At the end of this month’s CPNN bulletin, having remarked that youth and children took the lead in this year’s global celebration of the International Day of Peace, we concluded that “Thanks to the new generation, yes, there is a global movement for a culture of peace.”
That leads to a question. Can this global movement continue to grow to the point that it can promote the transition from our current culture of war to a new culture, a culture of peace? And if so, how?
I don’t have the answer to this question.
As I look for an answer, I recall three global peace movements in which I have participated over the years, and I wonder if we can take lessons from the history of those examples.
1) The global movements against the war in Vietnam in the 1960’s, for a nuclear freeze in the 1989’s and against the war in Iraq in 2003.
2) The peace movement associated with communist parties, both East and West, during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
3) The Manifesto 2000 associated with the United Nations International Year for the Culture of Peace in the year 2000.
Trying to understand the accomplishments, failures and potentials of the movements of the 60’s and 80’s I wrote The American Peace Movements in 1985. Both movements showed the potential for spontaneous, rapid and massive mobilizations when the historical conditions are ripe. But like the movement in 2003 against the war in Iraq, they ended just as quickly because they were reactions against a particular threat and disappeared once the threat subsided.
Lesson 1: We need a global peace movement that is stable and growing over time.
At that point in the 1980’s I turned to the communist peace movements since they seemed (at the time) to be more stable and able to grow over the long term. I still have a copy of the book from the remarkable “International Meeting of Communist and Worker’s Parties” that took place in Moscow in 1969 with representatives speaking from 75 countries. Of course, they supported the Vietnamese, but they called for peace; they did not advocate war against the United States.
At that time I often went to the Soviet Union and even worked there as a scientist at a few points. But in the end I was disappointed. Later on, after analyzing the History ot the Culture of War, I came to realize that like all states and empires, they were a culture of war, which led inexorably to their collapse (like what I see now happening to the American empire).
Despite the collapse of its dreams of state power, the communist peace movement left important traces for peace. Last week, we saw this in the school mobilizations for the International Day of Peace in the ex-Soviet republics and in the extensive mobilization of celebrations throughout France by the Mouvement de la Paix and the French Communist Party.
Lesson 2: The movement must be independent of the state because the state is intrinsically the culture of war. This is where I disagree with the communists, as they persist in seeking state power.
Finally, there was my experience as director of the United Nations International Year for the Culture of Peace when we mobilized 75 million people to sign the Manifesto 2000, promising to promote a culture of peace in their daily life, family, work, community, country and region. Its strength came from the fact that it was a well-coordinated campaign, involving all the organizations of the UN, the UNESCO Commissions in the Member States, and the major international NGOs. We even sent letters of invitations to thousands of universities and mayors. And the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration and Programme of Action for a Culture of Peace that we sent from Paris to New York which called for “a global movement for a culture of peace.”
But the UN coordination was also its weakness, because the coordination was in one place (UNESCO, Paris) and its head was cut off by the United States and its allies who control the UN, and who halted the UNESCO culture of peace program in 2001.
Again the same lesson: The movement must be independent of the state because the state is intrinsically the culture of war.
I still believe in the potential of the United Nations to promote a global movement for a culture of peace, if it could be made independent of the state by passing its control to regional parliaments or regional organizations of mayors. But progress towards that goal is painfully slow.
As I said in the beginning, I don’t have an answer to the question: Can this global movement continue to grow to the point that it can promote the transition from our current culture of war to a new culture, a culture of peace? And if so, how?
But, as always, history does not allow us to formulate an answer until after we have clearly formulated the question. And so, posing the question is a step forward. And who knows? Perhaps you readers, especially those of you from the new generation, can take us further and begin to provide an answer.