Having gone to ground right after the mobilisation order and remained there up until 25 September 1939 - long enough for him to take part in drafting the "Immediate Peace!" manifesto - Nicolas Faucier, anarcho-syndicalist militant thereby honoured the undertaking that he had given, along with his friend Louis Lecoin, in their declaration of September 1938, a declaration sent to the military governor of Paris: it read thus:
Be informed that, in keeping with my libertarian and pacifist views, I will not be answering the mobilisation order.
Among the reasons that have dictated this decision of my mine, pride of place goes to my hatred of warfare, the murderous methods of which, exaggerated beyond all measure, have spread death and destruction among harmless, peace-loving populations.
In fact I could not be a party to such atrocities which are caused solely by the conflicting interests of competing imperialisms, the growing straits of which spring from the economic contradictions of a capitalist regime that is grappling with a hopeless crisis.
The great blood-letting of 1914-1918, which was supposed to be the war to end all wars, is still too recent and its consequences for the working class too painful for us to be able to forget that it merely accentuated between the rival nations the very antagonisms which have triggered this fresh catastrophe.
I reckon, moreover, that the conditions of a real and definitive peace can only be achieved in a setting from which the root causes of such scourges will have been eradicated. It is to that salutary undertaking that I have devoted all my time thus far. And it is for that alone that I will countenance further sacrifices.
My sense of dignity as a man and my conscience as a militant command me to refuse to participate, in any guise whatever, in the greatest crime that can be perpetrated against humanity.
Believe me, Monsieur the Military Governor, that I have thought long and hard about the possible consequences of this decision. So it is by assuring you that I am determined, come what may, to stand by it that I offer you my greetings." N. Faucier.
Not until the morning of 8 October 1939 was he arrested at his home and taken to the Quai des Orfèvres in Paris and thence, after a short interrogation by the deputy governor, to the Sante prison from where he was moved a month later to the naval prison in Lorient, and thence to the one in Cherche-Midi and finally to the army camp in Avord (Cher) for incorporation into the ranks. Again he refused and again he was jailed and on 14 March 1940 he was brought under escort before the appeal court in Paris to have his appeal heard against a December 1938 criminal court judgment that had sentenced him in his absence to six months in prison for the crime of "inciting servicemen to disobedience for the purposes of anarchist propaganda", in connection with the declaration that he and Lecoin had signed and which was published in Le Libertaire of 15 September 1938.
In short, following a review of the judgement of that court, the court chairman asked Faucier the usual question: "What have you to say in your defence?"
The accused replied: "This, Monsieur le président: that current events are proof of just how right we were in placing public opinion on its guard against the unleashing of the conflict which has - alas! - now become a fact, especially when one notes that, given the terrific means of destruction deployed, this war is going to claim as many victims among the civilian population, women and children, as among combatants.
As a libertarian militant and revolutionary, I have always fought against the businessmen and their politician accomplices whose thirst for profit sparks such calamities, and fought to replace them with a free egalitarian society.
On proletarian class grounds, I have campaigned against Hitlerite fascism, just as I have against the French capitalist bourgeoisie. Which is why I refuse today to fight under the flag of that same bourgeoisie in its phony crusade for democracy against fascism, convinced as I am that once it feels its interests threatened by a new tide of revolution, it will not hesitate to impose a dictatorship of the same ilk as that which it now seeks to topple.
Be aware, therefore, that on the day when the people will have had enough of this and rises up to overthrow a regime that clings on only through war and oppression, I will be in the front ranks of fighters."
After short deliberation, the court brought in this finding: "Given that the accused, in the difficult circumstances through which we are passing, has the effrontery still to admit his earlier attitude, we are increasing the sentence from six to eighteen months in prison."
The following month, on 11 April 1940, he was brought before the military court in Orleans for refusing to answer the draft. After the charges were read out, he was inspired to make the following statement (it was interrupted by the chairman of the court but was recorded in the file):
I appear before you of my own volition. I could have fled and evaded your verdict. But that struck me as neither worthy nor consistent with my convictions.
So here I am in the dock even as the most tragic events that History records are being worked out, at a time when millions of men have for a cause not their own, thrown themselves into a war to the death against the unleashing of which I have fought with all my might, with the firm intention of withholding my direct or indirect participation from this ignominy which will plunge the world back into the most monstrous barbarism.
As a revolutionary militant, right up until I was jailed, I devoted the better part of my activity to making the working class conscious of its role in society which is to replace the war-generating capitalist dis-order with a regime wherein economic and social equality will have done away with the seeds of social conflicts or war.
True, if those conditions could be achieved, if the social transformation to which I aspire was a fait accompli or on the road to certain accomplishment, then I would not have hesitated to add my efforts to those of other fighters and taken up arms in defence of the revolutionary gains endangered by the common enemy: the enemy within and the enemy without.
Unfortunately we have not yet reached that stage, which is why I take the view that it is not for me to become the docile tool of some faction in contention against another, knowing that, whatever the pretexts cited on one side or another to disguise the real motives, war is merely the fruit of imperialist rivalries spawned by a capitalist regime whose noxious system, founded upon selfishness and a privileged class's hunger for profit, has already been behind so many telling misdeeds.
By my reckoning the French worker has no reason to hate the German worker, any more than the latter has to detest the Polish worker. But I also reckon, however, that no fellowship of interest or ideology could tie them (they who are so odiously exploited) to the class that exploits them or the government that is the instrument by which they are oppressed. Thus it is only through lies, carefully distilled by means of the modern agents of corruption - the press, radio, cinema - that those governing the belligerent countries, thereby paving the way for the "mobilisation of consciences", can get their peoples to acquiesce in war.
What is more, it has been amply demonstrated by now that war resolves nothing: quite the opposite. By means of the rapacious treaties that bring it to a conclusion and the impositions of all sorts foisted upon the defeated countries by the victors, it represents the inevitable source of future conflicts. This one will therefore, like all its predecessors, represent a pointless sacrifice of peoples, offered up, yet again, to the squalid interests of the oligarchies who contest mastery of the world.
I ought to add, even were it to be proved to me that it is simply a question of fighting to bring down the mud-and-blood regimes set up by Hitlerism and Stalinism - regimes which I have always despised and fought against - I should still refuse to contemplate their elimination by means of a fratricidal war with no object other than destroying one form of oppression by another whose mask of democracy covers the very same underlying vices.
So now, gentlemen, you know the reasons behind my pacifist stance. I await your verdict with peace of mind, sensible that I have done my duty towards humanity. I cling to the hope that one days the peoples will at last wake up to the frightful deceit forever practised against them and that they will at last have done with a regime that can only survive by heaping catastrophe upon catastrophe.
Only then will human beings see their way to an age of happiness and work in guaranteed peace towards universal well-being."
The court found Faucier guilty and sentenced him to three years in prison: in his reply, Faucier told the court: "If, as you say, it is cowardice to keep faith with the ideal of peace and brotherhood between peoples such as I have championed all my life, then I am proud to be the coward that you say I am."
He served a month on remand in Orléans and was then transferred to Poissy prison, the political detainees of which were moved after the German invasion in 1940 to Fontevrault. Faucier served his full term of penal servitude there up until February 1943, after which he was held longer by the Germans before being sent on to the labour camp from which he managed to escape, thereby avoiding deportation to the Nazi camps.
Source: Nicolas Faucier - Pacifisme et Antimilitarisme dans l'entre-deux-guerres (1919-1939), Paris, 1983
Translated by: Paul Sharkey.
In KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library No. 34, April 2003