From Brownings to free love, Henriette Marc

From Brownings to free love

Henriette Marc

La Revue Anarchiste


Brownings are fashionable. It has now replaced, in “honour” killings, the outdated sword, even the more innocuous fists, and as an ending to love stories, poison and vitriol.

“If I love you, beware!” Don Jose sings, louder than ever, his hand on his revolver-pocket. More often than ever, the custom is to hurt the person who has, first, been bored of a two-person romance. Times of the sorrows of love are gone, we won’t see the abandoned cry for the “fragile idyll” and make careful rimes from their tale of woe for posterity. Three warnings, a shot, and love is avenged.

Poor love which takes delight in the blood of the loved one, and suffers less from their death than from the sight of their new happiness!

In reality, love is a rare thing; most of the time, common search for pleasure, selfish possession of a being enviable by their beauty, wealth or mind, hides under its name. But the gift of oneself, the search for happiness of the loved one, how many can boast to have known that kind of love?…

On top of this, killing is a bad way to rekindle love, imposing it as well. When a new love comes, it is that the heart is free, and, therefore, why would the former occupant who couldn’t keep their place and does not have the courage to win it back be outraged? Poor happiness which is built on an abuse of sentimental power, poor satisfaction which destroys what does not reflect you any more.

No doubt there are times when any gesture of excess seems to alleviate the torturing anguish, the definitive void which the indifference of the person we love and who loves us creates, but then, even though it is not a solution and all of life protests against such an act, it would be more normal and human to disappear ourselves, leaving space for the new couple.

But crimes of passion have more general and deeper causes than love suffering. Prejudice which make love a sin and marriage a sacrament have their share in it.

What is jealousy, of not the feeling of ownership which extends from things to individuals themselves? As soon as a person gives themselves freely to another, will they be subjected for the rest of their life and will they not be allowed to take back their whole or part of their freedom without the jealous other, considering them their property, preventing them and punishing their attempt by death?

Some people are true by nature, others are changing and only feel truly alive when they follow their desires of the moment. Why, when the union is based not on fleeting interests or tastes any more, but on real and sustainable affinities, couldn’t each individual, confident in their partner’s trust, and conscious of their promises, live as they wish part of their sexual lives, since that is where most profound disagreements stem from? When weariness would start, earlier for some than for others, the loving hearts would reunite, without any arguments, any drama having torn them apart forever.

Maybe this would bring some fleeting pains, but o so few compared to those which result from the current prejudices, which push the individual, imprisoned in ideas of sin, to free themselves suddenly from an old love, even if they bitterly regret it when the joy of the new desire wears off.

In other words, could there not be, at the start of union, an implied acknowledgement of each other’s freedom?

People will cry that this is licentious, an orgy. Are the early evening meetings of our bourgeois women, the hospitable houses for the men, any more moral? But they are covered by the hypocrisy dear to the time of the Bérangers and Lamarzelles. Also, while virtue is now compulsory, the use of our freedom would not be, and everyone would act according to their tastes and possibilities.

People will object that this would endanger unions. Maybe, but less often than current liaisons; what is allowed is a lot less tempting and how many only leave their households to run after pleasures which are all the more desirable since they are forbidden.

For women especially, people will asked the sacred question of children. Let’s not dwell on it; any conscious person knows that, in the current society, pleasure cannot be lumped with procreation and that children are only desirable when we are sure we don’t have any other desire in us than their education, and especially the material means to provide for it.

In short, although there is for each individual personal ethics, we could wish for some greater freedom to intervene in love relationships, without duplicity, without lies. Also, that people get united only after having known each other, studied each other, to avoid painful discoveries which weaken love. That if some people don’t love any more, that the people sacrificed accept this fact and give them their freedom, easily and without a fight, to those who wish for it. Above all, that selfishness, the basis for relations between individuals, learn how to remain silent in those circumstances, and that the happiness of those we loved, if they truly found it, alleviate and not aggravate the suffering of the abandoned.

Women and Warriors, Henriette Marc

Women and Warriors
Henriette Marc
La Revue Anarchiste

Talking about war seems outmoded now, apparently, as if everything had been said on this issue, and it is more fashionable to entertain the crowds with the happiness of the future rather than bring them back to this time of disasters. Yesterday’s tragic lesson, tomorrow’s teaching.

The recent advent of the one whose empty eyes and grey skin tone mimic Death’s face makes us fear the return of the bloody and stupid years during which women were dazzled when they read the announcement, ready to open their arms to the most richly brocaded wearer of stripes, be he French, Allied, or even so-called enemies.

It seems like the love for warriors, and thereby for war, is among women the result of a very old heredity.
At the down of humankind, women, like other females, had first to accept, then desire that her partner be the strongest among the males. As soon as sexual union became something else than the violent rapt of a woman by the desiring male, as soon as she was able to exercise her choice, and her ruse soon allowed her to, she whose the one she deemed more apt to conquer the best food, the best skins for her, to satisfy her budding appetite and vanity, the best armed to defend her against other men and animals; then, to keep him, and also to avoid being the object of his violence, she made herself submissive and tender to him.

Although the reign of brute force has long been replaced by the reign of ruse, women remain submitted to her atavism and swoons in front of violent me, be them Foch, Carpentier, Jack Johnson or any other.

Few of them have understood that in the 20th century, true superiority is the superiority of the mind and, proud to walk around town with the neighbourhood’s strongman on her arm, she would despise a poet or a thinker.
Men, like in many other cases, have done nothing to guide or change women’s choices. In every class, can we not see the head of the family narrate, in front of the ecstatic women, the beautiful days of his youth, when giving and receiving blows were enjoyable and cherished interludes in his life as a student or a worker? In schools, in books for young people of both sexes, do we not give the handsome victors all the graces of love, and isn’t cinema full of scenes in which fists fall enthusiastically, and in which the one who has been most skilful in cracking skulls and smashing jaws earns, in the final scene, the smile and the hand of the young heroin?

In order to explain, and not to justify the shameful attitude of women towards war, there could be their love of flashy clothes.

No point insisting on this. Anatole France told us how Siberose was changed when, following the advice from the monk Magus, she wore a long veil and a belt. What she likes, women look for it in the person they love; are we not looking for more of our reflection than our complement, and that is why handsome warriors make good lovers.

There is a cliché we often used during the war to convert women to pacifism. We called on their “maternal instinct”. This would all be good, but unfortunately in complete contradiction with nature.

Although, throughout the animal kingdom, females take care of the young, although they are ready, to defend them, to commit murder or even die, there are no example of this concern surviving the stage when the young become self-sufficient. Although we can call on maternal instinct in favour of babies, this instinct slowly decreases as the child grows, and disappears around puberty, that is, when the mother founds herself faced with another woman or man who doesn’t need her care any more and try to mate in turn. (…)

There obviously is nowadays a more durable feeling among humans. But then this “maternal love” is superfluous, an artificial feeling caused by our more refined sensitivity, to customs, to family life, etc. and it is not surprising that it gets things wrong. Whereas instinct is reliable, this feeling is changing and maternal love, like sexual love, which is sometimes derived from it, will manifest itself differently depending on people’s tempers. We do not know how to love, only Tolstoy understood and was able to say what such a feeling could look like. What we call love is most of the time nothing but doubled selfishness which makes us rely on someone else to increase our happiness; and therefore why would we be surprised that a mother, desiring honours and glory for her son, send him to battle and can we claim that she loves her child less than another woman who sheltered her child?

All this to say that we should not rely on instinct, on impulse, to make women conceive a fairer idea or their duties, especially in view of such an upheaval as war. While some of them, better gifted in sensitivity and imagination, have perceived the horror of massacres, others, passive in this as in everything in their lives, could only find in themselves the thousands year old attitude of their sex.

Only education and the habit of reasoning will be able to modify in them the ideas and images deposited for so many centuries.

This is the task of comrades already freed from atavistic prejudices, who will have to reach out to women and be pitiful rather than harsh about their mistake.

It is mainly the task of the few women who, having found their own true duty, will indicate it to their sisters poor of heart or intellect.

This is why we can never praise Madeleine Vernet’s intiative too high, when she and her devoted comrades: Fanny Clar, L. Rys and many others, created “Women Against War”, a group which, through leaflets, conferences, a journal, works at a rational and useful propaganda. Every woman who wish to act to prevent the return of massacres should join them, offer them her help, and add their numbers to the elite of women who, among the torments of war, understood their role of love and peace.

The “victorious” murderer, Henriette Marc

The “victorious” murderer
Henriette Marc
La Revue Anarchiste

It is particularly interesting for women to know how war modified men’s characters. Did it send them back to their lives more violent or more weary? This is the issue that several books published since the end of the war tried to solve, among which, recently, The Pleasure Of Killing, by André Dax.

Put in such general terms, the question is badly phrased: most of the true warriors, violent males driven by their instincts, have died in the war – and that’s for the best – and as for the others, their ability to forget, without which we could not live, gave them back to their partners as they were, quite mediocre.
However, we cannot deny that war imprinted the minds – of those who think, at least – so deeply that many works reminds us of it.

The Pleasure Of Killing is still full, if not of facts of war, of its consequences, my colleague in charge of the book review section will forgive me if I tell I a few words what this book adds to the answer to the earlier question.

War, André Dax proves, wakes up in men its instincts for cruelty, the call to murder remains heard, and the gesture which was a habit during these long years can never be forgotten.

His main character, Michel, after having gotten a taste for women and sex in the tranches, gradually feels the taste for murder rise in him, and, cheated, kills his rival in an almost automatic gesture, as if to pierce the flesh and make the blood of the enemy flow was still something normal and sanctioned by the law.
However, once the crime is committed, he regains consciousness. Should he give himself up to the justice of men? Who is worthy of judging him? But he will expiate his crime by going to the Far East, far away from any civilisation, to live a harsh and difficult life which will redeem himself in his own eyes. Later, the woman he has never ceased to love, as a soldier and as a criminal, will meet him there, and, thanks to love, he will tame the evil beast we all carry within ourselves.

There are in this book many digressions, among other things about the survival of the souls, which, according to Michel, survive generation after generation, offering to men the violent or beneficial heredity of their ancestors.

This book, written in a pleasant if slightly monotonous language is worth to read. André Dax has observed and thought before he wrote. The pages in which he describes the miserable future of Europe, destined to unavoidable decadence, are deep and beautiful. His views on Christianity, which “in nineteen centuries failed its founding goal three times” are right. We can only wish a bit more rationalism from this probably young author, and that, in later works, he base his thesis on more solid scientific grounds.
His theory is right: war brought the old man back to life: these multitudes of heredities which the appearances of civilisation had pushed back deep into our unconscious during this upheaval, like in the aftermath of any exterior and interior turmoil. There is no need for the souls of our predecessors on this earth reincarnate in us to explain this. Soul is a meaningless word. The holdovers from brain and nervous system cells is largely enough, thanks to the heredity of acquired characteristics, to transmit throughout the centuries visions of murder and the aptitude to renew them. This is also accompanied with ancestral terrors which created gods, souls and all metaphysics. As for violent jealousy which André Dax tells us about, how could we be surprised to see it reborn in organisms unbalanced by war, and sent back by it into primitive barbarity?

Among the first men, war, or more precisely fights, between tribes or between animals were intimately linked to the sexual instinct. Carpentier proved this in a thorough study, “War and sexual instinct” – what François de Curel calls the “dance in front of a mirror” is nothing else than the need for the male to look stronger in front of the female he chose. In time of peace, this instinct changes, and it is moral or intellectual supremacy which men aspire to in order to win women over; but, with such violent tremors as those caused by a war of this magnitude, the varnish which Christianity, moralists and philosophers of all kinds tried to apply on the human machine peels off and the old instincts are uncovered.

It would be childish to be surprised or outraged against such obvious facts, we will only ever be poor beings, full of contradictions and doomed by our very nature to sudden returns to the quasi-animality which was our fate.

I know, among the people, women who complain about the unfortunate change that war brought to their partners’ characters. It is as late as it is useless to lament, it would have been much better to prevent and help the future soldier to be a deserter, logically revolted against the cruel and idiotic order which attempted to make him forget the dearly acquired notions of love and gentleness which made lecherous anthropoids into civilised and loving men.

Let’s hope the “next one” won’t find them in the same state.