Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
(From “The Red Wave”)

By Joseph-Henry Rosny, the Elder

(French novelist, member of the Académie des Goncourts; born 1856. A novel of revolutionary Syndicalism. The present scene describes a debate organized between champions of the revolutionary and the conservative labor unions, the “Reds” and the “Yellows”; a grand Homeric combat of ideas, in which the audience is wrought to a furious pitch of excitement, and does as much talking as the orators. In the following extract, from about forty pages of mingled eloquence and humor, the champion of the “Reds” announces “the grave and dreadful problem of anti-militarism”)
A LONG shudder agitated the hostile crowds. All the wild beasts quivered in their cages. Rougemont, immobile, scarcely raised his hand; never before had his voice sounded more grave and more pathetic.  1
  “Ah, yes! Question profound and dreadful. No one has been troubled by it more than I, for I am not among those bold internationalists who deny their country. I love my land of France. To make our happiness perfect, we must have the land of France. But who would dare to say that we, the poor, are any other thing upon that land than food for suffering and food for barracks? The worst Prussian, provided that he owns a coin of a hundred sous—is he not superior to the unhappy wretch who rummages in empty pockets? All the pleasures, all the beauty, all the luxury, our most beautiful daughters, belong to the rich cosmopolitan: he possesses the enchanter’s ring. If you have nothing, you will live more a stranger in your country than the dog of a swindling millionaire. If you have nothing, you will be insulted, scorned, hunted, locked in prison for vagabondage. La patrie! La patrie of the poor! It is a fable, a symbol, an inscription upon a military-list or a school-book—the most bitter derision! Your right, unhappy ones—it is to suffer and defend the soil, which belongs to your master, to him who possesses. For him, for him alone, our France devotes each year a billion francs for army and navy.…  2
  “It is necessary purely and simply to suppress the budget of the army and navy,” thundered Rougemont, with such force that he broke the tumult. “France must give all at once, without hesitation, the example of disarmament. And that would be a thing so grand and so beautiful that the entire universe would applaud, that all humanity would turn toward her. From that day alone we should be at the head of the nations, and our country would become the country of free men!”  3
  “Under the heel of Wilhelm!”  4
  “A Poland!”  5
  “Guts for the cats!”  6
  “Sold! Rubbish! Meat for sheenies!”  7
  “… living in boiling water like lobsters!”  8
  All at once, the tumult sank. The voice of the orator forced itself upon the ear, high as a bell, precise as a clarion. “Free, superb, and triumphant! Queen of the peoples, goddess of the unfortunate! If we should disarm, before ten years, France would become a land of pilgrimage, the Mecca of men. Before twenty years, the other nations would have followed her example. As for making of us a Poland, let them try it! Have you then forgotten the teachings of history? Do you not know that our grand armies, our innumerable victories—we have won as many victories as all the rest of Europe together—have only ended in the crushing of Waterloo and the collapse of Sedan? On the contrary, Italy, dismembered for centuries, Italy, which cannot count its defeats, is become a free nation. That is because it is inhabited by a race, clean and well-defined, upon which the foreigner has been unable to impress his mark. France enslaved, she, the most intelligent of nations, she who has had the most influence upon minds and hearts! Come now, that is not possible, that will never happen! But the people who would howl indignation at the dismembering of a disarmed France, would let a war-like France go down to ruin: she would be only one country like the others. So, I repeat it without scruple: it is necessary that we should give the magnificent example of disarmament. Only then shall we be a nation loved and admired among nations. Only then will all hearts turn toward us. Only then will the idea that anyone could touch France seem a sacrilege such as no tyrant would risk!”  9

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