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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL Décembre - Claude Guillon: "The Enraged made the revolution, but they were made by it" (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]
Sat, 6 Jan 2018 08:48:11 +0200
Jacques Roux, nicknamed " the red priest ", is one of those anonymous who made the
French Revolution and who were victims of the Terror. Little known, he is often remembered
for this sentence, which he pronounced against the National Convention (the Legislative
Assembly of the First Republic): " Freedom is only a vain ghost, when a class of men can
to starve the other with impunity. The biography devoted to him by Walter Markov, a
German historian, is finally translated and published by Libertalia editions, 50 years
after its first publication, after a major work of updating led notably by Claude Guillon.
---- Libertarian Alternative : Although a priest, Jacques Roux participated in
revolutionary events in the current of " Enraged ", considered precursors of communism
by Marx. How can one explain this singular journey, from a privileged order to the most
radical revolutionaries ?
Claude Guillon : Roux is part of the lower clergy, where one engages when one comes from
a poor family, to acquire a little education and a " state ", a job. Many " little "
priests played a role in the Revolution, starting with those who represented their order
at the Estates General, rallying the third estate, and others in popular societies, which
they often were - at the beginning - the secretaries.
Obscure teacher in a provincial institution, exiled in the capital to escape the
consequences of a confusing story, it is typically the kind of character whose history
would not have retained the name ... if the Revolution had not opened, as the chocolate
Pauline Léon or the post office employee Jean-François Varlet, new horizons. These people
made the revolution, but they were made by it.
In June 1793, Jacques Roux gave a famous speech, passed to posterity under the name of "
Enraged Manifesto ".
Jacques Roux is the oldest of these activists, who will be called later " Enragés ".
He is 37 years old in 1789. Having become parish priest of the Gravilliers, in the center
of the popular Paris, he knows the craftsmen and the workers, whom he marries, baptizes
and buries. He also knows the price of the staples and the working day, and the misery of
the people. He is convinced of the usefulness of women in the revolutionary process,
including the Society of Republican Revolutionary Women, that Pauline Leon and actress
Claire Lacombe will rally to the Enraged, chasing the more moderate Jacobines.
Although it is impossible to guess his feelings before the Revolution, it is possible that
Roux was part of the priests who considered their role from a point of view more social
than religious, without faith and even less particular fanaticism. Let us remember,
however, that at the time religion pervades all of society and that the absolute monarch
is supposed to hold his legitimacy directly from " God " !
The civil constitution of the clergy (1790) roughly separates the French clergy into two
halves. The radicalization of the popular movement, the opposition of " refractory "
priests (to the oath that is demanded of them), then the anticlerical movement, called "
dechristianisation ", will make the position of a Jacques Roux very difficult. He has of
course taken the party of the revolution, but it is convenient, for Robespierre for
example, to attack him as a priest. Roux complains and denounces the priests as
charlatans. He announced his intention to marry a " good republican ", perhaps the
woman he was cohabiting with, but he did not have the time.
How to define the Enraged and what can they bring us today ?
Claude Guillon : First of all, I must say that the study of the French Revolution seems
to me useful and refreshing, since the majority of the people who make it are almost
without intellectual baggage (even when they know how to read and to write) and, by the
force of things, deprived of all the revolutionary knowledge that today fills our
libraries. Now, not only do they put down a multi-secular monarchical system, but they
immediately invent new ways of making decisions, of doing politics - all without
electricity, antibiotics and washing machines ...
The qualifier " Enragés " was awarded retrospectivelyto activists whose demands meet,
to the left of the Jacobins and the Mountain. They act mainly in Paris, but also in Lyon,
with Chalier (Leclerc lived there) and Orleans (Taboureau de Montigny). They want to push
the Revolution towards its logical consequences in terms of equality of conditions, direct
democracy (imperative mandate and revocability of elected officials), and participation of
women in social life. They and they do not constitute a party, with members - even if the
Republicans are a society of 300 women, who can mobilize many others - and that the
Jacquesroutins meet at Les Gravilliers. But they are clearly identified by Robespierre as
a coherent stream, which he will get in two weeks out of circuit, chasing Roux, Leclerc
and Varlet of the Cordeliers club and closing the Republican Society, prelude and pretext
for the prohibition of all women's clubs. Arrested and persuaded, rightly, that he will be
sentenced to the guillotine, Roux commits suicide in prison on February 10, 1794.
Emblem of the section of Gravilliers, which included Jacques Roux, where we recognize the
motto "Freedom and Equality. Win or die ".
Why translate this biography, already 50 years old, of an East German author ?
Claude Guillon : From the beginning of the XX th century, the first historians who are
interested enough to Enragés to produce monographs on each other are Soviet: they will go
through Stalin's camps. In France, Albert Mathiez (who does not like Roux), Daniel Guérin
and Albert Soboul give them a good place in their analyzes, but only Maurice Dommanget
publishes a book about Jacques Roux (and Pierre Dolivier, another radical priest), and
Marie Cerati on the Revolutionary Republicans.
Walter Markov, historian, academic from East Germany worked ten years on Jacques Roux and
Enragés. He has published four books in the GDR, including a large volume in French
containing all the writings (speeches, pamphlets and diaries) of Roux, which we wanted to
reproduce on a CD-Rom that accompanies the book. The reader can therefore follow the story
by referring to the documents. Markov also translated texts into German and published many
articles (we take several of them).
Markov writes a difficult German, which has given a hard time to our editorial team: the
translator Stéphanie Roza first, Jean-Numa Ducange and me. Moreover, even if it was known
French historians of the Revolution, and helped by them (Soboul, in particular) to do his
research in France, his " hero " and main subject of study posed problem: it was
feared in France, let him shade Robespierre ! The fact that this translation project can
succeed today is first and foremost the repair of a political and historical injustice,
with regard to the " red priest ". Jacques Roux but also with regard to his biographer
and best connoisseur in the world. The fact that this book appears in Libertalia, a
libertarian publisher, in co-publication with the Society of Robespierrist Studies and on
his initiative, is a further sign that the lines have moved since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In addition to the formatting of the text, to make it accessible in French, we did a work
of checking and updating references and bibliography and added a critical device,
nonexistent in the original volume.
Is there anything to discover and make known to the Enraged ?
Claude Guillon : I am sure of it ! I published in 1993 a biography of Leclerc and Léon (
Two Enraged of the Revolution, The Digitale), supplemented since by an article on Pauline
Léon in the Historical Annals of the French Revolution (2005). In the second and recent
edition of Our patience is over (IMHO, 2016), a collection of Enragés texts, I added a
text and a bio-bibliography of Taboureau de Montigny, which is hardly more familiar to us
than when Mathiez nicknamed him " the enraged unknown . " I think that Varlet, author
of the famous formula " For all being who reason, government and revolution are
incompatible " Deserves a book of its texts. As for the society of Revolutionary
Republicans, I will have the opportunity to come back to it since I am preparing a book on
women's clubs during the Revolution. The French edition of Markov's book on Jacques Roux
gives the French-speaking audience the level of knowledge of the German public. I hope
this edition will spark further translations, and all of this new research work. And since
we are talking about publishing and Libertalia has republished Bourgeois and Naked Arms by
Daniel Guerin (of which I wrote the preface), I hope that we will be able to re-edit one
day, in a more accessible form, his big work in two volumes The class struggle under the
First Republic. Short ! historians and editors, the building sites are not lacking !
Interviewed by Renaud (AL Alsace)
Read: Markov, " Jacques Roux, the red priest "
The biography of Walter Markov allows us to reconstruct the path of this character of
which we know very little, including in his career before the Revolution. Having become a
young priest, without being able to guess a particular enthusiasm for religion, he held
various positions of vicar and teacher in the Charente. He is noted for his sermons a
little too favorable to the revolution, which are implicated following riots targeting
some properties of the nobility of the region in April 1790.
Returned, he leaves his region and arrives in Paris, at the moment when the civil
constitution of the clergy forces the priests to take an oath of fidelity to the
Constitution ... which many refuse. While nothing seemed to push him back into the clergy,
this opportunity allowed him to find a place of vicar in Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs, left
vacant by one of the refractory priests.
In this popular district, he participates in the popular societies that make up this first
revolutionary Commune of Paris and persists in defending the poor people of Paris, to
bring the social question to the National Convention. On June 25, 1793, he spoke on behalf
of the Gravilliers section and the Cordeliers club. His " address to the Convention "
later renamed " manifest Enragés " causes violent responses of Robespierre including.
More than just a story of events, Walter Markov manages to reconstruct the actions of
Jacques Roux, with which he is sometimes not very tender, despite the few traces left by
this character, and especially the little information on his privacy and beliefs. The book
is also accompanied by a CD Rom that includes other texts by the author, or other
historians, including Claude Guillon, but also texts by Jacques Roux or testimonies on the
work of Walter Markov.
Walter Markov, Jacques Roux, the red priest, Libertalia, 2017, 20 euros.
MARKOV, A NON-CONFORMIST
A heterodox Marxist, Walter Markov chose to live in the GDR after the Second World War,
which he had spent in prison (since 1934) because of his communist activities. But
suspected of ' titism "And excluded from the United Socialist Party (SED) in 1951,
interested in the Enraged while Stalinist doctrine put forward the figure of Robespierre,
his relations with the East German power have always been strained. His research on the
French Revolution was complicated by the ban on traveling to France, which in 1957 forced
him to cross the border illegally by night and land in Paris early in the morning. He had
to spend all his time at the National Archives, do his research in record time and rely on
the help of his university friends in France, to succeed in writing several books on
Jacques Roux. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Walter Markov joined the Party of
Democratic Socialism (PDS), which succeeded the SED, and died in 1993.
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