Initiation ceremony of the Society of the Seasons (1837)

The newly-elected member is brought in blindfolded.1

The president to the presenter of the new member: What is the name of the new brother you bring before us?

To the newly-elected member: Citizen [their name], how old are you? What is your occupation? Your place of birth? Your home address? How do you earn a living?

Have you thought through the decision you are now taking, the commitment you are entering into? Are you aware that traitors are punished by death?

So swear, citizen, to reveal to no-one what is about to take place here today.

The president asks the following questions.

[The citizen leading the initiation ceremony prompts the new member when they are unsure how to respond.]2

1 – What do you think of royalty and kings?

Royalty is abhorrent. Kings are as dangerous to humanity as the tiger is to other animals.

2 – How does royalty, which you declare to be so awful, preserve itself?

Because it gave certain classes of the people a share in its exploitation of all the rest; it established an aristocracy.

3 – Who are the aristocrats today?

Hereditary aristocracy was abolished in July 1830. Now the aristocrats are the rich; they constitute an aristocracy that is every bit as voracious as the first.

4 – Should we be satisfied with overthrowing royalty?

Any form of aristocracy, any form of privilege, must be destroyed. To do otherwise is to do nothing.

5 – What should we put in its place?

The government of the people by the people, which is to say, the republic.

6 – Why is the republic the only legitimate form of government?

Because it alone is founded on equality; it alone imposes on everyone equal duties and grants the same rights.

7 – What are the duties of each citizen?

To obey the general will, to be devoted to the country and to maintaining fraternity with every member of the nation.

8 – What are their rights?

The right to life, and to the right to work. The right to existence must be assured for all. The right to education. Man is not simply composed of matter; he has an intelligence. Like the body, this intelligence has the right to life, and thus the right to education is simply the mind’s right to existence [l’existence spirituelle]. – The right to vote.

9 – Do those who do no carry out their duties have rights?

By virtue of not carrying out their duties they give up their rights as a citizen.

10 – Are those who have rights without carrying out their duties, as is the case with aristocrats, part of the people?

They must not be part of the people; they are to the social body what a cancer is to the human body. The first condition for the return of the body to health is the extirpation of a cancer; the first condition for the return of the social body to a just state is the annihilation of aristocracy.

11 – How do the people indicate their will?

Through the law, which is nothing other than the expression of the general will.

12 – Can a chamber of deputies make the laws?

No, it can only prepare them before there are submitted to the people for approval or rejection.

13 – Can the people rule themselves immediately after the revolution?

Since the social state has been rendered gangrenous, heroic remedies are required to reach a healthy state; for a certain period of time the people will thus require a revolutionary power.

14 – In short, what are your principles?

Royalty and all aristocracies must be exterminated; they must be replaced by the Republic, which is to say the government of equality; but in order to reach this form of government a revolutionary power must be employed to enable the people themselves to exercise their rights.

Citizen, the principles which you have just set forth are the only correct ones, the ones that can allow humanity to march towards the goal which is set for it. But their realisation is not easy. Our enemies are numerous and powerful. They have all society’s forces at their disposal; we, republicans, whose very name is proscribed, we have only our courage and our rectitude [bon droit]. You still have time, think of all the dangers to which you expose yourself upon entering our ranks. The sacrificing of wealth, the loss of freedom, the possibility of death – are you prepared to brave these dangers?

Your response is the proof of your vigour. Arise, citizen, and take the following oath:

‘In the name of the republic, I swear eternal hatred to all kings, to all aristocrats, to all of humanity’s oppressors. I swear absolute devotion to the people, fraternity to all men except for aristocrats. I swear to punish traitors. I promise to give my life, even to go to the scaffold if such a sacrifice were necessary to bring about the reign of popular sovereignty and equality.’

The president places a dagger in his hand.

‘May I be punished with the death of traitors, may I be stabbed with this dagger if I violate this oath! I consent to be dealt with as a traitor if I reveal the least thing to anyone at all, even my closest relative, if he is not a member of the association.’

The president: Citizen, be seated. The Society accepts your oath; you are now part of the association; work with us to free the people.

Citizen, your name will not be uttered among us; here is your registration number in the group [l’atelier]. – You must procure for yourself arms and ammunition. – The Committee that leads the society will remain unknown until the moment we take up arms. – Citizen, one of your duties is to spread the principles of the association. – If you know any devoted and discreet citizens, you should present them to us.

The newly elected member is returned to the light.

  1.  Source: OI, 381-384. This anonymous text was seized by the police in 1838 during a raid on the house of a friend of Barbès, and it was included in the ‘Rapport Mérilhou’ prepared by the prosecution for the 1839 trials. Blanqui is its most likely author, or primary author, and effectively recognised the text as part of his ‘biography’ in a letter of 1861 (cf. OI, 381, editor’s note; Bernstein, Blanqui, 79-82; Decaux, L’Insurgé, 192-3).
  2.  We have followed Le Nuz’s presentation of this text. In order to make it clearer, as well as adding this phrase introduced by Le Nuz we have likewise put the responses immediately after each question, whereas the original document lists all the questions together followed by all the responses below.