Insumisión in the barracks

KEM-MOC Bilbao

Elias and Ramiro looked around as they entered the barracks on 5 November. How on earth had they, two anti-militarists, ended up here? "OK, it's tough to be a MOC activist, but standing In the ranks trying to look military as you figure out what the sergeant's barking means, that may be just too much!"

They are taking it with good humour, as If they're in a surrealistic story. They'll play soldiers for awhile before they finally report to -their" commander and announce that they are total resisters and therefore refuse to obey orders and to perform military service.

This is the latest strategy, designed by MOC at its summer meeting. Imprisonment has proved a really counter-productive form of repression, so now jail sentences for total resisters are being replaced by a punishment more subtle and less easy to use politically: loss of civic rights. Now, only those who r~ fuse once they have begun military service will be sent to jail. Hence insumisión en los cuarteles - total resistance in the bar-racks. The idea is to challenge the state either to imprison resisters in the army or to accept that conscription doesn't make sense.

Even if this is an effective counter against "low intensity repression", the crumbling of conscription means that it's time for groups like MOC to switch strategies. Many of us feel that, even before conscription is finally abolished, we should shift the focus of our struggle away from military service. This does not mean simply choosing new issues for campaigns, but assessing the legacy of the conscription system for past campaigns.

In practice, and despite our theoretical declarations, we are strongly male oriented. There is still a certain trend to indulge in the ethos and tactics of martyrdom. We keep giving too much Importance to the correctness and coherence of our action at the personal level, so neglecting to analyse their global consequences in political terms. Some groups in some countries have compromised to the point of accepting that, because one has a moral obligation to contribute somehow to the community, the state has a right to compel people to do some sort of service -quite a dangerous assumption at a time when many governments are considering establishing a general compulsory social service.

Many European governments are looking for a "peaceful transition" to professionalisation of the military. For this, they need to offer new reasons for people to feel the need for a military defence, with strong investments in high-tech industry. Therefore, we decided not to let conscription die in peace but instead give our resistance a social impact against the military as a whole. We don't just refuse to take part in the army, but also denounce the military interests advocating the abolition of conscription, and present a social challenge to military concepts of humanitarian intervention, security, crisis management, or peacekeeping.

It won't be easy for us to change. Some of us will tend to think the time to struggle is past; others will see it as a matter of switching the focus to tax resistance, peace education and nonmilitary defence alternatives. The reality will be a lot more complicated. The transition for our movement is an open process, one that will take open minds, so that similar discussions and experiences around the world help us all to find new paths to demilitarisation.
KEM-MOC, lturribide 12-1-D, 48006 Bilbao, Euskadi, State of Spain (tel +3444153772; fax 479 0383; email betxea@lander.es).

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