pacifism

Pacifism in the Twentieth Century

The peace societies, the international organizations, and the Hague Conferences of the 19th cent., were all powerless to check the rush of events to World War I. Although the percentage of conscientious objectors was small, after the war the peace movement reappeared with greater vigor than before, and, in spite of increased nationalism throughout the world, a concerted effort toward peace was made not only in the peace congresses but also in such agitation as the pacifist resolution (1933) of the Students' Union at Oxford.

During the 1920s and early 30s pacifism enjoyed an upsurge; the doctrine of nonresistance as applied in India by Mohandas K. Gandhi gained attention and respect for the movement. The hopes placed in the League of Nations, however, failed to materialize, and some pacifists placed their trust in isolationism and appeasement as events led to World War II. This time the number of conscientious objectors in the United States and Great Britain was larger than in World War I.

After World War II broken international contacts were again restored; a world pacifist conference projected for 1949 in India was postponed because of the assassination of Gandhi. At its meeting in 1948 the World Council of Churches was unable to reach agreement in regard to pacifism and the church. Although pacifists were not very active in the United States during the Korean War in the early 1950s, this was not the case during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and early 70s; pacifists and other antiwar groups joined together for several major protest marches in Washington, D.C. and other cities. Recent pacifist movements have tended to concentrate their efforts on urging unilateral or multilateral disarmament and the cessation of nuclear testing (see disarmament, nuclear).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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