Histoire de la Franche-Comté (De lordre dans mes idées t. 19) (French Edition)
That the time has come to change the old moral and economic laws which govern human societies.
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Until now you have governed the world. Why should it not be our turn to govern it? Are you made of superior stuff to us? Or can you really affirm that no one is more fit than you to govern men? We put it to the vote of everyone. Ask the opinion of the wretched souls who languish at the bottom of society, ask whether they are satisfied with the fate which your lawmakers have left them.
As to your laws, if you had not framed them according to the selfish interests of your class, would your class be the only one to prosper? So, what would be criminal about our establishing laws which advantaged everybody equally? You accuse us of attacking the eternal and unchanging principles on which society rests: religion, family and property. On your own admission, however, there are no eternal and unchanging principles.
Perhaps you might cite property, but in the eyes of your jurists, what is property in fact? It is a purely human institution which men have founded and decreed and which they are consequently in a position to abolish. Have they not, moreover, incessantly recast it? Does property today resemble ancient Egyptian or Roman property or even that of the Middle Ages? The appropriation and exploitation of man by man used to be accepted. You no longer accept this today, or anyway not in law. In most ancient societies the ownership of land was reserved to the State; you have rendered landed property accessible to everyone.
Manual Histoire de la Franche-Comté (De lordre dans mes idées t. 19) (French Edition)
Well, what are we doing now? We are limiting property a bit more; we are subjecting it to more numerous restrictions, and to heavier burdens, in the public interest. So are we so guilty? Was it not you who marked out the direction we now follow? As to the family, you admit that it has legitimately been able to assume in other eras and other countries, a different organization from that which prevails today with us.
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Why then, should we be forbidden to modify it again? Cannot man unmake everything he has made? Then there is religion! Have not your lawmakers, however, always arranged it as they saw fit? Did they not begin by authorizing the Catholic religion to the exclusion of the others? Did they not finish by permitting all faiths and by funding some of them? Property, family, religion — you are soft wax which so many lawmakers have marked with their successive imprints — why should we not mark you also with ours?
Why should we abstain from touching things which others have so often touched?
Why should we respect relics [p. The lecture is deserved.
You Conservatives, who admit no absolute, pre-existing and eternal principle in morality, any more than in political economy, no principle equally applicable to all eras and places, look where your doctrines lead! People throw them back at you. After having heard your moralists and your jurists deny the eternal laws of the just and the useful, only to put in their place this or that fleeting expedient, adventurous and committed minds, substituting their ideas for yours, wish to rule the world after you and differently from you.
And if you conservatives are right, when you insist that no fixed and absolute rule governs the moral and material arrangement of human affairs, can one condemn these reorganizers of society? Your lawmakers were perhaps wrong. Why should it not be given to other lawmakers to do better? When Fourier, 45 drunk with pride, said: All the legislators before me were wrong, and their books are fit only to be burned, might he not, according to your own judgment, have been right? If the laws of the Just and the Useful come from men, and if it falls to men to modify them according to time, place and circumstance, was not Fourier justified in saying, with his eyes on history, that long martyrology of the nations, that the social legislation of the Ancients had been conceived within a false system and that the organization of a new social state was called for?
In your insistence that no absolute and superhuman principle governs [p. Have you not authorized the first comer to refashion these societies you claim to have made? Does not socialism flow from your own doctrines?
What can we do about it? We are well aware, please believe me, of the chink in our armor. Therefore we have never denied socialism absolutely. What words do we use, for the most part, for socialists? We tell them: between you and us the difference is only a matter of time. You are wrong today, but perhaps in three hundred years, you will be right.
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Just wait! In that case, so much the worse for you! Since without prejudice to the future of your theories, we regard them as immoral and subversive for the present, we will hound them to our utmost ability. We will cut them down as the scythe cuts down tares 46 …We will dispatch you to our prisons and to penal servitude, there to attack the present institutions of religion, family and property. So much the better. We rely on persecution to advance our doctrines. The finest platform one can give to an idea is the scaffold or the stake.
Fine us, imprison us, deport us… we ask nothing better.
If you could reestablish the Inquisition against socialists we would be assured of the triumph of our cause. We are still in a position not to need this extreme remedy. The Majority and Power are on our side. We will see if it is well-founded or not. If you do not believe in absolute principles, you must — is it not the case? These aggregations may have similar principles and interests, but they can also have opposing principles and interests.
That which is just for one, may not be just for the other. What is useful for this one, may be harmful to that one. What is the necessary result, however, of this antagonism in principles and interests? If it be true that the world is not governed by universal and permanent laws, if it is true that each nation has principles and interests which are special to it, interests and principles essentially variable according to circumstances and the [p.
Joseph de Maistre has anyway shown beyond doubt that war is inevitable and necessary. You admit then, and in effect you cannot not admit, that the world is eternally condemned to war? Yes, but in the past in all societies the vast majority of the population were slaves or serfs. Take the serfs of Russia! Are they not such stuff as despotism can mould at will? Does it not make of them, just as it pleases, mere drudges or cannon-fodder? Unfortunately, there is no longer any way of reestablishing it among us.
There are no longer slaves nor serfs. There are the needy masses to whom you cannot deny the free communication of ideas, to whom indeed you are constantly requested all the time to make [p. Would you prevent these masses, who are today sovereign, from drinking from the poisoned well of socialist writings?
Would you prevent their listening to the dreamers who tell them that a society where the masses work hard and earn little, while above them lives a class of men who earn a lot while working very little, is a flawed society and one in need of change? You can proscribe socialist theories as much as you like, but you will not stop their being produced and propagating themselves. The press will defy your prohibitions. Ah, the press, that monumental poisoner. You can muzzle it and proscribe it for all you are worth. You will never be done with slaying it. It is a Hydra whose millions of heads would defeat even the strength of Hercules.
The press would kill an absolute monarchy just as it killed the constitutional monarchy, and failing the press, books, pamphlets and conversation would do the trick. Today, to speak only of the press, that powerful catapult is no longer directed solely against the government, but against society too. Once it stirred up revolutions in order to change [p.
Why should it not succeed with this plan as it did with the other? If nations were fully guaranteed against foreign conflicts, perhaps we could succeed in bringing to heel for good the violent and anarchic factions which operate domestically. You yourself agree, however, that foreign war is inevitable, since principles and interests are changeable and diverse and no one can claim in response that war, harmful today to certain countries, will not be useful to them tomorrow.