Emile de Girardin, “Mutualisme / Mutualism” (1852)

I have been retracing my steps through the history of the terms mutualism, mutualisme, mutuellisme in the French- and English-language literatures, considerably expanding on the search I was able to make for the chapter on “Mutualism” in the Palgrave Handbook of Anarchism.

In my earlier survey, it became clear that not only were there a number of different uses of the terms available to the first generations of anarchist mutualists, but that there was no clear criterion for choosing a dominant influence from among them.

Over the last few days, returning to the question of which of the various pre-1850 uses could have been known to, say, Proudhon or William B. Greene at mid-century, I was amused, but not particularly surprised, to find that essentially all of the earlier uses (Owenite, Lyonnais, Fourierist, etc.) had traveled from French to English sources, or vice versa. Proudhon’s uses of the term in the context of his mutual credit proposals was known in New England by 1849. Perhaps Greene’s particular appropriation of the term was even known to Proudhon not much later, given the various New Englanders who knew and visited him.

Along the way, I revisited a few of the odd twists in that early history, like the fact that one of the important early Proudhon translations, “The Coming Era of Mutualism,” did not actually mention mutualism in the original French, instead talking about “une théorie de MUTUALITÉ.” That led me to the some consideration of the real explosion of mutualités in France during the Second Empire, from associations for fire insurance and insurance against military service to Anselme Bellegarrigue’s various more-or-less libertarian attempts to exploit loopholes in the law, such as the Mutualité immobilière et territoriale proposed in 1857. There is, however, enough separation between the discussions of mutualisme, mutuellisme and mutualité in that period to demand care not to simply treat casual conflations and mistranslation as insignificant.

Still, there are moments in the history of “mutualism” when it seems like most of the various senses of the term seem to be invoked together, without much of any attention to fine distinctions. One instance, which I just encountered, is in the championing of le mutualisme by Emile de Girardin, who apparently saw the principle as key to a national project involving the “transformation of taxation into insurance.” (See “Le Mutualisme : Transformation de l’impôt en assurance,” La Presse 16 (2 octobre 1852): 1.) The article I’m posting here, which originally appeared under the title of “Point de solidarité” (“No Solidarity”), is full of obvious allusions and possible echoes to more radical proposals. Placing it in the various contexts that it seems to invoke will take some time — and it is, in any event, clearly not a work of anarchist mutualism — but it may be an important piece in a larger puzzle.

LE MUTUALISME.

6 septembre 1852.

La solidarité est à la liberté ce que l’immobilité est au mouvement, ce que l’ombre est à la lumière, ce que la communauté est à la réciprocité, ce que l’ancienne formule: association est à la formule nouvelle : assurance.

La solidarité, élevée à sa plus haute puissance, c’est le Communisme.

La liberté, réduite à sa plus simple expression, c’est le Mutualisme.

Le Mutualisme, ce sont les préceptes évangéliques de la religion vérifiés par la science ;

C’est le gouvernement des hommes limité désormais à l’administration des choses;

C’est l’administration des choses exclusivement bornée à celles qui sont essentiellement collectives, c’est-à-dire in- divisible s;

C’est l’adoption d’une règle mathématique qui ramène à des questions d’équité et de réciprocité toutes les questions de justice et de jurisprudence.

Le Mutualisme, c’est le Socialisme ayant trouvé son véritable nom, comme le vrai nom du Communisme est Despotisme.

J’ai toujours repoussé le Communisme, sous quelque titre qu’il s’abritât, sous quelque forme qu’il se glissât.

Communisme des biens, appelé : Propriété collective.

Communisme des communes, appelé : Centralisation administrative.

Communisme des intelligences, appelé : Enseignement de l’Etat.

Communisme des croyances, appelé : Religion de l’Etat.

La solidarité, c’est la responsabilité indirecte et commune.

La liberté, c’est la responsabilité directe et individuelle.

J’ai toujours revendiqué la responsabilité directe et individuelle; j’ai toujours décliné la responsabilité indirecte et commune.

Cette responsabilité indirecte et commune, je la déclinais, le 18 mai 1850, en ces termes :

« Toutes les libertés d’une nation de trente-six millions d’habitants peuvent-elles, doivent-elles dépendre de l’initiative prise par trois ou quatre mille individus, les uns égarés par la passion, les autres dirigés par des influences occultes ? – Une telle solidarité, nous le déclarons, ne saurait être acceptée par aucun homme sensé, par aucun journal sérieux, et, pour notre part, nous déclinons cette solidarité de la manière la plus formelle. Cette solidarité injuste serait la condamnation suprême de la centralisation telle qu’elle existe en France.

» Unité et Liberté peuvent vivre ensemble, mais non Liberté et Centralisation.

» Plus est grande la sollicitude avec laquelle nous veillons sur le sort de la Liberté, et moins nous pouvons garder d’illusion sur les périls qu’elle court et que nous nous efforçons de conjurer. »

La fermeté de ce langage, tenu en 1850, me donne le droit de tenir le même langage en 1832, et de repousser non moins fermement, pour l’honneur de mon pays et pour la revendication de ma liberté, la solidarité, c’est-à-dire la responsabilité indirecte et commune résultant d’actes coupables que pouvait tenter de commettre une bande de pillards et d’égorgeurs.

Je suppose l’existence de cette bande, et, dès que je la suppose, je reconnais la nécessité d’une répression rapide et rigoureuse.

Arrêter le pillard et tuer l’égorgeur, ce n’est pas même la guerre civile, c’est la justice humaine. Mais est-il juste que le citoyen qui bait le meurtre et qui aime le travail porte la responsabilité d’actes qu’il n’a pas commis et qu’il eût énergiquement réprouvés ?

Je pose à MM. de La Guéronnière et Granier de Cassagnac cette question :

Par exemple : qu’ai-je fait, moi, pour avoir, en 1852, moins de liberté qu’avant et après le 24 février 1848? Ai-je déserté un seul jour la cause de la liberté réciproque et de la propriété légitime? Ai-je été complice d’aucune intolérance? Ai-je gardé le silence devant l’intimidation et courbé la tête sous la menace ? Ai-je tenté d’excuser aucun ostracisme? Suis-je resté sourd à la voix du banni qui réclamait, le 23 mai 1848, ses droits de citoyen français ? N’ai-je pas, jusqu’au dernier jour, jusqu’au 10 décembre 1848, combattu sans relâche pour qu’aucune atteinte ne fût portée à la liberté du vote protégée par la liberté de la presse ? M’a-t-on jamais trouvé dans l’ombre d’aucune conspiration ou derrière les pavés d’aucune barricade ? Ma correspondance interrogée a-t-elle jamais déposé contre moi ?

Et lorsque je me cite ainsi, c’est uniquement pour rendre la question plus précise et la situation plus caractéristique.

Garder intacte, respecter la liberté de tous ceux qui respectent la liberté des autres et punir ceux qui y attentent: voilà ce qui constitue la liberté que je défends et que j’oppose à la solidarité, que je combats et que je repousse.

Je compare la liberté au crédit.

On le retire individuellement à celui qui en abuse; mais on ne le retire point collectivement à celui qui n’en abuse pas.

Est-ce que la Banque de France et ses comptoirs refusent le papier de Pierre qui paye exactement à échéance parce que Paul a laissé protester un billet?

Qu’on fasse contre les pillards et les égorgeurs les lois les plus sévères; ce sera à eux à ne point s’y exposer; mais, le lendemain de leur condamnation, que le contribuable qui paye pour être libre reste non moins libre que la veille!

Qu’est-ce que l’ordre public ? — C’est ou ce doit être la liberté individuelle garantie par la force collective.

Amis et ennemis, je vous le demande indistinctement, ai-je jamais, en aucun temps et sous aucun régime, séparé l’ordre et la liberté ?

En mars 1848, j’ai revendiqué l’ordre au nom de la liberté; en septembre 1852, je revendique la liberté au nom de l’ordre.

MUTUALISM.

September 6, 1852.

Solidarity is to liberty what immobility is to movement, what darkness is to light, what community is to reciprocity, what the old formula, association, is to the new formula, assurance.

Solidarity, raised to its highest power, is Communism.

Liberty, reduced to its simplest expression, is Mutualism.

Mutualism is the evangelical precepts of religion verified by science;

It is the government of men henceforth limited to the administration of things;

It is the administration of things exclusively limited to those which are essentially collective, that is to say, indivisible;

It is the adoption of a mathematical rule that brings all questions of justice and jurisprudence back to issues of equity and reciprocity.

Mutualism is Socialism having found its true name, as the true name of Communism is Despotism.

I have always rejected Communism, under whatever title it took shelter, whatever form it slipped into.

Communism of goods, called: Collective property.

Communism of the communes, called: Administrative centralization.

Communism of intelligences, called: State education.

Communism of beliefs, called: State religion.

Solidarity is indirect and common responsibility.

Liberty is direct and individual responsibility. I have always demanded direct and individual responsibility; I have always rejected indirect and joint responsibility.

I rejected this indirect and common responsibility, on May 18, 1850, in these terms:

Can all the liberties of a nation of thirty-six million inhabitants depend on the initiative taken by three or four thousand individuals, some led astray by passion, others directed by occult influences? Such solidarity, we declare, cannot be accepted by any sensible man, by any serious newspaper, and, for our part, we reject this solidarity in the most straightforward manner. This unjust solidarity would be the supreme condemnation of centralization as it exists in France.

Unity and Liberty can live together, but not Liberty and Centralization.

The greater the solicitude with which we watch over the fate of Liberty, the less we can harbor any illusions about the risks it runs, which we strive to avert.

The firmness of this language, held in 1850, gives me the right to hold the same language in 1832, and to reject no less firmly, for the honor of my country and for the advocacy of my freedom, solidarity, which is to say the indirect and common responsibility resulting from guilty acts that a band of looters and murderers could attempt to commit.

I suppose the existence of this band, and, as soon as I suppose it, I recognize the necessity of a rapid and rigorous repression.

To arrest the looter and kill the cutthroat is not even civil war; it is human justice. But is it just that the citizen who hates murder and who loves work bears the responsibility for acts that he did not commit and that he would have strongly condemned?

I ask MM. of La Guéronnière and Granier de Cassagnac this question:

For example: what did I do to have less freedom in 1852 than before and after February 24, 1848? Have I deserted for a single day the cause of reciprocal liberty and legitimate property? Have I been complicit in any intolerance? Have I kept silent in the face of intimidation and bowed my head in threat? Did I try to excuse any ostracism? Did I remain deaf to the voice of the banished man who, on May 23, 1848, demanded his rights as a French citizen? Have I not, until the last day, until December 10, 1848, fought tirelessly to ensure that no attack was made on the freedom of the vote protected by the freedom of the press? Was I ever found in the shadow of any conspiracy or behind the cobblestones of any barricade? Has my investigated correspondence ever testified against me?

And when I quote myself thus, it is only to make the question more precise and the situation more characteristic.

To keep intact, to respect the liberty of all those who respect the liberty of others and to punish those who attack it: this is what constitutes the liberty that I defend and that I oppose to solidarity, which I combat and I reject.

I compare liberty to credit.

It is withdrawn individually from him who abuses it; but it is not taken away collectively from those who do not abuse it.

Does the Bank of France and its counters refuse the paper of Pierre who pays exactly at maturity because Paul left a note unpaid?

Let the most severe laws be made against looters and slaughterers; it will be up to them not to expose themselves to it; but, the day after their condemnation, may the taxpayer who pays to be free remain no less free than the day before!

What is public order? — It is, or must be, individual liberty guaranteed by collective force.

Friends and enemies, I ask you indiscriminately, have I ever, at any time and under any regime, separated order and liberty?

In March 1848, I demanded order in the name of liberty; in September 1852, I demand liberty in the name of order.

Originally published as: Emile de Girardin, “Point de solidarité,” La Presse 16 (6 septembre 1852): 1.

Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2637 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.

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