Friday, 12 August 2016

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon ( 15/1/1809 -19/1/1865) - To be Governed

Pierre Joseph Proudhon was a French politician, printer and philosopher. A member of the French Parliament, the socio-economic system which he expoused is generally called mutualism. Proudon was the first man to call himself an anarchist", holding that "Anarchy is Order", inspiring the famous symbol the anarchist circled-A symbol. He is regarded as a forerunner and prominent influence on individualist anarchism.
 Proudhon, who was born in Besançon, was a printer who taught himself Latin in order to better print books in the language.A prolific author, Proudhon printed many books, the most notable of which are Philosophy of Misery and What is property? The latter is famous for the quote, "Property is theft; property is liberty: these two propositions stand side by side in my System of Economic Contradictions and both are true". Since Proudhon made the statement, the passage has been misrepresented and distorted by crypto- Bolshevik collectivisations masquerading as anarchists, who quote only the first three words, excluding the reference to liberty.
His influence in France was immense, and his theories played a great part in the First International and the Paris Commune, in French syndicalism and in contemporary movements for currency reform. As a writer he was admired by Baudelaire, Saint-Beuve, and Victor Hugo; as a thinker he was respected by Tolstoy, Amiel, and Madame d'Agoult. Marx knew him, and it was around the rivalry of these two strong personalities that the leverages between libertarian and authoritarian socialism, developed in the first international, was crystallized.
He was a leading member of the International Working Men's Association after becoming involved with radicals at Paris. A major dispute broke out between Proudon and Karl Marx, splitting the international between anarchists and Marxists. Proudhon favoured worker co-operatives and a financial system similar to credit unions free from usury. He held that such as social revolution could be made peacefully. Proudhon's actions and writings over the years have been controversial.Thrust into the public sphere by tumultuous events of 1848, Proudhon desired to influence national socioeconomic policy, but he proved to be an ineffective political actor. As he himself perceptively noted in 1850, he was basically a "man of polemics, not of the barricades."
I will end with the following much quoted passage which many years later shows how well he wrote.It has an almost poetical quality to it and still raises pertinent questions for the times we live in today.

To Be Governed

“To be GOVERNED is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality."

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