Pacifism

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The only way to abolish war is to make peace heroic. ~ James Hinton

Pacifism is a term denoting a spectrum of strategies to minimize unjust conflict and war, including promotion of beliefs that international disputes can and should be peacefully resolved, the rejection of any form of personal or social oppression to obtain political, economic or social goals save those which seems absolutely necessary for survival, calls for the abolition of military institutions, opposition to any organization of society through governmental force (anarchist or libertarian pacifism), and in relatively rare extremes, opposition to the use of destructive violence under any circumstance, even in defense of oneself or others.

Quotes[edit]

Alphabetized by author
All that a pacifist can undertake — but it is a very great deal — is to refuse to kill, injure or otherwise cause suffering to another human creature, and untiringly to order his life by the rule of love though others may be captured by hate. ~ Vera Brittain
As far as modern war is concerned I am a pacifist. Hell, it isn't even war anymore, as far as that goes. It's an industry, a big business complex. ~ James Jones
The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
Since pacifists have more freedom of action in countries where traces of democracy survive, pacifism can act more effectively against democracy than for it. Objectively the pacifist is pro-Nazi. ~ George Orwell
War is a crime against humanity. We, therefore, are determined not to support any kind of war, and to strive for the removal of all causes of war. ~ War Resisters' International
  • All that a pacifist can undertake — but it is a very great deal — is to refuse to kill, injure or otherwise cause suffering to another human creature, and untiringly to order his life by the rule of love though others may be captured by hate.
    • Vera Brittain, in "What Can We Do In Wartime?", Forward (9 September 1939)
  • Every government that intends war is as much our enemy as ever the Germans were...the safeguard of peace is not a vast army,but an unreliable public, a public that will fill the streets and empty the factories at the word War, that will learn and accept the lesson of resistance. The only way to stop atrocities is to refuse to participate in them.
    • Alex Comfort, Peace and Disobedience, in Peace News (1946), pp. 6-7
  • My pacifism is an instinctive feeling, a feeling that possesses me because the murder of men is disgusting.
    • Albert Einstein, statement in Berlin, 1920, as quoted in Einstein : His Life and Times (1947) by Philipp Frank
  • If there is any human activity which should be approached with caution, or rather which should be avoided by all possible means, resisted and shunned, that activity is war, for there is nothing more wicked, more disastrous, more widely destructive, more persistently ingrained, more hateful, more unworthy in every respect of a man, not to say a Christian.
  • What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy? -
    • Mahatma Gandhi, Non-Violence in Peace and War, 1942, Vol. 1, Ch. 142
  • Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. ...voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
    • Hermann Göring, as quoted in Nuremburg Diary (1947) by G. M. Gilbert, p. 278
  • The only way to abolish war is to make peace heroic.
    • James Hinton, Philosophy and Religion: Selections from the Manuscripts of the Late James Hinton, ed. Caroline Haddon, (2nd ed., London: 1884), p. 267; this is sometimes misattributed to John Dewey, who quotes Hinton in Human Nature and Conduct: An Introduction to Social Psychology (New York: 1922), p. 115.
  • If a man were truly brave he wouldn't have to be always proving it to himself. So therefore I am forced to consider bravery suspect, and ridiculous, and dangerous. Because if there are enough young men like that who feel strongly enough about it, they can almost bring on a war, even when none of them want it, and are in fact struggling against having one. (And as far as modern war is concerned I am a pacifist. Hell, it isn't even war anymore, as far as that goes. It's an industry, a big business complex).
    • James Jones, in The Paris Review No. 20, (Autumn-Winter 1958-1959)
  • Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought. Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder. Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings. Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction. Be heroes in an army of construction.
  • Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.... The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
  • "It was military might, not pacifism, that defeated Hitler". Not exactly. Examples abound, both large and small, in Denmark, Holland, Norway, France, and elsewhere, in which nonviolent resistance defied the Nazi onslaught. In those places, Gene Sharp writes in The Politics of Nonviolent Action, “patriots resisted their Nazi overlords and internal puppets by such weapons as underground newspapers, labor slowdowns, general strikes, refusal of collaboration, special boycotts of German troops and quislings, and non-cooperation with fascist controls and efforts to restructure their societies’ institutions.” The defiance tended to be hastily organized and was not widespread. If the opposite were true—if Hitler had been resisted in the late 1920s and the early 1930s, not the early 1940s, and in more places—the war’s death toll might have been much lower.
  • War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
    • John Stuart Mill, on the US Civil War, in "The Contest in America", Fraser’s Magazine (February 1862)
  • Since pacifists have more freedom of action in countries where traces of democracy survive, pacifism can act more effectively against democracy than for it. Objectively the pacifist is pro-Nazi.
  • It is war that wastes a nation's wealth, chokes its industries, kills its flower, narrows its sympathies, condemns it to be governed by adventurers, and leaves the puny, deformed, and unmanly to breed the next generation.
  • I think in the past I was like a lot of people who said I've got pacifistic inclination but I'm not a pacifist because what I couldn't find in my own mind was the answer to that perennial question: 'Ah, yes, but what would you have done when the Nazis were coming?' And as someone with Jewish blood I've always found that difficult to answer, but the thing with this war which makes it so wrong in so many different ways is that it exposes that argument about the Nazis as a specious argument, in that it assumes a conditional assumption i.e. that you are in 1939, because it can be answered with a similar kind of conditional question: 'But hang on a minute, if everyone had been a pacifist in 1914 then the Nazis would never have come to power.'
  • You know, Dude, I myself dabbled in pacifism once. Not in 'Nam of course.
  • There is no ground for assuming that the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie can achieve decisive successes in battles, or in governing the country, without the active support of Social-Democracy. There is just as little ground for thinking that Social-Democracy can achieve decisive successes in battles, or in governing the country, without the active support of the fighting organisation of the bourgeoisie. These organisations do not negate, but supplement each other. They are not antipodes, they are twins. Fascism is an informal political bloc of these two chief organisations; a bloc, which arose in the circumstances of the post-war crisis of imperialism, and which is intended for combating proletarian revolution. The bourgeoisie cannot retain power without such a bloc. It would therefore be a mistake to think that "pacifism" signifies the liquidation of fascism. In the present situation, "pacifism" is the strengthening of fascism with its moderate, Social-Democratic wing pushed into the forefront.
    • Joseph Stalin, "The Period of Bourgeois-Democratic Pacifism" (1924), reprinted in,Marxists in Face of Fascism : Writings by Marxists on Fascism from the Inter-War Period (1984) by David Beetham, p.154.
  • In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.
  • War is a crime against humanity. We, therefore, are determined not to support any kind of war, and to strive for the removal of all causes of war.
    • War Resisters' International, official statement of the international pacifist organisation, (c.1925), as quoted in Peace/Mir : An Anthology of Historic Alternatives to War (1994), edited by Charles Chatfield and Ruzanna Mikhaĭlovna Iliukhina, p. 252.
  • The tragedy is not that nonviolence did not work against the Nazis, but that it was so seldom utilized...The churches as a whole were too docile or anti-semitic, and too ignorant of the nonviolent message of the Gospel, to act effectively to resist the Nazis or act in solidarity with the Jews.
    • Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, p. 254-256.

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External links[edit]

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