Monthly Archives: March 2016

Notes on “Comment les affaires vont en France et pourquoi nous aurons la guerre”

Comment les affaires vont en France et pourquoi nous aurons la guerre



Les cinq sous l’Empire

By Alfred Darimon


Today I received the visit of G. [1], who has come on the part of Proudhon to make me a rather original proposition.

Proudhon is in the course of composing a booklet that bears this title: Comment les affaires vont en France et pourquoi nous aurons la guerre.

Several sheets of that booklet are already composed; it will be put on sale in a few days. It is a question of getting it into France and here is the means that Proudhon has invented:

The deputies of the opposition would address to the publisher in Brussels a request for 267 copies, destined to be distributed to the 267 members of the legislative body.

It is unlikely, according to Proudhon, that the interior minister would dare stop at the border and prevent from arriving at the address of the deputies a booklet with the character of a historical document. If he took such a measure, one of the deputies would appeal to the government and demand the reason for that arbitrary act. From that, uproar, scandal, etc.

I responded to G. that, for my part, I was ready to do what Proudhon asked; that if I could judge by the dispositions of the majority, his booklet would be well received; but that very certainly the 267 copies would be confiscated at the border and that they would not even do me the honor of informing me of the sending and the seizure.

That if I was notified in good time, there was not any opening in the rules of the legislative body for a public complaint. The right of interpellation does not exist, and to have a complaint heard, we would be obliged to await a late occasion, the discussion of the budget of the Ministry of the Interior, for example.

The deputies, in fact, enjoy no privilege. Booklets addressed to them are subject to all the police regulations. They would not hesitate to apply them to us in all their rigor.

I have spoke of the proposition to our colleagues on the left. They are inclined to accept it; but they fear, like me, that the parcel would not reach them.

[1] Perhaps Georges Dûchene, who was involved in the composition of the work in question.


Letter to Gouvernet, January 22, 1859

In eight days, the Belgian press will announce, by way of a reply to the imperial court, the following booklet:

Comment les affaires vont en France, et pourquoi nous aurons la guerre.

What do you think of that title? It seems to me of a nature to pique the curiosity. Say nothing of it yet. I have not spoken of it to my friend Chaudey, or to anyone. If the English and Austrians only acknowledge me as a utopia, the democracy also wants nothing to do with me; it has written that I would be a prophetess Cassandra.

Nevertheless, my booklet will appear in Germany almost as soon as in France, and I will write to London for a translator. I give you my hand,

P.-J. Proudhon.


The title “Comment les affaires vont en France” also appears as a section title in Napoléon III, Chapter XVI.

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The Incomplete Proudhon (draft)

[This is a first draft of a first section of a strategy document for the consideration of other Proudhon scholars and students of anarchist studies. It is every bit as preliminary as that sounds, but everything has to start somewhere. With the Bakunin Library and Proudhon Library projects both moving steadily towards publication, a good deal of what I have been doing behind the scenes lately has been this kind of assessment of available resources and strategizing about how best to present relatively large bodies of work in print. For those who have not read the draft outline for Proudhon: Between Science and Vengeance, that document may add some useful context to this one.]


These are arguably good days for the study of anarchist history and theory, but some old and relatively fundamental problems remain, including the place of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in the anarchist tradition. Neither effectively integrated nor convincingly dismissed, Proudhon’s extensive body of work remains largely unknown, a fact that poses real difficulties for the field, whether we think of him as a foil or a foundation for the anarchist movement (or movements) that emerged in the late 19th century. Certainly, Proudhon Studies has had its own good days of late, with exciting developments on a variety of fronts, but there is arguably still a lot of work to be done before we can safely treat Proudhon as something other than unfinished business.

The scope of the task of “completing” Proudhon for English scholars and readers, together with that of dislodging the “incomplete” Proudhon from his established place in the tradition, means that it is unlikely that our business will really be finished by any heroic attempt by a few scholars, however dedicated and well-supported. But if those of us currently involved in Proudhon Studies will ultimately have to rely on reinforcements, we can certainly prepare the ground for them and coordinate our own efforts more effectively than we have previously. These notes, the first of several exploratory pieces, are an attempt to kick-start that process a bit.

In this first installment, I want to survey some of the ways in which our picture of Proudhon remains incomplete.


The digitizations of manuscripts, and their availability on the Ville de Besançon site and Gallica, has radically transformed what Proudhon scholars can do, even without institutional support. We already had ready online access to all of the published texts in the public-domain era. That leaves the published Carnets as the only published texts unavailable online (unless there is something in the volume of philological writings not available in manuscript.)

To my knowledge, the only major writings not available in either book form or digital scan are the later Carnets (long-since announced, but still not available) and some articles contributed to periodicals. The periodicals that Proudhon was involved with also remain difficult to access, which has contributed to a loss of contextual material.

We also know that our access to the Correspondence and some of the articles in the Mélanges volumes is imperfect, given censorship constraints and editorial choices. The mass of correspondence now available through the Besançon site, together with the letters published outside Langlois’ edition, should help us to restore the Correspondence. The digitizations of many of the letters addressed to Proudhon offers other important research opportunities.

With regard to the texts critiquing Proudhon’s work during his lifetime and those produced by his collaborators and early followers, the situation is not quite as promising. I’ve been trying to link texts as they become available on my “Responses to Proudhon” page, but that’s a continuing labor.


We’re obviously still in the early stages of assembling the Proudhon Library that Benjamin R. Tucker proposed so many years ago. But we are fortunate that, apart from a few instances, we have inherited some well-executed translations. While works like What is Property? and The General Idea of the Revolution need a bit of revision and scholarly introduction, those will not be arduous labors. And the existing translations provide us with at least the beginnings of the sort of shared lexicon that could guide subsequent work. There are texts that are probably waiting for their translators. I can’t imagine, for example, doing justice to the works on canals and railroads. But my sense is that we can probably do useful work now, inventorying texts, suggesting possible future volumes, documenting terminological issues, etc. that can provide some continuity within the library, despite piecemeal production. [I’ll tackle some of these questions in another set of notes.]


Obviously, the appearance of Iain McKay’s anthology, Property is Theft!, was an important step forward. Where Edward’s Selected Writings gave a provocative, but relatively decontextualized mass of thoughts, the new anthology gives us substantial chunks of Proudhon’s arguments. But Proudhon’s mature works are still underrepresented in translation and neither anthology could take advantage of the significant digitizations efforts that have taken place since its publication. My proposed introduction to the Proudhon Library, Between Science and Vengeance, can’t do much more than split the difference between the previous volumes, attempting to better contextualize it’s fragments and fugitive pieces with various helps. There is still plenty of room for introductory material.

[to be continued…]

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Proudhon: Between Science and Vengeance (rough outline)

[The Proudhon Library publishing project will be entering its second phase in the next couple of years, with some conventionally published volumes. The first entries planned for the series have been revisions and expansion of the Corvus Editions volumes, but I’ve also been feeling the need for an introductory volume. Rather than compete with Iain McKay’s anthology, Property is Theft!, I’ve opted for a small volume that combines a simple reader’s guide with a selection of shorter material from Proudhon’s notebooks, correspondence and manuscripts. This is a very, very rough attempt to describe the volume, provided here in the hope of gaining some feedback.]




Shawn P. Wilbur, Editor

“I flatter myself that I do only two things: that is, first, to teach you put each thing in its place, after having purged it of the absolute and balanced it with other things; then, to show you that the things that you know, and that you have such fear of losing, are not the only ones that exist, and that there are considerably more of which you still must take account.” — Proudhon, Justice in the Revolution and in the Church

Proudhon’s place in the anarchist tradition has been surprisingly difficult to establish, with most accounts torn, often to the point of indecision, between declaring him “the father of anarchism” and relegating him to a fairly marginal role, if not excommunicating him entirely. His thought, to the extent that it figures at all, is often treated as some sort of compromise between more radical (or at least extreme) positions. But if we were honest with ourselves, we would probably have to acknowledge that very little of Proudhon’s thought figures in our understanding of anarchism and that his place has been established as much through the claims of his adversaries and competitors as through any real understanding of his own work. This has been particularly true in the English-speaking world, where only a small number of his many works have been translated.

There has been a recent revival in interest in Proudhon, with new scholarship and new translations appearing. But we have a long way to go to reclaim what might be useful to a 21st century anarchist movement, as well as a good deal of resistance to overcome. This volume is intended as a companion to the forthcoming Proudhon Library translations, but also as a simple corrective to much of what anarchists and non-anarchists alike have told ourselves about Proudhon and his thought.


In order to properly place Proudhon in relation to the anarchist tradition, we need to first establish his place apart from it, in a period when the declaration that “I am an anarchist” could appear truly unprecedented. We need to understand the context in which being an anarchist made him the most solitary sort of figure, separated by that identification from most of his peers and potential allies, and without any of the familiar ideological apparatus of anarchism to draw on. And then we need to understand the sometimes violent oscillations of his thought within that context. We been inclined to echo Déjacque’s charge that Proudhon was an “anarchiste juste-milieu,” an anarchist of the middle ground, stuck between some revolutionary position and mere liberalism, but when we look at his work—and at the private notebooks in particular—it appears that he was at least as inclined to swing to the extremes as he was to settle between them. This oscillation is, in fact, the sort of motion that Proudhon’s work leads us to expect from society.



Proudhon is best remembered for two provocative declarations: “I am an anarchist” and “property is theft.” The anarchist tradition has fully embraced the spirit of those provocations, however indifferent it has been at times to the rationale behind them. But when we place those declarations back into their original context, 35-40 years before anarchism was a movement–or even a word used with any frequency–even their spirit may look rather different, without being any less radical. This opening section attempts to give a basic context for the appearance of What is Property? in 1840, and then discuss the various possibilities opened by Proudhon’s early work, not all of which have found expression in either the anarchist movement or any of the other movement that have taken inspiration from his work.


One of the most difficult aspects of Proudhon’s work is its sheer volume. He produced more than fifty volumes worth of material, published and unpublished, in a period of roughly twenty-five years. In addition, he proposed or began work on a significant number of projects that never developed beyond the planning stages. Among the works left unfinished or barely commenced are some key pieces to the larger puzzle, without knowledge of which our understanding of Proudhon’s thought remains seriously incomplete. Those active years were also marked by trials, imprisonments and exiles, as Proudhon attempted to negotiate the changing conditions in France, before, during and after the 1848 revolution. The ambitious nature of his projects and the difficult circumstances under which he pursued them had effects on his published output and public declarations that are not always clear from the published work itself. This chronological narrative will attempt to provide a fairly complete account of Proudhon’s major works, whether finished or unfinished, and major life-events.


On several occasions, Proudhon attempted to condense his complex thought into the form of a “profession of faith.” These summaries appear throughout his active years and a survey of them provides useful insights into the development of his thought, as both his ideas and the terminology he used to expressed them changed to suit new contexts.


Proudhon’s use of terminology was complex, as anyone aware of the three declarations about property will undoubtedly be aware. But he was also very conscious of the choices involved, so an examination of his keywords, not only helps us understand his key ideas, but also his emerging strategy. This glossary will cover perhaps two dozen of the most important keywords in Proudhon’s work, with attention to changes in their use and their relation to other terms. Excerpts from his writings will be included. This section is intended both as a reference to be used with the other Proudhon Library volumes, but also as a kind of review of the general summary presented in this volume.


While Proudhon was distant in some ways from his contemporaries and from the anarchist tradition, he was certainly not alone and his direct influence was felt in the tradition in a variety of ways. This section will briefly introduce Proudhon’s collaborators, his main antagonists and a selection of the individuals who carried on a specifically Proudhonian tradition within the anarchist and labor movements, the mutual bank agitation, etc.


The short texts collected here have been selected with the aim of demonstrating the breadth of Proudhon’s interests, the general character of his ideas and the sometimes violent fervor of his private thoughts. It is assumed that they will generate at least as many questions as answers, but hoped that they will prepare readers to approach Proudhon’s longer and more carefully crafted works with a greater sense of the range of his interests and the general character of his concerns.


Proudhon’s work, even when restored to its full depth and breadth, certainly poses plenty of difficulties for modern readers and users. There are elements that reflect different eras of radical thought and elements that were never radical at all. The fact that there has been no real proudhonian school to attempt gradual development of his ideas means that we have a lot to do, but also that our engagements with the work are necessarily quite direct. We are fortunate that Proudhon laid out some criteria by which he believed his work could be judged, and his conclusions anticipated, even if he “could live a thousand years.” This conclusion will attempt to make the case for sufficient consistency in Proudhon’s work to apply that self-imposed standard and then suggest some applications of it.


Primary and selected secondary bibliographies, with listing of major French editions, digitized manuscripts, etc.

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“I am a sans-culotte” (Justice, Study on Moral Sanction)






I have come here to the end of this long labor.

Accused as it has been for seventy years, the Revolution finally becomes, through my mouth and in my person, the accuser. It proves to you today—to all of you, priests, mystics, worshipers of the ideal, apostles of natural religion, conservators and restorers of the principle of authority, privileged of capital and industry, partisans of divine right in property and the State, representatives of all the fictions of the exhausted age—that you do not know what Justice and order are; that the principles of that moral code, which you are so fond of claiming, are not within you; that you do not know yourselves, and that that certainty of right after which the world, demoralized by you, sighs, can be given by the Revolution alone.

One last question remains for me to address, the most serious of all and the most sublime. Sadly, I can only give it a small number of pages: I wish to speak of the moral sanction.

But I need to say one more word to you beforehand, Monsignor, regarding yourself and my biography: otherwise you might believe that I hold a grudge. Good accounts, says the proverb, make good friends.

What is it, finally, that inspires in you that holy terror of the Revolution? Ah! I willingly grant your account of it, and that is why, despite the abyss that separates us, I feel ready to hold out my hand: what animates you against us is the sacred interest of that moral law the conditions and principles of which you accuse us of misunderstanding, while I, on my side, reproach you for ignoring it, from alpha to omega. You say, and you have been known to repeat it to philosophers as well as to women and children, that where religious faith is lacking morals is without guarantee as it is without basis, and that, if the doubt is logical, that must inevitably a villainy.

Such was, I am sure of it, the thought that animated you, when you wrote to that correspondent whose name, by respect for your own, will not fall any more from my pen:

The heart of his character is irritation and bitterness against society, from which he believes himself banished by the distress of his family. Having been able, by the force of his spirit/mind, to make some studies, truncated on one side, profound on the other, he has raised for himself a pedestal, on which he would receive the homage of the universe to the detriment of God, who is for him a rival. Proudhon is not an atheist; he is an enemy of God.

Enemy of God, enemy of society, enemy of all order, all law, all morals, in your thought it is the same thing. And why? I have just told you: because, in the system of the revolution, according to you irreligious in essence, as there does not and cannot exist a moral sanction, there no longer exists, there cannot exist a system of morals.

It is that which made to say equally, six weeks ago, the honorable president of the legislative body, M. de Morny, with regard to the law of general security:

Those that the law aims to intimidate and disperse, they are the implacable enemies of society, who detest every regime, anything that resembles any authority whatsoever. For, even in the era when some torrents of public liberty have overflowed in France, when equality is created by the debasement of everything that had been raised up, when popular interests were, not best defended, but flattered in the most servile manner, who still stood up against that tearful society, against that semblance of organization? Them, always the same, the socialists.

I will not do them the honor of discussing their theories; I say only that no excess of liberty can satisfy them, that no pardon appeases them, that they have wrapped France in a secret web whose aim can only be criminal, and that to leave them to conspire in the shadows would be a weakness full of perils. — The hard-working and honest laborers loathe them more than anyone. They know well that the socialist theories, outside of right and of morals, are stupid and impracticable; that by taking the surplus from some, we will never furnish even the necessities to the others; that this would be the ruin of credit, the complete destruction of social capital, and ultimately abjection and misery for all. They know well that it is only free labor, protected by a strong and just government, which can develop property and spread well-being among a greater mass of individuals. — The government must put an end to this work of corruption; it is necessary, come what may that the red party know well that it will find us in its path, before it can strike French society to the heart.

Outside of all right and all morals, which defines itself theologically, according to monsignor Matthieu, [as] enemy of god: such is, it seems to us, the refrain of the frightened souls of the counter-revolution. Outside of law, consequently: that, concludes the head of the third power of the empire, and come what may, that is to say no matter what dynasty is named to govern France, that is how we must act with regard to the red party, to socialism.

There exists in our revolutionary language one name which sums up all these horrors, and it astonishes me that is has not been brought to your mind: it is the name of sans-culotte.

The sans-culotte, that strange creation of the Revolution, who has not been seen again since Robespierre led him to the guillotine was, like your servant, poor, dissatisfied with the social state, never satiated with liberty. He adored Reason with all his heart and soul, affirmed the morality proper to man, the immanence of Justice, and, to prove his claim, permitted himself, as you have so kindly, Monsignor, given me the certificate, to remain honest.

So I am a sans-culotte: it is long since that, seeking my tradition in history, I glimpsed it there; but, before our Jacobin democracy, I dared not boast of it. For some weeks, in 1848, circumstances made me the heir of Clootz, of Chaumette, of Marat, of Momoro (a native of Besançon, I note in passing), of Jacques Roux, of Varlet, of Hébert himself, for I must name them all, I have no right to pick my forebears, circumstances, I say, made me the Epimenides of sans-culottism; perhaps, in another era, I would have been its Spartacus. But to each day its work; to each individual their mission. Mine, all in the realm of ideas, is still not fulfilled; and as long as it is not completed, I can say, on the example of Napoléon III, that the plots and intrigues, from whatever quarter they come, can do nothing to me. Others will realize what I have defined: Exoriare aliquis! . ..

Well, Monseigneur, if the sans-culotte was such that in your senseless terrors you trace his image; if I myself, in this hour of political and social distress, had neither faith, nor law, nor guts, do you know what vengeance would dictate to me and what I would do?

I would have abstained from writing; I would above all have avoided making a book of principles, because principles bear within them the salvation of societies and governments; I would have let the emperor claim, in the universal silence, some principles abominated since 89, and I would have laughed, without fear of spies, in my ideologue’s beard.

Or else, if I could not resist the temptation to set my thoughts down in type [me faire coucher en lettre moulée], I would shut away my thoughts within the bounds of an implacable opposition; instead of a work of philosophy, I would make a work of vengeance. Do you believe, Monseigneur, that even with the law that regulates that press that would have impossible? No, no: there are always means, for an expert pen, to stir up discord; always means, for a sophisticated and spiteful genius, to drive consciences to despair, to aggravate hatred, to excite the people against the bourgeois, even to applaud regicide and obtain the smiles of the du parquet. And listen, without departing from these Studies, I would only need, to satisfy my rage, to follow roughly this program: Delete the exposition of principles; dismiss above all the considerations regarding sanction [sanctionnelles] into which I am about to enter; return to my indignation and my claws; lock myself away in a cold and learned critique; to do for ethics in general what Doctor Strauss has done for the life of Jesus; to show, which is not difficult, that, Justice having foundations neither in religion, which places its subject apart from humanity, nor in philosophy, which reduces it to a notion; conscience being substantiated by no organism, right and duty are reduced to a pure convention, crime to a hazard of war, the social order to an insurance premium, as Mr. de Girardin has said; that done, to end with a disdainful irony [aimed] at liberty, equality, authority and virtue. The Church, and with it all the religious sects, from eclecticism to positivism, would remain crushed, convicted of contradiction and hypocrisy; and, what would put the icing on my misanthropic joy, that Revolution, which since 89, while separating definitively from you where it is a question of the temporal, has retained you to witness the spiritual, the Revolution, struck in the carotid, would shed its blood and give its death-rattle.

That is, Monseigneur, and my readers will say if I am boasting, what I could have done, but what I did not want to do. I have preferred, in my dreadful sans-culottism, to speak to the public as it had a right to be spoken to, according to the independence of my reason and the vigor of my moral sense; I said to myself that the moment had come either for the Revolution to fade away forever, or else to recreate Justice in it, to hold out to a failing society that saving branch [branche de salut] that it cannot expect you, Catholic clergy, to hold out yet; and, certain of the doctrine that I stand for, while I do not hold it because of my genius, I have obeyed my convictions as a philosopher and an honest man, at the risk of compromising my liberty once more: for you are capable, or I know you very little, of denouncing me, in the naïveté of your zeal, for outrage to morals.

Moreover, I am ready; I have long contemplated what I complete today, and, apart from the peccadilloes inseparables from every work of discussion, I dare to say, before heaven and earth, that I have done my duty.

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On Hatred (1847)

Carnets, Vol. 2 (Carnet No. 5, 111-114): 166-167.

— All the reformers preach charity: me, I preach hatred. Hatred is nothing other than the zeal for justice, for vengeance.

Hatred has contributed as much to the progress of the good as love…

Hatred, in the conditions of existence of man, is as necessary, as legitimate, as devotion. — It is the admission of our imperfection, the sentiment of our ugliness, the consciousness of our innate iniquity:… the reaction of our soul against its perverse inclinations and aberrations.

Hatred has its excesses, its materialism, its blindness and its outbursts, like love, like all the passions. It varies in its expressions and its [112] forms, in man and in the brutes, in the savage, the barbarian and the civilized; among the devout and the impious; in the man of the people and the rich man, etc., etc. etc.

It is still with hatred, from the point of view of opinion and conventional morality, as with love.

Everything that is said, written or taught, for or against hatred, is of no use: the same amount of hatred persists among men. So we declaim in turn against, for or about love: love remains what it is and our railing does not change its measure. To reason about love is to extinguish it, to make it insipid; to rail against it is to make it interesting. That is particularly apparent with regard to marriage, the most complete form of love. What weakens the tendency to marriage is less libertinage than avarice or poverty: we content ourselves with less love in order to have more well-being, or more variety in our amorous relationships. That is all. In Rome, marriage perished from the poverty of the proletarians, much more than from the luxury of the great: it is property that killed the family, not anything else. Everything that religion and philosophy have done to uproot the hatred of the neighbor from the heart of man has remained perfectly useless: hatred has only been denied, slandered even: negation, powerless slander. Hatred is eternal… [113]

Hatred is just or unjust, clear-sighted or blind, fortunate or unfortunate, like love. Far from thinking of destroying it, we must only dream of justifying it, limiting ourselves to sweeping it aside when it appears without motives.

We know the hatreds of a man when we know his interests, his ambitions, his rivalries, his prejudice, his mind.

We hate, involuntarily and inevitably, that which seems false, vicious and ugly to us, and consequently all that does not seem like us, that does not resemble use. — If we suppose a man so revisited with every privilege, a man skilled at seeing ugliness, vice and falseness everywhere, that man would be capable of the greatest and most universal hatred: misanthropy is the daughter of saphirisme [?].

So every man has his enemies, some people that he hates or who hate him, or whom he hates and is hated by at the same time. It is enough that all are made different from one another, that some are what we call virtuous and others vicious.

Even in the Christian, hate exists: whatever care he takes to disguise it, it is no less real. The dogma of eternal salvation, for a single mortal sin, says enough on the matter.

The omission, already noted by me, of this passion in the catalog of Fourier would alone be enough to overturn his theory.

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