Kirkpatrick Sale, Georges Bernanos, Maurice Maeterlinck

“The Luddite Revolt. Machine Breakers in the Age of Industrialization” (Rebels Against the Future. The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution. Lessons for the Computer Age), by Kirkpatrick Sale, translated from English (United States) and prefaced by Célia Izoard, L’Echappée, “Pocket”, 322 p., €13.

“France against robots”, by Georges Bernanos, Small Payot libraries, “Clics”, 160 p., €8.50.

“The Life of Ants. The Life of Termites, Maurice Maeterlinck, afterword by Mathilde Régent, Espace Nord, 392 p., €9.

“The footsteps of beggars will make the earth tremble again” ! This social “day of anger”, this dies irae hunger pangs mentioned by George Bernanos (1888-1948) in Mr Yesine (1943), industrial England of the Midlands, Manchester factory workers and Sheffield or York spinners believed it had happened, between November 1811 and January 1813. In fact, for fifteen months, while the Continental Blockade was raging , dozens of factory rebellions and nocturnal commando operations devastated avant-garde spinning mills and mechanized weaving workshops in the wake of the carnivalesque and enigmatic “General Ludd”. Result: 129 looms destroyed, one million pounds lost.

At the origin of this “Luddite revolt”, the growing impoverishment and famine of traditional weaving artisans, who saw their professional techniques, their sociability and their customs destroyed by the unstoppable spread of machinery. The family and brotherly universe of the workshop was replaced by factory oppression, with quality giving way to the breakdown of mediocre products. To the umption of this new industrial order, the Luddites oppose both recourse to spontaneous popular rioting and the establishment of a ritualized secret society, sworn members, guns in hand and blackened faces. Only quasi-martial law, recourse to espionage, chargeable denunciation, hangings and m deportations will overcome the Luddites. This last stand of the nascent English working cl, Kirkpatrick Sale, umed neoluddite and erudite hagiographer, gives us an epic and moving vision.

In France against robots (1947), an essay dedicated to Free France, Bernanos, whose gaze now goes beyond the Liberation, reconstruction and the Cold War, towards the apocalyptic horizon of a world subject to the diktats of technology, summons the memory of “weaving machine destroyers”which he salutes “divinatory instinct”.For them, as for him, it is indeed less a question of nostalgia than of prophetism, less of honoring ” the good old times ” than to sound the tocsin in the face of the advent of an era which is less that of progress than “of a crisis, of a rupture of balance, of a failure of the disinterested high faculties of man…” A vision that the writer deploys in pages of still intact fury: “Your sons and daughters can die: the big problem to solve will always be to transport your meat at lightning speed. What are you running away from, fools? Alas! you are fleeing from yourself – each of you is fleeing from yourself as if trying to come out of your skin sheath. » A meditation that “the Great of Spain”, as Roger Nimier called him at the same time, summed up as follows: ” Go fast ? But go where? »

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