Aspects of Anarchy: Albert Libertad

As printed in Anarchy Second Series (Volume One Number Ten). Published by The Anarchy Collective (London: Hackney Press Gang circa 1972)

Albert Libertad came into this world on November 24, 1875, Bordeaux, France. He was born of “parents unknown” – and his real name remains a mystery.

Active in anarchist circles in Bourdeaux, he came as a tramp to Paris in 1897. Rejected by the “anarchist pope,” Jean Grave, he became secretary to the administration of Le Libertaire, edited by Grave’s rival Sebastian Faure.

A magnetic and violent speaker, he began in 1902 the “causeries populaires”, a series of meetings that survived for ten years. These were held at first in a house Libertad had rented in rue Chevalier de la Barre in the Monmartre district. In a room furnished “with a shaky table, some decrepit chairs, some seats pilfered from neighboring squares or bistros” were held impassioned [sic] discussions on Stirner, Nietzsche, Felix le Dantec and Gustave le Bon. It was from this milieu that Ernest Armand began his evolution towards individualism and some of the Bonnot Gang started on the way to dusty death…
Victor Serge describes Libertad so: “Individualism had just been affirmed by our hero Albert Libertad… Crippled in both legs, walking on crutches which he plied vigorously in brawls (he was a great one for brawling, despite his handicap) he bore, on a powerful body, a bearded head whose face was finely proportioned… Libertad loved streets, crowds, fights, ideas and women. Twice he set up home with a pair of sisters, the Mahes and then the Morans. He had children to whom he refused to give state registration. ‘The State? Don’t know it. The name? I don’t give a damn,, they’ll pick one up that suits them. The law? To the devil with it…’ His teaching was: ‘Don’t wait for the revolution. Those who promise revolution are frauds just like the others. Make your own revolution by being free men and living in comradeship.” – (Memoirs of a Revolutionary)
In 1905 Libertad launched the weekly paper l’anarchie which became the main voice of anarchist individualism in France up to World War 1.
He died on November 12, 1908, at the age of 33. The cause of his death was given as anthrax.

Some said this was the result of being beaten-up by the police near his house in Monmartre. Others said this was the result of a fight among “the comrades” … One thing is certain, he left his individual mark so indelibly impressed on his milieu that his brief life exercises an influence even today.

Only two of his writings have been translated in to English: “Liberty” and “The Joy of Life”. (Extracts from “Liberty” are from translations by Jeff Robinson and Stepehen Marletta. And from “The Joy of Life” from a translation by George Hedley.)

From “Liberty”:
“The anarchist, as etymology shows, is against authority… He does not make freedom the beginning, but rather the end, of individual evolution. He does not say ‘I am free’, but ‘I want to be free’. For him, freedom is not an entity, a quality, a whole which he has or has not, but a result which he gets according to the extent of his power.”

“Freedom is a force that one must know how to develop in oneself; it does not come on its own account. When the Republic takes the famous motto ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’, does that make you free, equal and brothers? It tells us ‘you are free’. These are vain words since we do not have the power to be free. And why have we not got this power? Above all, because we do not know how to acquire real knowledge. We take the mirage for the reality.
We are always waiting for freedom to come from a State, a Redeemer, a Revolution – we never work to develop it in each individual. What magic word will change a generation born of centuries of servitude and resignation into a generation worthy of freedom because they are strong enough to conquer it?
This change will come by the consciousness of men who know they are without freedom, who know that freedom is not a thing in itself, that they have no right to freedom, that all men are not born free and equal. Since it is impossible to have happiness without freedom, the day they develop this consciousness they will be prepared to get freedom.”

From “The Joy of Life”:
“Wearied by the struggle to live, how many close their eyes, fold their arms, stop short, powerless and discouraged. How many, and they among the best, abandon living as not worth the effort. With the assistance of some fashionable theories and of a prevailing neurasthenia men have come to regard death as the supreme liberation.
To those who hold this view, Society replies only in cliches. It speaks of the moral goal of life. It argues that one has the right to kill oneself, that moral sorrows must be borne courageously, that man has duties, that the suicide is a coward or an egotist, etc., etc., All these phrases are religious in tone, and none of them are of genuine significance in rational discussion.
“What after all, is suicide?”
“Suicide is the final act of a series of deeds which arise from our reaction against our enviroment’s reaction against us.”
“Every day we commit partial suicide.”
“I commit suicide when I agree to live in a place where the sun never shines, a room where the ventilation is so bad that I am suffocated on my couch.”
“I commit suicide when I devote hours of absorbing work an amount of energy I cannot renew, or when I engage in work I know to be useless.”
“I commit suicide when I leave my stomach unprovided with food in such quantity, and of such quality, as I actually need.”
“I commit suicide whenever I consent to obey oppressive men or measures.”
“I commit suicide whenever I convey to another individual by the act of voting the right to govern me for four years.”
“I commit suicide whenever I ask a registrar or a priest for permission to love.”
“I commit suicide when I do not reclaim my liberty as a lover when the time of love is past.”
“Complete suicide is nothing but the final act of total inability to react against the environment.”
“The acts, of which I have spoken as partial suicides, are not therefore less truly suicidal. It is because I lack the power to react against Society that I live in a place without light and air, that I do not eat according to my hunger or my taste, that I am a soldier or a voter, that I subject my love to laws or compulsions.”

“I do not intend More than definitive suicide, but it seems to me pathetically comic to describe it as bright or necessary this surrender of the week before the strong – and a surrender made without having trying everything. Such expressions are nothing but excuses given to one’s self.”
“All suicides are in facilities, the total more than the others, since in the partial forms there may remains some hope of recovering one’s self. That, at the very hour of the dissolution of the individual, point of reaction against the environment even with 1000 to one chance of success in the effort.”

“One must live, one must desire to live still more abundantly. Let us not accept even the partial suicides.”
“Let us be eager to know all experiences, all happiness, all sensations. Let us not be resigned to any dilatation of our egos. What is the champions of life, so that desires may arise out of turpitude and weakness. Let us assimilate the earth to our own concepts of beauty.”

S.E. Parker

(Extracts from “Liberty” are from translations by Jeff Robinson and Stephen Marletta. And from “The Joy of Life” from a translation by George Hedley.)