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The New International, March 1938



From New International, Vol.4 No.3, March 1938, p.95.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Gide vs. Ehrenburg

The Paris weekly, La Flèche (Nov. 20, 1937) publishes a statement by André Gide in reply to calumnious attacks made upon him in the Moscow press by the well-known Stalinist hack, Ilya Ehrenburg.

IN IZVESTIA of November 3, an article appeared by Ilya Ehrenburg, dated from Bordeaux, November 1. A friend who knows Russian translated the following fragment for me:

“The terror begins. I saw a mine worker who had escaped from Gijon on October 22 after the city was occupied by the fascists. He told me that on the very first night the fascists shot 180 workers and 16 women on the Plaza Lorenzo. That was only a beginning; death threatens the militiamen, tens of thousands of Asturians.

“Here I must express the feeling of shame I experienced for a man. The very day when the fascists were shooting the women of Asturias, a ‘protest’ against injustice appeared in the French press. The protest was signed by the names of the writers: André Gide, Duhamel, Roger Martin du Card, Mauriac, and Professor Paul Rivet. But these people protested not against the butchers of Asturias, not against the government of their country which refuses to put even a single ship, a single sailboat, a single cutter at the disposal of the Asturians condemned to perish. No, these tender-hearted writers protested against the government of the Spanish Republic which dares to arrest the fascists and the provocateurs of the POUM. I leave aside Mauriac. He is a Catholic, a man of right wing views. He valiantly raised his voice in the right wing press against the fascist atrocities in the Basque country. But before my eyes I see André Gide, his fist raised, smiling to thousands of naïve workers. I hear his voice. (He said it to me a year ago.) ‘I think constantly of the Spanish republicans; it keeps me awake.’ It is disgusting and pitiful. In spite of everything, they remained the flesh of the flesh of their class, the free-thinking Duhamels and the ‘ultra-communist’ Gides. And the ruling class persecutes them and covers them with filth. Also, sometimes overcoming their cowardice, they raise their little fist; only in order promptly thereafter, with their humanistic hypocrisy, to srrovel again at the feet of the butchers. Yesterday, in the Diario de Navarra, organ of the butchers of Asturias, was reproduced in evidence the ‘protest’ of the new ally of the Moroccans and the Black Shirts, of the malignant old man, of the renegade with a dirty conscience, of the weeper of Moscow – of André Gide.”

I deem it an honor to merit the insults that come to me from the fascist camp. Those that come from my comrades of yesterday might have been extremely painful to me at first (and especially those of José Bergamin), but I cease being sensitive about them when they exceed a certain degree of ignominy. Is it really necessary to add that they cannot alter my feelings and will not succeed in making me an enemy of those who proffer them? At a time when the terror reigns, one has always the right to suppose that these very insults fill a need of personal protection, which deprives them of any value.

Ehrenburg is astonished and indignant at not seeing me protest against the denials of justice, the abuses and cruelties committed by the “Moroccans”, and more generally by those of the Franco camp, against the republicans. It is true: however profound and painful my indignation at them is, any petition to Franco appears to me vain, coming from an avowed opponent. Injustice, when it comes from his side, hardens me; I suffer when it comes from ours. My attachment to the anti-fascist cause is too complete for me to endure without grief anything that might sully it in my eyes. In practise, I consider that it does itself the greatest harm by resorting, if only on a passing occasion, to actions which are precisely those we abominate in fascism and against which we shall not cease to protest. The “protest” that Ehrenburg alludes to, which Duhamel, Mauriac, Roger Martin du Card, Paul Rivet and I addressed to the Republican Government on the occasion of the trial now under way [of the POUM leaders], in order to ask it immediately to respect the rights of the defense, marks the esteem in which we want to keep it. For my own part, I would never have dreamed of sending such a message to Franco. But nowadays the most genuine feelings are distorted to such an extent by the press that those are considered as enemies of the republican and proletarian cause who, out of great love of this cause, would like to preserve it from the discreditment which dishonors it.

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