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Bertolt Brecht: In war the attacker always has an alibi


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

Bertolt Brecht: Selections on war


Bertolt Brecht
From Threepenny Novel (1934)
Translated by Desmond I. Vesey


“…An alibi, to be effective, must be arranged, and it only is arranged when a crime is contemplated. That is an integral part of all criminal practice. Look at politics! Whenever, for example, a war is started, there are always alibis. Not to speak of a coup d’état! The victim is always responsible. The attacker has an alibi!”


“Loyalty,” Brown, the old soldier, often used to say among his most intimate friends, “loyalty is only found among soldiers. Why is that? The answer is simple: because the soldier is taught loyalty. When one has to make a bayonet attack – which happens usually for no reason at all – and when one has to hack and stab and grind, then a man must have a loyal comrade beside him with a bayonet that will also stab and hack and grind. Only under such conditions can this virtue attain its highest form. For the soldier, loyalty is part of his profession. But he is not only loyal to one particular friend. He cannot win his promotion by favour. Therefore he must simply be loyal. The civilian cannot understand that. He cannot understand how a general, for example, can first be loyal to his monarch and then to the republic, like Marshall MacMahon. MacMahon will always be loyal. If the Republic falls, he will be loyal to the King again. And so on to all eternity! Only that is true loyalty!”


“…What is a pick-lock compared to a debenture share? What is the burgling of a bank compared to the founding of a bank?…”


“…There is a great difference between Rothschild’s methods of getting control of a bank and an ordinary bank robbery. Everybody knows that. But I’ve learned this much: only those who go in for really big crimes can commit lesser ones without being caught. And people take full advantage of the fact.”

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