Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Pierre-Joseph
Proudhon
1809
1865

French Libertarian, Socialist, Mutualist Philosopher and Economist

Author Quotes

You triumphed, and no one dared to contradict you, when, after having tormented in his body and in his soul the righteous Job, a type of our humanity, you insulted his candid piety, his prudent and respectful ignorance. We were as naught before your invisible majesty, to whom we gave the sky for a canopy and the earth for a footstool. And now here you are dethroned and broken. Your name, so long the last word of the savant, the sanction of the judge, the force of the prince, the hope of the poor, the refuge of the repentant sinner, ? this incommunicable name, I say, henceforth an object of contempt and curses, shall be a hissing among men. For God is stupidity and cowardice; God is hypocrisy and falsehood; God is tyranny and misery; God is evil. As long as humanity shall bend before an altar, humanity, the slave of kings and priests, will be condemned; as long as one man, in the name of God, shall receive the oath of another man, society will be founded on perjury; peace and love will be banished from among mortals. God, take yourself away! for, from this day forth, cured of your fear and become wise, I swear, with hand extended to heaven, that you are only the tormentor of my reason, the spectre of my conscience.

But experience testifies and philosophy demonstrates, contrary to that prejudice, that any revolution, to be effective, must be spontaneous and emanate, not from the heads of the authorities but from the bowels of the people: that government is reactionary rather than revolutionary: that it could not have any expertise in revolutions, given that society, to which that secret is alone revealed, does not show itself through legislative decree but rather through the spontaneity of its manifestations: that, ultimately, the only connection between government and labor is that labor, in organising itself, has the abrogation of government as its mission.

I am one of the greatest artifers of order, one of the most moderate progressionists, one of the least Utopian and one of the most practical reformers that exist.

It is no longer the government that is made for the people, it is the people that is made for the government.

Since the two principles, Authority and Liberty, which underlie all forms organized society, are on the one hand contrary to each other, in a perpetual state of conflict, and on the other can neither eliminate each other nor be resolved, some kind of compromise between the two is necessary. Whatever the system favored, whether it be monarchical, democratic, communist or anarchist, its length of life will depend to the extent to which it has taken the contrary principle into account.

The possessions of the rich are stolen property.

Well! that is exactly what God, the God of Providence, has done in the government of humanity; it is of that that I accuse him. He knew from all eternity ? inasmuch as we mortals have discovered it after six thousand years of painful experience ? that order in society ? that is, liberty, wealth, science ? is realized by the reconciliation of opposite ideas which, were each to be taken as absolute in itself, would precipitate us into an abyss of misery: why did he not warn us? Why did he not correct our judgment at the start? Why did he abandon us to our imperfect logic, especially when our egoism must find a pretext in his acts of injustice and perfidy? He knew, this jealous God, that, if he exposed us to the hazards of experience, we should not find until very late that security of life which constitutes our entire happiness: why did he not abridge this long apprenticeship by a revelation of our own laws? Why, instead of fascinating us with contradictory opinions, did he not reverse experience by causing us to reach the antinomies by the path of analysis of synthetic ideas, instead of leaving us to painfully clamber up the steeps of antinomy to synthesis?

But remember that the red flag is the sign of a revolution that will be the last. The red flag! It is the federal standard of humanity.

I belong to the Party of Labor against the Party of Capital.

It is the liberty that is the mother, not the daughter, of order.

So I do not fall into the sophism refuted by St. Paul, when he forbids the vase to say to the potter: Why hast thou made me thus? I do not blame the author of things for having made me an inharmonious creature, an incoherent assemblage; I could exist only in such a condition. I content myself with crying out to him: Why do you deceive me? Why, by your silence, have you unchained egoism within me? Why have you submitted me to the torture of universal doubt by the bitter illusion of the antagonistic ideas which you have put in my mind? Doubt of truth, doubt of justice, doubt of my conscience and my liberty, doubt of yourself, O God! and, as a result of this doubt, necessity of war with myself and with my neighbor! Let it no longer be said that the ways of God are impenetrable. We have penetrated these ways, and there we have read in letters of blood the proofs of God?s impotence, if not of his malevolence. My reason, long humiliated, is gradually rising to a level with the infinite; with time it will discover all that its inexperience hides from it; with time I shall be less and less a worker of misfortune, and by the light that I shall have acquired, by the perfection of my liberty, I shall purify myself, idealize my being, and become the chief of creation, the equal of God.

The problem before the working classes then is not to conquer but to overcome at the same time power and monopoly, which means creating, out of the people?s guts and labor?s profundity, a greater authority, a more powerful fact, that surrounds and subjugates capital and the state.

What does science say? . . . Nothing: it keeps harping on its eternal law of supply and demand; a lying law, in the terms in which it is posed, an immoral law, appropriate only for ensuring the victory of the strong over the weak, of those who have over those who have not.

But, in view of this willful delusion of our minds, a delusion which it was so easy to dissipate and the effects of which must be so terrible, where is the excuse of Providence? Is it not true that grace failed man here? God, whom faith represents as a tender father and a prudent master, abandons us to the fatality of our incomplete conceptions; he digs the ditch under our feet; he causes us to move blindly: and then, at every fall, he punishes us as rascals. What do I say? It seems as if it were in spite of him that at last, covered with bruises from our journey, we recognize our road; as if we offended his glory in becoming more intelligent and free through the trials which he imposes upon us. What need, then, have we to continually invoke Divinity, and what have we to do with those satellites of a Providence which for sixty centuries, by the aid of a thousand religions, has deceived and misled us?

I declare here and now that the laboring masses are actually, positively and effectively sovereign: how could they not be when the economic organism ? labor, capital, property and assets ? belongs to them entirely

Killing men is the lousiest way of combating principles.

Such, then, is the first principle of the new economy, a principle full of hope and of consolation for the laborer without capital, but a principle full of terror for the parasite and for the tools of parasitism, who see reduced to naught their celebrated formula: Capital, labor, talent!

The problem of association consists in organizing . . . the producers, and by this organization subjecting capital and subordinating power. Such is the war that you have to sustain: a war of labor against capital; a war of liberty against authority; a war of the producer against the non-producer; a war of equality against privilege.

What they always want is inequality of wealth, delegation of sovereignty and government by influential people? democracy says that the people reign and do not govern, which is to deny the Revolution.

By its very nature government is counter-revolutionary: it either resists, oppresses, or corrupts or wrecks. Government knows nothing else, can do nothing else and will never seek anything else.

I do not wish to be either governor nor governed!

Let it no longer be said that the ways of God are impenetrable. We have penetrated these ways, and there we have read in letters of blood the proofs of God?s impotence, if not of his malevolence. My reason, long humiliated, is gradually rising to a level with the infinite; with time it will discover all that its inexperience hides from it; with time I shall be less and less a worker of misfortune, and by the light that I shall have acquired, by the perfection of my liberty, I shall purify myself, idealize my being, and become the chief of creation, the equal of God. A single moment of disorder which the Omnipotent might have prevented and did not prevent accuses his Providence and shows him lacking in wisdom; the slightest progress which man, ignorant, abandoned, and betrayed, makes towards good honors him immeasurably. By what right should God still say to me: Be holy, for I am holy? Lying spirit, I will answer him, imbecile God, your reign is over; look to the beasts for other victims. I know that I am not holy and never can become so; and how could you be holy, if I resemble you? Eternal father, Jupiter or Jehovah, we have learned to know you; you are, you were, you ever will be, the jealous rival of Adam, the tyrant of Prometheus.

That a new society be founded in the heart of the old society.

The proletariat must emancipate itself without the help of the government.

Whatever the system favored, whether it be monarchical, democratic, communist or anarchist, its length of life will depend to the extent to which it has taken the contrary principle into accoun... that monarchy and democracy, communism and anarchy, all of them unable to realize themselves in the purity of their concepts, are obliged to complement one another by mutual borrowings. There is surely something here to dampen the intolerance of fanatics who cannot listen to a contrary opinion... They should learn, then, poor wretches, that they are themselves necessarily disloyal to their principles, that their political creeds are tissues of inconsistencies... contradiction lies at the root of all programs... writers have mistakenly introduced a political assumption as false as it is dangerous, in failing to distinguish practice from theory, the real, from the ideal... every real government is necessarily mixed... few people defend the present state of affairs, but the distaste for utopias is no less widespread. The people indeed are not at all utopian... they have no faith in the absolute and they reject every apriori system.

Author Picture
First Name
Pierre-Joseph
Last Name
Proudhon
Birth Date
1809
Death Date
1865
Bio

French Libertarian, Socialist, Mutualist Philosopher and Economist