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Fourth International, January 1941

Carl O’Shea

The Good Will International


From Fourth International, Vol. II No. 1, January 1941, pp. 30–31.
Transcribed & marked up by David Walters for ETOL.


by Jules Romains
Alfred A. Knopf, New York; 253 pp., $2.50.

World president of the PEN club, dramatist, poet, ex-professor of philosophy, author of a formidable panoramic novel of Europe, Romains now reveals to his readers that for fifteen years he has also been a volunteer statesman, diplomat and adviser to kings and prime ministers.

Romains tells us he knew personally most of the French politicians – Daladier, Delbos, Bonnet, Reynaud, Herriot, Laval. He knew Gamelin and Weygand. He knew Spaak and Henri de Man of Belgium. Others whom this Man of Good Will worked with are Rosenberg, Goebbels, Ribbentrop, Otto Abetz, and the Spanish mystic, Salvador de Madariago.

How did Romains come to walk and talk with statesmen and kings? “The spectacle of the last world war filled me with horror,” he tells us.

“I came out of it with one conviction: We must at all costs avoid any renewal of such atrocities. Many people thought as I thought; thinking, however, carries no obligation. But this is the vow I made, a solemn vow: ‘I swear I shall always do everything in my power to prevent the outbreak of another war.’ As I had a very practical imagination, I considered forms of action, personal and direct .... I came to think that to affect events in any way, if you are not in a position of authority, it is not enough to have access to public opinion; you must also have access to those with power and authority and be ready at a decisive moment personally to intervene in their decisions. I called that: ‘Action in vital points.’”

How the liberals look to those with authority, how they shun the masses!

In 1938 Romains writes Daladier a letter, urging his friend to assume dictatorial powers. It is a period of great unrest. The workers are restless, seeking to regain the ground lost since 1936. A new general strike is in the making.

Remains steps into the breach. He arranges with Daladier to make a nationwide broadcast directed against the strike.

“I wrote that Appeal to the Nation and put my whole heart in it ... My appeal was received with immense enthusiasm throughout the nation; there were a few insults from the Communists ... In all sincerity, I believe that it helped Daladier’s position in the country, and had a good deal to do with the failure of the general strike ...“

But the strike started. Romains tells us how anxious he was that Daladier crack down on the strikers; how, on November 29th, he wrote the premier to “Hang on and don’t give in on a single point.”

The next day Daladier tells him: “I did hang on, Jules Romains; it’s over and I won.”

A great victory for our Man of Good Will. “From that day, my relations with Daladier were most affectionate.”

Romains lets us in on the secret that he is not alone. Heavens, there are Romains all over Europe, a sort of International of Mushbags. “X,” he tells us, of a Belgian politician whom he later identifies as Henry de Man, the ex.Socialist,

“was one of the members of a kind of order of chivalry which was recruited little by little throughout Europe; a completely ideal order, alas, without a constitution, without a recognized leader, without regulations. Every one of these men had made for himself more or less the same vow as I had in the pastto work at preserving peace in the world and all believed, as I did, in the method of personal action on vital points. It was the name of ‘Men of Good Will’ that they sometimes used for themselves, half seriously, half jokingly.”

Romains went strolling in Paris on Christmas Day, 1938. He watched “the good people of Paris walking along the streets, many with small parcels in their hands. I thought: They are off to family dinners. They have no idea that five or six of us are plotting to try to keep peace for them and for their chiidren’the peace they love so much more than they realize.

What a priceless view of the liberal soul! But alas, the “moral elite” in whose hands rested the fate of Europe, were overcome by the forces of Evil.

Romains uses this incident to point a poodlish moral for his readers: “The fact that in the end this war took place just the same is frightful and humiliating. But now, of course, the democracies must win it, first because they did everything to avoid it.”

Later Romains gets a bad letdown when one of his ace Men of Good Will, de Man, turns up at the head of the Belgian government of fascist appeasement. “He had a certain mistrust of democratic methods, a belief in action, personal, direct and even secret, and a taste for authority,” explains Romains; but de Man was just like Romains, and every other member of the Good Will International. There’s a cop in every liberal.

Romains finds himself forced to confirm our thesis that the ruling classes of Britain and France feared proletarian revolution more than they feared Hitler.

But how he hates to admit this!

“I almost ruled it out of this series of articles for two reasons. First, at a time when England, left standing alone, is fighting magnificently for the freedom and honor of the world, I should not wish to say a single word which might cast doubt upon the admiration and affection I feel for her, or which might diminish in the slightest th wave of active sympathy which is carrying this continent (America) towards her.”

Romains goes on to recall how in 1936 and 1937 he occupied himself with the Spanish war. To defeat Franco? To combat the fascists? To rally the French workers In support of their Spanish brothers? Not at all!

“My guiding thought – and it was Delbos’, too – continued to be: ‘Always, everywhere, we must work to lessen the risk of war. The totalitarian powers are apparently trying to use Spain to start a fight and, in any case, to sap our strength. Let’s not fail into their trap! ... But the English game didn’t always seem exactly clear to us either. ‘Would they like a victory for the Spanish republicans or for Franco?’ Delbos would say, ‘I can never find out.’”

But Romains is not disillusioned with his friends in England. The only thing wrong with England was that “she did not listen with sufficient reverence to the dictates of that ‘English conscience.’ I think she is listening to them now. May it not be too late for her to save the world this time!”

Chapter five finds Romains on the way to Nazi Germany, invited to deliver a speech to the Nazi youth.

Romains even anticipates your question: “What in heaven’s name were you doing there in November, 1934, with your ideas and your past?”

He explains that in 1934 he had assumed the leadership of the French youth, uniting almost all the groups in the July Ninth movement.

“So it came about that the leader of the Croix de Feu volunteers and the leader of the Young Patriot volunteers were included in my group. Seated opposite them at the same table would be the young leaders of trade unionism, Socialism, radicalism. If these men didn’t fight, there could be no fight; for it wasn’t the old men in each group who would be the first out in the streets. I had civil war under lock and key for several months. And that in itself was something.”

Indeed it was. When socialist revolution was the only possible course that could have defended France and defeated Hitler.

So Romains, looked upon by the Hitlerites as a possible coming French leader, goes to Berlin to lecture to and meet with the German fascists. He even brings fascist leaders to France and arranges clandestine meetings for them with the French youth of the Right. All the most innocent stuff imaginable, you understand. Strictly good will work!

His Man of Good Will among the Nazis is Abetz, today military dictator over conquered France. Abetz and Romains solemnly weigh the Nazi leaders, to estimate which among them are possible Men of Good Will. Alfred Rosenberg? Goebbels? Ribbentrop? Perhaps Hitler?

Philosophizing on his trusted friend, Abetz, who has “betrayed” him, Romains concludes: “To remain a man of good will within such a system (as fascism) was like trying to keep a vow of chastity in a brothel.”

Romains now approaches his closing chapter. By his own confession, he has done what he could to break strikes in France. He has lectured in fascist Germany and lent what prestige he could to the fascist regime. He has smuggled young German fascists into France to meet with the leaders of the French youth. He has worked to block French aid to the Spanish anti-fascists. He has banked everything on the kings and the statesmen and the Pope and Roosevelt. Now he undertakes to tell us “Who Saved Fascism?”

Romains has a distinction he wishes to make clear to us.

“Yes, we can blame Chamberlain, Daladier, others. Yes, we can blame England ... But in heaven’s name, don’t let’s lose eight of the fact that in one case the whole fault was lack of suspicion, of hardness, or of promptness in answering threat by threat, violence by violence; while in the other case, the crime in question was positive, deliberate, long pre-meditated. Between the responsibility of the former and the responsibility of the latter lies the entire abyss of human morality.”

What a view of the sated and the ravenous imperialists!

His concept of the League of Nations is equally atrocious.

“At the cost of millions of dead in 1914–18, at the cost of all the suffering accumulated and handed down by the Great War, and all sorts of racking mediations, humanity had reached a result of extraordinary moral import – war had been declared taboo.”

Twenty years ago such a statement would have been a vicious lie. Today it sounds just funny.

Oh, of course, Romains says, I know – “Even earlier there had been very serious violations of the taboo – like Japan’s attempt against China at the end of 1931, or the Chaco war in South America.” But the League had not taken a stand in those cases, and Romains justifies that too. “It’s by trumped-up excuses that taboos have often been preserved.”

He was of course in the thick of the fight.

“I wished to make contact with some of the men heading the League, with the specific purpose of assuring them that the moral elite of France did not share the attitude of part of the Parisian press, notoriously In the pay of the Fascist government.”

Certain French intellectuals, it seems, had published a manifesto defending Italy’s rape of Ethiopia.

“We had immediately answered their insolent text. I had drawn up the counter manifesto, with the help of Louis Aragon ...”

Here is Romains’ first mention of his work with the Stalinists. And it reminds us again of the terrible crime of the Third International in befuddling the masses with its Popular Front crap and elevating poodles like Romains in the eyes of the workers.

Later Laval is conferring with Romains again, telling of his recent journey to Rome where he had seen the Pope and Mussolini.

“Our interview went very well,” tells Laval. “With Mussolini I recalled my youth as a Socialist; he recalled his too. That Immediately created a common ground between us, something dear to us both.”

Priceless scene!

Romains then gives an ecstatic picture of the League of Nations meeting in February, 1935. He saw it as “the dawn of an immense hope, the starting point of a new era.” He describes the shining eyes of the French and British statesmen; he tells of Delbos’ belief that Mussolini was licked and ready to commit suicide. Later came the Hoare-Laval agreement, to blast the hopes of the poodles. Romains, leader of the moral elite of France, allots the blame to those who saved fascism.

“Summing things up, the answer to the question ‘Who saved fascism?’ must be: First of all, Pierre Laval ... In the second place, broadly speaking, the English conservatives blinded by their terror of Bolshevism; and last, as accessory, the little dynastic plot of which Leopold was the spokesman.”

Read Romains’ book and you will see why the bourgeoisie keep hundreds like him to parade before the youth and the workers, to decoy them away from the class struggle and the revolution.

All the American poodles who reviewed this book – without exception – are embarassed by Romains. They say he didn’t see “realities,” he didn’t understand. They realize that he makes the Good Will International look so terribly bad.

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