Challenging Militarism

Fly Kites Not Drones

Sunday, March 18, 2018 to Sunday, March 25, 2018


From The Tribunal 8th November 1917

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 November 1918
For other extracts go to:

The Pope’s second Note to the belligerent Powers suggest, as one of the Terms of Peace, universal abolition of conscription by international agreement, a suggestion which was subsequently emphasised and amplified by Cardinal Gasparri. From what has been said by Count Czernin, and somewhat less explicitly in the German reply to the Pope, there is every reason to suppose that the Central Powers would be willing to accept such a clause in the Peace Treaty. The Allies, so far, have given no hint of any desire for dimunution of armaments elsewhere than among the Central Powers.

The No-Conscription Fellowship, as its title indicates, is vitally interested in the proposal to abolish Conscription. Many people in this country who dislike Conscription regard it simply as a measure for the duration of the war, as, indeed, it is nominally, as soon as the war ends. There is, however, every reason to fear that this optimistic belief is a delusion. If Conscription continues on the Continent, and if international relations after the war continue to be conducted in the same principles on which they have been in the past, it may be taken as certain that compulsory military service in this country will continue. The only genuinely practicable method of inducting our rulers to abandon such a convenient institution will be by an international agreement, and it is much to be hoped that all who do not love militarism for its own sake will rally in support of the Pope in his proposals and will endeavour to prove that it is not only in Germany and Austria that the abolition of militarism is desired.

The evils of Conscription are many and various. The financial burden alone constitutes a grave evil after the war, when every nation will be crippled by the debts contracted to capitalists and all available labour will be required to repair the ravages of war. So long as Conscription persists, it is almost impossible that neighbouring nations should be on genuinely friendly terms, since each is continually obsessed by the fear of what its neigbour’s conscript army might do in an invasion. Genuine friendship between the nations demands a diminution in their offensive power in order that suspicion, terror and pride may no longer be the feelings that dominate diplomacy. All who have studied Conscription of the Continent are unanimous as to the damage it does to the health of the race through the spread of venereal disease, and it is impossible to estimate the moral damage that is done to the health of each nation by teaching them that the most important thing to learn is how to kill. We of the No-Conscription Fellowship are especially concerned to emphasise this aspect of the evils of Conscription. We believe that those who have the deepest moral insight and the greatest capacity of love for their neighbour cannot consent to make themselves the blind tools of destruction at the bidding of Governments which may be ambitious and unscrupulous. We believe that the effect of Conscription is gradually to stamp out those who have such insight. And in this process it cannot but crush individuality and independence of thought, producing a slavish population whose acts are dominated by fear and inspired by the purposes of others, not y their own desires and aspirations. It is not by such populations that great things are done for civilisation, or that progress is to be expected in any of those directions in which we should all wish to see the human race moving. For all these reasons we hope that our rulers will graciously permit us to support the Pope in his endeavour to secure the objects for which we are said to be fighting.


How to be a conscientious objector today

Monday, September 24, 2018 to Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Course at Woodbrooke

Hope in Troubled Times

Friday, June 8, 2018 to Sunday, June 10, 2018

Course at Woodbrooke

What can you say? Speaking up and speaking out?

Friday, April 13, 2018 to Sunday, April 15, 2018

Course at Woodbrooke

Politics: Finding Your Way

Monday, January 29, 2018 to Sunday, March 11, 2018

- until 11 March Online course at Woodbrooke


From The Tribunal, 20th December 1917

This is a further update in a series of extracts form the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
For further extracts go to:

Will there be men, think you
For the bitter need –
Men to die or do – Men indeed?

Arthur Butler was educated at Stockport Grammar School, where he won a scholarship and gained the reputation of being a brilliant scholar. He was arrested in July, 1916, as a conscientious objector. After his third sentence in May, 1917, of two years’ hard labour for still refusing to obey military orders, he was committed to Preston Jail, and there he developed consumption. In a letter from prison, dated November 10th, 1917, he stated that he had a cough and spat blood and complained of pains in the chest and shoulders. The prison Medical Officer added a footnote to the letter stating that the spitting of blood was due to an acute attack of influenza, for which “he had every medical attention.”

Representations were made to the Home Office that Butler’s condition was exceedingly serious, especially in view of the fact that a number of his family had died of consumption. But the Home Office persisted in stating that Butler was only suffereing from a slight indisposition, and even as recently as 11th inst. assured a prominent Member of Parliament that there was no cause for anxiety.

On the same day news reached Butler’s friends that he was dying. The Home Office was again approached, with the result that Butler’s mother was given permission to see him. But officialdom had not yet finished its work.

When Butler, gasping for breath and fully conscious that the end was approaching, begged that his mother might remain with he, he was informed by the Governor that was “against the rules.” Quite so, for what place have humanity, pity, and sympathy withing prison walls? Well might Oscar Wilde write:

“This, too, I know and wise it were
If such could know the same,
That every prison that men build
Is built with bricks of shame,
And bound with brass lest Christ shall see
How men their brothers maim.”

The next day, Wednesday 12th inst., Arthur Butler passed away, On Friday, the 14th, an inquest was held, the following report of which appeared in the “Times” of the the 15th inst.:-

“An inquest was opened at Preston Prison on Arthur Butler, aged 28, who died in the prison on Wednesday.
“Mrs. Ada Butler, 9 Menai Road, Stockport, said that her son was employed as a costs clerk at Burnage. He was arrested under the Military Service Act in July, 1916, and court-martialled. He was twice sentenced to six months’ hard labour for refusing to obey orders, and was serving a third term of twelve months’ hard labour for a similar offence. She saw her son in Preston Gaol about 11 o’clock on Tuesday night. He was gasping for breath, and said that he was dying. He did not complain, but said, ‘They have been kind to me now, but it is too late.’ Her son begged very hard that she might be allowed to stay with him, but the Governor said that it was against the rules.
“The inquest was adjourned until Tuesday, and in the meantime, a post-mortem examination will be made at the request of the relatives.”

As we go to press we are astonished to learn that the post-mortem is to be made by the prison doctor. We hope a strong protest will be made when the inquest is resumed at such an obviously interested person being permitted to act in this capacity.

We are indeed proud of Arthur Butler. We are thankful for his example. But what are we to say of the callousness of those responsible for his death? Butler was in good health when arrested, and was classified A1 by the military, but the prolonged hardships in prison, the cold and underfeeding and all the abominable conditions that we referred to in our last issue, proved too much for him. For 17 months he gave proof to all concerned of the sincerity of his position, and now he has shown that he held loyalty to his convictions dearer than life and that he was ready “for the bitter need.” A cause for which a man like Arthur Butler is willing to lay down his life must needs grow – for it is the outward expression of that indomitable love that will not flinch, however fiery the ordeal, but will press forward until peace on earth, goodwill to men is no longer a distant vision but a living reality.

International Conscientious Objector's Day

Weaving Our Own Web

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Using the Internet to strengthen our groups and to campaign more effectively. 10.30-5pm 2 Canonbury Villas N1 2PN 020 7278 3344

CND 60th Birthday

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Music, food, singing, storytelling and Bring Your Own Museum curated by the Peace Museum. More details at www,, 01274 730795, [email protected]


Subscribe to RSS - Challenging Militarism