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D.6. Protests Against Militarism

Volume Two -> D. Peace Movements Since 1945 -> D.6. Protests Against Militarism

Peace campaigners have also engaged in many activities which do not fall within either the categories of conscientious objection/draft resistance or opposition to nuclear weapons. There have for example been relatively successful campaigns to ban landmines and to achieve a treaty regulating the sale of arms, to prevent sales to repressive regimes or aggressors in wars. Much of this activity involves education and publicity or meetings, petitions and lobbying. But there is also a wide range of direct action, for example resistance to the siting or extension of military bases or firing ranges. A transnational movement against the arms trade includes both publicizing the extent and nature of the trade and regular demonstrations and blockades at arms fairs. In Britain the Campaign Against the Arms Trade publishes details of protests in CAAT News, and Peace News reports on demonstrations. The success of the international Stop the Shipments campaign in halting South Korean tear gas supplies to Bahrain (engaged in repressing internal protest) was celebrated in Peace News No. 2566 (Feb. 2014), pp. 1 and 6.

One important development since the 1990s has been the launching of global campaigns (drawing on a wide range of existing campaigning groups and mainstream NGOs) that enlist support from sympathetic governments to craft a UN treaty. This approach was initiated by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines in the 1990s and taken up by those pressing for the Arms Trade Treaty achieved in 2013. It is being used by a new coalition with the aim of banning AWS (autonomous weapon systems): the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. Critics of this approach query the usefulness of those treaties that can be achieved (given the military and economic priorities of many states) - a criticism directed especially at the Arms Trade Treaty. The most militarily powerful states (and those engaged in long term conflicts) also tend not to sign conventional arms control treaties. But there is also a case for maintaining a process of extending arms control under UN auspices; and the existence of a treaty can be used by civil society groups and protesters to exert political pressure, and to appeal to international law. 

Archiwal, Ahmadullah, Afghanistan: The Helmand Peace March, Two Years On, International Center on Non-Violent Conflict, 2020

Provides detailed account of the development of an Afghan peace movement after March 26 2018, after dozens of football fans were killed by a Taliban car bomb in Lashkargah, capital of Helmand province. Members of their families launched a protest that included pitching tens and going on hunger strike. Protesters included women, the disabled and the old. The movement also made specific demands for a ceasefire during Ramadan, further ceasefires, creating a political framework acceptable to all Afghan groups, and promoting the ultimate withdrawal of international military forces.   

See also: Abed, Fahim, ‘Afghan peace marchers meet the Taliban and find ‘people just like us’, The New York Times, 10 June 2019.

See also: Hassan, Sharif, ‘After 17 years of war, a peace movement grows in Afghanistan’, The Washington Post, 18 August 2018.

Caldecott, Leonie, At the foot of the mountain: The Shibokusa women of Mount Fuji, In Jones, Keeping the Peace (F.6. War and Women's Resistance), London, The Women's Press, pp. 98-107

Account of prolonged struggle to recover agricultural land occupied by US forces in 1945 and later retained by Japanese armed forces.

Cameron, Maxwell A. ; Lawson, Robert J. ; Tomlin, Brian W., To Walk Without Fear: The Global Movement to Ban Landmines, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 512

This book was published soon after December 1997, when over 120 states (excluding the USA, Russia, China, India and  Pakistan) signed the Ottawa Convention to ban production, stockpiling and use of anti-personnel mines. It provides a wide ranging survey of both the global campaign and the diplomatic moves culminating in  the 'Ottawa process', which, under Canadian government leadership, resulted in the treaty.  There are contributions from leading campaigners, diplomats and academics.

Cockburn, Andrew, Kill Chain: Drones and the Rise of High-Tech Assassins, London, Verso, 2015, pp. 336 (pb)

Critical assessment of today's 'military industrial complex' and also the role of drones in the US wars in Afghanistan and in targeting 'terrorists'.  Cockburn documents the technological failings of drones, often unable to distinguish targeted individuals from others nearby, and the 'trigger-happy' attitudes of some soldiers using them.  Both led to numerous mistaken deaths.

See also: Frew, Joanna, 'Drone Wars: the next generation', Peace News , 2618-2619, June-July 2018, p. 4.

Frew summarizes a new report, issued by Drone Wars UK, on development and use of armed drones by a 'second generation' of nine states (including  China, Iran and Turkey) and several non-state actors developing and using armed drones.  (The first group was the US, UK and Israel.)  The report also estimates that a further 11 states would soon be deploying drones, and that China was increasing export of them.  Frew stresses the urgent need for international controls, and queries whether existing controls on exports (already being undermined in the US) were adequate.                                                           

Deming, Barbara, San Francisco to Moscow: Why they walk, In Deming, Revolution and Equilibrium (A. 1.a.ii. Theories of Civil Disobedience, Power and Revolution), New York, Grossman, pp. 51-59

(Article originally published in the Nation 15 July.)

See also: Deming, Barbara , San Francisco to Moscow: Why the Russians let them in In Deming, Revolution and Equilibrium (A. 1.a.ii. Theories of Civil Disobedience, Power and Revolution)New York, Grossman, 1971, pp. 60-72

Faulkner, Frank, Moral Entrepreneurs and the Campaign to Ban Landmines, Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2007, pp. 244

Faulkner argues that the 'bottom up' international campaign, and the cooperation between leading activists and sympathetic government officials, provides a model for a way of achieving arms control. The campaign succeeded in changing policies on anti-personnel mines in 130 countries.

Lyttle, Brad, You Come with Naked Hands: The Story of the San Francisco to Moscow March for Peace, Raymond NH, Greenleaf Books, 1966, pp. 246

Participant’s account of march for disarmament organized by the Committee for Nonviolent Action. After marching across the USA the participants walked in Britain, Belgium and West Germany (they were debarred from entering France). But they were allowed to enter the Soviet bloc to travel through parts of the GDR, Poland and the USSR.

Mack, Daniel ; Wood, Brian, Civil Society and the Drive towards an Arms Trade Treaty, background paper published by UNIDIR, 2012, pp. 1-29

An informative and detailed account of how the proposal for an Arms Trade Treaty to set international standards and controls upon the sale of arms, promoted in the 1990s by NGOs (such as Oxfam and Amnesty International) and by prominent individuals, for example Nobel Peace laureates, gained governmental support. The goal was not to stop all arms exports, but the more limited one of setting international standards for controlling sale of arms to strengthen national rules and to prevent weapons from intensifying conflicts or worsening human rights abuses. The Treaty was agreed at the UN General Assembly in April 2013 by 157 states, including the US under President Obama.    

See also: Campaign Against the Arms Trade, 'Issues - Arms Trade Treaty'

CAAT notes that the Arms Trade Treaty came into force in December 2014 when ratified by 50 states (including the UK), but explains their scepticism about the concept of a 'responsible' arms trade.  CAAT claims the UK approves licenses which contravene the approved guidelines. and it should stop promoting arms sales  A number of other sources sceptical about the Treaty are listed. 

See also: 'Canada, ‘Canada joins the Arms Trade Treaty while still selling arms to Saudi Arabia’, Oxfam, 16 May 2019

Oxfam comments that whilst Canadian eventual accession to the Treaty is a major victory for civil society, the government has not made moves to cancel its $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, despite the Saudi record on human rights (denounced by the Trudeau government) and the Saudi role in the war in Yemen.

See also: Pecquet, Julian, ‘UN Approval of Arms Trade Treaty sets up Obama, Senate Showdown’, The Hill,  2 April 2013

Commentary on the domestic political context of  Obama’s decision to back the Arms Trade Treaty, opposed by 53 Senators and the National Rifle Association.  In the light of domestic opposition the Obama Administration had delayed support for the UN treaty in the run-up to the November 2012 election.  Pecquet also notes that the treaty passed with 154 votes; three countries opposed – North Korea, Syria and Iran – and 23 abstained.

Olabuenaga, Pablo, Why the Arms Trade Treaty Matters - and Why it Matters that the US is Walking Away, Just Security, 08/05/2019,

The author, who was a member of the Mexican government delegation throughout the negotiations for the Treaty, explains the significance of detailed provisions of the Treaty, and its overall importance as a multilateral arms control treaty. He also notes the close links between the Mexican and US delegations during the talks.

Packard, George R., Protest in Tokyo: The Security Treaty Crisis of 1960, Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press, 1966, pp. 423

Includes coverage of petitions, strikes and demonstrations of May-June 1960 with emphasis on role of Zengakuren student organization.

Purssell, Richard ; Goodey, Jan, Smash EDO: The inside story of activists' battle against arms giant, The Ecologist, 20/03/2012,

Detailed account of campaign against the EDO Corporation in Brighton that started in 2004 and included numerous acts of symbolic protest and direct action such  as lock-ons and roof occupations, and resulted in a dramatic trial in March 2010 after protesters broke into the factory and destroyed equipment to 'decommission' the plant (which they believed supplied equipment to the Israeli Air Force) during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in 2009. The court allowed eyewitness evidence of the scale of destruction in Gaza in support of the defendants' case that they were lawfully trying  to prevent a war crime, and the jury acquitted them. The campaign was also boosted earlier by the banning of an activist film, which many people then wanted to see, publicity about police infiltration of the activists, and the launching of a judicial review in the High Court by an 86 year old protester of his inclusion on the 'National domestic extremist' database.

Purves, Bill, Living with Landmines: From International Treaty to Reality, Montreal, Black Rose Books, 2001, pp. 208

Purves focuses on a key issue in the campaign to ban landmines: the long term dangers of death and mutilation for tens of thousands of civilians from antipersonnel mines used in battle and left on the ground; and the urgency - stressed by campaigners for the Landmines Treaty - of clearing millions of these mines around the world. The book reports on some progress, but also some major problems.

Quinsaat, Sharon, Movement “Branding” in the Japanese Anti-War Protests, Mobilizing Ideas, 08/03/2016,

Focuses on the moderate non-partisan Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALD), examining its origins and scope and its roots in the humanitarian catastrophes of World War Two, especially Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

See also: McCurry, Justin, ‘New generation of Japanese anti-war protesters challenge Abe’, The Guardian, 16 September 2015.

Reports on the reasons given by young SEALD members for joining the movement.

See also: Takenaka, Kiyoshi, ‘Huge protest in Tokyo rails against PM Abe's security bills’, Reuters, 30 August 2015.

Rawlinson, Roger, Larzac: A Nonviolent Campaign of the 70s in Southern France, York, William Sessions, 1996, pp. 202

Story of the successful ten-year struggle of French farmers in Larzac to protect their land from military encroachment. The Gandhian pacifists at the Community of the Arch, and industrial and professional unions played a role in the struggle. An earlier account is: Rawlinson, Roger , Larzac: A Victory for Nonviolence London, Quaker Peace and Service, , 1983, pp. 43 . See also: Rawlinson, Roger , The battle of Larzac In Hare; Blumberg, Liberation without Violence: A Third Party Approach (A. 5. Nonviolent Intervention and Accompaniment)London, Rex Collings, 1977, pp. 58-72

Rich, Motoko, A Pacifist Japan Starts to Embrace the Military, New York Times, 29/08/2017,

Rich discusses whether public attitudes in Japan to maintaining strict constitutional constraints on use of its military 'Self-Defence Forces' are changing. (The postwar constitution includes a clause to renounce war and Japanese policy has been based on a refusal to fight outside its borders, although it is closely allied to the US.) The article notes the consistent pressure from Conservative Prime Minister Abe to strengthen Japanese military power through increasing the budget, and his role in passing new security laws in 2015 that permitted for the first time Japanese troops to take part in combat overseas. It also notes there was strong popular resistance to the new security laws and that there are regular protests against US bases in Okinawa.

See also: 'Stop War': Thousands protest in Japan over military expansion law change', RT World News, 30 June  2014.

Rossdale, Chris, Resisting Militarism: Direct Action and the Politics of Subversion, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2019, pp. 288

Rossdale has studied a range of British campaigning groups taking radical forms of direct action to resist militarism and the arms trade, including the Campaign against Arms Trade and the broad coalition involved in Stop the Arms Fair. He describes some of their protests over the previous 15 years, such as peace camps, auctioning off a tank outside an arms fair and protesters supergluing themselves to the London offices of Lockheed Martin, and argues for the 'radical and ethical potential of prefigurative direct action'. He also develops a depiction of militarism from the standpoint of those resisting it, and examines the disagreements and debates between protesters, including the interpretation of nonviolence. Chapters cover feminist and queer anti-militarism, and the lack of racial diversity among the protesters.

Scharre, Paul, Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War, New York, W.W. Norton, 2018, pp. 448

An extensive examination of the possibilities and implications of artificial intelligence applied to the battlefield, from drones to 'killer robots', with varying degrees of autonomous ability to make decisions without human intervention. Scharre interviewed engineers creating new weapons and those in the military who might use them. He disagrees with campaigners seeking  a total ban, which he thinks impossible, arguing instead for ensuring a minimum degree of human involvement in their deployment.  

See also: Trying to Restrain the Robots', The Economist, 19 Sept. 2019, pp. 26-27.

A succinct examination of autonomous weapons and of issues arising, starting with the 'Harop' drone produced by Israeli Aerospace Industries, which can be classed as either a remote-controlled weapon or as an autonomous robot, depending on its software at the time. The article reports briefly on the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a coalition of 89 NGOs, and  concludes by noting that in 2017 the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons  (also known as  the Inhumane Weapons Convention, agreed  in 1980) appointed an expert group to examine the implications of autonomous weapons and different approaches to controlling their use. 

Sharkey, Noel, Killer Robots, New Internationalist, 2017, pp. 16-18

Sharkey, Professor of AI and robotics at Sheffield University, Chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control  and also spokesperson for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, sketches in the historical background to the evolution of Autonomous Weapons Systems, and dispels 'five myths about AWS'. He also briefly explains the evolution of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and how it had been keeping the issue 'on the table' at the UN since 2014.

See also: Chan, Melissa, 'Death to the Killer Robots', Guardian Weekly, 19 April 2019, pp. 30-31.

Report on role of Jody Williams and Mary Wareham, two leading activists in the Campaign to Ban Landmines, in promoting the new movement, the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which they recognize to be a much harder goal to achieve. Chan notes that Israel is already using advanced autonomous technology, for example to patrol the Gaza border. the US is testing advances in the technology, and Russia wants to create a battalion of killer robots. The campaigners were in Berlin because the German government had indicated concern about the issue, but had not been consistent, so their aim was to put pressure on Germany to act. 

Stavrianakis, Anna, Taking Aim at the Arms Trade: NGOs, Global Civil Society and the World Military Order, London, Zed Books, 2010, pp. 224

The author recognizes the pivotal role of NGOs in documenting and publicizing the suffering caused by the arms trade and its impact on human rights, fuelling conflicts and preventing development, as well as in pressing for international controls on the trade. But she is critical of the liberal ideology which defines NGO activity and justifies their intervention, which she sees as helping to perpetuate the hierarchy of a 'North' and 'South' world order.

Tikiri, Arms Fairs: A great time to show opposition to the death trade, Peace News, issue 2446, 03/03/2002,

Report by French activist on plans to protest at the biannual Eurosatory arms exhibition in Paris 17-20 June, along similar lines to earlier protests in 1998 and 2000.  Plans included a 'witness bearing peace vigil' and more noisy and colourful protests by Collectif Fermons Eurosatory, including nonviolent direct action. British arms trade activists had promised to join in, as they had since 1998. Britain and France, the two main arms exporters in Europe, each hosted regular trade fairs. 

See also: Poulden, David, 'Paris Arms Fair: 50 arrests', Peace News, 2632-3633, Aug.-Sept. 2019, p. 7.

Brief report on die-ins and other nonviolent direct action at Le Bourget airport by the Collectif des Desobeissants to highlight French arms used in the Yemen war.

Tsihsekedi, A., Stop the DSEI Arms Fair Report, rs21, 2019

A member of Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants gives an account of the varied protests, including  nonviolent direct action, and cultural events, that challenged the Arms Fair which exhibits the most recent range of weapons to thousands of potential buyers every two years in east London. A wide range of groups took part in the week-long resistance to the arms fair - Day 7 focused on borders and migration, noting how the weapons on display helped to displace many people.

Waldman, Sidney R. ; Richards, Susan ; Walker, Charles C., The Edgewood Arsenal and Fort Detrick Projects: an Exchange Analysis, Haverford PA, Center for Nonviolent Conflict Resolution, 1967, pp. 67

‘Exchange analysis’ between organizers of two protests against Chemical and Biological Weapons (CBW) weapons production, the first a 21 month campaign at Fort Detrick from January 1960, the second planting a tree inside the base.

Walker, Charles C., Culebra: Nonviolent action and the US Navy, In Hare; Blumberg, Liberation without Violence: A Third Party Approach (A. 5. Nonviolent Intervention and Accompaniment), London, Rex Collings, pp. 178-195

Resistance to the use of Puerto Rican island as a US Navy bombing and gunnery range. Recounts direct action by Puerto Ricans and development of transnational action, involving US Quakers, to build chapel on the island.

Wearing, David, Why Britain's Relationship with Saudi Arabia is about to Change, New Statesman, 27/06/2019,

Article following the Court of Appeal judgement that the British government had unlawfully approved arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite a clear risk that they would be used in Yemen contrary to international humanitarian law. Wearing comments on t he UK's historic support for Saudi Arabia since the 1920s and central role in providing military aircraft and weapons under both Conservative and Labour governments, despite a major fraud scandal under Mrs Thatcher over an arms deal.

See also:: Smith, Andrew, 'Saudi Arms Sales were Illegal Says Court', Peace News, 2632-26 33, Aug.-Sept. 2019, p. 5.

The media coordinator of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) sets out the case against arming Saudi Arabia to fight in Yemen - tends of thousands killed as result of bombing over previous four years and at least 4.7. billion pounds worth of fighter jets, bombs and missiles licensed for sale from the UK. Notes the British government has appealed against the verdict to the Supreme Court.

See also: 'About CAAT: Ending  the Arms Trade',

Sets out aims of campaign and details of organization and provides links  to the UK Court of Appeal ruling and other relevant issues

See also: 'Unions and  NGOs  Block Saudi Arms Ship', Peace News, 2630-2631, June-July 2019, p. 5.

Brief report on direct action by Italian dock workers from the CGiL union and activists from Potere al Popolo and peace groups in Genoa, who prevented generators being loaded onto the Bahri Yanbu, because they could be used in Yemen. The ship had previously been deterred from loading weapons  in France by two court cases launched by human rights groups against the shipment.

Williams, Jody ; Goose, Stephen D. ; Wareham, Mary, Banning Landmines: Disarmament, Citizen Diplomacy and Human Security, Lanham MD, Rowman and Littlefield, 2008, pp. 148 (pb)

The first half of  this book by leading campaigners for the ban is focused on assessing what has been done to implement the Treaty to ban anti-personnel mines. The second half examines the impact of the landmines campaign on issues such as cluster munitions and is ability rights, as well as assessing  the contribution to 'human security'.

See also: Williams, Jody, 'The International Campaign to Ban Landmines - A Model for Disarmament Initiatives?', Nobel Peace Prize 1997. 3 Sept 1999.

Writing almost two years after the Mine Ban Treaty was agreed at Ottawa and signed immediately by over 120 governments, Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work together with ICBL, notes the achievement of NGOs in getting a governmental ban on conventional weapons  in widespread use.  She discusses succinctly aspects of the five year campaign that could become a model for the future. Williams stresses the importance of the post-cold war global context; the loose structure of the ICBL as a coalition of other bodies, which was, nevertheless, able to meet regularly and plan strategy; and the role of face to face meetings in achieving close relationships between NGOs and sympathetic governments.     

See also: 'More Anti-Land Mine Work Ahead, say Nobel Prize Winners', CNN World News, 10 Dec. 1997.

Report quotes Williams on scale of  problem remaining - 'tends of millions of mines in 70 countries...affecting lives on a daily basis' - and notes Cambodia represented at the ceremony by land mine activist who had  lost his legs. CNN also summarizes speech by a former British soldier and ICBL activist on next steps: getting 40 countries to ratify to bring the treaty into effect, pressurizing major non-signatories and cleaning up the landmines on the ground.

Yeo, Andrew, Activists, Alliances and Anti-US Base Protests, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 240

Examines the impact of anti-base movements on politics, and the role of bilateral military alliances influencing results of protest. Findings drawn from interviews with activists, politicians and US base officials in the Philippines, Japan (Okinawa), Ecudaor, Italy and South Korea. See also: Yeo, Andrew , Anti-Base Movements in South Korea: Comparative Perspective on the Asia-Pacific The Asia Pacific Journal, 2010, pp. 39-73

Yeo, Andrew, Activists, Alliances and Anti-US Base Protests, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 240

Examines the impact of anti-base movements on politics, and the role of bilateral military alliances influencing results of protest. Findings drawn from interviews with activists, politicians and US base officials in the Philippines, Japan (Okinawa), Ecudaor, Italy and South Korea. See also: Yeo, Andrew , Anti-Base Movements in South Korea: Comparative Perspective on the Asia-Pacific The Asia Pacific Journal, 2010, pp. 39-73

See also:

Paul Routledge, Terrains of Resistance: Nonviolent Social Movements and the Contestation of Place in India, (A. 6. Nonviolent Action and Social Movements), on 1980s resistance in Orissa, India, to Baliapal missile testing range, pp 39-73.