WILL CONSCRIPTION CONTINUE AFTER THE WAR

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

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.

BERTRAND RUSSELL

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