Challenging Militarism


From The Tribunal 23rd November 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 Novemeber 1918\\-
For other extracts go to:

Miss Stevens, Secretary of the Leicester Branch, sends us a copy of a letter from H.G. Twilley, describing the very useful way in which he
and three other “C.O.’s” passed their time in a guard-room. He says:- “Last evening . . . . we turned the Government out! There are two guard-rooms here, and we invited the soldiers into one room. The wooden beds were so arranged as to resemble benches down each side of the smaller room, and the House of Commons was the result.

The personnel of the ‘House’ was as follows:- M.P. for West Birmingham (Conservative), H. Stoddart; M.P. for Stirling Burghs (Liberal), A. Britain; M.P. for Leicester (Labour), A.E. Gomportyz, Mr. Speaker, H.G. Twilley. Speeches were delivered in the order above named, Stoddart offering the last man and the last shilling with characteristic generosity. He was for continuing the war until the ‘military domination of Prussia was finally destroyed.’ It was a difficult matter to keep his fiery eloquence under sufficient restraint to prevent interuptions by the Military Police in the adjoining room.

The Hon. Member for Storling followed in a dignified speech appealing for a more reasonable point of view and suggesting that the Government should pause and review the military situation and the possibility of opening negotiations with the enemy.

“The hon. Member for Leicester then put the point of view of the extreme Socialist wing of the Labour Party, and condemned with the utmost vigour the mistaken policy of the Foreign Office in having involved this country in obligations to other Powers which made a participation in the war inevitable; and charged the Government with betraying the people by its secret and mistaken diplomacy during the last few years (subdued cheers). Two soldiers were appointed tellers by Mr. Speaker for the Government, and the Opposition – the solders were respectively the hon. Members for the city of London and Liverpool – and the division resulted as follows:-

“Two solders entered the ‘Aye lobby’ (for continuing the war); sixteen soldiers and nine C.O.’s went into the ‘No lobby’ (for immediate negotiations for Peace) . . . . .
“The soldiers were very interested, and all express the hope that it will be a long time before we part from them, a hope, which for other reasons, I do not share as there are other inhabitants (microscopic) which are not such fascinating companions.”


From The Tribunal 9th November 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:

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


From The Tribunal 2nd November 1916

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

A mass meeting of about 2000 persons was organised by the Committee of Delegates of the Russian Socialist Groups in London amd the Jewish Social Democratic Organisation in Great Britain on the question of the maintenance of Right of Asylum last Sunday week in the Premierland Cinema, and manifested great enthusiasm. Alex Gossip, E.C. Fairchild, D. Carmichael, Mrs. Bridges Adams, Mrs. Bouvier, and a Jewish and a Polish speaker explained the great importance of the issues at stake, and the connection of the present struggle with the general problems of the present time. A resolution was unanimously carried protesting-

“That the present policy of the British Government towards the refugees from Russia is diametrically opposed to the rights of foreigners and contains in itself the destruction of the Right of Asylum, and that this policy is one of the forms in which the growing universal militarist and imperialist reaction finds expression.”

On the previous evening, at the concert and ball organised by the Committee of Delegates of the Russian Socialist Groups in London, a military and police raid took place. Representatives of the military and police invaded the Hall and demanded the papers of every man. All names and addresses were taken, but no “absentees” were found.

The period allowed by the Home Office for the voluntary enlistment of friendly aliens has now elapsed, but at the moment of writing no steps have been taken to impose conscription upon those who have not enlisted.

A very large number of friendly aliens, particularly Russian Jews, are determined not to undertake military service, and they are organising themselves for resistance. Our Russian Comrades may be assured of the sympathy and support of the N.-C.F. in their struggle.


From The Tribunal 29th October 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:

“The Nation” this week contains one of the strongest and most satisfying comments upon the attitude of the country towards War that we have read for a considerable time, even in pacifist journals. It is headed, “Some Reflections of a Soldier,” and is a critical analysis of public opinion. It describes how the writer, like many others, went out to fight for certain ideals, and how it was only the strength of his convictions that carried him through the ghastly life he has lived ever since. Now he comes home and mixes with the people formerly of his own class and confesses that he often feels as if he were among strangers. He relates how when the newspapers arrived with Lloyd George’s latest rhapsody about cheerful Tommies with the glint of battle in their eyes, or “The Times” military expert’s variations ad nauseum of the agreeable doctrine that whatever its losses, the numerically preponderant side can always win, they used laughingly to conclude that it was “only the papers,” and that the people at home could not really be like that. But he adds that since he has returned he has found that such things were not so much caricatures as he expected.

A Veil of Falsehood

The writer says there is a veil of falsehood between the soldier and those at home. He finds that the latter have made an image of War, false, but picturesque, that flatters their appetite for novelty, excitement and easy admiration, without uncomfortable, emotional disturbance. He ridicules the Press invention of a conventional kind of soldier who is easy to believe in, but who is both ridiculous and disgusting, being represented as always cheerful, as revelling in the sport of killing other men – ‘hunting Germans out of trenches as terriers hunt rats’ and overwhelmingly kind to prisoners. This latter kindness, he says, is true, but the emphasis which is laid upon it is insulting and unintelligent, as though soldiers were expected to hunt or starve prisoners. “Do you not see that we regard these men who have sat opposite us in mud as victims of the same catastrophe as ourselves, as our comrades in misery much more truly than you are? Do you think that we are like some of you in accumulating on the head of every wretched antagonist the indignation felt for the wickedness of a Government, of a social system…”

The Horrible Suggestion

In the writer’s opinion the worst enemy in this untruthful picture of war is the horrible suggestion that war is ennobling and that men find in war the fullness of self-expression impossible in Peace, and that they are more truly men than when they were at home. Indeed, to him, the reality of war is horrible, but not so horrible as the grimacing phantom which the newspapers hold up to the public. The soldiers, he said, are neither so foolish or brave, nor so wicked as the mechanical dolls who grin and kill in the newspapers. He strongly denies all this fictitious exhilaration, and says that men who have spent a winter in the trenches regard war with hatred, and hoping dimly that by suffering it now, they will save the future from it, look back with an even exaggerated affection to the blessings of Peace. People, he says, are now more prone than they were to give way to hatred, which is not common among soldiers. It is easy for people at home to hate, as they cannot appease the anguish of their losses by feeling that their turn may soon come. But the worst hatred – the hatred which appals, is not among those who have suffered, but among those who discover in hatred the only outlet for the sensation of activity which they miss. You do not, he says, help yourselves, your country, or your soldiers by hating, but only by loving, and striving to be more lovable.

Keep Space for Peace Week

Saturday, October 7, 2017 to Saturday, October 14, 2017

WORLDWIDE. Join the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space as they commemorate Keep Space for Peace Week. Events happening across the UK, as well as the rest of the world – more information to follow.

Stop the Arms Fair – No Faith in War

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

. Faith groups of all kinds will come together for a day of prayer and nonviolent direct action against the arms trade and war profiteering. ExCeL Exhibition Centre, Royal Victoria Dock, 1 Western Gateway, London E16 1XL.020 7281 0297 or

Stop the Arms Fair Week of Action

Monday, September 4, 2017 to Monday, September 11, 2017

ExCeL Exhibition Centre, Royal Victoria Dock, 1 Western Gateway, London E16 1XL or

Hiroshima Day

Sunday, August 6, 2017

It Starts Here!

Friday, May 19, 2017

preparation weekend for those planning to witness against the DSEI arms fair in London in September . Details –

Independence from America Day

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

MENWITH HILL. Reading and handing in of Declaration of Independence. Speakers, music, singing, food and drink. NSA Menwith Hill main gate, N Yorkshire.


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