Farewell

Standard

Henri-Edmond Cross-L'errant-1896

Farewell[1]

This is not the last time that I will talk to you, my dear friends in the workshops and factories, my working class comrades. Nor is this the last time that I will talk about you. But this is the last time that I will talk in Le Cri du Peuple and that my name will appear at its head.

Tomorrow I will be gone.

I am not deserting. The soldier who stops in the middle of the battle because he has been vanquished is not abandoning his fellow fighters. And if someone criticizes him for staying in the middle of the road while the others are moving on, he has the right to respond by showing them his wounds and telling of the weakness in his depleted veins. He has done his duty—and I also have done mine.

It has been five years now since I have been on the go and over the last three years especially I have spent every day defending the cause to which I am devoted and to which I would like to stay devoted until the day I die.

I have thrown 400,000 francs into Le Cri du Peuple. Personally I am going out a little poorer than when I came in. I do not like to talk about these things, but contrary to the custom today, my humble glory is precisely that I have given everything and received nothing.

But, yes, I got paid: a handful of insults and basketfuls of vile slander. If they came only from adversaries, I would not complain. When you are with the poor, you have to expect all kinds of insults and injuries and courageously take your share—and your sides! But sometimes they came from those fighting next to me and my heart is still bleeding…

#

I said what socialism has been for me from a “business” point of view. I was expecting no better from the other points of view.

Being a woman was a sure guarantee that I had no personal ambition. I had none for others either; I never wanted the people I loved to be “something”.

My goal was not wealth or influence. I dreamed of something even more beautiful and worked at a task even more arduous. I wanted—expecting that my weakness would defuse the animosities and make it easier to give up their bitterness and to wipe out their pride—I wanted to give power and cohesion to socialism by reconciling the different schools whose divisions, all those personalities, were the only reason that the enemy triumphed.

I hoped (and I was cruelly punished for it) that in spite of and outside of the party leaders the battalions would merge and the great army of the poor would close ranks again. I dreamed of fraternity, but the leaders whose interests I damaged gave me a rude awakening.

I am not making accusations. I speak of the past with deep sadness, but without a hint of bitterness and only to explain why I welcome this retirement, which circumstances have forced upon me, without rebelling in my sorrowful fatigue. And then because there is something greater than me at stake in this plague of hatred that is killing socialism.

#

I am being blunt, but this article is a kind of testament and has the right to say and show everything.

Look at where we were eight years ago and where we are today. The fasces[2] are undone and lie in pieces on the ground; they only have to be stepped on to be broken. Of course, there are a few big branches left, but do any of them alone offer the resistance of the fasces as a whole? No, and you know it.

Moreover, those who stand or fight against unity are guilty. And this in itself is a comfort to me in leaving Le Cri du Peuple. My disappearance will also take with it some people’s envy.   If my departure can in any little way secure some harmony, I will not regret it.

As long as the leaders of socialism do not sense the danger of these discords that are infesting the whole party little by little like gangrene, as long as they do not abdicate their resentments like the nobles once abdicated their privileges on the night of August 4[3], as long as they put themselves above their ideas, their personal interests above the common interest, their “me” above the “we”—the social state will stay the same and the poor will remain without hope… and without food!

They say that those who are about to die see the future clearly. Those who are about to leave maybe see the present from a little higher up and a little more distinctly. Well then, watch out! Socialism has never been in such danger!

For, besides their hostility, the leaders are now mixed up in politics. They no longer debate about the economic interest of workers, but about the electoral interests of candidates. In their hands socialism is no longer a goal, it is a tool.

They are for or against someone according to the profit they can get out of attacking or defending him. And in this political shell game they forget that those who have everything at stake are waiting downstairs. If they win, so much the better for themselves! If they lose, too bad for the others!

#

Le Cri du Peuple did not want to get mixed up in party politics—it stayed at the door with the “vile multitude”, which was its sole preoccupation, concerned with its needs, its sufferings, its demands and its pains.

In this conflict, which it had no use for, it did not choose to support Boulanger or the Parliament[4]—it simply remained socialist, worrying more about strikes than elections and much busier with the question of wages than the question of the Cabinet.

Neither Rue Cadet nor Rue de Sèze—only the working suburbs, humiliated, defeated, dying of hunger!

That is what it will remain.

Those who will come after me were comrades of Vallès during the Commune. I know them through him. He loved them like childhood friends and like neighbors who lived through tragedy together. Of course, he did not share all their ideas—no more than I do—but he respected them… and how many people would he respect today?

That is why I am glad that as my strength wanes they will be the ones to take my place in the fight.

#

They asked me to stay on the bandwagon, but I refused. I thanked them with all my heart for thinking of keeping me with them, but I am beginning to believe that I am too libertarian to ever write for a socialist newspaper. I love the independence of an adversary as much as my own. I do not think my neighbor’s mind should be molded out of mine.

We are like that in this family. Vallès cried out for freedom “without borders” and during the Commune he was the only one to protest against the suppression of Le Figaro and Le Gaulois. So, I got this bad education and I stick to it.

Now, those who are coming here are a disciplined party. I would only throw a note of discord in what they want to be a perfect whole, like my little flowers sometimes look mischievous around the solemn wreaths of the immortals up there at the grave of old Blanqui[5].

What I am going to do right now is to play hooky from the Revolution. I will go from right to left following life’s ups and downs, always defending the ideas that are dear to me, but without any responsibility other than that which I have signed my name to.

At present I am writing nothing that can make the headlines of Le Cri du Peuple—it will not change in the future.

#

And now, farewell, dear house that was mine.

I dreamed of making a good home for socialism, of seeing Guesde and Brousse, Vaillant and Kroptkin[6] toast glasses at the same table. Instead of this I had only temporary guests who swallowed the lusty mouthful, drank the last glass of wine, and then left shaking their fists and grumbling insults—some even threw rocks at the window from outside!

I had so many of these thankless guests that now it is time for me to go, in spite of the efforts of those who have been faithful allies for the last four months and put their youth, devotion and self-sacrifice at the service of a lost cause.

What does it matter! The house is still solid. It was only missing “an advantage” and supplies. Those who are coming have all that and into the bargain they will throw their firm fist to make the bad guys come to their senses. Good luck, successors!

A last look back, a final embrace of my true friends—and farewell!

My things are packed in a red handkerchief. When I want you to know where I am, I will break a branch on the road and lay it down…my friends will watch me go.

[1] Le Cri du Peuple, August 26 1888 (in Pages Rouges, 1893).

[2] Roman symbol of power and authority—of the people and Liberty in France— consisting of wooden rods tied together in a bundle.

[3] In 1789 the Constituent Assembly officially abolished the old feudal system.

[4] See 9-General Boulanger.

[5] Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881), revolutionary socialist founder of Blanquism.

[6] Jules Guesde (1845-1922), Marxist; Paul Brousse (1844-1912), Possibilist; Edouard Vaillant (1840-1915), Blanquist and Centrist; Peter Kroptkin (1842-1921), Anarcho-communist.