Challenging Militarism

News and updates on the Nuclear Ban Treaty negotiations

Talks are to resume in New York in mid June 2017 and due to conclude on 7th July. Here are some reports of the first stage in March and April, and we shall add other material as it comes up


From the Tribunal October 18th 1916

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:

A Negro’s Argument

The following is an extract from the written statement of a negro who was recently arrested as an absentee, and who had been under the impression that his colour exempted him from the provisions of the Military Service Act:-

“I am a negro of the African race, born in Jamaica. My parents were sent in bondage to Jamaica. They were torn from their home. My country is divided up among the European Powers (no fighting against each other), who in turn have oppressed and tyrannised over my fellow-men. The allies of Great Britain, i.e., Portugal and Belgium, have been among the worst oppressors, and now that Belgium is invaded I am about to be compelled to defend her…. As a people the negroes are last among men taken into consideration in this country, although we be regarded as British. Even Germans or any aliens who are white men are preferred to us. I am not given ordinary privileges as a citizen. I have tried to obtain work and I have been refused solely because of my colour…. I have been buffeted from one Labour Exchange to another…. Business men claim that their employees would not work with me; others hold… they may lose their customers because I am a negro.

“In view of these circumstances, and also the fact that have a moral objection to all wars, I would sacrifice my rights rather than fight, for to subdue one with might can never destroy the evil…”

UK General Election 2017 - peace concerns

voting for peace

Our society and our planet need politics that will enable people to live sustainably, with respect for differences and diversity, promoting human rights for all. These are some of the foundations for peace. We offer these comments during the period leading up to 2017 general election, as pointers and prompts for conversations with candidates and others, and in considering how you might use your vote.

We have listed a number of links connected with each of the areas of concern, and the following might also be useful:

International Conscientious Objectors' Day

CO day ceremony in Manchester

This annual event was marked on 15th May with ceremonies in different parts of the UK, including in the North, vigils in Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool. At the Manchester event, the following poem was read by poet Steven Waling. Steven is a Manchester Quaker and also works one day week in the NFPB office. The poem has been informed and inspired partly by First World War CO Tribunal accounts, as well as by more recent events.



From the Tribunal 12th October 1916
This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s jounal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
_ For other extracts go to:_

Barratt Brown, being a Quaker, has a conscience, Chamberlain, not being a Quaker, has not. – Q.E.D.

A. Barratt Brown and W.J. Chamberlain appeared before the Birmingham Local Tribunal on Friday last. Barratt Brown’s appeal was taken first. He based his claim for absolute exemption on the ground that he believed all war – however noble the aim – to be both un-Christian and immoral. He understood the teaching of Jesus to mean implicit faith in God and unalterable love of man. He could not reconcile this with Dreadnoughts and high explosives. The Military Service Acts were intended to organise the national resources for war. He could not allow his services to be conscripted – however indirectly – for such a purpose. Civil alternatives would be a bargaining and compromise of conscience. To give up working for the welfare and liberties of his fellow-citizens and for peace among the nations would be disloyalty to his country and his God.

Appellant, questioned as to his connection with the Society of Friends, said he was a member of various committees connected with that body. The Chairman said he regarded appellant as a danger to the State, but he thought that his type of man had caused the Government to put the conscience clause in the Bill. He granted exemption, though he disagreed with the statements made.

W.J. Chamberlain’s case was heard immediately after. He said he believed with an intensity such as no power on earth could overrule in the Brotherhood of man, and the doctrine of non-resistance as enunciated by the Christs of all ages. He was a Socialist, believing that Socialism and Christianity, rightly interpreted, were identical. He held the view that the best service he could render his fellows was to strive to his utmost to advance the cause of peace, and to endeavour to bring about a recognition of the fact that the only hope for humanity was that the peoples of the world, realising their brotherhood, would refuse to be lead the shambles for mutual massacre. He could not accept any form of alternative service. He claimed that his present work in connection with the N.C.F. was of vital national importance.

In reply to the Chairman, he said that he was not a member of any religious body as he was not aware of any such body to which he could conscientiously belong – members of all the alleged Christian bodies were at present slaughtering their fellows in the name of the Prince of Peace.

The Chairman said the decision was to refuse the appeal. He did not look upon appellant as a conscientious objector, and his work was not considered of national importance. Appellant asked leave to make a statement but the Chairman refused to hear him, remarking “I am not going to enter into any arguments!”

NFPB calls for de-escalation in relation to North Korea

Northern Friends Peace Board’s trustees met today and agreed to send the following to Theresa May, Prime Minister, and to Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary. The same will also be sent to leaders of the main opposition parties.

Friday 28th April 2017


_h3. From The Tribunal September 21 1916

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:

An interview with Mr. Norman Angell has been printed in several American papers. Including the “New York Times,” on the struggle of the conscientious objector. He says he believes the conscientious objectors are doing their country and English tradition a very real service.

“In handling the problem of the conscientious objector,” he says, “the Government has managed somehow to get itself in the ridiculous position: it bears most heavily upon precisely those about whose genuineness of conviction there can be no possible doubt.” Dealing with conditions of exemption, he says:-

“The position under the law is that the Military Service Act grants exemption from military service to those who have conscientious scruples against it. The problem is to see that is not made a loophole for shirkers and cowards. Very good. Under the most recent instructions the way is made relatively easy for those who will accept ‘Alternative Service’- work on the land, or what not; but for those who refuse any task which facilitates the military machine, Mr. Lloyd George has announced his intention of making their path as hard as possible. So, if you will accept alternative service it is relatively easy to escape the trenches; if you refuse this alternative service – to which no risk is attached – into the ranks you go! So, for the man who refuses this easy escape – whose very refusal to accept is is proof that his main motive is not cowardice – that man goes to hard labour or the military prison, or is condemned to death. The Government in effect say: “If you want to save your skin we will make your way easy. But, if your object is obviously at whatever cost to register as a conscientious objector – well, we intend to make your way hard.’ It is admirably designed to create cowards and make sincere men suffer.

“There is of course one way out of the whole trouble: to grant absolute exemption from military service to those who have conscientious objection to it. A few shirkers would slip through – they do now. The government would lose the civilian services of a few men. It loses them now: nearly two thousand conscientious objectors are at present in jail. If the Government is determined, as Mr. Lloyd George seems to hint it is, to smash their spirit, it may be able to do son, but it will be at the price of methods it will have to borrow from Prussia, at the sacrifice of principles which really are worth more than the labour of a few thousand unwilling men. The practical point that we shall sacrifice things of very much greater value than those which we shall obtain.”

Global Campaign on Military Spending

A week ago the Ministry of Defence proudly announced that the UK is “stepping up across the globe: the 5th largest defence budget in the world and largest in Europe, rising by around £1Bn a year” How will this promote sustainable security with research and investment into those things that will keep us truly safe?


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:

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.


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:

A London Branch Secretary gives us the following information about one of his members, and says with truth that it is an abominable example of alternative service and an excellent corroboration of the penalising purpose of alternative service and an excellent corroboration of the argument for refusing it. The member in question, who is T.F. Drayton, of Golders Green, was three months within the age limit. He had been a Post Office servant for over 26 years, and was engaged on night duty connected with registered letters and foreign mails. There was no-one ready to replace him at his office, which was grossly understaffed. He had worked there 12 hours a night for months, and had for years been connected with social work, such as classes of telegraph boys, &c, which may now have to stop through his removal.

Humour, we are informed, rainbows the tears of the world, and the fact that the Tribunal offered Mr. Drayton work of national importance is one of those things that add to the gaiety of nations. Mr. Drayton was convinced by the this treatment of the fatuity of the suggestion that alternative service is “mobilisation of the nation for efficiency,” and therefore decided he will not compromise with such a scheme. He has therefore followed the lead of the National Committee, and was handed over at Mill Hill last week.

Of National importance

Agriculture is an industry of some importance to the nation, particularly to women and children. Perhaps that is why a young “C.O.” from Wales has been shut up in prison, leaving one brother and a father nearly 70 years old to manage 1,000 acres, and no-one to look after 1,400 sheep. No doubt he will, however, be invited to make a road in Suffolk.


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