November 1. On this day in 1961 the Women Strike for Peace demonstration in the United States was the largest women’s peace action to date. “We came into existence on November 1, 1961,” said a member, “as a protest against atmospheric nuclear tests by the U.S. and the Soviet Union which were poisoning the air and our children’s food.” That year, 100,000 women from 60 cities came out of kitchens and jobs to demand: END THE ARMS RACE – NOT THE HUMAN RACE, and WSP was born. The group encouraged disarmament by educating on the dangers of radiation and nuclear testing. Its members lobbied Congress, protested the nuclear testing site in Las Vegas, and took part in the UN Disarmament Conferences in Geneva. Despite 20 women from the group being subpoenaed in the 1960s by the House Un-American Activities Committee, they contributed to the passage of the Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963. Their protest against the Vietnam War led 1,200 women from 14 NATO countries to join them at the Hague in a demonstration against the creation of a Multilateral Nuclear Fleet. They also began meeting with Vietnamese women to organize communication between POWs and their families. They protested U.S. intervention in Central America, as well as the militarization of space, and opposed new weapon plans. The Nuclear Freeze campaign of the 1980s was backed by the WPS, and they contacted the Prime Ministers of the Netherlands and Belgium, urging them to refuse all U.S. missile bases and included a description of President Regan’s “Defense Guidance Plan,” an outline for fighting, surviving, and supposedly winning a nuclear war.
November 2. On this date in 1982 a nuclear freeze referendum passed in nine U.S. states making up one-third of the U.S. electorate. It was the largest referendum on a single issue in U.S. history, and was intended to secure an agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union to halt the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons. Years earlier activists had begun organizing efforts and public education around the United States. The motto of the campaign was “Think globally; act locally.” Organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Ground Zero movement circulated petitions, held debates, and showed films. They gave out literature about the nuclear arms race and developed resolutions that they took to town, city, and state legislatures throughout the United Stares. One year after the 1982 referendum, resolutions supporting a bilateral nuclear weapons freeze had been passed by 370 city councils, 71 county councils, and by one or both houses of 23 state legislatures. When the Nuclear Freeze resolution was delivered to the U.S. and Soviet governments at the United Nations, it had 2,300,000 signatures. It did not have the support of the administration of President Ronald Reagan, which views it as a disaster. The campaigners were manipulated, the White House claimed, by “a handful of scoundrels instructed directly from Moscow.” The White House initiated a public relations campaign against the Freeze referendum. Reagan charged that the Freeze “would make this country desperately vulnerable to nuclear blackmail.” Despite strong opposition, the movement continued for many years after 1982 and contributed to major disarmament steps and the survival of life on earth during the Cold War.
November 3. On this day in 1950 the UN Uniting for Peace resolution was passed by the UN General Assembly at Flushing Meadows, NY. The resolution, 377A, reflects the obligation of the United Nations, under its Charter, to maintain international peace and security. It allows the General Assembly to consider matters where the Security Council cannot resolve an issue. There are 193 members of the UN, and 15 members of the Council. The resolution can be activated by a vote in the Security Council, or with a request by a majority of UN Members to the Secretary-General. They can then make recommendations for collective measures without the “P5” or permanent five members of the Security Council who are: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They do not have the ability to block the adoption of draft resolutions. Recommendations can include the use of armed force or the prevention thereof. The power of the veto within the Security Council could be overcome this way when one of the P5 is an aggressor. It has been used for Hungary, Lebanon, Congo, the Middle East (Palestine and East Jerusalem), Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and South Africa. It is argued that the present structure of the Security Council with permanent members with veto power does not reflect the reality of the present world situation, and it particularly leaves Africa, other developing countries, and the Middle East without a voice. The Institute for Security Studies works to have an elected Council, through the passage of changes to the UN Charter by a majority of General Assembly members, that would eliminate the permanent seats.
November 4. On this date in 1946 UNESCO was established. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization is based in Paris. The organization’s purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration and dialogue through educational, scientific, and cultural projects and reforms and to increase respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights. To pursue these objectives, its 193 member states and 11 associate members have programs in education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication. UNESCO has not been without controversy, particularly in its relationships with the U.S., the UK, Singapore, and the former Soviet Union, largely because of its vigorous support of freedom of the press and its budgetary concerns. The United States withdrew from UNESCO in 1984 under President Reagan, claiming that it was a platform for communists and Third World dictators to attack the West. The U.S. re-joined in 2003, but in 2011 it cut its contribution to UNESCO, and in 2017 set a deadline of 2019 for its withdrawal, in part because of UNESCO’s position on Israel. UNESCO had condemned Israel for “aggressions” and “illegal measures” against Muslims’ access to their holy sites. Israel had frozen all ties with the organization. Serving as a “laboratory of ideas,” UNESCO helps countries adopt international standards and manages programs that foster the free flow of ideas and knowledge sharing. UNESCO’s vision is that political and economic arrangements of governments are not enough to establish conditions for democracy, development, and peace. UNESCO has the difficult task of working with nations that have long histories of conflict and vested interests in war.
November 5. On this date in 1855 Eugene V. Debs was born. Also on this date in 1968 Richard Nixon was elected U.S. president after sabotaging the Vietnam peace talks. This is a good day to think about who our real leaders are. At age 14, Eugene Victor Debs began working on the railroad and became a locomotive fireman. He helped organize the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen. An effective and personable speaker and pamphleteer, he was a member of the Indiana legislature in 1885 at age 30. He united various railway unions into the American Railway Union and held a successful strike for higher wages against the Great Northern Railway in 1894. Debs spent six months in jail after leading the Chicago Pullman Car company strike. He saw the labor movement as a struggle between classes, and led the creation of the Socialist Party of America for which he was a presidential candidate five times between 1900 and 1920. He died in 1926, age 71. Richard Nixon is seen as a traitor for his successful effort to stall the Vietnam peace talks, confirmed by FBI wiretaps and handwritten notes. He sent Anna Chennault to persuade the Vietnamese to refuse a proposed cease-fire organized by Lyndon Johnson whose former vice-president, Hubert Humphrey, was Nixon’s rival candidate. Nixon violated the Logan Act of 1797 which bans private citizens from intruding into official negotiations with a foreign nation. In the four years between the sabotage and the next presidential election, more than a million Vietnamese people were killed, as well as 20,000 members of the U.S. military.
November 6. This is the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. The United Nations General Assembly, in creating this day in 2001, attempted to focus the world’s attention on the crucial need for protection of the environment we all share from the devastation of war. Wars in recent years have rendered large areas uninhabitable and generated tens of millions of refugees. War and war preparations damage the environment through the production and testing of nuclear weapons, the aerial and naval bombardment of terrain, the dispersal and persistence of land mines and buried ordnance, the use and storage of military defoliants, toxins, and waste, and enormous consumption of fossil fuels. Yet major environmental treaties have included exemptions for militarism. War and preparations for war are a major direct cause of environmental damage. They are also a pit into which trillions of dollars that could be used to prevent environmental damage are dumped. As the environmental crisis worsens, thinking of war as a tool with which to address it, treating refugees as military enemies, threatens us with the ultimate vicious cycle. Declaring that climate change causes war misses the reality that human beings cause war, and that unless we learn to address crises nonviolently we will only make them worse. A major motivation behind some wars is the desire to control resources that poison the earth, especially oil and gas. In fact, the launching of wars by wealthy nations in poor ones does not correlate with human rights violations or lack of democracy or threats of terrorism, but does strongly correlate with the presence of oil.
November 7. On this day in 1949, Costa Rica’s Constitution prohibited a national army. Costa Rica, now using entirely renewable energy, is home to the Inter-American Human Rights Court and the UN University of Peace. Following independence from Mexico under Spanish rule, Costa Rica declared its independence from the Central American Federation it shared with Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Following a brief civil war, the decision was made to abolish its army, and invest instead in its people. As an agricultural nation known for its coffee and cacao, Costa Rica is also known for its beauty, culture, music, stable infrastructure, technology, and eco-tourism. The country’s environmental policy encourages the use of solar energy, eliminating carbon from the atmosphere, and preserving up to 25 percent of its land as national parks. The United Nations University of Peace was established “to provide humanity with an international institution of higher education for peace with the aim of promoting among all human beings the spirit of understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence, to stimulate cooperation among peoples and to help lessen obstacles and threats to world peace and progress, in keeping with the noble aspirations proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations.” In 1987, Costa Rican President Oscar Sanchez was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his help in ending the civil war in Nicaragua. Costa Rica has accepted many refugees, while encouraging stability throughout Central America. By providing its citizens with free education, universal healthcare and social services, Costa Rica enjoys an impressive human longevity rate. In 2017, National Geographic also declared it the “Happiest Country in the World!”
November 8. On this day in 1897, Dorothy Day was born. As a writer, activist, and pacifist, Day is best known for initiating the Catholic Worker Movement, and promoting social justice. She left college in Illinois to move to Greenwich Village in 1916 where she lived a bohemian life, made many literary friends, and wrote for socialist and progressive newspapers. In 1917, she joined Alice Paul and the Women’s Suffrage movement as one of the “Silent Sentinels” lobbying the White House. This led to one of several arrests and imprisonments endured by Day, but also to the women’s right to vote. Her reputation as a “radical” continued after her conversion to Catholicism as Day pushed the church to support objectors to the draft and to the war. Her guidance challenged Catholic principles, which led to the church’s support for pacifists and the needy, specifically workers suffering low wages, and rampant homelessness. When she met Peter Maurin, a former Christian Brother, in 1932, they established a newspaper promoting Catholic teachings aligned with social justice. These writings led to the “Green Revolution” and to the church’s help in providing housing for the poor. Two hundred communities were finally established across the United States, and 28 in other countries. Day lived in one of these hospitality homes while encouraging support by writing books about her life and purpose. The Catholic Worker Movement protested WWII, and Day was arrested in 1973 for demonstrating against the war in Vietnam while supporting the United Farm Workers in California. Her life inspired many, including the Vatican. Day has been considered a candidate for canonization since 2000.
November 9. On this day in 1989 the Berlin Wall began to be demolished, symbolizing the ending of the Cold War. This is a good day to remember how fast change can come and how available peace is. In 1961, the wall splitting the city of Berlin was built to deter Western “fascists,” and to control mass defections by millions of young laborers and professionals from communist East Germany. Telephone and railroad lines were cut, and people were separated from their jobs, their families, and their loved ones. The wall became symbolic of the Cold War between Western Allies and the Soviet Union following WWII. As 5,000 people managed to escape the wall, there were as many failed attempts. The wall was rebuilt over ten years, and reinforced with a series of walls up to 15 ft. tall, intense lighting, electric fences, armed guards in watch towers, attack dogs, and minefields. East German guards were ordered to shoot on sight anyone protesting the wall, or attempting to escape. The Soviet Union suffered economic decline, revolutions in countries such as Poland and Hungary gained ground, and peaceful efforts to end the Cold War progressed. The growing civil unrest both in and surrounding Germany led to attempts to dismantle the wall from the west side. East German leader, Erich Honecker, finally resigned, and official Gunter Schabowski then accidentally announced “permanent relocations” from East Germany were possible. Stunned East Germans approached the wall as the guards stood by, confused as the rest. Thousands then flocked to the wall, celebrating their freedom and reconciliation. Many began chipping away at the wall with hammers, chisels, . . . and hope for no more walls.
November 10. On this date in 1936 the world’s first peace corps, International Voluntary Service for Peace (IVSP), arrived in Bombay led by Pierre Ceresole. Ceresole was a Swiss pacifist who had refused to pay taxes that were used for arms, and had spent time in prison. He founded Service Civil International (SCI) in 1920 to provide volunteers in international work camps in areas affected by natural disasters and conflicts. He was invited by Mohandas Gandhi to come to India, and in 1934, 1935, and 1936, the organization worked in India in reconstruction after the 1934 Nepal-Bihar earthquake. The organization grew over the next decade, and Ceresole died in 1945. In 1948, several international peace organizations were brought together under the newly established leadership of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). SCI was among them. In the 1970’s SCI reoriented itself by standardizing international volunteer exchanges. It also expanded from being based on work camps to reflect the political implications of international peace. Still using volunteers today, SCI’s principles include: nonviolence, human rights, solidarity, respect for the environment and ecosystems, inclusion of all individuals who share the aims of the movement, empowerment of people to transform the structures that affect their lives, and co-operation with local, national, and international stakeholders. Working groups, for instance, are established in regions for international development work and education dealing with immigration, refugees, East-West exchanges, gender, youth unemployment, and the environment. SCI continues to this day, known as International Voluntary Service in most English-speaking countries.
November 11. On this date in 1918, at 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month, World War One ended on a schedule. People across Europe suddenly stopped shooting guns at each other. Up until that moment, they were killing and taking bullets, falling and screaming, moaning and dying. Then they stopped. It wasn’t that they’d gotten tired or come to their senses. Both before and after 11 o’clock they were simply following orders. The Armistice agreement that ended World War I had set 11 o’clock as quitting time, and 11,000 men were killed or wounded between the signing of the Armistice and its taking effect. But that hour in subsequent years, that moment of an ending of a war that was supposed to end all war, that moment that had kicked off a world-wide celebration of joy and of the restoration of some semblance of sanity, became a time of silence, of bell ringing, of remembering, and of dedicating oneself to actually ending all war. That was what Armistice Day was. It was not a celebration of war or of those who participate in war, but of the moment a war had ended. The U.S. Congress passed an Armistice Day resolution in 1926 calling for “exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding.” Some countries still call it Remembrance Day, but the United States renamed it Veterans Day in 1954. For many, the day is no longer to cheer the ending of war but to praise war and nationalism. We can choose to return Armistice Day to its original meaning.
November 12. On this date in 1984 the United Nations passed the Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace. The UN General Assembly adopted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. It is still a cornerstone of the UN’s mandate, and declares that the right to life is fundamental. But it was not until 1984 that the Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace emerged. It says that “life without war serves as the primary international prerequisite for . . . material well-being, development and progress . . . and for the full implementation of the rights and fundamental human freedoms proclaimed by the United Nations,” that it is a “sacred duty” and a “fundamental obligation” of each State that “the policies of States be directed towards the elimination of the threat of war” and “above all, to avert a world-wide nuclear catastrophe.” The UN has had great difficulty building upon and implementing this declaration. Much work has been done over the years, particularly by the Human Rights Council, to revise the declaration, but all such revisions have failed to pass with a sufficient majority because the nuclear countries have abstained. On December 19, 2016, a simplified version had a vote of 131 in favor, 34 against, and 19 abstentions. In 2018, it was still being debated. Special UN Rapporteurs visit particular situations in various countries to investigate specific instances of violations of the rights found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and there is a movement to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Peace, but that has not yet been done.
November 13. On this date in 1891 the International Peace Bureau was founded in Rome by Fredrik Bajer. Still active, its aim is to work towards a “world without war.” In its early years the organization fulfilled its goals as a coordinator of peace movements internationally, and in 1910 it received the Nobel Peace Prize. After World War I, the League of Nations and other organizations diminished its importance, and it suspended its activities during the Second World War. In 1959, its assets were given to the International Liaison Committee of Organizations for Peace (ILCOP). ILCOP named its Geneva secretariat the International Peace Bureau. The IPB has 300 member organizations in 70 countries, acts as a link for organizations working on similar projects, and is on other committees within and outside of the United Nations. Over time, several IPB board members have received the Nobel Peace Prize. Military preparations have devastating effects, not only on those who are caught up in war, but also on the process of sustainable development, and IPB’s present programs center on disarmament for sustainable development. The IPB focuses particularly on the reallocation of military expenditure to social projects and protection of the environment. The International Peace Bureau hopes to demilitarize international aid, supports a number of disarmament campaigns, including nuclear disarmament, and supplies data on the economic dimensions of weapons and conflicts. IPB established the Global Day of Action on Military Spending in 2011, working to lessen the impact and sale of small arms, landmines, cluster munitions, and depleted uranium, especially in the developing world.
November 14. On this date in 1944 in France, Marie-Marthe Dortel-Claudot and Bishop Pierre-Marie Theas proposed the idea of Pax Christi. Pax Christi is Latin for “Peace of Christ.” Pope Pius XII in 1952 recognized it as the official international Catholic peace movement. It began as a movement to work towards reconciliation between the French and German people after World War II with the organizing of peace pilgrimages, and expanded to other European countries. It grew as “a crusade of prayer for peace among all nations.” It began to focus on human rights, security, disarmament, and demilitarization. It now has 120 member organizations worldwide. Pax Christi International is based on the belief that peace is possible, and looks at the causes & destructive consequences of violent conflict and war. Its vision is that “vicious cycles of violence and injustice can be broken.” Its International Secretariat is in Brussels and there are chapters in many countries. Pax Christi became involved in support of protesters in the civil rights movement in Mississippi, helping to organize boycotts of businesses that discriminated against blacks. Pax Christi operates by facilitating networking with other organizations involved in the peace movement, advocating for the movement internationally, and building the capacity of member organizations for nonviolent peace work. Pax Christi has consultative status as a non-governmental organization at the United Nations and says it “brings the voice of civil society to the Catholic Church, and conversely carries the values of the Catholic Church to civil society.” In 1983, Pax Christi International was awarded the UNESCO Peace Education Prize.
November 15. On this date in 1920 the first permanent parliament of the world, the League of Nations, met in Geneva. The concept of collective security was new, a product of the horrors of the First World War. Respect for the integrity and independence of all the members, and how to join in preserving them against aggression, were addressed in the resulting Covenant. Cooperative entities such as the Universal Postal Union and other structures of social and economic life were set up, and members agreed on matters such as transport and communications, commercial relations, health, and supervision of the international arms trade. A Secretariat was set up in Geneva and an Assembly of all members was established, along with a Council made up of representatives of the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan as permanent members, with four others elected by the Assembly. However, the United States’ seat in the Council was never occupied. The United States did not join the League, in which it would have been one among equals. This was a very different proposition from that of joining the later United Nations, in which the United States and four other countries were given veto power. When World War II broke out, no appeal to the League was made. No meetings of the Council or Assembly took place during the war. The economic and social work of the League was continued on a limited scale, but its political activity was at an end. The United Nations, with many of the same structures as the League, was established in 1945. In 1946, the League of Nations was formally ended.
November 16. On this date in 1989, six priests and two other people were murdered by the Salvadoran military. The civil war in El Salvador, 1980-1992, killed more than 75,000 people, leaving 8,000 missing and a million displaced. A United Nations Truth Commission established in 1992 found that 95 percent of the human rights abuses recorded during the conflict were committed by the Salvadoran military against civilians living primarily in rural communities who were suspected of supporting leftist guerrillas. On the 16th of November 1989, Salvadoran Army soldiers killed Jesuits Ignacio Ellacuría, Ignacio Martín-Baró, Segundo Montes, Amando López, Juan Ramón Moreno, and Joaquín López, as well as Elba Ramos and her teenage daughter Celina at their residence on the campus of Jose Simeon Canas Central American University in San Salvador. Elements of the notorious elite Atlacatl Battalion raided the campus with orders to kill its rector, Ignacio Ellacuría, and to leave no witnesses behind. The Jesuits were suspected of collaborating with rebel forces and had endorsed a negotiated end to the civil conflict with the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, (FMLN). The murders attracted international attention to the Jesuits’ efforts and increased international pressure for a cease-fire. This was one of the key turning points that led toward a negotiated settlement to the war. A peace agreement ended the war in 1992, but the presumed masterminds of the assassinations have never been brought to justice. Five of the six Jesuits slain were Spanish citizens. Spanish prosecutors have long sought the extradition from El Salvador of the key members of the military high command implicated in the deaths.
November 17. On this day in 1989 the Velvet Revolution, the peaceful liberation of Czechoslovakia, began with a student march. Czechoslovakia was claimed by the Soviets following WWII. By 1948, Marxist-Leninist policies were mandatory in all schools, the media had been strictly censored, and businesses were controlled by the Communist government. Any opposition was met with fierce police brutality against both protestors and their families until free speech was silenced. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies eased the political climate somewhat in the mid-1980s leading students to plan a memorial march supposedly in honor of a student who had died 50 years earlier in a march against Nazi occupation. Czechoslovakian activist, author, and playwright Vaclav Havel had also organized a Civic Forum to take back the country through a “Velvet Revolution” of peaceful protest. Havel utilized underground coordination through connections with playwrights and musicians resulting in a widespread group of activists. As the students set out on November 17th, they once again were met by brutal beatings from police. The Civic Forum then continued the march, calling on citizens along the way to back students in the fight for civil rights and free speech prohibited under Communist rule. The number of marchers grew from 200,000 to 500,000, and continued until there were too many for the police to contain. On November 27th, workers across the country went on strike, joining the marchers in calling for an end to the severe Communist suppression. This peaceful march led the entire communist regime to resign by December. Vaclav Havel was elected president of Czechoslovakia in 1990, the first democratic election since 1946.
November 18. On this date in 1916 the Battle of the Somme ended. This was a World War I battle between Germany, on one side, and France and the British Empire (including troops from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Newfoundland) on the other. The battle took place on the banks of the River Somme in France, and it had been begun on July 1st. Each side had strategic reasons for the battle, but no moral defense of it. Three million men fought each other from trenches with guns, and poison gas, and — for the first time — tanks. Some 164,000 men were killed, and another roughly 400,000 injured. None of them were so-called sacrifices for some glorious cause. Nothing good came out of the battle or the war to weigh against the damage. The tanks reached their top speed of 4 miles per hour and then generally died. The tanks were faster than the humans, who had been planning the battle since 1915. Hundreds of airplanes and their pilots were also destroyed in the battle, during which one side advanced a total of 6 miles but gained no key advantage. The war lumbered on in all of its fabulous futility. Given humanity’s penchant for wishful thinking, and the then rapidly developing tools of propaganda, the sheer horror and scale of the war led many to attempt to believe that for some reason this war would put an end to the institution of war. But, of course, the creators of war (the weapons industries, the power-mad politicians, the romanticizers of violence, and the careerists and bureaucrats who would go along as directed) all remained.
November 19. On this day in 1915 Joe Hill was executed, but never died. Joe Hill was an organizer of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a radical union known as the Wobblies which lobbied against the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and its support of capitalism. Hill was also a talented cartoonist and prolific songwriter who encouraged weak and weary workers from all industries, including women and immigrants, to join together as one. He also composed many of the songs used during IWW protests including “The Preacher and the Slave,” and “There is Power in a Union.” Resistance to the IWW was harsh throughout the conservative west in the early 1900s, and its socialist members were considered enemies by the police and politicians. When a grocery store owner was killed during a robbery in Salt Lake City, Joe Hill had visited a nearby hospital on the same night with a gunshot wound. When Hill refused to disclose how he had been shot, the police charged him with the murder of the shop owner. It was later learned that Hill had been shot by a man who was courting the same woman as Hill. Despite the lack of evidence, and the rallying support of the IWW, Hill was convicted and sentenced to death. In a telegram to IWW founder Big Bill Hayward, Hill wrote: “Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize!” These words became the union motto. Alfred Hayes wrote the poem “Joe Hill,” which was set to music in 1936 by Earl Robinson. The words “I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night” still inspire workers.
November 20. On this day in 1815 the Peace Treaty of Paris ended the Napoleonic Wars. The work for this treaty began five months after Napoleon I’s first abdication and Napoleon Bonaparte’s second abdication in 1814. In February, 1815, Napoleon escaped from his exile on the island of Elba. He entered Paris on March 20th and began the Hundred Days of his restored rule. Four days after his defeat in the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon was persuaded to abdicate again, on June 22nd. King Louis XVIII, who had fled the country when Napoleon arrived in Paris, took the throne for a second time on July 8. The peace settlement was the most comprehensive one that Europe had ever seen. It had more punitive terms than the treaty of the previous year which had been negotiated by Maurice de Talleyrand. France was ordered to pay 700 million francs in indemnities. France’s borders were reduced to their 1790 status. In addition, France was to pay money to cover the cost of providing defensive fortifications to be built by the neighboring seven Coalition countries. Under the terms of the peace treaty, parts of France were to be occupied by up to 150,000 soldiers for five years, with France covering the cost; however, the Coalition occupation was only deemed necessary for three years. In addition to the definitive peace treaty between France and Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, there were four additional conventions and the act confirming the neutrality of Switzerland signed on the same day.
November 21. On this date in 1990 the Cold War officially ended with the Paris Charter for a New Europe. The Paris Charter was the result of a meeting of many European governments and Canada, the United States, and the USSR, in Paris, from November 19-21, 1990. Mikhail Gorbachev, a passionate reformer, had come to power in the Soviet Union and introduced the policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). From June of 1989 to December 1991, from Poland to Russia, communist dictatorships fell one by one. By the autumn of 1989, East and West Germans were tearing down the Berlin Wall. Within months, Boris Yeltsin, the alcoholic U.S.-backed Russian Soviet Republic’s leader, took charge. The Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain were dissolved. Americans had lived through a Cold War culture that had included McCarthyist witch hunts, backyard bomb shelters, a space race, and a missile crisis. Thousands of U.S. and millions of non-U.S. lives had been lost in wars justified by the confrontation with communism. There was a mood of optimism and euphoria over the Charter, even dreams of demilitarization and a peace dividend. The mood did not last. The US and its allies continued to rely on organizations such as NATO and old economic approaches instead of a new vision with more inclusive systems. The United States promised Russian leaders not to expand NATO eastward, but has since then done precisely that. In need of a new raison d’etre, NATO went to war in Yugoslavia, setting a precedent for future far-flung imperial wars in Afghanistan and Libya, and the continuation of a cold war highly profitable to weapons dealers.
November 22. On this day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy was murdered. The U.S. government set up a special commission to investigate, but its conclusions were widely deemed dubious if not laughable. Serving on the Warren Commission was Allen Dulles, a former director of the CIA who had been removed by Kennedy, and whom many view as among a group of top suspects. That group includes E. Howard Hunt who confessed to his involvement and named others on his death bed. In 2017 President Donald Trump, at the request of the CIA, illegally and without explanation, kept various JFK assassination documents secret that were scheduled to finally be released. Two of the most popular and persuasive books on this topic are Jim Douglass’ JFK and the Unspeakable, and David Talbot’s The Devil’s Chessboard. Kennedy was no pacifist, but he was not the militarist some wanted. He wouldn’t fight Cuba or the Soviet Union or Vietnam or East Germany or independence movements in Africa. He advocated disarmament and peace. He was talking cooperatively with Khrushchev, as President Dwight Eisenhower had attempted prior to the U2-shootdown. Kennedy was also the sort of opponent of Wall Street whom the CIA was in the habit of overthrowing in foreign capitals. Kennedy was working to shrink oil profits by closing tax loopholes. He was permitting the political left in Italy to participate in power. He prevented steel corporations’ price hikes. No matter who killed Kennedy, over the decades that have followed, many have attributed countless acts of deference to the CIA and the military by politicians in Washington as indication of suspicion and fear.
November 23. On this date in 1936, Carl von Ossietzky, the well-known German journalist and pacifist, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize retroactively for the year 1935. Ossietzky had been born in 1889 in Hamburg, and was a radical pacifist with excellent writing skills. He was — together with Kurt Tucholsky — co-founder of the Friedensbundes der Kriegsteilnehmer (peace alliance of the participants of war), the Nie Wieder Krieg (No More War) movement, and chief editor of the weekly Die Weltbühne (The world stage). After revealing then forbidden army training of the Reichswehr, Ossietzky was indicted in early 1931 for treason and espionage. Even when many tried to convince him to flee, he refused, stating that he would go to jail and would be a most annoying living demonstration against a politically motivated sentence. On the 28th of February 1933 Ossietzky was arrested again, this time by the Nazis. He was sent to a concentration camp where he was brutally mistreated. Suffering progressed tuberculosis, he was released in 1936 but was not allowed to travel to Oslo to accept his prize. Time Magazine wrote: “If ever a man worked, fought and suffered for peace, it is the sickly little German, Carl von Ossietzky. For nearly a year the Nobel Peace Prize Committee has been swamped with petitions from all shades of Socialists, Liberals and literary folk generally, nominating Carl von Ossietzky for the 1935 Peace Prize. Their slogan: ‘Send the Peace Prize into the Concentration Camp.'” Ossietzky died on May 4th, 1936 in the Westend hospital in Berlin-Charlottenburg.
November 24. On this date in 2016, after 50 years of war and 4 years of negotiations, the government of Colombia signed a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The war had taken 200,000 Colombian lives and displaced seven million people from their land. The President of Columbia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, though oddly his partners in peace were not. However, the rebels took more significant steps to actually follow through on the agreement than did the government. It was a complex arrangement, providing for disarmament, reintegration, prisoner exchange, amnesty, truth commissions, land ownership reform, and funding to farmers to grow crops other than illegal drugs. The government generally failed to follow through, and violated the agreement by refusing to release prisoners, and by extraditing prisoners to the United States. FARC demobilized, but the resulting vacuum was filled by new violence, illegal drug trading, and illegal gold mining. The government did not step up to protect civilians, reintegrate former fighters, guarantee the safety of former fighters, or to stimulate economic development in rural areas. The government also stalled on establishing a truth commission and a special court to try people for war crimes. Making peace is not the act of a moment, though a moment can be key. A country without war is a big step forward, but failing to end violence and injustice allows the possibility of war resuming. Colombia, like all countries, needs sincere commitments to the process of maintaining peace, not just flashy announcements and awards.
November 25. This date is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Also on this date in 1910, Andrew Carnegie established the Endowment for International Peace. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women was issued by the UN General Assembly in 1993. It defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” One-third of the women and girls in the world have experienced physical, sexual, or psychological violence in their lives. A major source of this violence is war, in which rape is sometimes a weapon, and in which the vast majority of victims are civilians including women and children. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is a network of policy research centers. It was established in 1910 with the mission of abolishing war, after which it is to determine the second worst thing humanity does and work to eliminate that as well. In early decades of its existence, the Endowment focused on criminalizing war, building international friendship, and advancing disarmament. It worked, as required by its creator, toward the ultimate goal of complete abolition. But as Western culture has normalized war, the Endowment has prematurely moved on to working on all sorts of good causes, to the virtual elimination, not of war, but of its single original mission of antiwar advocacy.
November 26. On this date in 1832, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker was born in Oswego, NY. Men’s clothing was more practical on the family farm, and one of her several eccentricities was to always wear men’s attire. In 1855 she graduated from Syracuse Medical College, the only female student in the class. Married to Albert Miller, a physician, she did not take his name. After an unsuccessful joint medical practice (the difficulty was her gender), they divorced. During the U.S. Civil War, in 1861, Walker was allowed to be a volunteer nurse with the Union Army. As an unpaid surgeon, she was the only woman doctor in the Civil War. She offered herself as a spy to the War Department but was turned down. Often crossing enemy lines to attend injured civilians, she was captured and spent four months as a prisoner of war. Long before women were legally given the vote, she voted, although she spurned the suffragette movement until later in life. After the war, President Andrew Johnson awarded Mary Edwards Walker the Medal of Honor. Changes in the award’s regulations in 1917 meant that it was to be taken back, but she refused to give it up and wore it until the end of her life. She received a smaller war pension than that given to war widows. She worked in a female prison in Kentucky and in an orphanage in Tennessee. Walker published two books and exhibited herself in sideshows. Dr. Walker died February 21, 1919. She once said, “It is a shame that people who lead reforms in this world are not appreciated until after they are dead.”
November 27. On this day in 1945 CARE was founded to feed survivors of World War II in Europe. CARE stood for “Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe.” It is now the “Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere.” CARE’s food aid originally took the form of packages which were surplus war commodities. The last European food packages were sent in 1967. In the 1980’s CARE International was formed. It reports working in 94 countries, supporting 962 projects and reaching over 80 million people. Its headquarters is in Atlanta, Georgia. It has broadened its mandate over the years, essentially implementing programs “to create lasting solutions to poverty.” It advocates for policy changes addressing poverty and responds to emergencies, much as do the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. CARE says it is “committed to doing more than meeting immediate needs” by overcoming structural barriers to development such as discrimination and exclusion, corrupt or incompetent public institutions, access to essential public services, conflict and social disorder, and major public health threats. CARE does not operate within the United States. It was a pioneer NGO in investing in micro-financing for small enterprises with group savings and loans. CARE does not fund, support, or perform abortions. Instead, it attempts to reduce maternal and newborn mortality by “increasing the quality, responsiveness, and equity of health services.” CARE states that its programs focus on women and girls because women’s empowerment is an important driver of development. CARE is funded by donations from individuals and corporations and from government agencies, including the European Union and the United Nations.
The fourth Thursday in November is the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, violating the separation of church and state in order to retell genocide as benevolence.
November 28. On this date in 1950 the Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic and Social Development in South and South-East Asia was established. The Plan came from a Commonwealth conference on foreign affairs held in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and the original group consisted of Australia, Britain, Canada, Ceylon, India, New Zealand, and Pakistan. In 1977, its name was changed to “The Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic and Social Development in Asia and the Pacific.” It is now an inter-governmental organization of 27 members, including India, Afghanistan, Iran, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and the United States. The operational expenses of its Secretariat are paid by the member countries through an annual membership fee. Originally, airports, roads, railways, dams, hospitals, fertilizer plants, cement factories, universities, and steel mills were constructed in member countries with capital assistance and technology from developed to developing countries, with a skills training component. Its objectives include the emphasis on the concept of south-south cooperation, assimilation, and utilization of capital more efficiently, and technical cooperation and assistance in the sharing and transfer of technology. To those ends, recent programs have been aimed at providing advanced skills and experience in various fields of economic and social activities as a “means of good policy making and governance within public policy formulation in an environment of globalization and the market economy.” The Plan focuses on private sector development for economic growth and on drug abuse prevention in member countries. Its permanent programs are Drug Advisory, Capacity Building, Gender Affairs, and Environment.
November 29. This is International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The date was established by the UN General Assembly in 1978, in response to the Nakba, or the catastrophe of the killing and evicting of Palestinians from their land and the obliteration of towns and villages during the 1948 creation of the nation of Israel. UN Resolution 181(II) on the partition of Palestine, had been adopted on this same date in 1947 to establish separate Arab and Jewish states on Palestinian land. Palestine had been colonized by Britain, and the Palestinian people were not consulted on the division of their land. This process ran contrary to the UN Charter, and thus lacks legal authority. The 1947 resolution recommended Palestine occupy 42 percent of its territory, a Jewish state 55 percent, and Jerusalem and Bethlehem 0.6 percent. By 2015, Israel had forcibly extended its reach to 85 percent of historic Palestine. By January 2015, the number of Palestinian refugees was 5.6 million. Palestinians still faced military occupation, ongoing civil control by an occupying force, violence and bombing, continued Israeli settlement construction and expansion, and deteriorating humanitarian and economic conditions. The Palestinian people have not received their inalienable rights to self-determination without external interference, as defined by the UN Declaration of Human Rights–national sovereignty, and the right to return to their property. Non-member UN observer status for Palestine was granted in 2012, and in 2015, the Palestinian flag was raised in front of UN headquarters. But the International Day is widely viewed as an attempt by the UN to mitigate a tragedy it created and to justify a resolution that has had tragic consequences for the Palestinian people.
November 30. On this date in 1999, a wide coalition of activists nonviolently shut down the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Seattle, Washington. With 40,000 protesters, the Seattle coalition overshadowed any demonstrations in the United States up to then against organizations whose mandate is economic globalization. The WTO deals with world-wide trade rules and negotiates trade agreements among its members. It has 160 members representing 98% of world trade. To join the WTO, governments agree to adhere to trade policies set up by the WTO. The Ministerial Conference, as in Seattle, meets every two years, and makes major decisions for the membership. The WTO website says that its goal is “to open trade for the benefit of all,” and claims to aid developing countries. Its record in that regard is an enormous and apparently intentional failure. The WTO has widened the gap between rich and poor while lowering employment and environmental standards. In its rules, the WTO favors rich countries and multinational corporations, harming smaller countries with high import duties and quotas. The protest in Seattle was large, creative, overwhelmingly nonviolent, and novel in its joining together of diverse interests, from labor unions to environmentalists to anti-poverty groups. While corporate media reports predictably highlighted a relative handful of people engaging in property destruction, the size and discipline and energy of the demonstrations succeeded in impacting both the decisions of the WTO and the public understanding thereof. Most importantly, the Seattle protests gave birth to numerous similar efforts at WTO and related gatherings all over the world for years to come.
This Peace Almanac lets you know important steps, progress, and setbacks in the movement for peace that have taken place on each day of the year.
This Peace Almanac should remain good for every year until all war is abolished and sustainable peace established. Profits from sales of the print and PDF versions fund the work of World BEYOND War.
Text produced and edited by David Swanson.
Audio recorded by Tim Pluta.
Items written by Robert Anschuetz, David Swanson, Alan Knight, Marilyn Olenick, Eleanor Millard, Erin McElfresh, Alexander Shaia, John Wilkinson, William Geimer, Peter Goldsmith, Gar Smith, Thierry Blanc, and Tom Schott.
Ideas for topics submitted by David Swanson, Robert Anschuetz, Alan Knight, Marilyn Olenick, Eleanor Millard, Darlene Coffman, David McReynolds, Richard Kane, Phil Runkel, Jill Greer, Jim Gould, Bob Stuart, Alaina Huxtable, Thierry Blanc.
Music used by permission from “The End of War,” by Eric Colville.
Audio music and mixing by Sergio Diaz.
Graphics by Parisa Saremi.
World BEYOND War is a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace. We aim to create awareness of popular support for ending war and to further develop that support. We work to advance the idea of not just preventing any particular war but abolishing the entire institution. We strive to replace a culture of war with one of peace in which nonviolent means of conflict resolution take the place of bloodshed.