News article "An I.L.P. Pacifist's Apologia. Mr. Fenner Brockway Court-Martialled"

Date

1916 circa

Title

News article "An I.L.P. Pacifist's Apologia. Mr. Fenner Brockway Court-Martialled"

Date

1916 circa

Description

news article with statement for court-martial, published in "Labour Leader"

Subject

reasons for stance by WWI British C.O.

Coverage

Great Britain

Creator

Brockway, A. Fenner

Source

Swarthmore College Peace Collection

Publisher

Swarthmore College Peace Collection

Rights

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Format

news article

Language

English

Type

NewsarticleILPPacifist'sApologia.jpg

Transcription

AN I.L.P. PACIFIST'S APOLOGIA. MR. FENNER BROCKWAY COURT-MARTIALLED.

At Chester Castle, on Saturday morning, Mr. Fenner Brockway was court-martialled for refusing to obey a military order. He made the following statement: --

Parliament has enacted that persons holding my views shall be exempted from the provisions of the Military Service Acts. I am before you, not because I have broken the law, but because the tribunals have not administered the law.

Even if it had been the intention of Parliament to make me a soldier, I should not have become a soldier. No honourable man would consent to participate in an act of murder because the State ordered him to do so. To me war is murder. I cannot participate in it.

(To avoid misunderstanding, I may add that by this I do not mean that that in my view every soldier is a murderer. An act must be judged by its motives, and I appreciate fully the spirit of sacrifice and duty which has animated thousands of soldiers.)

I believe all war to be wrong. I believe that mankind is in reality one; that the uni [illegible words follow] all men. I believe that human personality is sacred, because it is an express of the universal spirit. War violates the spiritual oneness of the human race, degrades human personality, and destroys human life. Therefore, holding the faith I do, I cannot participate in the war under any circumstances.

But even if I believed war justifiable under certain conditions, I should not participate in the present war. I should not participate in it because I believe the Governments of this and other countries are deluding the peoples as to the objects they have in view, are getting them to lay down their lives by false pretences, and are using them as pawns to fulfil purposes which are often the direct opposite of those they imagine themselves to be serving.

I do not believe that the German Government was alone responsible for the war. I do not believe that any one Government was responsible. I believe that all the Governments of the Great Powers share responsibility for it, and that there is little to differentiate the degree of guilt of one from another.

I believe that the war was caused by the intrigues of financiers of both sides, by the machinations of the armament rings of both sides, by the secret diplomacy of both sides, by the Imperialistic ambitions of both sides, by the military and naval aggression of both sides.

The British Government declared that it entered the war to defend small nationalities. Since when has the British Government become the champion of small nations? The last war the British Government fought -- the Boer War -- was a war to crush two small Republics; the story of the extension of the British Empire over the face of the earth has been one of an unending series of attacks upon small nations; during the war the British Government has annexed Egypt, violated the independence of Greece, and denied self-government to Ireland. Do these facts suggest that the British Government was very earnest when it declared that it entered the war to defend small nationalities?

The British Government declared that it entered the war to safeguard the sanctity of international treaties. Since when has the British Government become the champion of international treaties? When Germany and Britain appeared to be on the eve of war in 1911, it was Great Britain and her ally France who had been guilty of tearing up an international treaty -- the Act of Algeeiras. Does this suggest that the British Government was very earnest when it declared that it entered the war to defend international treaties?

The British Government declared that it entered the war to resist the ambition of Germany for world-power. Since when has the British Government become the champion of weaker nations against the Imperialism of stronger Powers? Before the war began the British flag few over one-fifth of the territory of the earth. Does that suggest that the British Government was very earnest when it expressed its indignation against the ambition of the German Government?

The British Government declared that it entered the war to establish democracy and freedom. It has allied itself with the most autocratic and tyrannical Power in the world -- the Empire of Russia.

The British Government declared that it entered the war in defence of France and Belgium, and not to acquire any territory for itself. It has captured practically all the German colonies, and has announced its intention of retaining a great part of them.

The British Government declared that it entered the war to overthrow the menace of German militarism. It has imposed upon the British people the same accursed system of militarism as has degraded Germany.

The British Government declared that it entered the war to enthrone in Europe that liberty which is the traditional pride of England. It has robbed the British people of almost every vestige of liberty -- liberty of person, liberty of labour, liberty of meeting, liberty of speech, liberty of Press.

The popular justification of the British intervention in the war was the German invasion of Belgium, but all who are acquainted with the question of foreign policy know that the British Government would have participated in the war whether Belgium had been invaded or not. The Government policy since 1904, a policy carried out in secret, had bound us to France and Russia; and, whatever the cause of war, once France and Russia became involved the intervention of the British Government became inevitable.

Europe was divided into two hostile groups of nations, and, whilst I do not deny or desire to diminish the aggressive designs of Germany and the Triple Alliance, particularly since 1911, anyone who suggests that Germany alone actively prepared for war on a big scale is simply revealing his ignorance. The fact is that during the decade 1905-14 Austria and Germany expended [pounds] 1,147,000,000. If we add the expenditure of Great Britain, the total of the Triple Entente becomes [pounds] 1,800,000,000.

If the purpose of the British Government in entering the war was really to secure the liberation of Belgium, the evacuation of France, and the destruction of the menace of German militarism, those objects could be obtained to-morrow; and the British Government knows they could be obtained to-morrow without the shedding of another drop of blood. The British Foreign Office knows that Germany is prepared to withdraw from Belgium and France; and everyone knows that Germany has signified her willingness to enter a league of nations to enforce peace, which is Lord Grey's own proposal for destroying the menace of a strong and aggressive military Power.

Why then does the British Government continue to sacrifice thousands of British lives? It does so because prizes and prices have been promised to her Allies for the part they have played in the war. France has been promised Alsace-Lorraine; Italy has been promised Dalmatia; and Russia has been promised Constantinople. Instead of fighting for the liberty of the small nations, as they think they are, the British soldiers are being duped into fighting for the enslavement of the people of Dalmatia to a foreign rule. Instead of fighting for the establishment of a permanent peace, the British soldiers are being duped into fighting to give new strength to a menace to peace graver even than German militarism -- I mean the menace of the Russian Imperialism.

I do not intend to suggest that the British Government is particularly reprehensible among the Powers. As I have already said, I do not think there is much to choose between them. I have dealt with the faults of the British Government because I am asked to join the British Army. If I were a German, and asked to join the German Army, I should have no difficulty in denouncing the policy of her Government with equal emphasis.

I believe the ruling classes of all the Powers are responsible for the war. I believe the working classes are mere pawns in their hands. I believe the time will come when the workers will consent to be pawns no longer, and I hope the action I am taking now will do a little, at least, to hasten the coming of that time.

Citation

Brockway, A. Fenner, “News article "An I.L.P. Pacifist's Apologia. Mr. Fenner Brockway Court-Martialled",” Conscientious Objection & the Great War: 1914-1920, accessed September 22, 2018, http://cosandgreatwar.swarthmore.edu/items/show/1188.

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