Address by H.E. Mr. Yves Carmona on the occasion of the 95th anniversary of the Armistice
We commemorate today the signing of the Armistice, on 11 November 1918 at Rethondes, between France and Germany, which brought an end to the First World War. As we all know, the commemorations of November 11 are now the opportunity to pay tribute to the soldiers who had given their lives for the homeland defence, in or out of France, in all conflicts that have been fought in the name of our values, for the defense of freedom and peace. This is what we did at the military cemetery, a few minutes ago.
France, need I remind you, is at peace and reconciled with its former enemies and standing with its historic allies. I invited all heads of diplomatic missions with whom we share relationships to join us tonight, and I thank those who did.
France no longer fears its neighbors and yet it does not lower its guard. Despite budgetary constraints, it remains one of the European countries devoting the most resources to defence. France is also present in many peacekeeping missions under UN or European Union mandate.
And so it is fair to remember the courage of those who fought and who are still fighting, but their individual and collective merits shall not be opposed to the pursuit of peace.
I would like to welcome a class of third year at the French high school Josué Hoffet and their teachers, Mrs. Amélie LAGARDE and Mr. Frederic BIQUIN.
For them in particular, allow me to borrow the words of a great promotor of peace, Jean Jaurès, a socialist MP representing Carmaux, a vice-president of the Chamber of Deputies and a leading figure of the parliamentary majority. In the speech he delivered on July 30, 1903 to the students from the College of Albi, where Jaurès himself had been a pupil and a teacher, he addressed the youth in these terms :
“This is with a free spirit that you will welcome this other great novelty announced by multiplied symptoms : the lasting peace between nations, the definitive peace. It is not about dishonoring the past wars. They were part of the great human action, and were ennobled by thought, courage, exalted heroism and magnanimous contempt of death. For a long time, in the chaos of the disordered and saturated with brutal instincts humanity, the war was probably the only way to solve conflicts, it was also that hard force opposing tribes, peoples, races, that has mixed human elements and prepared large groupings. But a day is coming when humanity will be organized and self-assured enough to solve conflict of its groups and its forces by reason, negotiation and law. And the war, hateful and great as long as it is necessary, is atrocious and villainous when it begins to seem unnecessary.”
Then, referring to centuries of fighting, he emphasized that they are not inevitable and proclaimed his faith in democracy and science, roots of peace :
« Despite the precautionary statements these great disappointments are giving us, I dare say, with millions of men, that the great human peace is now possible, and if we want it, it will come quickly. The war becomes more difficult, because with the free governments of modern democracies, it becomes the danger of all by universal service, and the crime of all by universal suffrage. The war becomes more difficult because science wraps all peoples in a grown network, in a fabric tightened by everyday relations, trade, conventions ; and if the first effect of discoveries abolishing distances is to aggravate the frictions, they create over the long term a solidarity, a human familiarity that turn the war into a monstrous attack and a kind of collective suicide.
No, I do not suggest you a disappointing dream, I do not suggest you a weakening dream either. None of you should believe that, in the difficult and uncertain period leading up to the final agreement of nations, we would want to leave to chance the tiniest part of security, dignity and pride of France. Against all threats and humiliation, we should defend it : it is doubly sacred to us because it is France, and because it is human.
Even the agreement of nations in the final peace will not erase the homelands, which will retain their deep historical originality, their own function in the common work of the reconciled humanity. We know that Europe, finally convinced with the virtue of democracy and the spirit of peace, will find conciliation formulas that will deliver all the defeated ones from their bonds and pain related to conquest.”
“Courage is not using the threat of force to solve conflicts that reason can solve, because courage is the exaltation of man, and this is its abdication.
Courage is to accept the new conditions made by life to science and art.
Courage is to love life and look at death with a peaceful heart.
Courage is to seek the truth and tell it. It is to resist the passing and prevailing lie and not allowing our souls, our mouths, or our hands to echo the idiotic applause and fanatical booing.”
11 years later, on July 31, 1914, a fanatic, Raoul Villain assassinated the Socialist leader as he dined at the Café du Croissant in Paris, a couple of doors from his newspaper’s headquarters, L’Humanité. No one any more objected to the outbreak of the First World War, on August 3. The rest is history.
And yet, the assassination of Jaurès did not kill the desire for peace, which I believe dwells in all of us tonight.