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Geoffrey Ostergaard RESISTING THE NATION STATE
the pacifist and anarchist tradition
Formely published by the PPU now also available as pdf document.
introduction
1. pacifism, pacificism and anti-militarism
2. sectarian origins of pacifism
3. pacificism and the peace movement
5. conscription and the nation state
6. the co formula
7. anarchism as a social movement
8. anarchism as a tradition of political thought
9. society and the state
10. the anarchist view of the state
11. the anarchist view of the nation and of nationalism
12. anarchism and violence
13. convergence of pacifism and anarchism

 

 

 

 

 

 

PACIFICISM AND THE PEACE MOVEMENT
From the 16th century onwards, it is also possible to trace the development of the broader pacificist tradition which focuses on changing modes of statecraft in order to reduce or eliminate war. Erasmus (1466-1536), although a theologian who accepted 'the just war' doctrine, roundly condemned war on humanitarian rather than religious grounds. In the 17th and 18th centuries this line of thought led to a series of proposals to establish permanent peace between states though some form of international organisation: the 'peace plans' of Cruce (1623), Penn (1693), Saint-Pierre (1713), Bentham (1789), and Kant (1795). The motivation of the last two was clearly secular and rationalistic, expressing the conviction shared by many philosophers of the Enlightenment that war was irrational and contradicted the ideal of human brotherhood.
Mainly through the efforts of individual Quakers, an organised peace movement came into being on both sides of the Atlantic immediately after the Napoleonic Wars. Its main thrust is indicated in the aims of the American Peace Society: 'to increase and promote the practice already begun of submitting national differences to amicable discussion and arbitration, and...of settling all national controversies by an appeal to reason...This shall be done by a Congress of Nations...Then wars will cease.' (9) Throughout its chequered course, although it has usually had a radical wing and pacifists have played a prominent part in it, the peace movement has been predominantly moderate and liberal in character. It has accepted the nation-state system but sought to make it more rational. In the 19th century its liberal character was strengthened by association with the Manchester School, represented by Cobden and Bright, which held that the solution to the problem of war lay through the promotion of free trade between nations. In the 20th century the pacificism of the peace movement has contributed to the thinking that led to the League of Nations and the United Nations, the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 outlawing war, and efforts to promote disarmament.

 

 


CONSCRIPTION AND THE NATION STATE
In one sense pacificism provides an alternative to the more uncomfortable pacifism that demands personal witness against war. After heresy hunting had abated with the growth of religious toleration, pacifism certainly became a more difficult stance to maintain as the concept of the nation-state developed. In the era of state-building from the Reformation to the French Revolution, as distinct from the era of the nation-state, wars were fought mainly by professional armies, often largely composed of mercenaries. There was no universal conscription for military service. Instead, there was the militia system under which able-bodied men could be mustered for military training and operations, usually on a local basis and for limited periods. At the same time, legal privilege for various groups and estates was a feature of political systems. In this situation, governments tended to deal with their pacifist subjects in an ad hoc way, applying the notion of legal privilege. In some instances, as in Rhode Island in 1673, all whose conscience forbade them to bear arms were exempted from militia service. In other instances, exemption was given to specified sects, a procedure adopted by the Empress Catherine in 1776 as an inducement to Mennonites to settle in Russia. Sometimes exemption was granted in return for payment of a military tax, or a pacifist called up for militia service was permitted to provide a hired substitute. More commonly, failure to perform the required military duties attracted a fine, and failure to pay led to sequestration of property in lieu or a short jail sentence.
All this began to change when the state came to be seen as based on the nation. Subjects were transformed into citizens, all equal before the law, members of a single national community sharing in its beliefs and burdens. One consequence was the introduction of compulsory military service for all adult males, usually in time of peace as well as war. Bayonets were thrust into the hands of citizens often before they were given the ballot. Service in defence of the nation came to be seen as a sacred civic duty and was sometimes linked to the definition of citizenship. Revolutionary France, 'the first nation in arms', paved the way in 1793. Prussia followed suit in 1808. Since then compulsory military service has become the norm throughout the world. In 1966, only 7 of 140 states did not impose it. (10)
Conscription laws, when first introduced, usually made no provision for exempting pacifists. Those refusing military service were treated as deserters, imprisoned and sometimes shot. When conscription was introduced in Russia in 1874, the exemption granted to Mennonites 'in perpetuity' was withdrawn, leading thousands to emigrate to the USA. In 1875 the Government relented and allowed them to serve in hospitals as an alternative, but the concession applied to no other sect. When in 1895 some 10,000 Doukhobors announced their refusal to bear arms, they were severely dealt with. Tolstoy then publicised their plight and funds were raised to enable the sect to emigrate to Canada. (11)

 


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