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Friendly aliens of military age resident in this country were given until October 25th to volunteer for service in the British Army. If they failed to enlist by that dare, Mr. Herbert Samuel, the Home Secretary, threatened them with conscription or deportation. More than a fortnight has passed since that fatal day, but, at the time of writing, nothing has been heard of the dire penalties foreshadowed.
We hope this silence means that the Government has thought better of its proposed policy. Infamous as conscription under all circumstances, the conscription of subjects of another nation, with the alternative of deportation, is doubly infamous. True, it has been suggested that Tribunals should be established to safeguard refugees from deportation, but we should have thought that the experience the nation has had of Tribunals would have been sufficient proof of their futility as a means of safeguarding anybody against anything. Moreover, has the Government the right to assume that the subjects of another nation would consent to appear before any Tribunal it chose to set up?
If the Government decides to proceed with its scheme it will find itself confronted by a much bigger problem thn it anticipates. Many hundreds of friendly aliens have sought refuge in this country as a means of escape from political persecution in Russia. They are Anti-militarists. They are Socialists. They are Anti-Imperialists. They see in the war the triumphs of all the evils against which they struggled in the land of their birth. Many of them are Jews. They know the War has resulted in an increase of the oppression from which their people have for generations suffered.
The Government ought not to be surprised that the recruiting campaign among these men has failed. It would do well to realise that any effort to conscript them will fail equally. Already they have organised themselves into a Russian Anti-Conscription League with branches in all the larger towns of the country, so that they may the more effectively resist the imposition of compulsory military service. The historic policy of Continental Anti-Militarists has been to join the Army and to take advantage of the opportunities thus provided to carry on their propaganda. It is not without significance that the Russian Anti-Militarists in this country have decided to follow the policy of British conscientious objectors by pledging themselves to resist military service altogether…
A. Fenner Brockway