Peace movement

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The peace movement is a social movement that seeks to end wars and minimize inter-human violence, usually through pacifism, non-violent resistance, diplomacy, boycott, moral purchasing and demonstrating. The movement includes several international organizations, but more often describes a loose affiliation of activists and political interests that rally around a shared purpose. (Also see Anti-war)

The movement often tends to be a loose, reactive and event-driven collaboration between groups with motivations as diverse as humanism, nationalism, environmentalism, anti-racism, anti-sexism, hospitality, ideology, theology, and fear.



Global protests against the US invasion of Iraq in early 2003 are an example of a more specific, short term and loosely-affiliated single-issue "movement" with little ideological coherence. Nonetheless, some of those who are involved in several such short term movements and build up trust relationships with others within them, do tend to eventually join more global or long-term movements.

By contrast, some elements of the global peace movement seek to guarantee health security by ending war and assuring what they see as basic human rights including the right of all people to have access to air, water, food, shelter and publicly funded health care. A large cadre of activists seek social justice in the form of equal protection under the law and equal opportunity under the law for groups that have previously been disenfranchised.

The movement is primarily characterized by a belief that humans should not war on each other or engage in violent ethnic conflicts over language, race or resources or ethical conflict over religion or ideology. Long-term opponents of war preparations are primarily characterized by a belief that military power is not the equivalent of justice.

The movement tends to oppose the proliferation of dangerous technologies and weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear weapons and biological warfare. Some, like SIPRI, have voice special concern that artificial intelligence, molecular engineering, genetics and proteomics have even more vast destructive potential. Thus there is intersection between peace movement elements and Neo-Luddites or primitivism, but also with the more mainstream technology critics such as the Green parties, Greenpeace and the ecology movement they are part of.

It is one of several movements that led to the formation of Green Party political associations in many democratic countries near the end of the 20th century. The peace movement has a very strong influences in some countries' green parties, such as in Germany, perhaps reflecting that country's negative experiences with militarism in the 20th century.

Current events

Some believe that as of the Iraq crisis, peace movements could be seen as part of a global effort to cohere "public opinion as a superpower" to compete with U.S. unilateralism. See Second Superpower article.

Peace movements are also generally thought to have benefited from the rise of Internet communication and coordination, the so-called smart mob technology.

It has also been suggested that such efforts as Indymedia and the Wikipedia play a role in coordinating this public opinion, e.g. compiling lists of alleged effects of invading Iraq, providing neutral views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, of Islamist activity, varying views of ethics and of politics, and providing a quick check on biased views of history.

Detailed history by region

These histories will begin with the countries that suffered during World War II, and which effectively began the postwar period in a submitted position, and wrote peace into their constitutions. They will then deal with the English-speaking world and the arguments more familiar to the English speaking reader, which intersect with current events most strongly, and are the current focus of the peace movement worldwide.


Such Green parties and related political associations were formed in many democratic countries near the end of the 20th century. The peace movement has a very strong influence in some countries' green parties, such as in Germany. These can sometimes exercise decisive influence over policy, e.g. as during 2002 when the German Greens influenced German Chancellor Gerhard Schrder, via their control of the German Foreign Ministry under Joschka Fischer (a Green and the single most popular politician in Germany at the time), to limit his involvement in the War on Terrorism and eventually to unite with French President Jacques Chirac whose opposition in the UN Security Council was decisive in limiting support for the U.S. plan to invade Iraq.


Main article: Israeli peace camp

The mainstream peace movement in Israel is Peace Now, whose supporters tend to vote for the Israeli Labor party, Meretz and Shinui. Peace Now's 1982 "400,000 rally" led to the end of the 1982 Peace for Galilee war and the establishment of the Kahan Commission which impeached Ariel Sharon for indirect responsibility for the Sabra and Shatila massacre committed by Christian Phalangas. Peace Now also advocated a negotiated peace with Palestinians.

Gush Shalom is a radical leftist movement, and its classification as a peace movement is highly disputed. Uri Avneri, the Gush Shalom leader and a former journalist, was among the first to meet and negotiate with PLO leader Yasser Arafat. Although Gush Shalom earned itself respect in Europe, it is regarded by most Israelis as a pro-Palestinian movement who supports violence and terrorism against Israelis. The movement itself hasn't been involved in direct terrorism but did publish several articles praising Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians.

Other Israeli peace organizations:


Canada has a diverse peace movement, with coalitions and networks in many cities, towns and regions.

The Toronto Coalition to Stop the War ( is one of many, and has launched the online War Free Radio: the Anti-War Top 40 (

The ACTivist Magazine ( is dedicated to advancing the art of activism globally is published in Canada quarterly by ACT for Disarmament. The ACTivist started as a newsletter of the "Against Cruise Testing" (ACT) coalition in 1984. ACT went on to form "ACT for Disarmament", an organization which called for demilitarization around the world. As the movement grew, the newsletter expanded to become a newspaper for "Peace, Ecology & Human Rights". The newspaper continued until 1998 when it switched to its current magazine format.

The Canadian Peace Congress (1949-1990) was a leading organizer in the peace movement for many years, particularly when it was under the leadership of James Gareth Endicott who was its president until 1971.

United Kingdom

Post-WWII peace movement efforts in the United Kingdom were initially focused on the dissolution of the British Empire and the rejection of imperialism by the United States and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The anti-nuclear movement sought to "opt out" of the Cold War (see below under U.S.) and rejected such ideas as "Britain's Little Independent Nuclear Deterrent" in part on the grounds that it (BLIND) was in contradiction even with MAD (see below). It was usually associated with CND and in later years, with the Peace camp movement as Labour moved "more to the centre" under Prime Minister Tony Blair.

By early 2003, the peace movement, mostly grouped together under the banner of the Stop the War Coalition, was powerful enough to cause several of Blair's cabinet to resign, and hundreds of Labour Party MPs to vote against their government. Blair's motion to support militarily the U.S. plan to invade Iraq carried only due to support from the UK Conservative Party. Global protests against war on Iraq had been particularly vocal in Britain. Polls suggested that without UN Security Council approval, the UK public was very much opposed to involvement, and over two million people protested in Hyde Park (the previous largest demonstration in the UK having had around 600,000).

United States of America

Although there was substantial organized resistance to foreign wars in the U.S. since its beginnings, this was often simply an outgrowth of isolationism or religious pacifism, and not in general a coherent movement with single goals until after World War II, when these movements were dismissed by most in U.S. foreign policy circles as impractical as the country entered the Cold War period of history.

With Cold War tensions rising, the Progressive Party became a home for the peace movement. Like the American Peace Mobilization before the war, they were accused of harboring communist sympathies. In the election campaign of 1948, the Progressive Party supported appeasement of the Soviet Union and a ban on nuclear weapons. They opposed the Berlin airlift and the Marshall Plan. They received over one million popular votes but no electoral votes.

There was a relatively small amount of domestic protest relevant to the Cold War in the 1950s, which saw a large buildup of both nuclear and conventional weapons in both the United States and its adversary, the Soviet Union. The lack of protest was in part due to McCarthyism and general disdain for those who did not view communist expansion as a threat. It was during this time that the Eisenhower administration developed the policy of Mutual Assured Destruction, in which both the U.S. and the USSR held enough nuclear weapons to obliterate each other should they become embroiled in nuclear war. Following this idea, the two superpowers' possession of nuclear weapons was viewed as a deterrent that would prevent any such war from taking place. MAD also became a central idea in the U.S.'s foreign policy of anti-communism.

One may reasonably date the open explicit and public resistance to this process to the departing comments of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower who warned that the United States was in some danger of being politically dominated by a military-industrial complex.

The peace movement in the 1960s in the United States sought to bring an end to the Vietnam War. Some factions within this movement advocated a unilateral withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam. One reason given for the withdrawal is that it would contribute to a lessening of tensions in the region and thus less human bloodshed. Another, contrasting reason was that the Vietnamese should work out their problems independent of foreign influence.

Opposition to the Vietnam War tended to unite groups opposed to U.S. anti-communism, imperialism and colonialism and, for those involved with the New Left, capitalism itself.

Some critics of U.S. withdrawal predicted that it would not contribute to peace but rather vastly increased bloodshed. These critics advocated U.S. forces remain until all threats from the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army had been eliminated.

Advocates of U.S. withdrawal were generally known as "doves", and they called their opponents "hawks." The imagery was intended to present the withdrawal advocates as peace-seeking and the withdrawal opponents as bad and predatory. The idea of a chickenhawk refers back to this time, to describe those who had avoided dangerous military service before they entered politics, but then advocated aggressive stances once in office.

High-profile opposition to the Vietnam war turned to street protests in an effort to turn U.S. political opinion against the war. The protests gained momentum from civil rights movement that had organized to oppose segregation laws, which had laid a foundation of theory and infrastructure on which the anti-war movement grew. Protests were fueled by a growing network of independently published newspapers, often called the "underground," and the timely advent of large venue rock 'n' roll shows such as Woodstock that attracted young people to mass gatherings.

The fatal shooting of four anti-war protesters at Kent State University cemented the resolve of many protesters. The late 1960s in the US became a time of youth rebellion, mass gatherings and riots, many of which began in response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but which ignited in an atmosphere of open opposition to a war-time government.

Provocative actions by police and by protesters turned anti-war demonstrations in Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National Convention into a riot. Explosive news reports of American military abuses, such as the 1968 My Lai Massacre, brought new attention and support to the anti-war movement.

Anti-war protests subsided as U.S. policy turned toward withdrawal of troops. Momentum from the protest organizations became a main force for the growth of an environmental movement in the United States. Veterans of the Vietnam War returned home to join the movement, including John Kerry, who thirty years later, as a United States Senator, campaigned to become President of the United States. South Vietnam was left to defend itself alone when the fighting resumed. There was no peace movement to protest the renewed bloodshed, and it was conquered in 1975.

Other veterans returned from the war saying that nobody wants to be in a war where people are suffering and dying, but that they found peace in their own minds by knowing they served their country. Some cited the words of George Washington's 1790 State of the Union Address, who said, "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace."

Before, during, and after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, anti-war activists protested globally. (see also global protests against war on Iraq) Activists continue to protest against the continued occupation of Iraq.


See Cairo Anti-war conference

Related topics

External links

de:Friedensbewegung fr:Mouvement pour la Paix it:Movimento pacifista ja:平和運動


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