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the pacifist and anarchist tradition
Formely published by the PPU now also available as pdf document.
1. pacifism, pacificism and anti-militarism
2. sectarian origins of pacifism
3. pacificism and the peace movement
5. conscription and the nation state
6. the co formula
7. anarchism as a social movement
8. anarchism as a tradition of political thought
9. society and the state
10. the anarchist view of the state
11. the anarchist view of the nation and of nationalism
12. anarchism and violence
13. convergence of pacifism and anarchism



The concept of natural society also helps to explain the ambiguous and ambivalent attitude towards violence in the anarchist tradition. The state seen as 'organised violence' is the antithesis of natural society, and it would therefore seem logical that anarchists should reject all violence. Many anarchists, particularly individualists and those adopting a co-operative or communitarian approach, have drawn this conclusion. But most mainstream anarchists from Bakunin onwards have not. With rare exceptions, such as Kropotkin who supported the Allies in the First World War, they have opposed all wars between states and taken a leading part in anti-militarist agitations; but they have not rejected violence in principle and, on occasions, have participated in civil wars (in Russia and Spain) and even raised anarchist armies, as well as joined insurrections and conducted 'propaganda by the deed'. In part, this may be explained by their association with the revolutionary socialist movement, which took as a truism Marx's dictum that 'Force is the midwife of all revolutions'. But, in part also, anarchist violence is related to the concept of natural society itself. When violence is directed towards the destruction of the state, or when, in a revolutionary situation where central government has broken down, it is used to prevent the establishment of a new government, it can be seen as fulfilling an essentially libertarian role. Natural society then is not being betrayed but, on the contrary, forcibly vindicated. (29)
The ambivalent attitude towards violence of mainstream anarchists was one reason why anarchism and pacifism developed as separate movements in the 19th century, despite their common opposition to war and militarism and their shared historical roots. (Kropotkin, not unfairly, claimed the Anabaptists among the precursors of modern anarchism.) But it was not the only reason. Most anarchists were militant atheists, even anti-theists: 'If God exists, it is necessary to abolish him!', declared Bakunin. Church was coupled with State, and religion was seen as part of the fraud which ruling classes used, along with force, to maintain their dominance. In addition, most anarchists perceived the peace movement as irredeemably bourgeois and liberal, weak in its analysis of the causes of war, and absurdly naive in seeking to establish international peace while wishing at the same time to retain the state. (30)
These are some of the reasons why, when Christian anarchism emerged, it was either not seen as anarchism or its adherents rejected the anarchist label. But what could be more anarchist than the Declaration of Principle of the New England Non-resistance Society, founded by William Lloyd Garrison and Adin Ballou in 1828: 'We cannot acknowledge allegiance to any human government; neither can we oppose any such government by a resort to physical force...Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind.'? (31) This kind of anarchism started, not from any analysis of society and the state but from the doctrine of non-resistance in the Sermon on the Mount. The implications of the doctrine were spelled out with even greater clarity, vigour and effect by Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) in The Kingdom of God is Within You (1893), (32) and other 'peace essays' that flowed from his prolific pen.




The development of Christian Anarchism presaged the increasing convergence (but not complete merging) of pacifism and anarchism in the 20th century. The outcome is the school of thought and action (one of its tenets is developing thought through action) known as 'pacifist anarchism', 'anarcho-pacifism' and 'nonviolent anarchism'. Experience of two world wars encouraged the convergence. But, undoubtedly, the most important single event to do so (although the response of both pacifists and anarchists to it was curiously delayed) was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. Ending as it did five years of 'total war', it symbolised dramatically the nature of the modern Moloch that man has erected in the shape of the state. In the campaign against nuclear weapons in the 1950s and early 1960s, more particularly in the radical wings of it, such as the Committee of 100 in Britain, pacifists and anarchists educated each other.
The single most important intellectual influence helping to shape anarcho-pacifism is that of M K Gandhi (1869-1948), who began his career as a disciple of Tolstoy. Tolstoy's great weapon for undermining (rather than overthrowing) the state was the refusal by individuals to cooperate with it and obey its immoral demands - the weapons defended by Henry David Thoreau in his classic essay on 'Civil Disobedience' (1849), (33) and the one used by pacifist COs. But Gandhi, in the course of the whole Indian movement for national liberation, showed that there is a whole range of weapons, collective as well as individual, in the armoury of those who are prepared to resist oppressive structures. In doing so he shifted the emphasis from passive non-resistance to active non-violent resistance. He also emphasised the theory of power underlying their use: the theory of 'voluntary servitude', originally outlined by Etienne de la Boetie in 1548, namely that structures of power, even when they seem to rely on physical force, depend in the last analysis on the co-operation, however reluctant, of those over whom power is exercised. Further, Gandhi clarified the relationship between means and ends, particularly with reference to the use of violence. Means, he insisted, must not merely be consistent with ends; this principle, though preferable to 'the end justifies the means', is based on a misleading dichotomy. Means are ends, never merely instrumental but also always expressive of values; means are end-creating or ends-in-the making. One implication of this view is that we can, in a sense, forget what are called 'ends' and focus on 'means', confident in the knowledge that if the 'means' are pure, then the desired 'ends' will follow. Another is that our conceptions of desirable futures, our 'utopias', are only mental constructs for guiding our actions here and now. We realise our 'utopias', insofar as they are realisable at all, by acting now as if 'utopia' had already arrived. Lastly, Gandhi developed the concept of nonviolent revolution, to be seen not as a programme for the seizure of power, but as a programme for transforming relationships. The concept sits neatly with the observation of the German anarchist, Gustav Landauer (1870-1919): 'The state is a condition, a certain relationship between beings, a mode of behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently.'
Gandhi's ideas were popularised in the West in books such as Richard Gregg's The Power of Nonviolence (1935), (34) and Bart de Ligt's The Conquest of Violence (1937). (35) The latter is particularly important for anarchists since, as one himself, de Ligt specifically addressed those who lust for revolution. 'The more violence, the less revolution', he declared. He also linked Gandhian principled nonviolence with the pragmatic nonviolent direct action of the syndicalists. (The General Strike is an expression of total nonco-operation by workers, though it should be added that most syndicalists believed that the revolution should be defended by armed workers.)
In the 1950s and 1960s anarcho-pacifism began to gel, tough-minded anarchists adding to the mixture their critique of the state, and tender-minded pacifists their critique of violence. Its first practical manifestation was at the level of method: nonviolent direct action, principled and pragmatic, was used widely in both the Civil Rights movement in the USA and the campaign against nuclear weapons in Britain and elsewhere. These two movements provided part of the matrix for the emerging New Left. It soon became clear that what was 'new' about the New Left - hardly surprising since it was triggered by disillusionment among socialists with both Marxian Communism (Stalinist variety) and Social Democracy - was in large part a rediscovery and reassertion of libertarian socialism that had been submerged for over a generation. In its first decade several themes, theories, actions, all distinctly libertarian, began to come to the fore and were given intellectual expression by the American anarcho-pacifist, Paul Goodman (1911-72) (36): anti-militarism, the rediscovery of community, community action, radical decentralism, participatory democracy, the organisation of the poor and oppressed inter-racially, and the building of counter-culture and counter-institutions (such as new co-ops, collectives and communes). For a brief period it looked, at least to anarcho-pacifists, as though these might be woven into a grand strategy for nonviolent revolution. Then, from 1967 , for reasons explored by Nigel Young (37) the movement (really 'a movement of movements') experienced a failure of nerve. The prospect (or dream) vanished, and by the early 1970s the New Left had disintegrated, the end being marked by, among other things, the bombings carried out by the New Left's 'dark angels', the Weathermen and the Angry Brigade.
The collapse of the New Left coincided with the exhaustion of the less well-publicised Sarvodaya (welfare of all) movement for nonviolent revolution in India, led by Vinoba Bhave and Jayaprakash Narayan (1902-1979), which had sought through voluntary villagisation of land to realise Gandhi's dream of an India of village republics. The implication of Sarvodaya for the subject of this book is brought out by the statement of Jayaprakash Narayan: 'In a Sarvodaya world society the present nation states have no place.' (38) In the India case the disintegration was disguised by the movement's venture, sparked off by students in Bihar, into confrontation politics - a venture which led to the declaration of a state of emergency in 1975-77 and the period of unstable politics that has followed. (39)
It would be premature, however, to write off anarcho-pacifism. In India, Gandhi remains a potent symbol and source of inspiration. And in the West, since the demise of the New left, various groups, such as War Resisters' International, The Peace News constituency in Britain, and the Philadelphia Life Center in the USA, have sought to give clearer definition to the central concept of anarcho-pacifism: nonviolent revolution. (40) At the same time, the counter-cultural critique of modern industrial society has been extended, notably by Theodore Roszak, (41) and links established between anarcho-pacifism and the ecological and Women's Liberation movements. The production and use of nuclear energy, an issue being pressed by anarcho-pacifists, among others, may - just possibly - become in the 1980s the catalyst for a mass nonviolent movement, comparable to the movement against nuclear weapons twenty or so years ago.
Meanwhile, the nation state still stands as 'the norm of modern political organisation'. It is not likely to be abolished, in the way Bakunin envisaged. But it may be subverted or transcended. There are forces at work in the world - multi-nationals and 'sub-nationalisms', for example - which are finding it necessary to use both larger and smaller frames of reference than the nation state provides. Anarcho-pacifism is only one of these forces and not, some may think, the most important. But its continued opposition to war and preparations for war, its clear transnational orientation and appeal, and its insistence on the importance of rediscovering community at all levels from the local to the global - the latter encapsulated in the counter-culture's vision of humankind coming home to their 'global village' - make it a potentially significant source of both subversion and transcendence. These nonviolent revolutionaries do not think that the nation state is 'the foundation of world order': they think it is the active promoter of disorder, and fear that its various rival agents will one day start throwing nuclear bombs at each other and destroy the only civilisation we have. The nation state is not 'the chief definer' of their 'identity' - it does not 'permeate' their 'outlook'; and even the atheists among them find it blasphemous to regard it as 'the main object of individual loyalties'. They may prattle on about love and peace, but they are modern Anabaptists and, like their heretical forebears, they can recognise an 'abomination' when they see it.


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