]]]]]]]]]]]]         THE VIOLENT PACIFISTS           [[[[[[[[[[[
                (Book Review and Controversy)        (1/29/1989)   
Peace and Revolution: The Moral Crisis of American Pacifism.  By
   Guenter Lewy.  Eerdmans.  282 pp.  $19.95.

                   Reviewed by Rael Jean Isaac

            [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

[Rael Jean Isaac is co-author  (with Erich Isaac) of The Coercive
Utopians, and is currently at work  with Virginia Armat on a book
about the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill.]

  [From Commentary, Vol. 86, No. 3 (September 1988), pp. 62-64]

   A better subtitle for this  valuable book would be ``The Moral
Collapse of American Pacifism.''  The  moral crisis is long past.
In  painstaking detail,  Guenter Lewy  describes how  that crisis
came  to  a  head  during the  Vietnam  war,  ending  in  a total
breakdown of  pacifist principle  within the  four major pacifist
organizations: the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the
Fellowship  of  Reconciliation (FOR),  the  War  Resisters League
(WRL), and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
(WILPF).  All four now work cozily with Communist fronts and form
part  and  parcel of  the  various  radical ``peace-and-justice''
coalitions that advocate  disarmament at home  and the triumph of
Third World Marxist-Leninist insurgencies abroad.
   The four major  organizations were born  during or immediately
after World War I, and  from the beginning there were ideological
stresses  within them.   Lewy shows,  indeed, that  the arguments
that would undermine pacifism in  the 1960's were raised as early
as  the  1920's, when  the  new organizations  faced  their first
crisis, the temptation of Marxism.
   Thus, in a  landmark 1928 essay  entitled ``Pacifism and Class
War,'' A.J.  Muste, for  many years  the most  prominent American
pacifist, expanded the definition of  the sorts of violence which
pacifists  should  oppose;  they  now  included  ``the  economic,
social, political  order in which  we live.''  At  the same time,
Muste excused the violence  perpetrated by those fighting against
the American ``order,'' by initiating  what was later to become a
favorite device of pacifist  authors: a ``calculus'' of violence.
Ninety  percent  of the  viomwnce  in  the world,  he  wrote, was
perpetrated by  the forces  of the  status quo;  it was therefore
``ludicrous''  for people  to focus  on  the 10  percent actively
committed  by  those  rebelling   against  a  repressive  system.
Similarly, in  1933 Devere Allen  argued that  ``all the violence
that Communism in this country advocates and desires is as a drop
in the creek as compared with the violence which we live under in
the present economic system.''
   As Lewy shows, the pacifist organizations weathered this first
crisis,  aided by  the strong  consensus  of the  membership that
violence of any kind must never  be condoned.  A 1933 poll of the
membership  of  the  Fellowship   of  Reconciliation  produced  a
lopsided majority of 877 to 93 opposing class violence as well as
international violence.  Those insistent upon Marxist doctrine --
in  the  case  of  the  FOR   they  at  one  point  included  the
organization's executive secretary, J.B.  Matthews -- were forced
to resign.
   In fact,  up to  the early  1960's the  pacifist organizations
remained  clear-headed in  recognizing  that Communists  were not
proper allies.  Each of  the organizations issued statements like
the FOR's 1940 declaration that
   the Communist  party rejects pacifism  in principle.... For
   the  FOR  to  be  associated   with  the  CP  in  ``antiwar
   activities''  could  therefore only  confuse  multitudes of
   people as  to our  aim and  function and  thus stultify our
But  all this  was to  crumble in  the face  of the  second moral
crisis of the pacifists, the Vietnam War.
   In the course of that war, or rather in the course of American
involvement in it,  the organizations, open  partisans of a North
Vietnamese victory,  abandoned their  opposition to participating
in united fronts with Communists.   The arguments rejected in the
1930's now became cornerstones of pacifist thought.  In 1970, the
national  council  of  FOR,  invoking  the  increasingly familiar
``calculus''  of violence,  adopted  a statement  exonerating the
behavior of the radical New Left fringe: ``Santa Barbara students
who burned a branch  of the Bank of  America ... committed a very
mild  act  of  violence  in  comparison  with,  for  example, the
dropping of 12,000 tons of bombs on South Vietnam by the American
high  command.''  Similarly,  WILPF  president Kay  Camp insisted
that the impetuous  acts of America's youth  could not be equated
``with the institutionalized violence of our government.''
   Like  the distinction  pointed out  earlier  by A.J.  Muste, a
distinction came to be drawn at this time between the violence of
the oppressor and the violence of  the oppressed, which had to be
``understood''  and judged  in different  terms.  According  to a
1968  statement by  the War  Resisters International  (the parent
body  of  the  American  WRL),  the  violence  of  Americans  was
``criminal'' while that of the  oppressed at home and abroad, was
``tragic.''   WRL's  Dave  Dellinger  declared  that  he  did not
repudiate or oppose ``the violence of the victims.''
   Within  each of  the organizations,  as Lewy  documents, there
were  warnings  that  pacifism  was  being  undermined  by  these
standards, but  the warnings  were ignored.   Albert Hassler, the
long-time  executive secretary  of the  FOR,  wrote in  1968 that
terms  like ``the  violence  of the  status  quo'' were  having a
subversive effect, and that pacifists were becoming believers, if
not in ``just  war,'' then in  ``just revolutions.''  Jim Forest,
also of the  FOR, wondered about  ``the collapse of  our faith in
the pacifist insight:  that the means control  the quality of the
end.''  But the  opponents of the new  trend were fatally hobbled
because they agreed  with the majority about  the war in Vietnam,
where  (in   Hassler's  words)   the  United   States  was  doing
``obscenely  indecent things.''   This  made them  hesitant about
pressing their case, either  inside or outside the organizations.
Once they saw  that their views were  repudiated by the majority,
they remained quiet or, at best, bowed out.
   Since the end of the war, the pacifist organizations have gone
on  to become  mere apologists  for  a series  of ``progressive''
regimes and  terrorist bands.  Lewy  details the  depths to which
they  sank  in the  immediate  post-Vietnam era.   As  reports of
oppression in ``liberated'' Vietnam reached the West and the seas
became filled with boat people, the pacifist organizations simply
denied that any human-rights violations were taking place at all.
When  a number  of former  antiwar activists,  led by  Joan Baez,
published an open letter to  the government of Vietnam protesting
its treatment of dissidents, leaders  of the WILPF (including its
president and vice  president) signed a  counter-statement in the
New York Times  declaring that Vietnam  ``now enjoys human rights
as it has never known in history.''
   Even  the massacres  taking place  in  Cambodia under  Pol Pot
failed to stir  a response.  According to  John McAuliff, head of
the AFSC's  Indochina program, accusations  against the Cambodian
regime were part of an American ``misinformation'' campaign aimed
at  discrediting  ``the  example   of  an  alternative  model  of
development and social organization.''  Not until Vietnam invaded
[December  1978]   and  seized   Cambodia  [January   1979],  and
publicized the  atrocities of  the Pol  Pot regime,  did the AFSC
admit to the horrors that had  occurred, and even then it put the
primary blame for the fate of Cambodia on the United States.
   The  policy of  working in  coalition with  groups professedly
dedicated to  ``peace and justice''  has led  to the preposterous
spectacle  of  WRL  participation  an  a  1984  Libyan-influenced
``peace'' conference in  Malta.  Many delegates  came with Libyan
financing,   and  Qaddafi's   Green   Book  was   distributed  to
participants.  In his report  on the conference, David McReynolds
of the WRL argued: ``Rather than being frightened by the Libyans,
.. should we not welcome  the fact that revolutionary movements,
including   the  Libyans,   are   interested  in   dialogue  with
nonviolence movements?''  A similar  disposition has informed the
multifaceted activities of the  various pacifist organizations in
Central America,  where again  they have  made common  cause with
radical forces openly espousing and engaging in violence.
   In short, most leaders of pacifist organizations today seem to
share the sentiments expressed by a leader of the WRL: ``There is
one crime worse than murder: to retire from the revolution.''
   In Peace and  Revolution Guenter Lewy  has written a scholarly
rather than a polemical book,  and throughout he is determined to
let the facts tell  their own story.  It  is thus to be regretted
that  instead  of  telling that  story,  which  is  an inherently
fascinating one, he proceeds instead  by dealing with each of the
organizations separately, chronicling its rhetoric and activities
on a variety of issues, zigzagging back and forth in time.  Since
the   differences   in  perspective   and   behavior   among  the
organizations  are  quite   minor,  this  makes   for  an  unduly
cumbersome and repetitive  structure.  Moreover, important topics
tend  to  get lost  or  diffused.   There are,  for  example, two
chapters  nominally  devoted  to   dissent  within  the  pacifist
organizations, yet in neither one  of them is the topic discussed
with  thoroughness;  most  of  the  coverage  of  dissent  occurs
disjointedly throughout the book  in connection with stands taken
by each of the organizations on specific issues.
   The weakness  of Lewy's  approach is  evident as  well when he
comes  in  the last  chapter  to  examine the  moral  dilemmas of
pacifist  witness in  a democratic  order.   Here he  argues that
pacifists  have  a legitimate  role  to  play as  bearers  of the
humanitarian conscience,  reminding the  rest of  us of  the link
between means and ends.  As Lewy writes: ``The pacifist vision of
a world free of the threat of  war can help build support for the
development   of   an   ordered   political   community   at  the
international  level  able to  resolve  conflicts  peacefully and
justly.''   But  --  he  goes  on  --  when  pacifists  enter the
political arena to propose policies for their nation, they become
subject  to what  Weber called  the ``ethic  of responsibility,''
which involves taking into account the realities of power and the
likely  consequences of  political  decisions: the  policies they
advocate  must  be  judged  by  their  results.   Finally,  while
pacifists  may,  for   themselves,  ``seek  individual  salvation
through ethical  absolutism and purity,''  they have  no right to
sacrifice others to this vocation.
   There can be no quarrel with any of this.  But on the basis of
his own evidence, Lewy could  have gone much further in exploring
the corrupting consequences that ensue when pacifists destroy the
traditional meaning of violence in  order to endorse the violence
of those they favor.  The reasoning  goes like this: if, as David
McReynolds  maintains, the  violence of  unemployment is  as real
``as  napalm   falling  on   Vietnam,''  then   it  is   no  more
reprehensible to work to bring  down a government adjudged guilty
of  causing  unemployment  than  to  permit  it  to  continue  in
existence; indeed, it may be  less so, because a ``small'' amount
of  ``just''  violence  can  lead  to  the  overall  lessening of
violence in the world.  In this way do self-styled pacifists move
from abhorring to advocating violence.
   Increasingly, indeed,  violence has  become the  touchstone by
which pacifists identify those worthy of their support.  The more
violent  a group,  the  more just  its  cause must  be  -- always
provided, of  course, that  the cause  is ``progressive.''  Thus,
all four pacifist organizations identify with the PLO, a movement
whose declared  goal is the  destruction of a  national state and
the removal of most of its present inhabitants.
   The logic of their  position forces the pacifist organizations
to encourage and  support ever higher levels  of violence, for if
peace  depends on  the elimination  of  the injustices  they have
identified, the more  violence is directed  towards this end, the
closer  we  will  come  to  peace.   Meanwhile,   of  course, the
pacifists  themselves  sit  on  the  sidelines,  applauding.  ``I
advocate  nonviolence.   I   practice  nonviolence,''  says  Dave
Dellinger; but, he goes  on, the traditional nonviolent movement,
``has been much too passive and much too ineffective and I am not
interested in  the purity  of the  movement.  I  am interested in
social effectiveness.''   Given the  new ground  rules, pacifists
can  simultaneously  pursue  revolution  and  underground warfare
while  retaining  their  pacifist virtue  --  the  ultimate moral
   That despite their evolution  the major pacifist organizations
have continued  to enjoy credibility  with so many  people -- the
AFSC raises millions  of dollars annually on  the strength of its
humanitarian  image  --  is  one  of  the  scandals  of  American
political  life.   In  helping  to  expose  the  true  theory and
practice  of  pacifist  organizations  today,  Guenter  Lewy  has
performed a vital public service.

[From Commentary, Vol. 87, No. 1 (Jan 1989), Letters, pp. 14-15]

                            The AFSC
[An AFSC member answers:]
To the Editor of Commentary:
   Rael Jean  Isaac's review of  Peace and  Revolution: The Moral
Crisis of  American Pacifism  by Guenter  Lewy [Books  in Review,
September 1988]  ... contains several  incorrect assertions about
the American  Friends Service Committee  (AFSC).  As  one who has
worked with AFSC staff members over  a number of years, I wish to
correct these assertions.
   Mrs. Isaac states  that there has been  ``a total breakdown of
pacifist  principle'' within  the  AFSC.  In  fact,  however, the
policy of the  AFSC board of directors  states: ``The AFSC stands
firm on its Quaker heritage in denying the legitimacy of violence
however  extreme  the  provocation.  We  have  not  and  will not
formulate  a  theory  of  `acceptable'  revolutionary violence.''
This particular  formulation was adopted  in January  1891; it is
consistent  with  longstanding  policies  of  the  AFSC.   In  my
experience working with the AFSC,  this policy is well understood
and implemented by staff members.
   Mrs.  Isaac  states  that, according  to  the  AFSC  and other
pacifist groups,  ``The more violent  a group, the  more just its
cause  --  always   provided,  of  course,   that  the  cause  is
`progressive.' ''   On the  contrary, the  AFSC puts  much effort
into promoting groups  attempting to operate  peacefully in areas
where  violence  is  endemic.   For  example,  the  AFSC  aided a
civilian hospital in South Vietnam, spending nearly $2 million in
eight years.  A far smaller sum (15 percent of total wartime aid)
was spent on medical aid to North Vietnam and the NLF.  AFSC work
in North Vietnam enabled many contacts between American POW's and
their families.
   It is not the case that  the AFSC ``identifies with the PLO.''
The AFSC  does acknowledge this  group as  a major representative
voice of Palestinians, without condoning its actions.
   It  is  indeed  the  case that  the  AFSC  maintains  a Quaker
tradition of pacifism broader than that of Guenter Lewy.  Quakers
define  pacifism  not  simply  as  ``refusal  to  kill,''  but as
``nonviolent  opposition to  injustice.''   It is  this principle
that led  Quakers to early  opposition to  slavery, including the
establishment  of the  ``underground  railroad.''  When  the AFSC
equates economic  injustice with  violent injustice,  it would be
illogical to conclude that the  former justifies the latter.  The
correct  conclusion,  which  Quakers  well  understand,  is  that
economic injustice is  to be opposed  peacefully, just as violent
injustice is to be opposed peacefully....
   Mrs. Isaac correctly notes that  ``the AFSC raises millions of
dollars  annually on  the strength  of its  humanitarian image.''
One reason for this success is the personal contact maintained by
AFSC staff  members, who make  regular visits  to Quaker meetings
and to the homes of contributors.   The AFSC also reports its own
views  through editorials  in  the Quaker  Service  Bulletin.  In
Peacework, the New  England AFSC reports on  the views of various
groups unpopular in  this country, so  that alternative views may
be heard  and judged.   Peacework carries  a disclaimer  that the
views reported are not necessarily those of the AFSC.
   The  AFSC has  always been  acutely interested  in responsible
criticism of its work, from  within the Quaker community and from
outside.  It is unfortunate that Mrs. Isaac and Guenter Lewy have
chosen  to  frame  their  critique  in  a  way  that  denies  the
considerable achievements of this organization.
                                              Joan L. Slonczewski
Kenyon College
Gambier, Ohio

Rael Jean Isaac writes:
   Joan   L.    Slonczewski   identifies    ``several   incorrect
assertions''  in  my review:  she  claims  there has  not  been a
breakdown of  pacifist principle  in the  AFSC; it  only promotes
groups operating ``peacefully'' in violent areas; and it does not
identify with the PLO.
   The  problem  is  not that  the  AFSC  has  abandoned pacifist
principles;  it  continues  to   profess  in  its  brochures  and
resolutions that ``violence can never be right.''  The problem is
the chasm between the AFSC's profession and its practice.
   Far from promoting peaceful groups  in violent areas, the AFSC
has  acted,  as  Guenter Lewy  has  painstakingly  documented, as
advocate  and  apologist  for the  world's  most  brutal regimes,
including  Vietnam in  the era  of the  boat people  and Cambodia
during the murderous frenzy of Pol Pot.
   As for the AFSC's labors on  behalf of the PLO, these could be
the subject of a  volume in itself (and  have been the subject of
two  essays in  Midstream in  November 1979  and a  pamphlet, The
Friendly Perversion, published  by Americans for  a Safe Israel).
 The AFSC's Middle East program,  with full-time staff in regional
offices around the  country, for the past  fifteen years has sent
speakers  on  Israel  across   the  nation,  coordinated  pro-PLO
conferences, distributed  ``peace packets''  whose import  was to
condone  PLO  terrorism  and  declare  that  satisfaction  of PLO
demands  was  the  only solution  to  the  Middle  East conflict,
conducted training sessions  on countering the  Israel lobby with
media and  legislators.  In  Israel itself,  the AFSC  operated a
Community  Information   and  Legal  Aid   Center,  ostensibly  a
social-service agency.  Its former director, Jean de Muralt, told
me in  1977 that 95  percent of  the cases handled  by the center
were  ``political  prisoners,''  i.e.,  those  arrested  for  PLO
activity.  De Muralt  told me candidly: ``We  help the small fry.
The  big people  have their  own connections  and don't  need our
   Behind the  pacifist mask the  AFSC is  simply another radical
left-wing  organization.  The  journal  Peacework, to  which Miss
Slonczewski refers, provides  a good example  of the AFSC's modus
operandi.   Using the  transparent  device of  the ``disclaimer''
(Peacework presents the views  of ``unpopular groups''), the AFSC
publishes a typical pro-revolutionary newsletter.
   The AFSC's failure to practice the pacifism it preaches should
be  a  matter  of  deep concern  to  the  Quaker  community.  For
non-pacifists,  the  primary  significance  of  the  AFSC's moral
collapse lies elsewhere.  For many  Americans the AFSC has seemed
to offer a shining ideal, a  vision of a just and humane society,
the hope  of a  better way  toward which  non-pacifists too could
strive.  Rufus M.  Jones, the renowned Quaker  leader who was one
of those  who created  the AFSC  in 1917  and then  served as its
chairman, described  its task  as taking  on ``the  burden of the
world's  suffering  in  stricken areas  around  the  globe.''  In
Jones's words,  ``We have  not only  fed the  hungry, clothed the
naked, and built  homes for the  homeless, but we  have shared in
some degree in the lives of the sufferers, helped to create a new
spirit within them, and we  have at least endeavored to interpret
and transmit a constructive way of life.''
   The many Americans  who believe the AFSC  continues to work in
the tradition of Rufus Jones are deceived and betrayed.

                    *        *        *

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