Pacifism

Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace

by Pope Francis

Giotto, “St. Francis Preaching to the Birds”; courtesy jssincivita.com.

Editor’s Preface: The following is the official Papal message for the 50th World Day of Peace, 1 January 2017. It is, however, the first such ever devoted exclusively to nonviolence, in the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. JG

1. At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious, civic and community leaders. I wish peace to every man, woman and child, and I pray that the image and likeness of God in each person will enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred gifts endowed with immense dignity. Especially in situations of conflict, let us respect this, our “deepest dignity”, (1) and make active nonviolence our way of life.

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Editorial: Peace Be with You

by Joseph Geraci

Edward Hicks painting, c. 1823, from the Peaceable Kingdom series; courtesy Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum.

Peace has been for centuries a universal greeting and sign. We may recall that the World War II military victory V-sign was transformed in the 1960s into a peace symbol; signs of the times. Peace was always more than a simple hello; it was a bestowal of peace on someone, a blessing. In the Middle East, for example, that area of the world so riven by violence, it is perhaps not so strange an irony that a common greeting is (in Hebrew) shalom aleikhem (Peace be with you), and the reply aleikhem shalom (Peace also be with you). In Arabic it is as-sal alaykum (Peace be with you), common to Muslims in Turkey, Indonesia, Central Asia, Iran, India, et al. The response is as-salamu alaykum, and can also be translated as “Peace also be with you”.

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Peace on Earth: The Street Spirit Interview with Country Joe McDonald, Part Three

by Terry Messman

Album cover art courtesy allmusic.com

We’re still struggling as a species with how we can stop war. The families (of Vietnam veterans) were so grateful that anybody would acknowledge their sacrifice. And I don’t mean sacrifice in a clichéd way. The war had reached out and struck their family in a horrible, terrible way.” Country Joe McDonald

Street Spirit: You have been deeply involved in supporting military veterans, but there’s a saying that no good deed goes unpunished. Did Bill O’Reilly of Fox News actually compare you to Fidel Castro because you organized a Veteran’s Day event in 2005 that involved the Gold Star Families for Peace?

Country Joe McDonald: Yeah, he did that! He did say that! He said on his show that me doing a Veteran’s Day event in Berkeley was like having Fidel Castro in charge of it, after we got publicity because we wanted to have a Gold Star father speak in one of our Veteran’s Day events.

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Singing of Liberation: The Street Spirit Interview with Country Joe McDonald, Part Four

by Terry Messman

Woody Guthrie poster courtesy countryjoe.com

I knew a lot of the people had to escape or they were killed by the junta in Chile. It was just tragic and terrible. I had grown up with a full knowledge of the viciousness of imperialism from my socialist parents. So I knew that, but I was still shocked.” Country Joe McDonald

Street Spirit: Robert W. Service called his poems about war “songs from the slaughter mill.” How did it happen that an acid-rock musician of the Vietnam era transformed poems written about World War I into a powerful musical statement in your album War War War?

Country Joe McDonald: When I got out of the Navy and was going to Los Angeles State College, I got a job working in East L.A. at a breaded fish factory. When I was coming home from work, I stopped at a used bookstore, and I saw a book called Rhymes of a Red Cross Man. I took it home and read the poems by Robert W. Service. His brother was killed in World War I and he himself was a Red Cross man during the war — a stretcher-bearer and ambulance driver. I knew about his frivolous, entertaining poems set in the Yukon, like “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” But I was really struck by his poems about war; they’re very different. I just thought they were great.

Spirit: Why were his poems so meaningful to you?

McDonald: They were poignant or humorous poems that were approaching war from different points of view. I just liked them and I thought they were really good. And I liked the little watercolor paintings that illustrated it. One particular poem, “The Ballad of Jean Desprez,” really affected me.

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Carrying on the Spirit of Peace and Love

by Terry Messman

Cover of Country Joe’s album, designed by Jane Fonda, sold for benefit of Free The Army’s anti-war performance troupe; courtesy thestreetspirit.org

Country Joe McDonald has carried on the spirit of the 1960s by singing for peace and justice, speaking against war and environmental damage, and advocating fair treatment for military veterans and homeless people.

The summer of 1967 was a moment when a utopian vision of peace and love seemed to be just over the horizon — or even down the next aisle in a record store. On June 1, 1967, the Beatles released the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, It seemed to herald a new day when love would overcome the injustices and cruelty of a world plagued by war, poverty and racial discrimination. “With our love, with our love, we could save the world — if they only knew,” George Harrison sang on “Within You Without You.”

Only two weeks later (June 16-18, 1967) the Monterey International Pop Festival brought together an extraordinary gathering of some of the most creative and innovative musical artists in the world, including Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Otis Redding, Booker T. & the MGs, Ravi Shankar, Canned Heat, the Electric Flag, the Mamas and the Papas, the Byrds, the Animals, and Country Joe and the Fish.

Taken together, those two momentous events — the Beatles’ imaginative and beautiful album, and the epochal gathering of legendary artists at Monterey — seemed to announce the dawning of a rebellious and visionary counterculture. The first rays of sunlight in the darkness of a world at war. It now may seem like a half-remembered fragment of a dream, but those days were filled with the hope that momentous social change might emerge suddenly from almost any protest, and breathtaking moments of beauty could be found in almost any music store or concert hall.

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Book Review: Nonviolent Resistance to the Nazis

by Gertjan Cobelens

Dustwrapper art courtesy youcaxton.co.uk

But what about World War II? It is considered the ultimate trump card in any debate on the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance. Not entirely by accident, it is also the title of an IFOR brochure on this very question. (1) It was President Obama’s main defense for his justification of the use of force in his acceptance speech of the Nobel Peace Prize. It was one of the main stumbling blocks for Martin Luther King Jr. towards embracing nonviolence, and it is the standard reaction of most people involved in government and the military to suggestions of implementing forms of nonviolent civil defense. The implication, of course, is that the Nazi regime was so violent and abhorrent that it could only be stopped by brute force. The other side of the coin, though, is that if one could argue successfully that some forms of nonviolent resistance did prove viable during WWII, it would follow that these strategies would be effective under most circumstances.

That was what the War Resisters’ International set out to demonstrate when, in 1952, they embarked on the idea to put together a book on accounts of nonviolent resistance. Although the WRI succeeded in amassing some first-class examples, the amount of material collected was deemed insufficient to be published as a book. (2) Others followed suit, such as Gene Sharp in his 1958 Peace News Pamphlet Tyranny Could Not Quell Them, in which he detailed the successful non-cooperation campaign by the teachers of Norway, and Jacques Sémelin’s Unarmed Against Hitler: Civilian Resistance in Europe 1939-1943. (3).

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Editorial: The Committee of 100

by Gertjan Cobelens

Bertrand Russell (right foreground) leads Committee march; courtesy peacebuttons.info

We are posting today (see below) three previously unpublished articles from the Committee of 100 archive, held by the IISG in Amsterdam, as part of our ongoing research into the early influence of nonviolence on the pacifist movements. During the summer of 1960, philosopher and activist Bertrand Russell was persuaded to resign his presidency of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and assume the leadership of the Committee of 100, a newly planned movement for large scale nonviolent direct action against the manufacture and use of nuclear weapons. Together with Michael Scott, Ralph Schoenman, Michael Randle, April Carter and 95 other public signatories, 88-year-old Russell launched the Committee at a meeting in London on 22 October 1960. Its objective was to stop the “folly of nuclear armaments” through mass civil disobedience.

Right from the beginning the Committee of 100 strongly emphasized the nonviolent nature of the demonstrations, and anybody who wished to participate had to adhere to a long list of behavioral guidelines designed to safeguard the nonviolent integrity of the movement. Nevertheless, demonstrators expected to be arrested and charged and at the second of the sit-down demonstrations in April 1961 in London, over 800 people were arrested. That September, a week before the next mass demonstration, all one hundred committee members were summoned to court without charge for incitement to commit breaches of the peace. They were asked to sign a promise of good behavior for twelve months, but 32 refused, including Bertrand Russell, who opted to go to jail instead. The September demonstration was the largest organized by the Committee. Between 12,000 and 15,000 demonstrators flooded into the center of London, and more than 1,300 were arrested.

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Committee of 100 Draft Resolution: Aims, Policies and Methods

by Peter Cadogan

Aims: To ban the bomb. To prevent World War III. To rid the world of the power of militarists and military alliances. To understand the causes of war and to work out how to eliminate them. To identify the particular people, interests and factors making for World War III.

In face of the threat of war to alert people in Britain and throughout the world to the necessity of building a new kind of national and international movement against war. To achieve our purposes by direct action, without violence and by civil disobedience when need be. To give incidental support to conventional methods of opposition.

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Nonviolence Advice to Demonstrators

by the London Committee of 100

The London Committee of 100 is a body formed to organise mass nonviolent resistance, including civil disobedience, to nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. This is a nonviolent demonstration. If you feel that you are not capable of remaining nonviolent in the circumstances of the demonstration, we would ask you not to take part. If at any time during the demonstration you feel that you are going to become violent, we would suggest that you leave the demonstration, at least for the time being.

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Greenham Common Nonviolent Resistance

by National Committee of 100

Despite the dangers of nuclear tests and the possibilities of nuclear war, we believe that there is hope. Despite the obstacles, we believe that:

  • Men are capable of sanity and courage;
  • Men can be moved to action to preserve life;
  • Effective action is possible.

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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