opposition to war and other violence, expressed either in an organized political
movement or as an individual ideology. Pacifism varies from a form that is
absolute and doctrinal to a relative and more practical form. Absolute pacifists
are against all wars and against violence in any form whatsoever; relative
pacifists are selective of the wars and violence they oppose. Most absolute
pacifists stress the immorality of the taking of one person's life by another
person. The philosophy of pacifism has been propounded throughout history on
grounds of morality, divine will, or economic and social utility; the term
itself, however, did not become popular until early in the 20th century.
||A young girl attended an
antinuclear rally with her face painted to resemble a skull. Other
protesters lay down behind her on the steps of the Bourse in Brussels,
Belgium. A wave of similar protests swept across western Europe
following a 1979 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) agreement to
install medium-range nuclear missiles in West Germany.
attempting to prevent war, pacifists must achieve four principal goals. A
climate of feeling favorable to peace must be established; the potential causes
of conflict, inherent in such factors as economic competition, the quest for
power, and fear of foreign domination, must be eliminated or minimized; means
for the settlement of disputes must be provided, as in mediation, arbitration,
and trial procedures; and, finally, ways must be found to ensure observance of
the settlements that are made. Several distinctive approaches to achieving these
goals have been advanced.
of some religious groups, such as the Mennonite Church and the Quakers, believe
they can convert aggressors to peaceful ways by setting an example of loving,
nonviolent behavior. This is the attitude expressed in the New Testament Sermon
on the Mount, but it is much older than Christianity, permeating the teachings
of Buddha, Confucius, and other Eastern philosophers. Absolute pacifism assumes
both that its practitioners will be able to maintain moral courage when faced
with aggression and provocation and that their opponents will be affected by a
constant return of good for bad. Such pacifism has never been entirely
successful, however. Although the early Christians maintained this attitude
through several generations, their uncompromising opposition to the use of force
disappeared after the church became allied with the Roman state in the 4th
century. A contemporary proponent of absolute pacifism usually claims the status
of conscientious objector when faced with military service.
absolute pacifists advocate other codes of behavior. Some pacifists bar the use
of force and urge moral persuasion but also encourage passive resistance to
achieve their goals. Two examples of this approach are the resistance offered to
British rule in 20th-century India and the civil disobedience of American civil
rights activists. Critics of this view contend that even passive resistance
provokes frustration, resentment, and further oppression on the part of an
Many pacifists believe that peace can be maintained
only by a readiness to use force in certain circumstances, usually characterized
as defensive. One approach permits armed defense against attack, but not
assistance to other nations being attacked. Proponents of the theory of
collective security urge a defensive combination of peace-loving nations against
violators of the peace. If such a policy is not to result merely in a system of
rival alliances, it must be implemented by international machinery that is able
not only to make settlements but to enforce them as well. Advocates of
collective security accordingly support all international organizations such as
the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the League of Nations, and the United
organized peace movements did not appear until the 19th century, the modern
search for a means of preventing war began with the rise of nation-states at the
end of the Middle Ages. In the 14th century Dante proposed a world empire to
abolish war; in the 15th century George of Podĕrad, king of Bohemia,
proposed an international parliament; in the 16th century Henry IV, king of
France, made a similar suggestion; in the 17th century the English Quaker
William Penn wrote An Essay Towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe
(1694); and in the 18th century the French writer Charles Irénée
Castel, who was known as the Abbé de Saint-Pierre, influenced readers of
his time with his proposals for securing "perpetual peace."
international lawyer Henri-Marie Lafontaine won the Nobel Peace Prize in
1913. Lafontaine served as president of the International Peace Bureau
for more than 30 years.
||Austrian pacifist Alfred
Fried won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1911. Fried published a pacifist
periodical and founded the German Peace Society, the leading force in
German pacifism prior to World War I (1914-1919).
Moral Equivalent of War"
(By William James)
The first peace society in history was organized in
New York in 1815 by the American merchant David Low Dodge; another was organized
in Massachusetts in the same year by the theologian Noah Worcester; and both
were incorporated into the American Peace Society founded by the pacifist
William Ladd in 1828. Other peace societies were established in European
countries later in the century; and, in 1848, the American linguist Elihu
Burritt founded the League of Universal Brotherhood, which established branches
in the United States, Britain, France, and Holland. These early idealistic
groups formulated no specific plans to prevent war, however. The peace movement
in the U.S. lost momentum during the American Civil War, when many of its
adherents maintained that preservation of the Union and the abolition of slavery
had to be achieved at any cost.
Second Inaugural Address
Many new groups were organized toward the end of the
19th century, including the International Workingmen's Association, which
advocated workers' strikes to prevent wars, and the International Peace Bureau,
composed of national peace councils and committees from various countries.
Frequent meetings and congresses and the announcement of such awards as the
Nobel Peace Prize stimulated public interest in the peace movement.
Nevertheless, wars multiplied in frequency and intensity during the same period.
The South African War, the Spanish-American War, and finally World War I all but
destroyed the peace movement.
World War I, the hopes of many pacifists for achieving collective security were
directed toward the newly formed League of Nations. This organization was
loosely constructed, however, and provided no really effective means of
preventing war. By 1941 most of the nations of the world were involved in World
War II. This was followed in turn by the establishment of the UN, with its more
elaborate machinery for keeping the peace.
Anti-Vietnam War Protest
Many other international peace organizations also
continue to exist. The greatest impetus to pacifism in modern times was the
development and use of nuclear weapons at the close of World War II. Faced with
the possibility of total nuclear war, many previously uncommitted individuals
joined pacifists throughout the world in working for a ban against the
production of nuclear weapons, for the cessation of the testing of such weapons,
and for the disarmament of those nations already possessing them.
WAR PROTESTS ARE
CONTINUING ACROSS NATION
In the late 1960s and early '70s, the war in Southeast
Asia was opposed by millions of individuals around the world. It was apparent,
however, that a majority of these people would not be in opposition to a war
they deemed to be justified—or example, World War II. In the U.S. such
activities of the antiwar movement as marches, demonstrations, and
letter-writing campaigns inevitably had an effect, and by mid-1973, U.S. combat
forces were no longer active in Southeast Asia.
Richard M. Pious