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Michel Corday: Glorification of slaughter is the beginning of future armaments

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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)
Unknown translator

1918

– Ah, this frantic desire to continue the war! Who would believe it! Remember that the Temps recently uttered the cynical warning : “The price of War Bonds is falling.” There you have it all. And one may imagine how many people are grinding their teeth in despair – the sub-contractors of munition factories, the business men, all those who see  the golden springs drying up…And also, I repeat, all those whom the war suits – the wife freed from the burden of a husband…And, finally, that mad instinct for conflict, violence, and revenge, which is part of human nature.

In our village are some Belgians who, you would imagine would want to get back home, after four years, as soon as possible, hoping to find their houses safe and sound. Far from it! The men want their country to be recovered by force of arms, even if it is devastated in the process!…

And yet how horrible is that unparalleled butchery, which the regular officer regards as a mere opportunity for professional advancement, for brilliant exploits, for mentions in dispatches, while the average civilian regards it as a guarantee of a “more advantageous” peace. And if all these negotiations are a mere piece of window-dressing arranged between Wilson and the Central Powers, what a hideous consummation to all this long insanity, these massacres that might have been avoided by a mere signature!…

No. The strife goes on. Every day they fling fresh fuel on the fire of hate.

– The vile campaign against peace is still active. The Civil League has brought out a poster: “The Trap.” No discussions, no compromise, peace without conditions, absolute victory. Not one word about the deaths we might avoid. Those are the most repulsive people, who sit comfortably in an armchair while they goad young men to slaughter merely to satisfy their own passions or interests.

Pamphlets breathing hatred have been distributed in the munitions factories. “People of France, your hatred is not as burning and passionate as it ought to be…Germany is a nation devoted to the Devil…You will have to lick the bloodstained Prussian jackboot…”

-Alas! Nobody will admit that it is not decisions on the field of battle which are settling this war. The Germans are still in possession of our territories. Their retreat – at present stabilised – has left free only a strip of the occupied territory. And yet they adopt the tone of a beaten foe. Really, the course of events is being decided and controlled by their economic conditions, their hardships, their suffering, and the blockade. But people insist on disguising these facts under the semblance of purely military defeat.

– The newspapers are still making enormous efforts to construe this breakdown in a purely military sense. The military correspondent of the Oeuvre displays subtle ingenuity in proving that Turkey was defeated by force of arms. It was just the same, he declares, with Bulgaria. They are writing history in advance. So much the worse for the truth. And also for posterity. For this glorification of slaughter is the beginning of future armaments. To declare that all these nations now appealing for mercy were dying of hunger and hardship would be to rob the war of its crimson halo.

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