The Worker January 1916
Source: The Worker no. 4, 29 January 1916 p. 6-7;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
The plea urged in favour of the present Compulsory Service Bill is the good old-fashioned dirge of “military necessity.” What folk do not realise is that there is no slavery so mean and contemptible, no degradation so vile and disgusting, that it cannot be justified on the grounds of “military necessity.” Obviously, there is no Tory so conservative as not to allow that, at some time or other, on some occasion or other, the plea becomes too immoral and too despotic to be considered. There must come a day when our rulers will appeal to “military necessity” in vain. The people will cry a halt! But when? And why? Has that time come yet?
Just think how the cry is used. It is not used openly and honestly. Its possibilities are not canvassed fully. Not one Minister of State, resorting to its hypnotic charms in defence of his proposals, will state clearly and concisely what everyone knows to be true; that there are no democratic safeguards so far as “military necessity” is concerned. There can be none. Yet, were that told the people in all its blatant significance, not a single measure of “military necessity” would be approved of in any country. To speak of it would be to challenge insurrection.
Ministers of State are too wise to be blatant, too dishonest to be truthful. They are discreet enough to lie, that fools may believe, and believing die!
Military necessity! Forsooth and spare the mark, ye gods, what is this chameleon of despotism? When shall we know it for its self? When will it confront us in all its actuality? How much longer are we going to tolerate its sham glory, its spurious wisdom, its apparent force?
“Military necessity"! Ah, yes! Was not the infamous Munitions Act passed from “military necessity?” Not to harm labour! Oh no! Not to assist the wealthy to thrive by war contracts! Oh no! But – just from —exactly nothing at all, no definable reason: but, most blessed of all phrases, “military necessity!” And then the guarantees with which “military necessity” was guarded! And then the collapse of all guarantees! And then the explanation of the collapse of the guarantees! Dearly beloved Britannia, ruler of the waves, ‘twas “military necessity"!
We wonder if our readers remember the famous Registration Act. It became law – well, yes – not to destroy voluntary enlistment – not to round off economic compulsion into political compulsion – but from “military necessity.” We asked why? What! “military necessity” make registration necessary? And we were told that “military necessity” made it impossible to say why made registration necessary!
But there are were guarantees from “military necessity”; guarantees made, not to be kept, but to be broken; guarantees made to make the people think that all thought was unnecessary. Asquith promised that the Registration Act did not mean future compulsion, and Kitchener pledged his word that information recorded on the registration forms would not be used for purposes of compulsion, only for those of recruiting! The result is the present Compulsion Bill. Truth is not – a military necessity! which means that all men know what is!
Again, the Defence of the Realm Act was “a military necessity.” There was much to be said for this measure from a war point of view. One point dealt with part-secret trials. It was passed into law – on the understanding that it was not to be abused. Having become law, Magistrates and Crown Counsel interpreted it to mean that Socialist papers and pamphlets were to be prosecuted and sentenced to destruction in private! And the reason for such breach of faith? Oh, of course, ah yes, we forgot – “military necessity!”
Then there was the famous thrift scheme! From “military necessity” Cabinet Ministers and M.P.s, who declined to cut down their own salaries, wasted thousands of pounds telling the outraged poor not to purchase the meat and butter they could not afford to buy! “Military necessity,” indeed!
And then the Derby Scheme! And the promise about the “young single men!” And then the bogus figures; the making one group of young and old; the avowing that they were all “young slackers”; and the pretence of keeping faith with married men “on a promise” that was never given, whilst breaking faith on the Registration Act undertaking; all is from “military necessity!”
From “military necessity!” nothing is said about the conscription of wealth: nothing about the wastage of the Dardanelles. What do these things matter when all workers are slaves to “military necessity?”
When a man enlists he must not deny a god; he must not oppose vaccination; he must not be red republican; he must lie and cringe to lies: all such action is dictated by “military necessity!”
On behalf of “military necessity” conscription must be worked in stages, must be accepted gradually. So we are told that industrial conscription is not intended! No: it is here already, and when “military necessity” dictates – who shall say nay to its full operation!
Lloyd George objects to the truth being known concerning his Clyde visit. So “military necessity” says the truth shall be suppressed.
In the interests of truth and in manhood, for the well-being of the people of Europe, we call upon the workers of monarch-ridden, capitalist cursed western civilization and its eastern imitation, to demand dignity of utterance and truthfulness of statements from their rulers. We call upon them to end the reign of lies by making an end of “military necessity.”
They have the industrial-political power.
Have they the will?
GUY A. ALDRED.