The International Peace Movement
For a long time antimilitarism was the concern of religious groups like the Baptists and Quakers. The Marxist workers movement from the 19th and early 20th century incorporated antimilitarism in its struggle against imperialism and capitalism. Since then, new peace organizations have arisen, according to conflicting insights about violence and the monopoly of force. In short, these insights may be defined thus:
- Fundamental rejection of all kinds of force including conscription
- Acceptance of the use of force, but only to effect ideals like the destruction of capitalism by an army of the people
- Pursuit of an international system of law in order to prevent war.
The latter category used to be associated with ideas of the bourgeoisie and was generally characterized as "pacifist."
In the history of the international labor movement, differences of opinion/distinctions on the theme of peace took shape as early as 1891. At the congresses of the Socialist International in 1891 and 1893, an anarchist minority stated that in case of war, the people should call a general strike. This minority advocated refusal of military service. The major part of the conference delegates did not reject violence as such and did not oppose the idea of a peoples' army. In June 1904 an international congress on antimilitarism in Amsterdam on the initiative of Domela Nieuwenhuis gave birth to the International Anti-Militarist Society. It fought capitalism, colonialism, and militarism by advocating massive refusal of military service and a general strike.
During the First World War, at a national level, various organizations coping with conscription and the support of conscientious objectors saw the light. Among these, the No Conscription League in the United Kingdom (1915) was by far the strongest. Women played a prominent role in it. In 1921 the International Anti-Militarist Society established a new international organization, the International Anti-Militarist Bureau against War and Reaction. As this Bureau did not have principled objections to the use of violence, a group of opponents held a separate meeting. They founded "Paco"(Esperanto word for peace), which was re-named as the War Resisters International one year later. Adherence to the anti-conscription standpoint was stipulated as a condition for membership. The outlook of the War Resisters International was mainly European and American, but it welcomed Gandhi's idea of active non-violence, maintained close contacts with India, and had an Indian president, Mr. Devi Prasad, from 1962 until 1975.
The Spanish Civil War brought fundamental differences of opinion within the peace movement to the surface once more. The Rassamblement Universel pour la Paix (RUP), founded in 1935 by a British Conservative and a French social democrat on the occasion of the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, was supported by the Communist International in Moscow. Many people regarded it as a communist front organization. The same was true of the Rassemblement Mondial des Etudiants Pour la Paix (1934-1939) and the World Women's Committee against War and Fascism. Only the Swiss chapter of the RUP survived the Second World War. After the war, the International Antimilitarist Society collapsed as well. In 1949 the antifascist, communist World Peace Council succeeded the RUP.
Influenced by actions in the US against racial discrimination and by the British Ban-the-Bomb movement Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (1958), the peace movement gained momentum during the Cold War. The CND and its American counterpart Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE, 1958) were popular among students. During the 1970s and 1980s, the peace movement grew enormously. Its actions usually addressed a specific case, such as the Vietnam War or the cruise missiles. At the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the "War on Terror," the goals of the peace organizations with global aspirations became more diffuse. The War Resisters International is still going strong, and it now focuses on supporting conscientious objectors and military problems in various countries.