Over the period 1990-1997, I submitted the paper "Socialism without the military" to seven journals. It was not published.
3202 Adeline Street
Berkeley CA 94703
Social defence is nonviolent community resistance to aggression as an alternative to military defence, using methods such as strikes, boycotts, noncooperation and alternative institutions. Social defence (also called nonviolent defence, civilian defence and civilian-based defence) is widely known in European peace movement circles, and is for example on the platform of the West German Green Party. But it is relatively little known in English-speaking countries, especially the US.
Socialists have often been resistant to social defence, partly due to a commitment to armed revolution. But in a modern technological society, where the means of violence are monopolised by the state, nonviolent methods have considerable advantages. They provide a contrast to conventional military methods of struggle and organisation in that everyone can be involved, including women, children, the aged and disabled. Social defence is potentially quite radical because it implies undermining the power of the state and of institutions, such as private property, which are defended by the state.
I have been involved in study and social activism on social defence for the past decade and have written a number of articles and a portion of one of my books on the topic. Our social defence group here, Schweik Action Wollongong, will be hosting the first Australia-wide social defence conference next month. In April I will be attending an international gathering of social defence activists at Bradford, England. My own perspective is different from the most prominent US approach to social defence, associated with Gene Sharp, of focusing on elites to bring about social defence. The enclosed articles give some idea of my orientation.
Would you be interested in an article dealing with social defence, its contexts of defence policy and social struggle and its relevance to socialists? No major socialist journal has yet published such an article.
Larry Casalino, a member of the Socialist Review editorial collective, wrote back in late January very encouragingly, with suggestions for what to include in the article. Following an exchange of letters, I sent a draft article on 13 July. Larry responded with detailed comments. I sent a revised version on 9 September.
I am very sorry to tell you that - after all this time - the SR collective decided not to accept your article. I personally would have published it without revision, and there were a number of other collective members who also wanted to publish it, but a relatively small majority were opposed. Your article provoked the most spirited discussion we have had about an article in quite a while - and we have had some spirited discussions. Ten days after the discussion - and after the war started - one of the collective members told me that she and her husband (another collective member), though they had opposed publication of the article at the meeting, had thought about it a great deal since the war began. But ...
I had written to you on November 29 to tell you that the article would be discussed at our December 4th meeting (did you receive this letter - I received a letter from you dated December 14 that showed no awareness of it?), but various factors delayed the discussion until early January. A week went by during which I lacked the time to send you the detailed letter I wanted to send, and then the Gulf crisis heated up. So I'm sorry not only for the rejection, but also for the delay in writing to you.
The collective is interested both in the topic of nonviolence and in you writing about it, and would be happy to consider another article, should you choose to submit one. I must add that there would still be no guarantee of acceptance, but the article would certainly get an attentive reading.
The chief reservation about your article - one which surprised me - was that it is not relevant enough to what is happening in the United States. We are not in danger of being invaded. One collective member said that she is interested not in how deal with an invasion of our country, but how to keep it from invading another country. Another said that the article is less relevant now then it would have been 20 years ago because leftist movements here are less violent and tend not to worship violence as they did at one time. The collective wanted me to tell you that we would be interested in an article that would focus more on nonviolence as a means of change than as a means of social defense.
I am sure that you are capable of writing such an article - you probably have written it. And you and I know that the question of nonviolence as a means of change cannot be separated from the questions of social defense and of democratic socialism. And in my letter to you I suggested - wrongly, it appears, in light of the collective's decision - that you focus on the importance of social defense for a democratic socialist society.
I will leave my comments at this for the moment, both because I don't know if you will be interested in writing another article and because I think that current events may change our editorial plans for the next eighteen months and may make some collective members think again about your article and/or about what kind of article they might want from you. Please let me know soon if you are interested in taking another crack.
Perhaps we will be able to discuss this in person [during your visit to San Francisco].
Once again, thank you for your effort - I'm sorry for the result. I look forward to meeting you and to seeing more of your work - hopefully in the pages of Socialist Review.
Robin Blackburn, editor
New Left Review
6 Meard Street
London WlV 3HR
Dear Robin Blackburn,
Please find enclosed three copies of an original article, "Socialism without the military", for you to consider for publication in New Left Review. It is a revised version of a paper presented at the Socialist Scholars Conference, Sydney, 28 September-1 October 1990. For historical reasons US spellings have been used, but that can readily be changed.
Social defence, and nonviolence generally, is a controversial topic on the left for a number of reasons, including the role of armed struggle in Third World liberation. Also, many of the proponents of social defence have avoided spelling out its revolutionary implications for the organisation of society. I hope you will find my treatment a worthy way to begin a discussion of these issues.
My involvement with the peace movement and social defence goes back more than a decade. As well as writing many articles on the topic, I have been involved in action groups and projects on social defence for many years. As I found out at the social defence conference in Bradford last year, many people around the world have found these projects and my writings helpful. The report of one project was translated into Italian and Dutch, and my book Uprooting War (1984) was published in Italian last year.
If you would like informed comment on my work, within Britain you could contact Michael Randle, School of Peace Studies, Bradford University, or Howard Clark, War Resisters International.
No acknowledgement or reply was received.
Socialism and Democracy
Research Group on Socialism and Democracy
c/o Dept. of Sociology
33 West 42nd Street
New York NY 10036
Please find enclosed three copies of an original article, "Socialism without the military", for you to consider for publication. It is a revised version of a paper presented at the Socialist Scholars Conference, Sydney, 28 September-1 October 1990. For historical reasons US spellings have been used, but that can readily be changed.
Social defence, and nonviolence generally, is a controversial topic on the left for a number of reasons, including the role of armed struggle in the Third World. Many of the proponents of social defence (especially in the US) have avoided its potentially revolutionary implications for the organisation of society. I hope you will find my treatment a worthy way to begin a discussion of these issues.
My involvement with the peace movement and social defence goes back more than a decade. As well as writing many articles on the topic, I have been involved in action groups and projects on social defence for many years. Many people around the world have found these projects and my writings helpful: the report of one project was translated into Italian and Dutch, and my book Uprooting War (1984) was published in Italian last year.
I sent a letter asking whether my submission had been received.
Dear Prof. Martin,
We have just received your note of October 6. Unfortunately, we have no record whatever of having received your article "Socialism without the military". Had we received it I assure you that we would have acknowledged receipt immediately. We are very interested in the topic, and I would like to ask you to re-submit. Sorry about what appears to be a post-office mishap.
I sent the article and a new version of my letter of 14 June. In a letter dated 3 December, Frank Rosengarten acknowledged receipt.
Dear Prof. Martin,
Please forgive the long delay in getting back to you about your article. The reason for this is that at the end of last year we ran into some administrative and editorial problems which still have not been completely resolved. In any event, we would still like to consider the possibility of publishing your article, but we need more time. We realize that this puts you at some inconvenience, so perhaps you might want to write us as to whether you still want our journal to consider your article.
Dear Prof. Rosengarten,
Thanks for your letter of 4 March. Please proceed to consider my article "Socialism without the military." The issue will not go out of date soon! Meanwhile, I'm continuing with a group project on telecommunications for nonviolent struggle and am completing a book on radical approaches to social defence (but without significant overlap with the article you are considering), as well as keeping in touch with activists and theorists on this topic from around the world. All this is to say that the article is linked to an ongoing praxis.
Dear Brian Martin,
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to review your manuscript,"Socialism and the Military," for consideration in Socialism and Democracy. The editors have now had the chance to discuss your piece and we regret to inform you that we have decided against publication.
The paper certainly has its merits. It is clearly written and concisely argued and raises a critical issue for social movements. It was not clear to us however, what contribution the piece made to the literature on non-violence that is so well documented in the paper. The challenge you raise for the left has not diminished in the years since Sharp's work was first published, but for our purposes, we would be interested in seeing the ways in which that work has been developed theoretically. Specifically, while your essay addresses the issue of why a frontal assault on the state may be untenable given its considerable repressive apparatus, it does not historicize state violence and makes it difficult to conceive of a shift from political tactics to strategy. The failures of violent revolution in the third world are matched by the limitations of the scope of change non-violent politics have accomplished in the industrialized nations. This is simply to suggest that non-violence needs to be contextualized more fully to appreciate what its possibilities and constraints may be.
The title of your paper suggests a more sustained exploration of socialism than turns out to be the case. It would be interested to look at the prospects of social defence in the light of the history of counterrevolutionary attacks from outside of the various socialist countries. It is not so apparent, for example, how mass strikes might have subverted the Nicaraguan contras. That historical instances of non-violent action can be articulated does not necessarily clarify how those cases can be applied to a theory of a non-violent history.
None of this is meant to reflect on the quality of your paper, but merely to indicate why the editors felt it might be better placed in another journal.
Thanks again for considering Socialism and Democracy, and best of luck in your endeavors.
for the editors
Thanks for your letter of 24 June rejecting my paper "Socialism without the military." Naturally I was disappointed by your decision, but I accept it and will be seeking publication elsewhere. Nevertheless, you may be interested in a few comments on the points raised in your letter.
The basic themes of my article are (1) that there are both theoretical reasons and practical evidence that militarised socialism is undemocratic and (2) social defence is a direction worth pursuing towards a non-militarised socialism. Many of your criticisms seem to be that my paper doesn't achieve things it never set out to do.
* You say that you would like to see the ways that nonviolence theory has developed since Gene Sharp's work was first published (by which you presumably refer to The Politics of Nonviolent Action, although he published long before this). Actually, my paper deals with the "grassroots action" orientation to social defence on p. 15; although I did not emphasise the point, this is a major shift from and challenge to Sharp's approach, which has been to orient social defence to government and military elites. My own work has been important in raising this alternative view; for example, my paper "Social defence: elite reform or grassroots initiative?", originally published in Social Alternatives, was reprinted in the US and translated into Dutch. However, it was not my intention to tout my own work nor even to outline debates in the social defence community.
* You say that I should have contextualised violence and nonviolence in the industralised world. That would be a major project in itself. It was not the focus of my paper.
* You refer to the limitations of nonviolent politics in industrialised societies. In my view (and that of many others) the collapses of state socialist regimes in Eastern Europe count as major successes of nonviolent politics. But perhaps your comment refers only to industrialised capitalist societies. Even there I could provide an argument. But this was not the focus of my paper.
* You say that the title of my paper [which, incidentally, you cite incorrectly in your letter] suggests that there should be a more sustained exploration of socialism. My aim was merely an initial consideration of socialism without the military. A sustained exploration of socialism was not the focus of the paper.
* You say that it is difficult to see how nonviolent methods could have operated against the Nicaraguan contras. This is something I readily could have addressed. The basic approach would have been to mobilise supporters outside Nicaragua, using the "great chain of nonviolence" in Johan Galtung's analysis (in, for example, his Nonviolence and Israel/Palestine, 1989) or "social offence" (to use my own conceptualisation, as in "Lesson in nonviolence from the Fiji coups," Gandhi Marg, 1988). Galtung argues that the US antiwar movement was central to the success of the Vietnamese resistance to the US invasion; similarly, the US solidarity movement was and is central to the success of Central American liberation struggles. Arguably, the movement's existence prevented a full-scale invasion of Nicaragua. Support of a nonviolent resistance struggle in Nicaragua could have been much greater and involved a range of techniques such as trade union bans, nonviolent intervenors (such as already exist on a small scale with Peace Brigades International), strenuous communication efforts among the Contras themselves and the US military plus many other groups, links with groups from around the world, etc. I cannot begin to indicate the possibilities here. But again, this was not the focus of my article.
To my knowledge, nothing substantial has ever been published on social defence by any English-language left-wing journal. It seems to me that you have imposed rather stiff criteria to ensure that you won't be the first.
Studies in Political Economy
PO Box 4729, Station E
Ottawa, Ontario KlS 5H9
Enclosed are five copies of an original paper, "Socialism without the military," which I submit for publication. An earlier version was presented some time ago at the Socialist Scholars Conference in Sydney. The length of the text is almost exactly 5000 words.
The basic themes of my paper are first, that there are both theoretical reasons and practical evidence that militarised socialism is undemocratic, and second, that social defence is a direction worth pursuing towards a non-militarised socialism. There are, of course, many other issues that may spring to mind in relation to my topic, which could be addressed if desired.
You will find that the paper is different from usual treatments on themes of political economy and socialism in that (1) it deals with the issue of militarism and (2) it looks at alternatives to present social systems. Since you are committed to dealing with perspectives that question received views, I trust that you will not rule the paper out on these grounds.
If you want a comment on my standing in the field of social defence, I could name some leading figures. The most knowledgeable and experienced person in Canada is Hans Sinn, R. R. 4, Perth, Ontario K7H 3C6.
Dear Mr. Martin:
I am writing on behalf of Studies in Political Economy to thank you for submitting your paper 'Socialism without the military.' I regret, however, that we are not able to accept it for publication.
Department of Political Studies, Queen's University
Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff, Editors
122 West 27th Street
New York NY 10001
Enclosed are three copies of an original paper, "Socialism without the military," for your consideration. It deals with an important but seldom-discussed issue, namely whether military forces are compatible with a democratic socialism. It also introduces social defence, a nonviolent alternative to military defence. Even if you don't agree with all the arguments here, I hope you'll agree that this is a challenging set of issues for socialists.
Dear Brian Martin,
Thanks for letting us see your paper, "Socialism Without the Military ." We read it with interest and the kind of agreement we reserve for utopias. Moreover if we had plenty of space, we could allocate some for it. But MR is a small magazine with a lot of ground to cover, and we have more material on hand or contracted for than we will be able to fit in for months ahead and we can't see our way to making room for this. I venture to guess that this is just about the response you expected!
Paul M. Sweezy
18 Millfield Street
Woods Hole MA 02543
Dear Z Papers,
Enclosed is an original paper, "Socialism without the military", for your consideration. It deals with an important radical alternative which, although the subject of considerable study and activist attention (especially in Western Europe), has seldom received any attention in left journals - probably for reasons obvious from a reading of the paper.
A disk is enclosed, produced on a Macintosh SE using Microsoft Word 4.0. Another way to transmit the electronic text would be through email, thus avoiding the problems of disk conversion.
There is no need to return the manuscript, but I would appreciate a note about whether you plan to use it. For this purpose, a stamped self-addressed envelope is enclosed.
No acknowledgement or reply was received.
Professor R. Thandavan, editor
Indian Journal of Political Science
Anna Centre for Public Affairs
University of Madras
Dear Professor Thandavan,
Please find enclosed two copies of an original paper, "Socialism without the military", which I submit for publication. It has not been published or submitted elsewhere. You will see that it deals with a rather controversial issue.
No acknowledgement or reply was received.
Department of Politics
Clayton Vic 3168 [Australia]
Please find enclosed three copies of an original paper, "Socialism without the military" for your consideration for your fourth edition on politics and violence. You will see that it addresses an alternative, social defence, that has received virtually no attention in the political science literature. I have approached it in this case through a critique of socialist militarism rather than the usual comparison with conventional military forces. There is hardly any commentary on alternatives to socialist militarism.
I have tried to write in a very clear and jargon-free style, and hope you won't hold this against me!
Thank you for your paper "Socialism without the military". I shall send your paper on to referees shortly and we will contact you as soon as they have made their recommendations,
On behalf of the Editorial Board of Political Expressions.
Thank you for your paper "Socialism without the military". Our Eastern Europe special is scheduled for completion by the middle of the year. We will therefore send your paper to referees soon and will inform you of their recommendations as soon as they come to light.
On behalf of the Editorial Board of Political Expressions
Dear Political Expressions,
In response to your call for submissions on the theme of "politics and violence" last year, I sent you my article "Socialism without the military" on 3 March 1997. I have received no response since then. Could you tell me what has happened?
Dear Brian Martin,
We apologise for the delay in informing you about the status of your article "Socialism without the Military".
The editorial board of Political Expressions has suffered a rather drastic cut in numbers, from six members down to three members. Since its inception the journal has been struggling to receive a sufficient number of submissions. This has been compounded by a high referee rejection rate of the articles that have been submitted.
Despite the best efforts of those involved within the Politics Department's postgraduate community, it has been realised that the production of a refereed journal of an ongoing nature, is unsustainable. This has led to the decision to close the journal after the edition of 'Eastern Europe'.
This means that we are not able to publish the article which you have submitted for our consideration. We sincerely apologise for any delay in notification, and wish you every success in placing your work elsewhere.
Michele Willson, Kerry Wardlaw, Darren Wright
The Editorial Board
Brian Martin's publications on peace, war and nonviolence
Brian Martin's publications
Brian Martin's website