Gandhi Sets the Task for Our Website

“The way of violence is old and established. It is not so difficult to do research in it. The way of nonviolence is new. The science of nonviolence is yet taking shape. We are still not conversant with all its aspects. There is a wide scope for research and experiment in this field. You can apply all your talents to it.”
M. K. Gandhi


Revolutionary Nonviolence

by Ira Sandperl

Jesse Jackson, Joan Baez, Ira Sandperl, Martin Luther King, 1964; courtesy

Editor’s Preface: This unpublished essay, dated “Autumn, 1978”, is another in our series of discoveries from the War Resisters’ International archive. Please see the notes at the end for archival information, acknowledgement, and an Editor’s Note on Sandperl. JG

In 1910, the American psychologist William James, wrote in an essay that we would have to discover “The Moral Equivalent of War”, [posted below under the same date] if we were to preserve the human race. Four decades and two World Wars later the political philosopher, Hannah Arendt, in the admirable and important book, The Origins of Totalitarianism [New York: Harcourt Brace, 1951], stated that we must devise a political principle that will now cover every man, woman, and child on earth.

That political principle as well as “the Moral Equivalent to War” is what Mahatma Gandhi called satyagraha.

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The Moral Equivalent of War

by William James

Cover art William James; courtesy

Editor’s Preface: William James delivered the first version of his famous essay at Stanford University in 1906. He was, in fact, asked to address a classic problem in political philosophy, sustaining political unity and civic virtue in the absence of war or in the threat of war.  The text that follows adheres to the first published edition, McClure’s Magazine, August 1910, with our own grammatical corrections. JG

The war against war is going to be no holiday excursion or camping party. The military feelings are too deeply grounded to abdicate their place among our ideals until better substitutes are offered than the glory and shame that come to nations as well as to individuals from the ups and downs of politics and the vicissitudes of trade. There is something highly paradoxical in the modern man’s relation to war. Ask all our millions, north and south, whether they would vote now (were such a thing possible) to have our war for the Union expunged from history, and the record of a peaceful transition to the present time substituted for that of its marches and battles, and probably hardly a handful of eccentrics would say yes. Those ancestors, those efforts, those memories and legends, are the most ideal part of what we now own together, a sacred spiritual possession worth more than all the blood poured out. Yet ask those same people whether they would be willing, in cold blood, to start another civil war now to gain another similar possession, and not one man or woman would vote for the proposition. In modern eyes, precious though wars may be they must not be waged solely for the sake of the ideal harvest. Only when forced upon one, is a war now thought permissible.

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Nonviolent Program to Stop Napalm Production

by Stop Napalm Production Subcommittee 

Napalm protest, 1966, photo by Harvey Richards; courtesy

Editor’s Preface: The Quaker Action Group convened a meeting in January of 1967 to discuss a nonviolent strategy for protesting the use of napalm in the Vietnam War. The two documents posted here in succession are unpublished internal memos outlining a strategy against Dow Chemical, the principle manufacturer of the deadly weapon. Among the members of the subcommittee were George Lakey, Lawrence Scott, and George Willoughby. These documents are especially noteworthy for their adherence to several Gandhian nonviolent civil disobedience principles, especially studying the opponent, and determining the weak point. They are another in our series of discoveries from the War Resisters’ International archive. Please see the note at the end for archival reference and acknowledgment. JG

You sit down to write a nice, dispassionate report on what napalm is. The paper is there, the pencils; all the facts you need to demonstrate the horror of this weapon. And you read this (New York Times, December 10, 1967):

“It comes premixed and packaged in thin-skinned aluminum tanks. There are three sizes of which the largest, a tank of 120 gallons weighing 800 pounds, and ten feet long and about three feet in diameter at its thickest point is most frequently used . . . About 1,500 tons of napalm are dropped in an average month in South Vietnam . . . Unlike conventional bombs most tanks of napalm are not provided with fins. Instead of spinning, they tumble, spreading the flaming fuel over an area in open country of about 150 feet along the path of the plane and about 50 feet wide.”

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Nonviolent Action to Stop Production and Use of Napalm: Initial Strategic Outline

by Stop Napalm Production Subcommittee 

Basic Assumptions

(1) The focus of the action will be on Dow Chemical Company, as the nation’s primary producer of napalm.
(2) The program will be carried out in step-by-step fashion, over a specific time period, and moving from less to more intense action steps.
(3) The action will be carried out in a variety of locations and should be as nearly nation-wide as possible.
(4) A Quaker Action Group will initiate and carry out the program in accordance with its nonviolent philosophy. Cooperation from other concerned groups is welcomed. Members of such groups, who are in accord with the nonviolent discipline, may be coopted onto the Napalm Strategy Committee of a Quaker Action Group.

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The Technique of Nonviolent Action

by Gene Sharp

Book jacket assemblage courtesy

Editor’s Preface: This little known essay by Gene Sharp was discovered in the War Resisters’ International archive in a folder labeled “Ira Sandperl’s Speaking Tour of Western Europe, 1970: Background Reading.” The typescript seems to have been given to Sandperl by Sharp. We have not found any evidence that Sharp published the essay in this form, although he was to rework the material in later works, especially the section below “84 Cases of Nonviolent Action”. Sandperl was an interesting figure in the 1970s peace movement. A foremost member of the War Resisters League, (the U.S. branch of WRI), he might be better known to some as Joan Baez’s acknowledged mentor. Sandperl was also co-founder of the Peninsula Peace Center in California, which Baez also helped support. Please see the notes at the end for further information about Gene Sharp, archival references, and acknowledgments. JG

It is widely believed that military combat is the only effective means of struggle in a wide variety of situations of acute conflict. However, there is another whole approach to the waging of social and political conflict. Any proposed substitute for war in the defense of freedom must involve wielding power, confronting and engaging an invader’s military might, and waging effective combat. The technique of nonviolent action, although relatively ignored and undeveloped, may be able to meet these requirements, and provide the basis for a defense policy.

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The Birth of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference


Editor’s Preface: Following upon the victory of the Montgomery bus boycott (December, 1956), the nonviolence organizer Bayard Rustin had the idea of convening a meeting of black leaders in order to create an organization that would carry on the nonviolent struggle for civil rights. This 1957 SCLC brochure, reproduced here as a pdf file, and our most recent discovery in the War Resisters’ International archive, is a vivid reminder of how central a role Gandhian nonviolence played in the US civil rights movement. Indeed, one of the major contributions of both SCLC, and Martin Luther King, Jr., was to synthesize Gandhian nonviolent civil resistance (satyagraha) with Christian nonviolence, as the quote below extracted from the brochure illustrates. This essential synthesis not only permeates the brochure, but also is the main theme of Martin Luther King’s ground breaking spiritual classic, Stride Toward Freedom (Boston: Beacon Press, 1958). JG

Poster courtesy

The basic tenets of Hebraic-Christian tradition coupled with the Gandhian concept of satyagraha,
or truth force, is at the heart of SCLC’s philosophy.
Christian nonviolence actively resists evil in any form
.”  SCLC

On January 10, 1957, more than 100 Southern leaders gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, to share and discuss their mutual problems of the Southern struggle. By unanimous agreement, the body voted to form a permanent organization that would serve as a coordinating agency for local protest centers that were utilizing the technique and philosophy of nonviolence in creative protest. Two months later, close on the heels of the successful Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, SCLC came into being in New Orleans, Louisiana. Martin Luther King, Jr., was elected president.

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Book Review: The Ethics of Nonviolence; Essays by Robert L. Holmes

by Andrew Fiala

Book jacket courtesy Bloomsbury Publishing;

This is a collection of essays by Robert L. Holmes (Predrag Cicovacki [ed.], London: Bloomsbury, 2013), a philosopher known primarily for his extensive body of work on nonviolence and war, including his influential book, On War and Morality (Princeton University Press, 1989). The essays include some of Holmes’ early articles on American pragmatism and ethical theory. But its primary focus is later work, including some important material on the philosophy of nonviolence, some of it published previously in journals and books along with previously unpublished material. The book concludes with a short essay on his teaching philosophy and an interview with the editor that provides some biographical material about Holmes’ education and life.

While the earlier essays on pragmatism and ethical theory may be of interest to academic philosophers, and the later items would be of interest to those who know Holmes as a teacher or colleague, the primary focus of the volume is on the ethics of nonviolence. The essays on this topic are both readable and important. They will be of interest to a broad audience and not merely to academic philosophers. Indeed, these essays should be read and carefully considered by students of peace studies and peace activists.

One significant contribution is Holmes’ analysis of the difference between nonviolentism and pacifism. Indeed, it appears that he coined the term “nonviolentism” in a 1971 essay that is reprinted in this collection (157). According to Holmes, pacifism is a narrow perspective that is merely opposed to war, while nonviolentism is a broader perspective that is opposed in general to violence.

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An Invasion of California: A Radio Play on the Theme of Nonviolent Resistance

by Richard Moses

Image courtesy

Editor’s Preface: This 1970 radio play is our most recent discovery from the War Resisters’ International archive. The notations on the manuscript credit the 1960s Methodist publication Motive Magazine, a highly regarded literary journal. Moses seems to have written for it, and they may have had a hand in producing the play, but we have not found any evidence that they published it. An Invasion bears obvious comparisons with the popular, Peter Sellers film The Mouse that Roared, released in 1959. Richard Moses was a Quaker and on the Board of Friends Journal. Please see the link to the pdf of the original and the reference note, at the end. JG

ANNOUNCER: (More or less ad lib) In just a few minutes, ladies and gentlemen we shall be going on the air. When I raise my hand, may we have absolute silence? (Looks at watch; raises hand) This is the American Broadcasting System bringing over its regular network, short wave stations and affiliated foreign stations, a speech by the President of the United States. With the attack on Hawaii yesterday and the impending invasion of the West Coast by the armed forces of Stonia, the President has cancelled all scheduled appointments to bring this message to the people. The President will be introduced by Mrs. Joan Alden, chairman of the White House Nonviolent Strategy Board. Mrs. Alden…

ALDEN: The hour for testing is at hand. Twenty years ago our nation decided that the thousands of years in which violence had failed to establish peace or justice was a costly experiment best ended. We have been prepared through schools, and churches, newspapers and radio for defense through nonviolence. We have tested ourselves domestically in areas of race relations, industrial problems and the like. The entire people have committed themselves and are ready to die in the faith that all men are brothers.

As you know, the American government has attempted unsuccessfully to arbitrate the differences between the countries of Pan Costia and Stonia concerning freedom of the Pacific seas. When two years ago, war broke out between these countries, we immediately stopped all exports to them with the exception of food, medical supplies, and other non-war materials. This meant, among other things, termination of a trade agreement to supply Stonia with 60 billion gallons of crude oil annually. The decision, strongly protested by the Stonian Ambassador, was reached upon the advice of our Congressional Peace and Economics Committees.

Read the pdf of the complete article here: An Invasion of California

Reference: IISG/WRI Archive Box 398: Folder 3. We are grateful to WRI/London and their director Christine Schweitzer for their cooperation in our WRI project.

Interweaving Peace and Women’s Rights: The Street Spirit Interview with Shelley Douglass, Part 3

by Terry Messman

The feminism that I believe in is a defense of all life. Not only women, not only the earth, but all together. It’s all reweaving the web.”   Shelley Douglass

Jim and Shelley Douglass demonstrating for peace in Birmingham, Alabama.

Street Spirit: Concern for the rights of women, both in society and in the peace movement, was always a part of Ground Zero’s message to the larger movement. Can you describe how feminism and women’s issues became interwoven with Ground Zero’s peace work?

Shelley Douglass: Well, you have to remember that Ground Zero — and Pacific Life Community, which preceded it — were founded on the idea that nonviolence was a way of life. So it wasn’t just a political type of resistance campaign against Trident. It was an attempt, and is an attempt, to learn a new way of living where things like Trident are not necessary any more. In order to do that, you have to have justice, because the point of the weaponry is to defend things that are unjust or structures that are unjust. So equal rights for women was part of the basis of what we were doing.

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The Persecution of the Peacemakers: The Street Spirit Interview with Shelley Douglass, Part 4

by Terry Messman

Jim and Shelley Douglass with Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, c. 1980; courtesy

Street Spirit: I just read John McCoy’s new biography of Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, A Still and Quiet Conscience [Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2015]. He is such an inspiring man, but it was shocking to learn about the horrible indignities he suffered for speaking out for peace. Could you describe your impressions of the archbishop when he came to peace demonstrations at Ground Zero?

Shelley Douglass: He’s the kind of person you would never think was an archbishop, you know. You would never think of him as an archbishop or anybody with any power. I mean he’s just this guy, not particularly well dressed. When we knew him, he just seemed like this old guy and he was bald and had kind of a kindly persona. He listened a lot, and didn’t do a lot of talking.

I think that the first time I met him I was in jail. We had gotten arrested for committing civil disobedience and Jim and one other person in our group were both doing a fast. I don’t remember why the archbishop came to visit us in jail, but people were concerned about Jim’s safety, basically. I don’t know who got him to come, but he came, and even though he didn’t look or act like an archbishop, because he was the archbishop, the jail gave him a special visit. And they put Jim in a wheelchair and wheeled him down, and there was the archbishop!

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“When planted in the garden, the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, became a large tree, and birds came and made their home there.” Luke 13:19

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.” M. Gandhi