A Handwritten Manuscript by Ravachol (1892)


Since his condemnation to death, Ravachol has written a great deal in prison. Here is a long handwritten text that we have been able to obtain, not without great difficulties. We have confided the reproduction of this interesting document to the house of Sédard in Lyon. It is written on two pages, and in it Ravachol explains his theories.

[The manuscript combines bad spelling, horrible penmanship, rotten grammar and nonexistent punctuation. Decoding it has been a long process. But here is a rough translation.]

Society can only be improved by a complete transformation of its organization. The most advanced political reforms, such as a tax on revenue and pensions for old age, all sound good to the ears of a great number of people. They don’t understand that if they were imposed the proprietor would fall back on his tenants for the pension fund. The government is obliged to impose new taxes, but since we complain that it cannot be enough to provide for our necessities, we run the risk of dying before we have the pension because of the privations that we have to bear, which can only shorten life. There are men who believe that if we put a high tax on fine wines we could decrease the cost of table wines. [It is an] error. The one who drinks fine wines is not a worker. It cannot be the one who makes nothing who pays. It will thus always be the one who works who pays the taxes, in whatever ever form they present themselves. Now the reduction of the workday to eight hours is an increase of wages. Eight hours of labor would be enough to satisfy the men who reflect. Indeed, what effort is necessary in order to obtain them! And if we succeed, what would we gain, exchanging for a greater number put to work temporarily? A little more time to rest and reflect, which is always good. But with the perfection of tools the number of idle workers will soon be as considerable as before. Thus, monthly demands to obtain the same result, an illusory increase in wages. For if the bosses consent to increased wages they can augment their products, so that that by earning more we will pay more dearly. So there is nothing to gain by this reform, which always leaves us to die of hunger in the midst of abundance and indeed products we lack, necessary things. And those [who starve are] the same who have produced by their labor that surplus production. Isn’t the world upside down to be deprived of things of all sorts, because there is more than enough of them to put an end to a state of things that is only disorder. We want to substitute an anarchic organization, which is the putting-in-common of all the world’s goods, whatever they may be. There will be no more proprietors and bosses. No more money. Everyone will work except the children, the infirm and the elderly. And we will have no need to produce useless and harmful things, such as forts, armor, cannons, rifles, or anything made with the intention of killing men. No need to falsify silk … which is burned when it suffers all [the dyer’s] operations and which is no longer silk, but a dangerous product, because of the poisons that have been attached to it. While one can dye the silk without charging it and with inoffensive products [but] that will be done when men no longer have to speculate on men. [Then] I would not seek to falsify the things that I am charged to make by hand, since it would get me nothing in return, since there will be no more money and since I have all the things that are useful to me. I need shoes and clothing. I only have to ask for them to take them. No more need, as today, to create demand by printing advertisements, which are then distributed. No more useless things to make. Everyone is interested in making fine things, of the first quality. No more need of the locksmith… No more fear of the thief, who could never make a profit on things that could not be found there. No more need of the strongbox, lock … or coin-purse. No more need of the rural police, the gendarmes, the sergeant, … the snitch, all the prison guards, the lawyers, the jurors, the sub-prefect, the deputies, the senator, the presidents of all sorts. Women will no longer have to prostitute themselves to live. No more need of the caisse d’emploi, of excise, regulations, bailiffs, notaries, or bankers. No more need of soldier, cannons, rifles, sabers, torpedo boats, armor, or forts. Everyone being concerned with conserving things, they will just surround and protect them better.


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


  1. Bonsoir,
    Où avez-vous trouvé ce long texte “Un autographe de Ravachol”. Dans quel journal de l’époque est-il paru ?
    Merci, P. Richard

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