It has been a while since my last update on the Property is Theft! blog, so apologies. I have been busy of other work (A Libertarian Reader, a new edition of Kropotkin’s Words of a Rebel and a collection of Camillo Berneri’s writings with full translations of his most famous works plus new ones). Proudhon, however, has not been neglected as I have translated some chapters from The Federative Principle for A Libertarian Reader.
I now post the following from Property is Theft!:
In lieu of a long blog, I include below Benjamin R. Tucker on attempts by the French right to appropriate Proudhon for their tradition. The American Individualist Anarchist puts them right and does so with style and substance. I would agree with Tucker on Proudhon’s General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century being his most representative work although I would disagree with him over Proudhon being an individualist anarchist – for example, while the critique of wage-labour in that work would be supported by many individualists, Tucker did not share it. I should note that the passage Tucker quotes is from the Epilogue and was not included in Property is Theft! (in terms of the John Beverly Robinson translation, I revised it slightly for Property is Theft! and it would be a good idea for someone to publish a completely revised version).
I post Tucker’s article in part because I have decided to actually start working on something I have had a mind to do for ages, namely write on a reply to Schapiro’s terrible article on Proudhon being a “harbinger of fascism”. I have covered parts of Schapiro’s article before in Hal Draper on Proudhon: the anatomy of a smear and “Proudhon: Neither Washington Nor Richmond,” Anarcho-Syndicalist Review 60 (as see my reply to David McNally’s plagiarism of Hal Draper). While I’m working on it (with the aim of submitting it to Anarchist Studies) I would recommend reading "Pierre-Joseph Proudhon: an uncomfortable thinker" by Nicola Chiaromonte. This covers the basic points well although he does not go into Schapiro’s distortion of the source material he does not omit. Hopefully they will run it – although they did not print two previous replies - Proudhon, Property and Possession and Proudhon and “the organisation of credit” due to space considerations.
Finally, I should note that an archive of The New Freewoman is on-line (as is its predecessor The Freewoman and its successor The Egoist). In terms of Egoism and Stirner, both have my sympathies as shown in Section G.6 What are the ideas of Max Stirner? of AFAQ and Review: Individualism versus Egoism – however, the individualist versions of egoism I feel are ultimately self-defeating for only libertarian communism can produce and protect the flowering of individuality demanded by it (also see The Right To Be Greedy: Theses On The Practical Necessity Of Demanding Everything by “For Ourselves”)
The New Freewoman: An Individualist Review, Vol. 1 No. 8 (10 October 1913), 156-7.
For some years past there has been developing in France a new reactionary force, which may be described as the party of neo-royalism. Though its aim is to undermine the republic by ruse and overthrow it by force, restore the Orleanist dynasty, and place Monseigneur le Duc d’Orleans on the throne, it is distinguished from the older royalism by the fact that its leaders, many of whom formerly belonged to the most advanced political factions, are atheists in private yet stout upholders of the Church of Rome, and will look to their king to institute, under the guidance of the pope, a régime of decentralization that shall guarantee numerous individual liberties now more and more endangered by democracy and socialism. It is growing in importance, and has a daily organ, “L’Action Française,” edited by Leon Daudet, and numbering among its contributors the philosopher of the party, Charles Maurras, a young man of high culture and ability. It has converted at least one Academician, Jules Lemailre, who on all possible occasions shout A bas la République! and Vive le Roi! in company with its fighting force, Les Camelots du Roi, whose members promptly voice a hot resentment whenever contemptuous opponents, in printing the name of this army of conspirators, spell Roi with a y, and thus offer insult to their modernism. One of the methods of propagandism practised by these agitators is the attempt to enroll among their apostles all the great dead who, if living, would look with scorn upon their ways and works. Every great writer who has criticised democracy and who, being in his grave, cannot enter protest, is listed as a royalist, a nationalist, and an anti-Dreyfusard. Chief among these helpless victims is the foremost of all Anarchists, to whom these impudent young rascals constantly refer as notre grand Proudhon. Indeed, they have formed a Cerele Proudhon, which publishes a bi-monthly review under the title, Cahiers du Cerele Proudhon. On the whole, I am glad of this, because it advertises Proudhon, leads people to read his works, and thereby, in the end, will render all misinterpretation futile, especially in France, which, of all the great nations (England alone excepted), least understands and appreciates Proudhon, and where, on January 19, 1 9 1 5 , his works will fall into the public domain and consequently will appear in cheap editions. (It is interesting to note, by the way, how this miserable copyright business retards progress by burying the most important progressive writings for more than half a century.) Of course democracy is an easy mark for this new party, and it finds its chief delight in pounding the philosopher of democracy, Rousseau. Now, nobody ever pounded Rousseau as effectively as Proudhon did, and in that fact the Cerele Proudhon finds its excuse. But it is not to be inferred that, because Proudhon destroyed Rousseau’s theory of the social contract, he did not believe in the advisability of a social contract, or would uphold a monarch in exacting an oath of allegiance. On the contrary, after demonstrating the falsity of Rousseau’s claim that existing society is founded on contract, he proceeded to find fault with existing society for the very reason that it is not so founded, and endeavoured to substitute for existing society, or to develop out of it, or to dissolve it in, a society having voluntary contract for its base. All this, however, is carefully concealed by the Cercle Proudhon. It freely quotes and prints Proudhon’s attacks on Rousseau, but utterly ignores the affirmative statements of its stolen hero. To expose this fraud I present here an extract from Proudhon’s most representative work, Idée générale de la Révolution au dix-neuvième.
“Reason, assisted by Experience, discloses to man the laws of Nature and Society; then it says to him:
“These laws are those of necessity itself. No man has made them; no man imposes them upon you. They have been gradually discovered, and I exist only to bear testimony to them.
“If you observe them, you will be just and good.
“If you violate them, you will be unjust and wicked. I offer you no other motive.
“Already, among your fellows, several have recognised that justice is better, for each and for all, than iniquity; and they have agreed with each other to mutually keep faith and right—that is, to respect the rules of transaction which the nature of things indicates to them as alone capable of assuring them, in the largest measure, well-being, security, peace.
“Do you wish to adhere to their compact, to form a part of their society?
“Do you promise to respect the honour, the liberty, and the goods of your brothers?
“Do you promise never to appropriate, either by violence, or by fraud, or by usury, or by speculation, the product or the possession of another?
“Do you promise never to lie and deceive, either in justice, or in business, or in any of your transactions?
“You are free to accept or to refuse.
“If you refuse, you become a part of the society of savages. Outside of the communion of the human race, you become an object of suspicion. Nothing protects you. At the slightest insult, the first comer may lift his hand against you without incurring any other accusation than that of cruelty needlessly practised upon a brute.
“On the contrary, if you swear to the compact, you become a part of the society of free men. All your brothers enter into an engagement with you, promise you fidelity, friendship, aid, service, exchange. In case of infraction, on their part or on yours, through negligence, passion, or malice, you are responsible to each other for the damage as well as the scandal and the insecurity of which you have been the cause: this responsibility may extend, according to the gravity of the perjury or the repetitions of the offence, even to excommunication and to death.
“The law is clear, the sanction still more so. Three articles, which make but one—that is the whole social contract. Instead of making oath to God and his prince, the citizen swears upon his conscience, before his brothers, and before Humanity. Between these two oaths there is the same difference as between slavery and liberty, faith and science, courts and justice, usury and labour, government and economy, non-existence and being, God and man.”
Leaving out the words “good,” “wicked,” “brute,“ and “Humanity,” which are mere surplusage here, this extract, I think, would have been acceptable even to Max Stirner as a charter for his “Union of the Free, “ an appreciation of the importance of which is necessary to a complete appreciation of Stirner’s political philosophy. If Miss Marsden knows of any idea originating in America, or developed there, of greater moment or larger dimensions than that presented in this page from France, she will do me a very great service in pointing it out. (In any case, it amply serves to demolish the audacious claim of the neo-royalists. If, in face of it, it should be decided that Proudhon is their property, we might well say, without doing violence to current terminology as Proudhon did when he said it : La propriété c’est le vol. With it in hand, the Anarchists answer to Charles Maurras and all his followers: No, the author of Idée générale de la Révolution au dix-neuvième siècle is not your great Proudhon; he is OURS.