Communism, the Future of Society (1869)

The careful study of geology and history reveals that humanity began with isolation, with absolute individualism, and that, as it proceeds through a long series of improvements, it must culminate in community.1 Proof of this truth will be provided by the experimental method, which is the only method still valid today, because it founded science.

The observation of facts, and the deductions that can irrefutably be made from them, will establish, step by step, this constant forward march of the human species. We will clearly see that every instance of progress is a victory for communism, and every regression a defeat for it; that its development is the same as that of civilisation, and that the two ideas are identical; that all the problems successively posed over the course of history by the needs of our species have had a communist solution; and that the unresolved questions we are wrestling with today – those that are the most difficult, the most bound up with war and unrest – can have no other solution than communism, without making things worse and descending into the absurd.

All improvements in the means of taxation – the replacement of tax farmers by state officials, taxes on postage, tobacco, salt – have been communist innovations. Industrial companies, commercial enterprises or associations, and the various kinds of mutual insurance groups, all bear the same stamp. The army, the schools, the prisons, the barracks, these are all embryonic forms of communism – crude, rough, yet inevitable. Nothing can be achieved outside of this path. Taxes and government itself derive from communism – in its worst form, to be sure, and yet of an absolute necessity. The idea [of communism] has barely begun to stammer its first words. Before it utters its last, it will have changed everything. As yet we are still nothing more than barbarians.

Look at the effects resulting from the current regime! Low prices, and any resulting abundance of goods for sale, are taken to be a calamity that is ruinous for producers and that puts industry and business in dire straits. Political economy openly consecrates this blasphemy by the way it defines its key terms. It calls natural wealth utility, and dubs social wealth value. But utility implies abundance, and value implies scarcity. The more things of useful value abound, the less money can be made from them. Oh the madness! How can something that is beneficial in itself become a scourge? It is thanks to the greed of capital, which demands the lion’s share and withdraws as soon as falling prices prevent it from acquiring it. Its withdrawal duly makes the products more expensive, at which point it returns to fish in these troubled waters.

In their Asian colonies, the Dutch forbade the cultivation of pepper, nutmeg, etc., and destroyed masses of spices in order to maintain their high price on the market. In the civilised countries, each producer wants the value of their own product to rise and that of all others to fall. A drop in the price of flour is devastating for farmers, while a rise causes industrialists to despair. Is this permanent social war not a terrible indictment of the present organisation of society?

Under the communitarian regime, what is good profits everyone and what is bad profits no-one. Good harvests are a blessing, poor ones a calamity. No-one benefits from that which causes harm to others; no-one suffers from that which is advantageous to others. Everything is organised according to justice and reason. There can be abundance of supplies and goods, without this leading to industrial and commercial crises. Quite the contrary – the only limit on the accumulation of produce, which is impossible today without causing disasters, will be the point at which it naturally decomposes.

The worst plants often come to dominate land to the detriment of the best ones. Capitalism, avaricious and ever watchful, has managed to seize hold of our capacity for association, and in its hands this magnificent instrument of progress has become a veritable Chassepot rifle. Capitalism uses it to exterminate small and medium industry, medium and small commerce.

These poor people die in silence; they are suffocated in darkness. There is no commotion, no fuss. We see nothing; we hear nothing. They disappear without a trace. This is something entirely different to the riots of 1848, which caused such blind fury and merciless vengeance. The tradesmen may wish to ponder over La Fontaine’s fable, the torrent with a harmless roar and the quiet river that silently swallows you up in its tranquil waters. You can pass through the torrent, with slightly dampened feet, but sink forever to the bottom of the riverbed.2

This financial, industrial and commercial feudalism is being built up on the ruins of the middling classes [le bourgeois modeste]. More cunning and fearsome than the old patricians, it maintains the whole of society under its boot, relying on astuteness instead of violence; highway robbers have been supplanted by pickpockets.

It was inevitable that before it died off, the past would strike its final blow with the very weapon that was destined to kill it. Lashing out, it has now dealt itself a fatal blow with its own hand. In the service of capital, association becomes a scourge, so much so that it will not be endured for long. This glorious principle has the privilege of being able only to do good. For everything bad it is like an insecticide.3 The bugs that come into contact with it are poisoned to death.

When the time comes for a social evolution to take place, everything rapidly conspires to help with the birth of the new order. Even those exhausted forms of energy that are about to expire contribute to its emergence, without knowing it, with their final efforts. We are witnessing a curious spectacle. The beginnings of community are unfolding before our eyes.

What is mutual assistance, for instance, whose underlying principle constantly finds new means of application, and which works, slowly but surely, to unify all interests? It is one facet of the forthcoming transformation. Likewise, what is association – this flavour of the month, this universal panacea that today is greeted by a chorus of praise without a single discordant voice – if not the great path towards and the last word of communism?

Let us have no illusions, however. This last word will not be said as long as the great majority of people remain cowering in ignorance. The moon will sooner descend on our globe than community will be established, if deprived of its essential element, enlightenment. It would be just as easy for us to breathe without air as it would for community to live without education, its atmosphere and vehicle. Education and communism are so closely linked that one could do nothing without the other – neither a step forward, nor a step back. They have constantly walked side by side at the head of humanity and they will continue to do so until their common journey is complete.

Ignorance and community are incompatible. Universal education without communism, and communism without universal education, are both equally impossible. The man of the community is he who is neither deceived nor led. For every ignorant person is a dupe and an instrument of dupery, a serf and an instrument of servitude. A madman, if not a Jesuit,4 once dared to say in a public meeting: ‘If society were composed of producers, of good but ignorant workers, it would function; it might slide from exploitation into despotism, but it would still live. But if society were composed of savants, of scholars or learned people, unused to production, it would be unable to live.’

The same man also said: ‘I dread the anomaly of the déclassés who we see every day, who are very educated, very intelligent, and who lack any ability to earn a living.’

This is the same invaluable orator who ‘rejects free, obligatory and secular education as detrimental to freedom, and as threatening to reinforce centralised control.’

Such words express all the wishes and hatreds of the priests – their wish for darkness, their hatred of enlightenment. After the coup d’état [of 1851], ‘War on the déclassés!’ was the rallying cry for their merciless pursuit of school teachers and secular schools. To understand the plans of the clerico-monarchical reaction, one must read the prefects’ circulars from this disastrous period.

Independent or non-state schooling [l’enseignement libre] would deliver all education into the hands of the Jesuits.5 It would be impossible for alternatives to compete with the coalition of the clergy and capital. Only the forces of treason would dare suggest the contrary. The anathema cast at a society entirely composed of savants’ is itself enough to reveal the aim of maintaining the caste system, with the pariahs of manual labour on one side, and those privileged with intelligence on the other; a mass reduced to ignorance, and a handful of people maintaining them in this ignorance.6

It takes a great deal of audacity, if not ineptitude, to claim that a nation of learned people or savants would cease to live and would simply allow itself to die of hunger. No people in modern times could compete with the productive power of a learned nation, a nation of savants, in either farming or industry. The distance between the two would be greater than that between the Gauls under Caesar and the French people of 1870.

Public assemblies, if they endure and continue into the future, must watch out for emissaries of the Society of Jesus. Its tactic is for them to appear in every club and, in order to avoid discussing the questions that are most dear to the reverend fathers, these spies have been ordered to wear any mask. And it is in the clergy’s interests to have independent or non-state schooling, to be suspicious of science, of scholars, and of the learned, to wage war against the déclassés – which is to say, against people who are both poor and well educated.

Whoever rejects free and obligatory education and demands instead independent education, citing concerns for liberty and the need to save money, is an agent of Jesuitism. Whether they claim to be a republican, a revolutionary, an atheist, a materialist, a socialist, a communist, a Proudhonist or whatever else, the colour of their mask does not matter; we can confidently call them a henchman of the Jesuits. Indeed, good sense shows that thanks to the omnipotence of money, independent education – fee-paying and free from state intervention – places the monopoly of education into the hands of the priests.

The teachings of priests amount to darkness and oppression. The black army,7 with its hundred thousand male and female soldiers, advances furiously, spreading darkness and extinguishing enlightenment everywhere. With the support of the state, it dominates, governs, threatens, holds in check. The secular arm obeys its orders, capital lavishes it with all its resources, knowing that it is its best auxiliary, or rather its last hope.

Who cannot recognise this danger today? The entire democratic movement proclaims it, without exception, by invoking the sole remedy: education. Divided on everything else, it is unanimous on this point. Everyone cries at the top of their lungs: ‘Enlightenment! Enlightenment! No more clerical stupefaction [abrutissement clérical]!’

But these cries are in vain! They fall on the government’s deaf ears; its response is simply to increase Jesuit influence even further. Each year secular schools close by the hundreds while religious schools open in ever-greater numbers. If we compare 1848 to 1870, we see that twenty-five years ago girls were equally divided between to the two forms of schooling, while today barely a sixth remain in secular schools. We see that the number of boys poisoned by sacerdotal education has risen from seventeen to fifty per cent, and this alarming rise continues to increase for both sexes. The project to bring about universal stupidity [le plan de crétinisation universelle] presses ahead relentlessly. Will it succeed?

No! But how the advent of happiness has been delayed! We have come to a wretched halt, in the midst of antagonism and destitution! Wasted and monotonous years go by, generations pass, devoured one after another by the monster of superstition and ignorance. This monster is stood before us, blocking humanity’s progress along the path to the promised land that it glimpses in the distance but is unable to reach.

How much more time will be needed to fight this enemy that has never given any quarter, and that we always pardon after having toppled it? Ah! If only the revolution had done its duties in 1830, in 1848, this half-century that has been so sadly wasted would have sufficed for us to reach our goal. War would have ended, and all nations, leaving the past behind them and allowing it to disappear rapidly into the darkness, would have made great strides towards an ever more radiant future.

When it next triumphs, will the revolution finally be wise and sensible, or will it once again grant clemency to the spirit of evil, which until now it has always allowed to rise back up, ever more fearsome, each time it falls? There are traitors within our ranks who protect it in its moments of defeat with cabalistic phrases that deceive the people. The watchword of the next betrayal will be: ‘Abolish the church budget; separate the church and state’. Translation: victory to Catholicism, crush the revolution. Let our own slogan be: ‘Abolish religion, expel the priests!’, and let us not yield before pleas, nor before threats, nor before trickery.

To capitulate would mean death. The victorious republic will not have time to waste fighting useless battles. There are too many obstacles that will require years of siege or trench warfare for us to distract ourselves with a full-scale attack on a hurdle or a hedgerow [une haie] that could be cleared with a single leap. The army, the magistrates, Christianity and political organisations – these are mere hurdles. Ignorance is a formidable bastion. One day for a hurdle; twenty years for the bastion.

Hurdles, even once they have been cleared, may hinder our siege. It will take a long time, too long, whatever happens, and since community can only be established upon the site of the destroyed bastion, we should not expect this to happen overnight. A trip to the moon would be a less dangerous chimera. And yet this is still the dream of many impatient people, who are, alas, entirely justified in being so – but it is a dream that cannot be realised before the transformation of minds. The will of even the whole of France would still be powerless to accelerate the moment of this transformation, and any attempt to do so would lead to failure, which would only trigger a furious reaction.

All organisms have their own conditions of existence. They are unable to function outside of these conditions. Community cannot be improvised, because it will be a result of education, which cannot be improvised either. And let us not forget the race of vampires, which is also the race of chameleons. It is no more likely to disappear, the day after the revolution, than the race of the naïve and simpleminded who ordinarily nourish it.

Coats may turn, soon enough. We may soon see a whole crowd of charlatans of communism suddenly emerge, like mushrooms after a storm, to indoctrinate men – so many Tartuffes of community, seeking to bamboozle their women. For them, the prize of intrigue remains ‘management’ [la gérance], that is, the discretionary control of common goods. The great mass of ignorant people would become both their prey and their army, exactly as they are today, but with even more terrible consequences – such a mixture of tyranny and anarchy that the counter-revolution would arrive brutally, not for just one day, but for many years, under the enduring terror of its memory. It would be a horrifying leap backwards!

Moreover, is it not pure folly to think that, by a mere summersault society might land on its feet, built anew? No that is not how things work, neither for man nor for nature.

Community will advance step by step, alongside education, its companion and guide – parallel to it, never in front, never behind, always abreast. It will be realised the day that no man, thanks to the universality of enlightenment, can ever again be the dupe of another. When that day comes, no-one will be prepared to endure the inequality of wealth. And only communism can meet this condition.

One might object that equality of education will not lead to equality of intelligence, and that there will always remain enough cerebral inequality to create an intellectual hierarchy, from genius to incompetence.

Fine. Nevertheless, thorough and general education will suffice to protect even the weakest of brains against deception, whatever its mask. Experience proves this. The exploiter would be greeted everywhere with that crushing smile that says: ‘be off with you, charlatan!’ Awareness of his own impotence will soon spare him this trouble. Moreover, since the newly established order will not have been suddenly improvised, the race of vampires will have had all the time they need to adapt and resign themselves to the new milieu. Make no mistake, fraternity means that it is impossible to your brother.

Although still too scarce today, judgement – the most useful of all human faculties, the protective faculty par excellence, which defends us against both internal and external threats, against others and ourselves – will develop rapidly through general education, and will thereby become the key weapon of the new society. The fruit of experience and comparative analysis, it will draw new strengths from these sources. Deception will be no more. An implacable lucidity will be able to detect it in all its disguises. Rogues and dupes will no longer form the two major groups of humanity.

Credulity is already under attack, on all fronts. The black army still maintains its control over children and women. But the men are abandoning it. The priests may retain their hold on the children, but they are losing the adults! How difficult it must be, still to retain control, thanks to ancient privilege, over that blank page upon which un-erasable impressions are so easily etched – only then to see them erased, and replaced! What an irrevocable sentence! May it be enforced as quickly as possible!

Genius will remain an exception, but judgement will become the prerogative of all. Such judgement will suffice forever to dethrone hypocrisy, which currently rules the world. Tartuffes of emotion, tartuffes of candour, tartuffes of indulgence, tartuffes of devotion, tartuffes of cordiality, tartuffes of ingenuousness, tartuffes of chivalry, tartuffes of virtue, tartuffes of bonhomie, tartuffes of benevolence – tartuffes, my friends, you abominable plague, you will be unmasked on the spot, booed, scorned. And religious hypocrisy, the most infernal of all forms of tartufferie, will be nothing but a memory of the past, a memory that provokes astonishment and horror.

People will come to acquire such penetrating gazes that every individual’s defects and qualities will be counted one by one, as if in a glass jar. Ah! Anyone who strays from the straight and narrow will risk laughs and jeers. And yet, the general way of thinking will be shaped by lenient indulgence, for the notion of ‘free will’ [libre arbitre] will have ceased to exist, in keeping with the final and definitive decree of science.8 As for crime, it will disappear along with capital and religion, its mother and father.

Such will be, in our opinion, the consequences of the universality of enlightenment. Note that, in this prediction, communism will figure as a mere effect, not as a cause. Communism will arise inevitably from generalised education, and it can arise in no other way.

Communism is accused, however, of sacrificing the individual and denying freedom. And no doubt, were it to be born premature, through the use of forceps, before reaching its full term, a stunted version of communism might well induce many people to regret the good old days that preceded it. But if it is to be the child of science, who will dare denounce the infant of such a mother? Where, moreover, is the evidence that might support the accusations that are levelled against it? Since the accused has never yet lived, they amount to nothing but an unfounded insult.

And in whose name is this arrogant supposition put forth? In the name of that individualism which, for thousands of years, has continuously killed both freedom and the individual. How many individual members of the human race have managed to avoid becoming either its slaves or victims? One in every ten thousand, perhaps. Ten thousand martyrs for one executioner! Ten thousand slaves for one tyrant! And still they plead in the name of freedom! I understand what they are up to! What a sinister subterfuge, concealed behind a definition. Does not oligarchy call itself democracy, falsity honesty, slaughter moderation?

We all know what it really amounts to, this freedom that pleads against communism – it is the freedom to enslave, the freedom to exploit at will, the freedom of the great and the good as Renan9 likes to put it, with the multitude as their stepping stone. This form of freedom is something that the people call oppression and crime. They no longer want to nourish it with their flesh and blood.

Moralists and legislators all insist, in principle, that man must sacrifice a part of his freedom to society – in other words, that the freedom of the individual has for its limit the freedom of others. But does the existing order, with its two categories of the privileged and the pariahs, adhere to this conception? How many people must endure servitude in order to allow one person to live free? 10, 20, 60, 100, 2000, 30,000, 100,000? The penalties to be paid are endless, and so are the ways of levying them.10 Only the chains do not change.

Every infringement of the freedom of others violates the moralists’ own definition of the word – which is indeed the only legitimate definition, even though it has thus far always remained vain and empty. Freedom implies social parity amongst individuals, from which it follows that equality is the limit to freedom.

Only thorough-going association can satisfy this sovereign law. The old order tramples on it, without shame or pity. Communism safeguards the individual; individualism exterminates it. For the one, every individual is sacred. The other cares for individuals as much as it does for earthworms, and slaughters them in a manner worthy of that bloody trinity, Loyola, Caesar and Shylock; and afterwards it says, with phlegm: ‘Establishment of community would mean sacrifice of the individual.’

Community would indeed interrupt the cannibals’ feast, that much is clear. But those who bear the cost of it will not consider this disturbance to be such a bad thing. This is the essential point. And what pretext, moreover, do we offer those who might seek to quarrel with us? Do we seek to impose communism by fiat, as an abstract a priori principle? Not at all. We simply predict that it will be the infallible result of universal education. Who would condemn the rapid development of enlightenment? And if what must follow is the steady advent of community, no-one can say a word to say against it.

Everyone proclaims education to be the only possible response to the enigmas posed by the social sphinx. It is not clear whether this invocation of education is always sincerely uttered, as is the case with all such problematic words. There are as many definitions as there are interested parties. For priests, it means catechism and no science; for socialists, it means science and no more catechism.

There is nothing surprising, then, in this unanimous chorus of voices. It still cannot conceal a war to the death. The people need not worry about this. They do not have any ulterior motives, and they do not take up false banners. They have always written ‘Freedom’ and ‘Education’ on theirs, with a clear and precise meaning. Clericalism, on the other hand, after having loaded these two words with anathemas for so long, has today suddenly changed its mind, after recognising its own powerlessness, and it now attaches them to its own banner, in order to benefit from their prestige. It is a double and impudent lie. But as long as it deceives people, what does it care!

Is conservatism leading the dissemination of enlightenment, or is it worried about its spread? An answer to this question is indicated clearly enough by its alliance with the forces that seek to smother it [l’éteignoir]. No more ignorance, no more oppression! Conservatism is being undermined at its base; it fights to prolong the darkness, its indispensable environment. To socialism falls the opposite task: from the present dark night, it must help bring forth the luminous sky that will light up its victory, the victory of justice and common sense over wickedness and absurdity. Its mission will then have been accomplished.

Others claim to demand more of it, however. The capitalist doctrine, which has showered and continues to shower the human race with so many benefits, is tormented with worry as it sees its pupil move towards other flags. In its solicitude, it enjoins communism, its young rival, to lay out all the details of the future form of social organisation in advance and in full, to resolve every difficulty that it delights in predicting, and to satisfy its curiosity with a building that is completely finished from the cellar to the attic, without omitting a single nail or peg.

‘What will the citizen of the new Salente11 do with themselves, with their time, with their dreams of travel or of repose? Who will do the washing up? Who will sweep up? Who will empty the chamber pots and clear out the latrines? Who will extract the coal from the mines, etc.?’

All these impertinent questions deserve a single response: ‘That concerns neither you nor me.’

Ah! What! Here are forty to fifty million people, all highly educated, better prepared than if they had been taught by members of the Academy, all armed to the teeth against violence and ruse, all sensitive to the slightest provocation, as skittish as wild horses. In their midst, no trace of that execrable and execrated thing called a government could rear its head; not a shadow of authority, not an iota of constraint, not a hint of influence! These forty million future capacities will tower head and shoulders above everyone who is alive today – and yet we are supposed to think that they will need, in order to organise themselves, our advice, our rules, our harsh discipline! We are supposed to think that without us they will not know where to find shirts and breeches, and that, unless we warn them against it, unless we warn them against it, they will try to ingest through their ears things that should be chewed and swallowed! It is too much. As for me, if they were to come and disturb me in my tomb with their question about chamber pots, I would tell them straight: ‘If you do not know how to plug up your nose, plug your backside instead.’

Our forty immortals themselves – if a sudden multiplication by six zeros created a million civic records, a million Olliviers,12 a million Dupanloups,13 etc., with a deserted France at their disposal – do you really think that, thus increased to forty million, they would spend all their time haranguing each other in verse and prose? They would not be so mad! For one thing, when it is time to eat they will not sit back and wait an hour, before rolling up their sleeves and lending a hand.

The first vote, naturally, would concern the division of labour. If our point of departure was our forty characters [types], it might seem that a caste system would almost be established in advance; but would such a system be welcomed with enthusiasm? Not at all! They are not so backwards now, our forty, after their multiplication! I rather think that all our future Mérimées, for example, would not stubbornly hold on to the privilege of rinsing out the chamber pots, even if they were Etruscan vases.14 So many great minds would know how to surround this essential task with a halo of poetry, that would allow it to be said of one and all: Once a rather pitiable writer, this toothless reactionary became / To his great honour, a marvellous emptier of cesspools.15

It is delightful to observe how, whenever communism is discussed, its adversaries’ fears instinctively lead them to this unavoidable piece of furniture! ‘Who will empty the chamber pot?’ This is always their first cry. ‘Who will empty my camber pot?’ is what they really mean to say. But they are wise enough not to use the possessive pronoun, and generously direct all their fears to posterity.

What an ugly thing, the selfishness of our day! A mixture of cynicism and hypocrisy! Does anyone still care about the past? It amounts merely to a pile of dead leaves, crumpled for use as bedding or litter. History is sketched out in broad brush strokes, in the most beautiful cold blood, with heaps of corpses and ruins. No butchery prompts a flicker of emotion across these impassive faces. The massacre of a people? Just part of the evolution of humanity. Invasion of the barbarians? Infusion of young and new blood in the old veins of the Roman Empire. The whirlwind of Germans and Huns only stormed through the Latin world to purify its contaminated air. Providential hurricane! As for the populations of the cities that the cataclysm flattened on its path – that was a matter of necessity, the inevitable march of progress. Anything that gave birth to the present – that is to say, to us – is good. No advance could be too expensive for such a fine product.

But how this changes when it is a matter of generations to come! Indifference gives way to delirious passion. People are seized by such a fury of tenderness for these chubby-cheeked infants of the future that they hasten to lock them away in order to protect them from accidents. Their steps, their movements are counted out, and stabilized, for fear that they might fall. For these poor, puny automatons, everything is worked out and scripted in advance, like on a music score – and in perpetuity, if you please. Perpetual religion, perpetual dynasty, perpetual laws and above all perpetual debt, in legitimate payment for so much solicitude and love.

Well! Good people, when you eventually rejoin your ancestors, you will be regarded just as you regarded them, though perhaps with a little less consideration. After taking precautions to avoid any infection that might arise from your material carcasses, the mechanical dolls of your factory will break all their mechanisms, and they will then give the funeral oration for your moral carcasses, in more or less these terms:

‘In the history book of humanity, you are the page on cholera and the plague. The barbarities and foolishness of your forefathers can be attributed to their ignorance, and were the result of blind convictions. You, on the other hand, the harm you inflicted was deliberate, premeditated, driven by a dark selfishness. For you have never believed in anything other than your own self-interest, you ignoble sceptics, to this interest you were willing to sacrifice even your most distant descendents.’

‘Who gave you a mandate to speak in our name, to think and act on our behalf? Did we agree to the earnings you anticipated on the back of our labour? Hypocrites! On the pretext of ensuring our well-being, you devoured the fruits of our sweat in advance, doing your best to blind and deafen us so as to prevent us from seeing and hearing. Why do you not look after your own concerns, and leave us to our own? You had each year’s collection of taxes, as revenue and expenditure; you should have stayed within these limits, and conducted yourselves like dutiful usufructuaries, with fees and profits properly paid for. The only inheritance we accept is one free of any liability to pay any accumulated debts. Whoever incurs debts must pay for them.’

‘It was said that the loans you took out were intended to enable works that would benefit posterity, and that posterity should therefore pay its share of the charges just as it would receive its share of the benefits. We work for posterity, so posterity must pay. – For posterity? Hypocrites! What project has ever been conceived in the name of a future interest? No! The present only thinks of itself. It scorns the future as much as it scorns the past. It exploits the ruins of one and seeks to exploit the other in advance. It says: ‘Après moi le déluge! [After me, the Flood!] – or, if it does not say it, it thinks and acts accordingly. Are we sparing in our use of the treasures amassed by nature, treasures that are not inexhaustible and that will never be reproduced? We waste coal in the most odious ways, which we try to justify on the basis of unknown deposits, the reserves of the future. We are hunting whales to extinction, a powerful resource that will disappear, lost for our descendents. The present pillages and destroys at random, to satisfy its own needs or whims.’

So let us see to today. Tomorrow does not belong to us; it is not our concern. Our only duty is to prepare it helpful materials for its work of organisation. The rest is not within our competence. The inhabitants of tradition-bound Brittany16 are not expected to give lectures to the Institut de France. If monsieur Veuillot17 supports the opposite view, as is likely, let us answer him with a familiar rejoinder: ‘The common peasant has nothing to teach his priest!’18 Are these roles of traditional Breton and common peasant not grotesque? And should we not admire the conceit of these Lycurguses, who think they can draw up the civil code of the future, article by article? They seem worried that these poor future generations will not know how to place one foot in front of the other, and so take it upon themselves to make some of them an infant’s padded cap, others a baby’s bodice, and others still a small rolling prison that is supposed to teach them how to walk freely.

It is true that these future generations will not be outdone in charity, and no doubt they will be touched in their turn by the madness of these worthy ancestors, who devoted so much time to building up so many social structures in which to enclose posterity. Today our old prison remains standing, still threatening and black, with no more than two or three cracks that have enabled some prisoners to escape – and already, like mother ducks watching their ducklings descend into the water, the neo-revealers [neo-révélateurs] suffer agonies on behalf of the wretched escapees, as they gambol joyously about in the sun.

‘Ah! My children! What imprudence! You will catch a cold outside. Quickly, come inside, into the wonderful palace that I have built for you. Never have we seen, never will we see, its equal!’

There are already three or four Moses who maintain that they have built these structures so solidly that they will last for eternity, and the gates of hell will certainly not stand up in comparison with these new paradises that are now available to the highest bidder. True believers are no doubt free to search, amidst these monuments of the future, through the fog, for the occasional escaped fugitive from the present. This is a worthy aim for a stroll, and an excellent exercise for the eyes. But to return from such an excursion with a meticulous drawing of the structure itself, a full set of plans, complete with cross sections, measurements and details, with a comprehensive inventory of fixtures… no, my friend, no, put your blueprint away.

This obsessive search might be innocent enough, if our fanatical advocates of confinement did not also oppose those who are seeking to demolish the old jail without joining in the making of a new one, and who instead dare to leave the public free to stroll around as they please – a horrible thing that follows every Sunday mass.

It would be difficult to deny this obvious point, that community will be the inevitable and crowning achievement of civilisation. The study of both the past and the present attests that all progress is a step in this direction, and examination of the problems currently contested today allows for no other reasonable solution. Everything is marching steadily towards this denouement. It requires only public education, which is to say nothing more than our good will. Communism is therefore not a utopia. It is a normal development, and bears no relation to the three or four systems that have recently appeared, already fully formed by fanciful brains.

Cabet, with his Icaria and its attempt to establish a communist community in Nauvoo,19 made the mistake precisely of conflating the regular ideal of the future with the empty hypotheses peddled by our tin-pot revealers [révélateurs de pacotille]. His is therefore an even greater failure than that of his emulators – communism being a general result, and not an egg that can be laid and then hatched in a corner of the world by a two-legged bird without feathers or wings.

Saint-Simonians, Fourierists and Positivists have all declared war on revolution, which they accuse of an incorrigible negativism. For thirty or so years now, their sermons have announced to the world an end to the era of destruction and the advent of a new organic era, one anticipated in the person of their respective messiahs. As commercial rivals, the only common ground between these three sects was their diatribes against revolutionaries, those hardened sinners who refuse to open their eyes to the new light and their ears to the words promising new life.

There is one remarkable point that is itself enough to distinguish the two groups: the communists have consistently formed and trained the boldest avant-garde of democracy, while those pursuing their speculative hypotheses have competed with each other in the platitude of their submission to each regressive government, trying desperately to gain favour by insulting the republic. For communism is the essence, the living core of the revolution, while the new religions, like the religion of old, have only ever been its enemies.

Everyone knows that the Saint-Simonians are today the pillars of the Empire. One cannot accuse them of apostasy. Their doctrines – the sovereignty of capital, the omnipotence of banks and high industry – have all triumphed. Both they and their doctrines have been enthroned at the same time; so much the better for them. But to say that these good people might be mistaken for dangerous innovators is something else!

After having paid court to Louis-Philippe for eighteen years, at the expense of the republicans, the Fourierists moved over to the cause of the republic after its initial victory [in February 1848]. They were soon astonished and then crestfallen to find proscription there where they thought they would find power. They disappeared in the storm along with their burlesque utopias. The debris remains scattered amongst the democratic ranks, which have become their sole remaining source of hope.

Positivism, the century’s third chimera, began by rejecting all forms of worship, and has ended up defending a caste system grafted onto a caricature of Catholicism. It has also split into two camps. Members of the orthodox wing solemnly perform the Comtean mass in the prophet’s death chamber. The Protestants spend their time either repudiating the doctrine they preach or preaching the doctrine they repudiate, as they see fit. All are equally notable for their fear of violence, their respect for force and their efforts to avoid any contact with the vanquished.

Comte has dedicated his final years to eulogising Emperor Nicolas and trampling on revolutionaries. He had devised his castes in order to win the heart of the counter-revolution. But the counter-revolution and the Tsar have not even deigned to turn their heads.

The schismatics make a certain amount of noise and have a semblance of influence thanks to those hesitant atheists who have opted to seek shelter beneath an equivocation. Once the danger has passed, however, even this shadow of life will vanish, and the positivists will either attack socialism from the rear or defect to the conservative camp.

Communism, which is the revolution itself, must be wary of the allures of utopia and never separate itself from politics. Previously it was outside of politics; today it finds itself right at its heart. Politics is nothing more than communism’s servant. To maintain its services communism must not overwork it. Communism cannot impose itself suddenly, no more the day after than the day before its victory. To do so would be like attempting to fly to the sun. Before gaining much height one would fall back to the ground, nursing one’s broken limbs over a lengthy stay in hospital.

Let us not forgot our axiom: education and community lead the way and cannot move ahead of each other by so much as a single step. It is already something to have a Siamese twin to whom everyone appeals with great cries. One will not arrive without the other.

It is true that these unanimous appeals are based on an underlying assumption: their definition of education. And as we have seen, there are two definitions: one black, one white. Let us not be dupes. All the evidence is plain to see. The government and conservatism want only the education that priests provide, which means darkness. They are pressing frenetically for this goal. Caesar, Shylock and Loyola are marching together in lock step towards the conquest of night. They will not succeed, but they are blocking us from reaching our own goal.

The two battling forces hold each other in check. No-one advances, no-one retreats. Immobility prevails. For us, given the circumstances, this is already a success. The night has at its disposal fifty thousand priests, fifty thousand congregation members and around forty thousand teachers. For almost everyone today obeys the sacristy. The University has become a bastion of treachery.

We cannot even rely on the press. The opposition press hardly reaches beyond the walls of the major cities. The countryside belongs to the reactionary publications that back up, with their written propaganda, the oral propaganda of the priests, the Ignorantines and the big landowners. Everything is against us, nothing for us.

So what are we left with, then? The breath of progress that circulates in the air, the communications opened up amongst people by the railways, public consciousness, and above all the spectacle of our enemies, our most effective plea. Anger may grow, but that is a precarious force. Today’s anger often becomes tomorrow’s fear. There is no solid basis other than education, and the enemy’s efforts are paralysing it. We are marking time.

But the day after a revolution, a coup de théâtre occurs. It is not that a sudden transformation takes place all at once. Men and things remain the same as before. It is just that hope and fear have changed sides. The chains fall, the nation is free, and an immense horizon opens up before it.

So what is to be done? Harness a new team of horses to the same chariot, like in 1848, and peacefully set off again along the same tracks? We know where they lead. If, on the contrary, common sense has finally gained the upper hand, there will now be two parallel paths, traced side by side. One, from one stage to the next, leads to general, universal education; the other, by corresponding stages, to community.

In setting off along both roads the same initial measure must be taken: the destruction of obstacles. These are well known. Here, the black army; there, the conspiracies of capital. The black army should be expelled beyond the borders; a simple task to carry out. Capital is less accommodating. Its strategy never varies, and has become familiar: it takes flight or hides, after which the capitalist stands by his window and peacefully watches the people wallow in the gutter. This is what happened in 1848. The people groaned, cried, grumbled, and then, growing angry too late, they were thoroughly beaten, and so assumed their chains once again. Let us never repeat this.

It is impossible to prevent the flight of capital or money! We should not worry too much about this. But objects and furnishings, not to mention buildings, cannot hide or flee. This will suffice. Let us hasten to accomplish what is most pressing. 

Priority measures

In the economic sphere

1) Command all the heads of industry and commerce to maintain provisionally their current workforce and salaries or risk expulsion from the country. The state will make arrangements with them. Every employer or owner who is expelled for refusing to comply is to be replaced by a government agency.

2) Convoke the relevant assemblies to address issues of customs, mining, large industrial companies, credit and instruments of exchange.

3) One assembly is to be charged with laying the groundwork for the establishment of workers’ associations.

By commanding the bosses in this way, we will be able to parry the blows of capital, when it tries to stab us in the back. During the initial period this is the essential thing. On this condition, the workers will be able to wait for new social measures elsewhere than in the gutter.

In the political sphere

Disband the army and dissolve the magistracy. Immediately dismiss middling and senior civil servants. Provisionally maintain the existing workforce. Expel all who belong to the black army, both men and women. Bring all the moveable and immoveable goods of churches, communities and congregations of both sexes, as well as of everyone who fronts for them, under state control. Recovery from the greatest enemies of the republic of any ill-gotten gains resulting from acts undertaken since 24 February 1848. Cancellation of all sales of these goods or all loans secured on them since this same date.

Reorganise the civil service staff. No more penal code or magistracy. Arbitrators for civil cases, jurors for criminal cases. Sentences that are proportional to the crime and always decreed by the jury, according to its members’ conscience, without any obligatory tariff. Only the nature of a sentence is to be established in advance.

Train a permanently garrisoned national army. General armament of workers and republicans.

No freedom for the enemy.

Financial sphere

Abolish the public debt ledger. Establish a commission to regulate a National Savings Bank. Replace all direct or indirect contributions with a direct, progressive tax on inheritance and income.

Public education

Form a body of teachers for the three levels: primary, secondary and higher education.


Parisian dictatorship.

The hurried call for universal suffrage in 1848 was a well-conceived act of betrayal. It was widely known that, as a result of the gagging of the press after the 18 Brumaire [of 1799], the provinces had become the prey of the clergy, of state functionaries, and of the aristocrats. To request a vote from these enslaved populations was simply to request one from their masters. Republicans of good faith demanded the postponement of the electoral assemblies until all minds had been thoroughly liberated through open and unrestricted debate. This provoked great fear among the forces of reaction, who were just as certain of their immediate victory as they were of their likely defeat one year later. In a premeditated act, the Provisional Government surrendered the Republic to the counter-revolution – the same Republic which, from the beginning, it had endured only with anger.

Recourse to the ballot the day after a revolution can have only two equally reprehensible aims: to win the vote by constraint, or to restore the monarchy. One might say that this is a violent, minority view. No! A majority won over by terror and the gag is not a majority of citizens but a herd of slaves. They make up a blind tribunal that for seventy years has only heard one of the two parties. They now owe it to themselves to listen to the rival party for a further seventy years. As the parties were prevented from speaking together, so they shall speak one after the other.

Foreseeing these events, the silver-tongued spokesmen of reaction elaborate sentimental homilies in support of their familiar refrain: ‘It is a great shame that in victory the parties seek only reprisals rather than freedom.’ But their refrain is false. In 1848 the republicans, forgetting fifty years of persecutions, granted complete and total freedom to their enemies. It was a solemn and decisive moment, one that shall not come again. Despite much prolonged and bitter suffering, the victors took the initiative and set an example.

And what was the response? Extermination. Case closed. The day the gag is removed from the mouth of Labour, it will have to be put into that of Capital.

In 1848 one year of Parisian dictatorship would have spared France and history in general the quarter century that is now coming to an end. If this time around ten years are required, let us not hesitate in taking them. After all, the government of Paris is the government of the country by the country, thus the only legitimate one. Paris is not a municipal city confined to its own personal interests; it is a truly national representative.

It is crucial for the revolution’s survival that it be able to unite prudence with vigour. A direct attack of the principle of property would be as ineffective as it would be dangerous. Far from imposing itself by decree, communism must wait for its advent to result from free resolutions taken by the country, and these resolutions can only emerge from the general diffusion of enlightenment.

Darkness does not vanish in twenty-four hours. It is the most tenacious of all our enemies. Twenty years may not be enough to usher in complete daylight. Enlightened workers already know through experience that ignorance is the principal and we might even say the sole obstacle to the development of associations. The masses do not understand them and are mistrustful. Alas, their mistrust is all too understandable! The race of vampires is still there, ready to re-establish exploitation behind new masks. The ignorant, who have a vague instinctual sense of this danger, continue therefore to prefer the simplicity of salaried labour. They know its advantages and disadvantages by heart. Complexity scares them. There is nothing as discouraging as not being able to see and understand one’s situation clearly, when life depends on it.

Nevertheless, the obvious benefits of association will soon become clear in the eyes of all the industrial proletariat once the government is working for enlightenment, and they will quickly rally to the cause.

The countryside poses a far greater problem, however. First, ignorance and suspicion prey far more on cottages than on workshops. Second, the motives of necessity and self-interest that might lead the peasant towards association are not as strong. Its instruments of labour are solid and fixed. Industry, an artificial creation of capital, is a storm-battered ship and is constantly threatened with shipwreck. Agriculture has dry land beneath its feet, which never founders.

The peasant knows his own land, and confining himself to it, makes of it a place of security and refuge; he fears only encroachment. Shipwreck, for him, would mean seeing his own plot engulfed in this ocean of lands, the limits of which he does not know. Consequently for the peasant the words sharing or redistribution [partage] and community set alarm bells ringing. These words thus accounted for a large part of the misfortunes of the Republic in 1848, and ever since the establishment of the new coalition of the three monarchies,20 they are being used against the republic once again.

This is no reason to remove the word communism from the political dictionary, however. Far from it – we must help the country folk get used to hearing it not as a threat but as a hope or expectation. One need only clarify that community is simply the full, integral association of the whole of the country, gradually formed by partial associations, and enlarged by successive federations. The political association of the French territory already exists. Why should economic association not become its natural complement, through the progress of ideas?

But it should also be made clear that no-one could ever be forced to join such an association with their plot of land, and that if they do enter into it, it will always be out of their full and free will. The recovery of goods belonging to the enemies of the republic will be implemented through fines by the decree of the judicial commissions. This in no way infringes on the principle of property.

It will also be essential to declare that these measures will respect small and medium landowners, since their hostility, which is not of great importance when it exists, does not warrant reprisals. It is the aristocrats and the clergy who should be driven out of the country immediately, without hesitation. To the frontier, march!

When exactly could communism establish itself in France? A difficult question. Judging by the people’s current state of mind, as things stand communism is not exactly knocking at the door. But nothing is so deceptive as a situation, because nothing is so changeable [mobile]. The major barrier – one cannot say it enough – is ignorance. Paris deludes itself when it belittles this point. The reason is simple. From an enlightened milieu one cannot see the regions that remain covered in shadows. Newspapers and travellers relate what happens in the provinces, but are not able properly to depict them. To understand the darkness one must plunge right into it. The layers of darkness covering France are so thick it seems impossible to lift them. Across the country, so far the sun is shining in only one place; in a few others there are now hints of a nascent dawn, and faint glimmers of twilight; everywhere else, night.

Hence our inability to see clearly the solution to the social problem. Between what is and what wants to be21 there exists such a prodigious distance that thought cannot manage to cross it. One hypothesis does, however, provide the key to the enigma. If each citizen was educated to secondary school level, how would absolute equality – the sole means by which to reconcile everyone’s demanding claims with those of everyone else – be established? By communism, without a shadow of doubt. Communism is the only possible form of organisation for a society that is learned to the extreme, and vigorously egalitarian as a result.

One need only look around, and at oneself, to be convinced that the thirst for equality will be the first, the most irresistible effect of education. Who, amongst enlightened people, would endure any form of domination if they were not constrained to do so by force? Being accustomed to this constraint makes one accustomed to resignation. We do not even think about it, or, if we do, we do so with a shrug of the shoulders, an eloquent gesture of powerlessness.

For what is brute force? It is ignorance which, thanks to a matter of sheer chance, finds itself at the command of whoever first comes along to take charge of it; it is ignorance recruited and indoctrinated, trembling and submissive, at once instrument and victim of violence. No more ignorant people, no more soldiers! All forms of domination are annihilated. Who will be able to rule over their neighbours, or live at their expense? Equality will be the first law. Fraternity and liberty will, by necessity, become its natural companions. Communism will certainly be the requisite form of such a social order, for it alone resolves all economic problems, in keeping with common sense.

This is also precisely why it cannot serve as the present form of society. A prerequisite of communism is the universality of enlightenment, and we are yet to reach this. Premature attempts to establish it within a resistant milieu will only lead to disasters. In 1848, a proposal to establish equality of salaries – an equality that people with a limited education may indeed find difficult to accept – was poorly received by the majority of workers.

Association, this future mother of communism, is still only in its first gestation period. For the time being it maintains its adherents within the regime of exchange, and consequently of individualism. For the time being, no-one wants it to become any more binding than it already is. Nothing is yet ripe enough for such profound transformations. Until now, the only form that community has managed to take on in the world has been a hideous one, the cloister. Its form of the future will be freedom. A path is dry and firm when it is either frozen or warm; between the two comes a thaw.

Some people have recently openly dared, in a public meeting in Paris, to repeat the diatribes directed by the coup d’état [of 1851] against the déclassés. Some have dared to say that a society of learned men would not function, and that a stultified society would be preferable. To protest that there are too many educated people while the nation is enslaved by ignorance – is this not to speak the language of the enemies of the people? They are so acutely aware of this that their strategy is enshrouded in lofty compliments. They sugar the pill with sycophancy, by preaching to proletarians that manual skills are of equal worth as cerebral power. The workers who are devoted to the emancipation of the masses are perfectly familiar with the poisonous quality of this incense. They know all too well that neither force, nor dexterity amount to intelligence, and that the inventor of any given industrial masterpiece can also be a blind dupe.

Consider India and China. Europe has never been able to equal the Hindus’ cashmere weaving. As artists, as artisans, the Chinese are at the very least our rivals. And yet what degradation! Why? Because thought is absent.

When it comes to the manipulation of matter, consider how many animals prove themselves the equals if not the superiors of man! Certain birds’ nests are inimitable masterpieces. What finer workers are there than bees or spiders? Bees align their hexagonal tubes with a geometric precision that we could never surpass. Spiders challenge mathematical science and any weaver’s artistry with their thousands of calculations that work out how to knot their threads and adapt their webs to the most varied locations. And yet these are two mere insects!

No! It is not manual dexterity but ideas alone that makes man what he is. The instrument that frees us is not our arm but our brain, and the brain lives only through education. An attack on this guardian mother of thought is an attack on the thinking being itself; it is a social crime.

The stomach cannot tolerate abstinence. The brain, on the other hand, can get used to it all too easily. The more it fades and grows dim, the less it experiences need. Excessive deprivation does not make it greedy but rather averse to and weary of sustenance. It does not feel its own pain – it even revels in it, willingly abandoning itself to the languor of this lethargy. If starving the stomach eventually causes physical death, with the brain it leads to intellectual death. It leaves nothing but beasts happy to wallow in a merely bestial life. This is how, by cleverly atrophying the faculties of the soul, tyranny is able to bring about the moral extinction of a people, wiping it, so to speak, from the ranks of humanity. A nation can pardon its oppressors for servitude, prisons, torture, destitution, hunger, for all forms of violence, for all forms of calamity, for all forms of pain, but attacks on the brain, the stifling of its intelligence – never, never, never! Such a crime cannot be pardoned under any circumstances!

So let us leave behind us all the nonsense, the fanciful programmes, the quarrels over words and forms. Popular salvation through education – this is the universal cry.

Let there be light! Enlightenment! The enemy wants none of this. It exhausts itself with its desperate attempts to drive us back to the Middle Ages. Who does not recall Montalembert’s22 memorable words at the legislative tribune in 1850: ‘Two armies are facing each other, the army of good and the army of evil. The army of good numbers 40,000 priests; the army of evil, 40,000 teachers’?

Well! Today these two armies form just one. Montalembert’s call was answered. If you open Le Moniteur covering the period following the coup d’état [of 1851], you will discover that his programme was being implemented to the letter: state schools everywhere replaced by Jesuit schools; teachers hunted down like wild beasts; anathemas against déclassement, which is to say against the education of the poor; primary education reduced to catechism; in secondary schools the suppression of philosophy, and the splitting up [bifurcation] – or rather the stifling – of the study of science on the one hand and of the arts on the other; younger generations handed over to the clergy; everywhere a war to the death against enlightenment, everywhere the race of capital issuing great appeals to the priests and the darkness to come to the aid of its threatened domination.

During these dreadful days, who could have held back their tears in the face of all these depravities unleashed against human thought! How relentless and how deliberate their crimes! Ah! If they had been able to carry France far away, to take it off to the most distant corner of the earth, just imagine the euphoric rage with which they would have wiped out all monuments to the human spirit, including the printed word itself and the very notion of printing!

Unfortunately for them, even if you manage to transport the citizens the land still remains where it is. And since intelligence alone constitutes genuine force in the civilised world, our triumphant victors soon risked disaster as a result of their own victory. On pain of death they had to stop, and resist destroying the functions of the brain completely. Even so, consider the scale of the ruins they have already created! And we are not yet at the end of it. The triad of Sword-Money-Altar is still sovereign, and can only maintain itself through violence and debasement. Universal suffrage, its miserable slave, is marched to the ballot with a gendarme and a priest holding it by the collar, and capital escorting it, its boot at its behind.

This is hardly surprising. An ignorant person is barely even a man, and can be led like a horse, with a bridle and spurs. Training such people to work and to obey is their master’s sole concern. If you really want to understand what conservatism dreams of then study its language and actions after the coup d’état when, holding the people firmly beneath its boot, it felt free to remove its mask and lift all restraint. The result: immediate suppression of the écoles normales where genuine teachers are trained. Read the furious rants of those days against these ‘breeding grounds of firebrands and of corrupters of the young’. Government speeches, newspapers and sermons all repeatedly declared that children must be taught only the catechism and a trade, and that any other form of education is a perpetual source of revolt, a public calamity. On all sides there were blasphemous outbursts against the education that stirs up the envy of the masses and unleashes them upon society; a storm of imprecations directed against the déclassés, these enemies of all social order, these insurgent rabble-rousers.

When today we see reappearing, even in the midst of popular assemblies, attacks against déclassement and the war on free and obligatory education, it is not hard to make out the clerico-feudal intrigue beneath its socialist disguise. If we examine the current project for professional schools, we easily rediscover the venom of 1852, this same idea of imprisoning the worker in a trade and of returning by this path to a form of caste system.

It must emphatically be said: professional schools, as many are envisaging them, would be nothing but Chinese seminaries. Since this threat takes on a flattering form it is all the more serious. Through vanity they seek to lead us to degradation and stagnation. Gutenberg and Voltaire have been far more useful to humanity than the most skilful artisan. Besides, it is not talent but capital that oppresses. Capacity without money is a danger for tyranny alone.

Those who work in the domain of thought are often more industrious and more impoverished than the lowliest of those who work in the domain of matter. What are the déclassés, if not the pariahs of intelligence? They are insulted only because they are poor. As soon as they have some money, they cease to be déclassés and advance to the front rank of society. What better proof could there be that in our social order, individuals are classed only by wealth, and not by merit?

A mass of scholars and learned people lives and dies impoverished, after having performed unknown and unacknowledged services. They had acquired knowledge [le savoir]. They lacked the know-how [du savoir-faire] that alone brings enrichment. Know-how, this vampire’s fang, is the sovereign master of our cruel society. Woe to those who were not endowed with it by nature! They will serve as fodder for our master of all sciences, the science of exploitation.

Thousands of elite people [gens d’élite] are languishing in the depths of destitution. They are the horror and dread of capital. And capital is surely not wrong to hate them. These déclassés, the invisible weapon of progress, are today the secret leaven which silently raises the masses and prevents them from sinking into depression and stagnation. Tomorrow, they will be the reserve force of the revolution.

  1. Source: MF, 196-229; this relatively rough and unpolished text was first published posthumously in Critique Sociale: Volume I (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1885), 173-220, following MSS 9590(1), ff. 363-381.
  2.  Cf. Jean de la Fontaine, ‘Le Torrent et la Rivière’ (1678).
  3.  ‘Il est pour le mal l’insecticide Vicat’; Joseph-Henri Vicat began to sell his domestic bug spray in the mid 1850s.
  4.  As Le Nuz notes, this allusion is unclear (MF, 199n.1).
  5.  In this passage, Blanqui distinguishes between l’enseignement libre favoured by the clergy, and l’enseignement gratuit et obligatoire favoured by those pressing for a compulsory state-provided education system; although both terms could be translated as ‘free schooling’, we will reserve this label to the latter, and render the former as ‘independent schooling’.
  6.  ‘une masse d’abrutis et une poignée d’abrutisseurs’.
  7.  An allusion to the black robes worn by priests and nuns; Blanqui draws on this metaphor repeatedly in his anti-clerical writings.
  8.  Blanqui develops his critique of libre arbitre, and the forms of moral and juridical judgement that it promotes, in his article ‘Fatal, Fatalism, Fatality’ (1868).
  9.  Ernest Renan (1823-92), French historian best known for What is a Nation? (1882).
  10.  ‘Innombrables les tarifs, innombrables leurs applications.’
  11.  A reference to the ideal state of Salente, as depicted in Fénelon’s Telemachus (1699).
  12.  Émile Ollivier (1825-1913), a moderate republican and follower of Ledru-Rollin, was elected a parliamentary deputy for the Paris region in 1857. Appointed head of the government by Napoleon III in January 1870, he sought to implement reforms that would bring about a ‘liberal Empire’.
  13.  Félix Dupanloup (1802-78), Bishop of Orléans, was a prominent campaigner for Catholic education and helped draft the Falloux law of 1850, which consolidated the church’s control over schooling.
  14.  A reference to Prosper Mérimée (1803-70), author and archaeologist who served as inspector-general of historical monuments under the July Monarchy.
  15.  ‘Ce réac édenté devint, à son honneur, / D’assez triste écrivain, merveilleux vidangeur.’
  16.  ‘Un bas Breton’: la basse Bretagne is the western part of Brittany, a traditionally Catholic area where the Breton language is still widely spoken.
  17.  Louis Veuillot (1813-83), Catholic journalist and prominent proponent of ultramontanism.
  18.  Littré’s gloss on this proverb: ‘Gros-Jean remontre à son curé: celui qui ne sait pas veut reprendre ou corriger celui qui sait.’ (Émile Littré, Dictionnaire de la langue française, 1877).
  19.  Nauvoo, Illinois, was the site of one of several egalitarian communes established in the USA by members of the Icarian movement, as they sought to put into practice the ideals Etienne Cabet had laid out in his Voyage en Icarie (1840).
  20.  This ‘coalition of the three monarchies’ presumably refers to the tacit alliance of conservative supporters of the Bourbon, Orléans and Bonaparte dynasties, which Blanqui denounces in similar terms in speeches delivered towards the end of his life, in 1879 (cf. Decaux, L’Insurgé, 618).
  21.  ‘Entre ce qui est et ce qui veut être’.
  22.  Charles de Montalembert (1810-70), journalist and parliamentary deputy, was a prominent proponent of liberal Catholicism.