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Journal of Continental Philosophy

Volume 2, Issue 1, 2021

The Meanings of History

Simone Weil, Chris Fleming
Pages 93-103

Reflections on War

In this essay from 1933, Simone Weil—only 24 at the time—offers her analysis of war, particularly as it appears in leftist discourse and revolutionary movements, and set in the context of a brewing war with Germany. In Marxism, and in leftist theory more generally, Weil finds no consistent attitude towards armed conflict, and certainly no principled opposition to it. Through certain historical falsifications and philosophical feints, leftists—of which Weil counted herself—end up propagating the very forms of oppression to which they declare themselves opposed. For Weil, “la guerre révolutionnaire est la tombe de la revolution” [revolutionary war is the tomb of the revolution], as long as workers are denied the means of waging it without a state machine controlling them, without military courts, and without execution for desertion. The conventional attitude towards (and the means of) revolutionary war threatens, in the words of Marx, to perfect the state apparatus rather than to overthrow it.