July 16, 2021
From Libertarian Labyrinth
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Chronique de l’étranger

Lettre de Suisse

La premiĂšre impression que rĂ©clame et qu’attend le voyageur dans la contrĂ©e oĂč il se dĂ©place, c’est d’avoir ses sens vivement frappĂ©s d’émotions nouvelles, inĂ©dites ou tout au moins non pareilles Ă  celles qu’il a eues jusqu’à ce jour. Il voudrait que les habitants du pays, nouveau pour lui, qu’il va voir, ne ressemblent pas, physiquement ni moralement, aux personnes qu’il a coutume de rencontrer, que leurs mƓurs, leurs habitudes et leurs conditions s’écartent absolument de ce qu’il connait dĂ©jĂ , de maniĂšre Ă  pleinement justifier leur dĂ©nomination d’étrangers.

HĂ©las ! c’est en vain que le cerveau des Parisiens, lĂ©gĂšrement teintĂ© de romantisme, escompte ces vibrations nouvelles pour en tirer d’intenses jouissances soupçonnĂ©es seulement, mais sans Ă©chĂ©ance future, par consĂ©quent irrĂ©alisables.

C’est bien Ă  tort, en effet, que l’on considĂšre l’existence de plusieurs pays en Europe, absolument distincts les uns des autres, ayant chacun une organisation, un genre de vie, des gens autres que ce que nous possĂ©dons chez nous. C’est Ă  peine si le climat daigne changer Ă  150 lieues d’intervalle.

L’individu nĂ© en France, dans tous les cas, peut trĂšs bien se permettre de ne pas trouver Ă©tranges les Ă©trangers et s’il va de Paris Ă  GenĂšve, par exemple, il est Ă©tonnĂ© de la similitude qui existe entre deux villes situĂ©es Ă  700 kilomĂštres l’une de l’autre.

Que le pays soit grand, petit, pauvre ou riche (naturellement), chaud, froid, guerrier ou pacifique, taxĂ© ou non d’impĂŽt, la moyenne de bonheur individuel est la mĂȘme partout, ici comme lĂ . Le mĂȘme facteur peut servir Ă  mesurer le bien-ĂȘtre social — ou plutĂŽt le mal-ĂȘtre — des travailleurs, en tous endroits.

Quelle raison donner Ă  cette brutale constatation ?

C’est qu’il n’existe en rĂ©alitĂ© que deux grandes nations : celle qui produit et celle qui prend tout au fur et Ă  mesure de la production, ne laissant au producteur pas mĂȘme le minimum suffisant pour l’empĂȘcher de s’étioler, sinon de mourir de faim. Qu’importe Ă  l’ouvrier suisse que son pays n’ait point d’armĂ©es permanentes et que presque tous les objets de consommation soient exonĂ©rĂ©s d’impĂŽts ! Cela ne l’empĂȘche pas de jeĂ»ner, de chĂŽmer et d’habiter la cour des Miracles suisse, telle quelle elle existait au temps de Calvin !

Que lui importe d’habiter l’un des pays les plus fertiles du monde et d’une infime densitĂ© de population? (la Suisse entiĂšre n a pas plus d’habitants que Paris seul) puisque, contrairement aux affirmations de Malthus, il est aussi malheureux, si ce n’est plus, que dans les petits pays incultes bien que trĂšs peuplĂ©s.

La mĂȘme cause de mal existe partout unifiant l’apparence des contrĂ©es peuplĂ©es toutes de pauvres et de riches. Ici comme ailleurs, dans cette Suisse rĂ©publicaine, le jĂ©suite est tout puissant. On s’est dĂ©fait du phylloxĂ©ra, mais on n’a pu dĂ©truire l’influence clĂ©ricale. Il y en a Ă  toutes les sauces et tous plus rĂ©publicains les uns que les autres : catholiques, protestants, juifs, salutistes et mĂȘme d’une cinquiĂšme espĂšce appelĂ©e « momiers » et qui tient des quatre autres sectes. Quand les protestants senties plus puissants, ils s’emparent des biens des catholiques, puis, aux mĂȘmes catholiques les revendent moyennant finance ; et rĂ©ciproquement. Sous le couvert de combattre l’ivrognerie, des sociĂ©tĂ©s de tempĂ©rance font la plus militante campagne clĂ©ricale. Certaines poussent mĂȘme le fanatisme jusqu’à demander destruction pure et simple de la vigne et de tout ce qui peut servir Ă  fabriquer de l’alcool ou des boissons en contenant.

Pour se convaincre de la croisade religieuse qui a lieu en Suisse, on n’a qu’à faire un tour Ă  l’Exposition de GenĂšve oĂč sont appendues, Ă  la section d’économie politique, de grandes cartes gĂ©ographiques de la ConfĂ©dĂ©ration, couvertes de minuscules drapeaux Ă©pinglĂ©s sur toutes les localitĂ©s oĂč il existe une sociĂ©tĂ©, une agglomĂ©ration ou une confrĂ©rie dirigĂ©e par des en
soutanĂ©s. Ces cartes ressemblent Ă  s’y mĂ©prendre Ă  des murs sales couverts de nids Ă  punaises. On serait presque tentĂ© de les enduire de pĂ©trole et d’y mettre le feu pour les dĂ©truire. Je plains sincĂšrement la jeunesse d’ici sur laquelle presse cette maudite armĂ©e de calotins qui n’est, Ă  vrai dire, pas moins menaçante en France. C’est aussi elle qui est la vraie responsable des bombes de Barcelone et qui sait quels crimes elle prĂ©mĂ©dite en ce moment pour un prochain avenir.

Il n’y a donc pas plus de diffĂ©rence entre la condition du salariĂ©, qu’il soit suisse, français, italien, belge, allemand ou anglais qu’entre les diverses formes gouvernementales d’aujourd’hui, quelles elles s’intitulent monarchie, empire ou rĂ©publique. Le vĂ©ritable moteur qui anime toutes ces entitĂ©s, c’est l’esprit conservateur propriĂ©taire, aidĂ© de l’appui policier et de l’esprit divin du clergĂ©. A Londres, le salariĂ© gagne en moyenne 7 francs par jour, Ă  Paris 6 francs, Ă  GenĂšve 4 Ă  5 francs, Ă  Buenos-Aires 15 Ă  20 francs. Fout compte fait, le capitaliste leur laisse Ă  chacun la mĂȘme valeur, bien que reprĂ©sentĂ©e par des sommes diffĂ©rentes. A trĂšs peu de chose prĂ©s, le chĂŽmage est d’analogue durĂ©e pour les nationaux comme pour les Ă©trangers et ils ont d’identiques charges et besoins Ă  satisfaire. Donc, Ă  tous points de vue, le sort de l’un n’est pas plus enviable que le sort de l’autre, et chacun est malheureux dans des proportions Ă©quivalentes. C’est pour ces diverses raisons que le salariĂ© ne doit pas hĂ©siter un instant Ă  s’affirmer internationaliste et frĂšre de ses voisins de frontiĂšres. Les seuls ennemis qu’il doive combattre sont le capitaliste, l’employeur ou l’usinier que protĂšgent l’autoritĂ© et la clĂ©ricaille du monde entier sous les multiples formes quelles elles revĂȘtent.

Frappons la bourgeoisie elle-mĂȘme dans son principe ; l’autoritĂ©, dans son essence ; le capital. VoilĂ  oĂč se trouve vĂ©ritablement le secret du mal social.

E-L. Armand.

International Chronicle

Letter from Switzerland

The first impression that the traveler awaits and demands in the country where they travel is to have their senses keenly struck with new emotions, unprecedented or at least unlike those they have had before. They want the inhabitants of the country that they will see, who are new to them, not to resemble, physically or morally, the peopl they are accustomed to encounter; they want their manners, habits and conditions to be completely removed from what they already know, in a manner that will fully justify their title of foreigners.

Alas! it is in vain that the brains of Parisians, lightly tinted with romanticism, bank on these new vibrations, in order to draw from them intense enjoyments, previously only suspected, but without future delivery date, and consequently unrealizable.

It is wrong, indeed to reckon the existence of several countries in Europe, absolutely distinct from one another, each having an organization, a sort of life and people other than we possess among ourselves. The climate hardly deignes to change at an interval of 150 leagues.

The individual born in France, in any case, can certainly permit themselves to not find foreigners strange and yet if they go from Paris to Geneva, for example, they are astonished at the similarities between two cities situated 700 kilometers from one another.

Let the country be large or small, poor or rich (naturally), warm, cold, warlike or peaceful, burdened with taxes or not, the means of individual happiness is the same everywhere, here and there. The same factor can serve to measure the social well-being — or rather the ill-being — of the workers in all locations.

What reason can we give for this brutal observation?

It is that, in reality, there are only two great nations: the one that produces and the one that takes everything as production progresses, leaving to the producers not even the minimum sufficient to prevent them from withering, if not dying from hunger. What does it matter to the Swiss worker that they country has no permanent armies and that nearly all the objects of consumption are are exempt from taxation! That does not prevent them from going without food, going without work and living in the Swiss Court of Miracles, just as it existed in the times of Calvin!

What does it matter that they inhabit of the most fertile countries in the world, with an insignificant population density (all of Switzerland having no more inhabitants than Paris alone), since, contrary to the affirmations of Malthus, they are as unfortunate, if not moreso, as those in small, uncultivated, but populous countries?

The same cause of evil exists everywhere, unifying the appearance of regoins all populated with rich and poor. Here, as elsewhere in this republican Switzerland, the Jesuits are all-powerful. We have rid ourselves of the phylloxera, but we have not been able to destroy the clerical influence. We have it in every flavor, and each more republican than the last: Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Salvationists and even a fifth species known as “mummers,” who draw from the other sects. When the Protestants feel more powerful, they seize some of the goods of the Catholics, then resell them to the same Catholics for a fee—and vice-versa. Under the cover of combatting drunkenness, temperance socities make the most militant clerical campaigns. Some even push fanaticism to the point of the pure and simple destruction of the vines, along with everything that could serve to make alchohol or drink containing it.

To be convinced of the religious crusade taking place in Switzerland, one only has to take a tour of the Geneva Exhibition where, in the political economy section, large geographical maps of the Confederation are hung, covered tiny flags pinned to all the localities where there is a society, an agglomeration or a brotherhood led by some religious order. These maps look like dirty walls covered with the nests of stink-bugs. One would almost be tempted to coat them with petroleum and set them on fire to destroy them. I sincerely pity the young people here on whom are pressed this accursed army of church-officers, which is, to tell the truth, no less threatening in France. This is also the army really responsible for the bombs in Barcelona and who knows what crimes it is planning at the moment for the near future.

There is therefore no more difference between the condition of the employee, whether Swiss, French, Italian, Belgian, German or English, than between the various forms of government today, which they are called monarchy, empire or republic. The real engine that drives all these entities is the conservative proprietary spirit, aided by police support and the divine spirit of the clergy. In London, the employee earns an average of 7 francs a day, in Paris 6 francs, in Geneva 4 to 5 francs, in Buenos Aires 15 to 20 francs. All in all, the capitalist leaves each of them the same value, although represented by different sums. Unemployment is roughly the same for both nationals and foreigners, and they have identical burdens and needs to meet. So, from any point of view, the fate of one is no more enviable than the fate of the other, and each is unhappy in equivalent proportions. It is for these various reasons that the employee should not hesitate for a moment to assert himself as an internationalist and brother to his neighbors across border. The only enemies that he must fight are the capitalist, the employer or the factory worker, protected by the authorities and the clergy of the whole world, in the many forms they take.

Let us strike the bourgeoisie itself in its principle—authority—and in its essence—capital. That is where the secret of social evil will truly be found.

E-L. Armand.

E.-L. Armand, “Chronique de l’étranger : Lettre de Suisse,” Le Libertaire 2 no. 45 (19-25 septembre 1896): 1-2.

NOTE: This is the earliest explicitly anarchist writing I have found that clearly seems to be by Lucien-Ernest Juin, who was in Switzerland with the Salvation Army at the time. It seems to have been predated only by contributions to Christian publications. The pseudonyms “E. Armand” and “E. J. Armand” were both used in contributions, likely by Juin, to The Signal in 1891 and 1893. In 1897, Les Temps Nouveaux notes a lecture given by “Armand” and a donation by “Emile Armand.” Juin returned to the columns of Le Libertaire in 1898, with three articles under the name “Junius” and three poems by “J. Frank.” In 1899, he published two pamphlets as “Ernest Juin” and “Armand Juin,” with translations appearing under the second name in 1900. The familiar signatures of “E. Armand” and “E. A.” seem to have became standard in 1900, in the pages of L’Universel, and then in his own publications, beginning in 1901 with L’Ere Nouvelle. Additional known pseudonyms would begin to appear again among Juin’s contributions to L’Anarchie, starting with “Un qui n’en vit pas” in 1906 and “Hermann Sterne” in 1908.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]




Source: Libertarian-labyrinth.org