As I’ve written previously, 2018 is the hundredth anniversary of the end of the bloody First World War. It’s received a good deal of attention in the media. Not surprisingly, one aspect of the war has received little attention–the people and organizations that opposed the conflict and took actions to stop it.
“Moreover, this history – of police raids and buried documents, feminist peace initiatives and clandestine printing presses, striking German munitions workers and communities of resistance in Huddersfield, Hackney, and Bradford (among other places) – appears to be largely unknown even to contemporary activists” (from Peace News).
Peace News, a British peace group, has produced a series of posters that memorialize the anti-war movement. I thought it would be somewhat inspiring if we posted up a couple of the posters and provided a bit of information about the events they portray.
For technical reasons, they’re being posted in two separate blogs. Each poster is accompanied by a quite detailed historical account. I’ve included the first few paragraphs of each. For those who are interested, you can follow the links for the full version.
War Against War
When the heavens opened up at 4.30pm, half an hour into the rally, ‘the solid core … stood gallantly to their umbrellas and cheered for the war against war’.
Standing on the plinth at the base of Nelson’s Column, legendary labour activist Keir Hardie had begun his speech by reminding the fifteen-thousand-strong crowd of the murder of the French socialist leader Jean Jaurès two days earlier.
Like Hardie, a staunch internationalist, Jaurès had long predicted that a future war would involve eiffel_tower‘millions of soldiers strewn in mud and blood’ and ‘millions of corpses’. With his support, Hardie had spent the past four years trying to get the Second International – the international organisation of socialist and labour parties that included the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), the French Section of the Workers’ International (SFIO) and the British Labour Party – to agree a plan for a simultaneous international strike ‘on the first rumour of war’. Now Jaurès was dead, killed by a fanatical nationalist.
‘We shall have no great anti-war campaign by the Liberals’, Hardie told the crowd. ‘The church will not lead in this holy war against crime and bloodshed. The task is left to the workers.’
Across Britain, probably over 100,000 Socialists and Labour supporters demonstrated against the looming war that Sunday afternoon, 2 August 1914.
Two days later Britain declared war on Germany, and Hardie’s hope that the threat of international working-class solidarity could stop the conflict was finally destroyed.