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Radical Translations

Co-translation by Erin Bradshaw, Saffron Brown Davis, Kay Louise Clayton, Giovanna Demopoulos, Esmond Easton Lamb, Léa Heid, Myrto Katsoulidou, Lena Le Menn, Clara Lupi, Gabriella Mangham, Jasmine McBride, Iffat Mirza, Katharine Morris, Bianca Nazareno, Claire Claire Ó Nualláin, Erin Sinuligga, Daisy Syme-Taylor, Kathryn Woods; facilitated by Cristina Viti.

People of France!

For fifteen centuries you have lived in slavery, and therefore in misery. For six years you have barely dared to breathe as you wait for independence, for happiness and equality.

Equality! First wish of nature, first need of man, core principle of all lawful association! People of France! You have not been any more fortunate than the other nations who scrape by on this wretched globe!… Always and everywhere, the unfortunate human species, delivered into the hands of cannibals of all stripes, has been a plaything for any ambition and a grazing ground for all tyrannies. Always and everywhere, men have been lulled with fine words— never and nowhere have they obtained the thing those words should stand for. From time immemorial we have heard it said to us, with hypocrisy: men are equal! And from time immemorial the most humiliating, the most abhorrent inequality has crushed the human race under the weight of its insolence. Ever since civilized society existed, the best prerogative of man has always been recognized with no argument, but never once come into actual life: equality has never been anything more than the fine-sounding letter of the law—a dead letter. Now that it is claimed in a louder voice, the answer is: Silence, you rabble! Real equality is just a myth. Be content with conditional equality: you are all equal in front of the law. What more do you need, you lowlife ?

What more do we need? Lawmakers, rulers, one-percenters, the time has come for you to listen.

Are we not all created equal? The principle remains unchallenged, for no one in full possession of his reason could seriously say that it is night when the sun is shining.

Well then! We demand nothing less than our birthright: to live or die as equals. We want real equality or death: that’s what we need.

And we shall have that real equality, no matter the price. To hell with anyone who stands in our way! To hell with anyone who opposes an oath sworn with such force!

The French revolution is but the forerunner of another revolution: a far greater, far more decisive one—the last revolution.

The people have trampled the bodies of kings and priests who had been in cahoots against them: and the new tyrants, the new stuffedshirt politicians who now sit in place of the old ones shall meet the same fate.

So what could we possibly need besides equal rights?

We need equality—not only as it is written out in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, but right here among us, here under our roofs. We will do anything to win it, to wipe the slate clean and pledge ourselves to equality alone. And if all art must perish for real equality to remain, so be it!

Lawmakers and rulers with more money than sense, spineless fat cats, you’ll not stop our good fight by simply saying that all we are doing is rehashing the demands for land reforms made in the past.

You slanderers, hold your tongues now, and listen in contrite silence to our demands: they are inspired by nature, and rooted in justice.

The land reform, the redistribution of land, was the rash claim of a few unprincipled soldiers, a few peasants moved by instinct rather than reason. What we strive for is something far higher and much fairer: the common good, the commonality of goods! No more private property: the land is nobody’s property. We claim, we demand common enjoyment of the earth’s abundance: that is everyone’s property.

We declare we can no longer suffer to see the vast majority of men working and sweating in the service and for the pleasure of a privileged few.

For long enough, for far too long, less than one million individuals have had free rein with what belongs to more than twenty millions of their fellow human beings, of their equals.

Enough now, enough of this abuse that future generations will refuse to believe ever existed! An end to this foul divide between rich and poor, great and small, masters and lackeys, rulers and subjects.

Let no differences stand between us other than those due to age and sex. Given that all share the same needs and the same powers, let all be nourished by the same food and the same education. They are content to live under the same sunshine and share the same air: why would the same quantity and quality of nourishment not suffice for each of them?

Yet already this order, this most natural order imaginable, is being loudly challenged by its opponents. They call us enemies of the people, they say we want nothing but carnage and loot.

People of France!

We shall not waste our time replying to them, but speak to you instead: and say that the good fight we are organizing has no other purpose than putting a stop to strife and deprivation.

Never has a greater plan been conceived or put into action. Yes, now and again some men of genius, some wise men, have spoken of it in a low, faltering voice, but none of them has had the courage to speak the whole truth.

The time has come for bold action. Evil mounts and mounts, it blights the face of the earth. Chaos, masquerading as politics, has held sway for centuries. Let natural order be restored, let things be set to rights. When equality calls, let all elements of justice and happiness come together and organize. Now is the time to found the Republic of Equals, a great shelter open to all. This is the day of reckoning. Helpless families, come and take your place at the common table that nature has set for all her children.

People of France!

You were chosen for this purest of all glories! Yes, it is you who shall first offer the world this touching sight.

Old habits, outdated prejudice will once again seek to obstruct the building of the republic of equals. The organization of real equality, the only equality that can satisfy all needs without bloodshed, without sacrifice, might not be pleasing to everyone at first. Yes! the selfish, the ambitious will be shaking with rage. Those who have profited from injustice will now cry injustice. Privileged enjoyment, private pleasures, exclusive luxuries will be sorely missed by a few individuals who have grown jaded on other people’s pain. Lovers of absolute power, base lackeys of arbitrary authority will grieve over their haughty chiefs levelled by real equality. Their short-sighted gaze will not very easily reach into the near future of common happiness: but what can a few thousand malcontents do when faced with the joyful masses amazed to find that the happiness they had searched for so long was within their reach?

From the dawning of this true revolution, they will say to each other in astonishment: so this was all it took to reach the common good? All we had to do was want it. Why did it take us so long? Yes, without doubt, if only one man on earth is richer or more powerful than his fellow men, than his equals, the balance is broken: crime and misery walk the earth.

People of France!

How will you judge the excellence of a constitution from this now on? The constitution which rests entirely upon actual equality is the only one who can suit you and satisfy all your needs.

The aristocratic charters of 1791 and 1795 welded your chains down rather than break them. The constitution of 1793 was a great and meaningful step towards actual equality: we had never got so close before — but it still didn’t reach the goal, it didn’t even touch upon the problem of the common happiness, though it solemnly enshrined it as a principle.

People of France!

Open your eyes and your heart to the fullness of happiness: recognize and proclaim with us the Republic of Equals.