17-The Dreyfus Affair Begins

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17-The Dreyfus Affair Begins

Toward the end of the century, in spite of the aggressive repression by the Lois Scélérates, Séverine kept busy with her columns for various papers, but her collaborations were certainly not appreciated by many radicals on the left. Even moderate liberals could accuse her of contradiction when she was writing for a monarchist paper like Le Gaulois or the fashionable press like Gil Blas, even though her principles were never sacrificed. Educated in the Vallès school of journalism she was ready to defend the victims of injustice in whatever venue was available as long as she was given complete freedom in her writing. That was how she ended up contributing to Drumont’s anti-Semite paper Libre Parole. More than identifying herself as a follower of this of that school of thought or staying cooped up with the right people, more than being a rebel just for the sake of it, she clung to the cause, representing the dispossessed, fighting for the oppressed in any and every field she found. Plus, she had to earn a living. Her husband, Adrien Guebhardt, living in the south of France, did not support her and her lover, Georges de Labruyère, was more often given money than giving.

At the end 1894, while Paris was busy worrying about the anarchist bombs and the assassination of President Carnot, another crime, a seemingly clear-cut treachery slipped into the papers. Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the first Jewish officer to be admitted to the General Staff, was arrested on October 15 for spying on behalf of Germany. The case hinged on a document that had been found in a trash can at the Kaiser’s embassy in Paris and that was identified as his handwriting. The trial was swift and inept and on December 22 he was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. Dreyfus, of course, claimed his innocence and through his family found a supporting friend in the journalist Bernard Lazare, but they remained alone and isolated in their appeals. Their tenacity, on the other hand, was unstoppable.

Séverine, like everyone else, did not doubt Dreyfus’ guilt, but she did raise her voice against two injustices: once when he was refused a retrial and a second time for the ignoble behavior of the uniforms when they shipped him off to Devil’s Island on January 20 1895. See, there were reporters present when an officer reached over a policeman and smacked Dreyfus on the head with his sword. The bleeding, defenseless prisoner staggered on, unaided by anyone. Séverine was indignant and condemned the act in L’Eclair, cowardice being one of the things she hated most in the world. But this came as no surprise to the public since it was from “Our Lady with the Tear in Her Eye.” Dreyfus’ wife, at least, appreciated it and asked to see her as she was trying to rally support to prove his innocence. Séverine never answered the request, but she never regretted it; “there was too much money in their house,” too bourgeois for her liking; and besides she still had other fish to fry, other battles to fight. There was Armenia and Cuba and the insurrections in Algeria, not to mention the continuing battle of the disinherited at home in France.

Bernard Lazare and the Dreyfus family, especially his brother Mathieu, did not give up the fight and their determination paid off in more than one way. Firstly, a wave of anti-Semitism swept through France and split the citizens into two camps, the Dreyfusards who supported them and the anti-Dreyfusards, anti-Semites and monarchists who were pitted against them. Secondly, Lieutenant Colonel Picquart, the new director of the intelligence service, scrutinized the case and became interested in the figure of Major Esterhazy, an officer up to his neck in debts. Another document was found in the German Embassy that matched the handwriting of Dreyfus’ condemning evidence but it was obviously written by Esterhazy. If this truth came out it would discredit the army, a few high-ranking officers in particular, and strain the already uneasy relations with Germany. Therefore, Picquart was shipped off to Tunisia and thus military honor was saved. Except that before leaving Picquart confided his secret to the vice president of the Senate Auguste Scheuer-Kestner who assured him that Dreyfus would see his day in court across from Esterhazy. And so he did. Another speedy trial in January 1898 became major news this time and Esterhazy was deemed innocent. France was more divided than ever. The partisans of national security versus the defenders of truth and justice. The trial was clearly not fair, but it took Zola to muster the intellectuals and make it international.

It should be noted that the original Dreyfusards did not blame the army as a whole but rather a small clique of officers. They only wanted a fair and just trial. It was only later when the anti-Semitism and nationalism bloomed into anti-Republicanism and radical right-wing violence that the anti-militarism sprang forth in reprisal.

On January 13 1898 in L’Aurore Emile Zola risked his career and published “J’accuse!” addressed to the president of the republic, which would become famous worldwide. The man who often wrote but never acted politically turned vehement and combative. He, too, had first believed in Dreyfus’ guilt, but he was disgusted by the hatred he witnessed. And now a travesty of justice was on hand. Anatole France stood beside him and Séverine joined their ranks with many others. Zola was dragged into court for accusing the army generals of anti-Semitism and of deliberately and of knowingly convicting an innocent man. Support poured in from all over the world, from Leo Tolstoy in Russia to Mark Twain in the United States, but the opposition was too strong. There were terrible demonstrations of anti-Semites screaming Death to Jews, Long Live the Homeland, Long Live the Army, Down with Zola! And so on February 23 1898 after a dramatic trial Zola was sentenced to one year in prison and a 3,000 F fine. Perreux, the editor of L’Aurore was given the same fine but only four months in prison. Without question and without packing Zola beat a hasty retreat to London.

Séverine was no babe in the woods when it came to the judiciary machine. After her battles for Duval and Vaillant and the rest, she had a long habit of the gavel, robes and wigs and she knew the power that the pen could wield as well as the dangers that could result. When she answered in her turn in an article calling for the truth to come out she was attacked by an armed assailant, barely escaping with her life, disconcerted but not at all discouraged. Her involvement in the affair was not so much in support of the officer himself, but against all the lies and hypocrisy. Guilty or innocent was not the issue, it was the violation of justice that outraged her.

 

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What Did the Men Do?

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Bazar de la Charité Incendie

What Did The Men Do?[1]

It is up to us, women, to ask this—and not one of us should fail to do so.

Gyp[2] ended her article on Sunday with this:

The old Marchioness: Well, I say… with the exception of the servants and a few isolated cases, the men were not very elegant. There are very few of them dead or wounded.

Jalon’s son: They say there were less than two hundred of them in all at the bazar… that’s not very many!

The old Marchioness: Thank goodness there weren’t more because then all the women would have been burned!

Folleuil (thoughtful): That’s very possible!

 

The day before yesterday my friend Simone eloquently expressed her surprise and anger in her column here. Me, I have been waiting impatiently for eight days for my turn to speak, and to ask—at last!—the question that so many people were whispering behind the hearses, around the hospital beds and in the salons where certain people were pointed at.

What did the men do? We should rather ask “What did the Messieurs do?” because as far as men, in the Latin sense of the word, we only find them elsewhere… outside, in the street, in overalls or work shirts, dressed for the kitchen or the stables, in uniforms or liveries.

A member of the committee was interviewed by Le Temps Tuesday evening and said, “We estimate that there were 1,600 to 1,700 people in the Bazar when the catastrophe occurred. Not so many men, only around fifty, because of the hour.”

At first they had said around two hundred. One victim, saved by miracle, whom I had the chance to interview, whose social status compelled her not to lie and demanded scrupulous accuracy, told me, “There were at least a hundred or so Messieurs.”

Of the three different figures stated, I prefer, if you would like to know, the latter, as it is an average, apart from the fact that it just might be correct. Let’s take this 100 as a working figure and do a very simple, although terribly intriguing, little calculation.

How many of them were among the dead? Three. Two old men, Messieurs Potdevin and Mazure, and the admirable Doctor Feulard who saved his wife, then two nuns and went back into the inferno a third time to look for his child. We can even say five with Doctor Rochet and General Munier, the poor brave soldier who did all his age and strength allowed him to do before dying soon afterwards of his horrible burns.

How many wounded? Lieutenant Jacquin of the 102nd, who was wildly heroic, defying all danger, throwing himself headlong inside and then sprinting back out, saving his two nieces from the blaze, one of their friends and three strangers, the last of whom died in his arms while the flames, battling fiercely for its prey, cruelly licked this young man’s legs and face—and finally, crippled as he was, gathering together a dazed group on the wasteland, forty poor women whom he led to safety by breaking through a wall on rue Jean-Goujon!

It is superb… but that makes one. Two with Baron Reille. Three with Garnier. Four with Dieudonné. Five with Tombio Sanz. Six with Henry Blount. Seven with the Count of Montgermont.

I do not know of any others, but let’s round up to ten in case of an oversight since I do not want to upset anyone or seem partial. Of course there was that footman Diligent, but he was not “their people.” And this list contains only the peers, friends and relatives of the victims of the disaster.

So, by being generous—and you can see if I have any malice intended here—we get this number: fifteen percent. It is rather small.

#

Now let’s see what the women did, most of them being much less hardy, much less “trained” for the feat, much less prepared for danger. Their presence of mind and courage here is legion: where to begin when there are so many?

If you want to talk about composure, there is the girl Froissard—fourteen years old—saving her grandmother and younger cousin. There is Madame de Silva saving her two daughters. And many others—just take your pick.

If you want to talk about bravery there is Mademoiselle Rosine Morado, after getting out safely went back in to look for her mother, found her, brought her out… and was so burned herself, the poor child, that they feared for her life. There is Madame Borne, out of danger, but her, too, going back in to get her mother, Madame Gillet, and after doing so sacrificing her life in this rush of filial love. There is Madame de Saint-Berier, “over and over again” (no other expression could describe it), from the street to the heart of the fire, each time carrying her glorious spoils, a human being snatched from death until in her last trip she came out no more—fallen for good on the field of honor!

If you want to talk about self-sacrifice, there is the Duchess of Alençon who protested to Mademoiselle de L*** who was trying to drag her out, “Not yet, let the guests leave first.” There is Mademoiselle de Heredia, I believe, stepping up on the chair to climb to safety and when asked to let a foreigner, a wounded stranger, go first, answered like at a party, “Be my guest, Madame. And you, too, go right ahead.” This was said amidst the smoke and flames, between suffocating and burning… There are, too, those noble nuns of Saint Vincent on their knees holding the ladder in place at the life-saving window of the Hotel du Palais, helping one hundred and fifty of the women to escape and refusing to flee themselves until no one else showed up, both of them with their hands and face scorched raw and their robes on fire!

Meanwhile, outside, at the same time as the coachmen, roofers, plumbers, grooms, cops, printers, soldiers and stove-setters, working men and nobodies, came running to the rescue of the French aristocracy, the genealogical tree burning like a log, you could see still more women: Madame Roche-Sautier presiding over the rescue operation performed by her staff, organizing it diligently and intelligently; Madame Bouton, a worker, embracing a poor, crazed man, a living torch, to snuff out the flames; and the Soeurs du Perpétuel Secours climbing up on a wall and holding the ladder for the victims stuck in the wasteland.

That is the record of the women. Odd how it differs from the men.

#

However, the negligence, the carelessness, the abstention, the “omission” as they say in ritual style, is that all there is?

But no!

Let’s see first how Le Matin, for example, which is not a biased newspaper, stated the facts:

The women were burned like sheep in a pen, huddled up together… As for the men, I would rather not talk about them: they were beneath contempt. And yet twenty or so determined, cool-headed men would have been able to prevent the disaster. Most of them ran away and who knows whether they were the ones who trampled over the poor women whom they found there squashed at the exit? Basically, in this dreadful calamity the men had abominably “given up” the women and let them fend for themselves. The acts of courage and devotion were carried out by passers-by, people from outside, or even by the servants, some of whom, particularly the footman Diligent, acted heroically. Most of the responsibility of this disaster, therefore, falls upon the men.

 

One of our colleagues, Henri Pellier, has already pointed this out. Another of our colleagues, Gaston Méry, described it in more detail, laying emphasis on the accusation while speaking of three surviving victims of the male brutality and cowardliness.

Because the men beat their way to the exit. In a group the other day I heard a nun tell, “The messieurs threw me to the ground and trampled me underfoot. They beat the ladies with their fists to get out faster. It was a young girl who saved me.”

And they found her on the ground and they told her that among the incriminating evidence were bloodied canes, clotted with hair, with long women’s hair…

Well, isn’t that nice!

[1] L’Echo de Paris, May 14 1897.

[2] Sibylle Riqueti de Mirabeau (1849-1932), notorious right-wing writer, nationalist, anti-Dreyfusard, anti-Semite.

16-Bilking Panama and Burning Chivalry

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16-Bilking Panama and Burning Chivalry

Back in 1880, encouraged by the success of the Suez canal, Ferdinand de Lesseps founded the Panama Canal Company which was destined to link the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, but which was also destined to end in disaster. Underestimating the extent of work coupled with mismanagement put the company on the verge of bankruptcy. After years of difficulty the company suspended payments in December 1888 and three months later was ordered by the court to liquidate its assets.

The great scandal was aggravated by Boulangism [see 9-General Boulanger] and by a crisis at the Comptoir d’Escompte: after making huge speculations on the copper market, the bank’s director Eugène Denfert-Rochereau committed suicide and his partner at the Société des Métaux was sent to prison for six months. Faced with the collapse of this financial institution the Bank of France and the Rothschilds stepped in to prevent a full-blown financial panic. But Paris was on edge that year of 1889 when the International Exhibition unveiled the Eiffel Tower rising over a thousand feet and standing as the tallest structure in the world[1]. But all the success the Tower had with the public could not overshadow the damaged reputation of Gustave Eiffel himself who, as engineer of the Panama Canal Company, had to refund 20,000 francs and was sentenced to two years in prison, although like the others he was acquitted.

See, the canal had been stopped and the actual liquidation was postponed in the hope of starting a new company or raising the price of American offers[2]. Agents were commission to raise funds, but most of the money went to buy off politicians. By 1892 bankruptcy was inevitable, thereby causing the ruin of 800,000 investors (many of them single women) and the loss of almost two billion francs. In the wake of the failure, many government officials, ministers and parliament members were accused of taking bribes to give away public funds and conceal the facts in the affair. Jean Jaurès was put in charge of a commission to investigate the case and found 104 legislators implicated in the crimes.

The failure of the Panama Canal Company was one of the major politico-financial scandals of the Third Republic and the largest financial scandal of the 19th century. Banking pirates, corrupt politicians, paid-off journalists and unscrupulous businessmen colluded in cheating people out of billions of francs. Although the concerned parties tried to cover up their crimes in the face of glaring evidence, they were inevitably brought to light for raising money under false pretenses, misappropriation of funds and corruption, tried in court, found guilty… and acquitted!

While Vaillant and Henry were throwing bombs at the very people responsible for the wreckage, another kind of attack was coming from a different quarter. The collapse of the Panama Canal Company stirred up anti-Semite activity as people like Edouard Drumont used his paper La Libre Parole to exploit the role of two Jewish speculators in the corruption. Anti-Semitism was a growing problem (as we saw Séverine’s interview with the Pope [12-Pope Leo XIII] attest to) that would culminate in the Dreyfus Affair [see 17-19].

In Fernand Xau’s Le Journal Séverine followed the Panama trial that was the talk of the town. Unlike her support of the anarchists, there was little controversy in criticizing the perpetrators of this historic fraud. Séverine, however, still managed to attract controversy with her thorny insight. She supported Lesseps, the scapegoat, to a certain degree, because the real culprits never appeared in court. The responsibility lay with the regime itself. Not only the guilty parties, but the whole government and all its cohorts were to blame—from the power mongers to the parasites, the entire system was corrupt.

Of course, Séverine’s journalism was not limited to the disgraceful politics of the day. Her on the spot reporting continued as well. As we have seen she was adept at modern journalism, a certain sensationalism, but she always had her principles to accompany her. Back in May 1887 a dreadful fire at the Opéra Comique killed over a hundred people (so many bodies reduced to mere ashes that a precise number was never ascertained) during a performance of Mignon by Ambroise Thomas. Séverine went to the still smoking ruins in spite of the interdictions and warnings, but she was not content to stand around and watch from the outside. She wanted to give her readers a detailed description of the disaster not for the sake of sensationalism but for justice: she wanted to expose the responsible parties and make them pay for their crime. Being the only woman among the officials, she managed to get inside, observe the tragedy and conduct her investigation, which exposed the theater management that had locked an emergency exit for fear of people sneaking in. It was not only stupid, it was criminal. After her article the justice system continue to turn a blind eye toward safety regulations in public buildings, but it could no longer claim ignorance.

Now in 1897, as the Panama scandal was rekindled with the arrest of Emile Arton (one of the criminal bankers) in London, another catastrophic fire gripped the public conscience. An annual charity event, le Bazar de la Charité, had been held for more than ten years in different mansions of the Parisian elite. This fateful year, however, a wooden building on rue Jean Goujon was donated for the occasion. The interior was decorated to look like medieval Paris complete with shop signs and painted canvas backdrops. There was also a demonstration of the fascinating new technology by the Lumière brothers: cinematography. On the afternoon of May 4 the motion picture projector, which used ether in the lamp, caught fire and spread quickly. Over a thousand people, mostly from the aristocracy, panicked to escape. Within fifteen minutes the place was consumed and the charred remains of the victims lay in the ashes. Among the dead was the Duchess of Alençon, one of the organizers of the event and the sister of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Estimates ranged from 115 to 135 casualties, less than ten of them men.

Within thirty minutes after the blaze Séverine was on the scene and stayed there for almost forty hours. As she gazed upon the lifeless bodies of all the women and children she wondered where all the men were. Her interviews with the witnesses revealed a tragic truth. First with her article “What Did The Men Do?” in L’Echo de Paris then in articles for Le Journal she gave no quarter to the men who had beaten their way through the women to escape. She accused them of cowardice and perfidy and brutality, but went even further. Far from the chivalry that the upper classes boast of in their males here was a tragic expression of the “battle of the sexes” that was being waged against women in the workplace and universities. Her poignant observations made many people stop to think about the real tragedy and consequences of the event.

Be that as it may, after this disaster safety regulations were implemented for emergency exits and the Lumière brothers developed electric lamps for their projectors.

 

[1] Until the Chrysler Building was constructed in 1930

[2] The Americans eventually took over the project and the Panama Canal opened for business on August 3 1914, along with World War I.

Tired of Living

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Emile Henry

Tired of Living[1]

No, Emile Henry was not crazy. If he were alive, I would not dare say it for fear of crippling or appearing to cripple the steps taken against his will by his grieving mother and devoted friends. But I would also not dare to say the contrary, speaking against my own conviction, supporting their theory—in the name of a dying man’s will, unknown to them in all sanctity, but always sacred to me!

Certainly no one understood more than this woman in her passionate desire to save her son, calling upon every pretext, imploring every hope. She would not have been a real mother if she had not acted thus, if she had not worn down the sidewalks of Paris with her shoes and heaven and earth with her pleas!

Therefore, any trace of disapproval is far from my mind, as well as the chance of adding, in any way whatsoever, to her awful despair. What she did, she did well. It was normal, it was maternal… and I, like almost all women, would have taken the same path.   Stoicism, following the law of nature and the habit of education, is of all philosophies that which is least fitting to our sex—and mothers are not the ones from whom we should demand it!

But what I told her, gently, at length, when she came knocking at my door as she had knocked at so many others, I can repeat here today lest everything be wasted, lest in the eternity where a soul has returned my words fall uselessly in the emptiness and silence like grains of sand.

#

A woman reader, veiled in anonymity (and to whom I owe thanks not, perhaps, for her mistaken opinion but at least for her concerned trust) had written to Madame Henry saying that I alone could intervene to good effect. All I had to do was to write a column… and afterward the police, the judges, Monsieurs Carnot and Deibler would all lay down their weapons!

Alas, dear reader, if it had been a matter of a professional assassin, a career thief, I grant you… but an anarchist!

I tried, with a heavy heart, to explain to this poor woman sitting there looking at me with the eyes of a doe being slaughtered, those wild, beseeching eyes. I told her the truth: that Henry, by denying all pity before the jury, had made any plea for pity difficult; that by the tacit accord of the press with the repression, not one editor—not a single one!—would accept my article and finally that I did not even have the means of bringing it out somewhere else, which I saw, at the risk of unconscionable damage, as limiting my right to publish my weekly columns.

Oh, the gloomy fifteen minutes that I spent there reeling off these petty excuses before her tears. And how I shivered with disgust at this job I loved so much! There is no shame but there is sometimes grim bitterness in feeling useless and powerless, when a poor old woman dressed for mourning beseeches you… and deludes herself!

#

Well, to console her and to comfort myself, I will affirm what I know to be true: that my prose, a simple token satisfaction for her, a mere sign of interest that I could have given her, would have had no influence, absolutely none, on the decisions taken in advance and that were in a way irrevocable.

So much for the plea for mercy. As for the madness, first of all, they would not have let me invoke it either. Plus, it was a wasted effort, flailing at the air. Either it would have failed—and it was pleading for nothing, prolonging the prisoner’s agony, going against his expressed desire. Or it would have succeeded—and Henry, the second he felt himself trapped, would have killed himself.

He wanted death. He had said so in court and he had confirmed it by refusing to appeal. He had condemned himself much more than they had condemned him! Sent to the penal colonies or to prison, he would have killed himself—she knew that. Well, why deprive him of what he looked upon as so desirable that he had sacrificed the lives of others, his own honor, his liberty and his very existence?

To take away his responsibility was to deny his free will. To deny his free will was to eradicate the ideal in the name of which he claimed to have acted… A fierce Ideal, but an Ideal nonetheless, in that it had been his motive, his driving force! For the love of it he made fearsome decisions and suffered unspeakable torments. For, as fanatical as a man might be, I can never believe that he strikes his fellowmen, strangers and bystanders, without a struggle, with joy in his heart!

Afterward came the chase, the arrest, the beatings! Then the slow torment of the investigation, the exhibition in court, the sentencing—and from now on his cellmate is the specter of the executioner.

Well then, after long and careful thought, he had risked all this, accepted it and suffered it. The scaffold was his “reward”, the foregone and desired conclusion. Even out of tenderness, did we have the right to take that away from him, to send him to the shower, into the hands of nurses. Or to the whip, into the hands of prison guards… leaving to legend the memory of a madman, irresponsible and incoherent?

“That’s true!” she said.

She stood, gathered up the letters, the school diplomas, the meager remains, and bid me farewell, fully convinced that I was right… and she left, the incurable mother, the indefatigable mother, to inquire elsewhere about another means of salvation.

#

Today Monsieur Deibler, the grand arbitrator has had the final say: Henry has had “his” death.

Mob justice is satisfied with it. I do not know if society is safer for it. Until now the so-called operation has had the exact same results as those that ignorant doctors have: after carving away, they cut again, then slice off some more without stopping the gangrene that grows and grows—and threatens! I remember a clown, one of the Dare brothers, whose left leg was thus sliced up in the name of science: like a sausage.

The whole question is to know if it is a good form of treatment. All opinions aside, completely aside, is a threatened regime better off taking revenge than taking care of itself, punishing rather than preventing?

#

“Utopia! Utopia!” the politicians scream out.

Utopia? Why? Do you know that in being so categorical, so hostile to any conciliation, so scornful of kindness and fraternity, you are almost proving these desperate men right when they take refuge in crime like the desperate men did in Numantia, in Carthage or in Saragossa on their burning roofs? Every animal that is cornered turns ferocious. If they have no more hope, if every exit is closed, every recourse shut off, how can you be surprised when they give up their humanity to become wild beasts?

Repression? Yes, I know… The authorized officials advise it, demand it. They want to put on the pontoons of the penal colony that little four-sous guillotine that is so shamefully displayed on the mornings of executions in La Roquette and add a copy of the penal code to send across the waves!

They want: “To repress by terror.”

But terror of what? Of death? Most of the common murderers today laugh at it and hold their heads high as they march toward it. So, he whom an ideal, good or bad, sustains, pays his debt with no more emotion than a club member paying off a lost bet. It’s right, completely natural: they kill themselves or are killed without recriminations.

And who does the killing in such a case usually does not place much value on life. Here the facts speak for themselves. Just look at all the states of Europe and their recent suppression of anarchists—not a single person has asked for a pardon or died cowardly!

The penal colony? Wretched here or wretched there under the whips of the guards or the fists of the foremen, it does not matter much to them—and they make proselytes!

Philosophically I do not think that any intimidation can work against them. To call upon their goodwill? They cannot have any, these beggars living among beggars, their ears so stuffed up with the groans of suffering that the cries of their victims cannot be heard. To soften up a heart petrified by the tears of the common people! Léauthier’s letter that was published in Le Figaro said much about this. The young man whom all who knew him called gentle (like Ravachol, incidentally) expressed his theory of killing in such a calm and lucid manner that the least clear-headed people had to stop and think about it.

“We will cut off their heads!”

So be it, cut off their heads!

But, again and again, and then? Will you put all the knives and dynamite in the world under lock and key? Will you guillotine or strangle the spirit of revolt forever? You know very well that you will not! Can you deny that the history of these last ten years is enough to prove it? One companion after another without cease: after Ravachol, Léauthier; after Léauthier, Vaillant; after Vaillant, Emile Henry. Capital punishment, though infamous, has become something to aspire to. The attacks are an answer to the severity: the Véry restaurant, les rues des Bons-Enfants, Saint Jacques, Faubourg Saint-Martin, the Madeleine, the Foyot, not to mention the etcetera in the country too numerous to count!

And you believe that this is a life for the good men—they are legion—thirsting for peace and tranquility? The anarchists started it, it is true… like rabbits! Why, in the many workshops I could show you and where fifty workers used to keep busy, are there barely three left? Why, from the top to the bottom of the ladder are we no longer self-sufficient? Who aspires to be leader of the people? Who assumes not only the responsibility of good order, but also of the public welfare? What do you want these jobless people to do—when they still have to eat? How do you expect that anger and hunger will not make them wild beasts? Who will stop them?

God? The governments have taken it away from them.

The idea of good and evil? What a pretty story it is. Babeuf, Cadoudal, Orsini, once upon a time executed as criminals, rehabilitated today, they have their henchmen; the surviving leaders of the Commune, deported like bandits less than a quarter of a century ago are basking in easy jobs—and the statue of Barbès stands there with its rifle, that murderous rifle that was the cause of his death sentence.

Set an example? You’re not serious, you’re joking, you don’t give a damn! To have your head cut clean off or to die with an empty belly comes down to the same thing! At least before dying you’re fed!

It is difficult to make those who more or less enjoy life to understand that a person deprived of everything does not experience any joy or pleasure. But that is how it is: I say so with terror.

Never was this term spoken in June 1848 at the barricade of Petit-Pont with more relevance: “What’s your name?” the rebel chief asked a guy whose dress and bearing intrigued him. And the guy, all the while helping him, said, “Call me Tired of Living.”

Another head to roll. And nothing changed for all that! The widow from a distance is nothing but a scarecrow for sparrows; up close nothing but a pedestal, a platform, a Calvary!

Truthfully, I am telling you that the solution is broken down, it is not working! And I will say it again why can’t we try something else: a social state that is more humane, more just; concessions to the hungry poor; a less arbitrary distribution of goods—what Jesus the subversive, Jesus the torture victim simply called love of thy neighbor?

 

[1] Included in En Marche 1896.