession of my solitary corner and, there, with teeth and claws, like a rat in the shadows, I scratch and gnaw at the worm-eaten walls of the old society. By day, as well, I use my hours of unemployment, I arm myself with a pen like a borer, I dip it in bile for grease, and, little by little, I open a way, each day larger, to the flood of the new; I relentless perforate the hull of Civilization. I, a puny proletarian, on whom the crew, the horde of exploiters, daily inflict the torment of the aggravated misery of the brutalities of exile or prison, I open up the abyss beneath the feet of my murderers, and I spread the balm of vengeance on my always-bloody scars. I have my eye on my Masters. I know that each day brings me closer to the goal; that a formidable cry—the sinister every man for himself!—will soon resound at the height of their joyous intoxication. A bilge-rat, I prepare their shipwreck; that shipwreck alone can put an end to my troubles and to those of my fellows. Come the revolution, will not the suffering have, for biscuit, ideas in reserve, and, for life-line, socialism!
This book is not written in ink; its pages are not paper sheets.
This book is steel, turned in octavo, and charged with fulminate of ideas. It is an authoricidal projectile that I cast in a thousand copies on the cobblestones of the civilizées. May its shards fly far and mortally pierce the ranks of the prejudiced. May it split the old society down to its foundations.
Privileged ones!—for those who have sown slavery, the hour has come to reap rebellion. There is not a worker who, in the hidden reaches of his brain, does not clandestinely fashion some thoughts of destruction. You, you have the bayonet and the penal code, the catechism and the guillotine; we have the barricade and utopia, sarcasm and the bomb. You, you are pressure; we are the mine: one spark can blow you up!
Know that today, in their iron shackles, beneath their superficial torpor, the multitudes are composed of grains of powder; the fibers of the thinkers are its caps. Also, is it not without danger that one crushes liberty in the face of the somber multitudes. Rash reactionaries!—God is God, you say. Yes, but Satan is Satan!… The elect of the golden calf are few, and hell is full of the damned. Aristocrats, it is not necessary to play with fire, the fire of hell, understand!…
This book is not a document, it is an act. It has not been traced by the gloved hand of a fantasist; it is filled with heart and logic, with blood and fever. It is a cry of insurrection, a strike of the tocsin rung with the hammer of the idea in the hearing of the popular passions. It is moreover a chant of victory, a triumphant salvo, the proclamation of individual sovereignty, the advent of universal liberty; it is full and complete amnesty for the authoritarian sorrows of the past by anarchic decree of the humanitarian future.
This is a book of hatred, a book of love!….
Social science proceeds by inductions and deductions, by analogy. It is by a series of comparisons that it arrives at the combination of truth.
Thus, I will proceed by analogy.
I will try to be brief. The large volumes are not those that are most read. In preference to long dissertations, to classical pedagogies, I will employ the colorful phrase, it has the advantage of being able to say a lot in a few words.
I am far from being infused with science. I have read a bit, observed more, and meditated a great deal. I am, I believe, despite my ignorance in one of the one of the most favorable places to sum up the needs of humanity. I have all the passions, although I cannot satisfy them, those of love and those of hate, the passion for extreme luxury and for extreme simplicity. I understand all appetites, those of the heart and of the belly, those of the flesh and of the mind. I have a taste for white bread, but also for black bread, for stormy discussions and also for sweet causeries. I know all the appetites, physical and moral; I have the intuition of all intoxications; all that which excites or calms has seductions for me: the café and poetry, champagne and art, wine and tobacco, milk and honey, spectacles, tumult and lights, shadow, solitude and pure water. I love work, hard labors; I also love leisure, soft idleness. I could live a little and find myself rich, consume enormously and find myself poor. I have looked through the keyhole at the intimate life of opulence, I know its hot houses and it sumptuous salons; and I also know from experience both cold and poverty. I have been overfull and I have been hungry. I have a thousand caprices and not one pleasure. I am likely to commit at times what the argot of the civilized blacken with the name of virtue, and more often still what they honor with the name of crime. I am the man most empty of prejudices and most full of passions that I know; proud enough to not be vain, and too proud to be hypocritically modest. I have only one face, but that face is as mobile as the face of the waves; at the least breath, it passes from one expression to another, from calm to storm and from anger to tenderness. That is why, as a multiple passionality, I hope to deal with human society with some chance of success, because treating it well depends as much on the knowledge that one has of one’s own passions, as on the knowledge that one has of the passions of others.
The world of anarchy is not of my invention, certainly, any more than it is the invention of Proudhon, nor of Pierre, nor of Jean. Each by himself invents nothing. Inventions are the result of collective observations; is the explanation of a phenomenon, a scratch made on the colossus of the unknown, but it is the work of all men and all generations of men linked together by an indissoluble solidarity. Now, if there is invention, I have the right at most to a patent of improvement. I would be rather poorly praised if some hoaxers wanted to apply to my face the title of the chief of a school. I know that one expounds ideas bringing together or straying more or less from known ideas. But what I do not understand is that there have been men who accept them slavishly, in order to make themselves the followers of the first comer, to model themselves on his way of seeing, to imitate him in the least details: and to put on, like a soldier or a lackey, his uniform or his livery. At least adjust them to your waistline; trim them or widen them, but do not wear them as-is, with sleeves too short or tails too long. Otherwise, it is not a sign of intelligence; it is hardly worthy of a man who feels and thinks, thus it’s ridiculous.
Authority aligns men under its flags by discipline, it shackles them by the code of military orthodoxy, passive obedience; its imperious voice commands silence and immobility in the ranks, autocratic fixity. Liberty rallies men to its banner with the voice of free examination; it does not petrify them in the same line. Each lines up where he likes and moves as he pleases. Liberty does not regiment men beneth the plume of the head of a sect: it initiates them in the movement of ideas and inculcates in them the sentiment of active independence. Authority is unity in uniformity! Liberty is unity in diversity. The axis of authority, it is knout-archie [literally, government by whip]. Anarchy is the axis of liberty.
For me, it is much less a question of making disciples than of making men, and one is a man only on condition of being oneself. We incorporate the ideas of others and incarnate our ideas in others; we combine our thoughts, and nothing is better than that; but let us make of that mixture a conception henceforth our own. Let us be an original work and not a copy. The slave models himself on the master; he imitates. The free man only produces his own type; he creates.
My plan is to paint a picture of society as society appears to me in the future: individual liberty is moving anarchically in the social community and producing harmony.
I do not presume to impose my views on others. I do not descend from cloudy Sinai. I do not march escorted by lightning and thunder. I m not send by the autocrat of the whole universe to reveal his words to his so-humble subjects and publish the imperial ukase of his commandments. I inhabit the depths of society; I have drawn from them some revolutionary thoughts, and I pour them forth, rending the darkness. I am a seeker of truths, a herald of progress, a star-gazer for enlightenment. I sigh after happiness and I conjure up its ideal. If that ideal makes you smile, do as I do, and love it. If you find imperfections in it, correct them. If it displeases you, create another. I am not exclusive, and I will willingly abandon mine for your, if yours seems more perfect to me. However, I see only two great figures possible; one can modify its expression, that is not to change its traits: there is absolute liberty or absolute authority. As for me, I choose liberty. We have seen the works of authority, and its works condemn it. It is an old prostitute that has never learned anything but depravation and never engendered anything but death. Liberty still only makes herself known by her timid smile. She is a virgin that the embrace of humanity has still not made fertile; but, let man allow himself to be seduced by her charms, let him give her all his love, and she will soon give birth to generations worthy of the great name that she carries.
To weaken authority and criticize its acts is not enough. A negation, in order to be absolute, needs to complete itself with an affirmation. That is why I affirm liberty, why I deduce its consequences.
I address myself above all to the proletarians, and the proletarians are for the most part still more ignorant than me; also, before giving an account of the anarchic order, a portrait which will be for this book the last stroke of the author’s pen, it is necessary to outline the history of Humanity. I will follow then its march across the ages in the past and in the present and I will accompany it into the future.
In this sketch I have to recreate a subject touched with a master’s hand by a great artist in poetry. I don’t have his work at hand; and if I had it, I rarely reread a book, as I have neither the leisure nor courage for it. My memory is my only library, and my library is often quite disordered. If some reminiscences escape me, if I happen to draw from my memories, believing I drew it from my own thoughts, I declare at least that it will be without knowing or wishing to. I hold plagiarists in horror. However, I am also of the opinion of Alfred de Musset, I thus think what another has thought before me. I would desire one thing, it is that those who have not read the book of Eugène Pelletan, Le Monde Marche, will want to read the book before continuing the reading of mine. The work of this brilliant writer are a museum of the reign of humanity up through our times, magnificent pages that it is always good to know, and which will be an aid to more than one civilizee, leaning on his elbows before my work, not only to supply what it lacks, but also to aid in understanding its shadows and lights.
And now, reader, if you want to travel along with me, stock up on intelligence, and let’s go!
“If one says to them (i.e., to the civilized) that our swirl of approximately two hundred comets and planets presents but the image of a bee occupying a single cell in the hive; that the other fixed stars, each one surrounded by such a swirl, represent other planets, and that the whole of this vast universe, in its turn, counts only as a single bee in a hive formed of approximately a hundred and thousand sidereal universes, the ensemble of which comprises a biniverse, that then comes the triniverse formed from several thousand biniverses, and so on; finally, that each one of these universes, biniverses, triniverses is a creature, having, like us, its own soul, its own phases of youth and old age, death and birth…….; they will not follow this theme to its end, they will cry out against the insanity, the outrageous daydream; and yet they pose in principle the universal analogy!”
We know the physiognomy of the Earth, its external structure. The pencil, the brush and the pen have retraced the features. The canvases of the artists and the books of the poets have taken it in its cradle and have made us see it first enveloped in the swaddling clothes of the flood, all soft still and with the tint of the first days; then firming up and covering itself with a vegetative mane, animating its sites, improving itself as it advances in life.
We also know its internal structure, its physiology; we have made the anatomy of its entrails. Excavations have stripped its skeleton to which we have given the name of mineral; its arteries, where the water circulates, its intestines covered with a viscous flow of fire.
But who has occupied themselves with its psychological organism? Nobody. Where within it is the seat of its thought? Where is its brain located? We don’t know. And yet the globes, for being of a different nature than our own, are no less thinking and moving beings. Is that which we have taken for the surface of the earth really the surface? And by skinning it, by the scalping of the atmospheres that envelope it, don’t we leave its flesh and fibers exposed, pierce the cerebellum clear to the spinal cord, and strip the skin from the bones?
Who knows if, for the terrestrial globe, which is also an animated being, of which the zoological study is so far from being completed, who knows if humanity is not its brain-matter? If the human atom is not the animalcule of thought, the molecule of planetary intelligence functioning under the vast cranium of its atmospheric rings? Do we know anything of the nature of its intimate senses? And would it be strange that all our social actions, a swarm of homuncular societies, were the ideas and dreams that people the face of the globe from one pole to the other?
I won’t claim a prima facie resolution of the question, or affirm or deny it absolutely. I have certainly not thought enough about the subject. I only pose the thing in interrogative form, in order to provoke research and a response. I very well may make that response myself. It does not appear to me without interest to consider the intellectual organization of the of the being within which we have been born, any more than it appears to me uninteresting to occupy myself with its bodily organism. For whoever wants to study the zoology of beings, animals or planets, psychology is inseparable from physiology.
This prologue ended, let us leave the world to turn on its axis and gravitate towards its sun, and let us occupy ourselves with the movement of humanity and its gravitation towards progress.
Movement of Humanity
‘‘A cretin! That is to say a poor, dejected being, timid and small; a matter that moves or a man that vegetates, a disgraced creature which is stuffed with aqueous vegetables, of black bread and flood waters; – a nature without industry, without ideas, without past, without future, without forces; – an unfortunate who does not recognize his fellows, who does not speak, who remains insensible to the world outside, who is born, grows and dies in the same place, miserable as the bitter lichen and the gnarled oaks.
Oh! to see the man squatting in the dust and the head tilted toward the ground, arms hanging, bent back, knees flexed, eyes bright or dull, the regard vague or frightening in its fixity, barely able to reach out his hand to passers-by – with sunken cheeks, with long fingers and long toes, hair standing on end like the fur of cats, a receding or drawn brow, a flat head and a monkey’s face.
How imperceptible our body is in the midst of the universe, if it is not magnified by our knowledge! How the first men were trembling in the face of flood waters and falling rock! As the great Alps dwarf the mountaineer of Valais! As he creeps slowly, from their feet to their heads, by barely passable paths! One might say that he is afraid of arousing subterranean furies. An earthworm, ignorant, slave, cretin, man would be all of that today if he had never revolted against force. And there he is, superb, giant, God, because he has dared all!
And man would still fight against the Revolution! The son would curse his mother, Moses, saved from the waters, would deny the noble daughter of the Pharaoh! That cannot be. To the God of heaven, to Fatality, the blind Lightning; to the God of the earth, to the free man, the Revolution which sees clear. Fire against fire, flash against flash, deluge against deluge, light against light. Heaven is not so high that we can not already see it; and man sooner or later attains what he desires!”
‘‘The world moves.’’
The world moves, as Pelletan says—a beautiful writer, but a bourgeois writer, a Girondin writer, a theocrat of the intelligence. Yes, the world moves forward, on and on. Initially, it started by crawling, face to the ground, on knees and elbows, rummaging with its snout an earth still soaked with the waters of the deluge, and it fed itself on peat. The vegetation made it smile, and it raised itself on its hands and feet, and it grazed with its muzzle on tufts of grass and the bark of trees. Crouching at the foot of the tree whose height solicited its regard, it dared to lift its head; then it raised its hands to the height of his shoulders, then finally it was standing on its own two feet, and, from this height, it dominated with the weight of its gaze all that which had dominated it the moment before. Then it, still so weak and naked, felt something like a thrill of pride. It had just learned the measure of its own body. The blood which, in the horizontal gait of the man, buzzed in its ears and deafened it, suffused its eyes and blinded it, flooded its brain and muffled it; this blood, finding its level, like the fluvial waters, the oceanidwaters, after the flood, this blood flowed back in its natural arteries by the revolution from horizontality to human verticality, clearing his forehead from one temple to the other, and discovering, for the fertilization, the silt of all the intellectual seeds.
Until then, the human animal had only been a brute among brutes; he had just revealed himself as man. Thought had dawned; it was still in the germinal state, but the seed contained the future harvests… The tree in whose shadow the man had stood up bore fruits; he took one of them with his hand, the hand… that hand which until then had been for him only a leg and had served him to drag himself, to advance, now it was going to become the sign of his royal animality, the of his terrestrial power. Having eaten the fruit in his reach, he sees some that he arm cannot reach. So he uproots a young shoot, extends the reach of his arm by means of this stick to the height of the fruit and detaches it from its branch. This stick will soon aid him in his walking, to defend himself against wild beasts or to attack them. After having bitten fruit, he wanted to bite flesh; and off he goes to hunt; and as he has plucked the apple, lo and behold he kills the game. And he makes a fur garment from some animal skins, a shelter with some branches and leaves from trees, those trees who trunks he had grazed yesterday, and whose highest crowns he climbs today in order to seek out the eggs and nestlings of birds. His eyes, that he had held glued to the crust of the soil, now contemplated with majesty the azure sky and all the pearls of gold of its splendid jewel case. It is his sovereign crown to him, king among all those who breathe, and to each of these celestial jewels, he gives a name, an astronomical value. The instinct that wailed in him has been succeeded by an intelligence which still babbles and will speak tomorrow. His tongue has been untied like his hands and both operate at once. He can converse with his fellows and join his hands with theirs, exchange with them ideas and forces, sensations and feelings. The man is no longer alone, isolated, and feeble; he is a race. He thinks and acts, and he participates by thought and action in all that thinks and acts among other men. Solidarity has been revealed to him. His life is increased by it: he no longer lives only in his individuality, no loner only in the present generation, but in the generations that have preceded him, and in those that will follow him. Originally a reptile, he has become a quadruped, from a quadruped a biped, and, standing on his two feet, he advances bearing, like Mercury, wings on his head and heels. By sight and by thought, he rises like an eagle above the clouds and plunge into the depths of the infinite; The coursers that he has tamed lend him their agility in crossing terrestrial spaces; the hollowed trunks of trees cradle him on the waves, some branches carved as paddles serve him as fins. From a simple grazer he has made himself a hunter, then shepherd, farmer, industrial worker. Destiny has said to him: March! And he marches, always advances. And he has stolen a thousand secrets from nature; he has shaped wood, molded the earth,, forged metals; he has put his stamp on everything around him.
Thus the individual-man has emerged from chaos. He has first vegetated as a mineral or plant; then he has crawled; he walks aspires to the winged life, to a more rapid and extensive locomotion. Man-humanity is still a fœtus, but the fœtus develops in the organ of generation, and after its successive phases of growth, it will emerge, free itself finally from the chaos and, from gravitation to gravitation, attain the fullness of its social faculties.
– God is evil.
– Property is Theft.
– Slavery is Assassination.
The Family is Evil; it is Theft; it is Assassination.
All that was, had to be; recriminations would change nothing. The past is the past, and there is no returning there, except to draw from it some lessons for the future.
In the first days of the human being, when men, still feeble in strength and number, were dispersed over the globe and vegetated, rooted and scattered in the forests like bluets in the fields, shocks and strains could hardly occur. Each lived upon the common teat, and it produced abundantly for all. Besides, a little was enough for a man: fruit to eat, leaves for clothing or shelter, such was the trifling sum of his needs. Only, what I observer, the point on which I insist, is that man, from his debut in the world, on emerging from the belly of the earth, at the hour when the instinctive law guides the first movements of newborn beings, at that hour when the great voice of nature speaks into their ears and their destiny is revealed to them by this voice which shows the birds the aerial spaces, the fish the underwater firmaments, and the other animals the plains and forests to roam; which says to the bear: you shall live solitary in your den, to the ant: you shall live in society in the anthill; to the dove: you shall live couple in the same nest, male and female, in the times of love;–man then hears that voice say to him: you will live in community on the earth, free and in fraternity with your fellows; a social being, sociability shall increase your being; rest your head where you will, pick fruits, kill game, make love, eat or drink, you are everywhere at home; everything belongs to you as to all. If you want to do violence to your neighbor, male or female, your neighbor will respond with violence, and, you know, their strength is nearly equal to your own; give free reign to all your appetites, to all your passions, but do not forget that there must be a harmony between your strength and your intelligence, between what pleases you and what pleases others. And, now, go: the earth, on these conditions, will be for you the garden of the Hesperides.
Before arriving at the combination of the races, the Earth, a little girl eager to dabble in generation, hewed and carved from the clay, in the days of its ferment, many shapeless monsters that she then crumpled and tore up with a quiver of anger and a deluge of tears. Every work demands an apprenticeship. And it is necessary to make many defecting attempts before arriving at the formation of complete beings, at the composition of species. For the human species, her masterwork, she made the mistake of squeezing the brains a bit and giving a little too much scope to the belly. The development of the one does not correspond to the development of the other. This makes an uneven joint, leading to disharmony. It is not a reproach that I address to her. Could she do better? No. It was in the inevitable order that it be thus. Everything was rough and savage around man; man must then begin by being rough and savage; too great a delicacy of the sense would have killed him. The sensitive withdraws into itself when the weather is stormy, it only blossoms under the calm and radiant blue.
The day then comes when the increase of the human race surpasses the increase of their intelligence. Man, still on the edge of idiocy, had little rapport with man. His stupefaction makes him fierce. His body is, it is true, much refined from its primitive abjection; he had trained his muscular dexterity well, conquered bodily strength and agility; but his mind, awakened for a moment, had fallen back into its embryonic lethargy threatened to drag on in that state. The intellectual fiber stagnated it its swaddling clothes. The goad of pain became necessary to pour to tear the mind of man from its somnolence and recall him to his social destiny. The fruits became more rare, the chase more difficult: he had to compete for possession. Men were brought together, often in order to fight, but also to lend their support. No matter how, there was contact. Rootless as they were, men and women would pair up; then they would form groups, tribes. The groups had their herds, then their fields, then their workshops. Intelligence was from now on released from it torpor. The voice of necessity cried, March! And they marched. However, all this progress was not accomplished without heartbreak. The development of ideas always lagged behind the development of appetites. Equilibrium, once upset, could not be reestablished. The world advanced, or rather teetered in blood and tears. Iron and flame brought desolation and death everywhere. The strong killed the weak or took possession of them. Slavery and oppression attached themselves like a leprosy to the flanks of humanity. The natural order collapsed.
A supreme moment, which would decide for a long series of centuries the fate of humanity. What would intelligence do? Would it vanquish ignorance? Would it deliver men from the torment of mutual destruction? Would it lead them from this labyrinth where sorrow and hunger wail? Would it show them the road paved with fraternal instincts which leads to liberation, to general happiness? Would it break the odious chains of the patriarchal family? Would it break down the emerging barriers of property? Would it destroy the tablets of the law, the governmental power, that double-edged sword which kills those it should protect? Would it lead to triumph the revolt which always threatens the tyranny which always stirs? Finally, – column of light, principle of life – would it found the anarchic order in equality and liberty or, – funerary urn, essence of death – would it found an arbitrary order on hierarchy and authority? Which would have the upper hand, the fraternal communion of interests or their fratricidal division? Would humanity perish two steps from its cradle?
[to be continued…]
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur, with thanks to Jesse and Apio for breaking trail a few places.]