Home > Uncategorized > Bertolt Brecht: One’s only got to make a war to become a millionaire. It’s amazing!

Bertolt Brecht: One’s only got to make a war to become a millionaire. It’s amazing!

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

Bertolt Brecht: Selections on war

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

bertolt-brecht

…Coax had gone down to the West India Docks. Peachum had told him that his beggars were going to demonstrate against the strike. He had dressed them up in soldiers’ uniforms. They were going to express indignation at the avarice of the dockers which prevented the British soldier from being transported to the field of battle.

Placards had been painted in Oak Street with the inscriptions: “You are keeping our comrades away from their duty!” and “Look what we have sacrificed!”

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“It’s quite a large demonstration,” said Beery excitedly. “Only about a third of our people are here, but, believe it or not, a lot of real soldiers have come. All the streets up there are full of genuine wounded soldiers. Of course we couldn’t have foreseen that. Our people are paid for the demonstration, so it’s natural that they demonstrate. Besides they’ve seen nothing of the war. But those who have joined in now are real soldiers. They are really blaming the dockers because they’re not willing to sacrifice enough for the nation! Just listen to them shouting. That’s not the workers against the strikebreakers; it’s the soldiers, and the crippled ones at that, against the strikers! At first we wanted to engage proper invalids, because Mr. Peachum thought they got so little money and were so wretched that they would do anything for a few pennies, even demonstrate for the war. But then we gave up the idea, because our people seemed more reliable. It only shows how wrong it would have been to pay them. They do it for nothing! One can never make enough allowance for people’s stupidity! These men, without arms and legs and eyes, are still in favour of the war! This cannon-fodder really thinks it is the nation!…It’s amazing! But I always say: one’s only got to make a war and then the chances to make money become unlimited; movements come to light which you’d never have expected and you only have to make the right use of them to become a millionaire; and you can run any business you like without capital! It’s wonderful!”

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But they all had this in common, that they wanted the ships to be finished as soon as possible so that they could be laden with new flesh, with healthy men still possessing two arms and two legs and seeing eyes. The wounded, the useless, the outcasts wanted, above all else, to increase their numbers. For misery always possesses an irresistible instinct for self-propagation.

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Together with Beery, he evolved the exact plans for a complete reorganization of the workshops. Over half the employees were to be dressed up in uniforms and given wounds of various kinds. From the viewpoint of the begging business, a national catastrophe like this was the same as a victory. There was no doubt at all that London, with the description of the disaster still fresh in its memory, would be ready to give. Anybody in uniform with the slightest recognisable injury would be a national hero for the next few days.

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