Bourgeois Sentimentalism


Paul Lafargue 1881

SourceL’Egalité, December 25, 1881;
Translated: from the French for by Mitch Abidor;
CopyLeftCreative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2005.

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When it comes to beasts the bourgeois have the tenderness of angels. They feel themselves to be closer relatives of beasts than of workers. In England, that official country of hypocrisy, everywhere there are societies for the protection of dogs, cats, sparrows, etc. All of these societies are speculations: a certain number of influential members (presidents, secretaries, agents, inspectors, etc) are lavishly maintained on the funds intended for beasts. They consider themselves to have all the qualities required to deserve the solicitude of the friends of animals.

Of all these societies the most bothersome, the most hypocritical, the most nauseating is the anti-vivisection society. This society has been introduced into Germany, where it found many animal souls willing to sympathize with the pains of their four-footed like. It is attempting to slip into France. It’s in the process of conquering the Radicals, who are jealous to demonstrate that they have an excess of delicate sentiments.

A Radical journalist, M. Aurelien Scholl, has declared himself the champion of the anti-vivisectionists. And the newspaper of the chief of Radicalism, La Justice, reproduces his articles intended to give hysterical bourgeois nervous attacks.

The society of anti-vivisectionist animals of England has pulled so many strings that it has obtained from parliament a law prohibiting physiological experiments on living animals without permission from the police. This is how the bourgeois treat their illustrious men. They degrade them to the point of putting them under the control of the cops even in the laboratory. But that society, which has so well succeeded in paralyzing the work of English physiologists, has no intention of intervening to trouble the pleasures of the rich. Pigeon shooting, where thousands of tamed pigeons are wounded and mutilated for the amusement of a few imbecilic aristocrats, is highly approved of by the antivivisection society. Several of its most influential members are big pigeon shooters. This sentimentalism is so turbulent that at the international medical congress held in London last August Virchow and John Simon felt the need to protest in the name of German and English science.

John Simon is one of the official inspectors of English factories. He has seen and studied the tortures that the tender bourgeois inflict on children, women, and men of the proletariat in the capitalist prison in order to steal from them the fruits of their labor. He has denounced them with a courage the Radicals will never know. In his speech to the congress he established that there exist two kinds of experiments: one practiced by physiologists on a few animals, the other practiced on thousands of men by speculators. As an example he cites the classic experiments of Professor Tesich on a mouse in order to discover the means of propagation of Asiatic cholera and the “ well-known popular experiments which, during the two cholera epidemics of 1848-49 and 1853-54 were practiced on a half million human beings of the southern districts of London by a certain commercial company which provided these neighborhoods with corrupted water.” At this time experiments are being done on the transmission of tuberculosis in order to learn if the milk of cows with phthisis communicates that disease. The physiologist is sacrificing to his experiments a few rabbits and dogs. The farmer who sells the milk of these sick cows sacrifices thousands of men.

Two years ago a manufacturer of rice powder in London, Mr. King, falsified his merchandise with clay and arsenical dust. Babies whose delicate and porous skin had been sprinkled with his drug died poisoned by the cutaneous absorption of arsenical matter. The poisonings were noted in the autopsies and chemical analyses, and arsenic was found in sealed packets sold by grocers and pharmacists. King was brought before the courts. Twelve jurors were found to acquit him. A few weeks ago the English physiologist Ferrier, well known in the scientific worlds of Europe and America for his research on the localization of cerebral functions was taken before a police court. He had neglected to obtain a police permit. The scientist was condemned to a fine.

This is where hypocritical bourgeois sentimentality leads. Mr. Bright the radical was one of those who most energetically opposed the law that limited the labor of women and children to ten hours a day. And Mr. Bright, a pious man, goes to read the bible every Sunday with the workers that he tortures and steals from in his factory six days of the week. If he kills them with work on earth, he helps them to gain paradise in heaven. A poisoner of children is acquitted. A scientist is condemned. King, the manufacturer of arsenical rice powder falsified his products in order to increase his profits, i.e., his thefts, and this is his excuse in the eyes of bourgeois law, promulgated and put into effect in order to protect the thieves. Ferrier, the scientific physiologist is condemned for having experimented on monkeys and for having given as the goal for his experiments scientific knowledge, without any thoughts of lucre, and precisely this is his crime in the eyes of bourgeois law. In order to earn profits the bourgeois are permitted to torture human beings in the capitalist prison and to poison them with falsified products. The end sanctifies the means.

Bourgeois Sentimentalism