History Of Peace Movements Research Paper

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Peace movements are social and political movements appearing since the early nineteenth century as a result of a collective effort to organize pacifism. They can be long-term phenomena aimed at a lasting peace. Alternatively, they can be stimulated by a concrete situation ready to vanish the moment the movement has reached its objective or pass into a latency period to be reactivated only if need be.

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1. Peace Movement And Pacifism

Today both terms are frequently used as synonyms. This is even more justified as continental European peace activists adopted the term ‘pacifism’ the moment it was coined and widely picked up by the sociopolitical language. It proved to be useful as it suggests a triple meaning i.e., ‘movement,’ ‘theory,’ and ‘radicalism.’ Anglo-American usage often makes a distinction between ‘internationalism’ and ‘pacifism’ with ‘internationalism’ comprising the moderate demands of peace movements in their entirety whereas ‘pacifism’ means the idea of the greatest possible radicalism in the practice of peace including absolute refusal to serve in the military. Based on British conditions Ceadel offers an elaborate distinction between ‘pacificism’ and ‘pacifism’ (Ceadel 1980).

2. Origins

The French Revolution first created conditions that allowed peace movements to arise. On the whole, they remained restricted to the European-North-Atlantic sphere far into the twentieth century. Convictions matured within the pre-Revolutionary bourgeois society that there is no rational argument to justify war. The mass experience of war following the French Revolution of 1789 and Napoleonic rule gave the impulse for the organization of an individual peace mentality. The peace movement draw important program elements from a store of peace prospects dating back to Judaic-Graeco-Roman antiquity and early Christianity which manifested themselves in christology based, eschatological expectations of religious movements that included the vision of a nonviolent society and in the religious practice of Christian peace sects (Brock 1991a) as well as in literature, the arts, philosophy and political science. Apart from the singularity of Gandhi in India (Brock 1983, Kozhuvanal, in: Brock and Socknat 1999) no indigenous nuclei for peace movements are to be found outside the European-North Atlantic sphere with the exception of Japan where they began appearing at the end of the nineteenth century particularly in connection with the reception of Christian ideas (Powles, in Brock and Socknat 1999), while other moves to organize pacifism starting around 1900 in Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, and even in Japan had either been dependent on or inspired by the Anglo-American model (see Fried 1972).

3. The Starting Period

The time spanning from the end of the Napoleonic era to the beginning of the age of imperialism was a takeoff period for peace organizations. They emerged from two sources: on the one hand, religious motivation particularly characteristic of Mennonites and Quakers in North-America and England (Brock 1990, Ceadel 1996), which led to the founding of peace societies in New York and Massachusetts in 1815 and London 1816 and on the other hand a predominantly philanthropic rationalistic motivation leading to the foundation of the first peace societies on the continent in Paris in 1821 and Geneva in 1830. The discourse of both focused on how to ban war as a means of conflict resolution and to get this idea generally accepted nationally and internationally.

3.1 Difficult Dialectics

All attempts to come to grips with this problem caused by the revolution of 1789 proved to be difficult. While the social organization to ban war had been possible, peace movements had to face a new type of war that was another by-product of that secular transition. National societies turned nation-states made a concept of war feasible completely different from every preceding one, i.e., it mobilized the nation as a whole with the total annihilation of the adversary as the final goal. The concept of peace based on rationalism arose from bourgeois society yet the same society due to its increasing economic and political dynamics carried an inherent potential for war the dialectics of which constitute the peace movements’ field of activity during the nineteenth century until the World War I.

3.2 Differences And Correspondence

The general development assumes a different profile in every individual nation-state (van der Linden 1987). The US peace movement owes its origin to a very specific situation (Brock 1968). In Europe’s young nation-states Italy and above all the German Empire (national peace societies founded in 1887 and 1892 respectively) the development occurred with considerable delay and had a nature different from that of the British Empire, a well-established nation-state, or France a nation-state having aspirations towards Europe and overseas or a multinational state like Austria-Hungary (Austrian peace society founded in 1891). It is of significance whether a country has a stable parliamentary system including minority and nonconformist groups into the national consensus or if a country is characterized by a weak parliamentary structure and/or authoritarian leadership structure as well as a tendency to marginalize dissenting political views (see Ceadel 1987).

Notwithstanding their different national conditions all peace movements of the nineteenth century have a lot in common with regard to their homogenous appearance, their organization, and their means of communication. They use societies and associations typical of the bourgeois society of the nineteenth century. The growing participation of the radical bourgeois women’s movement gains importance (see Bortolotti 1985). Communication was established via national and international congresses and a broad spectrum of literature. The result was a well-organized pacifist International, whose cohesion was strengthened by the foundation of the International Peace Bureau in Bern in 1892, and remained almost intact until World War I.

Peace activists were convinced that their concept of the need for peace could be most effectively promoted by individual powers of persuasion. Cognitive learning was believed to be the most effective method for instilling an understanding of the need for peace. That is why great importance was attached to schooling and national education as ‘indirect means of peace.’ Peace activists believe peace as well as war to be due to an individual act of will. This conviction led to appeals for peace addressed to the rulers and delivered at international congresses (Brussels 1848, Paris 1849, Frankfurt am Main 1850, London 1851, Manchester 1852, Edinburgh 1853). This continued on a universal level with the First Universal Peace Congress in Paris in 1889. The prerequisite for this was social homogeneity within the urban society as represented by merchants, industrialists, bankers, physicians, civil servants, professors, teachers, as Chickering shows for Germany (Chickering 1975). Protestant backgrounds show significantly greater receptiveness to pacifist recruitment than Catholic ones. In countries with a predominantly Catholic majority like Italy the willingness to embrace pacifism is characteristically present in connection with economic prosperity, liberal and/or republican convictions rooted in the Risorgimento, freemasonry, etc.

Eventually the social question vanished from the agenda of the international peace movement despite the considerable contributions of renowned socialists and anarchists in organizing pacifism from the left as early as during the inaugural congress of the International League of Peace and Liberty in Geneva in 1867. This corresponds to the increasing distance between the labor movement and the peace movements. In Germany, the distance is biggest, whereas it is substantially less in France and Italy and almost non-existent in England. The sooner the labor movement had separated from bourgeois democracy while opening up to Marxist theory the more brusquely it emphasized the distance from the peace movements. For the German peace movement cooperation with social democracy remained a top priority, that long went unrealized. In accordance with their bourgeois nature, peace movements maintained regular contact with liberal parties. Wherever political liberalism became diversified like in Germany the peace movement joined left liberalism because of its manifest inclinations towards internationalism, whereas national liberalism accused the peace movement of lacking national identity, and participated in stigmatizing pacifists (Holl 1988b).

Revolutionary wars did not present an argumentative problem to the early peace movements as long as the goal of these wars was national unity (van der Linden 1987). Behind this position was the expectation that lasting peace would set in with the elimination of reactionary governments at the hands of national movements. For the bourgeois left who were active in the early peace movements war for national unification was legitimate and the last of all wars to be fought. Having found its destiny within the nation-state, a country was expected to fit into the community of nations and to submit to the international legal system in case of conflict. Pacifist arguments also legitimized national defensive warfare necessary to secure the goal reached in the process. vs. E. Cooper has coined the term ‘patriotic pacifism’ for this position (Cooper 1991). The position on revolutionary warfare looked quite different with regard to social revolutionary goals, all the more when socialism began to dissociate itself from peace movements. Ever since bourgeois pacifism’s rejection of war has been influenced by the fear that warfare could result in a social coup.

The British peace movement viewed obstruction of international free trade as yet another legitimate reason for war. In connection with the struggle over the Corn Laws economic interests were combined with pacifist propaganda. The international peace movement joined forces with the free trade movement resulting in an organizational symbiosis (Ceadel 1996) and the development of something along the lines of ‘free-trade pacifism.’

As a bourgeois reform movement, the international peace movement joined abolitionism leading pacifism, utilitarianism, Quakerism, free-trade policy, and anti- slavery agitation to come together. Faced during the American Civil War with the conflicting aims of the abolition of slavery and maintenance of national unity on the part of the northern states and the defense of slavery and free trade on the Confederate side, the international peace movement leaned in the end towards the union while Quakers on both sides objected to military service (Brock 1968).

3.3 The Methods Propagated

The methods propagated for achieving and securing peace are twofold. As the prevailing state of affairs in international relations was perceived as ‘international anarchy,’ peace movements proposed a fundamental reform of these relations and suggested the creation of a legal codex. Concepts were discussed for 1egal procedures of conflict resolution to be enforced by an international tribunal and a court of arbitration with either facultative or compulsory arbitration. The underlying conviction was the call for ‘peace through justice’ that stimulated the origins of pacifist international law. The inherent idea was to restrain military influence on foreign affairs.

To the extent that the volatile nature of the national movements and the possibility of their exploitation by the cabinets were recognized as threats to peace, the call was made for fraternization and concepts for a league of nations on the basis of a free federation of European nations, republican constitutions, and the autonomy of communities to thus circumvent the state as a basis for social organization. This was propagated at the Geneva Congress in 1867. In the end, corresponding attempts to organize based on Proudhonism had no chance. Continental peace movements preferred to propagate the ‘United States of Europe’ instead.

4. The Age Of Imperialism

From 1901 onwards the supporters of peace movements called themselves ‘pacifists’ and their program ‘pacifism.’ Having the advantage of multilingual usability, the term met the requirements of an international movement. Earlier names such as ‘friends of peace’ finally vanished. The new term signaled an advanced level of theory and the intention of expanding the social base. The creation of the term reflects the success of both socialism and social Darwinism as social theories, and of imperialism. The spread of social Darwinist thought in Europe and in the USA that led public opinion to be more favorably disposed to imperialism and warfare had a negative effect on pacifist campaigning. Owing to its Eurocentrism and its inclination to cultural imperialism the international peace movement itself was occasionally susceptible to the imperialistic zeitgeist. The growing crisis of the global system incited the international peace movement and eminent pacifist authors to develop new concepts and theories (Grossi 1994).

Since the end of the 1860s new peace movements sprang up emphatically propagating peace negotiations by arbitration. Tsar Nicholas II’s peace manifesto (1898) and the First Peace Conference in The Hague (1899) proved to be false confirmation of the movement’s demand for disarmament. Despite this seeming success the peace movement’s societal position remained marginal in Austria and Germany where it faced male prejudice not least because of the participation of the radical bourgeois women’s movement and due to the fact that Bertha von Suttner, in whose novel Lay Down the Arms! (1889) a woman’s concern about world peace is expressed, took a leading position in the peace movement (Holl 1988b). In his oeuvre War in the Future in its Technical, Economic and Political Aspects (1898) Jan Bloch predicted, against all social Darwinist and strategic expectations of the time, the disastrous consequences which were confirmed by World War I. A. H. Fried developed a peace theory he termed ‘organizational pacifism’ which ruled out world war because the growing network of international relations would prevent it for utilitarian reasons. Fried’s theory won support from Norman Angell’s book Europe’s Optical Illusion (1909, extended 1910, The Great Illusion) that held future wars to be economically futile because of the interdependence of national economic interests.

The ineffectiveness of the peace movement gave way to further pacifist concepts on the eve of World War I. Their aim was to win prominent leaders in academic circles for international understanding. Their target in Germany was the ‘Verband fur internationale Verstandigung,’ founded in 1911 (Chickering 1975). Furthermore there were efforts promoting bilateral international understanding and supported by the international peace movement: on a Protestant church-based level for instance between England and Germany, and on a parliamentary level between French and German MPs. Independent from such phenomena, communities which lived according to the principle of absolute non-violence continued to exist with particularly those groups following Tolstoy’s teachings receiving the greatest public attention (Brock 1991b).

5. World War I

World War I created a deep rift within the international peace movement and cut the national peace movements’ flexibility to a considerable extent. The experience of war, during which traditional peace societies held on to their patriotic pacifism led to the founding of pacifist organizations with a new style and program expressing the radical pacifists’ frustration with the insufficient prewar peace societies. This ended the older pacifism’s abstinence from domestic policy as the dependence of foreign policy on domestic conditions was scrutinized. In Germany, the ‘Bund Neues Vaterland’ demanded politics of domestic reform (Holl 1988b). The British ‘Union of Democratic Control’ called for a new foreign policy without secret diplomacy. In addition resolute pacifism organized in the Netherlands, ‘Nederlandse Anti-OorlogRaad,’ and in the USA, the ‘League to Enforce Peace.’

The new pacifism formed a more solid base for international organizations: The international congress of pacifists in the Hague in 1915 led to the short-lived ‘Central Organization for a Durable Peace.’ The 1915 Hague congress of women war opponents, which was rooted in the radical bourgeois women’s movement, ended with the foundation of the ‘International Women’s Committee for a Lasting Peace’ which led to the ‘International Women’s League for Peace and Freedom’ in Zurich in 1919 (see Schott 1997). Inspired neither by the old or new style peace movements nor by Gandhi and Tolstoy’s teachings, refusal of military service surfaced for the first time as a mass phenomenon, particularly in Great Britain, where objectors joined the ‘No Conscription Fellowship’ during World War I.

6. The Interwar Years

During the interwar period, peace movements were marked by the coexistence of radical pacifist positions with the moderate orientation of traditional peace organizations and a widening of their social base into the working classes. While radical pacifism expressed itself in the mass-movement ‘No More War,’ organizational pacifism lived on in the call for the ‘League of Nations’ that found outstanding support in Britain. The new peace organizations in France and England differed from the German peace movement in their judgment of the imminent threat to world peace posed by right-wing dictatorships. In France, the ‘Ligue internationale des Combattants de la Paix’ emerged as the mouthpiece of integral pacifism in the 1930s. It played down the threat of war emanating from Nazi Germany, attacked French defense policy, and demanded strict neutrality towards current military conflicts, a position that could well have led to collaboration during German occupation (Ingram 1991). This attitude corresponded to the British ‘Peace Pledge Union,’ which began to loose ground only after the obvious failure of the British appeasement policy (Ceadel 1980). With the beginning of national socialist rule, the German peace movement was forced into exile or exposed to persecution (see Holl 1988a).

7. After World War II

The nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the postwar strategy of nuclear deterrence developed in the course of the East-West confrontation gave new dimensions to the discussion on war and peace. Originating from the USA and directed against the Vietnam war, a radical peace movement staging a new type of mass protest and with the characteristics of the ‘New Social Movements’ came into being (see Breyman 1998). In accordance with nuclear pacifism, this peace movement argued that nuclear war of aggression, nuclear preventive warfare, and nuclear defensive warfare were virtually indistinguishable from one another. Additionally, it expressed doubt with regard to the peacekeeping effect of the nuclear deterrence strategy and played up the fear of the nuclear self-destruction of humanity. These arguments motivated the movement’s opposition to all weapons of mass destruction. In a large number of Western countries in the 1980s, the new peace movement achieved a mass mobilization against the installation of medium-range NATO missiles in Western Europe that in the end proved futile.


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