French Communist Party 1927

The Marquis de Sade
By Paul Elaurd

Source: Clarté, No. 6, February 15, 1927;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2012.

Paul Elaurd (1895-1952) was one of France’s great twentieth century poets. A founding member of the Surrealists, like many of his fellow Surrealists he became increasingly active politically active in the mid-1920’s. In January 1927 he joined the PCF, and as this article from the PCF journal “Clarté” dated only one month later demonstrates, he had not yet shed the Surrealist taste for the Marquis de Sade. It is perhaps even more astounding that a party journal would publish an article in praise of “The Divine Marquis” in the midst of the Stalinist ascendancy. Eluard remained a faithful party member to the end, writing an “Ode to Stalin” in 1950, receiving countless awards from the movement, refusing to defend the victims of the post-War show trials in Eastern Europe, and being buried in the PCF section of Père Lachaise Cemetery, not far from the Mur des Fédérés, the scene of the Commune’s last stand

Never was a man more feared, more hated and detested than the man who is called “The Divine Marquis.” He was and remains the most dreaded of philosophers. Since he never put any limits to his mania for freedom; because his genius revealed without shame all human instincts and denounced the hypocritical relations between men; because he elaborated a system capable of giving humans of both sexes their natural sexual freedom and allowing them a true life in common, Sade was persecuted throughout his life, and for more than a century his daring and truthful works have been banned.

It is difficult to untangle Sade’s real life from among the tissue of false accusations to which he was subject. All of society seemed to be leagued against him. No proofs were ever offered for the gravity of the crimes which led to his being successively imprisoned in Vincennes, Saumur, Lyon, Miolans, Aix, La Coste and the Bastille [1]. He was sentenced to death in 1772 for what is called the “Marseilles Affair,” in which his innocence has been proved. The verdict was reversed in 1778, but his mother-in-law saw to it that he continued to be held [2].

In 1789 the Marquis de Sade had been in the Bastille for five years. He had already written in 1788: “A great revolution is in the works in our country. France is tired of the crimes of our sovereigns, of their cruelty, of their debauches and follies. It is tired of despotism and it is gong to break its ties.” In prison he developed his revolutionary principles. In his writings he violently attacked royalty and the clergy and worked to destroy the idea of God and Christian morality, which have forever forced man to resignedly accept a state that oppresses him and to be the slave of the most imbecilic masters and prejudices.

On July 2, 1789 he made a megaphone so he could cry out from the towers of the Bastille to passersby that the prisoners were being murdered. He tossed down papers appealing for the people to help them and so thoroughly provoked tumult on the streets that on July 4 the governor of the Bastille obtained his transfer to Charenton.

The Constituent Assembly freed him on March 23, 1790. He then took an active part in the Revolution, becoming secretary of the Section des Piques. A fervent admirer of Robespierre and Marat but a determined enemy of the death penalty, he was considered suspect and imprisoned on December 6, 1793. Through a curious quirk of fate he was freed on the 9 Thermidor, the day of his idol’s fall.
A convinced materialist, Sade believed that “the power to destroy is not granted man. At the very most he has that of varying forms, but not that of annihilating them.” According to him the death penalty cannot be justified, for the law, unlike men, acts without passion: “Man received from nature impressions that allow him to pardon that act [murder], and the law, on the contrary, always in opposition to nature and receiving nothing from it, cannot be allowed the same lapses. Not having the same motives it is impossible that it have the same rights.”

At the age of sixty it looked as if Sade would be able to finish his terribly tumultuous life in peace. But he couldn’t control himself in the face of Bonaparte, the budding tyrant. He wrote “Zoloé and Her Two Acolytes,” a pamphlet of an unheard of violence against the First Consul, Josephine, Tallien, Barras and Visconti. The work being refused by every publisher, he had it printed himself. Arrested and incarcerated in Sainte-Pélagie prison in 1801, he was transferred to Bicêtre shortly thereafter, and later to Charenton. It was in that asylum that on December 2, 1814, in full possession of his reason, this precursor of Proudhon, Fourier, Darwin, Malthus, Spencer and all of modern psychiatry; this apostle of the most absolute freedom; this man who wanted all men to return to the source of their instincts and ideas so they could have the courage to see themselves as they were and to bow only before real necessities, passed away.

1. Sade spent twenty-five years in prison.

2. We must put to rest here the legend that says that Sade was arrested and incarcerated in 1793 for having interceded in favor his in-laws. In the first place, there is no proof that the latter were directly and seriously threatened. Secondly, Sade’s credit was not so great. And finally, everything allows us to think that this family of aristocrats did all it could to preserve the memory of the marquis from the accusation that in its eyes was more serious than any other: that of being a sincere and implacable revolutionary. Everything else he was accused of could be taken for libertinage, which was not frowned upon in the 18th century and would in no way have stained his honor. What was truly impossible, truly immoral, was to have denied his own in the name of seditious principles. What is more, it would require total ignorance of Sade’s character to suppose him capable of rendering good for evil, to think him capable of pleading for someone who through a lettre de cachet kept him imprisoned for twelve years.