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Malon, Benoît (1841–1893)

Erik Buelinckx


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Benoît Malon was a socialist and French communard born into a poor family of farmers in Précieux, a small village in the southeast of France. Three years later his father died and his mother started to work as a servant; at seven he had to leave school to work. When Malon was 13 his mother remarried, and he went to work in Ain as a shepherd and bookkeeper for a local farmer. When he became ill in 1859 he stayed with his brother, a teacher, who helped further his education. In 1863 he arrived in Puteaux in the Paris region, worked as a dyer, met Zéphyrin Camélinat (1840–1932), a friend of Proudhon (1809–65), and two years later joined the International, of which he was one of the first members. In July 1866 a strike broke out over wages among the dye-workers of Puteaux, and Malon was one of the leading figures. The strike failed, but it demonstrated the need for worker-controlled structures to safeguard independence. In 1867 a cooperative was founded with Malon as its vice-president. He was part of the delegation of the Paris section for the first congress of the International Workingmen's Association (IWA) in Geneva in 1866, and signed, along with Camélinat and Henri Tolain (1828–97), among others, the Manifeste des Soixante (Manifesto of the Sixty) in favor of working-class political organization. When, in 1868, a new Parisian bureau for the IWA was formed, even more radical ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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