Courage. I Don’t Know Thee. Let Me Introduce You.
After 93 years, it is almost the final act. The end for me is not very far off any more. But it still leaves me a chance to be able to remind others of what acted as the basis of my political engagement. It was the years of resistance to the Nazi occupation — and the program of social rights worked out 66 years ago by the National Council of the Resistance!
It is to Jean Moulin [murdered founder of the Council] that we owe, as part of this Council, the uniting of all elements of occupied France — the movements, the parties, the labor unions — to proclaim their membership in Fighting France, and we owe this to the only leader that it acknowledged, General de Gaulle. From London, where I had joined de Gaulle in March 1941, I learned that this Council had completed a program and adopted it on March 15th, 1944, that offered for liberated France a group of principles and values on which would rest the modern democracy of our country.
These principles and these values, we need today more than ever. It is up to us to see to it, all together, that our society becomes a society of which we are proud, not this society of immigrants without papers — expulsions, suspicion regarding the immigrants. Not this society where they call into question social security and national retirement and health plans. Not this society where mass media are in the hands of the rich. These are things that we would have refused to give in to if we had been the true heirs of the National Council of the Resistance.
General interest must dominate over special interest. The just man
believes that wealth created in the realm of labor should dominate over
the power of money.
The Resistance proposed, “a rational organization of the economy
assuring the subordination of special interests to general interest, and
the emancipation of ‘slaves’ of the professional dictatorship that was
instituted just as in the fascist states,” which had used the interim
[for two years after the war] government of the Republic as an agent.
Nonviolence: the way we must learn to follow
I am persuaded that the future belongs to nonviolence, to reconciliation
of different cultures. It is by this way that humanity will have to
enter its next stage. But on this I agree with Sartre: We cannot excuse
the terrorists who throw bombs, but we can understand them. Sartre wrote
in 1947: “I recognize that violence in whatever form it may manifest
itself is a setback. But it is an inevitable setback because we are in a
world of violence. And if it is true that recourse to violence risks
perpetuating it, it is also true it is the sure means to make it stop.”
To that I would add that nonviolence is a surer means of making violence
stop. One can not condone the terrorism, using Sartre or in the name of
this principle, during the war of Algeria, nor during the Munich Games
of 1972 the murder attempt made against Israeli athletes. Terrorism is
not productive, and Sartre himself would end up wondering at the end of
his life about the sense of violence and doubt its reason for being.
Sartre, in March 1980, within three weeks of his death, declared: “It is
necessary to try to explain why the world of today, which is horrible,
is only an instant in a long historical development, that hope always
has been one of the dominant forces in revolutions and insurrections,
and how I still feel hope as my conception of the future.” [Note 5]
It is necessary to understand that violence turns its back on hope. It
is necessary to prefer to it hope, hope over violence. Nonviolence is
the way that we must learn to follow. So must the oppressors.
It takes a long time to learn of ourselves. At 93, Stéphane Hessel has made good use of that time.