The Un-Marxian Socialist: A Study of Proudhon

The Un-Marxian Socialist: A Study of Proudhon

The Un-Marxian Socialist: A Study of Proudhon

The Un-Marxian Socialist: A Study of Proudhon

Excerpt

Lile Péguy, with whom he has so many points of resemblance, Proudhon has suffered of late a twofold indignity. At the very moment when the world was turning its back upon him, scoffing at his predominant ideas and his most cherished sentiments, historians there were who placed this repudiation under his own patronage. Did they not go so far as to see in this theoretician of "anarchy" the champion of a "resplendent authority", "emanating from man and spreading throughout the whole of society, to be both its mainstay and its end"? Did they not discover in the writings of this "mutualist." "the essential principles of the present-day political economy of a totalitarian State"? Did they not make this adorer of Justice hold that Justice was merely "the intelligence of the strongest man"? Others, not pushing the paradox to such extremes, had already listed him among the leaders of the "counter-revolution". Several times over, during the last fifty years, attempts have been made to establish or to revive a Proudhon tradition which would enable French Socialism to make a stand against Marxism. The interpretation was at times tendentious. The result, it must be confessed, was very poor. "The Proudhon era", which some had already heralded, never came. Despite a group of excellent publishers, despite a few serious researches--the most noteworthy of which is, without a doubt, M. Jean Lacroix's--despite, too, a renewal of interest shown today in many ways, Proudhon is still, generally speaking, not known. Professional philosophers despise him. With few exceptions, economists and sociologists refuse to take him seriously. Historians of letters, showing themselves herein more severe in taste than a Sainte-Beuve, neglect him; it is only with a few of them that some of his writings barely manage to find favour, writings such as his Majorats littéraires and Confessions d'un révolutionnaire, or even the autobiographical passages in Justice, though they deserve to rank with the autobiographies of a St. Augustine, a Chateaubriand or a Renan.

That he should not be known by Catholics in particular, or that they should see in him a bugaboo, is less surprising. There are great excuses for such ignorance. In the last century Proudhon was one of the strong opponents of our faith, and that in a manner most violent and very provoking. His work is still dangerous, its flame . . .

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