Joseph Déjacque, “The Humanisphere” — Note on “The Extremes”

I’m working on completing Part I of The Humanisphere, but I decided to finish up this very interesting note before settling down to that task. There are tensions in the work which are pretty remarkable — as we saw in Part III, Déjacque was prepared to call for a war against Civilization (defined, following Fourier, as the form of society of the modern era, and thus something to be progressed beyond) exceeding even that proposed by Ernest Coeurderoy, but, as we will see in Part II, that didn’t prevent him from imagining his anarchic utopia as a kind of thoroughly anti-authoritarian phalanstery. In this note, we catch a glimpse of what a militant, class-struggle Fourierism might look like, as Déjacque proposes his revolutionary program in terms which are always almost-orthodox extensions of Fourier’s theory. It is not hard to imagine a slightly different Fourier proposing a Series of Revolutionary Criminals, and explaining how their specializations would come about through the play of the passions, and how their activities would play their part in the phase of Decline in the era of Civilization. [Like much of The Humanisphere, this section contains a mix of philosophical allusions and metaphors that are constantly getting just a bit out of control, so all of these working translations contain sections that are a bit rough. The goal is to polish and standardize the translations as I get a more sizable body of Déjacque’s work prepared.]
The Extremes
Under this title, “The Extremes,” here is a note on The Humanisphere, the true subject, ways and means of which are sketched rather than discussed. It is even an incomplete sketch. Nonetheless, I deliver it to the public as-is, unless I return to it later. More than one reader will believe themselves bound to condemn me for having published it. “We think these things, but we do not say them”, they will add in a very low voice. All that we think should be said. Moreover, it is necessary that the revolutionaries as well as the reactionaries familiarize themselves with that idea. It is in the logic of things, and we try to avoid it in vain. I only work to uncover that which is, for many eyes, still hidden; to explain tomorrow by yesterday; to draw some rigorous conclusions. It is not my fault if the philosophy of contemporary history is a page that can only be written in blood. There are inevitable paths plotted by centuries of oppression and servitude. The desire to diverge from them on byways is impossible: all roads return there. We must follow the straight line, hasten our steps and go to the end. That is the shortest way out, and it is the sole means. The aristocracy of every shade needs a lesson; the proletariat of every country needs a stimulant. It is necessary to force the world, lost to overindulgence or hunger, to think, to shake it with an arm of iron, to wake it from its gloomy apathy. It is necessary that the Future and Past alike, standing at their full height, clash in the Present, and that one of these two colossi shatters the other. To the coalition authoritarian interests we must oppose the coalition of all the anarchic interests. We must rekindle the days of September and strike with terror those who oppress us with terror. We must have the audacity of solidarity with all the insurgents of the world, whatever they may be, to push temerity to the point of moral, if not physical complicity with all those who give back to civilization iron for iron and fire for fire. Ah! revolutionaries, if you have the Revolution in your heart as you have it on your lips; why recoil and cover your face before such means? What is the use of invoking the principles if you can only faint before the consequences? It is not by mystical sighs that you will ward off tyranny and exploitation, but by drawing the sword with the idea, by stabbing the Reaction in its flesh and in its spirit:
The Extremes
Note on The Humanisphere
I am far from wanting to say that the aristocracy of our times is a model of society for the world of the future; quite the contrary. What I wanted to make clear is that man, according to the diverse conditions in which he moves, is more or less worthy or unworthy. The more he has a sense of his liberty, the more he also has a feeling of his dignity; the more respect he has for himself, and also for his fellows. But the aristocrat is not free; he is master, and he is slave: master of those inferior, but slave of his superiors; he is free only with his equals. And still, that liberty is very limited, for the aristocrat is not even a man, he is half a man. (And I speak here of the most intelligent, of those who have intellectual learning, a reasoned consciousness of their own value, the lettered, the artists, the scientific, or at the very least those who have a feeling for letters, arts and sciences, … the cream of the elegant and learned worlds.) The aristocracy, even in the best sense of the word, is a cripple that does not know how to use its arms, and in which, consequently, one of two senses is lacking. The proletarian, the white slave, is nearly as infirm as the aristocrat: he has arms and no brain, or a least a brain that he hardly knows how to use. As for the bourgeois, that thing that is not an aristocrat and is not a proletarian, that heap of flesh, — neither arm nor head, nor heart, but all belly, it is a being so deformed and vile that it can only serve as a foil to the extremists of the proletariat as to the extremists of the aristocracy. Sometimes the extremes meet, but it is on the condition of developing from the two ends, and by crushing in this double rapprochement everything that is between them. It is not a question of dethroning the aristocrat from his place of luxury, of making him descend from his artistic or scientific pedestal, but of making the proletarian rise, of enthroning him there; as it is also not a question of breaking in the hands of the proletarian the scepter of industrial or agricultural labor, but of arming the aristocrat with it. worker from above, worker from below, idle with the arm or idle with the head, both must be completed, not only by one another, but also the one and the other, in order to make both of them able-bodied men, instead of making both of them, as today, cripples. The good there is in one must be acquired b the other, and vice versa. The day cannot be far off with manual and intellectual labor le travail will be the prerogative of each. It is not as difficult to achieve this as we suppose. Except, “those who want the end must want the means.”
The proletarian is too worn out by poverty and forced labor; the excesses of fasting and of drink, of wakefulness and unemployment have unnerved him too much; they are too full of distressing and infamous prejudices; his brow has been for too long plunged like a sponge in swill, in the dregs of bourgeois education; too many chains and gates, too many heavy burdens and thick walls; too many obstacles, finally, still trouble him for him to be able to evolve daily and without bumps in the road of scientific and artistic progress. It is not by peaceful and proper means that he can complete himself as a social man, and revolutionize his brain. It is only with the aid of an anarchic commotion that will put all his fibers in motion, and will raise him, by the enthusiasm of all vibrating in each, and of each vibrant in all, to a level of lucidity that will be equal to the greatest intelligences and will allow him to accomplish the greatest things. Is there anything in the world more dishonest and more treacherous, viler and more base than the bourgeois? No, you think. Well, if he is free there, the worker who labors for himself, the shopkeeper in his own shop, misshapen species of the genus of drudges, still worker by the arm and already shopkeeper by the head. What is more hideous and more repulsive, more horrible to see and know than that sort of human spider crouched behind the panes of a window and weaving on his workbench and in his head the web of his exploitation, a net intended to take the little public, the public of gnats? It is not lies and vile tricks that this monster on two legs, half-proletarian and half-bourgeois, puts to work to trap you, you who are his brother in misery and in production, but are also, his spoils in your role as consumer. — Commerce is the most demoralizing, most withering thing that I know of, for a society or for an individual. A people, a caste or a man given over to mercantilism, is a man, a caste or a people lost; it is the gangrene in the side of Humanity. There is no arguing about such wounds, it is necessary to apply the hot iron.
The aristocrat is too full of vanity, too puffed-up with self-importance; he is too pampered in his listlessness, too titillated in his luxury, too well provided in his gastronomy; he is too certain of enjoying with impunity some easy pleasures procured by rank and wealth to not detest every movement of manual production, every physical labor. That inaction of the arms necessarily has an influence on his brain, by paralyzing its development. The aristocrat only considers the proletarian as an ass, good above allto bear the pack-saddle; and he does not only realize that he is himself only a sort of calf stretched bound hand and feet, on the back of the other beast, and good, above all, to bleat, waiting for the abattoir.
The aristocrat, like the proletarian, can only be regenerated by a cataclysm. As long as there endures for the masses the spirit of lucre, the meager wage and the small trade, the day’s gain and the fear for the next day, the proletarian could never escape from his stupefaction, from his degradation. And yet he must escape. Too, as long as their indolent and insolent security endures, the aristocrat from birth, and still less the thinking bourgeois or the pot-bellied bourgeois, the upstart bourgeois, will never feel proud of giving himself up to manual and productive labor; they will never resolve themselves to it. and yet they must become men, physically and intellectually. They must, or they must disappear. But the means? The means are very simple. What is the cause of their inaction? The impunity in which they live. Well! Let us put the pleasures of their lives and their lives themselves in peril each day. Let us dare to assimilate ourselves to all those who attack the life and property of the rich. By assimilating ourselves to them, we take them in, and consequently we moralize them. So we become a menace, a formidable danger. The social war takes quotidian and universal proportions. There is not a hair that falls from a head, not the most minor theft of property that is not the work of the Revolution. We will complement ourselves, we, the plebs of the workshops, with a new element, the plebs of the penal colonies. All the convicts are made one then, all the arms are under the same cloak, all the heads under the same hat. Each of us could continue to make rebellion according to our aptitudes; and if the use of the jimmy and the knife is more repugnant to you than the use of the barricade and the gun, well! we will at least have in our ranks some specialists, some workers accustomed to these tools to accomplish the fierce and bloody task. Assassins and thieves, urban guerillas, solitary insurgents, each of them must be conscious that by attacking the legal society, they carry upheaval among the Civilized, they act in the name of “the most sacred rights and the most indispensable of duties.”—by raising all the daily attacks, the attacks on the life and property of the rich, to the height of a social insurrection, not only will the revolution ragepermanently, but it will also become invincible. Nothing could resist it. The aristocrat put in danger this way will be forced to seek a heroic remedy to an imminent evil. The spirit of caste will disappear to give place to the spirit of individual conservation. Then, and only then, he might come to the idea of becoming a worker, as much to escape from that epidemic of ruin and death than to obey a new need for him, which could not fail to manifest itself among the most intelligent, the need to earn, by the sweat of his brown, his right of existence and the flourishing of that existence. From the aristocrat will be made a man. His intelligence will develop with his arm. And soon, instead of seeking to stifle the revolutionary and social ideal, he will be the first to activate it, he will march hand in hand even with the most socialist, the most revolutionary of the proletarians. The proletarian having taught him to work with his arms, will learn from him to work with his brain; the fraternal sentiment will replace in both of them fratricidal feelings. Here there will no longer be the man of the brow, crippled in the arms, and the man of the arms, crippled in the brow, there will be the man of brow and arms at once, the whole man. His heart will grow with all that will be acquired by his arms, with all that will be acquired by his brain. The human being will be formed, and Humanity will be near.
In individual medicine, as in social science, the palliatives, the old, routine procedures have never succeeded in restoring a sick person to health; drugs more harmful than useful, they have never produced anything but empiricism. The social body, like the human body, suffers from a malady that gets worse each day. There is only one means of saving them, which is to treat them with a new system, to employ homeopathy. Oppression is kept alive by theft and murder; it must be combated with theft and murder. We will cure the evil only with evil. — So let us provoke a terrible crisis, a renewed outbreak of the disease, so that tomorrow, at the end of that crisis, Humanity, taking possession of its senses and entering an era of convalescence, can nourish heart and mind on the juice of fraternal and social ideas, and so that, finally rendered healthy and strong in its movements, it testifies thus to the free and generous circulation of all its nutritious fluids, of all its productive forces, by a physiognomy radiant with happiness!
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]
About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.