Ivan Bloch. La guerra impossibile?

Ivan Stanislavovic Bloch, nato a Radom nel 1836 e deceduto a Varsavia nel 1902, visse in quella parte di Polonia che era sotto il dominio zarista. Ebreo convertito al calvinismo, è stato un imprenditore e banchiere di successo. Già molto ricco e sensibile ai rapporti fra economia e società, si ritirò dagli affari per dedicarsi agli studi. Era stato colpito dalla guerra franco-prussiana del 1870/71, che mostrava caratteristiche di novità rispetto alle guerre precedenti. Si dedicò così a uno studio sui rapporti fra guerra ed economia. L’opera imponente, dal titolo originale The war of the future in its technical, economic and political relations, era fondata su un’ampia disamina di statistiche e di dati economici e militari. Oltre a proporre un’analisi articolata sull’attuale situazione degli armamenti su scala mondiale, Bloch sostenne una tesi molto forte: le armi di quell’epoca erano diventate così micidiali da rendere impossibile la guerra tra le grandi potenze. Questa sarebbe stata un suicidio. Il pensiero di Bloch si basava su un pacifismo ragionato e moderato. Negli anni seguenti uscirono edizioni integrali in Francia, Inghilterra e Germania. Un’edizione ridotta in inglese è stata ristampata fino ai giorni nostri, con il titolo di Is war now impossible? Grazie al sostegno concessogli dallo zar Nicola II, le tesi di Bloch ebbero un palcoscenico internazionale: nel 1899 fu uno degli invitati della conferenza internazionale sulla pace de L’Aia. Fu anche candidato ai primi Nobel per la pace (ma senza successo).

Le sue tesi sono premonitrici. Nonostante la fondatezza della sua visione rispetto alla “grande guerra” (così la chiama lui stesso), è paradossale come le potenze europee decisero comunque di gettarsi in un conflitto rivelatosi molto simile alle previsioni del banchiere russo-ebreo-polacco. I brani che seguono, tratti dalla lunga introduzione all’edizione inglese del 1899, curata dal noto giornalista William T. Stead, rispecchiano i punti principali della visione di Bloch.

The war, instead of being a hand-to-hand contest in which the combatants measure their physical and moral superiority, will become a kind of stalemate, in which neither army being able to get at the other, threatening each other, but never being able to deliver a final and decisive attack. It will be simply the natural evolution of the armed peace, on an aggravted scale. (XVI)

It has been estimated that if the body of 10,000 men, advancing to the attack, had to traverse a distance of a mile and a half under the fire of a single battery, they would be exposed to 1450 rounds before they crossed the zone of fire, and the bursting of the shells fired by that battery would scatter 275,000 bullets in fragments over the mileand a hlf across which thay woud have to march. In 1870 an ordinary shell when it burst broke into from nineteen and thirty pieces. To.day it bursts into 240. Shrapnel fire in 1870 only scattered thirty-seven death-dealing missiles. Now it scatters in 340. (XXV)

It has been calcuated that 100 men in the trench would be able to put out of action 336 out of 400 who attacked them, while they were crossing a fire-zone only 300 yards wide. (XXVII)

But when we say that war is impossible we mean that it is impossible for the modern state to carry on war under the modern conditions with any prospect of being able to carry war to a conclusion by defeating its adversary by force of arms on the battlefield. No decisive war is possible. (XXXI)

It will be impossible to take wounded men out of the zone of fire without exposing the Red Cross men to certain death. The consequence is they will be left to lie where they fall, and they may lie for days. Happy they will be if they are killed outright. (XLI)

I feel extremely doubtful as to wether it would be possible for either Germany or France to feed their own population, to say nothing of their own soldiers, when once the whole machine of agricultural production had been broken up by the mobilization en masse of the whole population.(XLVIII)

The nations would no longer go on wasting £ 250,000,000 sterling every year in preparing to wage a war which can only be waged at the price of suicide, that is to say, which cannot be waged at all, for no nation willingly commits suicide. (LI)

Modern battles will be decided, so far as they can be decided at all, by men lying in improvised ditches which they have scooped out to proctect themselves from the fire of a distant and invisible enemy. (LXII)

That war will finally become impracticable is apparent. The question is mora apposite – when will the recognition of this inevitable truth be spread among European governments and peoples? (LXXIX)

Source: I.S.Bloch, Is War Now Impossible? Being an Abridgement of “The War of the Future in its Technical, Economic & Political Relations”, London, Ballantyne, 1899 (reprint on demand Amazon.uk)
Cfr. also: Janiak-Jasińska, Agnieszka: Bloch, Jan Gotlib, in: 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. by Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson, issued by Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin 2014-10-08. DOI: 10.15463/ie1418.10101 Last modified: 2014-10-05.