We need to talk about pacificism

27 Apr

Forty years ago Michael Foot was enjoying, if that’s the word, his brief tenure as leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. The Argentinian leader, General Leopoldo Galtieri, had ordered the occupation of the Falkland or, if you prefer, Malvina Islands – prompting the Labour leader to stand up in The House and demand that a prime minister yet to earn the Iron Lady moniker tell The British People what she intended to Do About It.

History shows that Mrs Thatcher would call him, big time, on his John Bull posturing but mine’s a different point. Mr Foot came, like most Labour leaders of his era, from the left of the party and was a lifelong pacifist to boot. Which had my old firm – the Trotskyist sect, Workers Power – pointing out in its fortnightly paper that while pacifists reliably oppose war in general, with honourable and courageous exceptions they have form as long as my arm on backing whatever specific war  their own countries happen to be prosecuting.

(If you doubt this, acquaint yourself with how the leaders of the Second International moved, from lofty statements of refusal to let their national sections be “dragged into an imperialist war for profits”, to cheerleading – in the space of a fortnight – for their respective governments as the war drums upped their tempo in the summer of 1914.)

In the opening paragraph of her post today, Caitlin Johnstone makes the very same point:

Everyone’s anti-war until the war propaganda starts. Nobody thinks of themselves as a warmonger, but then the spin machine gets going and before you know it they’re spouting the slogans they’ve been programmed to spout and waving the flags they’ve been programmed to wave and consenting to whatever the imperial war machine wants in that moment.

How depressingly true.

And yet there does exist a realisation, small but growing, that at this moment in time, with the world standing on a rapidly steepening slope (see yesterday’s post) down to a sheer drop into thermonuclear Armageddon, we are being lied to on a monumental scale. Lied to on the causes of war in Ukraine … lied to on who the criminals are … lied to on how events on the ground are unfolding.

How do I know? Because even my tiny site has seen a threefold increase in visits since February is how. And because my inbox is crammed with alerts – so many I’m drowning in the backlog of Stuff To Read/Hear/View – from readers who, in the Kingdom of the Blind and Deaf, still have their wits about them and are paying the price for that in sleepless nights.

I draw from that a modicum of perverse but real comfort. Keep those alerts coming, friends.

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2 Replies to “We need to talk about pacificism

  1. Whilst I would hope no-one wants war (it is a mind and body breaking monster) there have been times in history when no alternative was available for a people, country or cause. I belong to STW and CAAT so I do not consider war a first option, but given the many wars, colour revolutions, regime changes, proxy wars and false flags the US/UK/EU countries have initiated it is apparent that war must be an inevitability. There has been a rebellion in Haiti against the continued presence of the French and currently there are several other rebellions occurring elsewhere against corrupt regimes and occupations. Pacifism can only take you so far and usually results in more and more suffering being visited on those who turn the other cheek. More than 37 million died in WW2 to rid the world of Hitler’s Nazi monsters and yet those who wanted this war between Russia and western Ukraine have simply tossed the sacrifice of those dead out with the bath water and the baby.

    I do believe that Russia’s State Duma had no other choice and cannot condemn it’s intervention in Ukraine. Furthermore, I do not believe that any amount of pacifism would have extricated Russia from the situation it found itself in, so despite my being against war, when all other avenues have been exhausted, I would stand behind the embattled rather than the real aggressor.

    If I’m wrong, then someone needs to explain to me, with honesty and integrity, WHY I am wrong.

    Best Wishes,
    Susan:)
    Nobody yet, has been able to show why my thinking is faulty.

    • Well I’m not a pacifist Susan, so not best placed to respond to your challenge. My point is about the reliable unreliability – again, with honourable and courageous exceptions – of pacifists. (And in imperialist countries at least, even the exceptions often contribute, directly or not and wittingly or not, to their governments’ war drives.)

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