THE SPANISH GUERRILLAS in the north were not as numerous as their comrades in the south, but their presence was clearly felt in the battles of liberation that began in June 1944. In this theater, however, they were joined by their brothers who fought in French uniforms, those who had joined the Foreign Legion or escaped to England after the defeat of France in 1940. These men had battled General Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps and had then prepared for the invasion of France. They were to return to France in mid-1944, help to liberate it from the Nazi army, and then to push into the heartland of Germany itself.
In the summer of 1943, sixteen thousand soldiers, twenty percent of them Spaniards, were activated in Africa as the Second French Armored Division, under the command of General Philippe Leclerc. They were drawn from diverse sources but all had seen considerable action in the African campaigns. Equipped by the Americans, the division possessed the most modern armor. At about the same time General Brosset assumed command of the First French Armored Division and General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny was named commander of the French Army B.1 These units were to become the visible symbols of the resurgence of French military vitality and the instruments through which France would rejoin the contest against Hitler.
PROUDHON WAS BORN in the same year, 1809, as Charles Darwin, at about the moment when the reaction against the French Revolution, led by the old imperial monarchies and the British aristocratic oligarchy, began to triumph. That triumph was short-lived but at the time it was clear to only a very few men that Europe was facing a century of revolution.
It was in the half-century following Proudhon’s birth that a number of men of talent and two men of genius, Proudhon and Karl Marx, sought to give form and practical applicability to the social, political and economic philosophy to become known as socialism. Thus Auguste Blanqui, who when not fighting the monarchy and the bourgeoisie, was in prison working out the principles of communist trade unionism and was the father of the French Socialist Party, was only four years Proudhon’s senior; Alexander Herzen, the great publicist of socialism in Russia, was born in 1812, as was Louis Blanc who developed revolutionary socialism out of the idealistic proto-socialism of Saint-Simon. Michael Bakunin, the Russian anarchist and Marx’s most troublesome enemy, was born in 1814; Marx in 1818 when his master, Hegel, was not yet fifty; and Engels in 1820. Lassalle, founder and master of the formidable German Workers’ Party, was born in 1825.
Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin on the Paris Commune, government and the state: “This work, like all my published work, of which there has not been a great deal, is an outgrowth of events. It is the natural continuation of my Letters to a Frenchman (September 1870), wherein I had the easy but painful distinction of foreseeing and foretelling the dire calamities which now beset France and the whole civilized world, the only cure for which is the Social Revolution.
“My purpose now is to prove the need for such a revolution. I shall review the historical development of society and what is now taking place in Europe, right before our eyes. Thus all those who sincerely thirst for truth can accept it and proclaim openly and unequivocally the philosophical principles and practical aims which are at the very core of what we call the Social Revolution.
“I know my self-imposed task is not a simple one. I might be called presumptuous had I any personal motives in undertaking it. Let me assure my reader, I have none. I am not a scholar or a philosopher, not even a professional writer. I have not done much writing in my life and have never written except, so to speak, in self-defense, and only when a passionate conviction forced me to overcome my instinctive dislike for any public exhibition of myself…”
Benjamin Tucker considered this Proudhon’s best book — “the most wonderful of all the wonderful books of Proudhon”— and he may well have been right in that judgment. Like many of the greatest works of the last century’ this “most wonderful book” comes to us from a prison cell: a fact which is probably far from insignificant. It is not without cause that the letters of Bartolomeo Vanzetti, the Pisan Cantos of Ezra Pound, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” Nietzsche’s Antichrist, the best poems of Antonin Artaud, Van Gogh’s two or three greatest canvases, Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, and several other of the most significant cultural products of this age, were produced by men who were at the time unwilling “guests of the State.” Nor is it idle to note that some time has been served (unproductively, alas!) by Ford Madox Ford, Nijinsky, Seymour Krim, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Jim Peck, and almost everybody else worth a damn as a serious thinker or artist. It is getting to the point where, as Eustace Mullins noted in his biography of Ezra Pound, lack of a police or psychiatric record is looked on, by avante garde, as a sign that a man has sold out.
The General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century is one of the classics of anarchist literature. Written in the aftermath of the 1848 French Revolution, it sets forth a libertarian alternative to the Jacobinism which at that time still dominated the republican and revolutionary movements in France. It contains a critique of existing society and its institutions, a vision of a free society based on equality and justice, and a detailed strategy for revolutionary change. Despite its ambivalent position regarding government initiated reforms, it set the tone for subsequent anarchist propaganda as anarchism began to emerge as a significant force on the revolutionary left.