In Servia, for instance, which many folk doubtless regard as a benighted country, more than four-fifths of the people are peasant farmers and cultivate lands belonging to their own families. “These holdings cannot be sold or mortgaged entire; the law forbids the alienation for debt of a peasant’s cottage, his garden or courtyard, his plough, the last few acres of his land, and the cattle necessary for working his farm.” [Encycl. Brit.] In 1910 there were altogether five hundred agricultural co-operative societies in Servia.
While protesting, as I have already done, against forced military service, it must still be admitted that the argument in favour of it retains a certain validity: to the extent, namely, that every one owes a duty of some kind to his own people, that it is mean to accept all the advantages of citizenship—security, protection, settled conditions of life, and so forth—and still to refuse to make sacrifice for one’s country in a time of distress or danger. It is difficult of course for any one to trace all the threads and fibres which have worked themselves into his life from his own homeland—as it is difficult for a child to trace all the qualities of blood that it owes to its mother; but there they are, and though some of these native inheritances and conditions may not really be to a man’s liking, yet he can hardly refuse to acknowledge them, or to confess the debt of gratitude that he owes to the land of his birth.
Granting all this, however, most fully, there still remains a long stretch from this admission to that of forced military service. The drawbacks to this latter are many. In the first place compulsion anyhow is bad. A voluntary citizen army may be all right; but to compel a man to fight, whether he will or not—in violation, perhaps, of his conscience, of his instinct, of his temperament—is an inexcusable outrage on his rights as a human being. In the second place it is gross folly; for a man who fights devoid of freewill and against his conscience, against his temperament, cannot possibly make a good fighter. An army of such recusants, however large, would be useless; and even a few mixed with the others do, as a matter of fact, greatly lower the efficiency of the whole force associated with them. In the third place compulsion means compulsion by a Government, and Government, at any rate to-day, means class-rule. Forced military service means service under and subjection to a Class. That means Wars carried on abroad to serve the interests, often iniquitous enough, of the Few; and military operations entered into at home to suppress popular discontent or to confirm class-power. To none of these things could any high-minded man of democratic temper consent. There are other drawbacks, but these will do to begin with.