En legitima desobediencia: tres decades de objection, insurmision y antimilitarismo

IssueJune - August 2002
Review by Howard Clark

This 348-page anthology contains the most significant documents of the last 30 years of MOC - the Spanish movement for conscientious objection. The story begins with the pioneer conscientious objector, Pepe Beunza, declaring his refusal to join the military back in 1971 - still in the days of General Franco's dictatorship. It comes right up to the date with MOCs response to the end of conscription in 2000 and a chronology that goes right up to 2002. The texts are mainly short and peppered with graphics, including one of my favourites - a photo of an action where the activists poured yellow paint over themselves to inhibit police violence against them.

MOC in the state of Spain has been the most creative and most coherent anti-militarist movement in Europe in the last 20 years. This book shows its major debates - the shift from conventional conscientious objection (demanding an alternative civilian service) to downright insumision, total non-cooperation with conscription, even to the extent of lobbying non-governmental organisations to stop offering placements for those doing substitute service. It discusses the experience of taking this struggle into prisons, and the forms of organisation practiced there. It presents the Spanish perspective on war tax resistance, educating the population in disobedience (and incidentally raising significant funds for their counterparts in more difficult situations). It includes a section on gender and sexuality, although it has to be said that few women feature elsewhere in the book.

Even in such a large book, omissions are inevitable - nothing about the formation of parents' groups during the campaign of insumision, nothing about the advocacy of a transformative approach to nonviolent social defence approach or about peace education in general, nothing about MOCs enormous contribution other anti-militarist campaigns (about military bases or against joining NATO in the 1980s), and nothing indicating the evolution of activists in MOC and their promotion of nonviolence and disobedience in other forms. But this is an inspiring compilation, bringing back into public domain documents that were circulated as leaflets and seemed destined to be ephemera.

Beyond this more or less contemporary experience Pepe Beunza (see p29) is not a historical relic but remains an active anti-militarist, and his village in Catalunya has declared itself a demilitarised zone), two contributions delve further back to retrieve traditions of history buried in footnotes (for instance, in the 17th century when deserters posed as religious pilgrims) or lost under the dictatorship. The current movement had no idea that internationally anti-militarists had split over differences in attitude to the Spanish Civil War - the president of the WRI itself, Fenner Brockway, resigned saying that had he been Spanish he would be taking up arms against Franco. It was only through researching WRI publications in London and the full archives in Amsterdam that Xabi Agirre was able to recover a small part of this history.

The price of this high-quality book is an amazing 10 euros (say 7 or $10) and Id recommend it to any PN reader who understands Castilian Spanish or who would like to learn it. To order it, email objeta@arrakis.es.“>mailto:objeta@arrakis.es.”>objeta@arrakis.es.

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