The Movement of the Free Spirit begain in 1200 among Paris intellectuals gathered around William Aurifex as a rebellion against the church. Openly contemptuous of monks (wearing a patched red cowl as a parody of a habit), they disrupted church services by engaging priests in debate. The central group was swiftly executed for heresy, but the movement spread to virtually every part of Europe.
Sans culottes flocked into the Champ de Mars in July 1791 to sign or set their mark on a petition calling for the King's abdication - they were violently dispersed by sabres and bullets.
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In spring 1793, after 4 years of civil war and rocketing food prices, they rose up and toppled the Government, coining the term 'anarchist' as they did so:
"We are the poor Sans-culottes, an association of artisans and peasants. We know who our friends are: those who have delivered us from the clergy, nobility, the feudal systems, tithes, the monarchy and all the ills which follow in its train, those whom the aristocrats have called the 'anarchists'."
Their example of mass direct action endured.
From Clifford Harper's 'Anarchy: A Graphic guide'
"a struggle of class against class, a sort of Servile war" Tocqueville
"the first great battle ... between the two classes that split modern society" Marx
1871 was the first genuinely workers' revolution - first time urban workers created their own self-government.
From George Rude's Ideology and Popular Protest
After the Commune was destroyed, Louis Michel said at her trial:
"You are now the victors, but I tell you, in the end the social revolution will be stronger than you. I demand that you lawfully murder me as you have lawfully murdered others. The lead that pierced their breasts I want to pierce my breast also. If you are not cowards, kill me. Should you decided not to do it then I will preach hatred against your laws and your society as long as my life lasts. I cry out for revenge against the murderers and executioners of the commune."
From the terrorist period of the 1890s:
At the May Day demonstrations in Paris in 1891, nine people were killed at Fourmies, and at Clichy there was a riot in which 3 wounded anarchists were taken to Clichy police station wehre they were seriously assaulted by the police, and not even given facilities for bathing their wounds. At trial, presided over by M.Benoit, two were sentenced to 5 and 3 years imprisonment. All the talk was then of revenge.
On 11 March, Ravachol & 2 companions, he carrying two kilograms of dynamite, sharp pieces of metal and two revolvers in his pockets, wearing a top hat and tailcoat so as not to attract attention, took a tram to the hosue in the Boulevard Saint Germain where M.Benoit lived. Ravachol left his 2 companions to go up the steps, and bombed the place. He committed various other crimes also.
Later, at Montbrison prison, Ravachol spend the last 3 weeks of his life in peaceful serenity. He became a folk hero to many, not so much for his violent escapades (though revenge was a powerful urge for many), as for the courage and defiance with which he met his fate. On his way to the guillotine, he sang 'Pere Duchene'
Si tu veux etre heureux
nom de dieu!
Pends ton proprietaire,
Coup' les cures en deux
nom de dieu!
Foutes les eglis' par terre.
Et l'bon dieu dans la merde
nom de dieu!
Et l'bon dieu dans la merde.
If you want to be hapy
String up your landlord
Cur the sky-pilots in two
Knock down the churches
And fling the Good God on hte dungheap
And the Good God on the dungheap.
Popular songs commemorated Ravachol, two of which translate as:
My lads, it's very sad,
The moral of this story.
Here it is, in a few words.
It's that when one's an anarchist
One mustn't boast of one's daring deeds
To young cafe waiters.
In the great city of Paris
There are some well-fed bourgeois
There are some starvelings too
With empty bellies
And these are very hungry
Long live the sound!
Long live the sound!
Of the explosion!
9th december 1893, Auguste Vaillant threw a bomb in the Palais Bourbon, the seat of the French parliament, while the Chamber of Deputies was in session.
Vaillant's execution took place in the square in front of La Roquette prison, on the morning of 6th February 1894. With barriers up, drizzle pouring, Vaillant declined to see a chaplain, saying "Religion is a useless and grotesque thing." He hummed an anarchist song and then said "The bourgeoisie whom I attempted to destroy is revenging itself. It is its right. The people who suffer will revenge itself in its turn." He walked to the scaffold with his head held high, and shouted out "Death to the bourgeoisie and long live anarchism!" before the guillotine.
At the graveyard, flowers were left. One mourning card read:
"As they have sprinkled the earth
At the hour of the rising sun
With the august and life-giving dew,
The sacred drops of your blood,
Beneath the leaves of this palm
Which outraged Right bestows on you,
You can sleep your calm slumber
O martyr ... you will be avenged."
12 February 1894, Emile Henry's bomb exploded at the Hotel Terminus, aimed at its bourgeois clientele.
His father had been a member of the Internationale, and as an officer of the National Guard during the siege of Paris, he was elected to the Commune to represent the 10th arrondissement on 26th March 1871. At first he pursued negotiation, but when this failed, he supported the Commune in order to save the Republic, whose very existence was menaced by the Versaillese troops. When they invaded Paris, he escaped the massacres to Spain (San Martin near Barcelona), where Emile was born. In poverty, the family settled at 3 Rue de Jouy in Paris, the father dying in 1882.
His brother was held in Clairvaux prison for propaganda of the deed.
Emile Henry's execution took place on 21 may 1894 in the Place de la Roquette (he'd been held in the Grande Roquette prison. Barriers for the small crowd, hundreds of soldiers and various newspaper men - a grand occasion!
His last words were "Courage, comrades! Long live anarchism!"
The assassination of the French President which followed in Lyons saw the perpetrator Caserio, once he checked his tears, repeat the same words after the sentence of execution was given. He was kept in the St.Paul prison, arms tied at night lest he commit suicide, and he read Don Quixote. Louis Michel, the veteran of the Paris Commune, wrote that "The blow struck at Carnot was a blow at the bourgeoisie of the whole world. It was not an assassination. It was an execution. Ravachol, Henry and Vaillant are avenged." Caserio's final words were 'Vive l'anarchie!'
From 'Four patients of Dr.Deibler', a fantastic book, by J.C.Longoni.
A few more notes on Lyons:
Its silk-weavers had a far longer tradition of militancy than craftsmen in Paris. The 18th century saw many violent conflicts between employers and employees. In 1786 they had fought for a minimum wage, and for the first time identified themselves as a 'class' exploited by their masters. Thus class consciousness first appeared here in time for the revolution of 1789. The workers lived in densely packed suburbs like La Croux Rousse and Parrache.
In November 1831 the weavers rose in rebellion, chanting the slogan 'Vivre en travaillant ou mourir en combattant' (Live working or die fighting), overpowered the local garrison and took control of the city. Lacking organisation, they accepted a compromise and returned to their districts. They then organised in the Society of Mutual Duty and prepared for a general strike - Mutuellism was therefore banned by the Paris Government and its members arrested. This then led to further uprisings, spreading to Paris etc...
Blanqui was the first to use the term 'proletarire' in 1832.
From George Rude's 'Ideology and Popular Protest'.
The final word here from Jean Genet, who wrote it on the wall in Paris in 1968:
"C'est triste a dire, mais je ne pense que l'on puisse vaincre sans les drapeaux rouges et noires. Mais ils faut detrure - apres."
= Unfortunately I don't think we can win without the red and black flags. But they must be destroyed - afterwards.