Tuesday, May 15, 2012

E. Armand, Individual Anarchist Initiation - § 10-13


10) The religious outcome.

Religious reformers have always achieved one of two results: either, under the pretext of reform, to plunge their followers into an abyss of resignation and atrophy even more profound than the chasm from which they pretend to pull them, or, if they show some sincerity, lead their partisans to surpass them, to become no longer modifiers of religious forms, but critics of the religious basis itself. Such was the case with the Reformation which led far from the aim that its originators assigned it: first to the free-thinker of the eighteenth century; to the diffusion of the contemporary critical spirit, to anarchism, finally, which we can consider as its culmination, standard and logic of the evolution of free-thought. We will return there.

What reforms, what transformations have the religious reformers proposed to us? Generally, to a religious idea of the past, abandoned or distorted by corrupt zealots or half-hearted proponents. What ideals have they presented? A divinity, single of divided, a pantheon of gods or demi-gods endowed or afflicted with all the attributes, with all the qualities, with all the faults, with all the follies with which mortals are adorned or marred. They all come down to this: some working gods, slaving away like men so that the men become gods. The great hobby horse of the religious reformers is to push humans to become like God or to or to annihilate themselves in him, if not in this world below, at least in the other, since—safety-valve and encouragement to resignation—will shine one day after death, when the elect creature will contemplate the creator “face à face,” when the soul will bask in eternal beatitude, when the spirit will return to the spirit. What does it matter the name of this place of delights, varied according to races or climates. Call it the Champs-Élysées, Valhalla or Nirvana, Paradise is always realized on the other side of the tomb.

We hear the objections: we are too exclusive, we ride roughshod over revelation, where the theological metaphysics soar, and of the great mystery which lies at the root of the religions, the struggle between good and evil, the beautiful and the ugly, the great and the base, the pure and the impure! The religions will speak the language of their times, that is understood—nous fait-on remarquer—but their last vision was the triumph of the fair and the good that they symbolized in some images striking the imagination. We do not deny the importance of the religions in the history of the development of men: it is a stage through which it must pass.

Do no forget that, in practice, the aim of the priests, is above all the triumph of dogma over free research, of the tyrant over the rebel, of obedience to the mystery over the revelation of the initiation. For the individualist, it is Prometheus who was in the right against Jupiter, Satan against Jehovah, Eblis against Allah, Ahriman against Ormuzd.

The grandeur of theology, if you look at it closely, vanishes into casuistry. If the religious nuances have never reached the degree of elevation that one claims, there remains only on conclusion to draw from it: the regret of knowing that some well endowed brains are given to such mental games. Finally, no one dreams of denying the selflessness, the sincerity, the pure enthusiasm of many religious reformers whose ideas can surpass the common conceptions. That have a right to our impartial estimation, and to nothing else.

11) The ideal of the religious reformers.

Let us summarize: the religious reformers have:

a) for human ideal: the believer. It is impossible for them to give an education other than one based on faith, that “undemonstrable” virtue; the believer, “the man who has faith”–whatever may be his education or aptitude–will never cross certain frontiers, will not dare to taste the fruits produced by “the tree of good and evil,”  will not experiment with all things; he is faint-hearted: he fears finding himself face to face with a fact which destroys his faith;

b) for moral ideal: God, a fictive entity, not demonstrable by science, allegedly extra-human and in reality created by humans, a product of their imagination;

c) for social ideal: the reign of God on the earth, or in other words, a society no longer inhabited by anyone but priests charged with explaining and interpreting the will of the divinity, and believers constrained to accomplish it. In short, a society  based on the “divine fact.”

12) Egalitarian reformers and transformers.

If those who propose a religious reform of Society lose ground every day, it is not the same for the legalistic reformers, those who only know how to think of Society as based on the code of regulations and ordinances designated abstractly as the Law. The legalistic reformers admitting that the present Society is not perfect, that it is far from being so, concede that it is perfectible, eminently, infinitely perfectible; they claim at the same time that the imperfections of Society arise from defects in the laws, insufficiently or unjustly applied, but they add that if these laws were modified, redrafted in a more general, more equitable sense, applied more humanely, that same Society, without becoming perfect, would transform itself into an abode more and more bearable and pleasant to inhabit.

13) The law and the “good citizen.”

No agglomeration of people, they say, can subsist without written law, regulating the rights and duties of the “good citizen:” each setting the infractions and determining their punishment. To the laws, or to the law, their ideal expression, the citizens owe obedience, as the believer must obey the divinity. They owe the same respectful deference to the commentators of the law as they faithful owe to the interpreters of the divine will. It is by their conformity of their outward acts to the law that we recognize the model citizens. The ideal of the legalists, the ideal type, is the “good citizen” who by obeying the law, out of love for it, sacrifices his independence, even his most legitimate personal aspirations, and his affections, if necessary,—sacrificing himself and, if need be, those who are most dear to him. Dura lex, sed lex.


E. Armand, Individual Anarchist Initiation - § 7-9


2. Reformers and transformers of the milieu social.

7) Universal sorrow

Those who, from the height of a blissful optimism, proclaim that Society is perfect are rare. As a result reformers, improvers and transformers of Society are legion. It is so far from the case that individuals are contents with their condition, that everyone complains about their lot in life, even those best provided for. Without seeking the degree of sincerity that these lamentations contain, the fact is patent and the sorrow is proclaimed as “universal.”

It is a commonplace to write that contemporary civilization has failed. That the previous civilizations did not succeed any better, no one will deny. They have all run aground on this: they have never been able to insure for the human beings that they gather under their aegis a sum of happiness sufficient that life–the individual life and the collective life–should be found good and pleasant to live. It is true that the civilizations which have followed one another have not always set themselves this goal, or that they have only proposed it in a very imperfect manner, and it is obvious that they have often excluded from participation in that happiness, such as they imagine it, a considerable share of sub-humans: outcasts of all categories, slaves, serfs and others. However, more or less completely, with more or less exceptions, the great civilizations which have shone on the planet had in view, in a general fashion, the happiness of the people for or among with they flourished.

I claim that they have failed, and failed miserably. I readily concede that the conductors who directed them in the most glorious, remarkable, and prosperous epochs of their history, have contributed all the effort of which they were capable. I nonetheless maintain that the “civilized” life, the “social” life, formerly and today, is a load, a burden, even a constant sorrow for the majority of the living—and this to such an extent that one wonders if life "in society" and woe are not synonymous terms. No doubt there are exceptions, but they are so few, and they are the prerogative of such a limited number of privileged persons, that they do little more than confirm the thesis of universal suffering.

8) Religious reformers and transformers.

It would be tedious to enumerate all the classes and sub-classes in the catalog of reformers and transformers of the social environment. A thick volume would not be sufficient and it is not the aim of our book. Three large divisions will suffice to cover them all. The most ancient are the religious reformers.

For sophisticated minds, their theories present no more than a retrospective interest. Their fantasies were valuable in the time–not always very remote–when individuals, even the most gifted, fearful in the face of poorly explained phenomena or of accidental incidents of existence, sought a recourse, a support, a response to their questions in an extra-human intervention. For it is an extra-human, extra-natural, intervention, will of the divinity or revelation of his will that the religious reformers always return to. The member of Society, or rather the creature, is a plaything in the hands of the creator; the great drama of the historical evolution of human groupings, the inequality of births or aptitudes, the control of the powerful and arrogant over the rest of humanity, all of that arises from the good will of the divinity – it is the tangible expression of its work. “Let the divine will be done!”—that is the last word of the most spiritual souls, the most frantically religious, even when that so-called will implies annihilation of the individual personality, passive acceptance of all that which suppress the growth and blossoming of the individual life.

9) Atonement, sin, sacrifice.

But there is another point of view that must be studied in order to consider the religious problem in its full extent and to understand well the “state of the religious soul.” The deeply, sincerely religious being is devoured by an unquenchable, insatiable need for atonement. Even when irreproachable from the moral and social point of view, it feels an almost irresistible desire to renounce its faculties of reflection in order to find a bitter, nagging joy in a keen feeling of regret and remorse for not finding itself in conformity to a certain ideal of value or moral level, whether it has drawn that ideal itself, or if it has been recommended to it by dogma or shown by the priest. The sincerely religious being places in an absolute of purity and sanctity that it calls God the sum of all the spiritual values that it is capable of conceiving or imagining. It always feels that it is powerless and miserable in relation to that spiritual absolute, with regard to which it is conscious of being morally responsible.

It establishes such a difference between the being preyed on by sensual passions that it is and the extra-natural phantom that is has created, that it constantly feels itself in a more or less heightened state of disobedience. What indeed is “sin,” if not having yielded to the pull of the passions, having preferred tangible enjoyments and the stimulations they bring, to the denials and annihilations of “the flesh,” or to the observation of certain rites and ceremonies? The fundamentally religious being is a tormented soul, who goes through life always asking itself how it will go about atoning for its shortcomings, redeeming its sin. It goes without saying that the sacrifice of a heifer or a goat, or even of a mournful turtle dove, symbolic as it is, will not satisfy the delicacy of conscience of an eminently spiritual being. Blood alone, life, redeems sin. To atone, the man in a religious state of mind will sacrifice himself, consecrate himself, renounce himself. He will give his life: of his flesh and his blood, he will mortify his flesh by imposing silence on the boiling of his blood, even to the point of inflicting bodily suffering on himself. He will consecrate himself to the service of the divinity, he will impose all sorts of privations on himself, he will abstain—despite the desire that devours him—from tasting the joys of existence, anxious until the hour of death with a poignant doubt, not knowing if he has accomplished enough, or in the right way, to calm the anger of God, of that jealous Absolute who demands of his faithful, his creatures, a complete submission and devotion.


Victor Serge, Sports


SPORTS

By "Le Retif"

From "Le Rèvoltè" # 18, September 1908



Sports are booming an obsession. The kiosks are inundated with sports journals" "L' Auto", "Le Velo", "Le Sportsman", "Paris Sport". Sports-Elevage". "Tous Les Sports" etc., etc. Each day a new journal is born - and the old ones don't die! Sports literature is almost becoming . . . a sport!

And not only literature. I defy you to take a walk in the street without encountering a young man in helmet, white tunic, the cyclist's uniform - or of a worker or gentleman caught up in reading a sports sheet.

Those who control our society - the rich and rulers - today encourage the obsession with sports, designed to continue the work of brutalization on young men already began in school. In France, the government subsidizes gymnastics clubs; matched only by the local school authorities.. I will not speak about the sports clubs founded in the barracks, the bathhouses and even the administrative bureaucracy.

The young man who today engages in bicycle racing or volley ball is discouraged from thinking or only thinks in certain, narrow ways. You will not see him reading any journal but his own sports journal. He only knows about sports celebrities, the boxers, the horse-racers, the cyclists, of fantastic racing courses and dizzying wins at the stadiums.

This is a result of his education. At ten years old, he is only spoken to about the victories of sports figures. Much later, he is enrolled in a "post-secondary gymnasium" and attends public sports festivals and parades. His good papa buys him a bicycle for a festival. He participates in the races, sponsored by cycling magazines and here is signed up for the white uniforms. For this type, the bourgeoisie can sleep peacefully; this young man will not study nor become a militant or rebel. He is brutalized even more. For one more hour the domination of the bourgeoisie holds sway..

The result is a brutalized generation; healthy for sure. With perfect biceps, square soldiers and excellently developed legs - but brutes no less!

That physical exercise is essential for the proper functioning of the human organism is indisputable. Life can not be conceived of without movement, without continual effort, without the constant transformation of energy. Under the guidance of sometimes undetectable great natural laws of equilibrium and harmony, this prolific activity, which is integral to the inorganic world, works as well in the universal essence of human beings.

Moreover, the work of production and of enlightenment which is notably the privileged activity of the human species is too a part of nature, constituting the most noble and strengthening of gymnastics.

Only when the natural is replaced by the artificial does work become less recreational and instead, a hell without hope or beauty that each must perform and be rid of.

The individual must forcefully demand special exercises for physical pleasure that the abnormal and monstrous work imposed by society is incapable of giving them.

Looked at this way, sports appear beneficial and salutary. Practiced with intelligence, without excess or madness, sports are a necessary reaction maintaining the equilibrium of exhausted bodies, pushed to the edge by unhealthy and degrading labor.

But it must be understand that if a man is gifted with strong muscles, a man must exercise his mind as well as his body to qualify fully for a dignity worthy of its name.

Mauricius, E. Armand as I Knew Him


E. ARMAND AS I KNEW HIM

By Mauricius

(From "E. Armand, Son Vie, Son Ouevre", La Ruche Ouvrier, 1964)

I encountered E. Armand for the first time one beautiful night in the spring of 1905 at the Causeries Populaires in the rue Muller in Montmartre, where I had come that night in a very banal way.

I lived then on the place du Theatre-Montmartre and on this street was a police station, in front of which I saw some men talking. I approached them. Suddenly, I saw coming from the police station an almost completely naked man who was wearing only a small bathing suit. He was a young man about twenty-five years old with a short beard. Accompanied by a police agent, he was led towards the rue d'Orsel, followed by a crowd which grew larger each minute because no one had seen such a spectacle. Conceptions of modesty have evolved since 1905 but at this time, women bathed on the beaches in a vest fastened up to their necks and in pantaloons which came down to their ankles. Thus, by the time the crowd arrived at the rue Muller, it had grown considerable. It is necessary to say in fact that this naked man was the comrade who had come to present a lecture on hygiene at the Causeries Populaires.

Behind a table that his comrades had quickly set up on the pavement, the naked comrade told us his story.

Coming down the boulevard Rochechouart, the street where he lived, wearing his simple attire, he had been immediately arrested by two agents who lead him to the police station. There, in front of the captain, he explained that he was a medical student, that heat created sweat and that sweat contained urine, among other poisonous products, and that if this sweat remained confined within clothing, it was reabsorbed by the skin and poisoned the organism. The police chief thought he was insane and brought the doctor to examine him. But after having listened to this comrade, the doctor declared that from a scientific point of view, the comrade's reasoning was perfectly correct and since his genitals were covered by the bathing suit, there was no reason to hold him in custody.

This was the first spectacular demonstration of the ideas on which Anna Mahé and Albert Libertad had founded "L'Anarchie" several months previously.

"Breaking with conventional wisdom, to be neither opportunists following the crowd nor idealists constructing beautiful Utopias, we want to live proudly and to the fullest extent, not caught up in the caprices of the mob or of neurotics, but in putting ourselves in accord with the best of present day science: the best hygiene, the best economics . . .This newspaper desires to be the point of contact between those people, across the world, who live as anarchists under the sole control of their personal experience and free examination"

Certainly the appearance of "L'Anarchie" profoundly transformed the idea of anarchist propaganda. Until then, this propaganda had been completely imbued with the ideas of Bakunin, Kropotkin and Jean Grave, etc; it sought the destruction of capitalist society by social revolution. Such propaganda attempted to stir up revolts against the political, religious and economic powers and could only conceive of a society "without God or Master" as a future hypothesis. In the remaining period, the anarchist could live as they choose: a rebel in their thoughts, he or she could be submissive in their acts, anarchists could be good workers, good law-abiding and respectable citizen; an anti-clerical, they could participate in building chapels; anti-militarists, they could participate in constructing barracks. All this was the fault of the social organization and he or she was not responsible.

Libertad said to us: "It is not in ten years that it is necessary to live as an anarchist, it is immediately. It is right now that the anarchist must put their acts in accord with their ideas."

This is why the speaker at the street meeting, in protesting against laws which forced him to be clothed a certain way, spoke on the subject of clothing and hygiene while barely clothed.

I was 19 at this time and lived in a very conformist milieu and this demonstration made a great impression on me. It impressed Armand very strongly no doubt since it was from that night on that he assiduously frequented the Causeries Populaires and began to write for "L'Anarchie".

E. Armand left the Salvation Army and was professing a Christian anarchism, which truthfully, infused his whole life.

At the great Congress of 1905, which brought together free-thinking groups from fourteen countries, from a hundred fifty Free Mason lodges, to sixty-six teachers associations, from the League of the Rights of Man to thousands of individual adherents, among them such well-known thinkers as Ernest Heachel, Marcelling Berthelot, Hectore Denis, etc. The anarchists took an active part in the debates on the burning questions of the day such as: "Morality Without God", "The New Encyclopedia", "Free Thought and Pacifism". Present were Domela Nieuwenhuis, Sébastien Faure, Paraf-Javal, Libertad, Cyvoc, and others. Among the attendees were Lorulet and myself. But E. Armand didn't participate in this congress, whose importance was considerable. He still professed at this time a pure Christianity from which he had retained especially the notion of personal responsibility in the work of collective liberation. "Salvation is within you." This was his credo all of his life.

And even when he separated from Tolstoy, reproaching Tolstoy for his disdain for physical love and women, for his renouncement of the intensity of life, Armand still remained faithful to the Tolstoyian thesis of passive resistance, of moral opposition to oppression, of refusing to participate in state bureaucracies, of refusing to fabricate objects useless to human development: (weapons, church ornaments, military uniforms, etc). abandonment of work in the bosses factories or workshops, of refusing to participate in building churches, barracks, prisons, of refusing to be a soldier, to be a juror, to pay taxes, etc.

In this position, E. Armand was in complete accord with the line of "L'Anarchie", laid out by Albert Libertad and Anna Mahé and perhaps he spoke too of resisting the force of society's embrace. He made such arguments reluctantly, because Armand's temperament and intellectual formation were opposed to overt confrontation. In all his subsequent writings Armand was a declared adversary of all violence.

***

I can no longer recall when I first heard Armand pronounce this formula: "I expose, I propose, I don't impose." It was a good formula. Armand made it his own and repeated it many times. He was so afraid of appearing dogmatic that the majority of his writings lacked firm conclusions. He uncovered ideas, he could analyze them in minute detail. But nearly always he ended with questions, without giving any solutions to the problems he studied. I know very well that he preached that each person must determine for themselves. But his own solutions and his contradictions left the reader with an impression of a very painful uncertainty.

In a long series of articles appearing in "L'Anarchie" in 1912 entitled: "Something Must Be Done - But What?", he treated numerous problems with a remarkable intelligence, a profound knowledge of his subject matter. But in no way did he resolve the questions posed by his title.

Among the responses which followed these articles, I mention one signed "A Reader" ( "L'Anarchie" # 355 and 356):

"According to your study, I see that anarchist education must not be this or not be that. But I haven't seen what it must be. This is what interests me.

When it is a question of acting positively, I neither understand nor accept a negative method. To create anarchists by education is a positive act that can't be accomplished completely by negations.

"A strange and remarkable thing: on most questions touching on anarchism directly, you are hesitant and drifting. By contrast, on the majority of things which are removed from you, you are absolutely conclusive . . When it is no longer a question concerning anarchism directly, you relax your tortured and long-winded expressions, which continue endlessly without firm conclusion. You even arrive at launching the most astonishing and contradictory affirmations.

"For example: you state that science is a phantom like God and replaces God, that science is an hypothesis having the same disadvantages as the deist hypothesis. Yet all of the books you recommend or that you sell have an anti-clerical and anti-spiritual thrust, making our education one-sided."

Obviously, Armand was not a sectarian and it is to his honor that he saw himself as an educator, a pioneer, a propagandist. But you can't make propaganda by a series of questions.

***

I said at the beginning of this study how the appearance of "L'Anarchie" and Libertad's formula: "This newspaper desires to be the point of contact between all those around the world living as anarchists, under the sole control of experience and free examination" had an influence on Armand's orientation.

Until that point his anarchism was strongly influenced by Tolstoy but also tending toward the anarchism expoused by Anglo-Saxon anarchists like Emerson, Carlyle, Walt Whitman and especially Crosby and Benjamin Tucker. A curious thing, he declared in April 1907, he was then 36 years old and had never read Nietsche or Stirner, of whom much later he was to become a fervent disciple.

But his thirst for investigation and his knowledge of languages - he could read a book in English, German, Italian, Spanish or Dutch - put him in contact with all of the printed matter of the libertarian world.

Once he had in his hands a circular signed by well-known anarcho-communists inviting "groups, individual comrades, unions, etc" to an International Libertarian Communist Worker's Congress in Amsterdam in the spring of 1907.

E. Armand spoke up immediately against what he perceived as the focus of the conference. " One can't grasp anarchy in formulas, constitute and vote on principles. Anarchist education must not set out to form communists but to create individuals free of all constraint., not communist dogmas." And he expressed his intention to go to Amsterdam "only to discuss with comrades from other countries and put forth certain ideas which are dear to me."

I agreed with his suggestion and adapted as my own Armand's title for our intervention" Anarchism as Life and Individual Activity."

But Armand was very self-centered and didn't like to collaborate. We each wrote our own report. "L'Anarchie" printed the two in the same brochure. Both had the same general line but, to re-read them today, I can state that Armand's was by far the better (mine contained certain youthful errors). Armand had written a more precise and valuable text on the anarchist attitude in the face of bourgeoisie society.

It should be reproduced in its entirety. Here are some excerpts:

"To ask that all anarchists have the same views on anarchism is to ask the impossible"

"Nevertheless, it seems that a general thread links anarchists, it is the prediction of the possibility of a state of affairs where AUTHORITY- the intellectual and moral domination of man over man - and

EXPLOITATION, the economic form of authority, will be unknown. He is an anarchist who denies authority and exploitation of man over man "

"From this it follows that anarchism is not uniquely a philosophical doctrine: it is a LIFE."

"The tendency of all healthy and living organisms is to reproduce , , , Therefore an anarchist seeks to find and perpetrate himself in other individuals who share his conceptions and who can make possible, on a vaster scale, a state of things where authority and exploitation will be banished"

"It is this desire, this will, not only to LIVE -this would be a pure individualism which we consider an

aberration - but also to reproduce that we call propaganda and we label our activity."

It is because Armand remained all his life true to this "master thought" despite his variations, his contradictions, and let's say the word, his vacillations that he remains a distinctive figure in anarchism.

Armand was arrested a little before the Congress and likewise, taking my school examinations, I couldn't come up with the necessary funds for such a trip. Our reports were not discussed in Amsterdam. The Congress Secretary, Fuss-Amoré pretended that they had gone astray. Nevertheless, these ideas are an important moment in the evolution of anarchist ideas.

***

Producing and distributing counterfeit money, such was the motive behind Armand's arrest. It was the Laxenaire affair, which earned our comrade 5 years in seclusion. We must pause here and tell the truth.

Armand was a theoretician of illegalism. Sometimes he made it in a poetic mood such as when he exalted the vagabond, the wanderer who strayed from his routes, evading the prison of workshop and factory. But Jean Richepin had done it before him in CHANSON DES GUEUX, describing the vagabond encountering the peasant struggling on his field and mocking the peasant's beast-like devotion to his work:

"Go, go to the riff-raff
Toil hard, strong and long
To watch you please me
It's for us that all this works
Go, go turn the grindstone
Me, I hibernate and make my stake there
And it could be I'll scoff the flame there
Lighting my mouth on fire"

But this was literature to shock the bourgeoisie and doesn't stand up to examination.

Perhaps the peasant is greedy, ignorant and narrow-minded; perhaps the peasant is religious and reactionary, but it is he who harvests the wheat. If there were only vagabonds who looked at peasants working and who used up all the peasants' surplus granaries in a night of carousing, I ask how Jean Richepin and E. Armand would eat bread.

Armand, moreover, recognized this in "L'Anarchie" # 375: "Truthfully, the illegal is always more of an abstraction than a reality to me. The Outsider, the irregular, that I exalt and defend, this marginal lives in my imagination" Indeed.

In any case, Armand didn't just produce poetry on vagabondage, he also presented the "economic refractory" as a product of the dissolution of capitalist society. Illegalism was a means for the anarchist to free himself from mercenary work and to live independently of economic slavery.

Armand had said beautifully and repeated many times that a person is only responsible for their own acts. This isn't true. The propagandist is responsible to those whom they addresses by their propaganda.

Obviously, an anarchist has no respect for property and refuses to be an exploiter or exploited; he is called to live on the margin of laws. The history of anarchy has produced many illustrious examples. Ravochol, Pini, Clement Duval, Ortiz, Emile Henry, Alexander Jacob, all were robbers or rather expropriators because they worked for the Idea, for propaganda. But one knows how they ended up. At that time, stealing, counterfeiting, swindling and even pimping were justified in certain anarchist milieus as a means of liberating oneself economically. Such a theory was a puerile and dangerous utopia. As I have written in CONFESSIONS: "Illegalism did not free the individual. It led to trials"

But Armand held to his theories. He only changed in 1912 when he wrote: "The end of Garnier and Vallet causes me to reflect.." It was a little late.

A little while previously, he had written in a famous article which I mentioned before in which he had denied the value of Science: " I know well that Science has taken God and hurled him over the precipice so that he doesn't exist any longer. The defeated has given up his place to his triumphant rival. Thus, it is one phantom who has taken the place of another phantom." Armand only acknowledged the value of practical science, "a science which teaches anti-conceptional means, and a concern with the crowbar and blow torch"

But Armand didn't have the physical courage nor the audacity to handle a crowbar. Counterfeiting, that was another thing. It was an easy temptation.

I don't know if Armand made counterfeit money. It is fair to say about him that Armand never sought a material gain in making propaganda; he always lived very poorly. As did all of us. I lived in he vicinity of "L'Anarchie" in a flat without electricity and which didn't have a sink where I could wash my hands. And when I produced the journal, printed it, edited it and had meetings every night, I worked seventeen hours per day. In concrete tasks I was helped only by Guerin, the manager and his mistress. Each morning I gave a cook four francs with which to nourish myself all day. Life was cheerful in 1914 but all the same, those were lean days! Nevertheless, we didn't feel poor. We worked for our ideas, with enthusiasm and the joy of the battle.

When I needed a pair of shoes, an overcoat or a robe, I would take a quick nap and then do some outside paid work. But it was exhausting.

On one occasion, a comrade proposed a crazy theft of some pieces of chocolate.

I always resisted the temptation - and for good reason. At one painful moment when we didn't know how we were going to pay our printer, a certain Pierre Jacob (no connection with Alexander Jacob, the heroic author of "Why I Have Stolen") proposed to draw us into an affair which he had previously laid out in an article in 1911, where he stated " I will practice illegalism, hurling my spear at all who get in my way, even the poor, what only interests me are my own concerns." It is with such writings that prisons are filled. I refused. Then he sent his woman to me. She was a beautiful girl, the flesh is weak, she flirted with me.Then after her amorous displays, she presented me with a shiny louis of 20 francs. "I have more if you want them." I refused.

Several months later Pierre-Napoleon Jacob and his woman, Antoinette Lepoix, appeared before the court charged for producing and distributing counterfeit money. In their defense, they declared that they were working in the service of the police and they were receiving 150 francs per month as compensation. They stated they had only made counterfeit money to be better seen in anarchist circles.

M. Court, the head of the "anarchist brigade" acknowledged that Jacob was an informer but declared that he was unaware of Jacob's counterfeiting.

The two were sentenced to a light prison term; between themselves, the wolves didn't eat. But I escaped beautifully.

I cannot say if the Laxenaire affair was similar to this case and I don't know in what way Armand had himself escaped temptation or if he was only the victim of his libido because the author of "What is an Anarchist?" had sexual complexes, of which I will speak much later.

In any case, he could not ignore the activities of Laxenaire and one can't understand how he could remain overnight in Laxenaire's home if not for the hope of profiting carnally from a woman distraught over the abnormal absence of her husband.

When the police arrived at Laxenaire's house to search the premises, they found Armand distraught and exhausted.

Armand was a pure intellectual, When he exited the domain of ideas, where he excelled, he was hesitant, indecisive and evasive in life. This is what lost him.

I helped him prepare for the trial. There was no material proof against him, the only overwhelming evidence against him was Laxenaire's testimony and also, it must be said, Armand's own writings on illegalism.

It was necessary to hold one's head high, to assert oneself. But if Armand handled a pen with ease, he was a poor speaker and his voice undistinguished and thin. He had no sense of struggle, he lacked pluck. He attempted to explain his presence at Laxenaire's house at 6 in the morning insinuating - without at the same time affirming it clearly - that he was the woman's lover. The police, naturally, recounted everything that Laxenaire had told them. Laxenaire, jealous and wanting revenge, declared that it was Armand who had procured the counterfeit money but Laxenaire provided no proof of it. From then on the trial became a psychological proceeding and depended on Armand's attitude, especially when Laxenaire's wife testified. Either she loved her husband or for other reasons she protested vehemently against the insinuations of Armand, whom she treated as a liar.

I seethed in my seat. I felt it was necessary for Armand to respond to the judge's question; "Armand, what do you have to say?"

He was obligated to stand up and master of himself, with a bittersweet smile on his face, declared:

"Monsieur", In speaking thus, truly Armand appeared suave. But he remained on his bench, head lowered overwhelmed like a guilty man, like a liar caught in the act and stammering in a voice painful voice. He was lost.

This repugnance in Armand to physically face an adversary in face of combat perhaps had a congenital origin. But one could not stop thinking that the academic teachings which had filled him in his youth greatly aggravated this tendency.

***

I knew Armand for more than fifty years and we never had a serious conflict. Our relations were always cordial until his death. But we didn't have frequent contact. Our personalities were very different.

I had an exclusively scientific upbringing. My parents wanted me to enter the Ecole Central and until I was nineteen years old, I was devoted to mathematics. Even when I quit this path to enter Medical School and later on pursued my studies in biology, I retained from this base in mathematics a taste for exact sciences: order, method, the need to treat all problems as theories which used precise facts to arrive at an undebatable conclusion.

In his ideas, Armand erred on the side of his imagination. He declared he felt himself independent of all rules, of all formulas, of all doctrines; he even denied the value of science, which he considered as a simple hypothesis.

Our friend had another related contradiction. He was a juggler of ideas, a dilettante, he was careless about what he had written formerly and what he would write tomorrow. For a precise and scientific mind such as myself, it was a little disconcerting. It was necessary to recognize that with his analytical abilities, his vast erudition, which allowed him to comment on nearly all subjects, Armand's articles, even when they were contradictory, each contained threads of reflection and meditation. They caused you to think and it is in this sense that they are nearly always interesting.

But what especially differentiated myself from Armand were our temperaments. I am a man who acts with passion. I have a passion for science, a passion for propaganda, a passion for love. I only commit to one thing at a time. But I commit myself completely to anything I undertake, Armand was a cerebral, a dialectician. I never knew himself as someone who went out of himself, who could show spite in front of dangers, sometimes illogically.

I will recall now the Liabeuf affair,

Liabeuf was a cobbler who had an unhappy childhood and a criminal record. Now settled, he had drawn from the pavements a young streetwalker, led astray in her youth as he had been. But the girl had a pimp who was at the same time a police informer. The alerted his companions of the morals police and one day, Liabeuf was arrested and charged with "special vagabondage" and condemned to three months in prison and five years ban.

At the end of his prison term, Liabeuf had only one idea: revenge.

Working day and night in his trade as a cobbler to save enough money to purchase a revolver, he fashioned a strange-looking breastplate made out of leather and spiked with iron points. Thus armed, he hunted the two police who had arrested him. He encountered them on the rue Aubry-le-Boucher but they were not alone. There was a terrible fight between the rebel and the police. The morals agent Duray was killed and Liabeuf received a saber blow to the chest.

This affair aroused a considerable emotion throughout the country; the newspapers headlines screamed with details of the affair. Gustave Hervé wrote a courageous article in LA GUERRE SOCIALE (The Social War) in which he stigmatized the ignominy of the morals police, accusing the judges of lacking a conscience and viciously condemning an innocent man on the basis of the testimony of an "jackass". Hervé incited all the victims of a rotten judicial system and all the workers beaten by the Cossacks of the Paris police force to imitate the energy and courage of Liabeuf.

Hauled into court, Hervé received four years imprisonment, after having told the judges: "I am proud to have saved Liabeuf from the gallows! Because I now challenge anyone to condemn this honest worker to death and execute him; an honest worker whom the morals police forced into murdering."

Nevertheless, Laibeuf was condemned to death. But Gustave Hervé's courageous stance was joined unanimously by the anarchists in an ardent press campaign and rounds of protest meetings. This campaign created a movement of passionate support in all the press, regardless of political distinction, demanding a pardon for Liabeuf, a pardon which appeared to everyone beyond debate.

A little while later, I organized a meeting where E. Armand was to lecture on the topic of THE SECOND LANGUAGE and especially speak out against Esperanto. The question interested many different groups and the street where the meeting was to held was teeming with people. I had just finished introducing Armand when the comrade Dolié entered the room. He handed me a letter from Almereyda ( ) saying in substance - because I cannot remember the exact wording after all these years - "Liabeuf will be executed tonight. We must march to the jail and free him. I count on you and all your friends to meet us on boulevard Arago."

I was gripped by an intense emotion. I jumped on the podium and in a voice shaking with all my disgust with this legal infamy, against the crime that Society was committing, I read the letter out to the audience and exhorted everyone gathered to follow me out in our fight against this injustice.

Armand was at my side. I looked at him: he was as calm as cucumber. He held his notes in his hand, showed them to me and said in a desolate voice: "And my meeting?" He did not understand that the audience was streaming out of the meeting, excited and rebellious.

This is not to say that Armand was completely devoid of feeling; he loved art, nature and poetry. In personal letters that he gave to me to read, Armand demonstrated a certain sentimentality, but the brain always intervened. Armand reasoned with his own feelings and wished that these feelings would always be in accord with his logic.

He was not athletic, he had no physical courage, he detested the promiscuity of crowds, he detested violence. He couldn’t understand heroic gestures, considering reckless bravery as "tilting at windmills".

Nevertheless, Armand made certain gestures which could appear courageous. For example, when Le Retif and Rirette Maitrejean were arrested in 1912, he took over "L'Anarchie" at the height of the Bonnot affair. During World War I, he published an anti war journal, "La Mêlée". But it is possible Armand did not take account of the dangers he ran into; he always had an astonishing streak of naivete, a naivete which condemned him in the Laxenaire affair (and much later in the Bouchard affair, where he was caught with deserter's letters that he hadn't taken precautions to hide.)

Armand was not a man of the present; he was outside of time. Above all he loved philosophical speculation and the discussion of ideas. It is must be recognized that these ideas were original but at the same time it was of little importance to him if they were viable.

Armand read enormously and drew many of his ideas from his readings But these ideas always passed thorough the prism of his thought; they were imprinted with his distinct personality. This is why he almost never cited other authors, even Stirner, that nevertheless furnished the bedrock of his individualism. "Decartes wrote - 'I think therefore I am, but I am not only because I think but because I AM, I AM the one who is." (L'UNIQUE ET SA PROPRIETE.) And many of Armand's theses, for example, the association of egoists, are of Stirnerian origin. Nietzsche, whom Armand Armand read in 1907 filled a gap in Armand's theories.. I don't think Armand liked the lyricism of the author of "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" nor his hierarchy, his asceticism, and his contempt for women but nevertheless, there were common points. "The Gods are dead and now it is necessary that the Superman live." I think that the term "Superman" annoyed Armand but when he spoke of the New Man, of a new psychological type (determined by the individual's negation of the necessity of authority), wasn't this the same thing? Nietschze's Superman and Armand's Future Man equally turned over the tables on the received values.

" I don't have the desire to be a leader of hesitating men," wrote Armand, "I don't live my life as an example for the multitudes. I value my friends so that they can live their life by themselves and without me. . .The true libertarian education doesn't consist of leading another to think as you do but to make another capable of thinking and living for THEMSELVES"

Is this not the sharp address of Zarathustra: " Ye will only be dignified to be my disciples by disowning me."? Armand didn't go that far, but it was all the same an integral part of his teachings.

***

Armand wrote an article in which he said the writer must be amorous; it is only when he or she is amorous that the writer expresses fantasy and imagination; if the writer is not amorous, they are drab and infertile.

The terms Armand used are very genteel but the idea is precise. In my book, OUTRAGE TO MORALS, I have demonstrated overabundently how intellectual genius is intimately linked with sexual expression. All the great artists, eminent thinkers, powerful writers have been sensualists and all the great epochs of history have been erotic epochs.

Obviously, I don't know Armand's sexual behavior but I do not think he was a sensualist, a lusty male in the example of Victor Hugo or a Rodin. He lacked erotic force in his writing as he did in his conduct. His eroticism is similar to his work, purely cerebral. His merit - and it is great - is having written on sexuality without concerning himself with what others thought or said.

In the first article that he wrote for "L'Anarchie" (November 1905), he said: "I don't consider as evil the sexual explorations children of 10,11, 12 years" and in his circular, MES AMIS, he spoke of the pleasure of witnessing other's love-making before his eyes. Moreover, he spoke with kindness about homosexuality.

When he was accused of sexual perversion, he replied he couldn't care less, that he was "outside", that was his motto and reason for living. Nevertheless, even if he wrote beautifully, " I am indifferent to the social question", he is obligated to take account of it. It is only by pure illusion that he could think to abstain from it. But this illusion, which he cultivated and valued is not that of an ambitious person. He sought satisfaction within himself and thus arrived like Buddha in the Transfiguration, placing himself, at least in spirit, outside and above all contingencies.

***

Despite the critique I have made in all objectivity and sincerity of Armand's work, this work remains a moment in the history of anarchy. Its originality, its diversity, the multiple ideas that it contained, will always be wellsprings where people who think and seek can quench their thirst.

And the personality of Armand remained vitally linked by his intellectual integrity, by the consistency of his activity and despite the many diverse roads that he traveled, by his fidelity to the beautiful formula that Libertad printed in the first issue of "L'Anarchie", which I will cite one last time: "This journal desires to be the point of contact between all those, across the world, who live as anarchists under the sole control of experiences and free examination."


Andre Lorulot, Individualism And The Social Question

Individualism And The Social Question

By Andre Lorulot

(From the "L'Anarchie" pamphlet, "L' Individualisme; Doctrine de révolte et de solidarité". No date, probably circa 1912)



Are individualists revolutionaries or can they be disinterested in the Social Problem? Do they enter into struggle with the milieu, go forth attempting to modify institutions and turning principles upside down? Or do they seek to adapt as best as possible to conditions of capitalist life?

We have said that the individualist is the individual who wants to live at any price, who wants to realize their happiness and not be bruised, a person who wants to be neither stifled by absurd customs nor barbaric constraints. In this situation, and in order to reach our goal, do we have an interest in rebelling - or would it be much wiser, as certain people whisper to us, to quiet down and resign ourselves to the given reality?

Does the individualist lick the boots of power only in order to reap some scraps? Will they fill practice deceit and arrivisme their entire live in order to dominate and exploit their fellow human beings? Do they abandon all propaganda, all struggle, all activity and become peaceful and respectable, satisfied with some comfortable pay-offs, contented gnawing at a bone? Could they sink even further and justify the most vile actions by becoming a cop or a pimp?

In brief, can individualist theories provide a cover for such despicable and dubious acts? Certainly, some people pretend individualist theories provide such a cover. It is useful to describe here, in greater depth and with more precision, our conceptions of individualism.

***

When we rebel and affirm our thirst to live, it is certain that we do so not only to resolve the "question of the stomach". Without denying the significance of this issue, which in capitalist society pursues and haunts those who own nothing, we can be say that this desire is not essential for us and doesn't hold the primary place in our aspirations.

Certainly, to eat to satisfy our hunger, to drink to quench our thirst, to rationally satisfy all our needs is an ideal by standards of the innumerable miseries presently imposed on us by an absurd arrangement which grinds at us every day.

But all anarchism is not like that. Our conceptions are not restricted to economic questions. And we have criticized, moreover, the socialists who only consider men and women by their stomachs!

Anarchists feel other aspirations. We experience not only material needs, but also moral needs, pressing on each individual who thinks. And our love of liberty cannot be quenched in face of the satisfactions provided by nutrition. . .

If hunger is an atrocious suffering, is not slavery another? Not to think freely, not to say what one believes, to lead an existence of continual hypocrisy and cowardly shiftiness, consenting to all villainies, to all renunciations for a crust of bread - could such a state of existence satisfy an anarchist?

Hardly Individualist want to flower completely, they pursue the blossoming of all the qualities and all the values they hold dear. I want to be myself and to enjoy life in every way. I do not want to be alienated mentally or emotionally in order to placidly swallow the meager scraps stingily dispensed by the exploiters!

The individualist is like a wolf who prefers the dangers of liberty to the routine of domestication. Individualists compare themselves to the bird who would prefer to suffer and struggle on its branch than to die a slow death in the servitude of a gilded cage.

To live completely - yes!; to fill up the stomach - yes! But to free the "heart" and develop the "mind" as well.

***

There is my point of view, the individualist conception of life. It does not let itself be restricted but to the contrary pursues the full development of the human personality. That is my only interest.

For the majority of comrades, it is evident that rebellion could be detrimental to their immediate interests. Many of us are excluded by our views from advantageous situations

and reap only the scorn of their families and surrounding circles. Comrades sometimes end up poverty-stricken by the constraints of performing jobs unfamiliar to them; they are hunted and pursued. Defiant in every respect , they suffer at length . . .but remain content. To be a little more free, to hold one's head up high from time to time, to spit out contempt to those who merit it - for the rebellious, these pleasures compensate for the spite the crowd of good citizens inflict upon them . . . Some, left to struggle, become discouraged and return to the niche. Of course, people are weak and the efforts that must be put forth to oppose their will to that of a formidable milieu designed to crush them are incredible . . .

0nly true individualists will not knowingly put up with servitude. For them, servitude is a temporary stop gap, an imposed obligation But what can be said is that our ideal manages to extricate us at any price since, to the contrary, we have always voluntarily sacrificed something by engaging in this battle for an anarchism that we so intensely love.

The foreman on the job, arrogant towards the proles and deferential in front of the boss, this brutalized guard-dog would not know how to be an individualist. No more so than the bureaucrat on high who takes seriously his grimaces, his bowing and scraping, his violence. And the cop and pimp, all those who are violent, who foam at the mouth, who defer, they all repulse me!

Forced by constraint to become a worker, a wage-earner, I will produce champing at the bit, trying to cheat the boss as much as possible, fighting him, evading his exploitation. But nothing obliges me to become a boss, to become one who flays or who deprives. Nothing is more foreign to individualism than tyranny and usurpation. Can we not see that camaraderie and friendship are necessary? Or see that the millionaire, adulated by millions but alone as well, doesn't have one genuine friend; that the leader, the boss, the master are wary and fearful of everyone. The only joys that they can experience are the pathological instincts of domination and ambition. What is there in common between these gestures of neurotic potentates and our fine and logical individualist theory?

Individualists are anarchists. We rise up against everything that blocks life. We want to be free and thus we become enemies of a society that obstructs our most basic rights.

Capitalism crushes us directly. We must witness hunger before the squandering and the debaucheries of the gold-holders. The individualist cannot taste the innumerable riches built by the collectivity, the individualist owns nothing.

Deprived in the name of property, poverty inevitably makes the individualist a slave, a serf. If they want to eat, it is necessary to work . . .for another: he who owns. And this exacts a heavy cost.

Individualists therefore combat the property that limits their lives, they fight the thievery which subjugates them. Individualists become anti-capitalist, they struggle against an authority in all its forms that has its goal to maintain the inequality from which they suffer. An authority which leads individualists into battle against the army, religion, magistrates and parliaments. This is why we make propaganda by "interests" and not by "oughts". It is in our interests to bring the most number of individuals around to think as we do, to rid themselves of external prejudices. The more numerous the rebellious, the stronger their reactions and the less likely that they will be suppressed.

***

Thus individualism is not the theory as presented to the easily conned.

Our detractors say that individualism is the most ferocious egoism, the continual struggle of all against all. We have shown that only individualists are capable of understanding solidarity and of instituting genuine brotherhood; a brotherhood based not on words, sentiments or false illusions but on INTERESTS; interests at the same time particular to each and common to all.

Some add still that individualism is a theory of adaptation, of resignation, when it is the only doctrine of revolt.

Yes, we have rebelled because we are "egotists", because we want to live the free and good life and because present-day society torments and disgusts us.

And if it not this individualist instinct which drives our rebellion, on what do we base ourselves? Do we base ourselves on more or less idealist speculations or humanitarian considerations? On my part, I am an anarchist because I suffer from authority. I want neither to be ruler nor ruled. I am an anarchist because society treads on me, while I want to live freely.

It seems to me that individualism is the most solid point of departure since it leads to rational solidarity and conscious revolt.

As anarchists, we know that the fight to change society is the fight to transform people. We know that is the slave who makes the tyrants and it is necessary to change minds for a freer life to arise . . .

To make the revolution around the self, it is first necessary to be capable of making it within oneself. Anarchists try to improve themselves, to educate themselves, to harness their passions, to free themselves from routines and flaws, to reject violence and brutality, biases, pride. Anarchists must have the utmost value for reason, free examination and discussion.

And they uproot everything that they can. They don't wait for a distant and paradise-like future society before they affirm themselves. Each time anarchists want to infringe upon the code and step over the bounds of legality, it is out of satisfactions at the results obtained for themselves and their friends and there are no misgivings or guilt which prevents them from doing so.

Certainly the job is difficult and thankless But aren't there truly men and women who in their everyday actions are differentiated from the brutalized who surround them? Aren't there comrades who escape life in the barracks, who desert the workplaces, who reject servitude?

Individual action - on himself / herself and on the milieu. Education and revolt, such are the factors of transformation and social regeneration that individualists propose and practice. What work could be better than work consisting of making individualists, that is conscious and free men and women?

And in the face of the political party spirit, in face of the incoherence of various tactics and the feebleness of the results obtained by such tactics, we are conscious that our method is good and our work profitable.