Jean Grave, “Free-Land” (1908)



(Which the little ones cannot read.)

Comrade Ferrer, of the “Modern School” of Barcelona, having asked me if I could not write a volume on the way that I envisioned the organization of labor in the future society, I accepted with pleasure, seeing that the subject interested me. And it is that essay that I present today.

I have chosen the form of a tale for two reasons: livened up with adventures, it will be an easier read for the young and, in this form, will preserve more of the vague, hypothetical character that every glimpse of the future society must maintain. For when we explain how we understand its organization, it is understood that we express projections that we deduce from our the comparison of aspirations and the critique of that which exists; but these forecasts are entirely personal to the one who makes them and their realization remains subordinate to the conditions of time, place, evolution and, above all, it remains to put them in harmony with all the other individual conceptions that emerge each day.

Our dreams of the future society are in no way precise or unchanging, and, what’s more, the realization of one does not exclude the realization of others — excepting, it is understood, those that preserve a place for authority or for individual appropriation.

In making a sketch of anarchist society, an anarchist cannot pretend to have foreseen, already, what will certainly be, and will only attempt to demonstrate that a society based on free agreement, rid of every trace of authority, can function perfectly, when the individuals that there are much greater advantages in aiding one another than in killing one another.

On the other hand, the great will say to me, for example, that by removing my Freelandians from their natural milieu, I separate the society of tomorrow too much from that of today, that, among other things, I have completely neglected the role of the workers’ groups in which many militants see the seeds of future association.

I could have remained in the old society and shown the new society emerging from the old; but that would have demanded much more time than I was prepared to take, and I don’t know if I would have been capable pulling it off.

If, on the other hand, in order to have less of a crowd to move about, I had focused the action on a limited space, I would not have spare my colonists any of the impediments that the old world hands down to the new. On the contrary, I would have increased their difficulties, through the fact that, on their island, they are forced to create for themselves those most urgent resources that, in the old world, the revolution will find already created.

As for the syndicates, my opinion in their regard is that they are means of struggle imposed on the workers in the present society, but which will disappear with it.

I do not see society divided by corporations. I do not believe in groups concerning themselves exclusively with production. In my opinion, it is the needs of consumption that will promote individual and make them form groups to obtain what they need, either by manufacturing themselves, or through an exchange of services rid of every sort of measure of value. Exchange of services and not of merchandise.

From the literary point of view, perhaps I will be reproached for not having expended a great deal of imagination, and having copied the mass of Crusoes, Swiss Families and others, with which children’s literature teems.

It is not my fault if, in literature, we have worn out nearly all the imaginable means of passing from the present society to the one we are asked to describe.

Shipwrecks, voyages to the center of the earth, among the planets, to the bottom of the see; more or less prolonged dreams or sleeps, etc. I believe all that has passed. And if I lack the imagination to find a new means, never mind, I will take one of those that exist. I don’t present myself as the inventor.

I would also ask that no one quibble too much about the position of Free-Land on the map. In the works of the imagination there is no need to ask for absolute exactitude. I am not too well informed on geography. And the voyage on which I want to take the reader is not a voyage of geographical, but of moral discoveries.

Doubtless, also, I could have complicated the mentality of my characters more. Perhaps they will be accused of being of a bit too primitive a simplicity. It is by rereading our work that we see all that it lacks. But where I think I have succeeded is that the interest of the book resides in the crowd, and not in one or more “personages.” I have no “heroes.” In any case, I offer the work as-is, hoping that, despite its shortcoming, it could amuse those who read it, and also make them reflect a bit.

Jean Grave

[/ezcol_2third] [ezcol_1third_end] [/ezcol_1third_end]

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