A decade-by-decade look at some people and events in the world-wide struggle against war and violence.


 Selected by Margaret Melicharova

  peace action worldwide


1920-1929 No More War?

1920 The Covenant of the League of Nations came into force. It sought to provide for the settlement of disputes by arbitration and consent. It took over the International Court of Justice at the Hague, and its bureaucratic base was Geneva. It existed until 1946, when it was superseded by the United Nations Organisation in New York. The absence of some nations, and the lack of commitment of some others, prevented the League from making many hoped-for decisions and reforms in the pursuit of peace.

THE NAZARENES are a Christian group; most of its members are southern European Slavs. Their creed commits them to the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’. In Hungary before World War 1 they were allowed to serve in the Medical Corps, though during the war many were imprisoned for their pacifist beliefs. It was understood of the Nazarenes that even if they carried a weapon they would not use it.
   One of the results of the Treaty of Versailles was that some 40000 Nazarenes, mostly of Serb nationality and living in the province of Vojvodina, now found themselves in the newly created Yugoslavia. The new regime mistook the Nazarenes’ opposition to war as opposition to the government, and persecuted them with vigour, imprisoning them in hundreds for refusing compulsory military service. Their willingness to perform non-combatant duties was ignored. Nazarenes in Romania received similar treatment, which they endured with characteristic stoicism.

1920 International Voluntary Service for Peace founded in Switzerland. Its creator, Pierre Ceresole, hoped it would serve as a model for an alternative civilian service for conscientious objectors.

1920 In Germany, war-disabled men held a demonstration in Berlin under the slogan ‘Nie Wieder Krieg’ (No More War).

1921 In Britain, the No More War movement, replacing the NCF and promoting socialist pacifist principles, was started; it gained increasing membership throughout the decade.

PACIFISTS IN GERMANY were hard at work until Hitler’s accession to power in 1933 suppressed all pacifist activity . They directed their campaigns against renewed German militarism and the government’s secret rearmament programme. The latter was revealed in a 1927 edition of the liberal political weekly Die Weltbühne (‘The World Stage’) by its pacifist editor CARL von OSSIETZKY (1889-1938). Von Ossietzky was a member of the German Peace Society and became its secretary in 1920. In 1922 he co-founded the Nie Wieder Krieg (No More War) organisation, inspired by the 1920 Berlin peace demonstration. In 1931 he was jailed for treason. He was arrested again in 1933 and interned in a concentration camp with other opponents of Nazism; he died of TB in 1938. His Nobel Peace Prize in 1938 was interpreted as world-wide censure of Nazism, and Hitler issued a decree forbidding Germans to accept any Nobel prizes.
   Another active pacifist journalist was FRITZ KÜSTER, who edited the militantly pacifist Das Andere Deutschland (‘The Other Germany’), which at one time had a circulation of 15000. He collected pledges to refuse war service.
     HEINZ KRASCHUTSKI was an important figure in the German section of War Resisters International and an ardent spokesman against militarism.
     KURT HILLER led the Linkspazifismus (Leftist Pacifism) movement calling for refusal to fight in wars between capitalist states.
    The Dominican priest Father FRANZISKUS STRATMANN led a Catholic association giving support to modern conscientious objection.


no more war demonstration in germany1921 Foundation of War Resisters’
International, with Sections set up in
Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany
and Austria. Its statement: ‘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.’ Its symbol: a broken rifle.
By 1939 there were 54 WRI Sections in 24
countries, including America.


No More War demonstration in Berlin 1922


1921 Foundation of War Resisters’ International, with Sections set up in Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria. Its statement: ‘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.’ Its symbol: a broken rifle. By 1939 there were 54 WRI Sections in 24 countries, including America.

1921 Women in Sweden initiated a School Peace Day, to promote peace education, and other countries followed the example.

In America, peace activists were harassed throughout the decade because of their internationalism, and because it was supposed by their opposers that they were communist revolutionaries. Members of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom were followed around by military intelligence investigators, and their New York office was frequently under surveillance or entered. Military chiefs began touring the States speaking against WILPF members, whose opposition to expenditure on military matters rather than on the promotion of world peace they deplored.
   Jane Addams was the subject of a report for a Daughters of the American Revolution committee in 1926, which listed her activities (including presiding over the 5th Biennial Congress of WILPF in Dublin) and linked her with ‘notorious un-Americans’ and with ‘the open and avowed enemies of our country’.
   WILPF activities in the decade included a ‘New Peace’ conference at the Hague in 1922, calling for the convening of a World Congress; a campaign to encourage scientists to refuse military research projects; and a mission to China to establish pacifist links with women there.

1923 In America: the foundation, by three pacifist women, of the War Resisters League, uniting Christian and humanist pacifists in the anti-war movement.

1924 A group of Christian pacifists in the Netherlands founded a society called ‘Kerk en Vrede’ – ‘Church and Peace’. It functioned until suppressed by Nazi invaders in 1941. Its purpose was to look at world problems from a pacifist point of view, with a strong emphasis on positive non-violence.

1925 The Locarno Pact was signed, a series of agreements by which Germany, France, Belgium, Great Britain and Italy mutually guaranteed peace in western Europe. (Germany would later claim that the Pact was broken when France and Russia formed an alliance in 1935.)

ARISTIDE BRIAND (1862-1932) was a French socialist statesman. His efforts for international co-operation, the League of Nations and world peace won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926. He was the co-architect of the Locarno Pact in 1925 and of the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact. (Frank Kellogg was the US Secretary of State.) Briand was committed to the idea of collective security, and he advocated a federal union of Europe in the interests of preserving peace.

THE ANTI-CONSCRIPTION MANIFESTO 1926 was signed among others by Henri Barbusse, Annie Besant, Martin Buber, Edward Carpenter, Miguel de Unamuno, Georges Duhamel, Albert Einstein, M K Gandhi, Kurt Hiller, Toyohiko Kagawa, George Lansbury, Arthur Ponsonby, Leonhard Ragaz, Romain Rolland, Bertrand Russell, Rabindranath Tagore, Fritz von Unruh, and H G Wells.
    ‘It is our belief that conscript armies, with their large corps of professional officers, are a grave menace to peace. Conscription involves the degradation of human personality, and the destruction of liberty. Barrack life, military drill, blind obedience to commands, however unjust and foolish they may be, and deliberate training for slaughter undermine respect for the individual, for democracy and human life.
     ‘It is debasing human dignity to force men to give up their life, or to inflict death against their will or without conviction as to the justice of their action. The State which thinks itself entitled to force its citizens to go to war will never pay proper regard to the value and happiness of their lives in peace. Moreover, by conscription the militarist spirit of aggressiveness is implanted in the whole male population at the most impressionable age. By training for war men come to consider war as unavoidable and even desirable.’


1928 Inspired by Holland’s ‘Church and Peace’ society, a group of church leaders set up the International Union of Anti-Militarist Ministers and Clergymen, urging unilateral disarmament and non-violent resistance as a Christian response to aggression.

1928 65 countries signed the ‘Kellogg-Briand Pact’ renouncing war as a means of conducting foreign policies.

1929 A ‘peace lighthouse’ was built in Athens, Greece, to be illuminated whenever a significant action for peace took place.


Peace Lighthouse. Athens



King George V (1865-1936): Message read at Terlincthun Cemetery, Boulogne. 13/5/22, printed in the Times 15/5/22: ‘I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth through the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.’ [more]

Albert Einstein (1879-1955. Scientist): ‘I am convinced that the international movement to refuse participation in any kind of war service is one of the most encouraging developments of our time.’

Arthur Ponsonby (1871-1946. British pacifist politician): ‘Is further proof needed that international war is a monster born of hypocrisy, fed on falsehood, fattened on humbug, kept alive by superstition, directed to the death and torture of millions, succeeding in no high purpose, degrading to humanity, endangering civilisation and bringing forth a hideous brood of strife, conflict and war, more war?’




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