Note: This bit of propaganda, which London called "The Good Soldier
canard" was, in fact, not written by Jack London. I thought it
might be of interest to some folks so have included it here with his real
stories. More information on the Good Soldier canard can be found
The "Good" Soldier
By Jack London
Young men: The lowest aim in your life is to
become a soldier. The good soldier never tries to distinguish right from
wrong. He never thinks; never reasons; he only obeys. If he is ordered to fire
on his fellow citizens, on his friends, on his neighbors, on his relatives, he
obeys without hesitation. If he is ordered to fire down a crowded street when
the poor are clamoring for bread, he obeys and sees the gray hairs of age
stained with red and the life tide gushing from the breasts of women, feeling
neither remorse nor sympathy. If he is ordered off as a firing squad to
execute a hero or benefactor, he fires without hesitation, though he knows
the bullet will pierce the noblest heart that ever beat in human breast.
A good soldier is a blind, heartless, soulless,
murderous machine. He is not a man. He is not a brute, for brutes only kill in
self defense. All that is human in him, all that is divine in him, all that
constitutes the man has been sworn away when he took the enlistment roll. His
mind, his conscience, aye, his very soul, are in the keeping of his officer.
No man can fall lower than the solder—it is
a depth beneath which we cannot go. Keep the boys out of the army. It is hell.
Down with the army and the navy. We don't need
killing institutions. We need life-giving institutions.
From the October, 1913 issue of The International Socialist Review
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