Imagining Other


Power and Protest (social movements) in the 20th Century:

(4) The peace, anti-war and anti-nuclear movements:




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                                                                                                                                                                                      Link to: Anti-war movement Part 1 (anti-war movement)

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Anti-war movement Part 2 (anti-nuclear movement)

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Part 3 (nonviolence)

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Part 4 (war today)

                                                                                                                                                                                                   Part 6 updates

1. Conclusion: overview and appraisal of the peace movement in the 20th century:

1.1 Is there any point?

Some would argue that because weapons, and even more so nuclear weapons, are so significant to a nation-state’s sense of security and status – no state would ever give up its ; so it is pointless trying to oppose arms or war at all.  This pessimism, or cynicism, must be pretty widespread, or we would have made much more progress than we have in disarming. It is invoked by the saying “if you want peace, prepare for war.”

Nevertheless, and maybe paradoxically, some comfort can be taken from even this saying, since it acknowledges that we all want peace… I also take some comfort from the following:

- hardly anyone professes not to want peace

- there is widespread revulsion at the “excesses” of war, and a growing body of international regulation to try to make war more “civilised” – which I believe indicates that most people recognise the cruelty involved in war and want to minimize it

- there is a great deal more awareness of the issue of arms, nuclear weapons, the horror of war etc, than there was before the various campaigns against war and against nuclear weapons got under way: these movements have educated the public, and, as suggested above, “democratised” discussion of defence policy

- the number of individuals and small groups that are now involved in trying to reduce arms etc is such that governments have to take into account the public’s view, and they must consider any opposition, (even though there will always be a conflict between the pressures put on governments and their sense of “realpolitik”). Those who want to fight wars at least now have to try to control the public perception of it. For example, in 1982, when the peace movement was strong - and Greenham Common was well-supported - Mrs. Thatcher appointed Michael Heseltine with the task of opposing the movement. Journalists and others from the media are now (21st century) tightly controlled – this began with the Falklands War, and has been especially the case with “embedded” journalists in the Iraq War.

1.2 Strength in the Divisions:

As we saw above, those involved in the 20th century peace movement were divided between various positions:

- the pacifist position is of total refusal to commit violence against citizens of another state, even if they are soldiers. I have a deep respect for this position, and would almost certainly adopt it myself in the event of war. Pacifists believe, and hope, that by taking such a principled stand they will influence others to do so as well. After all, “war will cease when men [plural] refuse to fight” so pacifism can become a means of removing war only when pacifists organise together.

- one could accept that arms are central to the identity of the state (argued by opponents of the peace movement) but take this logic further to argue, as anarchists would, and I would myself, that what has to be done to bring about peace is to destroy the nation-state itself; after all, nation states will always arm themselves, and with whatever they believe they need, in order to resist hostility from other nation states.

- the “liberal” view is that we need to strengthen international bodies to control and eventually remove such weapons. In the short-to-medium term it seems to me inescapable that we must do this. The peace movement has helped such bodies and regulations to emerge, but they are primarily the creation of politicians and governments. Therefore, the more such bodies can be created that are separate from and independent of states and governments the better. NGOs (non-governmental organisations) in other words are crucial.

- CND was characterized by the view that we cannot wait for other nations to act, but we must unilaterally get rid of our own nuclear weapons. (How ironic that nowadays “unilateralism” seems mainly to apply to a nation attacking another without waiting for its allies or the UN to give support!!). As I have argued, drawing on April Carter’s book, governments may be persuaded of this if they can see it will lead to multilateral action (or if it is expedient!).

The peace movement has a vital role to play in putting pressure on governments, decision-makers etc, to try to get some

movement on disarmament, as well as to raise the public level of awareness of the issues. As April Carter says, the

differences within the movement can be a strength. As I have argued over “Corporate Social Responsibility”: with

serious and complex social/political problems such as this we need a “multi-track approach”. Some paths of action will be

based on the urgency of an aspect of the problem – others will be long-term. Some aspects of the problem can be dealt with

quickly, others are more intractable.  So long as those who support different lines of action do not waste time attacking each

other but recognise their common goals then we can make better progress.

Given the importance of the issue of war and peace, it is worth keeping up to date with the changing nature of war and weaponry at the end of the 20th century and today, (see Section4.)

2. Selected Bibliography:

Peace and non-violence:

Ackerman, P and Duvall, J (2000): A Force More Powerful, Palgrave

Barnaby, F (ed) (1988): The Gaia Peace Atlas, Pan

Button, J (ed) (1991): The Best of Resurgence, Green Books

Carter, A (1992): Peace Movements, Longman

Dunn, T (ed) (1963): Alternatives to War and Violence, James Clarke

Galtung, J and Jacobsen, C G (2000): Searching for Peace, Pluto Press

Gregg, R.B (1960): The power of Nonviolence, James Clarke (first published 1935, revised edn. 1960)

Kaltefleiter, W (ed) (1985): The Peace Movements in Europe and the United States, Croom Helm

Kurlansky, M (2006): Non-Violence, the History of a Dangerous Idea, Cape

Roberts, A (ed) (1969): Civilian Resistance as a National Defence, Pelican

Sharp, G (1973): The Politics of non-violent action, Porter Sargent (3 vols)


Workers’ and Soldiers’ Resistance to War:

Lamb, D (1979): Mutinies 1817 – 1920, Solidarity

Rothstein, A (1985): Soldiers Strikes of 1919, Journeyman

Weller, K (1985): ‘Don’t be a Soldier!’, Journeyman

Philosophical issues surrounding civil disobedience and rebellion/revolution:

Held, V. et al (1972): Philosophy and Political Action, OUP

Herbert Marcuse (1964): One Dimensional Man, Sphere

Zashin, T (1972): Civil Disobedience and Democracy, The Free Press



Baker, Nicholson: Human Smoke, Simon and Schuster 2008. ‘Hundreds of vignettes… which provide a composite picture of the world sliding into the abyss of

Hitler’s war… their purpose is to show that American and British pacifists were right to oppose the war.

Ball, Philip: Serving the Reich (Bodley Head) review by Graham Farmelo (see below):


Barnett, Anthony: Iron Britannia, Faber Finds Imprint 2012


Bell, David A (2007): The First Total War: Napoleon’s Europe and the Birth of Modern Warfare, Bloomsbury (Adam Thorpe Review Guardian 11/08/07):  nostalgic

for ancient regime, where making war was “normal” but still a bloody horror which needed to be kept on a leash, fought according to principles and no rabid

bloodlust. The philosophes (and earlier Christian pacifism), with their emphasis on inner virtue and humility (as against court culture), saw war as “fundamentally

irrational” “remnant” of barbarism, which would inevitably go when people were educated and all became brothers (e.g. through commerce). [Contrast Kant,

who believed in moral laws rather than historical inevitability, and the advocates of war who argued that civilization a disease and war a vaccine.] French

Revolution led to: separation of civilian from military, conscription ( = endless cannon-fodder), subordination of civilian values to “militarism” (new word), and

war a test of individual worth, i.e. Bell says, change of culture. (Wars that followed came from this, not from e.g. geo-political reasons). After French

Revolution, because the aristocratic system was abolished, pacifist ideas underwent a “double helix” to support for total war.

Bessel, Richard: Violence: a modern obsession, (Simon and Schuster), brief review Observer New Review 31/5/15 p 42, by Ian Thomson. From My Lai 1968 we began to question enthusiasm for murder. The resolution of the Cuba crisis, as Kennedy and Khruschev could both imagine the horrors of nuclear war, have led to our being less willing to accept violence. Add in the abolition of capital punishment, and more recently the public outcry against child abuse (hmmm) and this shows how ‘the moral imagination acts as a restraint on cruelty’


Britten Opera:

Brown, M B (1984): Models in Political Economy, Pelican


Cowper-Coles, Sir Sherard: Cables from Kabul, Harper Press 25.00


Falla, Frank: How Guernsey resisted the Nazis – Frank Falla archive (G 18.11.10)

Farmelo, Graham: Churchill’s Bomb (Faber) on how Germany and Britain lost the race to be the first nation to build the a-bomb.


Hersey, J (first published 1946): Hiroshima, Penguin


Jamail, Dahr: The Will to Resist – on soldiers who refuse to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Laughland, John: Travesty: the Trial of Slobodan Milosevic and the Corruption of International Justice


Ledwidge, Frank: Losing Small Wars: British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan, Yale Univ Press 20.00 (reviewed NS 19.08.11).


Malcolm, Noel: Kosovo: A Short History

Martin, Mike: An Intimate War: an oral history of the Helmand conflict (former soldier – suggests Taliban were not what we thought/say they are... conflict is internal and tribal).


Moore, M (2004): Will They Ever Trust Us Again? Letters from the Warzone to Michael Moore, Allen Lane

Reynolds, David: The Long Shadow (Simon and Schuster £25) – reviewed by Richard Overy Sat Gdn 21.12.13 (how attitudes to the war have changed – two main points (i) Britain suffered less form the after-effects than other countries – though we had a ‘morbid personality’ with fears about the economic future, possibility of political radicalism, eugenic anxieties about the health of an ‘imperial people’, and realisation the days of the empire were numbered. This ‘morbid’ outlook was despite the fact that we suffered less in the way of after-effects than e.g. Russia... Overy: ‘reflecting on peace [and those who opposed the war] might in 2014 be a sounder option than reflecting on war’


Ross, C (2007?) Independent Diplomat: Dispatches from an Unaccountable Elite.


Roth-Douquet, Kathy and Schaeffer, Frank: AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes from Military Service – and How It Hurts Our Country.


Sands, Philippe: Torture Team (Penguin).


Scahill, J (2007): Blackwater: the Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, Serpent’s Tail. (Reviewed by Carolyn O’Hara, in New Statesman, who says

Scahill exaggerates the importance of Blackwater and tries too hard to find a Christian fundamentalist agenda at the root of its involvement).

See also: extract in Guardian 010807

See also: Section 4: Blackwater.

Note that Blackwater are currently (Oct 2007) in trouble over shooting of civilians. See also:   


Schweber, SS (2007): In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist, Princeton. (How two of the key figures in the

creation of the atomic bomb dealt with the moral issues and conflicts they felt).


Seale, Patrick: The Struggle for Syria.


Smith, Lyn (2007): Young Voices: British Children Remember the War (1939 – 45), Viking: taken from Imperial War Museum archives, oral records of survivors, including City of Benares (passenger ship sunk by Germans in 1940). Compelling accounts (NS 3/9/07).


The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man, by David Strahan. Also:


Vinen, Richard (Allen Lane): National service: two reviews:


Wood, J D (1962): Building the Institutions of Peace, George Allen and Unwin, (Swarthmore Lecture)




alternet articles 6th Sep 2013. (Amnesty International)  (Amnesty) – strategic forecasting.  (PPU) 


Kristallnacht: articles from Guardian/Observer




Organisations: (many from leaflets collected on the anti-Iraq war demo) – defends human rights, and opposes sanctions or military intervention in Iran. – part of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) (have councilors on Lewisham Council?)


JNV – Justice Not Violence (see Naming the Dead by Maya Anne Evans, and books by Milan Rai)


How Guernsey resisted the Nazis – Frank Falla archive (G 18.11.10)