Pacifism in the United States


Anti-militarism is a doctrine and political movement against militarism. Many socialists, libertarians, social liberals, and environmental activists profess anti-militarist ideology. Anti-militarism should not be confused with pacifism, which rejects any violence (Brock 27). Anti-militarism recognizes the right to self-defense, both individual and class, but opposes the monopoly of the state on violence, imperialism, propaganda of nationalism and xenophobia, and military service for the solution of inter-state issues peacefully.

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The origins of modern anti-militarism lie in the philosophy of Enlightenment. Its important idea was the eternal peace in which Europe and America turned into a Federation of States that did not have their armies, and ensured freedom of movement. This idea was not fully implemented, but some of its provisions were taken into account by diplomats of the 20th century when creating the UN and the European Union.

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Helen Keller, an American blind-deaf writer, and social activist gave a speech under the auspices of the Women’s Peace Party and the Labor Forum in 1915 with the help of her former teacher Sullivan. She talked about the fact that America is preparing for world war, and the words of many about self-defense are self-deception and indoctrination. She said that the poorest class, which the government ignores even without war, would suffer from the arms race and the destructive actions of the American army in Europe.

Keller appealed to the minds of her countrymen and called to abandon weapons and military action and do everything to prevent it, because the very idea of war, in her opinion, is violence against humanity. She talked about the plight of the poor in America, drawing public attention to the fact that the country has enough problems in addition to the pursuit of world authority. Her words revealed in the wealthiest and most influential people of the country the thirst for profit, the desire to increase private capital, and stealing resources from the conquered territories.

Martin Luther King Jr. in his speech at the United Nations Plaza in New York City in 1967 also raises the topic of the US military policy, but in the context of the Vietnam conflict. He devotes part of his speech to explaining why the preacher and defender of civil rights consider himself entitled to talk to people about the foreign policy of the country and especially about the war. King explains that military action in Vietnam is encouraged by the government and is called heroic and just.

Therefore, when he tries to prevent violence in the American ghettos, he is told that violence in Vietnam is justified and noble, and it is normal to use such methods in your home country. King felt it was his duty to say things that those in power do not consider proper to mention: war, especially so useless, negates all efforts to establish civil liberties in the United States.

The speeches delivered by Helen Keller in 1915 and Martin Luther King in 1967, although they relate to different phenomena of the social and historical life of America, still raise the same important topic – the senselessness of war. These brave activists hold different beliefs in General, but they defend in their sermons ordinary citizens of America and the poor, forced to suffer because of the brutal actions of the government.

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These actions may concern both domestic and foreign policy, and in both cases, the poorest segments of the American population have suffered the most damage. If violence exists within the state, the middle and upper classes are convinced that it is useful to maintain internal order. If violence is committed outside the country by the hands of the authorities, it is regarded by the same people as a confirmation of the justification of such measures in their home country against the undesirables.

In George Orwells dystopia, the Ministry of peace was in charge of war affairs. In this society “economics exists only through war and for war” (Steinhoff 47) The basic idea of peace in the novel is that, because of technological progress, without war overproduction of goods comes, ideological loosening, discontent, then revolution and change of elites. Therefore, to preserve personal power, the rulers of all three States waged an endless war, the purpose of which was the destruction of resources and the direction of the population’s thoughts on survival.

Victory in such a war cannot be achieved, and small successes, represented as key victories, are replaced by small defeats and so on to infinity. According to Orwell, “the war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. Hierarchical society is only possible by poverty and ignorance” (Steinhoff 39) George Orwell’s model of society and government is frighteningly relevant to this day, and it fully reflects Keller and King’s concerns about the future. The only difference is that the writer shows how the present attitude to war and personal enrichment can affect not only America but also the whole world.


All these outstanding people, who acted in different ways, promoting their ideas, agree that war is a nightmare from both humanism and elementary common sense. It is a crime to kill a person because of a mismatch in beliefs, for money or housing for a law-abiding citizen; but the same citizen will dutifully take up a machine gun and kill citizens of another state for ideology, resources, or territory that he or she does not even need. Even war for a just cause, protection of the house, the people, and the native land will not give the normal person pleasure. War cripples the souls of people, distorts their psyche, and brings grief, destruction, ruin, and death.

Works Cited

Brock, Peter. Pacifism in the United States: From the Colonial Era to the First World War. Princeton University Press, 2015.

Keller, Helen. Strike Against War. Speech at Carnegie Hall, New York City, 1916. Web.

King Jr., Martin Luther. A Revolution of Values. Speech at the United Nations Plaza, New York City, 1967. Web.

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Steinhoff, William. George Orwell and the Origins of 1984. Vol. 13. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1975.

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