Instead of a Translation – Proudhon on the clubs

Some 19th century “translations” end up being little more than summaries, and some summaries end up being haphazard translations of bits and pieces. A number of the pieces that introduced Americans to Proudhon and Leroux fit one of these two categories. A series of summaries of chapters from Proudhon’s Confessions appeared in The Spirit of the Age in 1849-50. This is certainly a work that needs full translation, but the summaries are interesting, both for the information they contain and as an example of how many Americans first encountered Proudhon.





Reaction made another step, from the republicans of the morrow to the doctrinaires; but one more false move of the democrats, and we fell into the hands of the Jesuits. Step by step we advanced towards the completion of the revolution, the annihilation of authority. It was necessary first that government should show itself incapable of existing either with the constitution, with free institutions, with principles or classes; the first was attacked by Odillon Barrot, the second by Leon Faucher, in his bill against the clubs, the others would come afterwards, under the government of Louis Bonaparte, who was destined to lead governmental authority to the final act of its suicidal course; and this was done with a consistency and strictness that belong to no other country; for the French are the most logical people in the world.

The attack upon the clubs was an attack upon all the institutions established and confirmed by the revolution; it was, as M. Cremieux loudly declared on the 21st March, a direct violation of the constitution. Henceforth there were two classes in the country; a majority and a minority, the oppressors and the oppressed; for everywhere the socialists were hunted down, and those who were only suspected of opinions then looked upon as aggravating circumstances, were treated as common malefactors,

The right of insurrection can only exist under an absolute government, where the people have no voice in the constitution; but in the present case, universal suffrage remaining to us, our only legitimate mode of defeating our adversaries was by legal resistance; and the plan proposed by Le Peuple, namely, an organized refusal to pay the taxes all over the country, would have been a most effectual instrument. Since the 13th June, however, this is no longer practicable or necessary; my proposition was received with distrust by the radicals: if the people refuse to pay taxes once, said these slavish advocates of government, they will refuse them altogether, and then government will be impossible: and my reward was a fine of 10,000 francs and ten years’ imprisonment.

But to my shame, I must confess, we were all blind to our own real interest, and the event has proved that radicalism was better served by its own incapacity than it could have been by the means I proposed. Since the 13th June, we have done with parties and governments; and that is much better than to have established the mountain in the room of the doctrinaires and Jesuits. The revolution has left us nothing further to do. II mondo va da se! The world moves of itself.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2627 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.