Peoples' movements and protests








The peace of God and the commune
The war resistance around 1900
The Algeria movement in France
50-60s nuclear resistance
Vietnam War Resistance in the United States
80s nuclear resistance
Mobilizations against African civil wars


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Peace movements






Peace movements are popular movements that claim the right of civil society to live in peace from power-seeking states and other power groups. The first known peace movement in Europe was the one started by French priests in 989 at a meeting to protect the peaceful life against the violence of the knights, the so-called Peace of God. It soon split into an authoritarian faction that wanted to rely on the king’s supremacy, and a democratic one that wanted to organize people in common. The latter gave rise to the so-called the commune movement when the people of Cambrai in 1077 came together to defend their city against the knights in the vicinity.

These two approaches have continued to split peace movements in two. On the one hand, peasant peaces, conscientious objection and other popular sabotage of the ongoing war, on the other hand, reliance on new hierarchies and even more powerful people in power (UN, EU, even NATO) to keep the old ones in check.

In the middle of the 19th century, a pacifist movement emerged among the liberal and philanthropic bourgeoisie. The interest was in arbitration. The still active International Peace Bureau, IPB, was formed in 1892 and shortly thereafter the first intergovernmental disarmament conference was held. At the same time, an anti-militarist current emerged within the labor movement, initially in distrust of the liberal movement but soon in cooperation as many unions joined the IPB. A third environment for war resistance was the women’s movement.

When World War I broke out, all these movements proved powerless and both liberal politicians and labor movement leaders supported their respective warring states. Only a radical minority resisted, a minority whose influence grew the more destructive the war became. In 1917, they revolutionized Russia and Germany, and they were close to cracking the military in France.

After the war, the peace movement split both through its defeat and its victories. The liberal peace movement’s dream of an international organization came true through the League of Nations, and a large group of the movement formed associations to support it. The anti-militarists started War Resisters International, WRI, which has played a major role ever since. The labor movement largely fell out as an organized force. When World War II broke out, the peace movement was as impotent as it was before the First.

The post-war peace movements in the central countries were instead inspired by an American and an Indian initiative. In the United States, the Social-Christian Fellowship of Reconciliation, which emphasized justice and organized blacks to boycott anti-discrimination as early as the 1940s. And in India, the independence movement introduced a new way of acting politically, through its peaceful but proactive actions.

The post-war peace movements has had two focuses: the resistance to nuclear armaments and the resistance to two colonial wars, in Algeria and Vietnam. Together, they inspired very large parts of the post-war popular movements for better or worse. For worse mostly because they have mainly been focused on good conscience and very little on interest.

In the peripheral countries alias South, peace movement mobilizations have been weaker and primarily aimed at more nearby perpetrators of violence, e.g. warlords like those who tormented Europe 1000 years ago. For example, forceful peace movements succeeded in stopping the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 80s-90s. They have also been less ideological than those in the North and more concerned than those about practical results here and now.

Peter Brock: Pacifism in Europe to 1914, Princeton University Press 1972
Peter Brock: Twentieth century pacifism, Van Nostrand Reinhold 1970

Beverly Silver: Labour, war and world politics
Charles Tilly: Violence, terror and politics as usual
Charles Tilly: War making and state making as organized crime

News links
Peace News
The Transnational
Responsible Statecraft


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