"De facto propaganda" attacks the top of the state


  • Lament of Caserio, the forfeit and atonement.

  • Funeral of President Sadi Carnot celebrated at the Pantheon on July 1, 1894.

    BERTRAND Georges Jules (1849 - 1929)

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Title: Lament of Caserio, the forfeit and atonement.

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Technique and other indications: Pellerin printing house.

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux

Picture reference: 07-518113 / 53.86.787C

Lament of Caserio, the forfeit and atonement.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux

Funeral of President Sadi Carnot celebrated at the Pantheon on July 1, 1894.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved

Publication date: July 2008

Historical context

The difficult age of the Third Republic

The republican regime fully established itself in France between the years 1875 and 1880. The credibility of parliamentarism is indeed strongly undermined: on the one hand by the corruption linked to the Panama scandal, while on the other, the young state of right - the truth resulting from the massacres of the Municipality - constantly reaffirms, in the years 1880-1890, its capacity for repression. The desire for revenge resulting from these acts - together with the idea of ​​"propaganda by the fact" stirred in anarchist circles since the end of the 1870s - is at the origin of a series of attacks between 1892 and 1894 Each time, the guillotine responds to dynamite, in a spiral which does not close again until the summer of 1894, when the anarchist Caserio takes advantage of an official visit to Lyon to stab the President of the Republic Sadi Carnot ( the latter had refused Vaillant's pardon).

Image Analysis

The dead of June 24, 1894

The Lament is an illustrated text to watch, read and sing. This type of document is widely distributed among the population, fond of such treatment of big news in an era which does not yet know radio broadcasting. The attack is of course depicted there as a despicable act calling for "expiation", the text accompanying the score setting the tone in this regard: "Listen to O people of France, of the province of Paris, as well as others. country, how out of hatred and revenge, the anarchist Caserio assassinated M'sieu Carnot! ". Guilty designated by dozens of witnesses and the haughty hand of the prosecutor, Caserio (condemned to the death penalty) claims responsibility for his act and refuses to give the name of accomplices: "Caserio is the baker, he is not the spy »He will say at the hearing. The baker from Sète, of Italian origin, is faithful to himself, thus defying a public prosecutor painted with the most severe features, low eyebrows and inflexible posture (top right). His judges firmly resolved to dissuade his followers, Caserio is finally guillotined, after refusing the sacraments of the priest (pictured at the bottom of the document). This irreligious attitude, maintained despite the pleas of his mother - who died shortly afterwards - reveals the intangibility of the assassin's convictions. He did not issue an appeal in cassation or a request for pardon. Ironically, he ended his days surrounded by those he wanted to destroy: gendarmes, soldiers, executioner, priest and bourgeois in top hats (bottom right). The execution of the assassin can be read in connection with the serene and majestic figuration of the late president, the object of all the tributes: these two images converge in the background to tell the general public the continuity of the established order that the isolated gesture does not could not have shaken. The funeral of Sadi Carnot is in the same vein the occasion of a meeting of the elite of the Republic and diplomacy. The monumental painting (more than six meters by nine meters) which is made by the very academic Georges Jules Bertrand is in line with the official and formal representations of historical events. Its location in the Palace of Versailles speaks of the solemn value conferred on this kind of production by those in power, whatever the time. Presented in 1903, a short decade after the fact, this work provides a rich panorama of the decorum set up for the occasion. Black sheets veiling the Pantheon (three thousand square meters of hangings deployed), torches and incense burners on both sides establish a funeral solemnity. Foreign delegations from all over the world greet the imposing tomb at the top of the steps, as well as French officials to the right. We particularly note the presence of Prince Orlov, emissary of the Tsar, in white costume with a helmet surmounted by the imperial eagle (next to the right column of the Pantheon). The float with flags and crowns is also part of the Russian embassy: this funeral is in fact a highlight in the perpetuation of the alliance concluded six months previously with Tsar Alexander III.

Interpretation

Putting a stab in perspective

"I took revenge with the dagger, by killing President Carnot, because he was the one who represented bourgeois society": aiming to reveal the tyrannical nature of the State to the masses, and thereby sow seeds of the revolt, the "propaganda by the fact" thus understood fails almost completely. In fact, whether it is a question of the death of Tsar Alexander III in 1881, that of the Empress of Austria "Sissi" in 1898 or even of Humbert I, King of Italy, killed in July 1900, we can only point out the absence of revolutionary repercussions each time. On the contrary, as in the aftermath of Orsini's failed attempt against Napoleon III in 1858, it is rather the authoritarian stiffening of the power in place that we are witnessing. The death of Carnot is thus an opportunity to complete the "villainous laws" enacted following the Vaillant bomb, by targeting more particularly anarchist activities. In the process, the Trial of the Thirty attempts - without much success for the State - to cast shame on the great figures of anarchism, such as Sébastien Faure or Jean Grave. The failure of propaganda by the deed is therefore obvious, even if it is impossible not to think, in the face of Carnot's funeral, of this deep solidarity between leaders of all countries, so decried by the revolutionary circles of the time. It is possible to say that the gesture of Caserio makes it visible to the general public for a few hours, but this is certainly only a very poor record compared to the aims of general uprising carried by the murderer. The gesture of murderous anarchism, which rebounds with the Bande à Bonnot, will however result in redirecting energies towards the invention of new union forms, a framework in which the Fernand Pelloutiers and Emile Pouget will work to write this fundamental text that is the Charter of Amiens (1906).

  • anarchism
  • assassinations
  • Presidency of the Republic
  • Third Republic
  • Carnot (Sadi)
  • Alexander III (tsar)

To cite this article

François BOULOC, "The" propaganda by the fact "attacks the top of the State"


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