A decade-by-decade look at some people and events in the world-wide struggle against war and violence.


 Selected by Margaret Melicharova

  peace action worldwide

Jane Adams. FBI's most wanted 'the most dangerous woman in America’


1930-39 Which Way to Peace?

1930 SECOND MANIFESTO AGAINST CONSCRIPTION AND THE TRAINING OF YOUTH: 'Conscription subjects individual personalities to militarism. It is a form of servitude. That nations routinely tolerate it, is just one more proof of its debilitating influence.
‘Military training is schooling of body and spirit in the art of killing. Military training is education for war. It is the perpetuation of war spirit. It hinders the development of the desire for peace.’

This manifesto, like the first in 1926, was signed by a number of well-known people, including Jane Addams, Paul Birukov and Valentin Bulgakov (secretaries of Leo Tolstoy), John Dewey, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Toyohiko Kagawa, Selma Lagerlöf, Thomas Mann, Ludwig Quidde, Romain Rolland, Bertrand Russell, Upton Sinclair, Rabindranath Tagore, H G Wells, and Stefan Zweig

1930 ‘The two per cent speech’: During a speech Albert Einstein observed that if only 2% of the male population of the world refused to fight, future wars would be prevented: there wouldn’t be enough prisons for so many conscientious objectors, and so large a public opposition to war would deter any government from embarking on one.

1931 One of the most famous demonstrations of non-violent action: the ‘Salt March’ in India, organised by MOHANDAS KARAMCHAND GANDHI. It was the largest-scale event of its kind he ever arranged.

MOHANDAS KARAMCHAND GANDHI (1869-1948) was an Indian lawyer and social reformer. He was influenced by the teachings of three pacifists: Buddha (who said living creatures should not be harmed), Jesus (who said that evil should not be resisted with violence), and Leo Tolstoy (who said that self-defence was a form of aggression). Gandhi developed the principle of ‘satyagraha’, strength from truth: the underlying, universal ‘truth’ in any conflict can always be expressed as a positive, non-aggressive goal. The Salt March, resisting a law that allowed the government – British at that time – to seize the profits from salt manufacture, aimed at ‘the removal of laws which worked a hardship on the poor’. Many thousands took part in the 240-mile march, and inspired further acts of non-violent civil disobedience; many were arrested. Eventually the laws concerning salt manufacture were amended.
   Gandhi accepted that conflict was a part of life, but he wanted to show that it need never be dealt with violently. These views influenced many pacifists, who saw that pacifism could be practised as an effective technique as well as a belief.
   Gandhi also worked for the liberation of India from British rule. Like many people he was unhappy with the 1947 independence partition between India and Pakistan, but he continued to work to calm the violence it caused, until his assassination in 1948.

1931 The FBI described US peace activist Jane Addams as ‘the most dangerous woman in America’.

1932 9 million signatures on a pro-disarmament petition collected by women before the World Disarmament Conference in Geneva.

1932 The idea of a ‘Peace Army’ was mooted, whereby unarmed volunteers would stand in non-violent resistance on ground between opposing armies. This was at the time of an armed dispute between China and Japan, ‘firing at each other across the streets of Shanghai. Even a few thousand volunteers would have been seen, would have been effective, and could by their acceptance of death without resistance have stirred the conscience of the human race’, said a determined supporter.

KEEPING OUT OR CAUGHT UP? ‘I have a good deal of sympathy with the isolationist position, though I agree it cannot ultimately save us. We are a part not only of North America but of the world’, said Canada’s democratic socialist party leader John Woodsworth. This was a problem pacifists had to work on. Should a country (or even a pacifist group with a particular issue to defend) go it alone, and risk being isolated, unsupported and vulnerable? Or should alliances be made, with the risk that one group might pull the rest after it into conflicts that weren’t even theirs? Canada opted for keeping out: ‘Our work is not in Russia or Spain or China, but here in Canada’.

1933 UK women bereaved by deaths in war chose the White Poppy of Remembrance for the Women’s Co-operative Guild as ‘a pledge to peace that war must not happen again’. Pacifists promoted the White Poppies as part of an ‘alternative Remembrance’ project to promote peace rather than glorify war.

1934 Publication of ‘The Power of Non-violence’ by US Quaker Richard B Gregg.

GEORGE LANSBURY (1859-1940) was leader of the British Labour Party from 1931 to 1935. He was a Socialist and poor-law reformer, and he was forced to resign the party leadership because of his uncompromising pacifism. In 1901 he denounced the Boer War as wicked. During World War I, when he was editor of the anti-war paper The Daily Herald (famous for the headline WAR IS HELL), he defended the rights of conscientious objectors. Unwilling to join his associates in calling for economic sanctions that might have led to war against Italy for its aggression in Ethiopia, he resigned in 1935. In 1937 Lansbury visited, on ‘embassies of reconciliation’, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, as well as heads of state all over Europe and America. He hoped that his personal influence could stop the progress towards war. He was at one time or another Chairman of the No More War Movement, President of War Resisters’ International, and President of the Peace Pledge Union. He’s been described as ‘the most lovable figure in modern politics’ and, by Dick Sheppard, ‘Public Pacifist Number One’.

1934 Foundation of the Peace Pledge Union. In 1934 Canon ‘Dick’ Sheppard’s letter was published asking for the names of men ready to sign a declaration renouncing war. There were so many replies that he set up an organisation, open to everyone whatever their gender, race, politics or religion. The PPU’s journal ‘Peace News’ was founded in 1936.

1936 Bertrand Russell’s ‘Which Way to Peace?’ was published. Disenchanted with the League of Nations as a provider of peace through ‘collective security’, Russell argued for unilateral disarmament. Even if this meant enemy occupation, that would be ‘infinitely less terrible than the consequences of a war, even if it ended in complete victory’.

1936 The International Peace Campaign was founded at a Congress in Brussels.

1938 Initiated by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, a Campaign for World Government was set up, in which government leaders would be approached to summon a World Constitutional Convention. The Convention’s aim would be ‘to set up an all-inclusive, democratic, non-military Federation of Nations’; the purpose was ‘to promote peace, justice and mutual undersatnding among nations’.

ROBERT CECIL (1864-1958. Nobel Peace Prize 1937) was a British statesman whose experience of World War 1 aroused his interest in peace-making. His first commitment was to the League of Nations, which he, like many others, saw as a step towards world peace. It was the Allies’ responsibility to construct a lasting peace and create an instrument of international co-operation to safeguard it; he expressed these views as soon as the Armistice had been signed, and in the following years made every effort to make the League work. At the first Assembly in 1920, he said ‘We must be ready to take a bold line in the great work of reconciliation and pacification that lies before us’. The UK Conservative government, however, did not give him full support, and he watched, dismayed, as country after country undermined the League. Finally he left the government and the Conservatives, and independently set up the League of Nations Union. In 1934 he planned the unofficial ‘Peace ballot’ which revealed that ten and a half million (of eleven and a half million responses) were in favour of disarmament; almost all responders were in favour of the League. Ignored by the UK government, which was embarking on a massive rearmament programme, Cecil proceeded to found the International Peace Campaign, to mobilise world-wide opinion in favour of peace through disarmament and negotiation.

1939 On Gandhi’s 70th birthday an admirer greeted him as ‘the greatest living exponent of successful pacifism’.





John C Bennett (US theologian) in 1933: ‘Capitalism is based on coercion and violence. It is destructive of human life and human values on a colossal scale...a ruthless system which results in starvation, disease, death, warped bodies and souls for mllions.’
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963. British writer): ‘Co-operation is applied pacifism.’

George Lansbury (1859-1940. British politician): ‘Our gospel is as old, true, and solid as the hills. Violence and force have been tried again and again, and have always failed because such action is based on the foolish belief that evil may be overcome by evil.’

Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969. American theologian) in a sermon on Armistice Day 1933: ‘I renounce war for its consequences, for the lies it lives on and propagates, for the undying hatred it arouses, for the dictatorships it puts in place of democracy, for the starvation that stalks after it. I renounce war, and never again, directly or indirectly, will I sanction or support another.”
Brigadier General E P Crozier (Soldier turned pacifist, and Peace Pledge Union sponsor) in 1937: ‘A lifetime of professional soldiering has brought me, by painful ways, to the realisation that all war is wrong, is senseless.’

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945. US Democrat, President 1933-45) in a radio broadcast, 3/9/39: ‘When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries everywhere is in danger.’

W H Auden (1907-73. British poet) from ‘Journey to a War 1939’:
Here war is simple like a monument:
A telephone is speaking to a man;
Flags on a map assert that troops were sent;
A boy brings milk in bowls. There is a plan
For living men in terror of their lives,
Who thirst at nine who were to thirst at noon,
And can be lost and are, and miss their wives,
And, unlike an idea, can die too soon.
But ideas can be true although men die,
And we can watch a thousand faces
Made active by one lie;
And maps can really point to places
Where life is evil now:
Nanking; Dachau.




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