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Anatole France: Country living under shadow of war is easy to govern

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Anatole France: Selections on war

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Anatole France
From speech delivered at a meeting for peace in 1906
Translated by J. Lewis May

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A country living under the shadow of war and invasion is easy to govern. It does not clamour for social reforms. If any labour men should be pig-headed enough to urge the Government to expedite the passage of some measure concerning the extension of Trade Unions, or the eight hour day, the wiseacres that rule us would very quickly answer: “Workers, this is no time to think about bettering your conditions. What we’ve got to do now, is to turn out as many guns as we can.” And what can one say to that?

When war and invasion are threatened, people don’t haggle about arms and munitions. And all that is an excellent thing for the financiers and army contractors, who know how to make patriotism pay. Threats of war, why, they are meat and drink to the reactionaries! One rumour of war can do more harm to socialism in six weeks than the parliamentary mug-wumps could do in twenty years with all their votes and all their speeches.

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