‘A PERSONAL WORD’

From ‘A PERSONAL WORD’ by Clifford Allen (The Tribunal May 12th)

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: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

… I, personally, cannot accept Alternative Service. Knowing that this is a Military Service Act for men and women of all ages, I am not in the least impressed by the strictures of our friends. On the other hand, I want members to allow me to express a word of caution.

The strain through which we are all passing is enough to test the wisest of us, but it is just as essential that we should remain tolerant, as it is that we should continue determined and full of hope. There is a tendency amongst us to define men as conscientious objectors according to whether they are or are not prepared to accept alternative civil service. Surely this is a grave error. Have we not all along said that the individual himself can be the only judge of conscience? I have to report myself to my Tribunal on Thursday to explain why I have not undertaken this service, but at the same time, I look upon it as my duty and my privilege to advise those who are prepared to take alternative service as to the best way to set about it. The Convention, by an overall majority, decided against alternative service. Some men are hesitating to take this service solely through loyalty to the Fellowship. This is entirely misguided. Such loyalty to the Fellowship will only result in the gravest disloyalty to the individual conscience, and that is fatal to the very principle for which we stand, and will result in nothing but disaster when men are handed over to military custody. So far, practically the whole of our 150 comrades who are in military custody are remaining resolute in face of every effort to break their spirit. It would, however, prove fatal if any policy was adopted which resulted in men arriving at a decision that they were not prepared to maintain. If any man is forced in custody to accept a service he previously refused, surely he will deprive himself of the spiritual value of his protest. No man should adopt any decision unless he is individually fully convinced of its wisdom. Nothing then can break him.

dove..