Auguste Blanqui

Blanqui

A translation of the preface to a recent collection of Blanqui's writings

"To a friend"

"To judge from the current disposition of people's minds, communism isn't exactly knocking on the door. But nothing is as deceptive as the situation, because nothing is so changeable." (Blanqui)

We are still afflicted by many superstitions. We have our collective hallucinations that are only doubted by the crazy, and our images of ourselves that are only distinguishable from those of yesteryear by being more secular. We meet our equals and we sincerely believe we see persons and people. We love someone, and we speak of "the Other." A century separates us from a certain life and we postulate it as being faraway. Dissimilar customs or a few variations in vocabulary are sufficient to convince us of an uncrossable distance. But what we understand can only be a part of ourselves; what we understand cannot go much further [than that]. Enlighten yourself: Blanqui[1] is not a historical person. He does not return to us as a phantom from the 19th century, though a century can traverse the ages. Blanqui is from yesterday, tomorrow, today. Blanqui did indeed exist, the facts attest to it, but the facts also attest to the fact he existed, above all, as a conceptual persona, like Nietzsche's Zarathustra, Bataille's Gilles de Rai or Artaud's Heliogabale.[2] From whence comes Blanqui's proper eternity. Gustave Lefrancais notes in his Souvenirs: "For the 400,000 voters of la Seine, 'Blanqui' is a revolutionary expression."[3] The name 'Blanqui' relates, not to a person, but to an existential possibility, to a manner of being-there, to a power of affirmation. If Blanqui was named "the Imprisoned One," this was in part due to his three decades in jail, but also due to the stubbornness with which this power remained in the historical figure of Blanqui. Prison, glory and calumny are the means that opportunely command the necessity of isolating [human] existences that are too ardent.

*

The universal desire to be someone, to be recognized, founds the comic atrocity of our era and gives it an aspect of free improvisation in the midst of crazy people, an open-air theatre of narcissistic pathologies of all kinds. We divert our glance from this bad show. We imagine a being who could not close his or her eyes to the horror of the present (this canvas of boredom, injustice, stupidity, separation and cynicism, the disastrous coherence of which is guaranteed by the police); a being who a kind of infirmity, certainly, but also perhaps some spirit of defiance had rendered unable to remain at peace with such a state of things; a being who had also found, while still young and in the midst of rioting, fires and conspiracy, the exact contraries of what he saw around him: intelligence, courage, adventure, friendship and truth. Such a being -- and there is no doubt that there were a number of people who, at that very moment, lived and sought each other out -- would be Blanqui, as much as Blanqui was Blanqui. Each moment of his life, each beat of his heart, would be propelled by these unique questions: How to do it? How to constitute a revolutionary force? How to win? Historical figures are there to provide screens for the powers that carry them. Nothing is simpler, clearer, more communal than Blanqui. And this is precisely why it will be necessary to cloud this menacing clarity with so many calumnies, rumors and dirty water. There is no "Mystery of Blanqui," despite all of his nocturnal intrigues, secret enterprises and [other] confabs. There is only bottomless evidence of a revolutionary existence. But what devil drove him? How could he still attempt, how could he still want to apply himself, always and forever, to theorizing [penser] the situation after so many betrayals, losses and disappointments? And what does it all mean? Don't worry, spectators: he will cave in one day and you will be able to whisper about him. Or he will triumph, and you will succumb. By waiting [for Blanqui], he will be your obsession; it will be your possibility that you will exhaust by incessantly conjuring him up.

*

"The me has always left me cold."[4] This is what Blanqui opposed to the malevolent hysteria, to the concert of jealousy that his very nature sufficed to unleash. And this redoubled the din. He who does not deign to respond to his accusers, who have in their turn circulated rumors, he must expect to see them become exaggerated, then dry up into thin streams of bile. Warning to the activist milieus:

"If you encounter these personal hatreds, jealousies and rivalries of ambition, I will join with you to weaken them; they are one of the scourges of our cause; but remark that they are not a special plague of our party; all of our adversaries suffer from them as we do. They only explode with greater noise in our ranks because of the more expansive character and more open morals of the democratic world. Furthermore, individual struggles focus on human infirmity; it is necessary to resign oneself to such weaknesses and take men as they are. To lose one's temper about a fault of nature is puerile, if not stupid. Firm spirits know how to navigate through the obstacles that can't be removed but which can be avoided or overcome by anyone. Thus, we know to yield to the necessity and, deploring the evil, never slow down our march. To repeat: the truly political man doesn't keep obstacles in mind and instead goes straight ahead, without otherwise worrying about the pebbles on the road ahead."

This is in the letter to Maillard.[5] Read it.

*

Dionys Mascolo[6] said something about Saint-Just that is also worthy of Blanqui: "Saint-Just's 'inhumanity' lay in the fact that he didn't have several distinct lives, like other men, but a single one." The custom among human beings is to let life go by. The hand on the shoulder that says, "Go, have no cares, it will pass," is the best-known carrier of this grippe. Thus, 'inhuman' is the one who devotes herself to the highest intensity she has encountered like a truth. The one who does not oppose herself to the shock, to the motion of experience, the hesitations of bad faith, skepticism and comfort. She becomes a force in her turn. A little discipline, and this force -- the force that attaches her to this intensity -- will successfully organize the maelstrom of attractions that compose all of us and imprint upon them a unique direction. What spectators stupidly call "will" is instead an unreserved abandon. For Blanqui, the intensity was insurrection. It was insurrection that, from the first days of July [1830], polarized his existence. "Liberty, equality, fraternity" is a decoration in bad taste for the porticoes of schools; for some it is also the most succinct expression of the experience of being in a riot. "Liberty, equality, fraternity" in street combat, facing death. It is still too soon to say how many Blanquis were born to the world in Genoa [Italy] on 20-21 July 2001. So many have already died from being unable to find, in the desert of the real, the road that leads there. "Weapons and organization -- these are the decisive elements of progress, the serious means by which to have done with poverty! He who has iron, has bread. We grovel before the bayonets; we sweep away the unarmed crowds. France bristles with workers in arms: it is the advent of socialism."

*

We lead ourselves astray by reviving the specter of "the superman."[7] Blanqui's enemies amply take up this question. "Somber temperament, haughty, unsociable, hypochondriac, sarcastic, great ambition, cold, inexorable, pitilessly breaking men to pave his road. Heart of marble, head of iron." "The head and heart of the proletarian party in France" (a journalist). "The most cynical of the demoniacs conjured up by the fear of modern society" (a reactionary). These are maneuvers suited to assure the isolation of a being outside the prisons. The superman is a toy, as man is a chimera. It is sufficient to distinguish between the mediocre existence that floats and navigates by what is possible, and the settled existence that is attached to a truth and works and makes headway from it. It isn't curious that the word "destiny" [destin] is derived from the [Latin] verb destinare, which means "to attach."[8] He who becomes devoted [s'attache] must become less and less a "person" and more and more a presence. Less and less "human," but more and more communal, simpler. With good cause, the subject of such an attachment is treated as "irreducible," because it is no longer reducible to itself. For our part, we are please to name the reducible the crowd of those who, taking themselves for people, betray themselves at every moment.

*

On the eve of the proclamation of the [Paris] Commune, [Adolphe] Thiers took Blanqui away. He kept Blanqui in secret and refused to exchange him for sixty-four hostages, including the Archbishop of Paris. Flotte[9] recounts this remark by Thiers: "To bring Blanqui to the insurrection is to send him a force equal to an armed corps." Blanqui is feared, and even in his own party, not as a leader, but as power. He knows how to show his abilities in [both] action and thought, and to practice [tenir] them together. One need search no further for the origin of the implacable hatred and the unfailing loyalty that Blanqui inspired. "The tribunes compare [s'addresser] the heroic and barbaric beastliness of the multitudes to a wild bearing, the lion's face, Taurus' neck. As for Blanqui, the cold mathematician of revolt and reprisals, he seems to hold between his thin fingers the tally [le devis] of the sorrows and rights of the people" (Valles, L'Insurge).[10] Blanqui addressed himself to justice and determination; he addressed himself to his equals. Unlike a leader, he neither flattered nor snubbed anyone, and he preferred to keep people at a distance than to take the risk of [mutual] seduction. By his very existence, he contradicted all the bourgeoisie's propaganda, which -- before turning insurgent Parisian proletarians into piles of cadavers as tall as barricades -- began by painting them as a shapeless mass, as a brainless Plebian class of thieves, drunks, prison-escapees, headless devils, creatures that were unintelligible, monstrous and foreign to all humanity. And so: there is a logic of revolt. There is a science of insurrection. There is an intelligence in the riot, an idea of upheaval. It is necessary to have all the class-hatred of de Tocqueville to fail to recognize it.

"There then appeared in front of the tribunal a man who I only saw that one day, but whose memory has always filled me with disgust and horror. He had haggard and sunken cheeks, white lips, a sickly, wicked and unclean air, a dirty pallor, the bearing of a moldy body, apparently no underclothes, an old black frock coat gathered about thin and emaciated limbs. He seems to have lived in a cesspool and crawled out; one told me that this was Blanqui." (Souvenirs).

*

"Sink the Romantics!" These were Blanqui's first words, while he was still sweating, covered with gunpowder, at the end of the three days in July 1830. There is indeed a romantic feeling for life that extends down to us and even more profoundly infests our era than the previous century. Musset[11] codified it once and for all in 1836, in the first few pages of La Confession:

"A feeling of inexpressible malaise thus begins to ferment in all the young hearts. Condemned to rest by the sovereign of the world, delivered up to the pedants of all species, to idleness and boredom, the young people see recede from them the foaming waves against which they had prepared their arms (. . .) At the same time that the life of the beyond was so pale and petty, the inner life of society took on a somber and silent aspect; the most severe hypocrisy reigned in morals (. . .) This was like a denial of all things in heaven and on earth, which one could disenchantedly name despair, as if lethargic humanity had been thought dead by those who felt its pulse. In the same way that the soldier of yesteryear -- whom one had asked, "What do you believe in?" -- answered "In me," the youth of France would today say "In nothing.""

All that has been valuable in the last two centuries -- in all domains -- has been made against the romantic feeling for life, that is to say, by keeping it in mind. Lautreamont's Poesies, Chklovski's Lettres de non-amour, Deleuze and Parnel's Dialogues, and Gang Of Four's album Entertainment[12] mark out a front that includes Durruti's cold passion, Lenin's best intuitions, Italian feminism, Huey P. Newton's speeches, the urban guerrilla and the wind that blows through la villa Savoye.[13] All this reveals what we would, in opposition, call the Blanquist feeling for life. [His texts] L'Eternite par les astres and Instructions pour une prise d'armes[14] are the purest expression of it in this volume. Starting with what is here, and not with what is missing, with what (as they say) will default on the real. Never wait; operate with those who are there. Learn oneself, learn [other] beings and situations, not as entities, but as intersections [parcourus] of lines and planes, traversed by misfortunes [fatalites]. No afterlife, reveries, recriminations or explications. "One only consoles oneself too much." To renounce the idea of chaos, the simple mental transcription of renunciation -- "The shadow of chaos never existed, it will never exist, anywhere." Once what is there is accounted for, get organized. Do not recoil from any logical consequence. Those who speak of revolution without concerning themselves with the questions of arms and supplies already have cadavers in their hands.[13] Leave the questions of origin and finality to the metaphysicians; the here-and-now is our only starting point, and what we can do practically is our only serious goal. If the state of things is untenable, it is not because of this or that, but because I am powerless within it. Never oppose the necessities of thought and action. Remain firm in moments of ebb, when one must start again, alone, from the beginning: one is never alone with the truth. Such a way of being can find no excuse in the eyes of those for whom life is only a scholarly collection of justifications. Faced with this Blanquist way of being, resentment hurls invectives; it denounces "the taking of power" and "megalomania"; it erects its security corridors of bad faith, stupidity and contentment; it announces the banning of the monster that seems to be in the process of extricating itself from the human herd.

But when a sincere man, leaving aside the fantastic mirage of the programs and the mists of the Kingdom of Utopia, leaves the [romantic] novel to enter reality; when he speaks seriously and practically -- "Disarm the bourgeoisie, arm the people: these are the first necessities, the only signs of the health of the revolution" -- oh! then indifference vanishes and a long howl of fury resounds from one end of France to the other. Sacrilege! Patricide! Hydrophobia! There is rioting; the furies are unleashed upon that man; he is condemned to the infernal gods for having modestly spelled out the first words of common sense.

*

The partisans of waiting have always used the adjective "Blanquist" as an unanswerable insult. The purists among the anarchists use it as a synonym for "Jacobin," while the Stalinists used it as the equivalent of "anarchist." The cultivated imbeciles of the Encyclopedia of Nuisances,[16] who for twenty years have had the lucid courage to relentlessly bet on counter-revolution, have [also] spoken of the Unabomber's "imaginary Blanquism" so as to better dissociate it from his gestures, and thereby introduce their grossly falsified translation of his Manifesto.[17] Among Marxists, "Blanquist" is a synonym for "putschist" that denounces an avant-garde adventurism and a haste to get organized without due care for theory, while the masses are not always ready for it. All this surface confusion is of no interest. "Let's go! With patience, always! With resignation, never!" That is the Blanquist way. The alternative is not between waiting and activism, between participating in "social movements" and forming an avant-garde army; it is between being resigned or organized. A force can grow in an underground [sous-jacente] manner, according to its own rhythm, and can seize the time at the opportune moment. If the success of the October coup d'Etat had value for the Bolsheviks [in the form of] the admiration of a crowd of followers and opportunists of all nationalities, the unfortunate attempts of Blanqui -- surrounded with an evil aura -- at least had the merit of distancing him from this race of wood lice. In its text On the armed struggle in Western Europe, the Red Army Faction cites a passage from the famous article on partisan warfare written by Lenin: "In an era of civil war, the ideal of the party is a militarily engaged party (. . .) In the name of the principles of Marxism, we categorically demand that one does not dodge the analysis of the conditions of the civil war via cliches and worn-out phrases about anarchism, Blanquism and terrorism, and [we demand] that one does not come to discuss with us the scarecrow of certain absurd procedures applied by such and such organization in a war fought by partisans."

*

He who becomes absorbed in a destiny finds himself on equal footing with those who share it. The experience of friendship is the sweetest effect of such discipline. "I regard having made alliances and friendships with several hearts capable of great affection and great sacrifices like a conquest; it is an ability that everyone has." Just as love falls under the heading of the romantic cesspool, friendship belongs to Blanquist joy. It is that rare form of affection in which the horizon of the world does not disappear. Hannah Arendt says that "friendship is not intimately personal, but poses political requirements and remains oriented towards the world." Here beings belong to each other in a free state, that is to say, each belongs to the others as much as each always-already belongs to a destiny. If Cicero's Lelius foresees the dangers of secession that friendship poses to the City, it is because an unjust world, a detestable society, doesn't get forgotten in friendship as [it does] in the suffocating ecstasies of love. It still has the chance to orient itself against such a world, against such a society. To speak in blunt terms: today, all friendship is in some way at war with the imperial order or it is only a lie.

*

Lacambre, Tridon, Eudes, Granger, Flotte and the majority of Blanqui's co-conspirators were at first only friends who did not repress their latent politics. Conversely, all friendships have a conspiratorial kernel. In 1833, Vidocq[18] deplored the fact that there were more than a hundred secret societies in Paris. Any history of the revolutionary movement in France between 1830 and 1870 carries the trace of the societies that -- clubs as far as the regime would permit -- changed into hotbeds of clandestine propaganda or conspiracies when repression came and once again became clubs the moment that the regime vacillated. In 1848, there were no less than 600 [secret societies] in Paris, including -- to mention only one -- the club of l'Emeute revolutionnaire, located at 69 rue Mouffetard and presided over by Palanchan, an old accomplice of Blanqui. The official history of the workers movement has it that the conspiratorial tradition -- with its oaths, admission rituals and secret decorum -- succumbed during the development of the workers movement, though it had been its crucible. Did not the members of the League of the Just, ancestor of the League of the Communists, participate in the aborted insurrection of 1839, launched by the Society of the Seasons? Wasn't it Buonarroti who delivered the precious message of Babeuf to the modern world? Certainly one wasn't admitted to the so-called Revolutionary Communist League as one was admitted to the Association of Egalitarian Workers in 1839.

"Listen with confidence and without fear: you are with communist republicans and consequently you now begin to live in the era of equality. They will be your brothers if you are loyal to your oath, but you will be forever lost if you betray it. They have all sworn to it just as you have sworn to it. Always listen with the greatest attention: the community is the veritable republic: work in common, communal education, property and pleasure; it is the symbolic sun of equality, it is the new faith for which we have all sworn to die! We know no borders, boundaries, or homeland; all communists are our brothers; the aristocrats [are] our enemies. Today, if you fear prison, torture or death; if you find your courage to be weak; you should withdraw. To enter our ranks, one must confront all that: once the oath has been taken, your life belongs to us; you have risked your neck [19] and that of the one who will lead you for the rest of your days. Reflect and respond."

With the end of the era of conspiracies, the workers movement supposedly passed from its infantile to its adult phase, from night to light. At least according to Marxist historiography. The public organizations of Social Democracy took up the slack from shapeless proletarian politics. From the League of the Communists one proceeds by degrees to the International Association of Workers and the existence of Social Democrat Parties in all countries [of Europe], while the anarchists [supposedly] sank stupidly into terrorism and syndicalism. The truth is that conspiratorial politics never ended. [Supposedly] all the traditional links, all the familiarities based on trade and neighborhood -- the village, in short -- on which proletarian politics rested until the Commune have been irreversibly destroyed. And that the organizations that have substituted themselves for a thenceforth missing "people" have only demoted [repousser] the conspiratorial to "the informal" and have consequently de-ritualized all that depends upon friendship. At bottom, the conflict between Marx and Bakunin concerning the International and its alleged infiltration by an obscure International Alliance of Socialist Democracy (founded by Bakunin) came down to this: on the one side, a politics based on programs and, on the other, a politics founded on friendship. A Prussian, Karl Marx did not expect the sad end of the League of Communists due to his hatred of the politics of friends. His 1850 review of Chenu's book Les Conspirateurs already oozed pure hostility.[20]

"The entire lives of these professional conspirators are marked by the sign of Bohemia. Recruiting-sergeants for conspiracy, they shuffle from wine merchant to wine merchant, feeling the pulse of the workers, choosing their people, attracting them to [the] conspiracy by dint of cajoling them, and charging to the firm's account or their new friend the inevitable glasses that they themselves consume. In sum, the wine merchant may be consider the veritable fathers of their companionship (. . .) Due to a temperament that is very much shared by all Parisian proletarians, the conspirator doesn't delay becoming an accomplished "carouser" in this incessant tavern ambiance. The shady conspirator, who observes a rigid Spartan virtue in the secret sessions, suddenly loosens up and becomes someone who -- in the eyes of all the scholarly barflies -- knows how to appreciate wine and women. This tavern joviality is even more heightened by the constant dangers to which the conspirators are exposed: at any minute, he could be called to the barricades and perish there; at each step, the police lay traps for him that could lead to prison or even a galley ship. Such dangers precisely constitute the attraction of the trade: the greater the insecurity, the more the conspirator hastens to enjoy the pleasures of the moment. At the same time, the habituation to danger renders him completely indifferent to both life and liberty. He is as at home in prison as at a cabaret. Every day he expects to receive the order to go into action. The desperate rashness that manifests itself in every Parisian insurrection is precisely the contribution of these old professional conspirators, the henchmen. They are the ones who erect and command the first barricades, who organize resistance, lead the pillaging of armories, seize weapons and munitions, and carry out in full upheaval those audacious blows that so often throw the party in power into confusion."

Here one has a faithful description of the type of man that Bakunin was at the continental level. Bakunin, who could not in the course of his incessant transcontinental peripatetics encounter a being whom he liked without unloading upon him the statutes of his most recently formed secret society, hoping that he would adhere to what the Program and Object of the Secret Revolutionary Organization of the International Brothers calls a "kind of revolutionary [general] staff composed of individuals who are devoted, intelligent and sincere friends, especially; neither ambitious nor vain; of the people; capable of serving as the intermediary between the revolutionary idea[l] and working-class instincts. The number of these individuals thus most not be large. For the international organization in all of Europe, one hundred strongly and seriously allied revolutionaries would suffice." In truth, conspiratorial politics hasn't ceased to double all the organizational realities. In Spain, the FAI doubled the CNT, while its military office paid no attention to the Social-Democrat Workers Party in Russia. [in Russia,] Lenin was the only one up on the latest expropriation of Kamo, in 1912, [which worked] to the advantage of the Organization. [In Italy,] the "illegal work" commission of Potere Operaio[21] tasked itself with auto-financing, and [in France, it] was evoked by the constitution of the "invisible party." The party -- this is often forgotten -- has never ceased to be legal and illegal, visible and invisible, public and conspiratorial. It is one of the traits of the present that, at the moment we need all the resources of conspiratorial politics, we no longer understand anything about it. It is necessary, at any cost, to maintain the following epistemological principle: the history of he revolutionary movement is, first of all, the history of the links that make up its reality [qui font sa consistance].

*

Resentment's rationalizations have the art of inverting logical relations. For more than a century, and notably since The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, every event finds its explication among the slaves in a conspiracy by the powerful. The global petite bourgeoisie dote upon this literature, because it comforts its ignorance and powerlessness. The progression of conspiracism [complotisme] has everywhere followed the progression of this "class." In fact, the revelation that the powerful conspire against us only serves to mask evidence of the contrary: the power that is found in friendship and through conspiracy. In his preface to Histoire des Treize, Balzac[22] expresses as no one else the ambivalence of this power, which can return as aristocratic secession just as it can give birth to a revolutionary force.

"It happened that, under the Empire and in Paris, thirteen men equally struck by the same feeling, all endowed with a very great energy for being loyal to the same thought; quite honest amongst themselves due to never betraying each other; quite profoundly political so as to dissimulate the sacred links that unite them; strong enough to be above the law; bold enough to undertake anything; very happy for having almost always succeeded in their designs; having run the greatest dangers, but keeping quiet about their defeats; insusceptible to fear, and having never trembled before the prince, the executioner or innocence; having accepted each other, such as each was, without minding social prejudices (. . .) This world apart from the world, hostile to the world, accepted none of the ideas of the world, and recognized no law in it (. . .) This intimate union of superior people, cold and teasing, smiling and cursing in the midst of a false and petty society (. . .) Thus there were in Paris thirteen brothers who were their own masters and yet under-estimated in the world (. . .) There were no leaders nor followers; no one could arrogate power to himself; only the most vivid passion, only the most demanding circumstance, was the best. There were thirteen unknown kings, but real kings, and, more than kings, they were judges and executioners who -- organized into flanks that could traverse the entire country -- deigned to be something else, because they could be everything."

*

All of Blanqui's texts are circumstantial texts. They are driven by the conditions in which and against which they were written. It isn't until l'Eternite par les astres [1872] that the Fort du Taureau is mentioned. From whence comes the nonexistence of Blanqui's oeuvre, in the sense of something that includes an entire treasure. From whence also comes the absence of a Blanquist doctrine as there exists a Marxist metaphysics. "A little passion; doctrines later!" There is, nevertheless, a Blanquist style.

"Revolutions desire men who have faith in them. To doubt their triumphs is to already betray them. It is through logic and audacity that one launches them and saves them. If you lack these qualities, your enemies will have it over you; they will only see one thing in your weaknesses -- the measure of their own forces. And their courage will grow in direct proportion with your timidity."

Everything's there. Blanqui is the author of the phrase "Neither God, nor master," the man who wrote "Honest [reguliere] anarchy is the future of humanity," and the author of an appeal against mutualism and in favor of integral association entitled "Communism is the future of society." Go find an orthodoxy there. Of course, constructing a revolutionary force when overthrowing an administrative monarchy, when there is only an elite to put down, this can be the work of an elite. When Bismarck's armies marched on Paris, acting in a revolutionary way was "making barricades and digging trenches; assigning churches to national usages; arming the priests and, consequently, suppressing all cults; mandating enlistment; placing food in common and rationing it; dismissing and dispersing the former police forces; and denouncing suspects and Bonapartists" (Dommanget, Blanqui [1972]). in current society, in which power circulates within the flows of nourishment, information and medicines; in which citizens take advantage of their rights to call the cops; it goes without saying that a revolutionary force must embrace all aspects of existence; it must be constructed as a force of supply-provisioning and as an armed force, as a power that is both poetic and medical; and it must seize territories. It must collect all useful intelligence about the adversary's organization and provoke desertions in all ranks of society. It must socialize itself to the same extent that the social becomes military. But no more than yesterday: things can't wait. Such a force is in the process of being constituted. If this force closely studies Blanqui, it is only to better understand the war in progress.

*

Time passes. That is its nature. As long as there is time, there will be boredom, and time passes. The past does not pass. All that has really passed carries in itself a spark of eternity; it is inscribed in some nook of communal experience. One can efface the traces, but not the event. One can indeed pulverize the memory, [but] each piece of debris contains the total monad of what one believed to have been destroyed and will engender it anew, when the opportunity arises. We repeat: historicism is a brothel in which one takes care that the clients never believe [the illusion]. The past is not a succession of dates, deeds or modes of living; it is not a closet full of costumes; it is a reservoir of forces and gestures, a proliferation of existential possibilities. Knowledge of it is not necessary; it is simply vital. Vital for the present. It is from the present that one comprehends the past, not the reverse. Each era dreams its predecessors. The loss of all historical meaning -- like the loss of all meaning in general -- in our era is the logical corollary of the loss of all experience. The systematic organization of forgetting doesn't at all distinguish itself from the systematic loss of experience. The most demented form of historical revisionism, which now manages to apply itself even to contemporary events, finds it compost in the suspended life of the metropolises, where one never experiences anything, except for [all] the signs, signals and codes, and their padded conflicts. Where one has experiences, private/tame experiences that float, mute, unwrittable and empty; implosive intensities that cannot be communicated beyond the walls of an apartment and that any narrative would empty out more than it shares. It is under the form of its privatization that the deprivation of experience expresses itself the most communally.

*

December 2006.[23] The ship of state is taking on water everywhere. Soon it will only be a look-out post. France burns and shipwrecks. This is good. It revives memories. The schools on fire burn in memory of the generations of proletarians who therein experienced the bitter taste of timetables, work and obedience, and incorporated the feeling of complete inferiority. Those who no longer vote honor the insurgents of June 1848 -- that "revolt by rebellious angels who have not arisen since then" (Coeurderoy) -- whom one put to the bayonet in the name of universal suffrage. The leftist intellectuals [of today] wonder on the radio if the government has the courage to send the army into the banlieus, just as their ancestors [who in the early 1960s] applauded the generals who, upon returning from Algeria, massacred Parisian proletarians, though the generals had gotten into the habit of "civilizing" the indigenous people [of that country]. Today as yesterday, this species of skunk calls himself republican and speaks of "the rabble." The imprisoned members of Action Directe have long ago surpassed their mandatory-minimum sentences. Regis Schleicher[24] soon will compete with Blanqui for length of incarceration. More than ever, the army trains for urban warfare. In France, the historical clock is stuck at May 1871. The question of communism is invisibly the only question that haunts all social relations, even porn. The universe fidgets in place. Last March 31st, a wild demonstration of 4,000 people lasts more than eight hours: from the intervention of the president of this senile Republic -- he came on TV to announce that the CPE would be maintained -- to four o'clock in the morning. The demonstration wants to go to the Eylsee, oblique to la Concorde sur l'Assemblee national, which it fails to approach [investir] due to lack of materials and weapons -- same thing for the Senate.

At the edges of the march, determination grows. A martial scansion is heard at the door: "Paris! Get up, wake up!" It is an order. On the Boulevard de Sebastopol, then at de Magenta, the windows of the banks and interim-job agencies begin to fall, one after the other, methodically. Prostitutes at Pigalle salute from a window. The crowd mounts le Sacre-Coeur to cries of "Vive la Commune!" The door to the crypt does not budge; what a shame, one could have burnt it down. Descending to a small street, a lady in a baby-doll outfit leans on her third-floor balcony and yells at the top of her voice, "The bad days will end."[25] The permanently-open office of the vile Pierre Lellouche[26] will soon be sacked. It is three o'clock in the morning. The past does not pass. The burning of Paris will be the worthy completion of Baron Haussmann's destruction.

(Signed "Some Agents of the Imaginary Party," this text was published as the preface to Dominiqu Le Nuz's collection of texts by Blanqui entitled Maintenant, il faut des arms, published by Editions La Fabrique in 2007. Translated from the French by NOT BORED! 26 May 2009.)

[1] Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881) was a French anarchist.

[2] Unlike Zarathustra and Heliogabale, Gilles de Rais was a real person. But it is true that, for Georges Bataille, author of The Trial of Gilles de Rais, (original 1965, translated by Richard Robinson, 1991), de Rais was more (evil) than just a "mere" man.
[3] Gustave Lefrancais (1826-1901) was a French anarchist.

[4] Uncited quotations are phrases from Blanqui.

[5] Letter dated 6 June 1852.

[6] See Dionys Mascolo's preface to collection of Saint-Just's writings published by Gallimard in 1968.

[7] Surhomme in French and uber Mensch in German.

[8] To fasten, make firm, establish.

[9] Benjamin Flotte.

[10 Jules Valles, L'Insurge, published post-humously in 1886.

[11] Alfred de Musset, The Confession of a Child of the Century (1836).
[12] Released in 1979, this album is strongly influenced by the Situationist International.

[13] A "machine for living" (a house) designed by Le Corbusier in Poissy, France, between 1928 and 1931.

[14] The Instructions for an armed uprising was first published in 1866, while Eternity through the stars was published in 1872.

[15] A detournement of a famous phrase by Raoul Vaneigem: "People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and positive in the referral of constraint, have corpses in their mouths." A great deal could be said about this detournement: 1) it removes love from the subversive equation; 2) it re-territorializes a remark from Vaneigem, whom Guy Debord once criticized for his "Blanquism" (see letter to Mustapha Khayati dated 13 November 1965); and 3) it reminds us of Debord's complete absence from this text on Blanqui, in particular, the following highly relevant remarks from Debord's Comments on the Society of the Spectacle.

"The notion of acceptable political crime only became recognized in Europe once the bourgeoisie had successfully attacked previously established social structures. The nature of political crime could not be separated from the diverse intentions of social critique. This was true for Blanqui, Varlin, Durruti. Nowadays there is a pretense of wishing to preserve a purely political crime, like some inexpensive luxury, a crime which doubtless no one will ever have the occasion to commit, since no one is interested in the subject any more; except for the professional politicians themselves, whose crimes are rarely pursued, nor for that matter no longer called political. All crimes and offenses are effectively social. But of all social crimes, none must be seen as worse than the impertinent pretension to still want to change something in this society, which thinks that it has only been only too kind and patient, but which no longer wants to be blamed."

[16] The Encyclopedia of Nuisances was founded as a group and a journal in 1984 by Jaime Semprun, Christian Sebastiani and others, in response to the murder of Gerard Lebovici, the editor of Editions Champ Libre. It began a publishing house in 1993.

[17] The EdN published a translation of the Unabomber's allegedly anarchist manifesto, "Industrial Society and Its Future," in 1999.
[18] Eugene Francois Vidocq (1775-1857) was a French criminal who became a police spy.

[19] The French here is tu es engage sur ta tete (literally, "you are engaged on your head").

[20] This review by Marx is available on-line in an English translation. Ironically, this website -- "Marxist," though it is -- is the best on-line resource for Blanqui's writings in translation.

[21] Potere Operaio ("Workers Power") was an Italian group active between 1968 and 1973.

[22] Honore de Balzac, Histoire des Treize: Ferragus, chef des devorants, XIII, 13.

[23] In the midst of spirited protests against the rescinding of the CPE (Contrat Premiere Embauche).

[24] Regis Schleicher, a member of Action Directe, was sentenced to life in prison in 1986.

[25] "The Bad Days Will End" was the title of an essay published in April 1962 by the Situationist International, and also the title of a film made by Thomas Lacoste in 2008.

[26] A right-wing French politician, born in 1951 and, one way or another, in power since 1993.

Comments

Battlescarred
May 29 2009 13:17

What a load of pretentious tosh!

BNB
May 29 2009 18:37

Sorry I posted something (a translation no less!) that taxed your patience.

I'll try to post something a little less "pretentious" next time.

Black Badger
May 29 2009 20:54

I would dispute the characterization of Blanqui as an anarchist. He should be considered a red jacobin if anything, someone who fostered a self-contained vanguard formation to lead the revolution. It may be the case that Blanqui coined the phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat." He was even more interested in clandestine parties than Bakunin. That he was considered dangerous enough to jail on several occasions is not enough to justify giving him a label that clearly doesn't fit.

BNB
May 29 2009 21:10

Did you even read the text? Did you by chance happen to notice this remark?

"The purists among the anarchists use it as a synonym for "Jacobin'"

It would seem to position you as a purist among anarchists.

Congratulations!

888
May 29 2009 22:37

[1] Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881) was a French anarchist.

Sure, he was an anarchist, if you ignore all sane definitions of anarchism.

I kind of like the pretentious style of these tarnac texts, but I should really read the original

BNB
May 30 2009 16:05

We should all thank the psychiatrist for helping the rest of us to distinguish the "sane" definitions of anarchism from the "insane" ones.

Black Badger
May 30 2009 20:22

BNB, are you saying that the authors of the text you graciously translated are unimpeachably correct in their analysis of Blanqui and that therefore anyone who dares to disagree with them is a "purist" among anarchists? I always thought a "purist" anarchist was one who wouldn't have any truck with the mechanisms of government. Guess I was wrong. Thanks for enlightening me as to the truth: "purist" anarchists are any of us who disagree with you and the agents of the Imaginary Party. Funny that people who do not identify as anarchists are the quickest to denounce self-described anarchists as "purists" when those anarchists refuse to conform to the non-anarchists' definitions and parameters. Does that seem odd to anyone else, or am I also insane?

BNB
May 30 2009 22:31

Q. "BNB, are you saying that the authors of the text you graciously translated are unimpeachably correct in their analysis of Blanqui and that therefore anyone who dares to disagree with them is a "purist" among anarchists?"

A. Of course not. It seemed pretty clear to me from the facility with which you threw the empty phrase "Red Jacobin" at Blanqui that you hadn't actually read the text but I had simply scanned it for something "important" to object to. But your objection is thoroughly trivial. Want to stay at the level of who is and who isn't a "real" anarchist? Among historical figures?! Have fun!

888
May 30 2009 23:59
Quote:
We should all thank the psychiatrist for helping the rest of us to distinguish the "sane" definitions of anarchism from the "insane" ones.

Uhh... what? Blanqui isn't an anarchist because he believes in taking state power. Also, he did not consider himself an anarchist.

BNB
May 31 2009 00:53

Dear Doctor: please provide references, citations or anything else that substantiates your assertions about Blanqui's politics. Thank you.

888
May 31 2009 03:21
Blanqui wrote:
Reaction aims to paralyze the nation by cutting off its brain. Parisians! It’s up to you, rich and poor, to prevent France from being decapitated and to hold back the hand that the parricides raise against their mothers!

Think of this at the polling booth.

Auguste Blanqui
Dungeon of Vincennes
September 15, 1848

https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/blanqui/1848/parisians.htm

That was just a random quote, anyway he stood for election at various points. I haven't read enough yet of his texts to give a more full description of his politics, but as far as I can tell he mostly calls for proletarian insurrections to create a workers' republic. I quite like his style, but he is not an anarchist.

Black Badger
May 31 2009 05:00

Let's remember that Proudhon also ran (and was elected) to the Chamber of Deputies...

BNB
May 31 2009 13:21

As I said: "Want to stay at the level of who is and who isn't a 'real' anarchist? Among historical figures?! Have fun!"

Black Badger
May 31 2009 17:29

And yet everyone agrees that Proudhon was an anarchist, primarily because that's how he identified himself. Blanqui never did, which is part of why it is absurd to label him one.

The point I raised above, namely that BNB is not an anarchist and so it's strange for him to latch on to the issue of "purism," remains ignored.

admin edit - personal information removed, don't disclose real names

888
May 31 2009 21:19
Quote:
As I said: "Want to stay at the level of who is and who isn't a 'real' anarchist? Among historical figures?! Have fun!"

No, you specifically asked for a reference to show he wasn't an anarchist. You are just making yourself look stupid. Anyway, it's ridiculous to claim he was an anarchist, but yes, who cares.

888
May 31 2009 23:56

OK sure, but just for people's interest here's a quote that proves for sure Blanqui wasn't an anarchist:

Quote:
6 Can the people immediately govern themselves immediately after the revolution?

The social state being gangrened, heroic remedies are required to pass to a healthy state; the people will need, for a certain period of time, a revolutionary power.

7 In summary, what are your principles?

Royalty and all aristocracies must be exterminated; to substitute in their place the republic, which is to say the government of equality; but, to pass to this government, to employ a revolutionary power, which sets the people to exercise its rights.

-from Reception Procedure of the Society of the Seasons
http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/blanqui/1830/seasons.htm

Anyway... I think the text romanticises self-sacrificial superheroism and conspiratorial societies, and I don't think they can help us very much, and in fact open up the potential for huge abuses. I can only see people turning to this method of organisation out of desperation (what next: reviving Nechaev?). Bakunin doing it too doesn't justify it at all, and the FAI didn't really operate very secretly in the CNT.

Blanqui is certainly a very interesting character who dedicated himself totally to revolution. This text has inspired me to read more of his work, but out of historical interest, not a guide for action. Insurrectionist(ish) texts like these are always ultimately unsatisfactory, with their picturesque allusions and empty romanticisms.

BNB
Jun 1 2009 00:19

"This text has inspired me to read more of his work, but out of historical interest, not a guide for action."

Good to hear. After all, this text was written to be a preface to a collection of his writings. . . .

Black Badger
Jun 1 2009 01:56

admin- removed

Steven.
Jun 1 2009 09:00

2 posts by BNB hidden. Revealing users personal information, and making physical threats are prohibited on libcom. repeat behaviour will result in a ban from the site.

BNB
Jun 3 2009 20:40

Translator's Introduction to
The Imaginary Party's Essay on Blanqui

http://www.notbored.org/blanqui-preface.html

Let's put it this way, my friend. If you were putting together a collection of texts written by a "historical figure" (someone noteworthy who lived and died many years ago), you would probably give the job of writing the collection's preface to someone who knows a great deal about this person and who could thus offer insights into the life and times of the author and the value of the collection itself. Because the author in question here -- the French revolutionary Louis Auguste Blanqui -- has long been a highly controversial figure, you would probably try to get someone who is not only an expert on Blanqui, but also capable of explaining, if not defending Blanqui to today's readers. No reader wants a book written by a completely unsympathetic or detestable author. There'd be no reason to produce such a collection in the first place.

The problem in this particular instance is the fact that, today, no one calls him or herself a "Blanquist." There probably haven't been sincere Blanquists, i.e., actual followers of Blanqui's ideas and/or leadership since 1881, the year that Blanqui himself died and his followers patched up their differences with the Marxists (or vice verse). For the last 125 years, "Blanquist" has not been a neutral, objective or "historical" description, but a condemnation and an insult. As the authors of the preface write:

'The partisans of waiting have always used the adjective "Blanquist" as an unanswerable insult. The purists among the anarchists use it as a synonym for "Jacobin," while the Stalinists used it as the equivalent of "anarchist." The cultivated imbeciles of the Encyclopedia of Nuisances, who for twenty years have had the lucid courage to relentlessly bet on counter-revolution, have [also] spoken of the Unabomber's "imaginary Blanquism" so as to better dissociate it from his gestures, and thereby introduce their grossly falsified translation of his Manifesto. Among Marxists, "Blanquist" is a synonym for "putschist" that denounces an avant-garde adventurism and a haste to get organized without due care for theory, while the masses are not always ready for it.'

Who are "the partisans of waiting"? What are they waiting for? They are waiting for the People to rise up against capital and the State. In the meantime, the waiters are careful to act, but in such a way that they can't ever be accused of being "adventurist," "avant-gardist," "vanguardist" or anything else that moves too fast and thus supposedly works against the interests of the people.

The responses to the posting of our translation of this preface to a British "libertarian communist" confirm the accuracy and on-going relevance of these insights. Because we originally included a footnote that referred to Blanqui as "a French anarchist" -- following but not citing D. Thomson, Democracy in France ( London: Oxford University Press, 1946), p. 25: "Blanqui represents the simplest form of the revolutionary tradition, anti-parlimentarian and anarchist" -- none of the comments that were posted in response concerned the essay itself, but focused exclusively on this one point. Blanqui wasn't an anarchist! If anything, he was a "red Jacobin," the leader of a "self-contained vanguard," an insurrectionary, of course, but . . . certainly not an anarchist. Since then, we have corrected our mistake.

The ingenuity of the Imaginary Party's essay on Blanqui is that it goes way beyond merely contextualizing Blanqui; it even goes beyond trying to defend the indefensible Blanqui, the revolutionary who is unacceptable to everyone, especially self-proclaimed revolutionaries. "To a friend" (as the preface is also known) aims to be a modern Blanquist statement: an advancement of Blanqui's own ideas and actions by people unafraid to be called "Blanquists." Who will stop these "agents" of the Imaginary Party from seizing these positions? No one. This terrain is completely empty of other combatants; and no one will want to re-take it once it has been seized. A very neat trick: affirm Blanqui by negating his absence. And, more importantly, a very meaningful gesture: there are other once-revolutionary terrains can be re-taken by agents of the Imaginary Party without firing a single shot.

NOT BORED!
3 June 2009

Yorkie Bar
Jun 7 2009 00:50

It's the attack of the zombie Blanquists...

~J.

Battlescarred
Jun 8 2009 10:56

I have a lot of admiration for Blanqui, he never gave up and served a total of 33 years prison for his beliefs and actions but a) he was no anarchist and explitly said so
b) This pretentious stuff that lauds conspiratorialism and in the process totally misrepresents Bakunin, does no service at all to the memory of Blanqui

BNB
Jun 8 2009 15:12

At the risk of once again exposing myself to personal attacks, I will post another comment to this thread.

1) Could you please provide a citation for your assertion that "he was no anarchist and explitly said so" (in what text or speech did Blanqui say this)?

2) As for this assertion -- "This pretentious stuff that lauds conspiratorialism and in the process totally misrepresents Bakunin, does no service at all to the memory of Blanqui" -- I will ignore your intolerance for "pretentious stuff" and ask you to reveal who or what in your humble opinion does do "service" to the memory of Blanqui?

Thank you.

888
Jun 16 2009 05:31

I already answered the part about Blanqui not being an anarchist quite conclusively.

BNB
Jun 16 2009 16:45

Still hung up on that one point, huh?

"I already answered the part about Blanqui not being an anarchist quite conclusively."

What pleasure do you take, what value do you see, in repeatedly and "quite conclusively" saying NOT ONE OF US?

I'm keen to know.

888
Jun 16 2009 19:23

Lenin, Lennon Gandhi Jesus and JFK were all also totally anarchists, man...

Well why are you still asking for citations when i already gave them?

Black Badger
Jun 16 2009 22:51

Since when are you self-identified as an anarchist BNB?