REBELS AGAINST WAR: The American Peace Movement, 1941-1960 by Lawrence S. Wittner

REBELS AGAINST WAR: The American Peace Movement, 1941-1960

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

The magazine urged ""strikes. . . rent evasion. . . radical banditry. . . a mass invasion of A&P supermarkets"" by the poor. Rat, 1969? No; Direct Action, 1945, a publication of American pacifists, then in an anarchist phase, and just learning how to be a political rather than a merely moral force. This transition is the theme of Professor Wittner's book, the first study dealing with the radical peace movement after the '30's. Drawing on the untapped files of groups like the War Resister's League and the Catholic Workers, and on personal interviews, the author narrates the movement's history and analyzes influences favorable (Gandhi, Hiroshima, Vietnam) and unfavorable (Pearl Harbor, Vietnam) to its growth. Particularly interesting is the stress on the pacifist ancestry of direct action techniques. The author leaves unanswered a basic question: why did the radicals fail to win the American people to genuine opposition to war and militarism? (The movement's sole triumph, the nuclear test ban treaty, was engineered by moderates and enacted under the gun.) He also fails to clarify distinctions between the various elements--pacifists, socialists, liberals--who at various times found shelter in the movement. No doubt these issues will be pursued by others who follow up this competent, scholarly introduction.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1969
Publisher: Columbia University Press