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


Guest Editorial: “Do Unto Others”; Pope Francis’ Call to Action

by John Dear

Poster art courtesy

Editor’s Preface: Pope Francis is the first Pope to address the U. S. Congress, and his speech is already being heralded for its stand against poverty, the death penalty and other humanitarian and spiritual concerns central to his papacy. The full speech can be read at this link. Francis also singled out four persons for praise, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dorothy Day, most notably the last three, major figures in the nonviolence movement. Please also see the editor’s note at the end. JG

“Hope and healing, peace and justice!” That’s what Pope Francis called us to this morning as he addressed Congress [24 September 2015]. “Summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises,” he said. “Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.”

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Ahimsa and Sarvodaya in the Life of Gandhi

by Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

Editor’s Preface: When Dr, Radhakrishnan wrote this essay in 1962 for the Gandhi National Memorial Fund, New Delhi he was the second President of India and one of India’s foremost contemporary philosophers. A relatively unknown essay, it is another in our series of discoveries from the War Resisters’ International archive. For an archival reference and biographical information about Dr. Radhakrishnan please see the notes at the end. JG

Indian commemorative postage stamp; courtesy

Many parts of the world are eagerly and enthusiastically awaiting the centenary of Gandhi [2 October 1969]. We here in India await it too. Though he belonged to the world, he also belongs to our country. As the London Times remarked: “No country other than India, and no religion other than Hinduism could have produced a Gandhi.” So he belongs to us in a very special sense. There are several ways in which he has worked for the country and the world. He was a great nationalist leader. He was a liberator of the enslaved. He taught the doctrine of a love that never fails. He was a moral genius who tried to chasten himself first before trying to exert any kind of influence on others. In all these ways he has helped us.

It is over thirty years ago that I put to Gandhi three questions: (1) What is your religion? (2) How are you led to it? (3) What is its bearing on life? He gave the following brief answers: “I used to say, ‘I believe in God’, now I say, ‘I believe in truth’. ‘God is truth’, that is what I am saying and today I say, ‘Truth is God’. There are people who deny God. There are no people who deny Truth. It is something which even the atheists admit.” Here he was not enunciating any new proposition. He was merely declaring fundamental truths that have come down to us from the environment in which he lived, the environment which nourished him. He took up two things. Speak the truth, do the right thing: truth and right action. He called them ‘Truth and Ahimsa’. These were his principles. Truth is not something we can casually work at. It requires considerable travail of the human spirit to cultivate harmony between the inward and the outward.

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Shelley Douglass: Living for Peace in the Shadow of Death

by Terry Messman

Jim and Shelley Douglass picketing for peace, 2015; courtesy

The destruction of creation and its creatures is done in the name of profit, convenience, and wealth. The truth is that capitalism is poison, and we are its victims.” Shelley Douglass

The path of nonviolence is a lifelong journey that leads in unexpected directions to far-distant destinations. One of the most meaningful milestones on Shelley Douglass’s path of nonviolence came on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 16, 1983, when she walked down the railroad tracks into the Bangor naval base with Karol Schulkin and Mary Grondin from the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action.

As the three women walked down the tracks used to transport nuclear warheads and missile motors into the naval base, they posted photographs of the atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — a prophetic warning of the catastrophic consequences of Trident nuclear submarines. The photos revealed the human face of war, the face of defenseless civilians struck down in a nuclear holocaust. The women continued on this pilgrimage deep into the heart of the Trident base, until security officers arrested them an hour after they began.

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Working for Peace and Justice: The Street Spirit Interview with Shelley Douglass, Part 1

by Terry Messman

Shelley Douglass (left with microphone) speaking out against the deaths of children caused by U.S. sanctions in Iraq; courtesy

The whole point of the arms race is to protect what we have that really isn’t justifiably ours. As long as we remain complicit with that, then to that extent we’re complicit with weapons like the Trident. So we were trying to withdraw our cooperation as much as we could.” Shelley Douglass

Street Spirit: You’ve devoted many years of your life to nonviolent resistance to nuclear weapons. When did you first become involved in the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action?

Shelley Douglass: The Pacific Life Community was the original group that started the Trident campaign. The crucial thing about it was that the whistle was blown on the Trident by the man that was designing it, Robert Aldridge. Jim and I had met Bob Aldridge when we were in the middle of the Hickham trial in Honolulu. [Editor: Jim Douglass, Jim Albertini and Chuck Julie were on trial for an act of civil disobedience at Hickam Air Force Base in protest of the Vietnam War. TM]

We didn’t know very much about Bob Aldridge until he came to visit us at our home in Hedley, British Columbia, several years later. He told us a very moving story about how he had spent his life designing nuclear weapons, and he and his whole family had made the decision that he should resign from his job for reasons of conscience. They had taken a tremendous cut in income. They had 10 kids, and his wife had gone back to work, and the whole family was behind this decision.

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Surprising Requests for Mercy: The Street Spirit Interview with Shelley Douglass, Part 2

by Terry Messman

You age and die on death row if they don’t electrocute you or murder you in some other way. One of the men had a stroke and had to be taken care of. Leroy was one of the major caregivers for him. Leroy was never an angel, but he became a very compassionate person.” Shelley Douglass

Poster art courtesy

Street Spirit: You described in Part 1 how you first became inspired by the Catholic Worker while in college. How did you begin Mary’s House in Birmingham?

Shelley Douglass: When we moved here to Birmingham, we were sort of delegated by Ground Zero to watch trains, but after we had been here for two years we realized there were no more trains to watch. So we had to make the choice: Do we go back to Ground Zero, or do we stay here, and if we stay here, what are we here for? That just kind of fit in with my always having wanted to do a Catholic Worker. So we decided that we would do a Catholic Worker, even though we had no money. I mean, you never have any money when you start a Catholic Worker.

Spirit: Dorothy Day described one of the primary missions of the Catholic Worker as providing houses of hospitality. Does Mary’s House offer hospitality?

Douglass: Well, physically, Mary’s House is a big old house, kind of like many Catholic Worker houses. It was built in 1920 in the Ensley area of Birmingham, which used to be a big steel and brick making area. It’s got four bedrooms, one of which I sleep in, and three of them we use as hospitality, primarily for families or single women. People come and stay while they get on their feet. It’s kind of like a big family house.

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The Institutionalization of Nonviolence

by Beverly Woodward

Nonviolence sculpture by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd; courtesy

Editor’s Preface: This unpublished essay was presented at an international conference of peace researchers and activists (July 1-6, 1975, Noordwijkerhout, Netherlands), and continues our series of rediscoveries from the War Resisters’ International archive. For further notes on the text, the archival reference and a biographical note about Woodward please see the end. JG

The term “nonviolence” has been a controversial one. Over the years many have objected to it on the grounds that it is negative rather than positive in substance and therefore does not hold out a vision of what one is for rather than what one is against. The objection is valid, but it overlooks one benefit obtained by the use of this term. When we speak of nonviolence we highlight the fact that a peaceful world cannot be attained without struggle and resistance. Nonviolence is anti-violence and must be, since violence, unfortunately, is woven into the fabric of our lives. To obtain peace we must resist violence. To resist violence is to resist deeply rooted inclinations, habits, customs, laws, and institutions.

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Notes on a Marxist Interpretation of Gandhi

by Bhikhu Parekh

Dust jacket art courtesy Palgrave Macmillan;

Marxist interpretations of Gandhi contain important and valid insights that are, however, oversimplified; the picture is more complex and messy. The Congress under Gandhi’s leadership was not a party of the upper middle class. Although it did not reject the institution of private property, it assigned the State a considerable regulative and redistributive role, stressed the pursuit of social justice, and was not an advocate of unrestrained capitalism. To say, as some Marxists do, that since Congress did not advocate the abolition of the capitalist mode of production it was therefore a spokesman for capitalism, is to take too simple-minded a comment on the range of political possibilities open to radicals. Congress was essentially a middle class party, constantly reaching out to new groups and interests on both sides of the economic consensus in a way that was neither wholly capitalist nor fully socialist and not heavily biased towards a particular group. Rightwing and leftwing ideas grew up around its petit bourgeois core and both shaped and were in turn shaped by it. Nehru put the point well: “Even our more reactionary people are not so rigid in their reactions as they are probably in Europe and America. And even our most advanced people are somehow influenced by Gandhiji. He created connecting links between conflicting interests.”

The flow of political influence and the process of moral sensitisation between the different groups proceeded in both directions. The haute bourgeoisie influenced the Congress and enjoyed a measure of political power as the Marxists argue, but they were also required to recognise the legitimate demands of the poor and the oppressed. The middle and upper class peasantry did from time to time link up with the bourgeoisie, but it also retained its independence, threw up leaders of status and class loyalty, and influenced Congress policies on important matters. Many of these leaders were not created by or in any way indebted to the bourgeoisie, and had come to power on the basis of their personal sacrifices and leadership of peasant struggles. They had constituencies which they could not lightly ignore and whose interests they could not subordinate to those of some other class. The Marxist commentators exaggerate the situation when they claim that Gandhi delivered the peasantry to the capitalists.

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Nonviolent Peace Training as a Means of Linking Research and Action

by George Lakey

Poster art courtesy

Editor’s Preface: This previously unpublished essay was a paper presented at the International Conference of Peace Researchers and Peace Activists (Noordwijkerhout, Netherlands, July 1-6 1975), and is another in our series of important discoveries from the War Resisters’ International archive. Please see the notes at the end for archival information, and for a note about George Lakey.  JG

Training for peace action is a fairly new phenomenon. By training I mean the systematic sharing of skills and knowledge. Activists in former years could learn by apprenticing themselves to experienced leaders, or could pay special attention to those conferences and institutes featuring nonviolent organizers. But there was nowhere they could go to get systematic, long-term training.

The burst of nonviolent action in the nineteen-sixties stimulated people in a number of countries to seek to remedy this. In 1965 the first international conference on training for nonviolent action was held in Perugia, Italy, by War Resisters’ International. Activists came from as far away as India and the U.S. to compare notes on training experience.

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Nonviolence in Mississippi

by A. J. Muste

Poster quote courtesy

This article is in the first instance an appeal to those, Negro and white, who are taking part in the movement for civil rights in the United States today in 1964. It is an appeal that in considering how to deal with the agonizing and complicated problems which now beset it the emphasis shall be on nonviolence, i.e. on maintaining the spirit of nonviolence in the movement and in devising apt and imaginative applications of a basically nonviolent strategy.

During the long hot summer of 1964, about which we had been warned or with which we had been threatened, the violence and tension were focused largely on Mississippi where three young men who volunteered to work in the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO)campaign for voter registration and related objectives simply disappeared. It was in Mississippi that Medgar W. Evers, the devoted and highly respected organizer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.), was brutally assassinated. No one has been convicted of that crime in the courts of that state. It was in Jackson, Mississippi, that the widow of Medgar Evers at his memorial service said to her fellow Negroes and fellow workers, “We must not hate; we must love”. What I am trying to say in what follows is that this statement must be the light that guides the movement in the dark passages and the motto on its banners as it moves into the light.

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Nonviolent Training in the United States

by Theodore Olson

Poster art courtesy

Editor’s Preface: This unpublished essay was a paper presented at the study conference Training in Nonviolence (Perugia, Italy, 13-20 August 1965) under the joint auspices of War Resisters’ International, and is another in our series of rediscoveries from the WRI archive. Please see the notes at the end for further archival references, a link to a pdf scan of the original, and biographical information about the author. JG

By nonviolent training we mean conscious attempts, in the context of teaching and learning, to impart historical experience, general concepts, technical skills and personal experience in how to act effectively and nonviolently in conflict situations. By “nonviolently” we mean to stress programmatic or active nonviolence, as exemplified by, but not restricted to, social action struggles: for example, Gandhi’s actions in India and that of the peace and civil rights activists in the United States.

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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