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Michel Corday: Striking against war

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

Michel Corday: Selections from The Paris Front

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Michel Corday
From The Paris Front (1934)
Translator unknown

1918

La Vérité has published an article…reproducing and commenting upon an article from the Daily News for the 18th January. Workmen in the Clyde shipyards have decided to strike on the 31st January if “peace negotiations are not begun before that date.”

There, indeed, we see the challenge thrown down in the struggle between the peoples and their overlords – the peoples who insist on knowing why their overlords make them fight. It has needed four years for this legitimate desire to reach the surface. In Russia it has already achieved its purpose. It is raising its voice in England. It is breaking forth in Austria. We know nothing of its strength in Germany…or in France. But a new phase of the war is opening – the clash between the flocks and their shepherds.

– Stirring events…are brewing in England. Glasgow is a seething hotbed of revolt. The London engineers, like the Clyde workmen, have demanded immediate peace negotiations.

– The whole world grows bluer and bluer after nightfall. The tramways and the Métro are lit up with blue electric bulbs – a light which gives the street women, who are more or less made up, the colour of rotting corpses. It is a walking mortuary. I seem to remember that the influence of blue light slows down the growth of plants. Will it have the same effect on human beings?

– The Chamber on the 29th [March] voted approval of the drafting of the 1919 class into their units. For the sixth time since the war began they are mowing down the young men of twenty. There were only seven votes in opposition. The offensive is helping the Government. “We must preserve the national unity!”

– Paris is taking to its heels…The diehards form the majority of the runaways. That is logical. The rich are conservative, and, therefore, bellicose. But they refused to realise the war. It is only now that they are beginning to grasp the presence of danger. And since they can escape, they do so.

– If only a man could get hold of a new pair of eyes, he would surely see that the deposits of coal and iron, which are the fundamental causes of the fighting, are worth a hundred times less than they cost to win!

– This “sense of patriotism” is quite novel. In France it cannot be older than France itself, that is, it cannot date back more than five hundred years. The astounding feature of it all is that it should be stronger than certain instincts born in the human heart millions of years ago, such as the maternal instinct or the instinct of love! Doubtless the reply would be that this sense of patriotism is itself based on hatred and pride – instincts themselves as old as man.

– The 13th [May]. The strike in the Renault factory is being kept dark. The workers are not asking for any increase of pay. They are merely protesting against being put back into the army, against the use of foreigners to fill their places, against the refusal of the peace offers last year, and against a harsh war-policy. Finally, they insist on publication of our war-aims.

– Since the evening of the 14th, the strike movement has calmed down. The newspapers are still silent about it. It is a silence truly symbolic of the ignorance imposed on public opinion. A hundred thousand men have left factories at the very gates of Paris, but Paris knows nothing about it.

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