Home > Uncategorized > Anatole France: War is the last redoubt of oligarchy, plutocracy

Anatole France: War is the last redoubt of oligarchy, plutocracy


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

Anatole France: Selections on war


Anatole France
From his preface to the French edition of Jack London’s The Iron Heel


For various reasons the War, which showed itself so cruel to the lower middle classes, stripped them without forcing from them a single cry, for they are dumb creatures! The war was not too harsh to the workman employed in the greater industries, who by turning shells found the wherewithal to live, and whose wage, meagre enough when once the War was over, yet never fell too low. The masters of the hour saw to that! And after all, these wages were nothing but paper which the wealthy industrial chiefs, themselves in close touch with the higher powers, had little difficulty in procuring. And so the workman managed to exist the best way he could. He had heard so many lies told that he was no longer astonished at anything. It was just this time that the Socialist party selected to break up and reduce itself to dust. It was a grand defeat for Socialism, and accomplished without either dead or wounded! How came it about? How was it that all the forces of a great party fell asleep? The reasons I have given are insufficient to explain the matter. The War must count for something.


Do not let us jeopardize the future; it is our own. Plutocracy will perish. Already, in its very strength we can perceive signs of its ruin. It will perish because all caste government is vowed to death. It will perish because it is unjust. It will perish swollen with pride and at the height of its power, just as slavery and serfdom have perished. Even now if one observes it attentively one can see that it is decrepit. This War which the great commercial interests of all the countries of the world desired, this war which was ITS war, this war in which IT placed ITS hope of new riches, has caused so widespread and so deep destruction that international Oligarchy itself has been shaken, and the day is drawing near when it will crumble down upon a ruined Europe. I cannot tell you that Oligarchy will perish at once, and without a struggle. She WILL struggle. Her last war will perhaps be long, and of varying fortunes. Oh, you heirs of the Proletarians! Oh, you generations of the future, children of the days which are to come! You will struggle, and when reverses begin to make you doubtful of the success of your cause, you will again take courage and say with the noble Everhard:

“Lost for this time. But not for ever! We have learned many things. Tomorrow the cause will arise once more, stronger in wisdom and in discipline.”

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