Correction: I should have said Kansas, not Kentucky.
World BEYOND War supports getting in the streets everywhere on April 2nd for peace and nonviolent action with Europe for Peace. World BEYOND War members in Europe will spread the word and take part, and we will encourage our chapters around the world to join in. I’m executive director of World BEYOND War, and I live in the United States where antiwar activism is most needed and least present. We have lots of excuses: the vast distances over which we are spread out, the intense propaganda in U.S. media, the economic insecurity. But none of them measure up against the need to preserve life on Earth in the face of a growing risk of nuclear war raised by people seemingly intent on destroying everything before the collapse of our ecosystems can do so. The epidemic of inactivism wasn’t always with us. On April 2nd in 1935 thousands of U.S. students went on strike against war. College students in the mid to late 1930s grew up feeling the horrors of WWI throughout France, Great Britain, and the United States, believing that war benefitted no one, yet fearing another. In 1934, a U.S. protest including 25,000 students was held in remembrance of the day the U.S. entered WWI. In 1935, a “Student Strike Against War Committee” was started in the U.S. attracting an even larger movement of 700 students from Kentucky University joined by 175,000 more across the U.S., and thousands more around the world. Students from 140 campuses from 31 countries left their classes that day feeling: “protest against mass slaughter was more beneficial than an hour of class.” As concerns grew about Germany’s occupations, trouble between Japan and the Soviet Union, Italy and Ethiopia, the pressure built for students to speak out. At KU, Kenneth Born, a member of the debate team, questioned the $300 billion spent on World War I, arguing that “rationalism could bring a better solution.” While he was at the podium, the crowd was exposed to tear gas, yet Born persuaded the students to stay by declaring, “You will face worse than this in war.” Charles Hackler, a law student, described the demonstrations as reminders that “war was not inevitable,” calling the current ROTC parades “war propaganda for capitalists, munitions dealers, and other war profiteers.” As many of these same students were finally coerced into fighting and dying in Europe, Asia, and Africa during WWII, their words have become ever more poignant. To hear those activists from April 2nd 1935 or to hear anyone in the West talking sense about Ukraine today, we have to wade our way through 80 years of accumulated WWII propaganda sludge. In the United States right now people believe that Putin is Hitler, that anyone violently fighting Hitler is the world’s savior, and that the world needs the help of U.S. weapons whether it knows it or not. If anyone can convince the U.S. public that they are qualified to say “No Thank you” it is Europeans. So we need to celebrate and amplify around the world every European voice that is saying Thanks but no thanks, keep your missiles, your tanks, your guns, and your planes. Leave us a planet.
By Europe for Peace, Pressenza, March 19, 2023
This post is also available in: Spanish, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Catalan, Greek
In Europe, Ukraine, Russia and all over the world, people want peace, while governments demand more and more weapons and human resources for war.
We demand the right to health, education, work and a liveable planet, but governments are dragging us into an all-out war.
The only chance to avoid the worst lies in human beings waking up to the danger and the ability of people to organise themselves.
Let’s take the future into our own hands: on April 2nd let’s converge in Europe and around the world on one day dedicated to peace and active nonviolence.
Let’s switch off the TV and social media, let’s switch off the war propaganda and the distorted and manipulated information. Let’s instead engage in direct communication with the people around us and organise activities for peace: a rally, a demonstration, a flash mob, a peace flag on the balcony or in the car, a meditation or a prayer in accordance with our religion or atheism, and any other activity aimed at peace.
Everyone can do so with their own ideas, beliefs and slogans, but all together we will turn off the TV and social media. We will thus converge on the same day with all the richness and strength of diversity. It will be a great experiment in international, decentralised self-organisation.
Only we can change things: we, the invisible ones, those who have no voice. No institution or famous celebrity will do it for us. And if anyone does have great social influence, they will have to put it to use to amplify the voices of those who urgently need a future for themselves and their children.
We will continue our nonviolent protest (boycotts, civil disobedience, sit-ins…) until those who have the decision-making power today listen to the voices of the majority of the population who simply demand peace and a dignified life.
Then on April 3rd we will start flooding social media with the story of our initiatives: our demands, photos, messages and videos.
Our future depends on the choices we make today.
Europe for Peace
Europe for Peace
The idea of carrying out this campaign arose in Lisbon, in the European Humanist Forum of November 2006 in the working group of Peace and Nonviolence. Different organizations participated and different opinions converged very clearly on one issue: violence in the world, the return of the nuclear arms race, the danger of a nuclear catastrophe and the need to urgently change the course of events. The words of Gandhi, M. L. King and Silo resounded in our minds on the importance of having faith in life and on the great force that nonviolence is. We were inspired by these examples. The declaration was officially presented in Prague on February 22, 2007 during a conference organized by Humanist movement. The declaration is the fruit of the labor of several people and organizations and tries to synthesize common opinions and concentrate on the issue of nuclear weapons. This campaign is open to all, and everyone can give their contribution to develop it.