E. Belfort Bax

Military Service

(25 May 1922)

E. Belfort Bax, Military Service, Justice, 25 May 1922, p.8. (letter)
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Proofread by Chris Clayton (May 2007).

Dear Comrade, – The speeches of our comrade T. Kennedy and Mr. Morgan Jones put the extreme position as regards the question of Military service clearly enough. Both speeches, however, ignore the possibility of an intermediary position Comrade Kennedy like a good many others, goes the whole hog in the matter of military Service in case of danger to the country, to the point; as I understand him, of advocating conscription, while Mr. Morgan Jones equally goes the whole hog as regards the C.O. position.

Now, I am afraid there are many persons who are not conscientious objectors, but recognise there are circumstances in which the taking up of arms is necessary and justifiable, but yet who draw the at the compulsion of the individual to risk his life, whether he will or not.

Now this is my position: the argument as to compulsion in other matters e.g. the payment of taxes, etc. fails, inasmuch as there is an unbridgable gulf between compelling a man to surrender any proportion of his property for the common good, and compulsion to surrender life itself. The latter is something sui generis. It may be highly praiseworthy for a man to sacrifice his life, and it is admissible, perhaps even to regard it as moral duty in certain circumstances; but, as I contend, ought to be in all cases voluntary.

I fail to see any justification for society or the State to compel any man by force majeure to surrender or to seriously endanger his life without his consent. Surely it is reasonable and possible to draw the line at this point.


Yours fraternally,
E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 28.5.2007