Guest Editorial: Manifesto against Conscription and the Military System

by Gandhi Information Center, Berlin


In the name of humanity,

for the sake of all civilians threatened by war crimes,

especially women and children,

and for the benefit of Mother Nature suffering from war preparations and warfare:

We, the undersigned, plead for the universal abolition of conscription as one major and decisive step towards complete disarmament.

We remember the message of 20th century humanists: “It is our belief that conscript armies, with their large corps of professional officers, are a grave menace to peace. Conscription involves the degradation of human personality, and the destruction of liberty. Barrack life, military drill, blind obedience to commands, however unjust and foolish they may be, and deliberate training for slaughter undermine respect for the individual, for democracy and human life. It is debasing human dignity to force men to give up their life, or to inflict death against their will, or without conviction as to the justice of their action. The State, which thinks itself entitled to force its citizens to go to war, will never pay proper regard to the value and happiness of their lives in peace. Moreover, by conscription the militarist spirit of aggressiveness is implanted in the whole male population at the most impressionable age. By training for war men come to consider war as unavoidable and even desirable.” (1)

“Conscription subjects individual personalities to militarism. It is a form of servitude. That nations routinely tolerate it is just one more proof of its debilitating influence. Military training is schooling of body and spirit in the art of killing. Military training is education for war. It is the perpetuation of the spirit of war. It hinders the development of the desire for peace.” (2)

We encourage all people to emancipate themselves from the military system and instead employ methods of nonviolent resistance on the lines of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., including: conscientious objection (by conscripts and professional soldiers in times of war and peace), civil disobedience, war tax resistance, non-cooperation with military research, military production and the arms trade.

In our age of electronic warfare and media manipulation, we cannot deny our responsibility to act according to our consciences. It is high time to demilitarize our minds and our societies, to speak out against war and all preparations for it.

Now is the time to act. Now is the time to create and to live in a way that saves the lives of others.

[Sign our Manifesto at this link.]


(1) The Anti-Conscription Manifesto of 1926 was signed among others by: Henri Barbusse, Annie Besant, Martin Buber, Edward Carpenter, Miguel de Unamuno, Georges Duhamel, Albert Einstein, August Forel, M.K. Gandhi, Kurt Hiller, Toyohiko Kagawa, George Lansbury, Paul Loebe, Arthur Ponsonby, Emanuel Radl, Leonhard Ragaz, Romain Rolland, Bertrand Russell, Rabindranath Tagore, Fritz von Unruh, H.G. Wells.

(2) The manifesto of 1930, entitled, “Against Conscription and the Military Training of Youth” was signed by: Jane Addams, Paul Birukov and Valentin Bulgakov (collaborators of Leo Tolstoy), John Dewey, Albert Einstein, August Forel, Sigmund Freud, Arvid Jaernefelt, Toyohiko Kagawa, Selma Lagerloef, Judah Leon Magnes, Thomas Mann, Ludwig Quidde, Emanuel Radl, Leonhard Ragaz, Henriette Roland Holst, Romain Rolland, Bertrand Russell, Upton Sinclair, Rabindranath Tagore, H.G. Wells, Stefan Zweig.

EDITOR’S NOTE: [by Christian Bartolf] Since the year 1993, our international society for education, the Gandhi Information Center, Research and Education for Nonviolence (P.O. Box-Postfach- 210109, 10501 Berlin, Germany) has collected signatures and translations of the new “Manifesto against Conscription and the Military System”. We followed the Tolstoy tradition line of the previous manifestoes, and we wanted to learn a lesson from the past. Meanwhile, this new Manifesto has been spread worldwide by Gandhi Information Center, translated by friends into more than 25 languages. More than 500 people of integrity and/or celebrities in the fields of Science and Culture and/or engaged in the issues of Peace, Ecology and Human Rights have already signed.

This new Manifesto was published with the complete list of signatories during the beginning of the new millennium, in the year 2001. This secular tradition of manifestoes against conscription, the military system, and the roots of war was started by Leo Tolstoy in his work “The Kingdom of God Is Within You” (1893). It was particularly this work of Count Tolstoy, which first influenced the young lawyer in South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi, thus drawing the attention to the keystone of the military system. We now find no other way than joining together our present and future nonviolent activities for Peace on Earth: We shall overcome conscription and the military system by the enlightenment of nonviolent resistance.


The first book publication of the Manifesto was:

Christian Bartolf (ed.): Manifesto against Conscription and the Military System. Gandhi-Informations-Zentrum, Berlin, 2001. ISBN: 3-930093-16-2.

You can find the history of the anti-war manifestoes in this two-part essay: (Part 1) (Part 2)

See the Manifesto at Wikisource:

For more information, a list of publications and for peace education, our exhibitions can be found on the Center’s website:

Christian Bartolf, Dominique Miething, Nikos Pulos (Chair)

“When planted in the garden, the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, became a large tree, and birds came and made their home there.” Luke 13:19

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.” M. Gandhi