Declaration of the Independence of Mind

Brain workers, comrades, scattered throughout the world, kept apart for five years by the armies, the censorship and the mutual hatred of the warring nations, now that barriers are falling and frontiers are being reopened, we issue to you a call to reconstitute our brotherly union, but to make of it a new union more firmly founded and more strongly built than that which previously existed.

The war has disordered our ranks. Most of the intellectuals placed their science, their art, their reason, at the service of the governments. We do not wish to formulate any accusations, to launch any reproaches. We know the weakness of the individual mind and the elemental strength of great collective currents. The latter, in a moment, swept the former away, for nothing had been prepared to help in the work of resistance. Let this experience, at least, be a lesson to us for the future!

First of all, let us point out the disasters that have resulted from the almost complete abdication of intelligence throughout the world, and from its voluntary enslavement to the unchained forces. Thinkers, artists, have added an incalculable quantity of envenomed hate to the plague which devours the flesh and the spirit of Europe. In the arsenal of their knowledge, their memory, their imagination, they have sought reasons for hatred, reasons old and new, reasons historical, scientific, logical, and poetical. They have worked to destroy mutual understanding and mutual love among men. So doing, they have disfigured, defiled, debased, degraded Thought, of which they were the representatives. They have made it an instrument of the passions; and (unwittingly, perchance) they have made it a tool of the selfish interests of a political or social clique, of a state, a country, or a class. Now, when, from the fierce conflict in which the nations have been at grips, the victors and the vanquished emerge equally stricken, impoverished, and at the bottom of their hearts (though they will not admit it) utterly ashamed of their access of mania–now, Thought, which has been entangled in their struggles, emerges, like them, fallen from her high estate.

Arise! Let us free the mind from these compromises, from these unworthy alliances, from these veiled slaveries! Mind is no one’s servitor. It is we who are the servitors of mind. We have no other master. We exist to bear its light, to defend its light, to rally round it all the strayed sheep of mankind. Our role, our duty, is to be a centre of stability, to point out the pole star, amid the whirlwind of passions in the night. Among these passions of pride and mutual destruction, we make no choice; we reject them all. Truth only do we honour; truth that is free, frontierless, limitless; truth that knows nought of the prejudices of race or caste. Not that we lack interest in humanity. For humanity we work, but for humanity as a whole.

We know nothing of peoples. We know the People, unique and universal; the People which suffers, which struggles, which falls and rises to its feet once more, and which continues to advance along the rough road drenched with its sweat and its blood; the People, all men, all alike our brothers. In order that they may, like ourselves, realise this brotherhood, we raise above their blind struggles the Ark of the Covenant–Mind which is free, one and manifold, eternal.

Rolland Romain,
VILLENEUVE, Spring, 1919.
Originally published in “L’Humanité,” June 26, 1919

Amongst the many who signed this manifesto you will find leading names such as:-

Addams, Jane (U.S.A.). Alexandre, Raoul (on the staff of “L’Humanité,” France), Barbusse, Henri (France), Baudouin, Charles (editor of “Le Carmel,” France), Bazalgette, Léon (France), Besnard, Lucien (France), Biriukov, Paul (Russia), Bloch, Ernest (Switzerland), Chateaubriant, A. de (France), Dupin, Gustave (France), Einstein, Albert (Germany), George, Waldemar (on the staff of “La Forge,” France), Georges-Bazille, G. (editor of “Cahiers Britanniques et Américains,” France), Herzog, Wilhelm (Germany), Hesse, Hermann (Germany), Lefebvre, Raymond (France), Mann, Heinrich (Germany), Masters, Edgar Lee (U.S.A.), Matisse, Georges (France), Matisse, Madeline (France), Reuillard, Gabriel (France), Rolland, Romain (France), Russell, Bertrand (England), Sinclair, Upton (U.S.A.), Stieglitz, Alfred (U.S.A.), Tagore, Rabindranath (Hindustan), Thiessou, Gaston (France), Vaillant-Couturier, Paul (France), Zangwill, Israel (England), Zweig, Stefan (German-Austria)

Volume 32 no. 1 September/October 2017 p 11

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