Saturday, July 21, 2012

Han Ryner, "The Paradox" (1913)


By Han Ryner

I know a country in which the inhabitants are always clothed. Beside the woman in labor, the priest and magistrate wait and, as soon as the child appears, seizing it, they enclose it entirely, hands and face included, in an elastic material which conforms to the contours of the body and which grows with it. Perhaps, despite its elasticity, the cloth resists, opposing itself to the growth, for the people of that country remain singularly small.
The strange garment has holes corresponding to the eyes, nostrils, AND mouth. But it folds a bit, with adhesive on the edge of the natural openings, and nowhere can one see the skin, that indecency. It even adheres to the eyelids. The eyelashes, drawn together by this trick, just as close together as the toes of birds that swim, give the eyes an indescribable expression of stupidity and meanness.
During the growth of the child, or even later, due to wear or some accident, sometimes the clothing will crack. The victim of such misfortune is often able to conceal and remedy it in secret. Otherwise, they receive fifty lashes, and then they kneel and, among ceremonies and prayers, the priests and the magistrates paste over the tear two superimposed strips of modest stuff
I passed through this country at a time when hostile men had robbed me of my coat. I walked innocent and nude among these religious people.
Women and young people soon gathered around me. The large herd followed me, praising the color of my clothes and their supple fineness. But, after a little while, some priests rushed up who accused that crowd with cries accompanied by cursing gestures. Then some armed men dispersed them with batons.
And, seizing me, they led me before the chief magistrate. There, a prosecutor stood up, saying:
“This man is guilty of not wearing the garment that the city has ordered and of introducing an extravagant costume. He is guilty of corrupting, by this means, women and young people. Sentence: death.
“What do you have to say in your defense?” asked the judge.
I responded naively:
“I am a stranger, and I do not know your laws. Yet I am certain that I do not wear the garments that they condemn, since I am naked as the baby who comes from his mother’s womb.
Now, these men affirmed that they like the urbanity, the subtleties of mind and the ingenious surprises of the speech. Then they looked at one another with smiling lips and eyes. And the judge proclaimed:
“Here is a foreigner with an intelligence to amiably paradoxical for me to have the courage to condemn it.
The advocate approved. And the prosecutor declared:
“I admire more than anyone the grace and spice that are put into peach. That is why I withdraw my accusation against this man. There is, moreover, a profound sense and a useful lesson in his witticism. The knowledge of the laws forms around the citizens a garment which warms them and an armor which protects them. So that this man, ignorant of our laws, the natural and reasonable laws, is, in fact, naked and poor as a newborn.
They greatly applauded this little man, whose eyes shone, beneath bunched eyelashes, like water stirred by the legs of a duck. I sensed that the desire for this applause had contributed to my salvation and I exchanged with my unexpected defender some extended congratulations.
The judge asked me if my plan was to settle down in the country or only to traverse it. I wanted to know, before responding, what treatment I would meet with in either case. They praised my prudence and explained to me that, if I should remain in the land, they would first strip off my unnatural garment, after which they would dress me like everyone else. But if I only wished to cross, they would suppose that the paradoxical clothing with which I was covered were legal and noble in my own city, and would be content, for the duration of my passage, to cover the local impiety of it under a long tunic, like those with which we defend ourselves, in winter, against the cold.
All the assistants gathered around me, extolling the virtues of their country, the sweetest of homelands, and made efforts to keep me there which were certainly flattering to me. Nonetheless, I preferred to protect, by a prompt departure, the integrity of what they called my paradoxical garment.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur; from The Smart Set, March 1913.]

Friday, July 20, 2012

Han Ryner, "The Secret of Don Juan" (1915)

[I'm working my way through the translation of six shorts stories by Han Ryner, published in French in The Smart Set between July 1913 and January 1920. These initial translation are definitely rough, "working" versions, as I get better acquainted with the peculiarities of Ryner's style. But I think even the rough renditions give a good indication of what is interesting about the works. For those unfamiliar with the Don Juan story, or who need a refresher, this will probably help.]


By Han Ryner

All of the accounts of the interview of Don Juan and the Commander are inaccurate, and the puerile words reported by various authors were not uttered. The genuine dialogue expressed deep, singular things, and it is perhaps my duty to make them known.
It is true that the statue invited the living man to dine, and that the living man accepted. And the man of stone admired the valor of the man of flesh. But he said, with a smile more sad than haughty:
“I have no need of courage. I am the one for whom danger does not exist.
The Commander asked, mocking:
“Do you believe yourself immortal?”
“No, replied the seducer. And yet I cannot die, I who am not living.
The statue, astonished, took a step back. And it exclaimed:
“You know that! Already!
“I realized it yesterday while walking in the forest.”
But the statue shook its heavy head gravely.
“What have you understood?” it said. “The words are vagaries and vanities. Each is rich with a thousand meanings, but the majority of these meanings are so shabby!... Perhaps you know nothing and have said nothing.
“I know myself and I have spoken myself. Now, Don Juan explained:
“Every living being is eternal. Oh, the noble and infinite poem of which each existence speaks a phrase. One phrase, do you hear? A single verb and a single music, the flower of a new sentiment marvelously blossoming on the stem of a new thought. Myself, this time around, I am a miserable and painful transition, creator of unity, without unity itself. Dispersed by my effort to embrace too much past and too much future, I am not of the present.
He mused some more, speaking slowly:
“Sometimes, when traveling, in certain places unknown to our present memory a strange nostalgia arises in us; we dream of living and dying in this setting which seems to be our setting. Spurred by their destiny this time, by the necessity of accomplishing all the work of the day, the others pass. The desire of an instant fades little by little like a dream. And they do not know what truth that lie was made of; they do not suspect that the passing uneasiness with the remembrance of a former sojourn or, more rarely, what I will dare to call the blind anticipation of a future life. I, who have nothing to do today, who was not a determined act and being, I have stopped everywhere, I have transformed into realities all my vague desires indifferently and given myself all the disappointments. I yawn, at the end of a wasted day, where I lay, bored, on the lying grass which beckons me.
He added, more bitterly:
“The noblest expression of unity is love. Certainly, the most faithful hear within them the call of many desires, fine memories or lovely premonitions. Each phrase of the poem is illuminated splendidly by the reflections of the preceding phrases, and it advances toward the uncertain glimmer that already seems to light the future. But I am not myself a new idea. I am not a new love. I am not an increase. I love no one, and no wealth is added to my treasure. A thousand kisses, soon terrifying, have brought to my lips the odor of corpses decay; and yet, mistresses of Don Juan, you were almost all, in some past existences, true beloveds and living loves. And you who nettle my soul as the green fruit nettles the teeth, ah! how sweet you will be in the future. I long to escape this transition made of a thousand irresolute stammerings, to finally be a destiny which affirms. For pity’s sake, statue, help my dispersion to die. Kill, I beg of you, the death that I am, so that, by the necessary trials, I may finally rise to the unity of a life and a love.”
The Commander did not make a movement.
Head hung low, Don Juan asked:—Has the beloved of my present life forgotten the rendezvous and she has not come on this earth? Or do I not know how to recognize her? Speak, if you know.
The statue kept silent.
Don Juan grasped it with both hands, wishing shake it. But despite his effort, it was still as a mountain.
Now, during the futile effort, he repeated the question. Finally he obtained a response,—a long snicker.
Then his vanquished hands pulled back from the statue. And on his lips appeared the light of the smile which understands and accepts.
“God is not mistaken,” he said. “Doubtless, the summary was necessary to the good order of the whole. But I thank you, Lord, for I sense it is at its end, the tiresome and tedious transition.”
Before the still and still silent statue, without the earth opening up, without the thunder groaning, Don Juan collapsed on the indifferent earth, apparently killed by the too exact consciousness of his nothingness.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur; from The Smart Set, March 1915.]

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Han Ryner, "The Little Exile" (1920)

The Little Exile

By Han Ryner

On this heavy, stormy summer Sunday, how did I let myself be led to these noisy celebrations? Under a scorching sun, that my companions declared “almost southern,” I had stopped with the crowd at various points of the town of Sceaux and, in front of some minuscule busts, I listened to the buzz of interminable talk. Through the torpor that wove heat and rhetoric around me, some words, doubtless more often repeated, alone reached my mind. But, in the confused speeches of the orators who succeeded and resembled one another like shrill brothers, were the “little homeland”—the neighborhood--and the “great homeland”—the nation—in hostile confrontation or amorously entwined? I did not know details, and to tell the whole truth, they mattered very little to me. Their struggles or enlacements had caused an intense migraine and, and if I did not love all my homelands heroically, I could have borne a grudge against those two.
On the crowded, stifling train, returning home, a heavy Marseillais snoring on my wounded shoulder. Opposite me, a thin young man, white and pink like a Northern girl, with hair of a sparse, pale blond. From the South, that one? If was hard to believe it, when he happened to speak. His Provençal accent rang out almost constantly, and so excessively...
His words were odious to me: he still kept harping on the homelands, big and small, the insufferable lad! But this was only the exordium which, according to the natural inclination of the talkative, would lead him to some confidences on his interesting person.
I was not slow to learn that Achille Blagard, born in Avignon, loved his little homeland to the point of having suffered greatly when he suffered “the little exile.”
The little exile!... The oddity of the formula amused me and I found myself listening. A narration began, where the storyteller at times seemed spiritual, but too often, alas! he took great care to speak like a book... like a pretentious book, translated from a language at once vapid and grandiloquent. Of course! It was a bit confused—such a bouillabaisse—the eloquence of over there...
This is what was said, in an accent too Provençal, by the young man too white and too pink, with hair too sparse and too pale:
* * *
— Yes, monsieur, teasing chance and the indifferent will of my bosses had brought me to a little Franc-Comtoise town.
First, with that love of chance which characterizes early youth, I had tasted your calm grace, O white sub-prefecture settled among the meadows, along the winding, sluggish Saône, like lingering in the grip of love.
Then its forest, all around, called to me with its murmur, numerous and whispering, like my Mediterranean when it sleeps in the arms of the night.
I was going through a deep and dense undergrowth... Too deep and too dense, perhaps... Yes, sir, a little too much darkness, a little too much mystery, like a weight of shadows and the unknown... I remember: my joy was striped with concern.
But here it is. In this dark beauty, a glade open up, light and smiling. Between wide couches of grass, a babbling spring, clear and fresh as the voice of a young girl.
I stretched out, dreaming, in this paradise.
An ancient intoxication mingled with my enchantment. I recalled, less beautiful and less penetrating, it seemed to me, a landscape from my home: a somewhat poorer spring in a somewhat smaller glade, amid grass slightly sparse and spoiled.
Despite the scent of childhood and of that memory, I strove to be impartial and I soliloquized with a cosmopolitan justice:
“Here, it is more complete, more voluptuous. Much more than that drink in the interleaving of my childish little fingers, this water deserves the poetic name of Fountain of Love.”
A pretty song, from not far off, made me look up. I saw, a few steps away, a young peasant of rough and robust build.
“What do you call this delightful place?” I asked them.
“This,” I was answered with a laugh, “is a spot well known to the boys and girls, and called the Fountain of Trousse-Cotillon[1].
Struck by these syllables gauloists I understood all that was missing from the landscape to match the grace of Provence. It lacks, by thunder! It lacks, by thunder! It lacks the poetry and delicacy of the natives.
* * *
After this speech—definitive, isn’t it?—Blagard rested, like God on the seventh day.
I raised one objection:
Earlier, in Sceaux, I heard you say that you love Paris very much.”
Oh! That is different! He cried, hands raised towards the ceiling. Paris, sir, but it is the greatest city of the South, and the most beautiful, and the most truly southern. We are more provençal than in that odious and cosmopolitan Marseille, for example. Marseille, the first Scale of the Orient.
He said no more..
For some moments, the Marseillais, heavy on my shoulder, no longer snored. He moved like a man who awakens.
The insult made to his city roused him, haughty with indignation. Peremptorily, he ordered:
“Stop with your lies, stupid Belgian wog.”
Achille Blagard was like a man who did not hear. All his attention was fixed on the outside. Just then we entered a station.
“Montsouris, already! he exclaimed. I live near there.
He jumped onto the platform and disappeared, while Marseille, shrugging shoulders as strong as dismissive:
It's not Montsouris he inhabits, the liar! It is Montmartre.”
He added:
“If that is not pathetic!... That Achille Blagard was born at Lille. His father came from Antwerp and his mother arrived from Ostend.”
There was a wavering in the eyes of the speaker, a trembling hesitation on his lips. Then he continued:
“Yes, sir, from Ostend... And if I do not add: “in a hamper,” it is because, we of Marseille, we never strike a woman, even with a flower.
And he concludes, the man from Marseille:
You see, when someone who claims to be southern proves talkative, boastful and indiscreet, we can be sure that these are not his true colors... It is by these characteristics that I recognize the men of the north.

[1] The Fountain of Hiked-Up Petticoats
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur; from The Smart Set, January 1920.]

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Archangel Saint Michael," "Response to Satan"

[Note: In l'Opinion des Femmes, the author of this pamphlet is identified as Jeanne Deroin.)

Society for the Mutual Education of Women.






How long, O Satan, do you hope to persecute with impunity the children of the true God? You have assumed every form in order to establish your empire on the earth; now you believe your power so solidly based that you dare to reveal yourself by your true name; for it is you who suggested, to a pamphleteer misled by your perfidious inspirations, the strange thought of signing your work, which he believed his own, with your accursed name.
It is in the name of morals that you accuse and slander one of the most generous defenders of the rights of the people; it is in the name of justice that you uphold privilege; it is in the name of truth that you propagate error!
It is because Proudhon comes, like the exterminating angel, to undermine your altars and cast the anathema on your impious doctrines, it is because he wants to demolish the temple of iniquity that your adherents have raised to the golden calf, that you accuse him of insulting and denying God.
But it is time for the light to comes and dispel the shadows you pour out by design over the earth to make humanity go astray from the providential way. I come to unveil your life and your works, and to announce to all that the end of your reign is near.
Hardly a few thousand revolutions of the sun of your terrestrial system separate us, O Satan, from these happy times when you lived among us, angel of light, as indicated by your original name; (Lucibel), you freely roamed the myriad shining spheres subject to your direction, where countless phalanges of God’s children lived happily.
All children of God, we are all brothers, all equal though different, all free because we accept providential direction freely and with love;
But you wanted to demonstrate the power of your free will by following an opposite course; angel of light, you became the spirit of darkness, and when, after a solemn combat, where you were struck down by me, according to the will of the Most High, and banished from the heavens where you wanted to reign, you came to the earth to found your empire, and still struggling against the law of God, opposed yourself constantly to the regeneration of those that you have led in revolt and in your fall.
It is by interpreting in a false and impious manner the holy traditions and the teachings of Christ, that you have led the human race down the subversive paths of error and suffering.
It is by interpreting falsely and in an impious manner the dogmas of the fall, the expiation and the redemption that you have misled men, fallen and  transformed angel, about the path that they must follow in order to recapture their glorious privileges and arrive at the happiness for which they have been created.
The fall is the deviation from the law of love, fraternity and solidarity, from the law of labor by which every intelligent being must develop and enrich the faculties with which it is endowed; and you know well that God has put within the human domain the tree of the science of good and evil, the knowledge of truth and free will, in order to inspire in them the desire to acquire science and liberty; but he has warned at the same time that they will die the death if they eat the fruit of that tree that they have not planted and cultivated, in order to teach them that no one should possess that which they have not acquired by labor.
But you, who are the tempter, you still come to lead man astray by persuading him that God has forbidden him from acquiring science and enjoying his liberty. It is by inciting him to oppress the holiest half of himself that you giver rise in his heart to selfishness and the spirit of domination, in order to stifle in him the seed of divine love and the sentiment of fraternity.
God, in his infinite foresight, had prepared the way of regeneration. He gave the earth to man as an instrument of labor, and did not permit it to produce by itself, without culture, what is necessary to the satisfaction of his needs, in order to make him understand that he must exercise and develop all the faculties with which he is endowed in order to acquire knowledge of nature and of the properties of all beings and all things, and to transform them according to his needs and desires. By giving man the mission of subjecting all the powers of nature, of conquering the sovereignty of the terrestrial globe and of appropriating it by labor, God united all the members of the great human family by a powerful link of solidarity, for that immense work can only be accomplished but the entire human race marching in harmony towards a single goal. It is only when all men will have acquired in their successive transformations the most complete development of all of their physical, intellectual and moral faculties, that they will be perfect, that they will be happy. But the work of regeneration will be incomplete and no one will be happy as long as there is a single incomplete and suffering being on the globe.
Thus the law of expiation is the law of solidarity and association, it is the law of progress. From the childhood of humanity, God has sent, according to the needs of times and places, prophets and legislators to direct humanity and lead it towards the providential way.
But you, Satan, you wanted to reign on earth, as you had wanted to reign in heaven, you have used every means that you infernal genius suggests in order to substitute your worship for the worship of the true God; you have inspired false prophets and tyrants who come to extend the veil of ignorance and superstition over the eternal truths, and to persuade the people that God has condemned them to live in suffering; fraternity and holy equality were excluded from the earth by oppressive and unjust laws, the natural order was overturned, oppressors, false doctors and idlers were placed in the first ranks, and the laborers, successively slaves, serfs and proletarians, were relegated to the lowest ranks of society, deprived of the means to develop all their faculties and reduced to constant struggling against all the miseries born from a subversive social organization.
But your greatest crime, O Satan! It is to have accomplished your impious work in the name of God and to have thus caused his children to doubt his love, his justice, and his power.
God, the true God, wants all men to be brothers, equal and free; he created them to be happy. He dedicated the earth to all the generations, present and future, as a common good, whose products must nourish all those who inhabit it. And you have brought forth discord and hatred, inequality and slavery, by establishing property on the right of the strongest, the chance of birth, and the exploitation of man by man.
You accuse Proudhon, that courageous defender of fraternity, because he dared to say that property is theft.
Isn’t property, which must be based on an equitable division of the products of labor, indeed, as you have constituted it, a spoliation of the common good for the profit of a privileged few? And it is with gold, torn from the bowels of the earth by hard-working miners, who only collect, as the price of their labors, some suffering and misery; it is with gold transformed into a conventional value that the elect of privilege, led astray themselves by infernal ruses, think they have a right to acquire what belongs to all.
With that gold, often acquired by fateful speculations, sources of ruin and misery for the people, that they, not only that which is necessary for the satisfaction for the needs of life, but, the pleasures and feasts, which should be the price of labor, the recompense and the relaxation of the worker, and the communion of the people with their brothers and with God, by growth and happiness.
You have thus reduced humanity to vegetate under the yoke of poverty and ignorance which produces the corruption; you have put all interests in battle, based all institutions on war, on privilege, on the exploitation of man by man, and organized society in a sense opposite to fraternity, equality, liberty and justice, and, through some false doctors, you name this awful chaos a society constituted by God!
But it is you who is the creator-God of that subversive organization; thus, it is of you that Proudhon has spoken, when he said: God (the God of evil) is essentially hostile to our nature. That divinity hostile to our nature, it is you, Satan! You, the prince of darkness, who wants to extinguish the natural light that the true God makes shine in all souls, and stop the development of the most noble faculties of man! It is you who forbids science, progress, well-being, by taking from the most numerous party of humanity the means of exercising and developing the gifts that God has made to all intelligent beings, by creating them in his image. God, the true God, wants all to be happy, since he has put in all souls an ardent aspiration towards happiness and liberty.
But the moment approaches, Satan! When the mystery of the redemption will be unveiled! When you will be struck down anew and vanquished by the power of infinite love, when men will understand that you have falsely interpreted the teachings of Christ.
He has come to deliver humanity from your yoke and has taught all the renunciation of all the goods of the earth and the joys of life, as the means of reconciling all men and making them understand the holy law of solidarity which must reconnect all the members of humanity in harmony, but which strikes them with years of disorder; because humanity is like a body which suffers, when a single one of its members is suffering. Now, it reveals thus, to the elect of fortune and the powerful of the earth, that all the joys and vanities with which they are intoxicated, while so great a number of their brothers groan in slavery and affliction, are false joys and fatal illusions; that all the treasures that they possess are treasures of iniquity, because no one should appropriate the goods of the earth, as long as there is a single one of their brothers deprived of necessities.
He exhorted the weak, poor and suffering not to envy the deceptive joys and iniquitous treasures of their oppressors, not to teach them to despise the gifts of God, but finally that they do not become like those prevaricators of the divine law, by taking by violence what they possess.
The privileged and powerful of the earth, inspired and directed by law, want to persuade the people that the treasure of heaven is promised to those who suffer, in compensation for the joys of life; but they testify, by their ambition and their cupidity, by their immoderate thirst for the pleasures and enjoyments of luxury, that they do not believe in that promise and that they use it as a lure, to subjugate the people under the yoke of poverty; but the regenerative torch of  social science has projected its light on your impostures, and the people know now that, to deserve that heavenly treasure promised to all, they must work constantly to escape slavery, poverty, ignorance and corruption.
This treasure from heaven which is the reign of God on earth, the reign of fraternity and universal harmony, can only be acquired by the most complete development of all the faculties with which the heavenly father has endowed all his children, it is promised to all, and all will obtain it, when they understand that no one can be perfect, which is to say happy, as long as suffering beings exist.
And the work of redemption will only be accomplished by reparation and reconciliation.
You have convinced the elect of fortune that they owe to those disinherited of the goods of the earth only charity which degrades and withers, but Christ said: If you want to be perfect, sell your goods and distribute them to the poor. He did not demand of the rich a small part of their excess, but all that they possessed, to make them understand that it is not a gift that they make to their brothers, but a restitution.
And it is a restitution, because the one who possesses must not forget that his fortune, however he has acquired it, does not belong to him completely, because he has not created its source. God alone creates the raw materials and gives man the intelligence and the faculties necessary to employ them according to his needs; and his will is that each and all of his children participate in the gifts that he has made to each and all. In the end man can only acquire and possess with the aid of the progress that has been accomplished, the education he has received, and the advantages procured for him by the social organization.
Thus society should be organized so that all its members can profit from the progress accomplished, develop all their faculties, and acquire, by labor the right to possess.
But, in a society based on privilege where the smallest number possess the earth, the houses, and all the large industrial exploitations, and refuse the right to labor to their brothers of the most numerous class, property is a spoliation.
Thus, Satan!. Proudhon was right to say that property is theft, that charity is a mystification: charity means love and devotion, and you want to substitute the alms which humiliate, the hand-outs that the people reject; for it is written on their flag: Live working or die fighting. He was right to say that the justice that you have instituted is infamous; it is blind; it is impious, since it punishes those who take bread to save their children from the horrors of hunger, and it protects the shameful speculations of those who work the people like dogs and reduce them to poverty; since it protects the tyrants who oppress those who only ask to live by laboring. Proudhon, the generous citizen who has had the courage to protester against the impious doctrine of Malthus and Thiers, your faith adherents, Proudhon has broken your throne and overturned your altars. He has shown himself a servant of the true God by unveiling your iniquities. The time has come, Satan, when your reign will end. Humanity, tired of suffering, seeks the light, and wants happiness.
The privileged themselves begin to understand that you have fooled them, and that there are no real joys, of certain possession or of security, possible in injustice.
And that dreadful struggle of hate and envy, of selfishness and fear, will cease when the sun of truth will rise over all, and as brothers who, encountering each other in the shadows, battle each other, they will be filled with confusion and will understand that the temple of Fraternity cannot be founded on bloody bases; they will enter in the path of reparation.
All the privileges of sex, race, birth, of caste and fortune will be abolished. They will recognize that all have the same right to education, to labor, to the joys of life, to rest and happiness. And knowing that in their successive transformations, since the origin of the world, they have been by turns oppressors and oppressed, they will pardon one another. That reconciliation will be the token of salvation for humanity, and the aurora of the reign of God, of fraternity and universal harmony.


 [Working translation by Shawn. P. Wilbur]

"Satan," "The History of Mr. Proudhon and His Doctrines" (1849)



I have been, for an entire month, delivered to the “jackals of the press and the owls of the gallery. Never has a man, neither in the past or in the present, been the object of as much execration as I have become, simply because I make war on the cannibals.”
P. J. Proudhon

No, citizen Proudhon, you will not persuade me that there are still cannibals among us in France. As for the owls of the gallery and the jackals of the press, they have attacked your evil doctrines and your detestable pride. If this is why you and your friends lavish abuse on them, they can be proud of it; for you have judged yourself in these few lines: “The slanderers of the Republic are those who rend it because they understand it; those who betray and exploit it, because they make light of everything, the Republic as well as the monarchy and religion.”
Mr. Proudhon’s principles are not new, no matter what he says; he has found them while flipping through the Encyclopedia of d'Alembert and Diderot; he has found them in the infamous boudoir manuals, which appeared at the end of the 18th century; he has found them in the writings of Dulaurens and Morelli, of d'Holbach and the elder Mirabeau, that friend of men, who was the hardest, most merciless man of his century. From all of that, and his own evil thoughts, he has made what he calls his system.
The citizen Proudhon claims to represent socialism! This producer of poison puts a false label on his bottles of arsenic. What does he hope to achieve with that maneuver? To kill property, or to kill socialism?
Both perhaps....
And it is because I see him as the adversary of socialism and property that I want to fight him to the bitter end. It is not at the moment when philanthropy attempts to reform the prisons, that we should let the whole society be demoralized by a proud, wicked annalist.
Mr. Proudhon is not a socialist; he is a demolisher. He is not an ardent, committed partisan; he is a sophist. To attract attention to himself, he does care if he strikes fairly. He prefers to strike hard. This is why he has cried Property is theft, when he could have said with justice: The abuse of property is theft.
The evil is not in property, but in the abuse of property. The abuse of a strong liquor is death; must we then cry that liquor is a poison?... That, however, is how the citizen Proudhon proceeds.
If Proudhon loved the people, he wouldn’t seek to make a scarecrow of socialism. He would make it attractive, and prove finally that socialism is the principle of social happiness. He would not demand the abolition of property, but its regulation. He would not call for violence, but reason.
For thirty years the rents have increased in a frightening manner, and that is an abuse of property that must be suppressed, because that abuse attacks industry and commerce above all, and because dead capital (immovable property) kills the shopkeeper and the manufacturer. The state must itself regulate the price of rents as it regulates the price of bread. That price is no longer in proportion today; everywhere property is rented at usury. But, it is said, to touch the rent is to attack property. Did Napoleon attack property when he reduced the legal rate on money to five percent? Obviously not. Well, what Napoleon has done, the National Assembly has the right to do; let it reduce the rents to their fair value, and so that the state loses nothing, let it relieve the proprietor proportionally to the reduction of the rents and let it apply this relief to the tenant. What kills industry today is the tyranny of dead capital, it is the usurious price of sites and shops.
Here is what ordinarily happens: a merchant rents a store for a certain number of years; at the end of his lease, when he appears to renew it, his landlord demands a large increase, based on the business of the merchant, who find himself obliged to pay a tax of labor to idleness, or else he must abandon his  clientele and go somewhere else to start a new establishment.
— Is it fair? Is it moral that an idle proprietor disposes in this way of the fortune and honor of the merchant, for to impose new charges on him is to perhaps put a strain on his present and his future; it is perhaps to write his name in the book of the year’s bankruptcies.
Let no one say to me that this is an exceptional act, for I could name hundreds of proprietors given to this odious calculus.
The regulation of the rents by the state would be a just and useful measure, which would return large amounts of capital to industry and allow merchants to employ a greater number of arms.
I do not, however, posit that proposition as the salvation of humanity; I believe it good, but I could be in error, and it is only false prophets who would not admit as much.
What I want above all is the happiness of my country, the happiness of the people; to improve the condition of the workers is a duty for all, but the condition of the merchants is no less worthy of interest. To cast division into the heart of the people by dividing them into bourgeois and proletarians, is to do the work of a bad citizen; that work is the work of the citizen Proudhon!
Why divide France into two camps? Why close to the proletariat the ranks of the bourgeoisie? And, first of all, what is the bourgeoisie? What is the bourgeois? According to the rigorous sense of the word the bourgeois is one who does not labor, the idler who lives on his rent, in short, it is the proprietor.
According to Mr. Proudhon and his wretched following the bourgeois is just a merchant; any man who can get credit or the instruments of labor is a bourgeois; however little he possesses, citizen Proudhon calls him a thief. What, then is the citizen Proudhon? This proletarian of the pen who sells his rantings at the highest price possible, and receives 25 francs a day in the National Assembly as well? You have done well, blond Attila of property! you are a bourgeois, but, I hasten to add, a very bad bourgeois, as you are a very bad citizen. And here is the proof: Your associate, Mr. Fauvetty, a rich hosier in the suburb of Saint-Denis, could easily make the bail for your paper, but there are risks involved and you cry: The people’s press is dead, and you hold out your hand to these proletarians that you fool, so that if there are losses or fines, they do not come out of your money, but from that of the people.
For twelve years I have also defended the people, but I have defended them at my cost and not at theirs, and I do not flatter them. You, citizen Proudhon, this is how you treat the proletarians whose representative you claim to be, though it is true that you only write this in works costing 8 francs volume. The people have not read you there, citizen Proudhon, but they will certainly read you in this brochure.
“The heart of the proletarian, like that of the rich man, is only a cesspool of boiling sensuality, a seat of hedonism and impostures.”
Now, if you want to understand how citizen Proudhon understands fraternity, charity, and virtue, read:
“In vain do you talk to me of fraternity and love: I remain convinced that you love me but little, and I feel very sure that I do not love you.”
“Charity is base mystification. Remember only, and never forget, that pity, happiness, and virtue, like country, religion, and love, are masks.”
Is this the language of a socialist? That is terrible and cynical, but it is still nothing: this man will insult God; he will write the following lines without his pen breaking. He counts on the scandal we will make; what does a little infamy more or less matter to him? People will talk about him.
The conclusion of social science is this: there is for man only one duty, only one religion, it is to renounce God. Hoc est primum et maximum mandatum.
“Let the priest finally realize that the true virtue, what makes us worthy of the eternal truth, is to struggle against religion and against God.
“God is essentially hostile to our nature, and in no way do we fall under his authority. We come to science despite him, to well-being despite him; our every progress is a victory, but which we crush divinity.
“God, there you are, dethroned and broken. Your name, so long the hope of the poor, the refuge of the repentant, this name henceforth doomed to scorn and anathema, will be hissed among men; for God is folly and cowardice, hypocrisy and lies, tyranny and misery; God is evil. So long as humanity will bow before an altar, humanity will be condemned. God, be gone! For from today, cured of fear and becoming wise, I swear, my hand extended towards heaven, that you are nothing but the executioner of my reason.
Alas! these sad blasphemies merit more pity than anger, more disgust than scorn. But, in good faith, can the man who has been so unfortunate to write such lines be the regenerator of a society?
Let us applaud Proudhon as we applaud the feats of strength of an acrobat. I agree that there is sometimes some originality in his paradoxes, and the lie is always better dressed than the truth. But to make Proudhon the serious leaders of socialism, to intoxicate him with praise, to lavish flattery on him to kill with him, without pain and without effort, all social ideas, that is what I cannot accept. That, however, is the work of Mr. Thiers. There are more links between these men than one could believe at first. For both are enemies of property. Mr. Thiers strikes it a fatal blow by rejecting all the concessions which could save it and all the reforms which are just and useful. Mr. Proudhon attacks it from his side with the weapons of bad faith, and by appealing to the bad passions of humanity.
Thiers and Proudhon are the logicians of falsities and lies; both stand for a selfish personality and not a principle.
M. Thiers wants to repulse the right to work, because he does not love the people and he does love financial feudalism... Mr. Proudhon cries so loudly: — “The right to work is communism; the right to work is the abolition of property,” only because he hopes in this way to make the right to work be rejected by the National Assembly, and to slow down the improvement of the condition of the workers and thus cast the leaven of civil war into the heart of the poor.
Is that clear?
That is how Thiers and Proudhon are heard to love the people.
In this fit of folly or frankness, the reader will choose, citizen Proudhon exposes his principles in all their nakedness. Example:
“They want labor to be financed by a few crowns, by capital, while labor must create capital from nothing and finance itself by reciprocity in exchange.
“We repudiate power and money. Our principle is the negation of every dogma; our first premise is nothing. To deny, always to deny is our method of construction in philosophy. It is by following this negative method that we have been led to posit as principles, atheism in religion, anarchy in politics, non-property in political economy.
Thus atheism, anarchy and theft; for non-property is nothing else: such are the foundations of society following the spirit of the citizen Proudhon.
His system is a calumny against France and against all of society; for property is civilization. You could destroy property for a day, but it would reconstitute itself the next day, and only the proprietors would have changed. That is, you could wrest by force the paternal heritage or the fruits of labor in order to make an endowment for the robbers.
The earth belongs to no one, you say; it was stolen by the first occupant. Perhaps it was, a thousand years ago and more, something true in what you say. But our proprietors in France are legitimate proprietors.
Algeria, a fertile country that colonization will make still more fertile, will be divided among the unemployed workers, that poverty will make cultivators. In twenty or thirty years, this soil given for nothing will perhaps have a great value due to the work of the settlers. Well, according to you, these men, who have spent thirty years working the land, making it fertile, so that their children have less work and more leisure, these honest and hard-working laborers who, in order to increase the value of the gift that France has made to them, exposed to the bullets of the Arabs and the dangers of the African climate, these proletarians, become proprietors, would thus only be thieves?
Your doctrine, citizen Proudhon, confines the worker within a hell from which he is forbidden to leave! Oh! I know that for men like you, it is necessary that the people suffer; hunger and poverty must trouble their reason so that they will listen to your poisoned advice, so that they will man the barricades when you urge them, while you remain at home, a coward trembling before your books.
Your precursor Baboeuf did not tremble, at least; he was less cynical than you, but also more courageous. To prove it, I will place your doctrines side by side:

 “Property in all the goods held in the national territory is one, and belongs inalienably to the people, who alone have the right to share its use and usufruct.
“Nature has given to each man an equal right to the enjoyment of all goods.
The land belongs to no one; the fruits of the earth belong to everyone. We declare that we can no longer suffer the great majority of men to work for the good pleasure of the extreme minority.
“The labor necessary for the upkeep of society, equally shared by all able-bodied individuals, is for each of them a duty whose accomplishment the law demands. Let there be no difference made between men but those of age and sex. Since everyone has the same needs and the same faculties, let there only be one education for them, one single nourishment. They are content with a single sun and a single atmosphere. Why would the same portion and quality of foodstuffs not suffice for all of them?
“That which is not transmissible must be frankly deducted.
 “The French Revolution is only the forerunner of another, much great, much more solemn revolution, which will be the last.”


“Property, it is robbery! He has not said, in a thousand years, two words like those. I have no other goods on the earth than that definition of property: but I hold it more precious than the millions of the Rothschilds, and I dare say that it will be the most significant event of the government of Louis-Philippe. M. Michelet responds to me that in France there are twenty-five million proprietors who will not give it up. Why does he suppose anyone needs consent?[1]
“Do you think that the workers will not rise in their anger, and that once masters in their vengeance, they will settle for an amnesty?
“I believe that the bourgeoisie have deserved all the evils which threaten them, and my duty is to establish the proof of their guilt.
“Property, a regime of spoliation and misery, must perish as soon as civilization gains consciousness of its own laws. Property, in its principle and essence, is immoral; consequently, the code which determines the rights of property is a code of immorality; jurisprudence, that so-called science of right, is immoral.
“And justice, which orders us to come to the aid against those who would oppose themselves to that abuse; which afflicts whoever is so daring as to claim to mend the outrages of property, justice is infamous! and property which comes from this odious lineage of justice is infamous!"
How naïve and tame the good Baboeuf appears next to Proudhon! It is true that Baboeuf proposed expelling the rich from their houses and lodging the poor there, leaving nevertheless necessary lodgings to the poor.
Like the citizen Proudhon, he wanted to liquidate society with or without its consent, with a little coercive medium that was known as the guillotine. Mr. Proudhon does not say the word, but we know well enough what he thinks.
The first word of the babouvist system, like that of the proudhonian system, is a bloody dictatorship.
In 1793, this was called minting coins at the foot of the scaffold.
Citizen Proudhon calls it proceeding with the liquidation without the consent of the proprietors.
The words are changed ; the things remain the same.
Proudhon's writings deserve to be burned in the middle of a prison.
He has denied and insulted God.
He has treated justice despicably.
He has made property theft.
He denies universal suffrage.
He calls charity a base mystification.
Pity, virtue, religion, and the homeland, masques.
There is nothing sacred to this man; he spreads his poison on everything. The bad passions of humanity alone find favor with him. And yet he began his life with the publication of the Fathers of the Church. Son of a poor cooper, he was educated at college for free. The mantle of savant has preserved the demolisher from the effects of justice, and it is because that justice has not struck him in the past that his writings are reprinted today, and abuse public morals and decency.
The bottle of poison spreads its contents in minds inclined to bad influences.
The national tribune, it is said, has dealt with this man; his doctrines could not stand the light of day, which has killed them. Think again. For fair and honest minds, Mr. Proudhon does not exist, and he knows it well. But he does not speak for honest folk. His hope was to be heard outside [en dehors], to speak to evil, envious and corrupt minds. His hope, in short, was social war, the most horrible and most detestable of all wars.
He has said that the right to work was the abolition de la property, but he lied. Property is the right of the laborer. The right to work is the guarantee of bread accorded to those that labor has still not rewarded.
Proudhon takes his example from 1793 and maintains that then property paid its debt to the Republic. The citizen Proudhon is still in error, the good citizens made some voluntary donations, but the tax imposed was not paid because France lacked money. I maintain, moreover, that if France again found itself n danger, the National Assembly would have the right to levy a tax on income. When each citizen sheds their blood for the homeland, it is just that the rich give their gold.
Proudhon’s system tends to suppress all currency. Exchange is the great remedy for all our wrongs; exchange will double the markets and make it so that instead of consuming 75 centimes, we will consume all for 7 francs 50 centimes. I have already seen exchange at work, and it is far from producing such good results;[2] exchange was not invented by Mr. Proudhon, any more than his fine theories on justice and property; exchange is as old as the world. In order to be able to subsist without the aid of gold or silver, all the industries would have to be able to produce equal products. So long as the great Mr. Proudhon has not found the equality of products, I defy him to make his bank of exchange the philosopher’s stone of the human race.
In his horror of property, he even attacks the savings banks, that first step that the laborers make before becoming proprietors, before assuring bread for their old age. Living day to day, enjoying as much as possible and never thinking of tomorrow, such is the doctrine of pigs in manure, and of Proudhon, such is the morality that this would like to see adopted by the workers. He loves the proletarians so much!
He has found that a very sweet, very safe little method for killing property is to establish a national bank which will loan at 0 percent interest the 2 billion francs that it has in its fund. But where to find these 2 billions. This good Proudhon knows just the place to go. This bank, lending for nothing, will necessarily make rent and the price of properties fall; as soon as one can have money for nothing, it is certain that one could have houses and properties for nothing, and thus pay no rents of any kind. But as the citizen Proudhon is generous, he will leave the proprietors the right to make some repairs.
According to the great reformer, the Republic is incompatible with property, for in February 1848 all contracts were abolished by right, property was suppressed, and if the debtors still pay what they own, it is because they wish to.
The citizen Proudhon forgets by design that the combatants of February shot thieves. He thinks he has the right to insult the Revolution of February, as he insults socialism; if he touches good ideas it is to soil them. If the Assembly takes some generous actions, he hastens to speak in order to stop them. He associates himself with reform bill in order to kill them, and calls himself the representative of the proletariat in order to have the right to harm the proletarians; if he demands an amnesty for the insurgents of June, he does so in such terms that terms that he makes the anger burst from those for whom he asks clemency. He is extremely clumsy. — Clumsy?. — No, he is wicked, and that is the whole secret of the contradictions and blunders of that would-be logician.
He calls himself the representative of socialism, and finds only too many people disposed to believe it; the enemies of all progress are overjoyed when they encounter men like Proudhon, men who have within them a genius for evil.
“To annihilate property is not to destroy it (he would say gravely); to shoot the proprietors is not to rebuild the scaffold.
Meanwhile, the citizen Proudhon makes himself the denier of all principles, all laws, all the rights. — Why? Because that negation prepares for anarchy, and Proudhon’s entire system can only live in the years of anarchy; in the supreme anarchy which comes before the end.
The citizen Proudhon denies universal suffrage, because it has produced the  National Assembly and because universal suffrage, whatever one does, will always be the echo of the people, the expression of the supreme will of France. Now, Proudhon feels his isolation well; if he raises his voice it is not to convince; he does not want proselytes; if he speaks it is prevent order from reestablishing itself, and confidence being reborn.
The day when France is happy and free, Mr. Proudhon will hang himself, or die of despair like the serpent who has lost its sting.
The day when the National Assembly gave Mr. Thiers as a rival for M. Proudhon, it constructed a pedestal for him; the cunning and bad faith of Mr. Thiers was too great in the debate. To prove the falsity of the doctrines of Proudhon, the voice of an honest man would have sufficed.
In the session of July 31, there was too much anger; since we had made the mistake of opening the platform to a man who would defile it for three hours, he necessarily only had disdain and contempt for it. the most violent interjections were met, without bringing the red of shame to the face of Proudhon; he heard, without batting an eye, the most searing truths, without a word from the heart testifying that anything beat in his chest.
This was not a fanatic or a thinker, but a sort of big grocer, fair and chubby, who promises to grow fat, and has meanwhile weighed, dissected, and distributed his merchandise; that merchandise was society, property, morality and the family.
For him everything was a fact he explained in his own way; the citizen Proudhon does not see right anywhere, not even in the National Assembly; according to him, force alone rules, and if the rebels of June had had the strength, they would have had the right. Such doctrines are not astonishing on the part of the defender of theft, who while denying the legal right delegated to the representatives of the people recognized their right to make the constitution. We would never finish this study if we wanted to highly all the contradictions of this alleged socialist. We believe, however, we have made them sufficiently known; after his failure, there remains to console him only the esteem and friendship of the deputy Greppo, and the calculated devotion of the young hosier Fauvety, naïve and interesting copy of Jérôme Paturot.
Thus we want neither Mr. Thiers nor Mr. Proudhon, because we want neither reaction nor anarchy.
Now, Mr. Thiers is reaction; Mr. Proudhon is anarchy.[3]

[1] Is this clear? The population being thirty-five million people, Mr. Proudhon calls on the ten million non-proprietors to rob the others. That is the ethics of the cartridge.
[2] See the Société d'échange of Marseille, founded in 1831.
[3] The second part of this work appeared under the title: Proudhon et les Malthusiens.
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]