This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and September 1919
For other extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal
A meeting of the Mill Hill Guard Room Branch N.C.F.. was held on the 6th and 7th instant, and discussed the question of Alternative Service. The subject was divided into (1) Home Office Scheme, and (2) other possible forms of alternative service.
The following reasons for and against accepting the scheme were discussed:-
For accepting the scheme.
1. This work is an alternative to prison work. Some people argue that they were doing alternative service in prison, so they might as well do it, say, at Dyce, where they have rather more freedom.
As against this argument it was pointed out that service at Dyce does not terminate when the prison service would have terminated, therefore it is not an alternative to prison service, also that by accepting one makes a bargain with the Government on the question of military service.
2. By accepting, we do not become a burden upon the producers in the community. If we do not earn our own living we are being kept by the workers, whereas by accepting alternative service we ourselves become the producers.
3. That the work is of a non-military character. Even although of no great productive value the work is at any rate harmless.
Against accepting the scheme.
1. Many men who are unable to accept this scheme are willing to do alternative service, but have to accept the Home Office scheme or none at all, whereas such men who have not been to prison have a choice of work and conditions.
2. We cannot accept the work that will lower the value of a man.
3. Work should be work of real national importance, and not something that is given merely to free the Government to get on with the war. All productive work is of national importance, and this scheme obviously does not provide sufficient scope for the men’s activities.
4. The scheme is a form of Industrial Conscription, for if condition are not obeyed one may be returned to the army; therefore it is an alternative to military service.
5. The proposal of signing any document all the conditions of which are not known, is one we cannot agree with.
A resolution was then carried unanimously, asserting that the scheme is in spirit and effect subversive of all freedom and justice in that (a) it perpetuates a form of punishment beyond the term of imprisonment, and (b) if fixes a rate of remuneration and existence which are best expressed as conditions of slavery, and © that it is in essence a bargain with the Government to facilitate the working of the Conscription Acts.