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A Leninist before Lenin: Ernest Coeurderoy (1825–1862)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2009


The name Coeurderoy, of course, will mean nothing to the reader. It is that of a thoroughly forgotten French revolutionary writer. Nettlau, the bibliographer of anarchism in the nineteenth century, who devoted to him an enthusiastic article in the second issue of the Archives of the History of Socialism (1910) and reedited the three volumes of his diary, Days of Exile, with an extensive biographical introduction (1911), has literally rediscovered him for the reader of the twentieth century.

And yet Coeurderoy was a most unusual personality. Nettlau considers him an outstanding writer, a master of the written word worthy of a place in world literature next to Nietzsche. In the present study we propose to acquaint the reader only with the political aspect of Coeurderoy's thought—his militant social philosophy which, as will be seen, is of strikingly contemporary interest. Not only did his revolutionary vision foreshadow “Leninism,” not only did he discern through the mists of the future the Russian communist upheaval in its European aspect, but he was spiritually a contemporary, as it were, of our own period of history. “Outwardly,”—he wrote,—“I live in our century, but in spirit I belong to the future.”

Research Article
Copyright © University of Notre Dame 1949

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