Gustave Hervé 1906

Preface to the French Edition of “Anti-Patriotism”

Translated: by Solon De Leon;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2005;
Transcribed: by Adam Buick;

All Socialists call themselves Internationalists.

Among all Socialists, to be an Internationalist means to be in favor of the International Workingmen’s Association.

But there are two widely different ways of understanding the international unity of workingmen.

There is the interpretation of the patriotic internationalists, and that of the antipatriotic internationalists.

The patriotic internationalists say: “The present countries, as history has made them, are ethical bodies, whose existence is of use to human progress. In spite of their shortcomings hard as they are on the workingmen, they, the workingmen of each country, are in duty bound to defend these countries in case of attack.

“We are internationalists, but if the country in which we happen to have been born is attacked, we will defend it to the death.”

Which is to say, in good French: “Workingmen of all countries, unite; but if your masters order you to cut each others’ throats, carve away!”

This singular sort of internationalism failed a few months ago, to fulfil its promise. If war had broken out over Morocco, between the capitalist classes of France and Germany, the two proletariats, French and German, would have protested through the mouths of their parliamentary declaimers; they would have exchanged resolutions proclaiming the fraternity of the two peoples; and then, with utmost fraternity in the world, the two proletariats, French and German, would have set about murdering each other, to decide which of the two capitalist crews shou1d control the Moroccan markets.

But fortunately, there is another way of understanding internationalism:- however much Jaurès may declare it “sad, vile, base, repugnant, and reactionary,” it is, nevertheless, the only logical and practical form of internationalism.

This second interpretation, I have already treated at length in Leur Patrie (Their Fatherland); I treated it in briefer form before the jury of La Seine, in the declaration which follows; it can be summed up more briefly in these words:

“The present countries are cruel step-mothers to the proletariat.

“They are all alike, more or less, particularly now, that the capitalist regime is rendering uniform the material, intellectual and political life of the laboring classes of all countries, now that the introduction of the capitalist regime in Russia will force even Czardom itself to grant to the Russian workingman the essentials of political liberty.

“There is at present no country so superior to any other, that its working class should get themselves killed in its defense.

“In case of mobilization, regardless of who the aggressor appears to be (for, after all, when a war breaks out, one can never tell who the real aggressor is), the proletariat of the belligerent countries should respond to the call to arms, by an insurrection against their rulers, each within his own boundaries, to establish the Socialist or Communist regime.

“Rebellion sooner than war!”

The patriotic internationalism and the antipatriotic resemble each other as does day, night.

The former is compatible with a legal career; the latter is a vice prohibitory to one’s entrance to the bar, at least to the bar of Paris, which proclaims that “the universal conscience disproves if it.”

The first is in the best odor with the French free-masonry; the second has been solemnly repudiated by the grand councils of the Grand-Orient de France, and the Scottish lodges.

The patriotic internationalism permits a Socialist candidate to whistle in a goodly number of non-Socialist votes; the antipatriotic internationalism prevents a Socialist candidate from getting any votes but those of the conscious revolutionists.

The one leads to the vice-presidency of the Chamber of Deputies, and within an ace of the ministry; the other leads before the jury and to jail.

So far, the Socialist Party, run in all countries by its parliamentary general staffs, which are in turn controlled by their vote-catching prepossessions, has refused either in its national or international congresses, to come out flat and distinguish between these two so widely opposed forms of internationalism.

The question is sure to be brought up in the next convention of the French section of the International, and subsequently at the next International Congress.

It will asked point blank of the Socialist Party, whether or no it will respond to the next order for mobilization by an insurrection. and whether or no it will resolutely take up the study of ways and means best calculated to insure the success of such an uprising.

The Party’s answer will show whether it has degenerated into a party of politicians occupied solely with electora1 pottering, or whether it is a party of revolutionary activity.

At the moment of my entrance into prison, perhaps for four years, I commit to the care of the militant Socialists of the various sections of our International, the following plain exposition of anti-patriotic ideas, for the holding of which twenty-five comrades and myself are about to enjoy, in “the freest and sweetest of homelands” an aggregate of thirty-six years’ imprisonment, and 2,500 francs’ fine.

I entrust it to them with the hope that they will spread it everywhere, and in spite of everything.

I am of the conviction that after the reading thereof, it will be understood by all Socialists who know what they mean when they speak of the class struggle, and also, and equally well by the jury of la Seine itself, that antipatriotism is not a “sort of anarchism” or a “secondary action,” one of the most effective forms of “direct action” against the capitalist class, and at the same time a practical, didactic method of developing in the proletarian masses a full and un-clouded class-consciousness.