Karl Liebknecht
Militarism & Anti-Militarism
II. Anti-Militarism

2. Anti-militarism Abroad with Special Regard to the Young Socialist Organizations
(Part 1)

The anti-militarist movement in capitalist countries other than Germany is for the most part strong and lively. This is especially true of the Latin countries such as Belgium, France and Italy, but also applies, though more recently, to Austria, Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries, and even to Holland, though anti-militarism is only just beginning to show itself there.



Special anti-militarist propaganda was started in Belgium in 1886, when the army made large-scale interventions in strikes, as we have already seen. After leaflets had been distributed to remind the soldiers of their duty towards their working-class brothers [1] two anti-militarist newspapers were founded: Le Conscrit and La Caserne (The Conscript and The Barracks). [2] The first always appears in January (before the drawing of lots in February), the second in September (before the recruits are called up on October 1). Both appear in Flemish as well as French (De Loteling and De Kazerne [3]). In 1896 the Party handed over both newspapers to the National Federation of Young Guards, founded in 1894. [4] But they remain under the control of the Party centre, to which the National Federation of Young Guards has sent delegates since 1896-7. The Young Guards were founded in 1893-4, though there were individuals in Brussels as early as the eighteen-eighties, mainly engaged in election work and in special anti-militarist propaganda. Since 1902 this has changed. The disappointments of the second general strike have caused the workers to go more carefully and slowly, and to pay great care to maintaining the roots of organization and propaganda. The aims of the Young Socialist organizations were broadened, and the development of education given first place – undoubtedly the more solid method of anti-militarist propaganda, or rather that which best prepares the ground for it. As far as these organizations are concerned, it is impossible to deal full with their history here, tempting as this may be, though they are also closely linked with the anti-militarist struggle. [5]

A few words only, then: since 1896 the monthly journal Avant Garde, organ of the students and Young Guards, has been appearing in Brussels. Since 1900 the Antimilitariste, monthly organ of the National Federation of Young Guards, has also been appearing. [6] Since 1903 this federation has also published the illustrated monthly La Jeunesse Socialiste. This will be replaced in 1907 by the monthly journal La Jeunesse c’est l’Avenir (Youth is the Future) [7], now controlled by the Walloon Federation of Hainaut and Namur. It has already been appearing since 1906 in Charleroi. [8] Both journals were and are full of anti-militarist material. The same is true of the Flemish De Zaaier (The Sower), an illustrated monthly which has been published since 1903 on behalf of the Antwerp Federation of the Jonge Wacht. It was amalgamated in 1906 with the general Flemish language Party paper De Waarheid (published since 1902 at Ghent), but forms a special part of this journal with its own title. De Waarheid has a circulation of 3,000, La Jeunesse c’ est l’Avenir of 5,000.

Some local organizations of the Young Guards – especially the Antwerp and Ghent Jonge Wachten – are engaged in vigorous anti-militarist activity of a literary kind, etc. The Antwerp group for instance published the paper De Bloedwet (Rule of Blood) in 1900, in order to agitate among conscripts (it has the same aim as La Caserne). It has also published the bi-monthly Ontwapening (Disarmament) since May 1, 1901, and finally, since 1905, De Vrijheid (Freedom). These papers all spread the anti-militarist word with great skill and enthusiasm. Hectographed bulletins are also produced. The Young Guards also do good work of course with leaflets and posters, mostly illustrated. [9] These are sometimes addressed to young workers and sometimes to conscripts and soldiers. Much useful literature in pamphlet form is also produced. Cheap postcards with an anti-militarist message, mostly illustrated, are sold in large numbers.

In Belgium more than half the young men liable to bear arms escape through the system of drawing lots. About 13,000 are called up every year. Around 60,00 copies of Le Conscrit and La Caserne are published altogether in the two languages. [10] They are normally specially posted to the recruits, whose addresses can easily be obtained. Then personal contact can be made with those recruits who have been singled out.

Meetings of recruits regularly take place in January and September, as well as fêtes, street demonstrations and other actions.

Contact is not lost with proletarians who have entered the army. In some Guards’ groups a system of aid is organized, and an allowance made to members of the Guards who have been called up during the time of their service. This allowance varies with the amount of time for which a member has belonged to the group and with the amount he has subscribed. Such members have to provide regular reports on their experiences in the barracks, and remain in personal touch with the Guards. If such a member serves in a different locality from that of his organization, he is put in touch with the local group. We cannot go into more detail for obvious reasons.

The agitation carried out in the barracks plays an important role in Belgium. There are about 15 soldiers’ organizations (soldiers’ unions) at present, which work closely together. An effort is of course made to eliminate these dangerous organizations. But although they are often suppressed, they always reappear, for their roots are too strong to be pulled up. Up to two-thirds of the men in a single regiment have been recruited. Some of the unions are closely connected with the Social-Democratic Party.

Propaganda literature is brought into the barracks in large quantities, and is also distributed to soldiers in the streets and other public places. Meetings of soldiers take place. Many anti-militarist songs have been widely circulated.

The Party itself of course carries on strenuous anti-militarist agitation, and the women and girls take an active part too, in particular by helping the Young Guards in their agitation in the barracks. These efforts have met with great success. The pamphlet Le catéchisme du conscrit (The Conscript’s Catechism), which appeared in several editions in 1896, is worthy of note. It resembles the French Manuel du soldat, and has been similarly subjected to fierce criminal prosecution.

Anti-militarist propaganda, indeed, comes up against severe persecution. This point can of course only be supported by an examination of the generally advanced political conditions in Belgium. In 1886 Anseele was condemned to six months’ imprisonment for an appeal to mothers published in the Vooruit to bring up their sons in such a way that they would never turn their guns against the people. Le Conscrit and La Caserne are constantly brought before the courts. Since their foundation heavy sentences have been pronounced every year in connection with their publication, and the same thing of course has happened since the publication has been taken over by the Young Guards. The first case was that against Le Conscrit in 1897, when two comrades were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. In 1904 Coenen, secretary of the National Federation of Young Guards, was called with five others before the jury in Brabant in connection with the appearance of posters appealing to recruits. The same thing was soon repeated, this time involving Coenen alone, because of an article which had appeared in La Caserne. But he was acquitted. [11] The sentences passed on Troclet in the middle of the eighteen-nineties on account of Le catéchisme du conscrit are also noteworthy.

The chief crimes for which penalties are imposed are the following: calls to disobey orders, insulting the army (six months’ imprisonment is the minimum punishment!), and the infamous atteinte à la force obligatoire des lois – attack on the principle that the law is binding. Where more than five people are shown to have conspired together the punishment is doubled. Every year sentences of imprisonment averaging from two to three years are passed. In 1903 the secretary of the National Federation was sentenced to three years in prison. It is true, however, that half of the accused are acquitted. The system under which the prisoners live is harsh. No distinction is made, on principle, between political and non-political prisoners.

Treatment accorded to anti-militarist soldiers is cruel, at least by Belgian standards. Those opposing militarism are threatened with three to five years’ prison in the harsh correctional system. For the slightest offence the barbarous medieval punishment called the cachot is inflicted. The prisoners must lie in irons in an unheated cell, and are fed on bread and water. The cells are built over water, are damp, and in winter a spell in them can be dangerous to life. This goes together with the ill-treatment dealt out by the N.C.O.s, who are themselves given this job as a disciplinary punishment.

The extent of the growth of Belgian anti-militarism, in spite of its struggle against fire and sword, has been shown elsewhere, and can be said to be an almost complete success. In the critical year 1902 the whole population took such an interest in the propaganda that officers attempting to stop the agitation which was carried on openly in the streets among the soldiers were often attacked.

We must also mention the Groupes des Anciens Militaires (ex-soldiers’ groups). They were formerly organized as a national federation, but are now flourishing as local organizations and publish a newspaper. Anti-militarist propaganda in the reserve and the militia, as well as agitation against the bourgeois military societies, are their chief tasks.

A few words must be added on the attitude taken by Belgian Social-Democracy, as far as tactics are concerned, towards militarism.

On the question of war, and above all on the tactics to be adopted if a war breaks out, there is no unanimity of opinion. Only three facts can be mentioned here:

The Party Congress at Ghent in 1893 expressed its enthusiastic approval of a telegram from the anciens soldats of Amsterdam which expressed the hope that the Congress would sanction the calling of a military strike in case of war, as the Dutch Socialists had suggested. The Louvain Congress of 1899 simply endorsed the proposal of De Winnes that to make propaganda for socialism was the best way of fighting the growth of military armament and of ensuring world peace. In 1905 the Socialist Federation of the Charleroi district resolved that in order to prevent war it was necessary:

  1. To prevent troop mobilization by calling a general strike of railwaymen;
  2. To organize a general strike in the coal mines in order to deprive the belligerent powers of the fuel necessary for the navy and for troop transport;
  3. To stop work in the docks, arsenals and munitions factories.

The history of the Young Guards also throws an interesting light on the subject. Their congress in 1897 decided among other things to induce the Socialist Parties of other countries to organize their young people on an international and anti-militarist basis in order to make war impossible. The proceedings of the Brussels Congress of 1903 were also important. Two sharply opposed views were more or less equally represented. One view strongly defended, especially by de Man, used Hervé’s [1*] arguments to propose the declaration of a military strike (collective refusal to serve), a general strike and revolutionary agitation in case of war. The other view was put by Troclet and Fischer, who simply endorsed the resolutions of the international congresses. The Troclet-Fischer resolution was passed by seventeen votes to fifteen, with two abstentions. [12]

At the Ghent Congress of January 1906 a sharp departure was made from anarchist tactics, and individual refusal to serve was repudiated. A motion put by de Man suggests that to snatch the means of power in the form of the army from the ruling classes it is necessary to awaken proletarian class consciousness among the soldiers. Another of de Man’s motions describes the army in its role against the enemy at home. The soldiers are advised to conduct themselves as properly as possible in the interests of anti-militarist agitation. The anarchistic dross was thus eliminated and things cleared up considerably.



In France anti-militarist propaganda began long ago and is very vigorous but not so well organized as in Belgium, nor does it follow the same tendency.

In 1894 the 12th Congress of the Socialist Revolutionary Labour Party (P.O.S.R.) at Dijon passed a specially noteworthy resolution against militarism in its two forms, emphasizing the harm done by militarism and the general danger it presented to the proletariat. The end of the resolution says: “In peacetime the standing army serves a police role, acting as a shooting machine. It drowns in blood the struggles of the miners and factory workers for their rights, the proletarian soldier in absurd anger raising his hand against his brother on strike.”

Not only Social-Democratic anti-militarism but also the anarchist form developed in France, together with the specifically French tendency of anti-patriotic Socialist anti-militarism (which however later left its mark in Italy and even in Switzerland).

Anarchist and semi-anarchist anti-militarism was supported chiefly by the weekly journal Les Temps Nouveaux (Modern Times) and its numerous and often clever publications. These, like the paper itself, are for the most part based on a proletarian standpoint. They contain valuable material contributed not only by men like Kropotkin [2*] but by syndicalists, especially P. Delesalle. There are also the publications of the individualist paper Libertaire. French anarchists were also responsible for the foundation in 1902 of the International Anti-militarist Federation, and rather earlier of the Ligue Internationale pour la Defense du Soldat (International Soldiers’ Defence League) with headquarters in Paris. The leading thinkers of this league – which seems to have disappeared – were the anarchists Janvion, Malato, then Georges Lhermite, editor of the radical paper L’Aurore, and Urbain Gohier. Their programme aimed at the abolition of standing armies, the abolition of the system of military justice and material improvements and guarantees for the soldiers. But their activity went far beyond this programme. The postcards, pamphlets and posters, often powerfully illustrated, which were published by the League continuously repeat the slogan “A bas la justice militaire!” (Down with military justice!) and the calls “Down with war!”, “Down with militarism!”, “Long live peace between nations!” But its influence could not extend beyond the borders of France.

The agitation for individual and collective refusal to serve and for desertion forms a large part of this propaganda, which of course is quite uneven. According to Kropotkin the military strike to be called against war is not to be merely passive but to go hand in hand with the social revolution and the defence of the revolution against the enemy abroad. [13] This is to rebate the chief objection to anti-patriotism, or as the Temps Nouveaux calls it, anti-nationalism. It is well-known that Emile Henry, the anarchist and terrorist, threw his famous bomb at Carmaux in August 1892 as a warning in order to try to prevent a repetitition in the miners’ strike of the Fourmies massacre which had taken place the year before. [14]

The anti-patriotic Socialist current of anti-militarism, which displays many anarchist traits [15], is supported on the one hand by the Yonne Federation of the United Socialist Labour Party (the Yonne being an almost completely agricultural department) [16] and on the other by a strong current within the anti-parliamentary trade unions. Anti-patriotism of course does not play such an important role in the trade unions, which are faced with the struggle against militarism on the home front, the most cruel and powerful enemy of workers on strike.

Since 1901 the Jeunesses Socialistes, the youth organizations of the Yonne, have published, in accordance with a resolution passed in 1900, a newspaper called Pioupiou de l’Yonne. [17] Originally it appeared bi-annually, then quarterly, and it is designed, as stated at the head of the first numbers, “for those called up to join their regiments”. All the reactionary forces at the state’s disposal were let loose against the Pioupiou, which was distributed free to all the conscripts of the department. Legal prosecutions literally rained from the sky [18], though they generally ended in acquittal. This in spite of the fact that the call to disobey if ordered to use arms against strikers was explicitly made. Pioupiou, still published by Moneret in 1905, was strongly influenced by Hervé, who, with Yvetot, was and is the leading figure and organizer of anti-patriotic anti-militarism. His work Leur Patrie contains a detailed and clever exposition and formulation of his ideas, and since the middle of December 1906 he has been publishing in Paris a weekly paper, La Guerre Sociale (The Social War), which renders vigorous aid to anti-militarism. To any war, however it might have started, he knows only one solution: plutôt l’insurrection que la guerre, and he fiercely attacks the attitude of the leaders of German Social-Democracy to aggressive wars. [19] He is very far from supporting individual refusal to serve. In his case the struggle against militarism at home is relegated somewhat to the background. We shall deal elsewhere with Hervéism, which carries on its struggle with noteworthy tenacity and readiness for sacrifice.

As far as the form of Hervé’s propaganda is concerned, the events of September 30, 1906 are characteristic. Hervé and a band of his supporters went to a fête at the Trocadero given by the Republican Youth of the 3rd arrondissement and by the French Educational League in honour of those called up to serve in the army. They made a demonstration against the patriotic-military event, came into collision with the police and were arrested.

As far as the anti-patriotic anti-militarism of the trade unions is concerned, the report laid before the Dublin Conference of trade union secretaries by the Confédération Générale du Travail gives a good idea of its character. In striking contrast to Hervéism, it unilaterally underrates the significance of “militarism abroad”.

In this report the methods of anti-militarist educational work are divided into:

  1. Solidarity work:
    1. “The soldier’s penny” (“Sou du soldat”);
    2. Reception and care of soldiers as guests in the trade union homes;
    3. Solidarity with those comrades who evade military service or who are victimized for rebellion against discipline.
  2. Propaganda work: public meetings, social evenings, send-offs for recruits, demonstrations, posters, manifestoes, pamphlets, leaflets, the special annual illustrated number of the paper La Voix du Peuple (Voice of the People), the widely-circulated organ of the French Trade Union Federation, and finally the new soldiers’ handbook (Nouveau Manuel du Soldat), which had already been circulated in 100,000 copies in 1903. It led as everyone knows – and with the approval of the ex-Socialist Millerand – to the vigorous intervention of the administrative and judicial authorities.

The Manuel du Soldat was published in accordance with the decision of the trade union congress held at Algiers on September 15, 1902, by the Federation of Trade Union Houses. A second edition appeared in the same year, and a third in 1905. It ends with an appeal to the soldiers either to desert or to make anti-militarist agitation in the barracks, and to those on active service not to fire, even when ordered, on the so-called “enemy at home”, their brother workers.

The former organ of the Socialist Revolutionary Labour Party, La Lutte Sociale (The Social Struggle) ought to be mentioned here. It was published, probably for the first time in 1904, for the Union Fédérative du Centre by Allemane and Hervé, and was devoted to anti-militarist propaganda.

In 1905 the Socialists and syndicalists together [20] published the red poster which appealed to the soldiers not to turn their weapons against the proletariat, and if ordered to do so to turn them instead against their commanding officers rather than their class comrades.

Finally, anti-militarist propaganda is one of the main tasks of the French Young Socialist organizations. Until 1903 each of the three French parties had its own special organization (Jeunesse Socialiste). Since 1902 the Jeunesses Syndicalistes, supported by the revolutionary trade unions, have appeared on the scene. At the moment they are in a rather chaotic situation.

The activity of the Young Socialist organization of the Yonne has already been mentioned. Since 1900 the Conscrit, still going in 1906, has appeared as the organ of the Revolutionary Young Socialists, and the paper La Feuille du Soldat (The Soldier’s Paper) as the organ of the Union Fédérative des Jeunesses Socialistes du Parti Ouvrier (Federative Union of the Labour Party Young Socialists). Both call on proletarians in soldier’s uniform to fulfil their duty to their class comrades. La Feuille du Soldat calls on them plainly to refuse to obey if ordered to turn their weapons against the working class, and to take part in the general strike when it is proclaimed. Le Conscrit emphatically rejects individual revolt as useless.

At the Congress of French Trade Unions in Amiens in October 1906 Delesulle was able to point out quite correctly that earlier trade union congresses had declared themselves for anti-militarist and anti-patriotic propaganda, and he announced that this position had been unanimously endorsed by the Committee. At the same congress a resolution moved by Yvetot was adopted, though opposed it is true by a large minority, calling for an intensification of anti-militarist and anti-patriotic propaganda. It was obvious that the minority was not opposed to anti-militarism or to an increase in anti-militarist propaganda but simply to the stress laid on anti-patriotic propaganda. The same thing was evident at the Congress of the French United Socialist Party held at Limoges in November 1906. The Hervé resolution, put forward by the Yonne Federation, got only a few votes. It formulated the anti-patriotic point of view, and appealed to the comrades to reply to every declaration of war, from whichever side it might come, by a military strike and an insurrection. But the resolution put forward by Guesde, emphasizing the organically capitalist character of militarism and which considers that anti-militarism can only be furthered in the context of general Social-Democratic propaganda, was also voted down, though the minority was three times larger. It demanded in the short term a reduction in the length of service, the refusal to vote military credits and the introduction of a citizen army. Vaillant’s resolution, moved by the Seine Federation, was adopted. After stating the principles adopted by the international congresses it demands international action against war and makes it a duty to use every kind of action, from parliamentary intervention and public agitation and demonstrations to the general strike and insurrection, according to the needs of the situation. At the beginning of 1906 Vaillant, as we know, published in Le Socialiste his famous proclamation on the occasion of the outbreak of the Morocco conflict, which ended with the cry: plutôt l’insurrection que la guerre.

No decision was reached regarding militarism at home, but many other indications are available which make the attitude of French Social-Democracy quite clear. The watchword is an appeal to the soldiers not to obey when they are used against strikes and against the working class. The Manuel du Soldat addresses the following words to the soldiers: “If they try to make you into murderers it is your duty to disobey! If you are sent against strikes, you will not shoot!” The famous words “Vous no tirerez pas” – used by comrade Meslier in the great trial of anti-militarists in December 1905 are therefore only an echo of the general cry of the class-conscious Socialists or syndicalists.

The appeal to conscripts issued jointly by Socialists and syndicalists in 1905 and mentioned above contains a drastic and fearless solution of the problem, calling on soldiers not to use their weapons against the working class, but rather to turn them against the officers who gave them that order. When this appeal was discussed in the Chamber, Sembat, in the name of the Socialists, declared: “I am asked what my opinion is regarding the advice to fire on officers. My answer is that when an officer has given the order to fire on strikers, I approve of this advice. And Lafargue has repeatedly endorsed this standpoint in L’Humanité in short, sharp terms.

The numerous trials of anti-militarists in France, which until recently almost always ended in acquittal, were a considerable help to propaganda. The Pioupiou trials have been dealt with above. Yvetot, having been acquitted ten times, was eventually convicted by a jury of the lower Loire in 1904 in connection with an anti-militarist speech and sentenced to – a fine of 100 Francs. But later he too became acquainted with prison life. In 1905 two anarchists were arrested in Aix. One of them was condemned to three months’ imprisonment for an anti-militarist manifesto which had been posted up on the walls of Marseilles. Morel and Frimat were also imprisoned, and prison sentences were also passed in Brest, Armentières and Limoges. [21] In the spring of 1906 convictions followed in Toulon and Rheims. The special number of the Voix du Peuple printed for recruits has been repeatedly seized. In October 1906 the editor, Vignaud, was arrested. Above all we should note the great anti-militarist trial in Paris in December 1905, at which Hervé and 25 others were sentenced to prison terms totalling 36 years, together with fines amounting to 2,500 Francs. But these severe sentences were not fully enforced.

Anti-militarist propaganda has a massive pamphlet literature at its disposal. Apart from the Temps Nouveaux, there are the Librairie & Propagande Socialiste, the Société nouvelle do Librairie et d’Edition (Georges Bellais), the Librairie die Parti Socialiste (S.F.I.O.) and the Stock publishing house which have made a specially important contribution to the publication of such pamphlets.

The successes of anti-militarist propaganda in France are considerable. In this connection we must not overestimate the significance of the fact that here and there an officer openly expresses anti-militarist opinions and takes the consequences in a spirit of great selflessness. [22] Such individual acts are not of great interest in connection with a purely proletarian class movement such as we take anti-militarism to be in France (as opposed to Russia). More important is the fact that the number of cases of desertion, of soldiers who refuse to serve or obey orders and who make anti-militarist demonstrations is on the increase. Very harsh sentences are sometimes passed in these cases [23], on other occasions sentences which, from the standpoint of German conditions, are amazingly mild. Thus two marines were sentenced in October 1906 to 15 and 60 days’ imprisonment respectively by a court martial in Cherbourg for having exclaimed in front of a patriotic monument: “Down with the army, down with the officers, we don’t need an army!”

We will give only a few details here. On May 3, 1905, 61 men of the 10th Company of the 32nd Infantry Regiment simply left the barracks for a place nearby because of bad food and ill-treatment. In September 1906 the soldiers arranged a demonstration in connection with the suicide of a reservist in the Compiègne garrison, sang the Internationale and insulted the officers. At the beginning of August 1906 the Eclair published a circular of the War Minister Etienne addressed to the corps commanders. He informs them that the N.C.O.s leaving the infantry school at Saint-Maixent [24] had expressed anti-militarist ideas and explained that they were remaining in the army in order to win over adherents to their ideas. Above all we must draw attention to a number of strikes – for example at Durtkirk, Le Creusot, Longwy (Merrheim!) and Montceau-les-Mines – when the soldiers called in to intervene declared their solidarity with the strikers. It is no wonder that the Nouvelliste do Rouen treats the effect of Social-Democracy on the army as “a very dangerous wound on the body of France which requires the most drastic treatment”. [25]

In comparison with German conditions the War Minister Etienne used very moderate terms in the above mentioned circular when speaking of the danger of anti-militarism and the methods of fighting it. And it cannot be denied that in France great scope has been given to anti-militarism with regard to the constitutional right of free expression of opinion. The reports of the trials of anti-militarists are very instructive in this connection. We remember how a few years ago the Socialist Fournière was permitted to lecture on social politics to the Polytechnic officers’ school. And quite recently the lectures for officers at the School for Social Studies in Paris, in which Captain Demonge spoke quite openly and even in revolutionary terms against militarism, caused the flesh of our strict and narrow-minded militarists to creep. If we add the impending limitation of the scope of military justice and of the biribi, together with the government bill concerning the shortening of the term of service for the reserve and the militia (though it is true that this was rejected), and finally Picart’s plan for the democratization of the officer corps by the realization of an unité d’origin of officers and non-commissioned officers [26] – then France might appear to be an El Dorado of militarism. The position of Clemenceau [3*] towards anti-militarism – he is the president of a ministry in which sit two “Socialists”, once amor et deliciae of all social optimists – shows that it is not a question of a fundamental change in militarism, but simply of a change in form, due for the most part to anti-clericalism.



The Italian labour movement in its different tendencies bears some resemblance to the French movement. Here too, together with the normal political party movement, we find anarchist offshoots and an anti-patriotic syndicalist movement which is anti-parliamentary and closely related to anarchism. The anti-militarist movement is also divided according to the same criteria. It goes back some time, but has only recently been systematically taken in hand by the Party. We must first mention the Young Socialist organizations and above all the Federazione Nazionale Giovanile Socialism, with headquarters in Rome, and to which a number of provincial federations are affiliated. [27] It published the Gioventu Socialista (Socialist Youth), edited by Paolo Orano, and has been active from the outset in the field of anti-militarism, like the Belgian Young Guards. [28]

In 1905 the Leghe delle Futture Conscritti was founded as a special anti-militarist organization, subsidiary to the National Federation with which it is closely connected. Both organizations are recognized by the Party.

At a session of the Party executive in Rome in October 1905 the following resolution moved by Ferri was passed, with only one vote against:

The Party executive protests against police prosecution of Socialists and of their press in connection with the recent anti-militarist demonstrations. It notes with satisfaction the enthusiasm with which the Young Socialist organizations have carried on the anti-militarist agitation called for by the Party, and resolves that the whole Party, with the help of the executive, is to take part in this agitation. The aim is not merely to enlighten public opinion on the fact that huge amounts of state money are being wasted on the military administration, but above all to persuade the recruits and soldiers that, without ignoring their duty to defend the country, they should not co-operate in the murder of workers. These murders, in their frequency and cruelty, are an insult to our land.

Apart from this, the Rome Party Congress of October 1906 gave an idea of the general way in which anti-militarist propaganda is carried on in Italy. Anti-militarism was a special item on the agenda. Two motions were presented. That of the syndicalist Bianchi read : “The ninth Congress of the Socialist Party, in the discussion on militarism, approves the activity and propaganda methods used by the Italian Young Socialist organizations.” The other motion was presented by Romualdi, editor of Avanti, and states: “Congress endorses the Party’s anti-militarist traditions, and considers it necessary – in view of the refusal of the bourgeoisie to recognize that the army must stand on a position of genuine neutrality in the struggle between labour and capital – that, in order to prevent the murder of workers and the breaking of strikes, an agitational movement should be started with the aim of dissuading the young workers from taking up their arms in such situations and becoming strike-breakers. At the same time Congress considers it necessary to make propaganda among the workers for the idea that they should not use violence against the troops, both in order to avoid a reaction on the part of the soldiers and to prove that a common bond of brotherhood unites the striking workers and the soldiers.”

Anti-patriotic as well as anarchist anti-militarism was represented in the discussion, but the strictly Social-Democratic variety was dominant, while anti-militarist agitation among the soldiers was only opposed by a few delegates using arguments similar to those heard at the 1904 Bremen Congress of the German Social-Democratic Party. The representatives of the Young Socialist organization explained that their comrades did not carry on anti-militarist propaganda according to Hervé’s method, but in order to reduce the army bill and to awaken a sense of solidarity between soldiers and workers. Finally it was decided not to put the motion of Fend and Turad to the vote, but to remit the question to the Party executive for consideration. At the same time it is very important to note that Ferri’s integralist resolution, which was adopted at the Congress by an overwhelming majority, contains the following passage:

The Party is developing political activity whose object is: to intensify anti-clerical and anti-monarchical propaganda in view of the present situation and of the growing clericalism of the government; to intensify anti-militarist agitation, whose aim is the education of Italian youth in socialism, in order to neutralize the tendency of the ruling classes to use the army as an instrument of coercion against the proletariat.

In Italy too anti-militarist agitation has made the army unreliable as a weapon against the so-called enemy at home. But in Italy also class justice has been wed, in the form of numerous trials and the infliction of severe punishments, to attack anti-militarists both inside and outside of the army. The Turin events of 1905 are well known.



Anti-militarism has made great strides in Switzerland, together with the ever more frequent use of soldiers in strikes.

At the Conference of the Swiss Social-Democratic Party held at Olten in October 1903, a resolution was drafted which takes up the standard position towards war and demands a military constitution which “clearly determines the rights and duties of the state and of its citizens”, and declares that the use of the army in strikes cannot be tolerated.

Dissatisfaction with this resolution led in April 1904 to the convocation of the Lucerne Congress, which set out, among others, the following demands:

A considerable reduction in military expenditure, the people to decide on questions of expenditure above a total of one million Francs, an improvement in the military and economic position of the soldier, abolition of military justice, prohibition of the use of troops in strikes.

The conference described it as the duty of the Party to use every means available to attain these goals, but without any more definite indication of those means.

The intervention of the military in strikes at La Chaux-de-Fonds and the Ricken made greater activity necessary, as well as the adoption of a clearer slogan. Heated discussions took place in meetings. The Federal Committee of the Trade Union Federation published a leaflet on September 15, 1904 which contained the sentences:

In all cases we must try to persuade the soldiers not to fire on their fellow workers, not to use their weapons against them, and not only to refuse to obey on these occasions but also to attempt with every means to prevent such murder. Only then will they be acting in the spirit of our Federal Constitution, which states that the soldier in uniform is first of all a citizen.

The Party Conference which took place soon after at Zurich passed the following resolution:

The Social-Democratic Party calls upon the soldiers, when they are mobilized against strikes, to bear in mind their solidarity with the workers and not allow themselves to be used in actions which would vitiate the right of their class comrades to strike and hold meetings.

The following Party Conference at Geneva instructed the Party executive to draft a resolution on the military question for the next conference.

In the meantime anti-militarist agitation was being organized and systematized. In 1905 a Swiss Anti-militarist League was established, whose object is:

  1. To enlighten the workers to the fact that in bourgeois society the army acts as a hindrance to the liberation of the working class;
  2. To use all means suitable in rendering the army harmless as far as its use as a means of power by the capitalists is concerned.

The first congress was held in October 1905 and the League has grown rapidly since then. It issues leaflets to the workers’ organizations and pamphlets addressed to agricultural and industrial workers, and displays considerable activity. Among the pamphlets we must make special mention of the widely circulated and almost classic text, The Watchdog of Capitalism.

In accordance with the decision of the Lucerne Congress of January 1906 preparations were put in hand for a central library, as well as for a translation of Hervé’s Leur Patrie. The League also publishes the Vorposten, which is devoted, and with great skill, to anti-militarist agitation. [29] As far as the question of militarism abroad is concerned, the League takes up the standpoint which has been much argued over: that although only the victory of socialism can abolish war, something must be done while this victory is not achieved to prevent the “mutual slaughter of and by those without property at the command of those who possess it”, and that the only thing that is of use in this connection is the “withdrawal of military labour power”, that is, the military strike. As far as the question of militarism at home is concerned, they of course make the appeal: “Vous ne tirerez pas![30] The second proposal is naturally much more disagreeable to capitalism, especially in Switzerland, than the first. But it is still a fact that a favourite manoeuvre of the bourgeoisie is to try to work its mill of counter-agitation with “patriotic” wind, which it endeavours to raise by stamping this tendency as “unpatriotic”, “treacherous” and resulting in the “disarming of the nation in the face of the enemy abroad”. [31]

The Party Conference at Aarau held in February 1906 was the occasion of a very interesting anti-militarist debate. It came to light that in Switzerland too the idea of the military strike and of a refusal to take part in army service against other countries has its supporters. The following important resolution was passed.

(1) The Social-Democratic Party strives together with the Social-Democratic Parties of other countries to eliminate all possibilities of war among the civilized peoples as well as all instruments of war. It demands that international conflicts be settled by arbitration.

(2) As long as this state of affairs has not been established among the peoples of central Europe, the Party recognizes only a citizen army whose sole purpose is to protect the country from external attack.

(3) The Party protests against the use of soldiers in strikes. Since this misuse has in fact taken place in recent years, it demands guarantees against its repetition. As long as these guarantees are not forthcoming, the Party advises the soldiers to refuse to obey when ordered to attack workers on strike or to draw weapons against them. The Social-Democratic Party will in such cases attempt as far as possible to aid the individual concerned and his family with regard to the financial consequences, and for this purpose will get in touch with the trade union organizations. The Party considers that the best guarantee against the use of troops in cases of strikes lies in the strengthening of its political power at commune and state level.

(4)The Party demands an army organization which is based upon general military service, which is in harmony with democratic institutions and does not come into contradiction with the principle that all have equal rights under the constitution. It demands the reduction of military expenditure and opposes all expenditure not absolutely necessary for national defence.

As a consequence of this resolution it was decided to establish a fund for the support of army resisters.

The first, second and fourth paragraphs of this resolution practically cover the draft resolution submitted by the Party executive. [32] The Party Conference however inserted paragraph 3 in the draft resolution, the passage which calls on soldiers to disobey orders in the event of intervention in strikes. The conference also made the wording of the resolution sharper and more definite, in accordance with the demand made in the Vorposten.

The Social-Democrats of the Grütli, as is known, take up for the most part a thoroughly petty-bourgeois attitude to militarism. They condemn for example the refusal to vote for the budget! It will not be surprising if on the military question they are found to be so light in weight that they will be blown out of the Party like chaff. The new Party split which was rumoured to be going to take place at the Aarau conference has so far been avoided, in spite of the vigorous anti-militarist position taken up by the conference.

The publications of the study group of the workers’ circle of Saint-Imier are also noteworthy. Among them one can find the useful pamphlet The Army and Strikes. The Young Socialist organizations, which probably only exist in French Switzerland, also play a certain role. The journal La Jeunesse Socialiste has been published in Lausanne since 1903 by a number of these organizations, but recently it has lost the character of a Young Socialist paper. We must also mention the Youth Society founded and directed in Zurich by the comrade and pastor Pflüger.

It is evident that in Switzerland too anarchism directs its attention to anti-militarism. There is an anarchist anti-militarist group in Geneva, apparently the only group in the whole of Switzerland which is affiliated to the International Anti-militarist Association, which we shall speak of later. The anarchist paper Weckruf, which is published in Zurich and has been appearing since 1902, considers anti-militarist agitation – in the anarchist sense, of course – as one of its main tasks. We should not overlook the fact that it is at least a kind of proletarian anarchism which is being put forward here – or rather, that the anti-militarist arguments put forward by Weckruf have a largely proletarian character. The successes of Swiss anti-militarism, shown especially by the Geneva and Zurich strikes, have already been mentioned, together with the subsequent memorable action of the system of justice. In addition let us note the fact that many proletarian members of the militia refused to march against the masons’ strike at La Chaux-de-Fonds. In spite of the “sympathy” of so-called public opinion, severe sentences were passed on six of the militiamen by military justice. [33]

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1. We have before us one of the leaflets issued by the Antwerp branch of the Socialist Labour Party in 1886. It goes straight to the essential point, calling on the soldiers to refuse to obey an order to fire on the people.

2. In regard to this activity see La procès de la caserne, Volksdrukkerij, Ghent 1905.

3. De Loteling and De Kazerne since 1887, Le Caserne since 1893, La Conscrit since 1899.

4. The Flemish papers were placed under the control of the Flemish Federation of the Socialist Young Guards in Ghent.

5. Cf. Housiaux in Die Neue Zeit, April 23, 1904, vol.2, pp.110ff., and the scattered congress reports. Three provincial federations exist: the Flemish (about 1,000 members), the Brabant (about 500 members) and the Walloon (about 8,000 members). The last was founded in September 1905. The Liege Congress of 1905 dissolved the National Council, which was reconstituted in rather different form in 1906 – the Flemish and Walloon Federations each elect a representative, and the National Congress elects the third (the National Secretary).

6. We need not consider the Etoile Socialiste here.

7. Its predecessor was the journal Contre le militarisme, pour le socialisme.

8. In 16 pages!

9. During the process of the drawing of lots in 1906 the streets were plastered with some 20,000 explanatory posters and 80,000 illustrated posters.

10. In 1906 the print of La Conscrit was over 68,000, that of Do Loteling about 30,000, La Caserne slightly less. In 1905 100,000 copies of La Caserne were distributed for special purposes.

11. Cf. La procès de la caserne.

12. On the debate, in which Vandervelde’s intervention was decisive, see Mouvement Socialiste for August 15, 1903, pp.594 if., and La Jeunesse Socialiste for August 1903.

13. Les Temps Nouveaux, October 28, 1905.

14. In this connection see the pamphlet Le patriotisme, Libertaire Publications, Paris.

15. Les Temps Nouveaux takes a very friendly attitude towards it.

16. Leur Patrie, p.246. This is the explanation of the objection frequently made against Hervé that his support in the Yonne is to be explained by the old and deeply-rooted dislike of the peasants for military service.

17. Pioupiou – a popular expression for “recruit , with a certain affectionate and familiar connotation.

18. Cf. La Pioupiou en cour d’Assises (The Recruit before the Jury), Auxerre 1904.

19. On Hervé’s anti-parliamentarism, see La Vie Socialiste, pp.97ff. In Mouvemont Socialiste, June 1, 1905, Fages says that the so-called campagne antipatriotique is in reality a campagne anticapitaliste.

20. With the co-operation of the Association Internationale Antimilitariste.

21. Cf. Les Temps Nouveaux, no.12, 1905. On the prosecutions against Loquier and Lemaire at Epinal and Amiens, see ibid., no.26, 1905.

22. The case of Merrheim deserves special mention. At a strike at Longwy he made a direct appeal to his infantrymen to use no violence against the strikers even if they should provoke or attack the soldiers.

23. Especially in Algiers the death penalty is imposed for the slightest offence! Cf. the Besançon affair, L’Humanité, December 11, 1906.

24. Whose abolition is planned.

25. Cf. von Zepelin in the Kreuz-Zeitung, December 23, 1906.

26. They want first of all to put the military schools on the same basis. There will be only one school for each branch of the army, to be attended by both officers and N.C.O.s. This of course brings horror to our reactionaries (Deutsche Tageszeitung, December 22, 1906).

27. At the Milan Congress in September 1906 5 provincial organizations and 24 sections from northern Italy were represented, comprising 2,400 members.

28. In this connection see the proceedings of the Milan Congress.

29. The League has a very good song which goes to the tune of Heil dir im Siegerkranz.

30. Cf. Vorposten, The Draft Resolution of the Party Committee.

31. See the Leipziger Volkszeitung, January 30, 1906, A Split in Swedish Social-Democracy?

32. On the struggles in the Party Committee over the drafting of the proposed resolution, see the Leipziger Volkszeitung, December 28, 1905.

33. Cf. also Leo Tolstoy’s An die Soldaten und jungen Leute, Berlin-Charlottenburg 1906, pp.15-16 (cases of individual refusal to serve), and Les Temps Nouveaux, no.26, 1905 (four months’ imprisonment without deduction of time spent in custody, and two years’ loss of civil rights).

Additional notes by the translator

1*. HERVÉ, GUSTAVE (1871-1944). A university teacher, he was forced to leave his post as a consequence of legal proceedings arising out of his anti-militarist opinions. Founded the paper La Guerre sociale. Later became an ardent patriot, left the Socialist Party in 1916, supported Clemenceau. In 1927 created the fascist National Socialist Party in France.

2*. KROPOTKIN, PRINCE (1842-1921). Russian revolutionist, and a so-called scientific anarchist. Welcomed the First War, believing it would destroy the obsolete nation-state form. Hostile to the Bolshevik revolution.

3*. CLEMENCEAU, GEORGES (1841-1929). Radical, French Minister of the Interior from 1906. Became known as the strong man of French politics, especially because of his use of the army in social conflicts at home and his support for the general strengthening of the armed forces. Headed the French government from 1917 to 1920.

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