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Sebastien Faure

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Sébastien Faure

Sébastien Faure (6 January 1858 – 14 July 1942) was a major French anarchist figure, freethought/secular activist, and a principal proponent of synthesis anarchism.[1] Of relevance to MAPs, Faure advocated for sexual/economic/political liberation, founding a libertarian school and likely having multiple sexual experiences with pre-pubescent females during his life. We discuss this in "Faure as a MAP?" below.

Biography

In 1894, Faure was prosecuted in "The Trial of the thirty" ("Procès des trente"), and was acquitted. That same year, he became the guardian of Sidonie Vaillant after the execution of her father, Auguste Vaillant, who had bombed the French parliament.[2] In 1895, he cofounded "Le Libertaire" with Louise Michel, taking the name of the earlier journal by Joseph Déjacque. At the time of the Dreyfus affair which rocked France, he was one of the leading supporters of Alfred Dreyfus.[3] In 1904, he created a libertarian school, La Ruche ("The Hive"), close to Rambouillet, which closed in February 1917. In 1916, he launched the periodical "Ce qu'il faut dire". Faure also co-founded synthesis anarchism, an influential form of conceiving anarchist federation.

Faure as a MAP?

The English Wikipedia page for Faure describes him as a 'convicted sex offender', using the language of 'sexual abuse' and failing to specify the precise sexual activity he and his younger female counterparts were believed / accused of engaging in (e.g. kissing, oral sex, etc). The page cites only one source, the online Anarchist Library, which translated a relevant French piece into English.[4] The Anarchist Library is notably hostile to age-gap sexual experience, having published a famously hostile piece about American anarchist Hakim Bey. We do not have resources to check the original archival sources of the French article, and so we reproduce the claims from the English translation in chronological order, specifying the activity where possible:

  • The 9th of September 1903, was the first documented case where he came to police attention. In the Père-Lachaise square, he was accused of "indulging in obscene touching" and "kissing on the mouth" three females aged 8, 11 and 12 to whom he had given some money. Denounced by a walker, Faure was taken to the police station. The parents did not press charges and he was released.
  • On 19 November 1907, it was the vice cops who incidentally came upon him. While following a woman who was prostituting her 14-year-old daughter, they identified one of her clients as Sébastien Faure. The two women spent part of the night at his home and, while this observation was noted, it was not acted upon.
  • On 28 September 1916, in the Buttes-Chaumont park, Faure and another (unnamed) man were accused and arrested for sexually touching two females aged 9 and 10, after giving them a few coins. The case did not go to court as the police commissioner himself had kept the report with him to blackmail/threaten Faure. As he later explained: “I thought [...] that I had a dangerous revolutionary propagandist and that I could use this document to curb his propaganda”. And indeed, on 5 October 1916, he summoned Faure to threaten him and control his activism. The claim is that the Minister of the Interior at the time, Louis Malvy, facilitated this.
  • The 1917 affair - By this time, Faure was an extremely popular figure whose speeches drew large crowds. On 23 September 1917, at the Clignancourt flea market, several onlookers noticed how he hovered around females aged 8 to 12, offered them money and rubbed himself against them and felt their buttocks. Some of them move away; others let him. He unbuttons the petticoat of a young female to caress her, with her fly open. Doing the same with 7 young females over a period of 3 hours, he is confronted by a 24-year-old linen maid, Léontine Bonafoux, who is disgusted and rushes over to him and slaps him. At this, a crowd forms in an uproar. Faure tries to flee but, surrounded, is "belted" [hit with a belt?] and taken to a police station. The next day he takes a large sum of money and flees, living under a false identity and writing a letter on October 5th to his comrades which states he was arrested for a pacifist speech he had been forbidden to make. On November 13th, the examining magistrate hears five witnesses and on November 23rd, an arrest warrant is issued for Faure. Not attending trial, he is sentenced on December 5th to 2 years in prison for sexual exhibition, then termed 'public indecency'. Recognised and arrested in Janurary 1918, he appealed against the judgement and, on 28 January, his sentence was reduced to six months in prison. On his release in May 1918, Faure circulated a leaflet in militant left-wing circles denouncing an “odious machination”. This leaflet was followed by a brochure entitled Une infamie, claiming that the whole affair had been fabricated with false witnesses. By 1920, he gained renewed popularity.
  • On 15 March 1921, he was arrested with two other men in the Lesage-Bullourde housing estate, an insalubrious block in Paris, where they had paid two females aged 11 and 12 to engage in unspecified sexual activity. The police investigation revealed that five other females, aged 13–14, had previously been their sex partners in La Villette. Sébastien Faure was known to children in the neighborhood as “Monsieur Fontaine” (Mr. Fountain). All three were incarcerated at La Santé and charged with “indecent assault without violence” and “habitual incitement of minors to debauchery”. On 15 June 1921, they were tried and sentenced in correctional court for “public indecency”. Faure was fined 500 francs and sentenced to 8 months in prison. On his release in September, he published a letter in Le Libertaire alleging a set-up: “It was one of those trifles for which no one — except me — would have been bothered for five minutes”.
  • After this time there are no mentions of Faure being arrested or scandalized for similar activity. It is possible that Faure and his students at the libertarian school he ran (La Ruche) had sexual contact. Faure took in 20 to 30 socially/economically deprived young people from 1905 to 1917. In a letter dated 8 January 1918, the anarchist Second Casteu reported the testimony of his daughter-in-law Marguerite, who had lived at La Ruche from November 1913 until its closure in February 1917. According to her, Sébastien Faure “took little ones into his bed at night and taught them obscene caresses”; she believed that “this had been going on since the foundation of la Ruche”, as other female students told her they had been among them.

Anarchist feminist Emma Goldman wrote a glowing endorsement of the school after visiting circa 1907.[5] She wrote:

At the station of Rambouillet we were met by a little woman, the housekeeper and general manager of “La Ruche,” who was accompanied by a young girl of about twelve years, very pretty and healthy-looking. [...] I was struck with the affectionate relations between my hostess and her little companion, sweet and tender as chums. I soon learned that the same atmosphere prevailed in the entire place.

Comrade Faure, whom I had previously met in 1900, greeted us with simple cordiality [...] The cleanliness and beauty of the “Hive” filled us with admiration. [...] Flowers, plants, birds and animals were grouped in harmonious colors, thus quickening the imagination of the children more effectively than a hundred lessons.

Co-education is still forbidden by the lawmakers of France. It is owing, however, to the great popularity of Faure that the government does not interfere with him, who not only propagates joint education, but also maintains it at “La Ruche.” There the boys and girls mingle freely together in class-room, workshop and gymnasium. [... Faure addressed] each little tot as Mlle. Janette or Monsieur Henri [i.e. formally and with respect - Newgon]. No one could remain in doubt as to the affection the children bore Faure.

[...]

Naturally, we were very anxious to hear the views of Faure himself, as to his novel undertaking. Among other things he said:

“I have taken twenty-four children of both sexes, mostly orphans or those whose parents are too poor to pay. They are clothed, housed and educated at my expense. Till their twelfth year they will receive a sound elementary education; between the age of twelve and fifteen [...] they are to be taught some trade, in keeping with their individual dispositions and abilities. After that they are at liberty to leave ‘La Ruche’ to begin life in the outside world, with the assurance that they may at any time return [...] as parents do their beloved children. Then, if they wish to work at our place, they may do so...

[...]

...The health of the children who are now in my care is perfect. Pure air, nutritious food, physical exercise in the open, long walks, observation of hygienic rules, the short and interesting method of instruction and, above all, our affectionate understanding and care of the children have produced admirable physical and mental results."

[...]

I asked comrade Faure what the relations of the children were among themselves and how they treated each other. Faure replied: "It is surprising how frank, kind and affectionate the children are to each other. The harmony between themselves and the adults at ‘La Ruche’ is highly encouraging. We should feel at fault were the children to fear or honor us merely because we are their elders. We leave nothing undone to gain their confidence and love; that accomplished, understanding will replace duty; confidence, fear; and affection, sternness."

Reactions on the contemporary political Left

In her 1949 book, Sébastien Faure: L’homme, l’apôtre, une époque, the libertarian feminist Jeanne Humbert defended Faure, arguing for police lies, the “precocious vitiosity” of the females involved, Faure's “tyrannical desires” and intellect ("very close link between sexuality and cerebralism”), as well as and relativism: "What’s so serious about that?".

In the 1965 edition of his memoirs, Le Cours d’une vie, the famous anarchist Louis Lecoin commented only on the 1921 affair. He summed it up as a machination by the police against Faure, using “a young underage girl they had placed in his path”, a “lady who solicited men and appeared to be at least 18 years old”. In his 1988 study Sébastien Faure et la Ruche, Roland Lewin considered the 1917 affair to be pure police manipulation.

Thought and writings

An archive of selected writings in English can be found here.[6] In Libertarian Communism (1903),[7] he wrote:

I make war on war; this is why, worker for life and not for death, I am an internationalist and call for the dismissal of armies and preach universal peace.

I said:'

Love is, by its very nature subject to whims; it’s capricious, electric. It is madness to want to submit it to fixed rules applicable to all. Philosophically, liberty is the sole regime to which it can adapt itself.

In practice marriage gives deplorable results. Far from being a guarantee of concord and happiness, it gives birth to the worst forms of hypocrisy and the most sorrowful situations.

A chain always useless and dangerous; a chain always intolerable, it must be smashed.

All children suffer because of the family, some because they have one, others because they don’t.

For these reasons I stigmatize marriage and the vain formalities that surround it. I swear by the imminent and necessary destruction of the juridical family based on cupidity and which must be replaced by the great human family, resting on the solid arising of all individual interests.

He is recognized for his teaching and qualities as a speaker, and is the author of several books:

  • The universal pain (1895)
  • My Communism (1921)
  • The Forces Of The Revolution (1921)
  • Religious imposture (1923)
  • Subversive remarks
  • Twelve Proofs of God's Inexistence (1908)

He was also the founder of the Anarchist encyclopedia, as well as the namesake of the Sébastien Faure Century, the French-speaking contingent of the Durruti Column during the Spanish civil war.

See also

References