Where has the anti-war movement gone? You would think that with two national political convention happening that they would make an appearence.
After all, it's not like the war in Afghanistan has vanished. It's 12 years old, the longest war in American history, with no end in site, about one American soldier dies every day, and yet it is referred to "the forgotten war". Over 60% of Americans oppose this war, yet a protest movement is completely lacking.
So where does a pro-peace person turn to for inspiration?
For starters, you look south of the border.
One of the largest protest marches for peace in recent history happened a little over a year ago in Mexico City. You probably didn't hear about it.
Few, if any, of the recent post-election protests in Mexico have matched the size of the 200,000-strong March for Peace that flooded the Mexican capital on May 8, 2011. Led by the poet and journalist Javier Sicilia, whose 24-year old son was an innocent victim of the country’s gang-related violence in March last year, it was the day that the Movement for Peace with Justice & Dignity truly took a foothold in the national consciousness. Presenting a manifesto entitled “The National Pact for Peace”, the movement denounced not only the violent gangs battling over the drug trade but its own government’s “war on drugs”, sponsored by both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.Obviously this was not generally covered in the American media. Thus, the Caravan for Peace has come to America.
A new peace movement to end the US-sponsored drug war begins with buses rolling and feet marching from the Tijuana–San Diego border on August 12 through twenty-five US cities to Washington, DC, in September.Those sorts of horrific numbers you only see in civil wars. But like Afghanistan, America has turned a blind eye to the suffering of poor people in other nations.
Named the Caravan for Peace, the trek is intended to put human faces and names on the estimated 60,000 dead, 10,000 disappeared and 160,000 displaced people in Mexico since 2006, when the US Drug Enforcement Agency, Pentagon and the CIA supported the escalation of the Mexican armed forces.
It is increasingly obvious that much of America's problems are caused by our lack of moral outrage (or, in the case of Fox News fans, misdirected moral outrage).
Like the Caravan for Peace, truth and justice rarely arrives from the locations that you expect it to come from.
Mother's Day has become a day about buying cards, making phone calls, and taking your mother to dinner. In comparison to what Christmas has evolved into, that's not bad.
Yet that wasn't what Mother's Day was intended to be.
No peace movement has ever achieved any degree of success without the full participation of women. For some reason men have never gotten it through their thick skulls that war, short of genocidal-levels of killing, has never solved anything. Often it takes women to put things into perspective.
Julia Howe, an early suffragist, is best known for writing the pro-war song The Battle Hymn of the Republic in 1861. What is less well-known is that her attitude changed after four more bloody years of war.
In 1870 Howe wrote a poem called Mother's Day Proclamation.
Arise then ... women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
Julia Howe led a one-women movement for an international Mother's Day observance to be held in mid-June. Eventually the idea caught on, and a few decades later it came to pass...but in May instead of June. Much like Labor Day was separated from May Day, Mother's Day was moved to a different month to separate it from its anti-war origins.
The Legacy of Parihaka
The Maori of New Zealand have a well-earned reputation of being some of the most fierce warriors in the world.
Given that, what happened on November 5, 1881, is rather shocking. It is with this unlikely people, in the tiny village of Parihaka, that a new standard in the peace movement was set.
I would like to introduce you to a man worth remembering - Te Whiti o Rongomai.
Te Whiti o Rongomai
In the 1860's the British government used some minor clashes as an excuse to seize huge tracks of land from the Maori. With many tribes being pushed off their lands, the town of Parihaka became the largest Maori town in the country.
In 1879 Te Whiti and another chief named Tohu Kakahi, told their followers to go out and plow the fields that were being confiscated (including new roads). When the men were arrested they were told to put up no resistance.
"Go, put your hands to the plough, look not back. If any come with guns and swords, be not afraid. If they smite you, smite not in return. If they rend you, be not discouraged - another will take up the good work."
- Te Whiti
In 1880 the men of Parihaka were building fences all over the island in accordance of traditional borders, irregardless of where the authorities built roads and separated settlements. By September, 150 fence builders had been arrested and shipped off for hard labor. It was decided beforehand that when the army came they would welcome the soldiers with food and drink.
On the morning of 5 November 1881, the invasion force entered Parihaka. More than 2,000 villagers sat quietly on the marae as a group of singing children greeted the army. The Riot Act was read and one hour later Te Whiti and Tohu were arrested and led away. The village itself was demolished in the following months, crops were destroyed and livestock killed. People from other tribal regions were also forced to leave the province.It wasn't until 1883 that Te Whiti and Tohu Kakahi were allowed to return to the region.
Unfortunately Tohu's belief in the peace movement had been lost because of frustration with the suffering caused to his people. Te Whiti's faith never faltered, and because of that his friendship with Tohu was damaged.
They didn't know it at the time, but their pacifist efforts were having an effect.
Hall's action over the Parihaka crisis precipitated a serious constitutional crisis with Governor Sir Arthur Gordon, who was convinced that the action of the Ministry was harsh and unwarranted.Before Te Whiti died in 1907, the village of Parihaka had been rebuilt. Eventually the New Zealand government admitted their failure in treating the Maori and gave about half of their lands back.
It's worth noting that before Ghandi was a major, pacifist leader, he discovered the story of Te Whiti and used him as inspiration later in life.
Most people are under the impression that Germany surrendered in WWI much like how WWII ended, with Germany under occupation and their military completely destroyed.
Instead when Germany surrendered in 1918 their troops were still spread all over eastern Europe and half of Belgium. So why did Germany surrender? Because Germany's military refused to fight anymore.
On 24 October, 1918, Admiral Franz von Hipper ordered the German fleet at Kiel, near Wilhelmshaven, to sail out against the British blockade in what would basically have been a suicide mission. Peace negotiations had already started and the German military was waiting for an end to the war. Admiral Hipper's orders were a bitter blow to moral
The battleship SMS Thueringen
On October 29, the crews of the ships Thuringia and Helgoland refused to lift anchor. They even went so far as minor sabotage. However, the mutiny failed to catch on with the rest of the fleet. The following day some torpedo boats pointed their cannons at the two battleship and the sailors aboard gave up without a fight. Approximately 1,000 arrested mutineers were held for court-martial, but their mutiny had been effective.
The German High Command, now with real doubts about the loyalty of the fleet, canceled the planned suicide mission. However, if the German leadership thought this was the end of the mutiny they were about to discover a shocking surprise.
Other sailors of the fleet, knowing that the mutineers had acted in their interests as well, sent a delegation of 250 men to petition for the release of their comrades on November 1. The fleet officers refused to even meet with the delegation and they shut down the Union Hall in Kiel where the sailors had been meeting. That's when the sailors did something that the German leadership never expected.
Led by the sailor Karl Artelt, and shipyard worker Lothar Popp, both USPD party members, the sailors called for a large open-air meeting at Großer Exerzierplatz on November 3rd. The USPD ("Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany") was formed in 1917. It was a union labor-based political party formed after the Social Democratic (SPD) opposition party (the mainstream labor-based political party) banned the anti-war voices. The USPD demanded an immediate end to the war.
When the November 3rd meeting took place, labor unions were also represented.
The slogan "Frieden und Brot” (peace and bread) was used at this time, showing that the sailor's caused had been adopted and expanded by the unions.
The meeting ended with a call to march on the military prison. Thousands marched down the streets and were met by a military patrol commanded by sub lieutenant Steinhäuse. The patrol fired into the demonstrators when they refused to turn back, killing seven people and wounding 29. Some of the demonstrators were armed and returned fire. Steinhause was injured with a rifle butt. Both the demonstration and the patrol were scattered. Nevertheless the mass protest turned into a general revolt.
The following morning large groups of mutineers moved through town. At this point the sailors engaged in mass disobedience. Karl Artelt organised the first soldier's council, and soon many more were set up. The naval commander was forced to negotiate with the mutineers, and eventually he freed the imprisoned sailors. Sailors and workers brought public and military institutions in the city under their control.
When troops from outside the city were ordered to put down the revolt, mutineers and workers met them on the outskirts of Kiel and either turned them back, or got them to join in the revolt. By the evening of November 4th, the entire city was firmly under the control of 40,000 sailors and labor unions members.
That evening SPD deputy Gustav Noske arrived in the city under strict orders to put down the revolt. He managed to get himself elected chairman of the soldiers' council and began limiting the influence of the labor councils, but he failed in his primary objective - he failed to keep the revolt from spreading.
Even as Noske arrived in Kiel, delegations of sailors were heading out of town to other major cities. By November 7, all large coastal cities in Germany were under the influence of the revolt, as well as the cities of Hanover, Frankfurt and Munich. In Munich a Workers' and Soldiers' Council forced the last King of Bavaria, Louis III, to abdicate.
Bavaria declared an end to the Empire and became a "Council Republic" (Räterepublik) Bavarian Soviet Republic. In the following days the royals of all the other German states abdicated, the last one on November 23.
The Workers' and Soldiers' Councils were almost entirely made up of SPD and USPD members. Their programme was democracy, pacifism and anti-militarism. Apart from the royals they only deprived the hitherto almighty military commands of power. The imperial civilian administration and office bearers –police, municipal administrations, courts- remained unscathed. There were also hardly any confiscations of property or occupations of factories because such measures were expected from the new government.On the evening of November 9, the USPD called up 26 assemblies in Berlin and announced a general strike and mass demonstration for the following day. The demand was put forth that the Kaiser abdicate. A rifle regiment was called into the city to restore order, but the soldiers were unwilling to fire on their fellow citizens.
In the meantime the Kaiser got a report from his commanders on the Western Front. The troops were unwilling to follow the Kaiser's orders anymore, and one Guards unit had openly mutinied for the first time.
The Kaiser fled to Netherlands without even abdicating first.
[Much more happened, but you get the idea.]
What does this tell us
First of all, using violence to try and stop a war seems to be the most ineffective and wasteful method.
The second-most ineffective method of stopping a war is appealing to the politicians who probably started it.
The most effective, but most risky method of stopping a war is appealing directly to the soldiers involved. That's why there are often laws against it.
It appears the most most effective legal method is organizing and mobilizing the populace. General strikes and mass demonstrations seems to get the attention of the authorities when reason and common sense won't. That's why the involvement of a national labor union is important.