Pacifism is the opposition to war or violence.
Pacifism covers a spectrum of views, including the belief that international disputes can and should be peacefully resolved, calls for the abolition of the institutions of the military and war, opposition to any organization of society through governmental force ( anarchist or libertarian pacifism), rejection of the use of physical violence to obtain political, economic or social goals, the obliteration of force except in cases where it is absolutely necessary to advance the cause of peace, and opposition to violence under any circumstance, even defense of self and others.
Pacifism may be based on moral principles (a deontological view) or pragmatism (a consequentialist view). Principled pacifism holds that at some point along the spectrum from war to interpersonal physical violence, such violence becomes morally wrong. Pragmatic pacifism holds that the costs of war and inter-personal violence are so substantial that better ways of resolving disputes must be found. Pacifists in general reject theories of Just War.
Some pacifists follow principles of nonviolence, believing that nonviolent action is morally superior and/or pragmatically most effective. Some pacifists, however, support physical violence for emergency defense of self or others. Others support destruction of property in such emergencies or for conducting symbolic acts of resistance like pouring red paint to represent blood on the outside of military recruiting offices or entering air force bases and hammering on military aircraft. However, part of the pacifist belief system is taking responsibility for one's actions by submitting to arrest and using a trial to publicize opposition to war and other forms of violence.
In contrast to the nonviolence principle stands the non-aggression principle, which rejects the initiation of violence, but permits the use of violence for self-defense or delegated defense. Although people supporting the non-aggression principle often call themselves pacifists, but they are more properly described as voluntaryists. They claim that the moral prohibition of the use of violence follows from argumentation ethics, which only applies when people are using argumentation to solve disputes. So it does not apply when someone is subject to initiated violence, and hence self-defense is not morally rejected.
Dove or dovish are informal terms used, especially in politics, for people who prefer to avoid war or prefer war as a last resort. The terms refer to the story of Noah's Ark in which the dove came to symbolize the hope of salvation and peace. Similarly, in common parlance, the opposite of a dove is a hawk or war hawk.
Advocacy of pacifism can be found far back in history and literature.
Compassion for all life, human and nonhuman, is central to Hinduism, Buddhism, which was founded by Siddhattha Gotama, and also Jainism, founded by Mahavira 599–527 BCE. Both the Buddha and Mahavira were by birth kshatriya, the varna (social order) of soldiers and officials. An unusual example is that of Emperor Ashoka who became a pacifist after the bloody Kalinga war.
In Ancient Greece, however, pacifism seems not to have existed except as a broad moral guideline against violence between individuals. No philosophical program of rejecting violence between states, or rejecting all forms of violence, seems to have existed. Aristophanes, in his play Lysistrata, does create the scenario of an Athenian woman's anti-war sex strike during the Peloponnesian War of 431–404 BCE, and the play has gained an international reputation for its anti-war message. Nevertheless, it is both fictional and comical, and though it offers a pragmatic opposition to the destructiveness of war, its message seems to stem from frustration with the existing conflict (then in its twentieth year) rather than from a philosophical position against violence or war. Equally fictional is the nonviolent protest of Hegetorides of Thasos.
Panda was a god of peace (according to a gloss by Philoxenos). (The derivation of this name "Panda" is from "pandi" 'unfold, publish', and is apparently an allusion to the openness and forthrightness of pacifists.)
The Taoist scripture "Classic of Great Peace ( Taiping jing)" foretells "the coming Age of Great Peace (taiping)." The Taiping Jing advocates "a world full of peace".
The Lemba religion of southern French Congo, along with its symbolic herb, is named for pacifism : " "lemba, lemba" (peace, peace), describes the action of the plant lemba-lemba (Brillantaisia patula T. Anders)". Likewise in Cabinda, "Lemba is the spirit of peace, as its name indicates."
The Moriori, of the Chatham Islands, practiced pacifism by order of their ancestor Nunuku-whenua. This enabled the Moriori to preserve what limited resources they had in their harsh climate, avoiding waste through warfare. In turn, this led to their almost complete annihilation in 1835 by invading Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama Māori from the Taranaki region of the North Island of New Zealand. The invading Māori killed, enslaved and cannibalised the Moriori.
Among the Māori, the major god Rongo is the "god of peace". The minor god Kahungunu is "a pacifist in spirit".
In Hawaii at the time of Captain Cook's visit (1779 Chr.E.), Lono was worshipped as "god of peace".
The Whilkut of northern California have a bird-god of peace-making, "Merk" ('Egret').
The Hopi people, whose name means 'Peaceful' ("Hopi" is a contraction of /hopitu/ 'peaceful'), have followed religious doctrine that is generally "anti-war".
Among the Aztecs, Quetzalcoatl was "god of Peace ..., who required his people to live in peace".
Judea under Roman control
Throughout history, many have understood Jesus of Nazareth to have been a pacifist, drawing on his Sermon on the Mount (see Christian pacifism). In the sermon Jesus stated that one should "not resist an evildoer" and promoted his turn the other cheek philosophy. "If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well... Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." The New Testament story is of Jesus, besides preaching these words, surrendering himself freely to an enemy intent on having him killed and proscribing his followers from defending him.
There are those, however, who deny that Jesus was a pacifist and state that Jesus never said that you should not fight, citing examples from the New Testament. One such instance portrays an angry Jesus driving dishonest market traders from the temple. A frequently quoted passage is Luke 22:36: “He said to them, ‘But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.’” Others have interpreted the non-pacifist statements in the New Testament to be related to self-defense or to be metaphorical and state that on no occasion does Jesus shed blood or urge others to shed blood.
Maximilian of Tebessa was a conscientious objector. He was killed for refusing to be conscripted.
Known in the Balkans as Bogomils and in northern Italy and southern France as Cathars, these people were well ahead of their time. For instance, they were pacifists totally dedicated to non-violence. The Cathars were actually branded heretics, persecuted, and eventually annihilated by the Catholic Church through the Albigensian Crusade and the Inquisition that followed. "These heretics are worse than the Saracens!" exclaimed Pope Innocent III, and on March 10, 1208, he proclaimed a crusade against a sect in southern France.
Beginning in the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation gave rise to a variety of new Christian sects, including the historic peace churches. Foremost among them were the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Amish, Mennonites and Church of the Brethren. After its founding by Quaker pacifist William Penn, Quaker-controlled colonial Pennsylvania employed an anti-militarist public policy. Unlike residents of many of the colonies, Quakers chose to trade peacefully with the Indians, including for land. The colonial province was, for the 75 years from 1681 to 1756, essentially unarmed and experienced little or no warfare in that period.
Bohemian Bernard Bolzano (1781–1848) taught about the social waste of militarism and the needlessness of war. He urged a total reform of the educational, social, and economic systems that would direct the nation's interests toward peace rather than toward armed conflict between nations.
Leo Tolstoy was another fervent advocate of pacifism. In one of his latter works The Kingdom of God is Within You, Tolstoy provides a detailed history, account and defense of pacifism. The book was a major early influence on Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869–1948) and the two engaged in regular correspondence while Gandhi was active in South Africa.
In Aotearoa aka New Zealand during the latter half of the 19th century British colonists used many tactics to confiscate land from the indigenous Māori, including warfare. In the 1870s and 1880s Parihaka, then reputed to be the largest Māori village in New Zealand, became the centre of a major campaign of non-violent resistance to European occupation of confiscated land in the area. One Ma-ori leader, Te Whiti-o-Rongomai, inspired warriors to stand up for their rights without using weapons, which had led to defeat in the past. In 1881 he convinced 2000 Maori to welcome battle-hardened British soldiers into their village and even offered food and drink. He allowed himself and his people to be arrested without resistance for opposing land confiscation. He is remembered as a great leader because the “passive resistance” he practiced prevented British massacres and even protected far more land than violent resistance.
Bertha von Suttner, first woman to be a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, became a leading figure in the peace movement with the publication of her novel, Die Waffen nieder! ("Lay Down Your Arms!") in 1889 and founded an Austrian pacifist organization in 1891.
Mohandas K. Gandhi was a major political and spiritual leader of India, and of the Indian independence movement. Grateful Indians christened him with the title “Mahatma” or “Great Soul.” He was the pioneer of a brand of nonviolence (or ahimsa) which he called satyagraha -- translated literally as "truth force". This was the resistance of tyranny through civil disobedience that was not only nonviolent, but sought to change the heart of the opponent. He contrasted this with duragraha - “resistant force” - which merely sought to change behaviour with stubborn protest.
During his thirty year leadership of the Indian Independence Movement from 1917 to 1947 Gandhi led dozens of nonviolent campaigns, spent over seven years in British prisons, and fasted nearly to the death on several occasions to obtain British compliance with a demand or to stop inter-communal violence. His efforts helped lead India to independence in 1947, and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom worldwide.
There was strong anti-war sentiment in Western Europe during the 19th century. Many socialist groups and movements were antimilitarist, arguing that war by its nature was a type of governmental coercion of the working class for the benefit of capitalist elites. The French socialist pacifist leader Jean Jaurès was assassinated by a nationalist fanatic on July 31, 1914. The national parties in the Second International increasingly supported their respective nations in war and the International was dissolved in 1916. Nevertheless many groups protested against the war, including the traditional peace churches, the Woman's Peace Party (which was organized in 1915 and led by noted reformer Jane Addams) and the International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace (ICWPP) (also organized in 1915). Other groups included the American Union Against Militarism, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and the American Friends Service Committee. Jeanette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, was another fierce advocate of pacifism, the only person to vote no to America's entrance into both World Wars.
In the aftermath of World War I there was a great revulsion against war, leading to the formation of War Resisters' International and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and in Britain the No More War Movement and the Peace Pledge Union (PPU). The League of Nations convened several disarmament conferences in the inter-war period.
The British Labour Party had a strong pacifist wing in the early 1930s and between 1931 and 1935 was led by George Lansbury, a Christian pacifist who later chaired the No More War Movement and was president of the PPU. The 1933 annual conference resolved unanimously to "pledge itself to take no part in war". "Labour's official position, however, although based on the aspiration towards a world socialist commonwealth and the outlawing of war, did not imply a renunciation of force under all circumstances, but rather support for the ill-defined concept of 'collective security' under the League of Nations. At the same time, on the party's left, Stafford Cripps's small but vocal Socialist League opposed the official policy, on the non-pacifist ground that the League of Nations was 'nothing but the tool of the satiated imperialist powers'." Lansbury was eventually persuaded to resign as Labour leader by the non-pacifist wing of the party and was replaced by Clement Attlee. As the threat from Nazi Germany increased in the 1930s, the Labour Party abandoned its pacifist position and supported re-armament, largely due to the efforts of Ernest Bevin and Hugh Dalton who by 1937 had also persuaded the party to oppose Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement.
The Spanish Civil War proved a major test for international pacifism, and the work of pacifist organisations (such as War Resisters' International and the Fellowship of Reconciliation) and individuals (such as José Brocca and Amparo Poch) in that arena has until recently been ignored or forgotten by historians, overshadowed by the memory of the International Brigades and other militaristic interventions. Shortly after the war ended, Simone Weil, despite having volunteered for service on the republican side, went on to publish The Iliad or the Poem of Force , a work that has been described as a pacifist manifesto.
With the start of World War II, pacifist and anti-war sentiment declined in nations affected by war. Even the communist-controlled American Peace Mobilization reversed its anti-war activism once Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, mainstream isolationist groups like the America First Committee, declined, though many smaller religious and socialist groups continued their opposition to war. Bertrand Russell argued that the necessity of defeating Adolf Hitler and the Nazis was a unique circumstance where war was not the worst of the possible evils; he called his position relative pacifism. H. G. Wells, who had joked after the armistice ending World War I that the British had suffered more from the war than they would have from submission to Germany, urged in 1941 a large-scale British offensive on the continent of Europe to combat Hitler and Nazism. Similarly Albert Einstein wrote: "'I loathe all armies and any kind of violence; yet I'm firmly convinced that at present these hateful weapons offer the only effective protection."
There were Conscientious objectors and war tax resisters in both World War I and World War II. The United States government did allow sincere objectors to serve in noncombatant military roles. However, those draft resisters who refused any cooperation with the war effort often spent much of each war in federal prisons. During World War II pacifist leaders like Dorothy Day and Ammon Hennacy of the Catholic Worker Movement urged young Americans not to enlist in military service.
Martin Luther King, Jr (1929–1968), a Baptist minister, led the American civil rights movement which successfully used Gandhian nonviolent resistance to repeal laws enforcing racial segregation and work for integration of schools, businesses and government. In 1957 his wife Coretta Scott King, Albert Schweitzer, Dr. Benjamin Spock and others formed the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (now Peace Action) to resist the nuclear arms race. In 1958 British activists formed the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament with Bertrand Russell as its president.
In 1960, Thich Nhat Hanh came to the U.S. to study comparative religion at Princeton University, and subsequently was appointed lecturer in Buddhism at Columbia University. Thich Nhat Hanh had written a letter to Martin Luther King in 1965 entitled: “Searching for the Enemy of Man” and during his 1966 stay in the U.S. met with King and urged him to publicly denounce the Vietnam War. King gave his famous speech at the Riverside Church in New York City in 1967, his first to publicly question the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
On December 1, 1948, President José Figueres Ferrer of Costa Rica abolished the Costa Rica’s military. In 1949, the abolition of the military was introduced in Article 12 of the Costa Rican Constitution. Unlike its neighbors, Costa Rica has not endured a civil war since 1948. Figueres later remarked with justifiable pride that such reforms gave Costa Rica a deeper and more human revolution than that of Cuba. The budget previously dedicated to the military now is dedicated to providing health care services and education.
According to the Ahmadiyya understanding of Islam, pacifism is a strong current, and jihad is one's personal inner struggle and should not be used violently for political motives. Violence is the last option only to be used to protect religion and one's own life in extreme situations of persecution. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, said that in contrary to the current views, Islam does not allow the use of sword in religion, except in the case of defensive wars, wars waged to punish a tyrant, or those meant to uphold freedom.
Ahmadiyya claims its objective to be the peaceful propagation of Islam with special emphasis on spreading the true message of Islam by the pen. Ahmadis point out that as per prophecy, who they believe was the promised messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, rendered the concept of violent jihad unnecessary in modern times. They believe that the answer of hate should be given by love.
Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith abolished holy war, and noted it as a central teaching of his faith. However, the Bahá'í Faith does not have an absolute pacifistic position. For example Bahá'ís are advised to do social service instead of active army service, but when this is not possible due to obligations in certain countries, the Bahá'í law of loyalty to one's government is preferred and the individual should perform the army service. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, noted that in the Bahá'í view, absolute pacifists are anti-social and exalt the individual over society which could lead to anarchy; instead he noted that the Bahá'í conception of social life follows a moderate view where the individual is not suppressed or exalted.
On the level of society, Bahá'u'lláh promotes the principle of collective security, which does not abolish the use of force, but prescribes "a system in which Force is made the servant of Justice." The idea of collective security from the Bahá'í teachings states that if a government violates a fundamental norm of international law or provision of a future world constitution which Bahá'ís believe will be established by all nations, then the other governments should step in.
Buddhist Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is a nonviolent pro-democracy activist and leader of the National League for Democracy in Myanmar (Burma). A devout Buddhist, Suu Kyi won the Rafto Prize and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1990 and in 1991 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her peaceful and non-violent struggle under a repressive military dictatorship. One of her best known speeches is the "Freedom From Fear" speech, which begins "It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it."
Christian peace churches
Peace churches are Christian denominations explicitly advocating pacifism. The term historic peace churches refers specifically to three church traditions: the Church of the Brethren, the Mennonites (and some other Anabaptists, such as Amish and Hutterites), and the Quakers (Religious Society of Friends). The historic peace churches have, from their origins as far back as the 16th century, always taken the position that Jesus was himself a pacifist who explicitly taught and practiced pacifism, and that his followers must do likewise. Pacifist churches vary on whether physical force can ever be justified in self-defense or protecting others, as many adhere strictly to nonresistance when confronted by violence. But all agree that violence on behalf of a country or a government is prohibited for Christians.
Jehovah's Witnesses, who are pacifistic in the sense that they refuse to participate in the armed services on the grounds that they believe Christians should not kill or harm other people and should remain neutral in such worldly conflicts. Other objections on their part can stem from a deep sense of responsibility toward humanity as a whole or from simple denial that any government has that kind of moral authority.
Because of their conscientious objection to participation in military service, whether armed or unarmed, Jehovah's Witnesses have often faced imprisonment or other penalties. In Greece, for example, before the introduction of alternative civilian service in 1997, hundreds of Witnesses were imprisoned, some for three years or more for their refusal. In Armenia, young Jehovah's Witnesses have been imprisoned because of their conscientious objection to military service. On the other hand, in Switzerland, virtually every Jehovah's Witness is exempted from military service, while the Finnish government exempts Jehovah's Witnesses from the draft completely. Most other countries that still have a draft make allowances for the Witnesses' well known position against warfare. In Singapore, many of Jehovah's Witnesses serve up to three years in prison for conscientious objection to military service.
Jay Beaman's thesis states that 13 of 21, or 62% of American Pentecostal groups formed by 1917 show evidence of being pacifist sometime in their history. Furthermore Jay Beaman has shown in his thesis that there has been a shift away from pacifism in the American Pentecostal churches to more a style of military chaplaincy and support of war. The major organisation for Pentecostal Christians who believe in pacifism is the PCPF, the Pentecostal Charismatic Peace Fellowship.
Mainstream Christian denominations
The Peace Pledge Union was a pacifist organisation from which the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship (A.P.F) later emerged within the Anglican Church. The APF succeeded in gaining ratification of the pacifist position at two successive Lambeth Conferences, though many Anglicans would not regard themselves as pacifists. South African Bishop Desmond Tutu is the most prominent Anglican pacifist. Rowan Williams led an almost united Anglican Church in Britain in opposition to the 2003 Iraq War. In Australia Peter Carnley similarly led a front of bishops opposed to the Australian Government's involvement in the invasion of Iraq.
The Catholic Worker Movement is concerned with both social justice and pacifist issues, and voiced consistent opposition to the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Many of its early members were imprisoned for their opposition to conscription. Within the Roman Catholic Church, the Pax Christi organisation is the premiere pacifist lobby group. It holds positions similar to APF and the two organisations are known to work together on ecumenical projects. Within Roman Catholicism there has been a discernible move towards a more pacifist position through the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Popes Benedict XV, John XXIII and John Paul II were all vocal in their opposition to specific wars. By taking the name Benedict XVI, some suspect that Joseph Ratzinger will continue the strong emphasis upon non-violent conflict resolution of his predecessor. However, the Roman Catholic Church officially maintains the legitimacy of Just War, which is rejected by some pacifists.
In the twentieth century there was a notable trend among prominent Roman Catholics towards pacifism. Individuals such as Dorothy Day and Henri Nouwen stand out among them. The monk and mystic Thomas Merton was noted for his commitment to pacifism during the Vietnam War era. Murdered Salvadoran Bishop Oscar Romero was notable for using non-violent resistance tactics and wrote meditative sermons focusing on the power of prayer and peace. School of the Americas Watch was founded by Maryknoll Fr. Roy Bourgeois in 1990 and uses strictly pacifist principles to protest the training of Latin American military officers by United States Army officers at the School of the Americas in the state of Georgia.
The Greek Orthodox Church also tends towards pacifism, though it has accepted defensive warfare through most of its history. However, more recently it took a strong stance towards the war in Lebanon and its large community there refused to take up arms during its civil wars. It also supports dialogue with Islam. In 1998 the Third Pre-conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference drew up a text on ‘the contribution of the Orthodox Church to the achievement of peace’ emphasizing respect for the human person and the inseparability of peace from justice. The text states in part: “Orthodoxy condemns war in general, for she regards it as a consequence of the evil and sin in the world.”
The Southern Baptist Convention has stated in the Baptist Faith and Message that: "It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war."
The United Methodist Church explicitly supports conscientious objection by its members "as an ethically valid position" while simultaneously allowing for differences of opinion and belief for those who do not object to military service.
Compassion for all life, human and non-human, is central to Jainism. Human life is valued as a unique, rare opportunity to reach enlightenment; to kill any person, no matter what crime he may have committed, is considered unimaginably abhorrent. It is a religion that requires monks and laity, from all its sects and traditions, to be vegetarian. Some Indian regions, such as Gujarat, have been strongly influenced by Jains and often the majority of the local Hindus of every denomination have also become vegetarian.
Some pre-Holocaust Hasidic groups were pacifist. The Jewish Peace Fellowship is a New-York based nonprofit, nondenominational organization set up to provide a Jewish voice in the peace movement. The organization was founded in 1941 in order to support Jewish conscientious objectors who sought exemption from combatant military service. It is affiliated to the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. The small Neturei Karta group of anti-Zionist, ultra-orthodox Jews, take a pacifist line, saying that "Jews are not allowed to dominate, kill, harm or demean another people and are not allowed to have anything to do with the Zionist enterprise, their political meddling and their wars."
Government and political movements
While many governments have tolerated pacifist views and even accommodated pacifists' refusal to fight in wars, others at times have outlawed pacifist and anti-war activity. During the periods between World Wars I and II, pacifist literature or public advocacy was banned in nations such as Italy under Mussolini, and Germany after the rise of Hitler. In these nations, pacifism was denounced as cowardice. The United States Congress passed the Sedition Act of 1918 because President Woodrow Wilson opposed dissent in time of war.
Today the United States requires that all young men register for selective service, but does not allow them to be classified as conscientious objectors unless they are drafted in some future reinstatement of the draft. It does permit enlisted personnel to become conscientious objectors, allowing them to be discharged or transferred to noncombatant status. Some European governments like Switzerland, Greece, Norway and Germany offer civilian service. However, even during periods of peace, many pacifists still refuse to register for or report for military duty, risking criminal charges.
Anti-war and “pacifist” political parties seeking to win elections may moderate their demands, calling for de-escalation or major arms reduction rather than the outright disarmament which is advocated by many pacifists. Once in power, parties have been known to drop their anti-war leanings. Green parties list " non-violence" and " decentralization" towards anarchist co-operatives or minimalist village government as two of their ten key values. However, in power, Greens like all politicians often compromise. The German Greens in the cabinet of Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder supported an intervention by German troops in Afghanistan in 2001, but on condition that they host the peace conference in Berlin. However, during the 2002 election Greens did force Schröder to swear that no German troops would invade Iraq.
The controversial democratic peace theory holds that liberal democracies have never (or rarely) made war on one another and that lesser conflicts and internal violence are rare between and within democracies. It also argues that the growth in the number of democratic states will, in the not so distant future, end warfare.
Some pacifists and multilateralists are in favour of the establishment of a world government as a means to prevent and control international aggression. Such a government would not have to worry about the UN veto being used by one of its members when it or one of its allies decides to agress on another nation, as currently is the case. While some unions, like the European Union, have been brought together peacefully, most large nation states have been united through war and held together by military action against secessionists.
The Italian Constitution enforces a 'mild' pacifist character on the Italian Republic, as Article 11 states that "Italy repudiates war as an instrument offending the liberty of the peoples and as a means for settling international disputes [...]". Similarly, Articles 24, 25 and 26 of the German Constitution (1949), Alinea 15 of the French Constitution (1946), Article 20 of the Danish Constitution (1953), Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution (1947) and several other mostly European constitutions correspond to the United Nations Charter by rejecting the institution of war, and favoring collective security and peaceful cooperation.
Pacifism and abstention from political activity
However, some pacifists, such as the Christian anarchist Leo Tolstoy and autarchist Robert LeFevre, consider the state a form of warfare. In addition, for doctrinal reason that a manmade government is inferior to divine governance and law, many pacifist-identified religious sects also refrain from political activity altogether, including the Anabaptists, Jehovah's Witnesses and Mandaeans. This means that such groups refuse to participate in government office or serve under an oath to a government.
Anarcho-pacifism (also pacifist anarchism or anarchist pacifism) is a form of anarchism which completely rejects the use of violence in any form for any purpose. The main precedent was Henry David Thoreau who through his work Civil Disobedience influenced the advocacy of both Leo Tolstoy and Mohandas Gandhi for nonviolent resistance. As a global movement, Anarchist pacifism emerged shortly before World War II in the Netherlands, Great Britain and the United States and was a strong presence in the subsequent campaigns for nuclear disarmament.
Violence has always been controversial in anarchism. While many anarchists during the 19th century embraced propaganda of the deed, Leo Tolstoy and other anarcho-pacifists directly opposed violence as a means for change. He argued that anarchism must by nature be nonviolent since it is, by definition, opposition to coercion and force, and that since the state is inherently violent, meaningful pacifism must likewise be anarchistic. His philosophy was cited as a major inspiration by Mohandas Gandhi, an Indian independence leader and pacifist who self-identified as an anarchist. Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis was also instrumental in establishing the pacifist trend within the anarchist movement. In France anti-militarism appeared strongly in individualist anarchist circles as Émile Armand founded "Ligue Antimilitariste" in 1902 with Albert Libertad and George Mathias Paraf-Javal.
Opposition to military taxation
Many pacifists who would be conscientious objectors to military service are also opposed to paying taxes to fund the military. In the United States, The National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund works to pass a national law to allow conscientious objectors to redirect their tax money to be used only for non-military purposes.
One common argument against pacifism is the possibility of using violence to prevent further acts of violence (and reduce the "net-sum" of violence). This argument hinges on the idea that the ends justify the means — that an otherwise morally objectionable action can be justified if it results in a positive outcome. For example, either violent rebellion, or foreign nations sending in troops to end a dictator's violent oppression may save millions of lives, even if many thousands died in the war. Most pacifists would oppose such violent action, arguing that nonviolent resistance should be just as effective and with a much lesser loss of life. Others would oppose organized military responses but support individual and small group self-defense against specific attacks if initiated by the dictator’s forces. Pacifists may argue that military action could be justified should it subsequently advance the general cause of peace.
Still more pacifists would argue that a non-violent reaction may not save lives immediately but would in the long run. The acceptance of violence for any reason makes it easier to use in other situations. Learning and committing to pacifism helps to send a message that violence is, in fact, not the most effective way. It can also help people to think more creatively and find more effective ways to stop violence without more violence.
Japanese, Italian and Nazi aggression that precipitated World War II often is citedas an argument against pacifism. If these forces had not been challenged and defeated militarily, the argument goes, many more people would have died under their oppressive rule. A frequently used quote is the apocryphal quote often incorrectly attributed to Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
By contrast, Hermann Göring described, during an interview at the Nuremberg Trials, how denouncing and outlawing pacifism was an important part of the Nazis' seizure of power: "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."
Pacifists can claim that the United States' entry into World War I broke the multi-year stalemate between Germany and the allies, ensuring an overwhelming victory rather than a negotiated settlement. This permitted the victors to bankrupt Germany with war reparations, leading to economic unrest that hastened the rise of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
Some commentators on the most nonviolent forms of pacifism, including Jan Narveson, argue that such pacifism is a self-contradictory doctrine. Narveson claims that everyone has rights and corresponding responsibilities not to violate others' rights. Since pacifists give up their ability to protect themselves from violation of their right not to be harmed, then other people thus have no corresponding responsibility, thus creating a paradox of rights. As Narveson puts it, “the prevention of infractions of that right is precisely what one has a right to when one has a right at all." Narveson then discusses how rational persuasion is a good but often inadequate method of discouraging an aggressor. He considers that everyone has the right to use any means necessary to prevent deprivation of their civil liberties and force could be necessary.
Many pacifists would argue that not only are there other ways to protect oneself, but that some of those ways are far more effective than violence, and that physical harm is not the only variety that can be done. Often pacifists would much rather take the physical harm inflicted by another rather than cause themselves emotional or psychological harm, not to mention harming the other.
The ideology and political practice of pacifism also have been criticized by the radical American activist Ward Churchill, in his essay, Pacifism as Pathology. Churchill argues that the social and political advancements pacifists claim resulted from non-violent action always have been made possible by concurrent violent struggles. In the late 1990s Churchill's work convinced many anarchist and left wing activists to adopt what they called "diversity of tactics" using " black bloc" formations that engage in property destruction and scuffles with police at larger mainstream protests.
The most powerful of many pacifist replies to Churchill was from American activist George Lakey, a founder of Movement for a New Society, in a detailed response to Pacifism as Pathology. Lakey quotes Martin Luther King in entitling his 2001 article Nonviolent Action as the Sword that Heals. However, he takes on Churchill's assumptions and reading of history from a pragmatic viewpoint, arguing the superiority of nonviolent action by describing "some movements that learned, from their own pragmatic experience, that they could wage struggle more successfully through nonviolent direct action than through violence."
In his book The End of Faith, Sam Harris argues that pacifism is a fallacy, combining hesitance with cowardice, in that the social context in which a pacifist can protest was created by the actions of direct activists. In the same philosophical chapter, he goes on to compare the collateral damage that could result from practicing torture with that resulting from errant bombing. He posits that if one is willing to accept the collateral damage that results from the incidental bombing of civilians on the one hand, one cannot denounce the collateral damage resulting from the accidental torture of the innocent on the other. He notes that the only difference between the two is that the revulsion one experiences when directly causing the suffering of another human being is more potent when done in person than when done from the safety of an aircraft or a command centre. He brings to light these similarities not to so much to argue for the potential use of torture in combat but to demonstrate the hideousness of both. Ultimately his book suggests just and humane action must be taken in order to reduce the total suffering of sentient beings.