Home > Uncategorized > André Malraux: Do you think that the army budget is meant to pay for war?

André Malraux: Do you think that the army budget is meant to pay for war?


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

French writers on war and peace


André Malraux
From Man’s Hope
Translated by Stuart Gilbert and Alastair Macdonald

Some distant gunshots rattled across the flying-ground. How trivial all that was compared with the realities; villages going up in flames, the peasants streaming forth into the darkness from their blazing homes!

For the first time he was profoundly conscious of the loneliness of war, as he trudged across the flying-field, through the dry grass….


“No, Ramos old chap, there aren’t any comic-opera armies – only comic operas about the army. What they call a comic-opera army is an army fighting a civil war. Why, in ours – the Spanish Army – there’s an officer for every half dozen men. Do you think, in the innocence of your heart, that the army budget is meant to pay for the war? Not a bit of it; it’s to pay the officers – who belong to the owning class or serve its interests – and to buy automatic arms quite inadequate for actual warfare (too much goes in graft) but adequate to police the country. Our machine guns, for instance, are of the 1913 type, our planes are over ten years old; worthless in real war, but good enough to crush a rising. Our armament’s not up to the standard of a colonial war, let alone an international one. No one ever hears of the Spanish Army except in connection with defeat or rackets. And repressions. It’s not a comic-opera army, it’s a poor imitation of the Reichswehr.”


“It’s quite likely, Hernandez, that you’re on your way to meet your…destiny. It’s never easy to give up what one has loved, all the things one’s lived for. I’d like to help you; but the cause you’re staking on is doomed from the outset. Because you have to live politically, you have to act in terms of politics; and your duties as an officer bring you every moment in touch with politics. Whereas the cause you have in mind is not political. It is based on the contrast between the world in which you live and the world of your dreams. But action can only be envisaged in terms of action. The business of a political thinker is to compare one set of hard facts with another, one practical proposition with another; our side or Franco’s; one system or another system. He is not fighting against a dream, a theory or another apocalyptic vision.”

“It is only for a dream’s sake that men die.”

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