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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 11., No. 9. 28th July 1948

Conscription, War and Democracy

Conscription, War and Democracy

I thought, when the last war was fought and lost (that is, if it was fought for democracy, as we were told it was) that people would be sickened by this modern cult of total war and that there would be a universal demand for international peace, reconstruction and rational thinking. I was wrong. The old men, the psychopaths, the property owners, the fanatic nationalists, and those who let the comic strips fight for them, are again demanding adequate defence, national pride and the triumph of democracy. People the world over are allowing their governments to succumb to the craze—feverish war research, propaganda of fear and hate, and most important of all, conscription of manpower for military purposes. And New Zealand is now blindly following the rest.

Subsequent to the visit of Field-Marshal Montgomery, who stated that the last war was fought for freedom and democracy, the NZ Government is preparing to follow his advice and introduce national military service for youth. Conscription seems to be following the worthy Marshal around the British Commonwealth.

"And everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go,
Shouting out the battlecry of freedom."

Let us examine some of the aspects of conscription and its implications today.

(1) Conscription has never protected against the possibility of war nor guaranteed victory when war did come. On the contrary conscription is a factor in precipitating war. Who is the enemy against whom we are arming? It is blatantly obvious that Russia has now become the terrible bogy, but will conscription, armament and abuse avoid enmity with Russia? Build a better understanding with her, or even win the war if it does come?

A little detached thinking and reaching beyond the headlines shows that the present mess cannot be laid just at the Russian door, and that is what we are doing. The Einstein group has pointed out that the military group is rapidly becoming the "final and absolute directors of America's destiny." We know that the logic of her economic system is leading her and the West to economic slump. There are two remedies—One is a fundamental and positive change in her system, the other, war. We know that the power group in America wants war rather than slump or economic change. And American aggression and intolerance are backed up by an economic and political stranglehold on Europe.

It is more probable that the next war is to be fought for the security of dollar capitalism rather than for a not so real democracy against a not so real Russian totalitarianism.

The Democratic View

2. Conscription and Democracy. To reduce men down to a dead level through the compulsory sharing of what is a denial of freedom is not democracy but slavery. If it is democracy then Nazi Germany was the most democratic country in Europe. The fact that in wartime the great mass of soldiers were conscripts, not volunteers, indicates, at least, that the majority are neither certain of what the fighting is for, nor happy to see their own destruction as the answer to any international problem. Least of all is conscription democratic in peacetime—and I trust this is peacetime.

There is nothing democratic about either recruitment or conscription of youth in peacetime. Operation White-bait recently landed 91 young adolescents with lures of trade training, careers, economic security and the wonderful army life. I doubt whether any of those youngsters realise that from now on their primary purpose is one of death and destruction.

The hypocritical handling of re-recruitment is bad enough, but surely conscription of youth is morally worse.

A Plan for Peace

We as students, must realise that a cynical acceptance of conscription in N.Z. is not enough. We have a duty to ourselves and to NZ to work for a better solution—to demand a more worthwhile solution.

I list some suggestions.

1.A rejection by the NZ people and Government of conscription or any form of war expenditure or preparation.
2.A more honest and detached appraisal of international affairs by our Press and—
3.A more tolerant and positive attitude by our own representatives on international bodies.
4.Active dissemination of peace propaganda showing the probable wreckage of another war and the vital necessity of mutual international co-operation.
5.Set up our, own Ministry of Peace—in replacement of the Ministry of Defence.

Some nation, somewhere, sometimes must lead the way into permanent peace and international cooperation.

Why not now before it is too late and why not NZ?

Hyram J., here has designed an atom bomb aircraft carrier.

Hyram J., here has designed an atom bomb aircraft carrier.