The anarchist colony of Aiglemont also known as experimental communism or more simply the test.
Aiglemont is a town in the Ardennes department which remains etched forever in the collective memory of libertarians.
After the hard period of the anarchist attacks of 1892-1894 and the repression that followed, men had the idea of founding places of free life, associations of militant anarchists or ideologists in love with unlimited freedom, the members of these communities are politically very committed and gather in small edens open and welcoming but also very closed because the newcomer or settler must find himself in total rupture with the moral world.
Besides Aiglemont which is the subject of this plate, other places in France had the same impetus, Le Milieu libre de VAUX or the clearing of VAUX in Essômes sur Marne would be the first anarchist community in France (1902-1907), the hive by Sébastien Faure in Rambouillet, Saint Germain en Laye, La Rize, Liéfra in Aube or even the female agricultural work site in Bagneux, etc. These communities operate according to the anarchist philosophical principle and are laboratories of ideas.
In June 1903, Jean Charles Fortuné HENRY said "Fortuné" will try a community experience, he begins by renting a wet and marshy meadow in the clearing of old Gesly, he hastily installed a hut of branches and foliage covered with clay, clears the land around and digs a pond by channeling and diverting a stream.
It seems important to me to quickly locate the founder of this colony, Fortuné was born on August 21, 1869 in Limeil-Brévannes, he was the eldest son of Fortuné HENRY sentenced to the death penalty in absentia for his role during the commune of Paris, he is also the brother of Emile HENRY guillotined in 1894 and with whom he was brought up in Spain during the forced exile of their father. After a violent break with the Socialists in 1891, he actively campaigned for anarchism by traveling France from meeting to meeting. He was condemned on several occasions for antimilitarism and insults towards the President of the Republic Sadi CARNOT, his sentences which have become famous on "Le Jean-Foutre CARNOT" or even treating the army "as a school of crime" and its officers as "pimps" "earned him many incarcerations.
He was an influential member of the anti-militarist league with LIBERTAD and YVETOT.
It was as a traveling salesman for the Central Pharmacy of Paris that Fortuné discovered this valley lost in the Ardennes forest and that the idea came to him to create a libertarian colony there.
Our man is intelligent and cultivated, his persuasive force is only the greater and one can think that the execution of his brother will determine his conviction to destroy the capitalist society by pacifism.
He will therefore settle alone in 1903 with his dog NERA on this earth, his close neighbors took him first in affection, considering him as an illuminated, then qualified him as a sorcerer or a demon, but Fortuné is convinced of his approach. and with the help of an Italian anarchist who arrived one morning in December, he began to build a solid house then to cultivate the field, outbuildings were added, then a henhouse, hutches for animals were created. From 1904, Matha then director of the newspaper "Le libertaire" warns local and neighboring anarchists, they arrive from Mouzon or Charleville to lend a hand. The future looks bright for Fortuné, he manages to buy the land despite his personal reluctance to become an owner. The colonists arrive and settle, the farm grows very quickly with these new arrivals, some settle down, others just pass by to listen to Fortuné's theories. In 1905 artists came to participate in the colony or to give their support, the Montmartre cartoonist Théophile Alexandre STEINLEN, Sébastien FAURE or even Anatole FRANCE came to stay there for varying lengths.
Having its own printing press, the colony will publish a newspaper entitled "Le CUBILOT" which has as a maxim "International Journal of education, organization and workers' struggle" and as an epigraph "Politicians are worn out, that is why we appear "The editorial is signed by Jean PROLO pseudonym of André MOUNIER, POUGET, MONATTE hold sections there, Gustave HERVE signs anti-militarist articles, De PRESSENSE President of the Human Rights League defends accused anarchists there, The cartoonist STEINLEN illustrates the pages of anticlerical satires. The first number was released on June 10, 1906 and appeared every two weeks, in January 1908, the newspaper changed its name and was called "Le Communiste" but ceased its publication the following month.
But in addition to the newspaper the colony will publish a whole collection of brochures, the first number of which appeared in February 1906 under the pen of Jules LERMINA and entitled "ABC of the libertarian".
But this year 1906 saw the first tensions appear in the group, Fortuné was accused of being the sole leader of the colony and of being authoritarian, he defended himself as best he could but the basic idea was no longer there, his newspaper, by exporting anarchist ideas in the struggles of the department, mingling with anti-militarist and anti-clerical battles, will multiply the trials and attacks of a hitherto benevolent press, those who viewed this agricultural experience with a favorable eye let go taken, the money is lacking, which causes the disappearance of CUBILOT in 1908 and the disintegration of the experimental colony.
A beautiful idea dies, Fortuné repackages his dream of swarming in February 1909, the test ends in failure, he returns to Paris and we find him in the 1910s in the journal of Emile POUGET, Father Peinard then close of the CGT.
Reformed, it will therefore not be mobilized for the First World War.
He will disappear completely from anarchist circles and the date of his death is unknown.
Human relations in a free place are always very difficult, the living conditions rustic, the lack of money, the frequent passage of the givers of lessons, the small-time philosophers, the lazy, the dishonest, the sexual question etc. . make clashes inevitable.
The thinking and permanent heads of the colony, Fortuné and Mounier, are too often absent, monopolized by the political and trade union ground, thus abandoning daily life and especially agricultural work.
To plagiarize Kropotkin, I think that these colonies were doomed to failure because one cannot extract oneself from the surrounding environment while avoiding a social revolution, Aiglemont partly contradicts this assessment because one cannot deny the involvement of the libertarians of the colony in union and revolutionary struggles.
I was interested in this colony and the libertarian gatherings of Aiglemont in the 70s to 90s, each intervention on my part giving rise to a silkscreen poster and a postcard (1976 to 1990) in order to fix the event in the history. Most of these gatherings being forbidden, wild or pirates, there are few memories left and even fewer writings. Certain meetings or conferences were held near the clearing of GESLY. As in all these spontaneous movements, there were few people, but it was not the most important and as Ferré would say "there is not one in a hundred and yet they exist"
Jacques Camille LARDIE said JIHEL.
The documents presented come from the author's archives.
LE MARQUIS DE SADE
Ce mot libertaire associé à celui de Marquis va en faire sourire quelques uns très certainement. Enfermé onze ans victime de l'arbitraire royal au donjon de Vincennes et à la Bastille, Sade bénéficiait d'un prestige important dans les milieux les plus révolutionnaires. Il fut libre de 1790 à 1801, date à laquelle victime de la vindicte du Premier Consul il sera interné jusqu'à sa mort en 1814. Il fut donc détenu sous tous les régimes politiques (Monarchie, République, Consulat et Empire) Sade était anarchiste, oui et cette citation parmi des centaines d'autres le prouve "L'homme n'est-il pas partout l'esclave des lois ?" Roland BARTHES le qualifiait du plus libertaire des écrivains alors que Charles Baudelaire disait "Il faut toujours revenir à Sade" Ne vous étonnez donc pas de le trouver dans cette galerie, mon exposé à Aiglemont fut accueilli froidement mais à force de citations et de démentis sur les légendes installées, je suis satisfait d'avoir réintroduit Sade dans son rôle de phare des libertés éclairant le siècle des lumières, un esprit libre et lucide dans l'histoire de la vérité.
Merci Donatien, à toujours.
Alexandre STEINLEN, le dessinateur du CUBILOT, dessin hors série certainement publié en 1986.