A terrible uprootedness

Love of the past has nothing to do with any reactionary political attitude. Like all human activities, the revolution draws all its vigour from a tradition. Marx felt this so strongly that he was determined to make this tradition go back to the remotest times by making class-war the one and only principle by which to explain history.

Up to the very beginning of this century, few things in Europe were closer to the Middle Ages than French trade-unionism, the sole reflected ray, with us, of the guild spirit. The feeble remains of this trade-unionism are among the number of embers upon which it is most urgent that we should blow.

For several centuries now, men of the white race have everywhere destroyed the past, stupidly, blindly, both at home and abroad. If in certain respects there has been, nevertheless, real progress during this period, it is not because of this frenzy, but in spite of it, under the impulse of what little of the past remained alive.

The past once destroyed never returns. The destruction of the past is perhaps the greatest of all crimes. Today the preservation of what little of it remains ought to become almost an obsession. We must put an end to the terrible uprootedness which European colonial methods always produce, even under their least cruel aspects. We must abstain, once victory is ours, from punishing the conquered enemy by uprooting him still further; seeing that it is neither possible nor desirable to exterminate him, to aggravate his lunacy would be to show oneself more of a lunatic than he. We must also keep, above all, well to the fore in any political, legal or technical innovations likely to have social repercussions, some arrangement whereby human beings may once more be able to recover their roots. — from The Need for Roots