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"The History of French and American Pacifist Movements". International Bilingual Symposium. Chambéry, April 6-7 2006.
Article published on 11 April 2006
last modification on 22 May 2017

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Professor Francis Feeley
Organizer of the Symposium, Director of the CEIMSA (Centre des Etudes des Institutions et Mouvements Sociaux Américains)

Vicki Briault Manus ; “The Anti-Globalization Movement as Non-violent Resistance”.

The so-called Anti-Globalization Movement continues the tradition of non-violent anti-colonial movements. By an activist member of the Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt.

The colonial process has always been accompanied by barbarity and violence; yet any progress made in "civilizing" the colonial powers was achieved through the relentless struggle of non-violent resistance movements. The most recent manifestation of neocolonialism is the corporate-driven globalization steered by the international financial institutions, in which the United States plays a preponderant role. Yet these new forms of ruthless world domination and exploitation have met their match in the massive citizens’ movements emerging all over the planet. The tip of the iceberg of today’s non-violent movements can be seen at rallies and counter-summits each time one of the international economic institutions (G7, G8, World Bank, IMF, WTO…) holds a summit. It can be seen at the massively attended Regional and World Social Forums of recent years.

The media hardly cover these popular events except to show the rare scenes of violence. They barely touch on the dramatic socio-economic issues that mobilize such vast numbers of ordinary peace-loving citizens. Non-violent protest represents a threat to the dominant powers, so they use images of conflict and mayhem to discredit the movements and fudge the real issues: who now can remember what Korean farmers were complaining about in Hong Kong last December?

This paper will develop these points and other facets of the increasingly coordinated worldwide struggle to impose civilized solutions to problems arising from barbaric neocolonial practices.

Frederic Méni, the enlightened coadjutor

Al Burk : “Dilemmas and delusions of pacifism”.

Despite the huge efforts and personal sacrifice of pacifists, it remains fairly easy to start wars, and seemingly impossible to create the necessary conditions for lasting peace. This is difficult to reconcile with the generally optimistic view of human nature that is stated or implied in much, if not most, pacifist thought. Evolutionary theory, on the other hand, offers a plausible explanation for the persistence of war and the equally persistent failure of efforts to eradicate it. Among other things, it offers valuable insights into the dynamics of power and authority in human societies, as well as the social-psychological preconditions for war. Although the lessons of evolution tend to clash with fundamental notions of traditional pacifism, ignoring or blindly rejecting those lessons is to deprive oneself of the best available conceptual framework for understanding war and the reasons why it has proven so difficult to eliminate.

Alexander Cockburn : “The Military Imperatives of International Capital” & “As radical as reality”.

My first talk would cover US wars and their motivations across the last five decades, with most emphasis on the post cold war period.

My second talk would address the necessary parameters of a radical movement in the States today,

Jim Cohn : “A Socio-Political Analysis of the US Peace Movement Today”.

James Cohen and Philippe Descamps
James Cohen (Department of Political Science, Université de Paris-VIII) is the author of Spanglish America. Les enjeux de la "latinisation" des Etats-Unis".
Philippe Descamps is a journalist at Le Monde diplomatique and various other institutions, including France 3 TV

Based on recent interviews with key figures in U.S. antiwar coalitions and ongoing reading of activist materials and theoretical analyses, I will examine the question of the social rootedness of the peace movement in US society, its media visibility, and its role in shaping U.S. politics. Since this movement is anything but monolithic, I will also examine some of the main political currents that structure it and the differences in style and substance among them.

Based on recent interviews with key figures in U.S. antiwar coalitions and ongoing reading of activist materials and theoretical analyses, I will examine the question of the social rootedness of the peace movement in US society, its media visibility, and its role in shaping U.S. politics. Since this movement is anything but monolithic, I will also examine some of the main political currents that structure it and the differences in style and substance among them.

David Cortright : « Democratic culture inside the U.S. Military ».

“Examining the Soldiers Revolt During the Vietnam Era” documents one of the least known and most important aspects of the Vietnam War: the rebellion among U.S. soldiers opposed to the war. From the front lines to stateside military bases, the U.S. armed forces were wracked by widespread resistance, including racial rebellions, and combat refusals and mutinies. GIs produced more than 250 antiwar committees and underground newspapers to voice their discontent.

In this essay David Cortright draws from his classic book, Soldiers in Revolt, to show that a point was reached in Vietnam where service members were no longer willing to tolerate what they saw as an unjust war. The essay combines scholarship with the insights of a participant-observer who was actively involved in the GI protest movement.

One of the essay’s important conclusions is that most of the GI resistance came not from draftees but from volunteers from working class backgrounds. The essay argues that the GI movement helped to bring the Vietnam War to an end. It examines the enduring imprint of this period on the U.S. military and considers some lessons that this era holds for the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Francis Feeley : « ‘I am the civilization for which the boys are fighting’ : un résumé du colloque et une proposition modeste vers des nouvelles directions pour la recherche sur
le pacifisme ».

In this concluding statement an attempt will be made to identify the different epistemologies expressed by the various pacifist movements described during this conference. I will suggest that by using the theory of “a hierarchy of logical types,” developed by Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead in Principia Mathematica, future research might make useful discoveries concerning successful aspects of democratic resistance to tyranny –shedding new light on those qualities of resistance which, when conducted at a higher logical level than the initial violence waged against elements in our biosphere by the authoritarian management of resources, bring into existence new modes of thought and eventually new social relationships.

Robert Griffiths : “Peace, Human Rights and Religion: some general reflections.”

Professor Robert Griffiths, Université de Savoie

The evidence of a massive confrontation between the violence perpetrated by certain muslim religious extremists and the even greater violence perpetrated by the western « anti-terrorist » riposte which is also clearly linked to a form of populist religious conservatism would tend to confirm the general impression that religion is a primary cause of the massive violence in the world today. The present communication questions this reductionist analysis, referring to some of the empirical evidence of the strong and pervasive role played by religious opinion in the opposition to war and the promotion of peace and human rights, particularly in the period since 1945. The topic is obviously a vast one and the examples given here necessarily very limited (but, I contend, striking) ones; but they inevitably lead to more general reflections on the nature of political power, ideas and ideals, as well as the roles of religion and « laîcité », reflections which permeate the whole colloque

Lou Marin.
I. « Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC): Challenge and historical
reconsideration of nonviolent direct action during the sixties ».

SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) was one of the most important organizations during the African American civil rights movement of the sixties. With Sit-Ins, Go-Ins, Freedom Rides and campaigns to subscribe black citizens to voting lists SNCC confronted the system of segregation in the southern states. During the second part of the sixties nonviolent currents within the organization have been outnumbered by advocates of a militant separatist black nationalism and the slogan of "Black Power". Both eras have strongly influenced the students movement of 1968 all over the world. Former militant, nowadays Professor of History at Standford and editor of the M.L. King, Jr., Papers Project, Clayborne Carson presents in his awarded book "In Struggle" both eras not as development into a simple radicalization, as it has long been interpreted by the radical left, but as deterioration into a process of faction building, infights and repression by counterinsurgency strategies that led to the falling apart of a formerly strong, efficient and radical organization of organizers for changing people on the grassroots level and within the black community. So Clayborne Carson reconsiderates the quality of nonviolent direct action during the first half of the sixties that led to the legislation of abolishing segregation in 1964 and the voting
Rights legislation for African Americans in 1965.

II. « GIs under Siege: The 1980s peace movement in Germany and its relation to
American GIs ».

Anti-Americanism has been a reproach to European peace movements up until today. During the 1980s the biggest mass peace movement that Cold War Europe ever witnessed —the peace movement from 1981-86 in West Germany— was continually challenged by the question of neutrality, by the national question, and by criticism of “Anti-Americanism” within the movement. My intervention traces back and analyses discussions, ideological figures and currents of the peace movement of the 1980s in West Germany that advocated anti-american tendencies. They were counterbalanced and contained by anti-national and internationalist currents and ideological figures within the movement from the very beginning. The commitment of the movement to methods of nonviolent direct action and its openly declared rejection of the strategy of physical attacks advocated by the RAF (Red Army Faction) documented the intention of not physically threatening GIs in Germany while challenging them in their role as soldiers. As there has been a widespread contact and connection to the "other America", to activists of the Military Counseling Network and a positive reception and transfer of practice and theory of nonviolent direct action by the civil rights movement in the US —especially SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and Martin Luther King, by young German peace activists, the term "Anti-Americanism" turns out to be an ideological term working in favour of the power elite to condemn a movement that restricted its protest to the US-political Establishment and Military. So the reproach of “Anti-Americanism” serves to reproduce a false perception of European peace movements, which, in fact, have been inspired and modeled on earlier American civil rights and peace movements from which European activists have learned a great deal.

André Muraire : « Du Vietnam à la Corée : réflexion sur le ‘pacifisme’ dans le film de guerre américain ».

We often take it for granted that many « Vietnam Films » are fraught with pacifist intentions, meaning, or even « messages. » Now, on closer look, it appears that not only are pacifist Vietnam Films rather scarce, but that many of them are ambiguous, to say the least.

The purpose of this paper is to evidence this statement and show that the pacifist current after WWII can be easily traced back to some of the Korean War films, not necessarily in the form of any open « message » but in the directors’ choice of themes and situations as well as in the technical approach adopted.

Peterson Nnajiofor : “The Use of Paramilitary Forces by US/European Multinationals Against Pacifist Resistance in Nigeria/W. Africa ».

Nigeria is not easily identified with pacifist movements. Violence and military regimes readily come to mind when Nigeria is mentioned. However, strong pacifist movements, dating back to the colonial era, have been in existence as can be seen in the Aba women’s pacifist resistance of 1929.

The continued existence of the Christian Ibo Pacifist movement despite the incessant use of unrestrained violence against it by Muslim extremists in Northern Nigeria, and the Niger Delta’s Pacifist movement’s unrelenting resistance to the Euro-American oil multinationals’ use of paramilitary forces to thwart its efforts in the struggle to promote human rights, social justice and economic recovery highlights the deep-seated nature of pacifism in the Nigerian society. Pertinent deductions tend to indicate though that this pacifism in a hostile environment, if not duly addressed can only achieve limited positive results in the Nigerian case and would be overshadowed by the nascent armed violent resistance.

Justin Podur : “The Pacifist Response to Neo-Colonialism in Latin America”.

In conflicts where the more powerful party uses tremendous violence, moral judgements against the violence of the oppressed show a lack of comprehension. In such conflicts, however, pacifism can be a sensible strategic choice. I will talk about nonviolent, political mobilizations in Haiti and in Colombia in recent years. Because of the violent context in which they are forced to operate, the movements organizing these mobilizations do not denounce violent resistance. Instead, they offer an example of mobilization for political solutions to conflicts. I will recount some of their successes and some of the challenges they face.

Author and Musician Lawrence McGuire Professor Larry Portis

Lawrence McGuire & Larry Portis : “Pacifists Abroad: Resistance to US Imperialism Outside the US and its Cooptation by the Democratic Party, 2001-2006”.

The example of the creation of the group "Americans for Peace and Justice" in 2002, in Montpellier, France, (website: www.americansforpeaceandjustice.org) is representative of the emergence of a wide-spead and generally spontaneous movement against United States aggression throughout the world during the Bush presidencies. The simultaneous creation of such groups by US citizens in Europe and in other parts of the world is an important historical phenomenon related to structural changes and ideological changes of the past few decades, and also reveals the rigidity of established political institutions in the United States. The limits of such "pacifist" efforts are quickly reached when they intrude upon the agendas of political parties and interest groups that seek to use or deflect or ignore reformist aspirations.

Robert S. Rivkin : “Defending War Resisters during Vietnam and the First Gulf War”
& “Human Rights, the U.S. Military and the Rule of Law.”

Mr. Robert S. Rivkin
"Today, in the age of the “volunteer” army, the sentences being meted out to war resisters are perhaps more harsh than during the Gulf War. Yet, as the futility and corruption of the Iraq War become clearer to the average American, the rate of conscientious objector discharge applicants is increasing."

Abstract I

Defending war resisters and conscientious objectors on active duty with the American military during Vietnam and the Gulf War was a challenging, inspiring and often exhilarating calling. We even — on occasion — won our case. From 1969 to 1974, I worked for three organizations that defended war resisters and soldiers’ rights under the U.S. Constitution and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Although the general American public thought of conscientious objectors as cowards and unpatriotic, they were anything but. During the Gulf War (1991), the military and federal courts were even less sympathetic to conscientious objectors than they were during the Vietnam War. One of my clients during this period was threatened with the death penalty – essentially for going AWOL and missing a military movement. Often displaying hostility towards civilian lawyers who defended military personnel, the armed services during the Gulf War continued to obstruct our ability to defend our clients, especially conscientious objectors. Today, in the age of the “volunteer” army, the sentences being meted out to war resisters are perhaps more harsh than during the Gulf War. Yet, as the futility and corruption of the Iraq War become clearer to the average American, the rate of conscientious objector discharge applicants is increasing.

Abstract II

At least since the Uniform Code of Military Justice went into effect in 1950, the military courts have recognized that service personnel have constitutional and human rights. They have also held to account those soldiers who violate the human rights of others, for example, by upholding convictions for engaging in cruelty and maltreatment (Article 93). In addition, the U.S. Army Field Manual acknowledges that ill-treatment of POW’s or civilians is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Code. The Bush Administration, in pursuit of its “war on terror,” has adopted policies which have undermined the rules of conduct which govern the American military; and has sought to immunize its officials — high and low — against violations of international law and U.S. statutes which punish those who engage in torture and abuse of detainees. Embracing logic which is chillingly similar to that which was used by Nazi lawyers during the Third Reich (what the President says is legal in relation to treatment of “unlawful combatants” – is legal) Bush’s and Cheney’s civilian lawyers encouraged abuses by civilian, CIA and military interrogators; and at the same time, sought to immunize high government officials from prosecution for violations of law, including war crimes. As happened in Nazi Germany, the career military lawyers were among those who attempted to deter the sycophants of the civilian Leader from implementing the disgraceful, and ultimately self-defeating, evasions of U.S. and international law.

Jean-Marie Ruiz : “The American Peace Movement and its Critics from 1898 to WWI”.

The first modern peace movement in the United States emerged from the seminal debate between imperialists and anti-imperialists in 1898, in the wake of the Spanish American War. Once the debate over the acquisition of the Philippines was closed, peace advocates became the successors of anti-imperialists, and used very similar arguments. In addition to describing these arguments—from the obsolescence of war to disarmament and arbitration—this paper will compare them with those of their critics in order to emphasize the underlying opposition of their conception of international relations. The period I have selected to discuss, ending with Wilson’s crusade for the League of Nations, seems particularly interesting because it corresponds to the peace movement’s gradual rise to prominence, before its decline in the 1920’s.

David Stutzman, Michael Sharp, & Kevin Hicks (Military Councling Network, Germany) :
Courage of Conscience and the War in Iraq”.

David Stutzman and Michael Sharp, Counselors

US service members sign up voluntarily to be part of a vast, powerful, professional military. Assumedly, they are willing to kill. However, most people, upon joining, haven’t deliberated a great deal and rarely know what they are getting themselves. US military service is not compulsive, but the realities of war have not changed. Based on personal convictions, conscientious objection is the only option available for soldiers who want out legally. Hear from two GI Rights Counselors and a US Iraq war veteran, who recieved a CO discharge talk about the current experience of those following their conscience in the US military today.

Michael True : “Christian Pacifism in the United States" & "The Nonviolent Tradition in the United States".

Michael True, Professor Emeritus
Author of An Energy Field More Intense than War: The Nonviolent Tradiction and American Literature and numerous other books and articles.

Abstract I

A history of pacifism, particularly among the peace churches since the early European settlements—Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren—as well as among Fellowship of Reconciliation (1914), American Friends Service Committee (1917), War Resisters League (1921) and Catholic Worker Movement (1933).

Abstract II

A history of nonviolent movements, theories, and strategies, with slides, handouts, and commetary, from the 17th century to the present: Quakers, abolitionists, feminists, workers, war resisters, civil rights movement, gay liberation movement, and nuclear resisters, including William Penn, John Woolman, William Lloyd Garrison, Abigail Kelley Foster, Henry David Thoreau, Eugene Victor Debs, Dorothy Day, Daniel and Philip Berrigan, Cesar Chaves, Dolores Huerta, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

P.S. :

See also:

The French communications

Pictures of the Solidarity Concert

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