Source: La Cravache, [Roubaix, France]. January 22, 1898;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitch Abidor 2016;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2016.
In a few days I will be called to suffer my fate, and then ,in a few months, to completely rot in the barracks.
Will I do this lacking awareness, with pleasure?
No, a thousand times no!
I am already disgusted, thinking about the barracks, about military life.
The hatred I feel grows when I think that tomorrow, in order to place myself at the disposal of some braided brutes, I have to leave my home, my work, and my loves at an age when one dreams of and hopes for love and pleasure.
And what will be done to me at the barracks?
They'll teach me how to load balls into a rifle and shells into a cannon.
They'll have me mount a horse, handle the lance and saber with as much furia francese as possible.
In a word, they're going to debase me so that in time of strikes and riots I will be able to fire accurately and kill the greatest number of rebels possible, unless the interests of a handful of big financiers demand it and I'm sent to fight my brothers across the border.
Will we again see – as is alas usually the case – conscripts who, like me, are suffering that fate, shouting patriotic songs, shamelessly demonstrating their joy at being part of the army and consequently showing no concern for the fate that awaits them in the army?
I don’t know, but I will in no way associate myself with them.
It’s time to reflect upon and understand why they make soldiers of us.
For my part, conscious of the odious role they want us to play, and hating that role, I want to protest.
Being twenty years old they want to make soldiers of us.
Is it to protect what they call the fatherland, to defend our interests, to support those of our class, the despoiled, the proletarians?
No, on the contrary.
Soldiers: we will defend our rulers, the capitalists, the thieves of all kinds who continually exploit and starve the workers and their families.
In a word, we'll be forced to defend our worst enemies, our masters, and for them we will have to massacre our parents, our lovers, and our fellow workers. They want to make murderers of us. Will we unprotestingly enter the barracks? No, we can’t do that! What we must immediately do is carry out anti-militarist propaganda, and oppose to the songs of the patriotic ephebes this lovely refrain:
If the wind builds up barricades
If the paving stones shine like , lightning
Comrade, before the people
Reverse your rifles.
It is necessary that tomorrow we spit our hatred of militarism in the faces of those who deserve it; proclaim our legitimate protest against the role they want us to play in order to serve the odious harpy called “fatherland.”
With this, comrades, I close. Down with militarism! Down with the fatherland!