Category Archives: Emile Armand

Emile Armand, “Without amoralization, no anarchization” (1926)

I came across this article by Emile Armand in L’Insurgé while working on something entirely unrelated, but it was interesting enough that I went ahead and translated it. If there is nothing here that would convince anyone not already sympathetic, it is a clear statement of Armand’s position, with a few nice examples of his literary eccentricities.

Without amoralization, no anarchization

The Larousse dictionary defines the word morality as: the relation of an act, of the sentiments of a person, with the rule of morals. From this comes the expression “certificate of morality,” to designate an official confirmation of a clean criminal record. Each time that I hear morality spoken of in a publication that calls itself anarchist, to whatever degree, there comes to my mind, unbidden, the idea of a “certificate of good behavior,” delivered by the police chief of the district.

As I wrote in the last issue, the word morality would never have appeared in the anarchist or anarchist-friendly journals if the anarchist movement had not been swamped with people coming from bourgeoisie backgrounds, who have brought with them the notion that it is important to conform, in matters of morals, with the established rules.

An experience that is already great, a familiarity that does not date from yesterday, has shown me that a great number of people who declare themselves theoretically as advocates of anarchism have been seduced particularly by the teachings of Rousseau, humanitarianism, and the revolutionary aspiration to egalitarianism revealed by the writings of certain anarchist dogmatists. From that comes an all too obvious tendency to make pronouncements on the acts and movements of comrades, valuations and judgments like those issued by the representatives of bourgeois society and those chiefs of police who deliver certificates of good behavior.

When, in 1900, I entered into contact with the anarchists, I came from a Christian milieu; many times, I have been stupefied by comparing the materialist declarations of certain anarchist theorists with the judgments they passed on the conduct of comrades who had taken seriously formulas like “no gods, no masters” or “with neither faith nor law,” which makes concrete, in a brief and clear form, the whole individual anarchist idea of life. I could not understand how, after having battled the law and the prophets, both religious and secular, they could bring, with regard to certain kinds of individual behavior, condemnations that would not have been disapproved of by the judges in the criminal court. As I did not consider propaganda a profession and did not wish to make a vocation of it, I would have long since dumped these respectable folks, and that would have saved me some unpleasantness, if afterwards I had not been convinced that these judgments simply reflected the bourgeois education (primary and secondary) received by these theorists, of which they have never wished or been able to rid themselves. Later, fortunately, I met real anarchists, liberated and freed from the education of the schools, who avoided, in general, bringing judgment on the actions of their comrades. When they ventured to express an opinion on their manner of conducting themselves, they did so in relation to the anarchist conception of life and not some standard of morality established by the supporters of bourgeois society.

I meet old compagnons who tell me that they have withdrawn from the movement because of the disillusionment they have experienced, meeting too many anarchist theorists with bourgeois inclinations. Where they hoped to meet men who had abandoned social prejudices and moral preconceptions, they found only minds, so spineless as to be ridiculous, whose ethical mentality differed in no way from that of their porter and their housekeeper.

Not that, forced by circumstances, the anarchist individualists do not disguise themselves, but in the manner of the Calabrian brigand, who disguises himself as a carabineer in order to rob a stage-coach. Every concession that the anarchist individualist makes to the social milieu, every concession that seem to make to the State, they make amends by undermining the notion of the necessary power, by demonstrating to all those with whom they come into contact that there is no need for morals and moralists, for imposed, obligatory leaders and magistrates, in order to fulfill the organic individual functions and for humans to get along.

But where is the giant who will get on with the task of amoralizing and immoralizing the anarchist men and women, of making them catalysts of the amoralization and immoralization of the human milieu? For it is only then, O anarchy, that your advent could foreseen.

E. Armand.

L’Insurgé 2 no. 48 (April 3, 1926): 2.

[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]


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Emile Armand, “Variations on Voluptuousness” (1922)

This short piece by Emile Armand appeared with his essay “On Sexual Liberty.”

I know that sensual pleasure is a subject about which you do not like people to speak or to write. Dealing with it shocks you. Or it provokes a joke in bad taste among you. You have books in your libraries which embrace nearly all the branches of human activity. You possess dictionaries and encyclopedias. You count perhaps a hundred volumes on one specialty of manual production. And I do not speak of political or sociological books. But there is not on your shelves a single work consecrated to sensual pleasure. There are some journals concerned with numismatics, philately, heraldry, angling or lawn bowling. The least of the poetic or artistic tendencies has its organ. The tiniest chapel of an ism has its bulletin. The novels of love abound. And we find brochures and books concerned with free love or sexual hygiene. But not one periodical devoted to sensual pleasure frankly considered, without insinuations. As one of the sources of the effort to live. As a felicity. As a stimulant in the struggle for existence. Long studies unroll on the techniques of painting, and sculpture—on the working of wood, stone, and metals. But I search in vain for documented articles which consider sensual pleasure as an art—which exhibit its ancient refinements—which propose novel ones. It is not that pleasure leaves you indifferent. But it is only clandestinely, in the shadows, behind closed doors that you discuss or debate it. As if nature was not truly voluptuous. As if the heat of the sun and the scent of the meadows did not invite sensual pleasure?
I am not unaware, certainly, of the reasons for your attitude. And I know its origin. The Christian poison flows in your veins. The Christian virus infects you cerebrally. The kingdom of your Master is not of this world. And you are his subjects. Yes, you, socialists, revolutionaries, anarchists, who swallow without batting an eye a hundred columns of estimates for demolition or social construction, but that two hundred lines of appeal to voluptuous experience “obsess”—that is to say “scandalize.”
Oh, slaves! 
 [Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur; revised 3/17/2012]

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Emile Armand, “Our Rule of Ideological Conduct” (1922)

Manifesto of the journal L’En-Dehors
Émile Armand

Everywhere, individualists of our tendency wish to establish — now and at all times — a human milieu founded on the individual act, in which, without any control, intervention, or intrusion of the State, all individuals can, whether isolated or associated, govern their affairs among themselves, by means of free agreements, voidable on notice, no matter what the activity, whether the association be the work of a single person or of a collectivity. Their voluntary associations are unions of comrades, based on the exercise of reciprocity or “equal liberty.”

The individualists of our sort consider as their adversaries all the institutions and all the individualities that, directly or by intermediaries, wish to subject them to their authority and use violence against them, in other words, all the partisans of imposed contracts. They reserve the right to defend themselves against them by all the means at their disposal, including deception.

The individualists of our sort oppose sentimental-sexual jealousy, bodily propertarianism and exclusivism in love, which they regard as authoritarian manifestations, if not psychopathic behavior. They propagate the thesis of “amorous camaraderie.” They claim every sexual freedom (as long as they are not sullied by violence, misrepresentation, fraud or venality) including the rights of education, publicity, variation, fancy and association.


Manifesto of the journal L’En-Dehors

Originally published as “Notre ligne de conduite idéologique.”

Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur (revised 12/14/2011)

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Emile Armand, “On Sexual Liberty” (1916)

Emile Armand
Before explaining our notion of “sexual liberty,” I think it is necessary to define liberty itself. We all know that liberty could not be an end, for there is no absolute liberty. Just as there is no general truth, practically speaking, except what exists in particular verities, there is no general liberty. There are only particular, individual liberties. It is not possible to escape certain contingencies. One cannot be free, for example, to not breathe or digest… Liberty is only a abstraction, like Truth, Purity, Goodness, Equality, etc. And an abstraction cannot be an end.
Considered, instead, from the particular point of view, liberty ceases to be an abstraction, and becomes a way, a means, and will be understood. It is thus that we call for the freedom of thought, which is to say the power, without external hindrance, to express thoughts in speech or in writing, in the manner in which they present themselves in the mind. It is the complete expression of thought which is the goal we pursue, and not liberty.
It is precisely because there are only particular liberties that we can, departing from the realm of the abstract, place ourselves on solid ground and affirm “our needs and our desires”—much better than “our rights,” which is an abstract and arbitrary expression—stifled, mangled or distorted by various sorts of authorities.
Intellectual life, artistic life, economic life, sexual life—we demand for all these the liberty to manifest themselves freely, in individuals, with an eye to the liberty of individuals, apart from the legalistic conceptions and prejudices of religious or civil order. We demand for them, these great rivers where human activity flows, the freedom to run without obstacles,—without the locks of “moralityism” or the dams of “traditionalism” troubling or miring their course. All in all, it is better to have the liberties, with their impetuous errors, their nervous jolts, their impulsive “lack of perspective,” than the authorities, immobile façades, frozen gates before which we wilt and die. Between life out of doors and life in the cellar, we choose the outdoor life.
*    *
When we call for “sexual liberty”—what do we mean? Do we mean “freedom to rape” or debauchery? Do we desire the annihilation of sentiment in love-lives, the disappearance of attachment, tenderness and affection? Do we glorify unthinking promiscuity or animalistic sexual satisfaction, at any time and place? Not at all. In calling for sexual liberty, we simply demand the possibility for every individual to dispose, as they wish and in all the circumstances of their sexual lifeaccording to the variations of temperament, sentiment, and reason which are peculiar to them.
Thus we do not demand the liberty to “rape.” Attention: their sexual life does not imply the sexual life of another. Neither do we demand a liberty of sexual life which would precede any sexual education. On the contrary, we believe that, gradually, in the period preceding puberty, the human being should be left ignorant of nothing that concerns sexual life,—the inevitable attraction of the sexes—whether that sexual life is considered from the sentimental, emotional or physiological point of view. We believe that advanced minds should take it to heart to recommend and propagate that education, to never let an occasion escape to engage in it; we think that from the moment that we have just indicated, not only should the human being know what delights—sentimental, emotional, and physical—the sexual life holds, but also what responsibilities it leads to. Both sexes should be led to understand, for example, that it is up to the woman to choose the hour of conception. And neither sex should be ignorant of the means of contraception. Following my thought to its logical conclusions, I would say that in a society which had not made it possible for its female constituents to refuse or avert an undesired pregnancy, those constituents would be perfectly justified in leaving their progeny to the care of the collectivity.
We do not separate the “liberty of the sexual life” from “sexual education.”
*    *
Contrary to the prejudices of the religious or civil orders, we treat the sexual question like the intellectual question, like all the questions raised by human activity. Just as the experiences of life, taken as a whole, appear necessary to us, so do experiences in that particular phase of life that is sexual life seem indispensible. We declare it an “absurdity” for a young boy or girl of sixteen years to be bound for life in marriage, and yet nothing appears more natural than a being of that age maintaining sexual relations with another, of the emotional or physical sort. Moreover, the sexual life from fifteen to twenty years of age differs from the sexual life consider at thirty-five or in the autumn of life. Sexual life is so complicated that the existence of multiple simultaneous experiences of sexual life is easily comprehensible, since in each experience, sometimes it is the sentimental or emotional side which dominates, sometimes the emotional or sensual side, and sometimes is the element of pure physical satisfaction. From experience to experience, the degrees of moral, emotional or voluptuous sensations vary so strangely that we can conclude from it that no experience resembles that which preceded it, or is pursued similarly.
We do not normally pursue identical experiences.
We do not exclude intense, voluptuous, sensual pleasure from those experiences; we put it on the same plane as intense intellectual pleasure (artistic, literary, etc.), moral pleasure, and economic pleasure. We consider those who place it on some lesser plane to be paltry moralists, morally mutilated. None of the experiences of life are inferior, except those caused by the fear of life or the imbalance of the will. Now, normal voluptuousness—whether it is the enjoyment of a splendid landscape or an intensely lived sensual experience—engenders, on the contrary, love of life and exercise of the will.
*    *
Thus “liberty of sexual life” is not synonymous with “debauchery,” otherwise known as “loss of moral equilibrium.” Sexual liberty is exclusively of the individual order. It presupposes an education of the will, which permits each to determine for themselves the point where they will cease to be master of their passions or penchants, an education perhaps much more instinctive than it appears at first look. Like all liberties, that of the sexual life involves an effort, not of abstinence—(in fact, abstention from the experiences of life is a mark of moral insufficiency, as debauchery is a sign of moral weakness)—but of judgment, discernment, and classification. In other words, it is not so much a question of the quantity or number of experiments as of the quality of the experimenter. To conclude, liberty of the sexual life remains united, in our mind, with a preparatory sexual education and a power of individual determination.
Liberty of sexual life in all circumstances, of course: in or out of union… If it is true that sexual experiences differ from one another, how can jealousy—a morbid attitude of love—exist? Can an individual, subject or object of an experience, reasonably bemoan the lack of necessary qualifications which makes one of their fellows the subject or object of another experience? Sentimental experience is one thing, sensual experience another, and the choice of a procreator yet another. It could be that the individual that a woman chooses as a procreator would not be the one for whom she feels the most affection, and that she seeks in the one certain physical qualities to which she is indifferent in the other. Could the one be reasonably jealous of the other?…
*    *
Let’s finish. By replacing the emotional phenomena among the experiences of ordinary life, we do not at all wish to diminish the importance of the factor “love” in human existence. We think that an experience can be experienced seriously, profoundly, intensely, but that we would be spared many disenchantments and sufferings if a number of the facts of life, instead of being considered as definitive, appeared as temporary, modifiable, revisable— essentially variable. This is accepted from the scientific point of view—from the intellectual point of view—from all points of view,—and we can’t comprehend how it would be otherwise from the sentimental, emotional or sexual point of view. It is not enough for us that this idea be adopted hypocritically and practiced clandestinely. We demand for the research and practice of sexual liberty the same broad daylight as for those of other liberties, persuaded that its development and evolution are linked not only to the increase of individual and collective happiness, but also in large part to the disappearance of the present state of things.
Moreover, we do not declare ourselves more in favor of unicity or plurality in love than we are against either; and it could well be that, in a given couple, one of the partners will practice unicity while the other practices plurality. And it could be that, after some time, unicity could appear preferable to plurality or vice-versa. These are individual questions. What we are asking is that we cease to qualify experience as more or less legitimate, depending on whether it is simple or unique. We also ask that we instruct all individuals on these things, and that fathers, mothers, or partners not profit from their privileged situation, to keep their knowledge hidden from those who are obliged to trust them. To each then, education, to determine their sexual life as they intend, to vary its experiences or to hold themselves to one alone: in a word, to proceed “at will.”
[Working translation by Shawn P. Wilbur; revised 3/17/2012]

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Emile Armand, “A Little Manual of the Individualist Anarchist” (1911)

Emile Armand
To be an anarchist is to deny authority and reject its economic corollary: exploitation—and to reject it in every domain of human activity. The anarchist wishes to live without gods or masters; without bosses or directors; a-legal, without laws and without prejudices; amoral, without obligations and without collective morality. He wants to live freely, to live his own idea of life. In his heart of hearts, he is always asocial, insubordinate, an outsider, marginal, an exception, a misfit. And obliged as he is to live in a society the constitution of which is repugnant to his temperament, he dwells there as a foreigner. If he makes unavoidable concessions to his environment—always with the intention of taking them back—in order to avoid risking or sacrificing his life foolishly or uselessly, it is because he considers these concessions weapons of personal defense in the struggle for existence. The anarchist wishes to live his life, as much as possible—morally, intellectually, and economically—without concerning himself with the rest of the world, exploiters or exploited, without wanting to dominate or to exploit others, but ready to respond by all means against whomever would interfere in his life or would prevent him from expressing his thought by the pen or by speech.
The anarchist’s enemies are the State and all its institutions, which tend to maintain or to perpetuate its stranglehold on the individual. There is no possibility of conciliation between the anarchist and any form whatever of society resting on authority, whether it emanates from an autocrat, from an aristocracy, or from a democracy. No common ground is possible between the anarchist and any environment regulated by the decisions of a majority or the wishes of an elite. The anarchist combats, for the same reasons, the teaching furnished by the State and that dispensed by the Church. He is the adversary of monopolies and of privileges, whether they are of the intellectual, moral or economic order. In a word, he is the irreconcilable antagonist of every regime, of every social system, of every state of things that involves the domination of other men or the environment over the individual, and of the exploitation of the individual by another or by the group.
The work of the anarchist is above all a work of critique. The anarchist goes, sowing revolt against that which oppresses, obstructs, or opposes itself to the free expansion of the individual being. It is proper first to rid brains of preconceived ideas, to put at liberty temperaments enchained by fear, to give rise to mindsets free from popular opinion and social conventions; it is thus that the anarchist will push all comers to go along with him to rebel practically against the determinism of the social environment, to affirm themselves individually, to sculpt their internal image, to render themselves, as much as possible, independent of the moral, intellectual and economic environment. He will urge the ignorant to instruct themselves, the nonchalant to react, the feeble to become strong, the bent to straighten. He will push the poorly endowed and less apt to draw from themselves all the resources they can and not to rely on others.
In these regards, an abyss separates anarchism from all forms of socialism, including syndicalism.
The anarchist places at the base of all his conceptions of life: the individual act. And that is why he willingly calls himself anarchist-individualist.
He does not believe that the evils men suffer come exclusively from capitalism or from private property. He believes that they are due above all to the defective mentality of men, taken as a bloc. There are only masters because there are slaves and the gods only remain because the faithful kneel. The individualist anarchist has little interest in a violent revolution, aiming for a transformation of the mode of distribution of products in the collectivist or communist sense, which would hardly bring about a change in the general mentality and which would not bring about the emancipation of the individual being at all. In a communist regime the individual would be as subordinate as he is presently to the good will of those surrounding him: he would find himself as poor, as miserable as he is now; instead of being under the thumb of the small capitalist minority of the present, he would be dominated by the whole of the economy. Nothing would properly belong to him. He would be a producer or a consumer, put a little or take a bit from the communal heap, but he would never be autonomous.
The individualist-anarchist differentiates himself from the anarchist-communist in the sense that he considers (apart from property in some objects of enjoyment extending from the personality) property in the means of production and the free disposition of products as essential guarantees of the autonomy of the person. It is understood that this property is limited by the possibility of putting to work (individually, by couples, by familial groups, etc.) the expanse of soil or the engines of production required to meet the necessities of the social unit; with the condition that the possessor not rent it to anyone or turn to someone in his service to put it into use.
The individualist-anarchist no more intends to live at any price—as an individualist exploiter, for example—than he would live under regulation, provided that he was assured a bowl of soup, and guaranteed a dwelling and some clothing.
The individualist-anarchist, moreover, does not claim any system which would bind future relations. He claims to place himself in a state of legitimate defense against every social atmosphere (State, society, milieu, grouping, etc.) which would allow, accept, perpetuate, sanction or render possible:
a) the subordination of the individual being to the environment, placing the individual in a state of obvious inferiority, since he cannot treat with the collective totality as equal to equal, and power to power;
b) the obligation (in whatever domain) of mutual aid, of solidarity, or of association;
c) the deprivation of the individual of the inalienable possession of the means of production and the complete and unrestricted disposition of the product of his labors;
d) the exploitation of anyone by any one of his fellows, who would make him labor on his account and for his profit;
e) monopolization, i.e. the possibility of an individual, a couple, a familial group possessing more than is necessary for its normal upkeep;
f) the monopoly of the State or of any executive form replacing it, i.e., its intervention—in its role as centralizer, administrator, director, or organizer—in the relations between individuals, in whatever domain;
g) the loan at interest, usury, agio, money-changing, inheritance, etc., etc.
The individualist-anarchist makes “propaganda” in order to highlight individualist-anarchist dispositions which have been ignore, or at the very least to bring about an intellectual atmosphere favorable to their appearance. Between individualist-anarchists relations are established on the basis of “reciprocity.” “Camaraderie” is essentially of the individual order[ it is never imposed. Those “comrade” whom it pleases him to associate with, will be those who make an appreciable effort to feel life in themselves, who share in his propaganda of educational critique and his choice of persons; who respect the mode of existence of each individual, and do not interfere with the development of those who march forward with him and who touch him the most closely.
The individualist-anarchist is never the slave of a formula-type or of a received text. He admits only opinions. He proposes only theses. He does not impose an end on himself. If he adopts one method of life on one point of detail, it is in order to assure himself more liberty, more happiness, more well-being, but certainly not order to sacrifice himself to it. And he modifies it, and transforms it when it appears to him that to continue to remain faithful to it would diminish his autonomy. He does not want to let himself be dominated by principles established a priori; it is a posteriori, on his experiences, that he bases his rule of conduct, never definitive, always subject to the modifications and to the transformations that new experiences can suggest, and to the necessity of acquiring new weapons in his struggle against the environment—without making an absolute of the a priori.
The individualist-anarchist is never accountable to anyone but himself for his acts and deeds.
The individualist-anarchist considers association only as an expedient, a makeshift. Thus, he wants to associate only in cases of urgency—and always voluntarily. And he only desires to contract, in general, for the short term, it being always understood that every contract can be voided as soon as it harms either one of the contracting parties.
The individualist-anarchist decrees no fixed sexual morality. It is up to each to determine his sexual, affective or sentimental life, as much for one sex as for the other. What is essential is that in intimate relations between anarchists of differing sexes neither violence nor constraint take place. He thinks that economic independence and the possibility of being a mother as she pleases are the initial conditions for the emancipation of woman.
The individualist-anarchist wants to live, wants to be able to appreciate life individually—life considered in all its manifestations. He remains meanwhile master of his will, considering his knowledge, his faculties, his senses, and the multiple organs of perception of his body as so many servitors put at the disposition of his self. He is not a coward, but he does not want to diminish himself. And he knows well that he who allows himself to be led by his passions or dominated by his penchants is a slave. He wants to maintain “the mastery of the self” in order to advance towards the adventures to which independent research and free study lead him. He will willingly advocate a simple life, the renunciation of false, enslaving, useless needs; avoidance of the large cities; a rational diet and bodily hygiene.
The individualist-anarchist will interest himself in the associations formed by certain comrades with an eye to ridding themselves of obsession with a milieu which disgusts them. The refusal of military service, or of paying taxes will have all his sympathy; free unions, single or plural, as a protestation against ordinary morals; illegalism as the violent rupture (and with certain reservations) of an economic contract imposed by force; abstention from every action, from every labor, from every function involving the maintenance or consolidation of the imposed intellectual, ethical or economic regime; the exchange of vital products between individualist-anarchist possessors of the necessary engines of production, apart from every capitalist intermediary; etc., are acts of revolt agreeing essentially with the character of individualist-anarchism.
[Revised translation by Shawn P. Wilbur]

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E. Armand, Individual Anarchist Initiation – § 10-13

10) The religious outcome.
Religious reformers have always achieved one of two results: either, under the pretext of reform, to plunge their followers into an abyss of resignation and atrophy even more profound than the chasm from which they pretend to pull them, or, if they show some sincerity, lead their partisans to surpass them, to become no longer modifiers of religious forms, but critics of the religious basis itself. Such was the case with the Reformation which led far from the aim that its originators assigned it: first to the free-thinker of the eighteenth century; to the diffusion of the contemporary critical spirit, to anarchism, finally, which we can consider as its culmination, standard and logic of the evolution of free-thought. We will return there.
What reforms, what transformations have the religious reformers proposed to us? Generally, to a religious idea of the past, abandoned or distorted by corrupt zealots or half-hearted proponents. What ideals have they presented? A divinity, single of divided, a pantheon of gods or demi-gods endowed or afflicted with all the attributes, with all the qualities, with all the faults, with all the follies with which mortals are adorned or marred. They all come down to this: some working gods, slaving away like men so that the men become gods. The great hobby horse of the religious reformers is to push humans to become like God or to or to annihilate themselves in him, if not in this world below, at least in the other, since—safety-valve and encouragement to resignation—will shine one day after death, when the elect creature will contemplate the creator “face à face,” when the soul will bask in eternal beatitude, when the spirit will return to the spirit. What does it matter the name of this place of delights, varied according to races or climates. Call it the Champs-Élysées, Valhalla or Nirvana, Paradise is always realized on the other side of the tomb.
We hear the objections: we are too exclusive, we ride roughshod over revelation, where the theological metaphysics soar, and of the great mystery which lies at the root of the religions, the struggle between good and evil, the beautiful and the ugly, the great and the base, the pure and the impure! The religions will speak the language of their times, that is understood—nous fait-on remarquer—but their last vision was the triumph of the fair and the good that they symbolized in some images striking the imagination. We do not deny the importance of the religions in the history of the development of men: it is a stage through which it must pass.
Do no forget that, in practice, the aim of the priests, is above all the triumph of dogma over free research, of the tyrant over the rebel, of obedience to the mystery over the revelation of the initiation. For the individualist, it is Prometheus who was in the right against Jupiter, Satan against Jehovah, Eblis against Allah, Ahriman against Ormuzd.
The grandeur of theology, if you look at it closely, vanishes into casuistry. If the religious nuances have never reached the degree of elevation that one claims, there remains only on conclusion to draw from it: the regret of knowing that some well endowed brains are given to such mental games. Finally, no one dreams of denying the selflessness, the sincerity, the pure enthusiasm of many religious reformers whose ideas can surpass the common conceptions. That have a right to our impartial estimation, and to nothing else.
11) The ideal of the religious reformers.
Let us summarize: the religious reformers have:
a) for human ideal: the believer. It is impossible for them to give an education other than one based on faith, that “undemonstrable” virtue; the believer, “the man who has faith”–whatever may be his education or aptitude–will never cross certain frontiers, will not dare to taste the fruits produced by “the tree of good and evil,”  will not experiment with all things; he is faint-hearted: he fears finding himself face to face with a fact which destroys his faith;
b) for moral ideal: God, a fictive entity, not demonstrable by science, allegedly extra-human and in reality created by humans, a product of their imagination;
c) for social ideal: the reign of God on the earth, or in other words, a society no longer inhabited by anyone but priests charged with explaining and interpreting the will of the divinity, and believers constrained to accomplish it. In short, a society  based on the “divine fact.”
12) Egalitarian reformers and transformers.
If those who propose a religious reform of Society lose ground every day, it is not the same for the legalistic reformers, those who only know how to think of Society as based on the code of regulations and ordinances designated abstractly as the Law. The legalistic reformers admitting that the present Society is not perfect, that it is far from being so, concede that it is perfectible, eminently, infinitely perfectible; they claim at the same time that the imperfections of Society arise from defects in the laws, insufficiently or unjustly applied, but they add that if these laws were modified, redrafted in a more general, more equitable sense, applied more humanely, that same Society, without becoming perfect, would transform itself into an abode more and more bearable and pleasant to inhabit.
13) The law and the “good citizen.”
No agglomeration of people, they say, can subsist without written law, regulating the rights and duties of the “good citizen:” each setting the infractions and determining their punishment. To the laws, or to the law, their ideal expression, the citizens owe obedience, as the believer must obey the divinity. They owe the same respectful deference to the commentators of the law as they faithful owe to the interpreters of the divine will. It is by their conformity of their outward acts to the law that we recognize the model citizens. The ideal of the legalists, the ideal type, is the “good citizen” who by obeying the law, out of love for it, sacrifices his independence, even his most legitimate personal aspirations, and his affections, if necessary,—sacrificing himself and, if need be, those who are most dear to him. Dura lex, sed lex.

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E. Armand, Individual Anarchist Initiation – § 7-9

2. Reformers and transformers of the milieu social.
7) Universal sorrow
Those who, from the height of a blissful optimism, proclaim that Society is perfect are rare. As a result reformers, improvers and transformers of Society are legion. It is so far from the case that individuals are contents with their condition, that everyone complains about their lot in life, even those best provided for. Without seeking the degree of sincerity that these lamentations contain, the fact is patent and the sorrow is proclaimed as “universal.”
It is a commonplace to write that contemporary civilization has failed. That the previous civilizations did not succeed any better, no one will deny. They have all run aground on this: they have never been able to insure for the human beings that they gather under their aegis a sum of happiness sufficient that life–the individual life and the collective life–should be found good and pleasant to live. It is true that the civilizations which have followed one another have not always set themselves this goal, or that they have only proposed it in a very imperfect manner, and it is obvious that they have often excluded from participation in that happiness, such as they imagine it, a considerable share of sub-humans: outcasts of all categories, slaves, serfs and others. However, more or less completely, with more or less exceptions, the great civilizations which have shone on the planet had in view, in a general fashion, the happiness of the people for or among with they flourished.
I claim that they have failed, and failed miserably. I readily concede that the conductors who directed them in the most glorious, remarkable, and prosperous epochs of their history, have contributed all the effort of which they were capable. I nonetheless maintain that the “civilized” life, the “social” life, formerly and today, is a load, a burden, even a constant sorrow for the majority of the living—and this to such an extent that one wonders if lifein society” and woeare not synonymous terms. No doubt there are exceptions, but they are so few, and they are the prerogative of such a limited number of privileged persons, that they do little more than confirm the thesis ofuniversal suffering.
8) Religious reformers and transformers.
It would be tedious to enumerate all the classes and sub-classes in the catalog of reformers and transformers of the social environment. A thick volume would not be sufficient and it is not the aim of our book. Three large divisions will suffice to cover them all. The most ancient are the religious reformers.
For sophisticated minds, their theories present no more than a retrospective interest. Their fantasies were valuable in the time–not always very remote–when individuals, even the most gifted, fearful in the face of poorly explained phenomena or of accidental incidents of existence, sought a recourse, a support, a response to their questions in an extra-human intervention. For it is an extra-human, extra-natural, intervention, will of the divinity or revelation of his will that the religious reformers always return to. The member of Society, or rather the creature, is a plaything in the hands of the creator; the great drama of the historical evolution of human groupings, the inequality of births or aptitudes, the control of the powerful and arrogant over the rest of humanity, all of that arises from the good will of the divinity – it is the tangible expression of its work. “Let the divine will be done!”—that is the last word of the most spiritual souls, the most frantically religious, even when that so-called will implies annihilation of the individual personality, passive acceptance of all that which suppress the growth and blossoming of the individual life.
9) Atonement, sin, sacrifice.
But there is another point of view that must be studied in order to consider the religious problem in its full extent and to understand well the “state of the religious soul.” The deeply, sincerely religious being is devoured by an unquenchable, insatiable need for atonement. Even when irreproachable from the moral and social point of view, it feels an almost irresistible desire to renounce its faculties of reflection in order to find a bitter, nagging joy in a keen feeling of regret and remorse for not finding itself in conformity to a certain ideal of value or moral level, whether it has drawn that ideal itself, or if it has been recommended to it by dogma or shown by the priest. The sincerely religious being places in an absolute of purity and sanctity that it calls God the sum of all the spiritual values that it is capable of conceiving or imagining. It always feels that it is powerless and miserable in relation to that spiritual absolute, with regard to which it is conscious of being morally responsible.
It establishes such a difference between the being preyed on by sensual passions that it is and the extra-natural phantom that is has created, that it constantly feels itself in a more or less heightened state of disobedience. What indeed is “sin,” if not having yielded to the pull of the passions, having preferred tangible enjoyments and the stimulations they bring, to the denials and annihilations of “the flesh,” or to the observation of certain rites and ceremonies? The fundamentally religious being is a tormented soul, who goes through life always asking itself how it will go about atoning for its shortcomings, redeeming its sin. It goes without saying that the sacrifice of a heifer or a goat, or even of a mournful turtle dove, symbolic as it is, will not satisfy the delicacy of conscience of an eminently spiritual being. Blood alone, life, redeems sin. To atone, the man in a religious state of mind will sacrifice himself, consecrate himself, renounce himself. He will give his life: of his flesh and his blood, he will mortify his flesh by imposing silence on the boiling of his blood, even to the point of inflicting bodily suffering on himself. He will consecrate himself to the service of the divinity, he will impose all sorts of privations on himself, he will abstain—despite the desire that devours him—from tasting the joys of existence, anxious until the hour of death with a poignant doubt, not knowing if he has accomplished enough, or in the right way, to calm the anger of God, of that jealous Absolute who demands of his faithful, his creatures, a complete submission and devotion.

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Mauricius, E. Armand as I Knew Him

By Mauricius
(From “E. Armand, Son Vie, Son Ouevre”, La Ruche Ouvrier, 1964)
I encountered E. Armand for the first time one beautiful night in the spring of 1905 at the Causeries Populaires in the rue Muller in Montmartre, where I had come that night in a very banal way.
I lived then on the place du Theatre-Montmartre and on this street was a police station, in front of which I saw some men talking. I approached them. Suddenly, I saw coming from the police station an almost completely naked man who was wearing only a small bathing suit. He was a young man about twenty-five years old with a short beard. Accompanied by a police agent, he was led towards the rue d’Orsel, followed by a crowd which grew larger each minute because no one had seen such a spectacle. Conceptions of modesty have evolved since 1905 but at this time, women bathed on the beaches in a vest fastened up to their necks and in pantaloons which came down to their ankles. Thus, by the time the crowd arrived at the rue Muller, it had grown considerable. It is necessary to say in fact that this naked man was the comrade who had come to present a lecture on hygiene at the Causeries Populaires.
Behind a table that his comrades had quickly set up on the pavement, the naked comrade told us his story.
Coming down the boulevard Rochechouart, the street where he lived, wearing his simple attire, he had been immediately arrested by two agents who lead him to the police station. There, in front of the captain, he explained that he was a medical student, that heat created sweat and that sweat contained urine, among other poisonous products, and that if this sweat remained confined within clothing, it was reabsorbed by the skin and poisoned the organism. The police chief thought he was insane and brought the doctor to examine him. But after having listened to this comrade, the doctor declared that from a scientific point of view, the comrade’s reasoning was perfectly correct and since his genitals were covered by the bathing suit, there was no reason to hold him in custody.
This was the first spectacular demonstration of the ideas on which Anna Mahé and Albert Libertad had founded “L’Anarchie” several months previously.
“Breaking with conventional wisdom, to be neither opportunists following the crowd nor idealists constructing beautiful Utopias, we want to live proudly and to the fullest extent, not caught up in the caprices of the mob or of neurotics, but in putting ourselves in accord with the best of present day science: the best hygiene, the best economics . . .This newspaper desires to be the point of contact between those people, across the world, who live as anarchists under the sole control of their personal experience and free examination”
Certainly the appearance of “L’Anarchie” profoundly transformed the idea of anarchist propaganda. Until then, this propaganda had been completely imbued with the ideas of Bakunin, Kropotkin and Jean Grave, etc; it sought the destruction of capitalist society by social revolution. Such propaganda attempted to stir up revolts against the political, religious and economic powers and could only conceive of a society “without God or Master” as a future hypothesis. In the remaining period, the anarchist could live as they choose: a rebel in their thoughts, he or she could be submissive in their acts, anarchists could be good workers, good law-abiding and respectable citizen; an anti-clerical, they could participate in building chapels; anti-militarists, they could participate in constructing barracks. All this was the fault of the social organization and he or she was not responsible.
Libertad said to us: “It is not in ten years that it is necessary to live as an anarchist, it is immediately. It is right now that the anarchist must put their acts in accord with their ideas.”
This is why the speaker at the street meeting, in protesting against laws which forced him to be clothed a certain way, spoke on the subject of clothing and hygiene while barely clothed.
I was 19 at this time and lived in a very conformist milieu and this demonstration made a great impression on me. It impressed Armand very strongly no doubt since it was from that night on that he assiduously frequented the Causeries Populaires and began to write for “L’Anarchie”.
E. Armand left the Salvation Army and was professing a Christian anarchism, which truthfully, infused his whole life.
At the great Congress of 1905, which brought together free-thinking groups from fourteen countries, from a hundred fifty Free Mason lodges, to sixty-six teachers associations, from the League of the Rights of Man to thousands of individual adherents, among them such well-known thinkers as Ernest Heachel, Marcelling Berthelot, Hectore Denis, etc. The anarchists took an active part in the debates on the burning questions of the day such as: “Morality Without God”, “The New Encyclopedia”, “Free Thought and Pacifism”. Present were Domela Nieuwenhuis, Sébastien Faure, Paraf-Javal, Libertad, Cyvoc, and others. Among the attendees were Lorulet and myself. But E. Armand didn’t participate in this congress, whose importance was considerable. He still professed at this time a pure Christianity from which he had retained especially the notion of personal responsibility in the work of collective liberation. “Salvation is within you.” This was his credo all of his life.
And even when he separated from Tolstoy, reproaching Tolstoy for his disdain for physical love and women, for his renouncement of the intensity of life, Armand still remained faithful to the Tolstoyian thesis of passive resistance, of moral opposition to oppression, of refusing to participate in state bureaucracies, of refusing to fabricate objects useless to human development: (weapons, church ornaments, military uniforms, etc). abandonment of work in the bosses factories or workshops, of refusing to participate in building churches, barracks, prisons, of refusing to be a soldier, to be a juror, to pay taxes, etc.
In this position, E. Armand was in complete accord with the line of “L’Anarchie”, laid out by Albert Libertad and Anna Mahé and perhaps he spoke too of resisting the force of society’s embrace. He made such arguments reluctantly, because Armand’s temperament and intellectual formation were opposed to overt confrontation. In all his subsequent writings Armand was a declared adversary of all violence.
I can no longer recall when I first heard Armand pronounce this formula: “I expose, I propose, I don’t impose.” It was a good formula. Armand made it his own and repeated it many times. He was so afraid of appearing dogmatic that the majority of his writings lacked firm conclusions. He uncovered ideas, he could analyze them in minute detail. But nearly always he ended with questions, without giving any solutions to the problems he studied. I know very well that he preached that each person must determine for themselves. But his own solutions and his contradictions left the reader with an impression of a very painful uncertainty.
In a long series of articles appearing in “L’Anarchie” in 1912 entitled: “Something Must Be Done – But What?”, he treated numerous problems with a remarkable intelligence, a profound knowledge of his subject matter. But in no way did he resolve the questions posed by his title.
Among the responses which followed these articles, I mention one signed “A Reader” ( “L’Anarchie” # 355 and 356):
“According to your study, I see that anarchist education must not be this or not be that. But I haven’t seen what it must be. This is what interests me.
When it is a question of acting positively, I neither understand nor accept a negative method. To create anarchists by education is a positive act that can’t be accomplished completely by negations.
“A strange and remarkable thing: on most questions touching on anarchism directly, you are hesitant and drifting. By contrast, on the majority of things which are removed from you, you are absolutely conclusive . . When it is no longer a question concerning anarchism directly, you relax your tortured and long-winded expressions, which continue endlessly without firm conclusion. You even arrive at launching the most astonishing and contradictory affirmations.
“For example: you state that science is a phantom like God and replaces God, that science is an hypothesis having the same disadvantages as the deist hypothesis. Yet all of the books you recommend or that you sell have an anti-clerical and anti-spiritual thrust, making our education one-sided.”
Obviously, Armand was not a sectarian and it is to his honor that he saw himself as an educator, a pioneer, a propagandist. But you can’t make propaganda by a series of questions.
I said at the beginning of this study how the appearance of “L’Anarchie” and Libertad’s formula: “This newspaper desires to be the point of contact between all those around the world living as anarchists, under the sole control of experience and free examination” had an influence on Armand’s orientation.
Until that point his anarchism was strongly influenced by Tolstoy but also tending toward the anarchism expoused by Anglo-Saxon anarchists like Emerson, Carlyle, Walt Whitman and especially Crosby and Benjamin Tucker. A curious thing, he declared in April 1907, he was then 36 years old and had never read Nietsche or Stirner, of whom much later he was to become a fervent disciple.
But his thirst for investigation and his knowledge of languages – he could read a book in English, German, Italian, Spanish or Dutch – put him in contact with all of the printed matter of the libertarian world.
Once he had in his hands a circular signed by well-known anarcho-communists inviting “groups, individual comrades, unions, etc” to an International Libertarian Communist Worker’s Congress in Amsterdam in the spring of 1907.
E. Armand spoke up immediately against what he perceived as the focus of the conference. ” One can’t grasp anarchy in formulas, constitute and vote on principles. Anarchist education must not set out to form communists but to create individuals free of all constraint., not communist dogmas.” And he expressed his intention to go to Amsterdam “only to discuss with comrades from other countries and put forth certain ideas which are dear to me.”
I agreed with his suggestion and adapted as my own Armand’s title for our intervention” Anarchism as Life and Individual Activity.”
But Armand was very self-centered and didn’t like to collaborate. We each wrote our own report. “L’Anarchie” printed the two in the same brochure. Both had the same general line but, to re-read them today, I can state that Armand’s was by far the better (mine contained certain youthful errors). Armand had written a more precise and valuable text on the anarchist attitude in the face of bourgeoisie society.
It should be reproduced in its entirety. Here are some excerpts:
“To ask that all anarchists have the same views on anarchism is to ask the impossible”
“Nevertheless, it seems that a general thread links anarchists, it is the prediction of the possibility of a state of affairs where AUTHORITY- the intellectual and moral domination of man over man – and
EXPLOITATION, the economic form of authority, will be unknown. He is an anarchist who denies authority and exploitation of man over man “
“From this it follows that anarchism is not uniquely a philosophical doctrine: it is a LIFE.”
“The tendency of all healthy and living organisms is to reproduce , , , Therefore an anarchist seeks to find and perpetrate himself in other individuals who share his conceptions and who can make possible, on a vaster scale, a state of things where authority and exploitation will be banished”
“It is this desire, this will, not only to LIVE -this would be a pure individualism which we consider an
aberration – but also to reproduce that we call propaganda and we label our activity.”
It is because Armand remained all his life true to this “master thought” despite his variations, his contradictions, and let’s say the word, his vacillations that he remains a distinctive figure in anarchism.
Armand was arrested a little before the Congress and likewise, taking my school examinations, I couldn’t come up with the necessary funds for such a trip. Our reports were not discussed in Amsterdam. The Congress Secretary, Fuss-Amoré pretended that they had gone astray. Nevertheless, these ideas are an important moment in the evolution of anarchist ideas.
Producing and distributing counterfeit money, such was the motive behind Armand’s arrest. It was the Laxenaire affair, which earned our comrade 5 years in seclusion. We must pause here and tell the truth.
Armand was a theoretician of illegalism. Sometimes he made it in a poetic mood such as when he exalted the vagabond, the wanderer who strayed from his routes, evading the prison of workshop and factory. But Jean Richepin had done it before him in CHANSON DES GUEUX, describing the vagabond encountering the peasant struggling on his field and mocking the peasant’s beast-like devotion to his work:
“Go, go to the riff-raff
Toil hard, strong and long
To watch you please me
It’s for us that all this works
Go, go turn the grindstone
Me, I hibernate and make my stake there
And it could be I’ll scoff the flame there
Lighting my mouth on fire”
But this was literature to shock the bourgeoisie and doesn’t stand up to examination.
Perhaps the peasant is greedy, ignorant and narrow-minded; perhaps the peasant is religious and reactionary, but it is he who harvests the wheat. If there were only vagabonds who looked at peasants working and who used up all the peasants’ surplus granaries in a night of carousing, I ask how Jean Richepin and E. Armand would eat bread.
Armand, moreover, recognized this in “L’Anarchie” # 375: “Truthfully, the illegal is always more of an abstraction than a reality to me. The Outsider, the irregular, that I exalt and defend, this marginal lives in my imagination” Indeed.
In any case, Armand didn’t just produce poetry on vagabondage, he also presented the “economic refractory” as a product of the dissolution of capitalist society. Illegalism was a means for the anarchist to free himself from mercenary work and to live independently of economic slavery.
Armand had said beautifully and repeated many times that a person is only responsible for their own acts. This isn’t true. The propagandist is responsible to those whom they addresses by their propaganda.
Obviously, an anarchist has no respect for property and refuses to be an exploiter or exploited; he is called to live on the margin of laws. The history of anarchy has produced many illustrious examples. Ravochol, Pini, Clement Duval, Ortiz, Emile Henry, Alexander Jacob, all were robbers or rather expropriators because they worked for the Idea, for propaganda. But one knows how they ended up. At that time, stealing, counterfeiting, swindling and even pimping were justified in certain anarchist milieus as a means of liberating oneself economically. Such a theory was a puerile and dangerous utopia. As I have written in CONFESSIONS: “Illegalism did not free the individual. It led to trials”
But Armand held to his theories. He only changed in 1912 when he wrote: “The end of Garnier and Vallet causes me to reflect..” It was a little late.
A little while previously, he had written in a famous article which I mentioned before in which he had denied the value of Science: ” I know well that Science has taken God and hurled him over the precipice so that he doesn’t exist any longer. The defeated has given up his place to his triumphant rival. Thus, it is one phantom who has taken the place of another phantom.” Armand only acknowledged the value of practical science, “a science which teaches anti-conceptional means, and a concern with the crowbar and blow torch”
But Armand didn’t have the physical courage nor the audacity to handle a crowbar. Counterfeiting, that was another thing. It was an easy temptation.
I don’t know if Armand made counterfeit money. It is fair to say about him that Armand never sought a material gain in making propaganda; he always lived very poorly. As did all of us. I lived in he vicinity of “L’Anarchie” in a flat without electricity and which didn’t have a sink where I could wash my hands. And when I produced the journal, printed it, edited it and had meetings every night, I worked seventeen hours per day. In concrete tasks I was helped only by Guerin, the manager and his mistress. Each morning I gave a cook four francs with which to nourish myself all day. Life was cheerful in 1914 but all the same, those were lean days! Nevertheless, we didn’t feel poor. We worked for our ideas, with enthusiasm and the joy of the battle.
When I needed a pair of shoes, an overcoat or a robe, I would take a quick nap and then do some outside paid work. But it was exhausting.
On one occasion, a comrade proposed a crazy theft of some pieces of chocolate.
I always resisted the temptation – and for good reason. At one painful moment when we didn’t know how we were going to pay our printer, a certain Pierre Jacob (no connection with Alexander Jacob, the heroic author of “Why I Have Stolen”) proposed to draw us into an affair which he had previously laid out in an article in 1911, where he stated ” I will practice illegalism, hurling my spear at all who get in my way, even the poor, what only interests me are my own concerns.” It is with such writings that prisons are filled. I refused. Then he sent his woman to me. She was a beautiful girl, the flesh is weak, she flirted with me.Then after her amorous displays, she presented me with a shiny louis of 20 francs. “I have more if you want them.” I refused.
Several months later Pierre-Napoleon Jacob and his woman, Antoinette Lepoix, appeared before the court charged for producing and distributing counterfeit money. In their defense, they declared that they were working in the service of the police and they were receiving 150 francs per month as compensation. They stated they had only made counterfeit money to be better seen in anarchist circles.
M. Court, the head of the “anarchist brigade” acknowledged that Jacob was an informer but declared that he was unaware of Jacob’s counterfeiting.
The two were sentenced to a light prison term; between themselves, the wolves didn’t eat. But I escaped beautifully.
I cannot say if the Laxenaire affair was similar to this case and I don’t know in what way Armand had himself escaped temptation or if he was only the victim of his libido because the author of “What is an Anarchist?” had sexual complexes, of which I will speak much later.
In any case, he could not ignore the activities of Laxenaire and one can’t understand how he could remain overnight in Laxenaire’s home if not for the hope of profiting carnally from a woman distraught over the abnormal absence of her husband.
When the police arrived at Laxenaire’s house to search the premises, they found Armand distraught and exhausted.
Armand was a pure intellectual, When he exited the domain of ideas, where he excelled, he was hesitant, indecisive and evasive in life. This is what lost him.
I helped him prepare for the trial. There was no material proof against him, the only overwhelming evidence against him was Laxenaire’s testimony and also, it must be said, Armand’s own writings on illegalism.
It was necessary to hold one’s head high, to assert oneself. But if Armand handled a pen with ease, he was a poor speaker and his voice undistinguished and thin. He had no sense of struggle, he lacked pluck. He attempted to explain his presence at Laxenaire’s house at 6 in the morning insinuating – without at the same time affirming it clearly – that he was the woman’s lover. The police, naturally, recounted everything that Laxenaire had told them. Laxenaire, jealous and wanting revenge, declared that it was Armand who had procured the counterfeit money but Laxenaire provided no proof of it. From then on the trial became a psychological proceeding and depended on Armand’s attitude, especially when Laxenaire’s wife testified. Either she loved her husband or for other reasons she protested vehemently against the insinuations of Armand, whom she treated as a liar.
I seethed in my seat. I felt it was necessary for Armand to respond to the judge’s question; “Armand, what do you have to say?”
He was obligated to stand up and master of himself, with a bittersweet smile on his face, declared:
“Monsieur”, In speaking thus, truly Armand appeared suave. But he remained on his bench, head lowered overwhelmed like a guilty man, like a liar caught in the act and stammering in a voice painful voice. He was lost.
This repugnance in Armand to physically face an adversary in face of combat perhaps had a congenital origin. But one could not stop thinking that the academic teachings which had filled him in his youth greatly aggravated this tendency.
I knew Armand for more than fifty years and we never had a serious conflict. Our relations were always cordial until his death. But we didn’t have frequent contact. Our personalities were very different.
I had an exclusively scientific upbringing. My parents wanted me to enter the Ecole Central and until I was nineteen years old, I was devoted to mathematics. Even when I quit this path to enter Medical School and later on pursued my studies in biology, I retained from this base in mathematics a taste for exact sciences: order, method, the need to treat all problems as theories which used precise facts to arrive at an undebatable conclusion.
In his ideas, Armand erred on the side of his imagination. He declared he felt himself independent of all rules, of all formulas, of all doctrines; he even denied the value of science, which he considered as a simple hypothesis.
Our friend had another related contradiction. He was a juggler of ideas, a dilettante, he was careless about what he had written formerly and what he would write tomorrow. For a precise and scientific mind such as myself, it was a little disconcerting. It was necessary to recognize that with his analytical abilities, his vast erudition, which allowed him to comment on nearly all subjects, Armand’s articles, even when they were contradictory, each contained threads of reflection and meditation. They caused you to think and it is in this sense that they are nearly always interesting.
But what especially differentiated myself from Armand were our temperaments. I am a man who acts with passion. I have a passion for science, a passion for propaganda, a passion for love. I only commit to one thing at a time. But I commit myself completely to anything I undertake, Armand was a cerebral, a dialectician. I never knew himself as someone who went out of himself, who could show spite in front of dangers, sometimes illogically.
I will recall now the Liabeuf affair,
Liabeuf was a cobbler who had an unhappy childhood and a criminal record. Now settled, he had drawn from the pavements a young streetwalker, led astray in her youth as he had been. But the girl had a pimp who was at the same time a police informer. The alerted his companions of the morals police and one day, Liabeuf was arrested and charged with “special vagabondage” and condemned to three months in prison and five years ban.
At the end of his prison term, Liabeuf had only one idea: revenge.
Working day and night in his trade as a cobbler to save enough money to purchase a revolver, he fashioned a strange-looking breastplate made out of leather and spiked with iron points. Thus armed, he hunted the two police who had arrested him. He encountered them on the rue Aubry-le-Boucher but they were not alone. There was a terrible fight between the rebel and the police. The morals agent Duray was killed and Liabeuf received a saber blow to the chest.
This affair aroused a considerable emotion throughout the country; the newspapers headlines screamed with details of the affair. Gustave Hervé wrote a courageous article in LA GUERRE SOCIALE (The Social War) in which he stigmatized the ignominy of the morals police, accusing the judges of lacking a conscience and viciously condemning an innocent man on the basis of the testimony of an “jackass”. Hervé incited all the victims of a rotten judicial system and all the workers beaten by the Cossacks of the Paris police force to imitate the energy and courage of Liabeuf.
Hauled into court, Hervé received four years imprisonment, after having told the judges: “I am proud to have saved Liabeuf from the gallows! Because I now challenge anyone to condemn this honest worker to death and execute him; an honest worker whom the morals police forced into murdering.”
Nevertheless, Laibeuf was condemned to death. But Gustave Hervé’s courageous stance was joined unanimously by the anarchists in an ardent press campaign and rounds of protest meetings. This campaign created a movement of passionate support in all the press, regardless of political distinction, demanding a pardon for Liabeuf, a pardon which appeared to everyone beyond debate.
A little while later, I organized a meeting where E. Armand was to lecture on the topic of THE SECOND LANGUAGE and especially speak out against Esperanto. The question interested many different groups and the street where the meeting was to held was teeming with people. I had just finished introducing Armand when the comrade Dolié entered the room. He handed me a letter from Almereyda ( ) saying in substance – because I cannot remember the exact wording after all these years – “Liabeuf will be executed tonight. We must march to the jail and free him. I count on you and all your friends to meet us on boulevard Arago.”
I was gripped by an intense emotion. I jumped on the podium and in a voice shaking with all my disgust with this legal infamy, against the crime that Society was committing, I read the letter out to the audience and exhorted everyone gathered to follow me out in our fight against this injustice.
Armand was at my side. I looked at him: he was as calm as cucumber. He held his notes in his hand, showed them to me and said in a desolate voice: “And my meeting?” He did not understand that the audience was streaming out of the meeting, excited and rebellious.
This is not to say that Armand was completely devoid of feeling; he loved art, nature and poetry. In personal letters that he gave to me to read, Armand demonstrated a certain sentimentality, but the brain always intervened. Armand reasoned with his own feelings and wished that these feelings would always be in accord with his logic.
He was not athletic, he had no physical courage, he detested the promiscuity of crowds, he detested violence. He couldn’t understand heroic gestures, considering reckless bravery as “tilting at windmills”.
Nevertheless, Armand made certain gestures which could appear courageous. For example, when Le Retif and Rirette Maitrejean were arrested in 1912, he took over “L’Anarchie” at the height of the Bonnot affair. During World War I, he published an anti war journal, “La Mêlée”. But it is possible Armand did not take account of the dangers he ran into; he always had an astonishing streak of naivete, a naivete which condemned him in the Laxenaire affair (and much later in the Bouchard affair, where he was caught with deserter’s letters that he hadn’t taken precautions to hide.)
Armand was not a man of the present; he was outside of time. Above all he loved philosophical speculation and the discussion of ideas. It is must be recognized that these ideas were original but at the same time it was of little importance to him if they were viable.
Armand read enormously and drew many of his ideas from his readings But these ideas always passed thorough the prism of his thought; they were imprinted with his distinct personality. This is why he almost never cited other authors, even Stirner, that nevertheless furnished the bedrock of his individualism. “Decartes wrote – ‘I think therefore I am, but I am not only because I think but because I AM, I AM the one who is.” (L’UNIQUE ET SA PROPRIETE.) And many of Armand’s theses, for example, the association of egoists, are of Stirnerian origin. Nietzsche, whom Armand Armand read in 1907 filled a gap in Armand’s theories.. I don’t think Armand liked the lyricism of the author of “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” nor his hierarchy, his asceticism, and his contempt for women but nevertheless, there were common points. “The Gods are dead and now it is necessary that the Superman live.” I think that the term “Superman” annoyed Armand but when he spoke of the New Man, of a new psychological type (determined by the individual’s negation of the necessity of authority), wasn’t this the same thing? Nietschze’s Superman and Armand’s Future Man equally turned over the tables on the received values.
” I don’t have the desire to be a leader of hesitating men,” wrote Armand, “I don’t live my life as an example for the multitudes. I value my friends so that they can live their life by themselves and without me. . .The true libertarian education doesn’t consist of leading another to think as you do but to make another capable of thinking and living for THEMSELVES”
Is this not the sharp address of Zarathustra: ” Ye will only be dignified to be my disciples by disowning me.”? Armand didn’t go that far, but it was all the same an integral part of his teachings.
Armand wrote an article in which he said the writer must be amorous; it is only when he or she is amorous that the writer expresses fantasy and imagination; if the writer is not amorous, they are drab and infertile.
The terms Armand used are very genteel but the idea is precise. In my book, OUTRAGE TO MORALS, I have demonstrated overabundently how intellectual genius is intimately linked with sexual expression. All the great artists, eminent thinkers, powerful writers have been sensualists and all the great epochs of history have been erotic epochs.
Obviously, I don’t know Armand’s sexual behavior but I do not think he was a sensualist, a lusty male in the example of Victor Hugo or a Rodin. He lacked erotic force in his writing as he did in his conduct. His eroticism is similar to his work, purely cerebral. His merit – and it is great – is having written on sexuality without concerning himself with what others thought or said.
In the first article that he wrote for “L’Anarchie” (November 1905), he said: “I don’t consider as evil the sexual explorations children of 10,11, 12 years” and in his circular, MES AMIS, he spoke of the pleasure of witnessing other’s love-making before his eyes. Moreover, he spoke with kindness about homosexuality.
When he was accused of sexual perversion, he replied he couldn’t care less, that he was “outside”, that was his motto and reason for living. Nevertheless, even if he wrote beautifully, ” I am indifferent to the social question”, he is obligated to take account of it. It is only by pure illusion that he could think to abstain from it. But this illusion, which he cultivated and valued is not that of an ambitious person. He sought satisfaction within himself and thus arrived like Buddha in the Transfiguration, placing himself, at least in spirit, outside and above all contingencies.
Despite the critique I have made in all objectivity and sincerity of Armand’s work, this work remains a moment in the history of anarchy. Its originality, its diversity, the multiple ideas that it contained, will always be wellsprings where people who think and seek can quench their thirst.
And the personality of Armand remained vitally linked by his intellectual integrity, by the consistency of his activity and despite the many diverse roads that he traveled, by his fidelity to the beautiful formula that Libertad printed in the first issue of “L’Anarchie”, which I will cite one last time: “This journal desires to be the point of contact between all those, across the world, who live as anarchists under the sole control of experiences and free examination.”

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Emile Armand, The Critical Activity of Individualists

The Critical Activity of Individualists
E. Armand
One should not be mistaken: individualist anarchists are negators, destroyers, demolishers. They are those who believe in nothing, respect nothing. Nothing in fact is exempt from their critique of disintegration, Nothing is sacred.
When do they make a critique?
At every moment. Not one event or one historical fact which can not be critiqued. Not one suffering, not one sorrow, not one mourning which can not give rise to a critique; not one human drama which does not suggest a critique.
Where does one criticize?
In every milieu
How does one criticize?
With enthusiasm. With courage. With sincerity, The individualist critiques if it depended on themselves for their entourage to become an entirely individualist anarchist milieu. Without concern about the failure of those who may have preceded them, of their errors, of their blunders. In the hope and conviction that the results obtained tomorrow will be better than those obtained today. In taking heed of the mass of difficulties overturned to reach the results already obtained. If necessary, to be alone in making the effort to arrive at a result.
Criticize by what means?
By a thousand means. By all means, By the word, by writing, by deed. By journal, by pamphlet, by book. By the public meeting room, by writing, by contradiction, By living the life of a refractory. By an existence “outside”. By example. By contrast. By individualist achievements, By associations of kindred spirits to live the individualist life between themselves, by free individualist milieus where one can experiment freely and draw all the possible consequences. By the multiplication of individualist groups. By the practice of effective comraderie. By economic associations. By associations to protect comrades against the risks and the hazards they could undergo as a result of propagandizing their ideas or putting their opinions in practice. By the creation of numerous schools of , where one can be educated, when one can prepare the brain and the senses to think, want, choose, resonate, and experiment to refine themselves.
Criticize what?
Present day institutions and men. Laws, morality, dogmas, customs, conventions. Capitalist accumulation, militarism, parasitism, patriotism. Public and private education, schools, colleges, high schools, family education. Acquired facts and judged matters. Received texts and invariable opinions, immutable principles, declarations of the rights of Man, and Declarations of Independence,. The ideas of borders of social inferiority, not based on scientific observation. The ideas which present day society puts forth on the family, paternal or maternal affections, friendship, obligatory monogamy, love, marriage. The respect of established things, of the past, of forefathers. Inevitable evolution, fatal determinism, religious or secular predestination. Moralism, piety, undemonstrable faith, apriori belief. Authoritarianism, parliamentarianism, centralized administrations, provisional or definitive dictatorship. The erroneous ideas on which surge charity, solidarity, universal love. The bourgeois in rough overalls or delicate frock coats. Important men, heads of schools, messiahs, saviors, the Catholic Pope or anticlerical magistrate. Superstitions, , childish behavior, legends, supernatural mysteries. Magistrates, judges, , customs officers, rural watchmen. The idea of work-exploitation as a regeneration; or of inactivity and idleness presented as corollaries of individualist ideas. Politeness, courtesy, honesty, prudishness as they make up the bourgeois sauce. The needs of a Cause, fanaticism and sacrifices to an ideal when they cover up only hypocrisy and lies.
Sometimes the individualist will base themselves on scientific facts and sometimes they resort to personal observation. Sometimes they invoke reason and sometimes feeling. They ridicule and make mocking remarks. Or they profoundly reflect. Or make comparisons. They prune, they cut, they amputate, they strike the iron to the wound ten or a hundred times if necessary.
Critique from what motive ?
Not out of party spirit. Not out of dilettantism or snobbery, Not to create saviors, disciples or adherents. Not out of expediency to grow in number. They criticize to make a clean sweep. Once the brain is cleared, uncongealed, liberated, reason and feeling evolve, vibrant with joy, for each to erect their own conception of life, of accomplishing it, of combating the internal City. * They criticize so each can lead their own life, orient their activity according to their own tendencies, their own temperament, their own character, their own aspirations to associate with others in order to live amply, with intensity and happiness.
The individualist anarchist critiques to free themselves and others.

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Emile Armand’s Individualist Anarchist Initiation

I’ve started posting consecutive sections from Emile Armand’s The Individualist Anarchist Initiation on the Libertarian Library blog. I started translating back in October, with the section on reciprocity, and promised at that point to begin at the beginning and work my way through the book. A number of things have intervened, most of them exciting and worthwhile, like the Bakunin project (about which there should be more news soonish), but here we go:
It’s a big book, with 279 numbered sections, and an introduction, which range from a paragraph to several pages in length. I’ll undoubtedly be skipping around a bit, just to keep up the translation pace, but at least for the time being I’ll be posting completed sections to the blog in order.

It’s been nice to see the enthusiasm with which the translations of Armand have been met. A friend and fellow-translator informs me that a short collection of Armand translations is due out soon, and Armand’s name was at the center of several recent conversations about collaborative translation, so perhaps we can finally start to make a real start at making his extensive body of writing available in English.

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