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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 4, No. 1 March 12, 1941

These Reactionary Pacifists

These Reactionary Pacifists

That the pacifists have managed to get away with so much is due chiefly to the all-in nature of the old Anti-War Movements. Fellow travellers in the Popular Front unfortunately, though not unnaturally, often hesitated to expose Pacifist pretensons to Historical and Philosophical consistency. And yet it was these who were temperamentally and intellectually fitted to do it. We have had to wait for Dr. John Lewis to do it in the only way (for pacifists) that it can be done.

With regard to the questions debated in his recent book "The Case Against Pacifism" his own conclusion is, that the more exhaustively and objectively the case for Pacifism is argued the more plain does it become that it has now become a reactionary faith.

Blessed are the Meek.

And yet our University pacifists imagine they are free agents, critically thinking individuals, moralists and humanitarians rather than the natural product of a sheltered petty bourgeois of countries. Don't they ever ask themselves why workers aren't pacifists? That it is because they realise that history is indeed the story of class struggles and because they have to fight every minute of every day for even the merest shadow of the most elementary decencies of life. They are everlastingly on the defensive against an enemy whose tactics are such that a great novelist would be accused of distorting human nature if he told of them. Above all, as a famous socialist said, the Proletariat needs its guts. It is not content to be canaille and that is why it has no need of the social principles of Christianity, of meekness, of humility, of the turning of the cheek. To turn the other cheek and watch your kiddies starve? To be meek with your daughters on the street? To be humble for a hopeless future and a wretched homecoming?


There are millions dead in China, there are millions dead in Spain and to be dumb, to look at one's lily white hands and still to see no blood on them!

And in face of it all to say that a fight, however just, corrupts. Did the Greeks become Oriental, the Dutch inquisitorial and our Republicans despotic? Rather do we see all along a new birth of freedom. Surely it argues some depravity of character to say that all returned soldiers are worse than other men, rather than a little more understanding, perhaps, than when they left home. After all, "tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner." Surely a man is vile who can throw stones in this way against the International Brigadiers, against the Eighth Route Army, against the millions of nameless victims of Fascism who rot in the torture chambers of reaction.

But this is emotion. We must have no emotion. Let us be calm and smile at the pretty pattern that the blood makes as it trickles off the taken barricade.

Sword in Hand.

It remains only to be said that Dr. Lewis abandoned his own pacifist position on a visit to Russia in 1931, and he quotes the Red Army oath. The Red Army-man swears: 'I promise to refrain and to restrain my comrades from every act unworthy of a Soviet citizen and to direct all my actions and thoughts to the great goal of the liberation of the toilers and ... at the first call to spring to the defence of the Nation and in the fight for the Soviet Union, the cause of Socialism and the brotherhood of all people to spare neither my strength nor my life.'

An Englishman had said this some time before. Can we quite forget?

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England's green and pleasant land.