Gustave Hervé 1906

Insurrection Rather Than War

Source: Leaflet of extracts from the English translation of Hervé’s “Leur Patrie,” published in The Revolutionary Almanac, Rabelais Press, New York, 1914;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2005;
Transcribed: by Adam Buick.

What is a Country?

For anybody who is not satisfied with words, or anybody who wants to forget for a moment the fantastic definitions of the Country which have been taught to him at school, a Country is a group of men living under the same laws, because they themselves or their ancestors have been brought willingly or by force, to obey the same sovereign, the same government.

Patriotism groups men according to their land of origin, as decided by the vicissitudes of history; within every country, thanks to the patriotic link, rich and poor unite against the foreigner. Socialism groups men, poor against rich, class against class, without taking into account the differences of race and language, and over and above the frontiers traced by history.

To the poor, to the crowds of lesser civil servants, small traders without credit, peasants without capital, the propertyless mass and the multitude of domestic servants of both sexes, falls the lot of ignorance, painful or loathsome toil, dangerous or unhealthy trades, long hours which make one disgusted with work and drive men to drink and women even lower still. To them starvation wages or insignificant profits; to them the insecurity of the morrow, the rigours of the law at the slightest fault, and if illness, old age, or unemployment comes, privations and dark misery with, especially for women, its procession of sorrows and shame.

That’s what a Country is – a monstrous social inequality, the shameful exploitation of a nation by a privileged class!

There is nothing more natural, more logical, than that in every Country the rich should be patriots! Nobody would wonder at their fighting and getting killed occasionally for their country. Yet, even so, in France ever since the reign of Napoleon they have found means to avoid conscription.

But what confounds intelligence is that in all countries the beggars, poverty-stricken, disinherited, the overworked beasts of burden, ill-fed, badly housed, badly clothed, badly educated, as are three fourths of the inhabitants of every country , march like one man at the first call, whatever may be the cause of war.

It is good, it is useful, it is indispensable for the leading classes that the pariahs whom they shear be profoundly convinced that the interests of the rich and of the poor are identical in every nation. It is good, it is useful, it is indispensable for the leading classes that pariahs of every country consider the rich countryman who exploit them, not as enemies, but as friends, and on certain days as brethren.

Patriotism in every nation masks the class antagonisms to the great profit of the leading classes; through it, they prolong and facilitate its domination. But patriotism is not only at the present hour the moral upholder of the capitalist system; it serves as a pretext for the keeping up of formidable permanent armies, which are the material upholder, the last bulwark of the privileged classes.

The pretext, the only avowable and avowed aim of the army, is to defend the country against the foreigners; but once dressed in the country’s livery, when the barrack training has killed in him every intelligence, every consciousness of his own interests, the man of the people is but a gendarme in the service of the exploiters against his brethren of misery .

The proletarians have no country. The differences which exist between the present countries are all superficial differences. The capitalist regime is the same in all countries; and as it cannot work without a minimum of political liberties, all countries which live under a capitalist system enjoy elementary liberties which cannot anywhere be denied any longer to the proletariat. Even in Russia, the autocratic regime is today beaten to death.

The proletarians who give their lives for the present countries are dupes, stupid brutes. The only war which is not a deception is that at the end of which, if they are victors, proletarians may hope by the expropriation of the capitalist class to put their hands on the social wealth accumulated by human genius for generations past.

There is only one war which is worthy of intelligent men, that is civil war, social revolution.

Whoever be the aggressor, insurrection rather than war!


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