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Issue 472, 5 November 2001


Scenes at a Tribunal





There was a dramatic episode in the proceedings of the Huddersfield Military Service Tribunal on Monday afternoon. A large number of cases of conscientious objection to military service were down for hearing, and the public attended in large numbers to watch the proceedings. So large was the attendance that scores had to stand through the afternoon, and the crowd extended into the corridors. A policemen was sent for to regulate the crowd.. An air of excitement was noticeable from the outset, but the hearing of several cases took place without any special incident. When the name of Arthur Gardiner was celled, however, and this popular Socialist protagonist made his way to the table, the excitement found expression in a startling outburst of cheering. What followed is reported below. It is worthy of notice that though exemption was refused in every case of conscientious objection prior to this demonstration, nearly all of the subsequent cases, including that of Arthur Gardiner, were given temporary exemption.

When the cheering which greeted Gardiner's appearance had subsided, the Mayor (Ald. Blamires), who was in the chair, said that after that demonstration he would clear the court, and they would hear the case in private.
This caused resentment, and members of the public shouted that the applicant could have the case heard in public. Amid the hubbub Mr. Pickles, the Labour member of the Tribunal, rose and said: "I desire to say that we are trying the case of Mr. Arthur Gardiner, and Arthur Gardiner perhaps has had no part or parcel in the demonstrations we have just listened to. Therefore, it is only justice that we should try the case like others and that this should be a warning to demonstrators in the future."
The Mayor: But though Arthur Gardiner had no connection with these people, they have come with some definite intention of making a demonstration.
Mr. A. P. Crosland (military representative): I should clear the room sir.
Applicant: May I object? Have I leave to speak here?
The Mayor: One moment, please. It is the feeling of the Tribunal we should hear this case in private and have the Press present. (Turning to the public) I must ask you to leave the room.
A Voice: He does not want it in private.
Applicant: I am quite prepared to have this taken in private on condition that I can have witnesses to stay behind.
The Mayor: If we require witnesses …
Applicant: I shall require witnesses.
The Mayor: We will meet that when we come to it.
Mr. Armitage: You will have the right to appeal against this decision.
A Voice: Let's clear out. They're only a lot of rogues.

A Minister Intervenes

There was now much excitement among the public and the members of the Tribunal sat helpless. The Rev. E. E. Lark of the United Methodist Church, Paddock, stepped forward and addressed the Mayor. He said there was pre-arrangement, so far as he knew, to applaud Arthur Gardiner, who was a very popular man in the Socialist movement. He (the speaker) hoped that in the public interest the Mayor would overlook the applause and reverse the decision.
Applicant: To remove any doubt the Tribunal may have, personally I was more surprised than the members of the Tribunal. There has been nothing whatever arranged. Perhaps I can account for the applause and the demonstration because I have taken up a definite anti-war attitude in times of peace as well as war. (Hear, hear)
Mr. Crosland: It has nothing to do with Mr. Gardiner. The crowd are misbehaving themselves.
The Rev. E. E. Lark: It is not misbehaviour Mr. Mayor, but a case of very strong feeling, which should not prejudice the applicant.
The Mayor: We are here in a very difficult position doing our best. (Laughter)
Mr. T. H. Beaumont (from the audience): We have not taken up any antagonism to you or the Tribunal. We want to hear the case. As citizens we have a right to speak.
The Mayor: I will not have any further discussion.
A Voice: We will be here all night then.
Another Voice: It is not a fair trial if it is in private. (Shouts of "Free Speech!")
A Voice: Can you throw us out without any help?
A woman questioned the right of the Tribunal to turn out the public against the Applicant's wishes.
A Voice: It is against the law.

The Right of Public Hearing

The Mayor: He has the right for this case to be heard in private. (Applicant: I don't want it). I have the right also. And after the demonstration I shall certainly have this case heard in private. The Press will be present and you will have a report.
Voices: I would not have it Gardiner (Hear, hear).
A young man stepped forward and asked, as the leader of the demonstration, would his apology be accepted.
The Mayor: You are out of order, sir, and I don't want to hear you. (Loud laughter)
After further suspense, the Mayor said he would adjourn to another room presently if the people did not leave
Applicant: Can we have pointed out to us the clause in the instructions to local Tribunals or in the Act under which the chairman has the right to clear the court? You can only hear cases in private if the applicant asks for it.
The Clerk (Mr. J. H. Field): I advise the Tribunal that they have full power and discretion as to whether they hear any case in private or not, independently altogether of whether an application is made by any particular applicant.
Applicant: That is in opposition to my request that the case should be heard in public?
The Clerk: Yes.

Clerk's Ruling Challenged

Applicant: There is no clause in the procedure or in the Act which gives one to understand that such is the case.
The Clerk: You are insisting on the proceedings being in public?
Applicant: Yes, I have seen something to that effect.
After a further pause, Mr. Armitage asked: Well, Mr. Mayor, what are we going to do?
The Mayor said it was impossible to hear the case with a lot of people prepared to make an exhibition.
A Voice: If this meeting undertakes to make no further demonstration …
Another Voice: Don't give them any concessions.
Yet Another: I understood the Tribunal was a court of justice and not an autocratic assembly. (Applause) As we boast so much of British Liberty, why not give fair play? You say you are going against German methods, and yet you are adopting them.
The Mayor: I wanted to give this man fair play, and I could not hear a word he said.
A Voice: Get a fresh chairman. (Laughter)
The Mayor: I don't think, friends, you are acting fair at all. ("Oh, oh!")
A member of the public mounted a stand at the back of the crowd and addressed the Tribunal. He asked on what ground, except a show of appreciation of Mr. Gardiner, did they deny the right of the public hearing in a public tribunal.

Gardiner Makes a Bargain

The Mayor: This is not a public tribunal. The public have the right to be present so long as they behave themselves.
A Voice: Have we misbehaved?
Applicant: If I appeal to the audience that no further demonstration should take place during the hearing of my case will that satisfy you?
The Mayor: Can you answer for these people?
Applicant said that if he appealed he believed they would listen.
Mr. Crosland: They won't take your word.
A Voice: We think more of Gardiner than of the Tribunal.
The Mayor: You think a great deal of Gardiner?
Voices: More than we do of you.
Mr. Pickles: I should not interject like that.
Applicant: I can't answer for the conduct of these people, but I am prepared to make an appeal which I believe would be listened to. If any further demonstration takes place after I have appealed, I shall be prepared for the case to go in private.
The Mayor: I have made my appeal for these people to retire. Now you shall make yours. On the first interruption I shall refuse to go on with the case, and you agree to go into another room to hear the case.

Arrival of the Police

Applicant then addressed the public. While he was speaking the Chief Constable entered the room. Police officers filed into the corridor.
"Women and men," said the Applicant, " I appeal to you that no further demonstration shall take place during the hearing of my case. If justice is not meted out to me and my comrades, I put it to you as an individual, that I do not count. I am simply here as the trustee of the opinions and conscientious convictions of the men of different parties and organisations who have principles like I have and hold the international solidarity of the workers should be placed before anything else. Because I want fair play and no favours, I ask you that no interjections of interruptions of any kind whatever shall take place while I am on my trial." (Cheers)
The Mayor: You are not on your trial.
Applicant: I think I am.
The hearing was then proceeded with.

"I have no country."

In his application Gardiner said he was 26 years of age and was employed as a wool and cotton dyer. He could not conscientiously undertake combatant or non-combatant military service. For a number of years he had devoted his time and energy, both publicly and privately, to the economic and moral upliftment of humanity. He was opposed to all forms of militarism. Believing it to be detrimental to the welfare of all nations.
Ms. Crosland: Can you produce any evidence to show that this belief is not of recent date?
Applicant: Yes, I can produce sufficient evidence to convince this Tribunal. I could produce women and men to show that for many years I have advocated anti-militarist views and the sacredness of human life.
You are against militarism. I am against it too, and always have been. That is no reason why you should not go to fight or your country. - I have no country.
What are you doing here, having no country? Why are you receiving all the benefits of a citizen when you have no country? - Whatever benefits I am receiving have only been got by the organised workers wringing them from the master class. I am here this afternoon defending one of the liberties we at present enjoy, the liberty of conscience.
Mr. Crosland suggested non-combatant service.
The Mayor: He objects to combatant and to non-combatant, and he objects on conscientious grounds.
Applicant: My objection is not only to killing another man, but also to taking ammunition.

Prepared to Leave the Country

The Mayor: You don't object to shelter here behind the brave men who are fighting? - I am quite prepared to leave the country if you allow me to do so.
Mr. Crosland: There are people who would be very glad to get rid of you if you would pay your own expenses. - I am prepared to pay my own expenses if you will allow me to leave the country.
The Mayor: You might be getting "out of the frying pan and into the fire". What country would you go to? - I don't think I should tell the Tribunal. It is immaterial which country I would go to.
Go to Germany perhaps? - Perhaps so. I might not be any worse off than I am here.
I think you are talking through your hat.- That is a matter of opinion.
This conscientious objection is an unsubstantial thing. - No, conscience is a material thing. You might not be able to understand it, other people perhaps can.
"The economic and moral upliftment of humanity", mused the Mayor. - That is so; German as well as Britisher, observed applicant.

Theories of Government

Mr. Armitage: I don't know what you are going to do.
Applicant: The Tribunal agrees with me, it is a noble ideal and I ask to be allowed to do it and go into the highways and byways and get the people to my opinion. That is the way to settle wars.
The Mayor: You can convince the people in time of peace, but when their blood is up you will have to do something to stop it, and only by physical means can you do it.
Applicant: You can never kill militarism by militarism.
Your movement is in a minority. - All movements start from minorities. Minorities are going to settle the war; the people are not going to settle the war. If you would leave it to them it would have been settled long since.
The people of this country are acting through the Government. - Yes, and the Government are a minority.
And you are a minority who are opposing the considered action of your own representatives. - That action does not settle that the minority is wrong.
But it is a fact. There is a minority in Germany probably. It is all dependant on physical force. - I cannot accept that. If Germany licks us by physical force, do you think the militarists in this country will be content?
There was a pause, and the applicant added: I realise the interests of the workers of Germany are identical with those of the workers of England, and for that reason I cannot march against them and will not.

Not Named in the Reichstag

Mr. Crosland: And you will not do non-combatant service? - Certainly not.
The Mayor: They are fighting against England! - No, they are not fighting against me.
Well, you are a unit in this empire. - No; I don't think my name has been brought up at all in the German Reichstag. (Laughter)
It would have been absurd to do so. - Certainly it would. It is not my fault that I was born here. I am neither to be praised nor blamed for it.
But you are fortunate that you were born here.
- That may be.
Well, I am glad you admit so much.
Turning to the other members of the Tribunal the Mayor asked whether they were satisfied.
Mr. Armitage: He objects to one as well as the other, and I should refuse it sir.
Mr. Pickles: I think Mr. Gardiner has made a splendid case out.
Mr. Armitage: But he has such curious ideas; they can't be worked.
Mr. Pickles: I should like to Ask the Town Clerk if this Tribunal has the power to grant him exemption on conscientious grounds.
Applicant: Mr. Armitage says I have curious views. Because you do not agree with them does not mean I do not hold those views.

Military Representative's Opposition

Mr. Crosland said this case was not different from the other cases.
The Mayor: I think he has proved consistency in his experience. That is rather different from the others. I have a feeling we might …
Mr. Crosland: What sect do you belong to?
Applicant: I am an atheist.
The Mayor: Have atheists consciences do you think? - Oh yes! I am a member of the British Socialist Party and a member of the Socialist Sunday School.
Mr. Crosland: I should refuse it. Whatever you do I shall oppose your decision.
The Mayor: That won't make the slightest difference.
Mr. Crosland: It seems so foreign to have a man talk as he does.
The Mayor: I think I should like to retire.
The Tribunal retired and sat in private for twenty minutes.
During the interval, the Rev. Mr. Lark expressed the hope that when the Tribunal returned and announced its verdict there would be no demonstration. There were many other cases in which they were interested, and they did not want to break the compact they had made in the presence of the Mayor with Mr. Gardiner.

The Decision

On the return of the Tribunal the Mayor said they had had some difficulty in coming to a decision, but they had decided by a majority, and the decision was that they believed that the applicant was entitled to call himself a conscientious objector. They were very sorry that a man of his attainments and ability could not see the interests of this country at the present time were in an opposite direction, but in view of the fact that they believed in the sincerity of his convictions, they were disposed to grant temporary exemption for two months. Which would carry to four months.
Applicant: I cannot accept the decision. I suppose I shall have the right of appeal.
The Mayor said that was what he wanted. They wanted the case considered.

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