Two Socialist Catechisms


I’ve been reading around Proudhon quite a bit lately, trying to establish contexts as a step towards further clarifying his ideas. And I have been in search of 19th century English translations of the French socialists, as a step towards establishing the contexts for people like William B. Greene and William Henry Channing. There are large chunks of the writings of Charles Fourier, Victor Considerant, and a number of the important French socialist-feminists tucked away in the pages of American papers. The translations are often partial, and occasionally untrustworthy, but I’ve been setting aside time each week for searching, double-checking and correcting, and slowly but surely I’ll start posting the various versions online. Some time ago, I posted a link to part of Louis Blanc’s “The Socialist’s Catechism,” which appeared in translation in 1850 in The Spirit of the Age. (It’s not always easy to know when you have a complete translation, but this seems to be complete now.) Blanc was, of course, one of Proudhon’s main antagonists in the 1848 period, and in the course of another search, soon after digging up the later sections of his Catechism, I ran across some works in French, from his Nouveau Monde, critiquing Proudhon. The titles are delicious: “Men of the People, the State is You!” and “The State-Anarchy of Citizen Proudhon.” In the latter, I found reference to another “Socialist Catechism,” that appeared in the Voix du Peuple, which Blanc, without quite attributing it to Proudhon, nonetheless claimed represented Proudhon’s “ideal.” The piece was unfamiliar to me, and didn’t show up in a text-search on Proudhon’s works. A broader search revealed that it was an article written by Charles-François Chevé, who fired the opening shots in the Proudhon-Bastiat debate on interest. And a couple of days of wrestling with it produced a translation. It’s a very interesting document, and probably was fairly close to the vision shared in Proudhon’s circle at that time. It’s well worth a look.

But I was really stealing time away from another project to work on the translation, and to do the inevitable research on what else of Chevé’s I could track down online. With about half of this second Catechism translated, I went back to the job of tracking down articles for a collection of writings by William Henry Channing. That took me back into the pages of The Spirit of the Age, which I’ve been paging through to find articles left out of the published indexes. And that brought me to a pair of  translations from “The Last Word of Socialism” (no author noted) which looked interesting enough to pursue. And, while there don’t seem to have been as many “last words of socialism” as “solutions of the social problem” or “socialist catechisms,” that title seemed awfully familiar to me. Oh, yeah. Our pal Chevé wrote a book called Le Dernier Mot du Socialisme, par un catholique in 1848. And it turns out that what I had found was two chapters from that work, including another chapter in roughly catechistic form on “The Landlord and His Tenants.” But posting those will have to wait for another day…

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About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.


  1. Thanks for that. Very interesting — confirms my reading of Proudhon’s ideas at that time.

    I have to ask, what issue of “VOICE OF THE PEOPLE” is it from? Also, where did you find it? Is there an on-line archive somewhere?

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