Radical Pacifism in Modern America

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Radical Pacifism in Modern America
SubtitleEgalitarianism and Protest (Politics and Culture in Modern America)
PublisherUniversity of Pennsylvania Press
EAN/ISBN978-0812239522
Release Date2006-09-12
Author(s)Marian Mollin
SummaryRadical Pacifism in Modern America tells a story of contradictions. Its subject, the members of the American radical pacifist movement, were militant activists committed to counter-cultural revolt but mired nonetheless in mainstream social and cultural values. These organizers and grassroots leaders preached the gospel of open-mindedness in their political pursuits; at the same time, they remained profoundly closed to self-criticism and change in their political practice and personal lives. Ardently egalitarian idealists, they nevertheless replicated many of the hierarchies of power they explicitly sought to undermine. Although they were willing to risk their freedom and their safety, they were unwilling to risk questioning the basic assumptions that defined their lives and their work. This history of contradictions is the history of the American radical pacifist movement from World War II through the era of the Vietnam War. From 1940 to 1970, American radical pacifists stood at the cutting edge of a wide range of efforts for social and political change. Most of their work focused on campaigns against the broad sweep of American militarism: they refused to cooperate with conscription, they protested against war and U.S. military interventions overseas, and they resisted the development and deployment of nuclear weapons. Their efforts, however, went far beyond a purely pacifist agenda. Radical pacifists rejected war on an absolute and personal level, but were also deeply committed to the pursuit of social justice and firmly believed that nonviolent direct action was the key to bringing about fundamental social and political change. Through their words and their deeds, the members of this movement struggled to implement a far-reaching and egalitarian vision of social change that included work for civil rights, civil liberties, cooperative economics, and support for anti-imperialist struggles. Their commitment to change reached into the private dimensions of their highly politicized lives. Radical pacifists built communities of support, shared the burdens and risks of their organizing efforts, and challenged the cultural conventions that defined politics and identity in modern American life.