Translation:Confessions of a Revolutionary/11
Thus Democracy was consuming itself, in the pursuit of that power which its aim is precisely to annihilate in distributing it. All the factions of the party had fallen one after the other: the Executive Commission dismissed, we had gotten as far as the republicans of the morrow, we touched upon the doctrinaires. If this retreat could not be warded off, or at least confined within the constitutional circle, the Republic was in peril; but this required a change of maneuver. It was necessary to establish oneself in the opposition, to reject power on the defensive, to enlarge the field of battle, to simplify the social question by generalizing it; to astonish the enemy by the audacity of propositions, to act henceforth on the people rather than on their representatives, and to oppose, without care or attention to the blind passions of the reaction, the philosophical idea and revolution of February. A party would not have lent itself to this tactic; it demanded a resolute individuality, even eccentricity, a soul soaked in protest and negation. Pride or vertigo, I thought my turn had come. It is for me, I said to myself, to throw myself into the whirlpool. The democrats, seduced by the memories of our glorious revolution, decided to begin again in 1848 the drama of 1789: while they perform the comedy, let us try to make history. The Republic is no more than the guard of God. While a blind force trains power in one sense, can we not advance society in another? The direction of the spirits being changed, it would result that the government, continuing to make reaction, would then, without expecting it, make revolution... And from my seat as a spectator, I, a new actor, rushed to the theater.
My name for eighteen months has made enough noise for me to be forgiven for bringing up here some explanations, some excuses for my sad celebrity. Good or bad, I have had my share of influence over the destinies of my country: who knows what this influence, still more powerful by compression itself, can yet produce? It is therefore important that my contemporaries know what I have wanted, what I have done, what I am. I do not boast: I should be only flattered that my readers would remain convinced, after reading, that there is no folly or fury in my conduct. The sole vanity I ever had in my heart was to believe that no man had acted in all his life with more premeditation, more reflection, more discernment than I did. But I learned at my own expense, that at the very moments when I though myself the freest, I was still, in the torrent of political passions to which I intended to give direction, only an instrument of that immoral Providence which I deny, which I impugn. Perhaps the history of my meditations, inseparable from that of my actions, will not be without profit for those who, whatever their opinions, would like to seek in experience the justification of their ideas: for the freethinkers, who recognize no other authority than that of pure reason; for the believers, who like to rest their conscience upon the soft pillow of faith; for the men of action who, before engaging in the political career, would be curious to know where a rigorous mind can be led by the impartial demonstrations and disinterested principles of science.
I have nothing to say about my private life: it does not regard the others. I have always had little taste for autobiographies, and am not interested in anyone's affairs. History and the novel have no attraction for me except in so far as I find in it, as in our immortal revolution, the adventures of the idea.
My political life began in 1837, in full Philippist corruption.
The Academy of Besançon had to award the triennial pension, bequeathed by Mr. Suard, secretary of the Académie française, to young Franc-Comtois without fortune who were destined for the career of letters or science. I placed myself on the line. In the Memoir which I addressed to the Academy, and which exists in its archives, I said to it:
“Born and raised in the working class, still belonging to it by heart and affections, especially by the community of sufferings and vows, my greatest joy, if I obtained the suffrages of the Academy, would be to work, by philosophy and science, with all the energy of my will and all the powers of my mind, for the physical, moral and intellectual improvement of those whom I am pleased to call my brothers and companions; to be able to spread among them the seeds of a doctrine which I regard as the law of the moral world, and, awaiting the success of my efforts, to find myself, gentlemen, as their representative before you.”
My protestation, as we see, dates from afar. I was still young, and full of faith, when I pronounced my vows. My fellow-citizens will say if I have been faithful to it. My socialism received the baptism of a learned society; I had for my godmother an academy; and if my vocation, which I had long since decided upon, might have weakened, the encouragement I received from my honorable compatriots would have confirmed it without return.
I set to work at once. I did not ask for the spotlight of the socialist schools which subsisted in that epoch, and which were already beginning to change. I left as well the men of party and journalism, too busy with their daily struggles to think of the consequences of their own ideas. I neither knew more, nor sought secret societies: all this world seemed to me as far from the goal I pursued as the eclectics and the Jesuits.
I began my work of solitary conspiracy by the study of socialist antiquities, which, in my opinion, was necessary to determine the theoretical and practical law of the movement. These antiquities I first found in the Bible. Speaking to Christians, the Bible was to be the first of the authorities. A memoir on the sabbatical institution, considered from the point of view of morality, hygiene, familiar and civic relations, earned me a bronze medal from my academy. From the faith in which I had been brought up, I hurled myself, with my head bowed, into pure reason, and already, a singular thing, and for me a good omen, for having made Moses a philosopher and a socialist, I received applause. If I am now in error, the fault is not mine alone: was there ever such a seduction?
But I was studying mainly to realize. I cared little for academic palms; I did not have the leisure to become a scholar, let alone a writer or archeologist. I came to political economy at once.
I had taken as a rule in my judgments that every principle which, pushed to its ultimate consequences, would lead to a contradiction, should be regarded as false and denied; and if this principle had given rise to an institution, the institution itself had to be regarded as artificial, as a utopia.
Endowed with this criterion, I chose as a subject of experience that which I had found in society to be the most ancient, the most respectable, the most universal, the least controversial, Property. What happened to me is known. After a long, meticulous, and above all impartial analysis, I arrived, as an algebraist led by his equations, to the surprising conclusion: Property, whichever way one turns it, to whatever principle it is related, is.... a contradictory idea! And the negation of property taking with it that of authority, I immediately deduced from my definition this no less paradoxical corollary: The true form of government is anarchy. Finally, finding by a mathematical demonstration that no amelioration in the economy of society could happen by the sole puissance of its primitive constitution, and without the concurrence and the deliberate volition of all; recognizing that there was a marked hour in the life of societies, in which progress, at first unthinking, required the intervention of the free reason of man, I concluded that that force of spontaneous impulse which we call Providence is not everything in this world: from that moment, without being an atheist, I ceased to worship God. — It will very much come to pass that you worship him, said to me one day, in this regard, the Constitutionnel. — Perhaps.
Was it clumsiness on my part in handling the dialectical instrument, an illusion produced by this instrument itself and inherent in its construction; or rather, was the conclusion I had come to express only the first term of a formula which the less advanced state of society, and, by consequence, of my studies, had left incomplete? I did not know it at first, and did not stop to verify. I believed my work to be sufficiently disquieting in itself to merit the attention of the public, and to awaken the solicitude of the scholars. I addressed my memoir to the Académie des sciences morales et politiques: the benevolent reception which it received, the praise which the reporter, Mr. Blanqui, thought it his duty to give to the writer, gave me reason to think that the Academy, without taking responsibility for my theory, was satisfied with my work, and I continued my researches.
Mr. Blanqui's observations had not dealt with the contradiction I pointed out in the principle of property: a contradiction which consists chiefly in, on the one hand, the appropriation of things by labor or in any other manner, naturally, necessarily leading, in the state of economic imperfection in which society has existed to this day, to the institution of farming, of rent and of interest, as was perfectly demonstrated by Mr. Thiers, in his book on Property; while on the other hand, farming, rent, interest, in a word the price of the loan, is incompatible with the laws of circulation, and tends incessantly to annihilate itself. Without entering into the depths of the controversy, the economist scholar was content to oppose my reasonings with a conclusion of inadmissibility which would have been decisive, if it had been founded. — “With regard to property,” said Mr. Blanqui, “practice gives a shattering denial to the theory. It is proven, in fact, that if property is illegitimate in the eyes of philosophical reason, it is in constant progress in social reason. It is necessary, therefore, either that logic be insufficient and illusory, which, by the avowal of the philosophers, has been seen more than once; or that social reason be wrong, which is inadmissible.” If these are not Mr. Blanqui's own words, they are at least the sense.
In a second memoir, I established that the facts had been incorrectly appraised by Mr. Blanqui; that the truth was precisely the reverse of what he had thought he saw; that property, which he said was in progress, was, on the contrary, in decadence, or rather in metamorphosis; and that this was also the case with religion, with power, and generally with all ideas which, like property, had a positive side and a negative side. We see them in one direction while they already exist and happen in the other: in order to have a correct representation of them, we must change our position and turn, so to speak, the telescope. And, in order that nothing might be wanting in the proof, I gave the economic reason for this phenomenon. On this ground I was sure of the advantage: economists, who are only concerned with science, do not believe in property any more than in government.
In a third memoir addressed to Mr. Considerant, I reproduced, not without some anger, the same conclusions; and I insisted, in the interest of order and of the security of proprietors, on the necessity of reforming, as soon as possible, education in political economy and law. The dialectic inebriated me: a certain fanaticism, particular to logicians, had gone to my head, and had made my memoir a pamphlet. The public prosecutor at Besançon having thought it his duty to oppose this pamphlet, I was brought before the Court of Assizes of the Doubs department, under the quadruple charge of attack on property, excitation to defiance of the government, contempt of religion and of morals. I did what I could to explain to the jury how, in the present state of mercantile circulation, use value and exchange value being two quantities incommensurable and in perpetual opposition, property is both illogical and unstable, and that this is the reason why the workers are increasingly poorer, and the proprietors less and less rich. The jury did not understand much about my argument: it said that it was a scientific matter, therefore outside of its jurisdiction, and rendered in my favor a verdict of acquittal.
While, alone in my school, I was digging the trench in the glacis of the old political economy; while P. Leroux, Villegardelle, Vidal, and a few others followed, in very different directions, this scholarly march of demolition, what were the organs of democracy doing? What were they doing? Alas! that they allow me to remind them, so that the socialists do not bear alone the responsibility for the misfortunes of the Republic: they gave themselves up to their parliamentary preoccupations; dismissing with obstinacy, for fear of frightening their subscribers, the social questions, they prepared the mystification of February; they organized, through this voluntary negligence, the national workshops; they minuted the decrees of the Provisional Government, and laid, without knowing it, the foundations of the honest and moderate republic. The National, I no longer resent it, cursing socialism, was voting for the fortification of Paris; the Réforme, strong in its good intentions, adhered to universal suffrage and to the governmentalism of Louis Blanc. Utopia was allowed to grow when it should have been nipped in the bud; they disdained the schools which were destined one day to set the country aflame, and, by their aspirations for power, made the Republic retrograde. It was none the less necessary for the February experience to convince our statesmen that a revolution neither halts nor improvises: I would not say, however, that they are yet to accuse, with Mr. Lamartine, socialism of their ruin. What a pity, indeed, for the glory of these gentlemen, that the people, having resigned their powers into their hands, thought it their duty to demand a deposit!
However, it is not enough that criticism demolishes, it must affirm and reconstruct. Otherwise, socialism would remain an object of pure curiosity, alarming to the bourgeoisie, and of no use to the people. That's what I said to myself every day: I had no need for the warnings of the utopians, no more than of the conservatives.
Here, the method that had been used to construct, became impotent to edify. The process by which the mind affirms is not the same as that by which it denies: it was necessary, before building, to emerge from the contradiction, and to create a method of revolutionary invention, a philosophy, no longer negative, but, to borrow the language of Mr. Auguste Comte, positive. Society alone, the collective being, can, without fear of an absolute and immediate error, follow its instinct and abandon itself to its free will; the superior reason which is in it, and which is drawn out more and more by the manifestations of the multitude and the reflection of individuals, always brings it back to the right path. But the philosopher is incapable of discovering by intuition the truth; and, if it is society itself which he proposes to direct, he runs the risk of putting his own, always faulty, views into the place of the eternal laws of order, and of pushing society into the abyss. He needs a guide: what can be this guide, if not the law of development, the immanent logic of humanity itself? Holding the thread of ideas with one hand, and, on the other, that of history, I must have penetrated the intimate thought of society; I became a prophet, without ceasing to be a philosopher.
So here I am commencing, under the title of Creation of Order in Humanity, a new series of studies, the most abstruse that can engage human intelligence, but, in the situation in which I found myself, absolutely indispensable. The work which I published on this occasion, although I have very little to retract, is not satisfactory to me: so, in spite of a second edition, it seems to me that it has obtained from the public very little esteem, and it is perhaps justice. This book, a true infernal machine, which was to contain all the instruments of creation and destruction, is badly done, and much below what I might have produced had I taken the time to choose and arrange my materials. But, as I said, I did not work for glory; I was, like everybody else at this time, anxious to put an end to it. The spirit of reform had become in me a spirit of war, and conquerors do not wait. Despite its originality, my work is less than mediocre: let it be my punishment!
However, as defective as it may seem today, it is sufficient for my object. The important thing was that I should come to terms with myself: as the contradiction had served to demolish, the Series was meant to edify. My intellectual education was done. The Creation of Order had scarcely come into existence, when immediately applying the creative method, I understood that the first thing to be done to acquire the intelligence of the revolutions of society was to construct the whole Series of its antinomies, the System of Contradictions.
It would be very difficult for me to give those who have not read it an idea of this work. I will try however, using the language, now understood by everyone, of the bookkeeper. For if I succeeded, in a few lines, in giving a clear idea of what I regard as the true economic method, it is difficult that it should not soon compel all convictions.
In my first memoirs, attacking the established order at the front, I said, for example: Property is theft! It was a matter of protesting, so to speak in relief the nothingness of our institutions. I was not then occupied with anything else. Also, in the memoir in which I demonstrated, by A plus B, this stunning proposition, I had taken care to protest against any communist conclusion.
In the System of Economic Contradictions, after having recalled and confirmed my first definition, I added one entirely contrary, but based on considerations of another order, which could neither destroy nor by destroyed by the first argument: Property is liberty. Property is theft; property is liberty: these two propositions are equally demonstrated and subsist side by side in the System of Contradictions. I also did the same on each of the economic categories, the Division of Labor, Competition, the State, Credit, the Community, etc.; showing in turn how each of these ideas, and consequently how these institutions they generate, have a positive and a negative side; how they give rise to a double series of diametrically opposed results: and always I conclude to the necessity of an agreement, conciliation, or synthesis. Property, therefore, appeared here, along with the other economic categories, with its reason for being and its reason for not being, that is, as a double-faced element of the economic and social system.
Thus exposed, it seemed sophisticated, contradictory, tainted with equivocation and bad faith. I shall endeavor to render it more intelligible by taking for example property.
Property, considered in all social institutions, has, so to speak, two open accounts: one is that of the goods it procures, and which flow directly from its essence; the other is that of the inconveniences it produces, of the costs it incurs, and which result, like goods, directly from its very nature.
The same applies to competition, monopoly, taxation, etc.
In property, as in all economic elements, evil or abuse is inseparable from good, just as, in double-entry accounting, the obligation is inseparable from the asset. The one necessarily engenders the other. To want to suppress the abuse of property is to want to destroy property; the same as to suppress an item from the debit of an account is to destroy the credit. All that can be done against the abuses or inconveniences of property is to merge, synthesize or balance it with a contrary element, which is vis-à-vis it what the creditor is vis-à-vis the debtor, the shareholder is vis-à-vis the general partner, etc.: such as, for example, the Community; in such a way that, without altering or destroying one another, the good of one comes to cover the evil of the other, as, in a balance sheet, the parts, after having been reciprocally concluded, lead to a final result, which is either total loss or total profit.
The solution of the problem of poverty consists thus in elevating accounting science to a higher expression, in setting up the records of society, in establishing the assets and the liabilities of each institution, taking as general accounts or divisions of the social ledger, no longer terms of ordinary accounting, Capital, Funds, General Merchandise, Bills and discounts, etc.; but those of philosophy, legislation and politics: Competition and Monopoly, Property and Community, Citizen and State, Man and God, etc. — Finally, and in order to complete my comparison, it is necessary to keep the records up to date, that is to say, to determine with exactitude the rights and duties, so as to be able at each moment to certify order or disorder, and present the balance.
I have devoted two volumes to explaining the principles of this accounting which I shall call, if you will, transcendent; I have recalled a hundred times since February these elementary ideas, common to bookkeeping and metaphysics. The routine economists laughed at me; the political ideologues politely invited me to write for the people. As for those whose interests I had so much at heart, they treated me even worse. The communists do not forgive me for having criticized the community, as if a nation was a great polypier, and besides the social right there was no individual right. The proprietors wish me death for having said that property, alone and by itself, is theft; as if property did not derive all its value (the rent) from the circulation of products, and consequently, did not belong to a fact superior to it, collective force, the solidarity of labor. The politiques finally, whatever their banner, are invincibly repugnant to anarchy, which they take for disorder; as if democracy could be realized otherwise than by the distribution of authority, and the true meaning of the word democracy was not the dismissal of the government. These people all resemble the horse-dealer who, having taken a clerk to disentangle his accounts, thought himself robbed, because he saw the parts arranged on two columns, one in debit, the other in credit. “'I make all my purchases in cash,' he exclaimed. 'I owe nothing to anyone, and pretend to never an obligation for anything!'” — Mr. Thiers, explaining with his marvelous lucidity the origin and development of property, without wishing to hear of its corruptibility and its decadence, is the counterpart of this horse-dealer. This does not prevent Mr. Thiers from being the savior of the family and of property. For the price of his economic science, he soon became a minister; while I, poor auditor of records, am a public nuisance, and they put me in prison. Between society and property, never you dare put your finger!...
The System of Economic Contradictions or Ledger of mores and institutions, regardless of the number of cadres, general accounts or categories, is the true system of society, not as it develops historically and in the order of generations, but in what is necessary and eternal. Like in an industrial enterprise, new relations give rise every day to new accounts, and incessantly modify the internal organization of labor, the distribution of workers and employees, the employment of machines, etc.; thus, in society, new knowledge, great discoveries, incessantly produce new mores and modify the general economy. But just as in any commercial or industrial company, the principles of accounting, the general system of records is invariable; that the books are the representation of operations, the observatory from which the manager directs the whole course of affairs: similarly, in society, the theory of antinomies is at once the representation and basis of all movement. The mores and the institutions can vary from people to people, as the job and the mechanics vary from century to century, from city to city: the laws governing their evolution are inflexible like algebra. Wherever there are men grouped by labor; wherever the idea of market value has taken root, or where by the separation of industries there is a circulation of values and products: there, on the pain of perturbation, deficit, bankruptcy of society towards itself, on pain of poverty and proletariat, the antinomic forces of society, inherent in every deployment of collective activity, as well as to any individual reason, must be kept in a constant equilibrium; and antagonism, perpetually reproduced by the fundamental opposition of society and individuality, will be perpetually reduced in synthesis.
It has been scandalized to see in this system, in opposition to each other, God and man; it has been found strange that I wished to establish, as I had done for property and community, the accounts of Human Liberty and Providence; the hypocrites have cried atheism and sacrilege. And yet this part of the Contradictions is nothing other than Catholicism explained by philosophy, the reality substituted for the symbol.
What is Catholicism? the mystical system of the relations between God and Humanity. The theory of contradictions abolishes this mysticism: it makes theology the positive science of the relations between the Creator, or nature, the mother of all beings, alma parens rerum natura, and man, its highest expression, consequently its antithesis.
Nature, from the point of view of the mind, manifests itself in a double impulse, instinct and reason. What characterizes instinct is promptitude, intuition, spontaneity, infallibility; what distinguishes reason, is memory, reflection, imagination, reasoning, error or vagabondage, progress. The first is, properly speaking, the form of intelligence in God; the second is the form of intelligence in man.
It is in human society that instinct and reason, manifesting themselves in parallel, rise at the same time to the highest degree. The manifestations of instinct constitute the government of Providence; the manifestations of philosophy, the reign of liberty. Ancient religions, empires, poetry, and monuments are creations of social spontaneity, which reason revises and rejuvenates indefinitely.
But, in society and in the individual, reason always wins over instinct, reflection over spontaneity: this is the characteristic of our species, and which constitutes in us progress. It follows from this that Nature seems to recede, while Reason arrives; in other words, God is going, Humanity is coming.
Humanity first worshiped itself as God or Nature; it began in Jesus Christ to adore itself as Humanity. The religious movement has gone from heaven to earth: but liberty must abolish all idolatry, and man finally be reconciled with God, by knowledge of nature and of himself.
Reject this philosophy, I do not mind: what is it to me? Should I want to be so strong as to have disciples? But hypocrites, papist or reformed, making it, under the pretext of atheism, a means of counter-revolution, is what I defend against, with scarcely any retaliation. We are stronger than you, gentlemen: take care!
I had published, as early as 1846, the antinomical part of this system; I was working on synthesis when the February Revolution broke out. I did not care, I suppose, to throw myself into this politico-socialist mess where Mr. Lamartine translated into poetic prose the commonplaces of diplomacy; where people talked of putting successively all commerce, all industry, and soon all agriculture in associations and administrations; redeeming all properties, and utilizing them administratively; centralizing capital and capacities in the hands of the State; then bringing to the peoples of Europe, at the head of our triumphant armies, this governmental regime. I thought it more useful to continue in retreat my laborious studies, convinced that it was the only means I had of serving the Revolution, and of course that neither the Provisional Government nor the Neo-Babovists would pre-empt me.
The first two livraisons of this new work were published toward the end of March. They were scarcely noticed by the democrats. I was little known and my debut had little appeal to them. Could they be interested in a pamphlet whose author considered himself obliged to demonstrate the highest considerations of public law and history, the legitimacy of the Revolution, and then advised power to abstain from all reform initiative? What was the point! they thought, of such a controversy? Is democracy not sovereign? Is the Provisional Government not obeyed? Must there be so much reasoning to convince those whom the fait accompli subjugates! The Republic is like the sun: only the blind deny it!
Well! what now do the powerful say? Is it clear at present that the sovereignty of the people, solely capable of legitimizing a revolution, is neither that brutal violence which devastates the palaces, burns the chateaus; nor that fanatical training which, after having done a 17 March, a 16 April and a 15 May, places the blame for its blunder on 10 December; nor the alternative oppression of majorities by minorities, minorities by majorities? Where, thus, is the sovereignty, the reason of the people? The Constitution consecrates its own revision; all of the parties are preparing to make this revision in the direction of their interests: can you show me, in this conflict of ideas, the will, the true will of the country?
Was I, therefore, wrong to say to these manufacturers of decrees:
“Ah! great politicians, you show your fist to capital, and you are prostrate before the hundred sous coin! You want to exterminate the Jews, Kings of the Epoch, and you worship (swearing, it's true!) the Golden Calf! You say, or let it be said, that the State is going to seize the railroads, the canals, transport on inland waterways, haulage, the mines, the salts; that taxes will only be levied on the wealthy, sumptuary taxes, progressive taxes, taxes on servants, horses, carriages and all objects of price; that, with the number of jobs, the figure of salaries, rents, property will be reduced. You cause the depreciation of all financial, industrial, real estate values; you exhaust the source of all revenues; you freeze the blood in the veins of commerce, industry, and then you conjure the cash to circulate; you beseech the terrified wealthy not to withhold it. Believe me, citizen dictators, if this is all your science, make haste to reconcile yourselves with the Jews; renounce those demonstrations of terrorism that make capital run after the revolution like dogs after policemen. Return to that conservative status quo beyond which you do not see anything, and you should never have exited; for, in the equivocal situation in which you now are, you cannot prevent yourselves from touching property; and, if you lay hands on property, you are lost. All have already one foot in bankruptcy...
“...No, you do not understand anything about the Revolution. You know neither its principle, nor its logic, nor its justice; you do not speak its language. What you take for the voice of the people is only the roar of the multitude, ignorant like you of the thoughts of the people. Repulse these clamors that invade you. Respect for persons, tolerance for opinions; but disdain for the sects that crawl at your feet and advise you only in order to better compromise you. The sects are the vipers of the Revolution, the people are not of any sect. Abstain as much as you can from requisitions, from confiscations, especially from legislation, and be sober of destitutions! Keep the depository of the Republic intact, and let the light go on by itself. You will have deserved well from the fatherland.”
I have not, since the June Days, protested against the abuse that the ignorant may have been able to make of some of my aphorisms, and denied my popular inclinations; I have not insulted the expiring lion. But I did not wait for the June Days to attack governmentalist tendencies, and to manifest my sentiments on intelligent conservation. I have always had, I will always have power against me: is this the tactic of a careerist and a coward?
Elsewhere, taking stock of power, I proved that a governmental democracy is only a reversed monarchy; I demonstrated that it would cost more than a monarchy, according to this principle of elementary economy, that the condition in which the product, with regard to expense is as great as possible, is that in which the producer acts alone and without the assistance of any worker or employee, and reciprocally; and that in any enterprise likely to expand, overhead costs grow faster than production and profit.
“Democracy is the idea of the State extended to infinity: it is the union of all agricultural holdings into a single agricultural holding, of all industrial enterprises into a single industrial enterprise, of all trading houses into a single trading house, of all partnerships into a single partnership. It is, therefore, not the infinite diminution of the general expenses, as it ought to be under the Republic, but the infinite increase of general expenses. Organization by the State, pushed to its final limits, would thus have this definitive result: while the national expenditure would be like 12, the receipt would be like 6.”
Of course, it was not appropriateness that was lacking in my publication: but my ideas had the tort of being contrary to prejudice. The favorite error of socialism has hitherto been to suppose that the sum of outlays, comparative to production, diminishes as operations increase, and a greater number of trades and individuals are brought into the workshop. It is on this basis that all plans of community, of association, of organization of labor by the State have been constructed. I maintained that if, on the one hand, all trades, manufactures, etc., could be exploited by independent workers, the total sum of general overlays, in the country, would be zero; and that if, on the other hand, all the industries, professions, arts, etc. were to be put together in a single operation, the sum of these same overlays would exceed that of production by 100 per cent. Evidently there was only one madman to advance such enormities. My pamphlet had no common sense. This man, they said, has acrid blood; he must demolish everything, property, community, monarchy and democracy, God and the devil. He is not even satisfied with that!...
Fortunate, three times fortunate those who can be content with themselves! I had the patience, for six months, to listen to the financiers of the Constituent Assembly declaim against the system of the organization of labor by the State; I have not seen one of them make this observation which obliterates it, and which I had presented, as early as March, to my blind coreligionists.
The impatience winning me over, I decided to suspend my publication, and to summarize, in a forty-page opuscule, my ideas on Credit. It was here that I proposed, for the first time, and in an affirmative manner, to carry out the Revolution from below, by making an appeal to the reason and to the interest of each citizen, and by demanding of power only the notoriety and the impulse which it alone, today, is capable of giving to an idea. Instead of a system, I presented a simple, practical, legal formula, justified by a thousand examples, to which it was only necessary, in order to make its way, to be generalized and brought to light.
It is clear that I could not be understood. My plan was nothing less than a declaration of forfeiture of power. I proposed setting a precedent which, if it succeeded, would have the effect of gradually suppressing the entire governmental machine. The State was no longer anything, the State, with its army of 500,000 men, with its million salaried employees, with its budget of 2 billion! It was monstrous, incredible. Demagogy was in power, socialism itself was represented. Was it possible that with all the forces of the Republic, with the support of the workers and the humble submission of the bourgeois, the Provisional Government, citizens so devoted, patriots so pure, would just lead to nothing? that the three months of misery granted by the people would be without fruit? that all would wish to do good, all would be impotent to produce it? that on the contrary, in order to prevent each other from doing evil, they would be demolished one after the other? Could it be that, having the ear of the people, they would let them commit the enormous fault of 15 May? that in June they could only respond to the 100,000 men of the national workshops with gunshots? that a Constitution full of equivocations would be adopted against their will, almost without them? that in December, a nephew of the Emperor, without quality, without title, without fortune, would be elected President of the Republic, five and a half million in the majority, against Ledru-Rollin, Cavaignac, Lamartine? No, no! I was a utopian, a frondeur, a malcontent. It was necessary to keep intact the power which the people had conquered in February, and to use it for their happiness, as the royalty had used it for their corruption.
The elections of April came. I had the fancy to be a candidate. In the circular I addressed to the electors of Doubs, on the date of 3 April 1848, I said:
“The social question is posed: you will not escape it. In order to resolve it, it is necessary that men unite from the extreme of the radical spirit, to the extreme of the conservative spirit. Workers, extend your hand to your patrons; and you, patrons, do not reject the advance of those who were your laborers.”
When I so spoke, the democratic influence was still in full force. I did not wait for a reversal of fortune to preach, as the goal and significance of socialism, universal reconciliation.
16 April came to bring my candidature to naught. After this deplorable day, they no longer wanted to hear of extreme radicalism; they preferred to compromise everything by throwing themselves into extreme conservation. I would like to know from my honorable compatriots what they think they have gained from listening to their egotistical prejudice? What did the golden mean of the Constituent Assembly produce? What will the absolutism of the Legislature produce? Our Montagnons turn red; in two years, the peasants will shout from one end to the other of the Catholic and monarchical Franche-Comté: Long live the Democratic and Social Republic!
An ousted candidate, a publicist without reader, I had to fall back on the press. — I am told every day: Make books, that's better than newspapers. I agree: but the books are not read; and while the author of Positive Philosophy, Mr. Auguste Comte, barely brings together two hundred faithful, the Faubourien, the Père Duchêne and the Vraie République lead the country. You consume ten years of your life doing your octavo; fifty amateurs buy it, then comes the journalist who throws you into his cart, and all is said. The books are now used only for the apprenticeship of the journalist: the highest genre, in our century, is the premier-Paris, is the serial.
The days of 17 March and 16 April, the unfortunate affairs in Risquons-Tout and Kehl, the agitation produced by the dispatch of the commissioners, the unimportant declamations of the clubs, etc., etc., had enlightened me about the retrospective tendencies of the February revolutionaries. To combat these tendencies, to bring the Revolution back onto its true course, was the main object of the Représentant du Peuple. Above all, my collaborators and myself were endeavoring to make it clear that property, being no longer independent, thanks precisely to the separation of industries, and deriving its full value from circulation, the current France, although richer, could not, like the old, endure ten years of a revolutionary state; that the February Revolution did not resemble that of 89-92; that it was necessary to abandon old mistakes; put aside utopias, and get into the positive of the questions as quickly as possible. Useless efforts! The Représentant du Peuple obtained only a success of esteem: it conquered its place in the sun of publicity; but, whatever it had foreseen, it had not the credit of obtaining anything, preventing anything.
It was around this time that I became acquainted with Mr. Girardin. This eminent writer will not contradict me, especially now that his tax theory establishes among us so many points in common: he approved of my ideas on credit; but, following his inclinations as a statesman, and expecting nothing but authority, he refused all initiative from the people. An hour of power, he said, is better than ten years of journalism. These words reveal the secret of the politics and the oscillations of Mr. Girardin.
By his administrative and financial theories, Mr. Girardin is a pure socialist: it might even be said that he borrowed from Pierre Leroux the idea of his ministry tirune and one. For Mr. Girardin the economic question is everything, politics very little. If he makes much of government, he is skeptical of the form: little does he care for the sovereignty of the people or divine right, provided that as a result the government undertakes the affairs of the nation. But this political indifference does not alter in Mr. Girardin the governmental spirit: in this respect, it goes hand in hand with communism as well as with doctrine. Hence, since he does not seek what general reason wants, but only what seems the most probable and the best as an initiative of power, and the data of the problem constantly changes, it happens, in spite of the prudence and subtlety of the writer, that he always falls into some contradiction, either with the facts, with the opinion of the day, or with himself.
I thought for a moment, after the election of 10 December, that Mr. Girardin, arriving with his protege to the affairs, was about to give us a striking demonstration of his governmental theory, which, basically, is merely communal theory. Why has Louis Bonaparte not made Mr. Girardin minister of finance? Revolution would have commenced from above; Mr. Girardin would have accomplished what Blanqui, Barbès, Louis Blanc wanted, what the national workshops supposed. Why, I say, even more today than under the ministry of Mr. Guizot, does Mr. Girardin find himself the antagonist of power? Alas! it is that Mr. Girardin is a man of revolutionary ideas, and that Messrs. Thiers, Barrot, Falloux, Changarnier, etc. do not want any more from the revolution for the government of 23 December, than the Provisional Government and the Executive Commission had wanted for themselves, than Louis Philippe and Charles X had wanted. It is that the bourgeois, no more than the peasant and the worker, understands that he is revolutionized.
When I think of all that I have said, written, published for ten years on the role of the State in society; on the subordination of power and the revolutionary incapacity of government, I am tempted to believe that my election in June 1848 was the result of a misunderstanding on the part of the people. These ideas date back in me to the time of my first meditations; they are contemporaneous with my calling to Socialism. Study and experience have developed them; they have constantly directed me in my writings and conduct; they inspired all the acts of which I am going to give an account: it is strange that with the guarantee which they present, and which is the highest that an innovator can offer, I may have seemed to be for a solitary moment, to the Society which I take as judge and to the Power which I do not want, a formidable agitator.
- The part of the Creation of Order, to which I attach the most importance, after the serial method, is, as of reason, the determination of fundamental concepts, or categories. I have returned many times, since 1843, to this question, and I have always arrived at the same result. The categories are forms of reason, no doubt: but it seems to me very difficult not to admit, like Kant himself, that these forms are given, and not merely revealed by nature. In the first place, they all assume a subject and an object, the first to receive them, the second to bring them into being. They are not the product of a reflection, like the image in the mirror, nor of an impression, like that of the seal on wax; nor are they innate, since before being connected with the world, man does not think. To say that they are revealed to the mind, on the occasion of perceptions that it receives from sensible things, is a pure mysticism: what is this revelation?...
For me, the concepts or categories of pure reason are to the mind what liquidity, solidity, and gaseousness are to matter. These forms, or primitive qualities of bodies, are essential to them, though not innate or inherent. They are due to the presence or absence of caloric; and the physicist, who is not precluded from conceiving them in bodies independently of caloric, would still suppose them, even when there is no more caloric. All the same, the ideas of time and of space, of substance and of cause are conceived by the mind, in the presence of nature, and become essential to reason, to such an extent that there is no longer a mistress who ignores it, even though, by hypothesis, it destroys nature.