By asking me to speak to you of the family, you are addressing yourselves to the father of the family, to the militant syndicalist, to the rural teacher that I am. In these conditions, I willingly answered your appeal. Will you kindly remember to ignore the form of my informal chat to retain only the substance of the reflections that follow.
The fate of the family does not highly interest the man of the state. That divorces rise, that cohabitation is growing, that births diminish, that is not enough to trouble his serenity: “Order maintained in the street, – wrote Proudhon – force resting in the law, the man of the state can rest on his work, and they will only have to repeat the proverb: the world goes on its own.”
But how would this fate excite the serious syndicalist who feels strongly that the capitalist system cannot endure for long? The syndicalist sees that we are going through profound transformations from which he must make up his mind. It is frightening sometimes. The idea then comes to him to go back, to abandon his union and to live selfishly. Impossible! He guesses that his retreat would stop nothing and that the worker’s rush would pursue its inevitable course.
Yet, continuing to reflect, he is calmed. “We can fearlessly march in the vanguard” – he said – “if we continue to practice our traditional virtues and if, in particular, the family remains upright, respected and honored more than ever. In it we find the possibility and the guarantee of the boldest social progress.”
Such are the thoughts that naturally unfold in the mind of the thinking syndicalist.
Thus that is all for the better: the struggle for righteousness could progress without demagogy, without weakness if, at this moment, the syndicalist would recognize his two worst enemies who pose one or the other, as his devoted saviors: I have named the socialist politician and the anarchist.
Why would the syndicalist suspect the socialist politician and the anarchist? He has nothing against them. They have won his confidence by firstly pronouncing a certain number of anti-capitalist phrases that he knows exactly. Willingly, he listens with interest to the following speeches that they make to him. Thus he learns that morality is quite simply an ensemble of hypocritical prejudices against which it is good to revolt; that the family has evolved and will continue to evolve; that having children is to “play the game of the capitalists”; that the bonds of marriage are heavy chains that in order to be truly free, truly strong, we should not fear breaking, etc.
This successful teaching, notice, has nothing proletarian. Will I say he is bourgeois? No. These lines of Proudhon have more truth today than they had a half century ago: “There is no longer any bourgeoisie, there is not even anyone to make one. The bourgeoisie, essentially, was a feudal creation, neither more nor less than the clergy and the nobility. It only has a meaning and could only find one by the presence of the two first orders, the nobles and the clerics.”
Very precisely, this teaching is given by loafers, by the rotten whose woes have aroused demagogic passions. We would speak poorly by calling them to revolt: there is in revolt a holy love of Justice. These déclassés are disgruntled men who find society bad because they do not find themselves doing well and because the place they occupy is not good enough. They are the envious brothers – brothers all the same – of the upstarts of democracy (stock jobbers at the exchange, “fashionable” writers and mighty politicians) that they attack with such hateful and jealous rage.
No, these folks have nothing in common with the people! However, their propaganda still gives results. It touches above all “the youth” and it is through them that it is very dangerous.
Thus it is necessary to combat it. But how? Believe me: the struggle is extremely difficult to lead, as the workers, unconsciously but completely subservient to democratic dogmas, quickly treat you as suspect and invoke the authority of anarchist and socialist intellectuals.
It’s then that we are happy to encounter Proudhon, to make an appeal to his powerful arms and contrast to his noble thought, the base rantings of “advanced” democrats. Impossible, actually, to treat Proudhon as a bourgeois “playing the game of the capitalists.” On the other hand, we can contemplate facing it: that would be the encounter between the Pygmy and the Titan.
Proudhon hinders our democrats. They best keep silent as well: it’s their way of showing that they think freely.
A significant fact among all: in his speech in Besançon, Mr. Viviani did not say a word of the ideas of Proudhon on love, marriage, and the family; ideas that yet hold a great place in Proudhonian thought. Was it modesty? Was it fear? I am inclined towards fear: not a line of Proudhon who, in these matters, would have branded with a red hot iron the big bosses of democracy united at the foot of the statue of this great French moralist.
But this conduct dictates ours. The truth embarrasses the democrats, we will say. They bury Proudhon, we will exhume him. This makes us serve both the cause of the intellectual and that of the common people which I am, for my part, with every fiber in my body.
Because he already observed, in his times, that French society is threatened with dissolution, Proudhon wrote On Justice in the Revolution and In the Church. The goal of the work, he said, was “to recognize the reality of evil, by assigning it a cause, and discovering a remedy.” Proudhon states that skepticism befell morality: “modern dissolution consists of this.” He delimits the domain of the effects of this skepticism: “History shows that if the safety of persons and property cannot be reached by moral doubt, it will be the same with the family and society.”
We can thus affirm that Proudhon wrote his Justice to defend, support, exalt, and return honor to these three complementary faiths: conjugal faith, judicial faith, and political faith. Let’s see what he says about the family.
The first degree of jurisdiction is marriage. Organ of justice, this latter unites, in absolute reciprocal devotion, power and grace, the valiant worker and the active homemaker.
The family is the second degree of jurisdiction. By primogeniture, the male-female couple perpetuates justice, by assuring its amplification, its development and brings us to the threshold of the city.
Elevated by his subject, Proudhon finds without trouble lyrical accents; their enthusiasm just increases the exactitude and finesse of the psychological observations of our author:
“By descent, the idea of law makes a first gain: first in the heart of the father. Paternity is the decisive moment of moral life. It’s then that man assures himself in his dignity, conceiving justice as his true good, as his glory, the monument of his existence, the most precious heritage that he can leave to his children. His name, a spotless name, to pass as a title of nobility to posterity, such is the thought that henceforth fills the soul of the familial father.”
What nobility, what beauty, what Cornelian accent in a few lines so full and so profoundly traditional! As they dominate – and from what height – the crawling councils of our “conscious generators”!
Today, in our democracy, we do not desire the child: we fear its coming, we delay it, and we prevent it by a series of practices that I do not need to expand upon. Mr. Vautour and his tenants want to see “the house without children.”
Observe a bit our modern men: morose and feeble hedonists, they have a hate bordering on sickness for the little ones. At the restaurant, on street cars, one must see the tense attitude that seizes the neighbors of a normal family. The laughs of the child, his cries, his whims, his tears, his natural turbulence exasperates our contemporaries, troubling their rest and their peaceful digestion.
You know it as well as me: It was not so in the past. They rejoiced in, they glorified having a numerous family. Grandparents and parents welcomed the new born with glee. On this point still, Proudhon was a man of the old France. He writes:
“The child is given, Parvulus natus est nobis; it’s a present from God, A deo datus, an incarnation of present divinity, Emmanuel. We nourish it with milk and honey, until he learns to discern good from evil: Butyrunn et mel comedet, donec sciai eliqere bonum et reprobare malum; it’s the religion of Justice that continues his development. In the accomplishment of this sacred duty, how can man not feel his nobility? How would the wife not become splendid?”
And the family functions thus:
“Everything,” said Proudhon, “is in the hands of the father, nourished by his work, protected by his sword, submitted to his governance, citizens of his court, heirs and followers of his thought. Justice is entirely organized and armed there: with the father, the wife, and the children, it finds its application that only extends further to the cross breeding of families and the development of the city.”
Proudhon fought divorce. Even more: according to our author, even the death of those who founded the fecund family cannot dissolve this institution both spiritual and carnal. It endures, it is perpetual.
Also Proudhon attached an extreme importance to the testament, the solemn act, “this monument of last wills, by which man acts beyond the grave” and “affirms the continuation of his presence in the family and in the society from which he departed.”
Today “we mostly end up like evildoers. No social communion, no peace for our last moments” The individual has nothing to bequeath by which he can honor himself. What importance is the future to this voracious consumer? Perish the need for heritage, if the dear “me” of the individual can throw it away, to experience some supplementary enjoyments! Proudhon speaks another language. He defends all testamentary freedom: “Far from restraining heritability, I would be in favor of extending still to friends, associates, companions, coworkers and colleagues, domestic servants themselves. It is good that man knows that his thought and his memory will not die: also, it is not inheritance that makes unequal fortunes, it only transmits them. Done from the balance of products and services, you have nothing against inheritance.”
Such is the teaching of Proudhon. His theses, which seem so astonishing today, are yet the most simple in the world. One only has to open his eyes, appeal to his memories, invoke his own experience to be persuaded of their correctness. On the contrary, to fight them, to declare them, disdainfully “backwards,” is necessary to commit violence or rather one must cede to their passions. I insist on this last point: that’s what makes any discussion with the demolishers of the family impossible.
Actually, they know as well as you or me that marriage must be dissoluble, that the fecund family is the first social cell, that supports and engenders all the others. All that you can tell them will teach them nothing as they’ve already understood it for a long time.
Thus the truth is known. But, on one hand, they are, like all human beings, lead by their instincts and the prefer to obey them rather than dominate them.
All would be clear, all would be very simple if the “advanced” men and women would honestly tell us: “We prefer pleasure to pain. We obey the appeal of our senses. What we want, it’s the amorous fling. We don’t have the courage to found a family, to raise children, to work for them.”
All would be exactly very simple. Our effeminate men and our emancipated women do not consent to confess their common degradation. They dissimulate behind an arsenal of so-called “elevated” arguments; they adorn it with “socialist” considerations and they treat those who persist in practicing conjugal fidelity, having a spotless home, and surrounding themselves with children as “reactionaries” and “enemies of progress”.
But democracy is yet only the indirect enemy of the family – I mean that its principles are invoked and utilized but they do not order the destruction of the family. It does not prescribe certain acts, they deduce them from its principles.
Here we state that Proudhon did not attribute to democracy the ruin and the extinction of the family. He missed out on seeing the functioning of the Third and Fourth Republic. He did not know our “advanced” press.
Moreover, Proudhon, exclusively occupied himself with making the most crude attacks on the Church, not realizing that his attacks apply equally to democracy. Recall, actually, that Proudhon spoke of the man facing death reproaching the dying Catholic for not having more regard for the goods of this world, of having “not a word neither for his friends nor for his family,” as for himself, Proudhon wanted “to look death in the face, salute his love, place his soul between the hands of his children and expire among his family.”
But if the Catholic, according to Proudhon, contemplates Hell, and consequently, Paradise too much, the Democratic state, is it not the secular equivalent of this Paradise? In his “On The Jewish Question,” Karl Marx realized it well:
“Where the political state has attained its true development, man – not only in thought, in consciousness, but in reality, in life – leads a twofold life, a heavenly and an earthly life: life in the political community, in which he considers himself a communal being, and life in civil society, in which he acts as a private individual, regards other men as a means, degrades himself into a means, and becomes the plaything of alien powers. The relation of the political state to civil society is just as spiritual as the relations of heaven to earth. The political state stands in the same opposition to civil society, and it prevails over the latter in the same way as religion prevails over the narrowness of the secular world – by likewise having always to acknowledge it, to restore it, and allow itself to be dominated by it.”
Actually, democracy invites man to be an angel, to despise his terrestrial existence, his petty life as worker, peasant, father of the family; it turns him away from this “stagnant pool;” it advises him to “enlarge his horizon,” to “hang his plow on a star”; it orders him to love all men, which I mean, all human beings fraternally mixed up. There are not even sexes any more. It’s the terrestrial paradise.
It’s the terrestrial paradise. It leads precisely right to Hell: “It’s Eloa the beautiful archangel, lover of Satan who only needed to look at her to take her.” The more we despise the flesh, the more we fall into the abyss of sexual aberrations.
See now the facts verify our assertions, as “serious” democrats are quick to cry calumny as soon as we show them some disagreeable truths.
Certainly, the democrats will make us some concessions. They do not stumble when we ask then about divorce or cohabitation.
When we show that from 1871 to our day, the birthrate has fallen from 25.4 to 18.7 per thousand, the democrats are quick to observe that a parallel decline was observed today in neighboring monarchies, as they rapidly head towards democracy. But they object, and the fact is incontestable, that despite the reestablishment of the monarchy, the French family has not ceased to dissolve, nor die out.
The argument is not to bother us. We are the first to say that under Louis XVIII, Charles X, and Louis-Philippe, our birthrate has decreased in a regular fashion. Without even being obligated to do so, we will declare that the 18th century already saw the birth of this movement. Small wonder that: the century of the effeminate Rousseau already had its free spirits and emancipated women: it’s a democratic century. After the Revolution, democracy had a century to destroy the family, as no one contests that, since 1789, democracy has never seriously been threatened in France.
But here is what is still more conclusive: in France there are 120,000 professional democrats: these are the secular teachers and schoolmarms. But it is very remarkable that the teaching corps bowed its head for feminism and Malthusianism.
There are, among these personnel, victims of the teachings they give, very honorable exceptions. They are rare, very rare especially among the youth, who go to unified socialism or anarchism, the two extreme forms of democracy.
“Every attack on marriage and the family,” said Proudhon strongly, “is a profanation of Justice, a treason towards the people and liberty, an insult to the Revolution.” But, democratic legislation multiplies these attacks.
It grants us, in the first place, divorce which Proudhon fought against with such energy: “By divorce,” he wrote, “the spouses avow their common indignity, it’s unwarranted if we can thus say, and it other terms becomes sacrilege.” But, what do we see in our democracy? Divorce is more and more frequent and we still speak of expanding it.
In matters of marriage, democratic law disregards in part paternal authority; it will finish by ignoring it completely. It thus contradicts the austere Proudhonian teaching:
“The duty of the father of the family,” our author wrote actually, “is to establish his children in honor and justice; it’s the recompense of his work and the joy of his old age to give his daughter in marriage, to choose for his son a wife with his own hand. When a son, a daughter, to his satisfy their inclinations, tramples the vow of their father, disinheritance is for him the first right and the holiest of duties.”
Ultimately, democracy attacks inheritance by means of ever heavier taxes and destined to become even more so. Nothing is easier to understand: to develop the celestial city, to make the people happy, and elevate the soul of the citizens, it needs money, lots of money, enormous amounts of money, as it’s already three quarters gone before being effective at its special destination. No machine makes less than the state. Enormous and wheezing, anemic and yet filled with bad fat, it wastes the resources of the nation and searches to procure new ones to throw into the maw of its budget. Crushing the family under the weight of its indirect contributions and monopolies, the state, insatiable, takes inheritance and tasks itself with fully consuming it after two or three generations.
Everything conspires, we see, in a democracy, to dissolve, to ruin, to annihilate the family: the laws, the actions, the ideals are against it. Divorce is expanding; feminism full of arrogance; the housewife abandons her home to become “merchandise,” an “object of consumption” that man rejects in circulation after having used it, the growing frequency of abortions; the decline of births; paternal authority despised; the heads of families and their children thrown in the street by Mr. Vautour; the multiplication of attacks on morals, that is what triumphant democracy normally gives us.
“Marriage, family, city are one in the same organ,” said Proudhon, “Social destiny is integral with matrimonial destiny.” It would be necessary to write a volume to enumerate in detail the fatal effects that lead to the breakup and the extinction of the family. As for me, I will limit myself to warn those who threaten the fatherland and agricultural production.
Like you I admire the invincible arguments by which Mr. Charles Maurras established the impossibility of our democracy to safeguard national patrimony. I admired them and yet I felt that, more than once, they only had a secondary importance.
Explained better: without a doubt the logic of the regime doesn’t want us having a foreign policy. Suppose however, on one hand, politicians inferior to those we have, and, on the other hand, a France peopled by 55 million inhabitants, a France big and strong by its numerous families. It would be respected, its alliance desired; never would Germany strike Tangier and Agadir.
The foreigner knows, he sees that our bursts of energy cannot succeed, as we lack an institution at the base, the durable institution that gives existence to the fatherland.
We said, we wrote that patriotism has been reborn in France.
There are urban milieus in movements of opinion favorable to patriotism. No more, no less. A trifle suffices to destroy them: the crowds pass with extreme ease from chauvinism to Hervéism and back.
We must not forget that the family is as material as it is spiritual. First and foremost, a soil, a certain soil, held in common and transmitted as a familial inheritance. So who, since then, will interest himself in the fatherland if not the family engaged in the cultivation of this soil, interested in safeguarding it and passing on the part it possesses.
We begin to feel that families fail us. On our borders, the enemy increases his armaments, adds new corps to his formidable army. He is preparing himself to outmaneuver us, to weigh on our decisions, and, if necessary, to crush us yet. And our democrats, secretly distraught by the growing danger, do not seem to see that the France that has lost its families is no longer builds men. They get agitated, they beat themselves over the head to discover the cause of our inferiority. The spectacle would be laughable if we weren’t so directly and seriously threatened.
We must conclude. With an ease that can only be suspect, the democrats say in a light, detached, tone: “The number must not be the only thing to enter into account. We lack quantity, but we will have quality.” Such arguments are dreaming: quality is obtained by choice, by selection, from quantity. Proudhon had already said it to the feminists. The further we go, the more our adversaries will assure themselves a double advantage over us in quality and quantity.
Will we at least be better armed than our adversaries? Nothing guarantees it. We still fall back on the family. That is what furnishes new contributions to relieve their fellows. We agonize under the weight of the armed peace; Germany supports it without bending.
In the way of agricultural production, we are progressively outpaced by all our contemporaries. Our exports sag and our internal market would have been invaded a long time ago by foreign products if democracy didn’t protect the French peasant voter.
We complain about the invasion of foreign labor (métèques). Who is at fault? Firstly ourselves who have no one to substitute for them.
Agrarian progress, as well recognized by Mr. G. Sorel, does not solely consist of using perfected tools and chemical fertilizers. The highly progressive type of agriculture is provided to us by gardening, which is a biological industry demanding a very abundant workforce, well instructed and highly skilled. It’s toward that we should strive. But, we are moving away.
Why? Because we lack the workforce, because the family is extinct. The peasant, today, plays his part in the democratic concert. He goes, he comes, he circulates. He becomes bit by bit an excellent democrat. Moreover, those who leave the village return time to time to corrupt the cultivator by extolling, by teaching him the practices of these “wise guys” that are the city folk. I know few spectacles so poignant as that of the desertion of the countryside. These houses collapse, fallow fields replace cultivated fields, children taken from school to go into the fields to take the place of the missing men, nothing is so moving nor more important.
Yes, democracy is living, living well, it bursts with health. But, right beside it, the family dies, the country dies, the earth dies. Like certain flowers, democracy only flourishes in cemeteries.
But, we want to live, we want to live by working, live again in our children, to sustain our fatherland.
Since then, our way is entirely traced. As workers, as the fathers of families, as French men, our most pressing duty is to destroy democratic institutions.