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Introduction to Non-Violence online

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Series III: Number 1
July 1944.





Charles Boss, Jr. Isidor B. Hoffman
Henry J. Cadbury John Haynes Holmes
Allan Knight Chalmers E. Stanley Jones
Abraham Cronbach John Howland Lathrop
Albert E. Day Frederick J. Libby
Dorothy Day A. J. Muste
Edward W. Evans Ray Newton
Jane Evans Mildred Scott Olmsted
F. Burt Farquharson Kirby Page
Harry Emerson Fosdick Clarence E. Pickett
Harrop A. Freeman Guy W. Solt
Elmer A. Fridell Douglas V. Steere
Richard Gregg Dan West
Harold Hatch Norman Whitney
E. Raymond Wilson


The Pacifist Research Bureau is financed entirely by the contributions
of organizations and individuals who are interested in seeing this type
of research carried on. We trust that you may desire to have a part in
this positive pacifist endeavor to aid in the formulation of plans for
the world order of the future. Please make contributions payable to The
Pacifist Research Bureau, 1201 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia 7,
Pennsylvania. Contributions are deductible for income tax purposes.


"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,
"it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you _can_ make words mean
different things."

* * * * *

In the writings of pacifists and non-pacifists concerning theories of
and experiences with non-violence, there is a clear lack of uniformity
in the use of words.

The present booklet, introducing the Bureau's new series on _Non-Violent
Action in Tension Areas_, distinguished by green covers, critically
examines pacifist terminology. But it does more, for it analyzes various
types of non-violence, evaluates examples of non-violence referred to in
previous literature, and points to new sources of case material.

Dr. Theodore Paullin, Assistant Director of the Bureau, is the author of
this study. The manuscript has been submitted to and reviewed by
Professor Charles A. Ellwood and Professor Hornell Hart, both of the
Department of Sociology, Duke University; and by Richard B. Gregg,
author of several works on the philosophy and practice of non-violence.
Their criticisms and suggestions have proved most helpful, but for any
errors of interpretation the author is responsible.

The Pacifist Research Bureau frankly bases its work upon the philosophy
of pacifism: that man should exercise such respect for human personality
that he will employ only love and sacrificial good will in opposing evil
and that the purpose of all human endeavor should be the creation of a
world brotherhood in which cooperative effort contributes to the good of
all. A list of pamphlets published or in preparation appears on the back

Executive Director

_Any organization ordering 500 or more copies of any pamphlet published
by the Pacifist Research Bureau may have its imprint appear on the title
page along with that of the Bureau. The prepublication price for such
orders is $75.00 for each 500 copies._

* * * * *


Definition of Terms 5

Revolutionary Anarchism 10
Abraham Lincoln 11
The Church and War 11

Non-Violent Resistance to Invaders 13
Chinese Boycotts Against Foreigners 15
Egyptian Opposition to Great Britain 16

The Labor Strike 19
The Boycott 21
Non-Violent Coercion by the American Colonies 22
Irish Opposition to Great Britain After 1900 23
Strikes with Political Purposes 24
Non-Violence in International Affairs 24

The Origins of Satyagraha 26
The Process of Satyagraha 27
The Philosophy of Satyagraha 29
The Empirical Origins of Gandhi's Method 31
Non-Cooperation 32
Fasting 33
The American Abolition Movement 34

The Mennonites 37
The New England Non-Resistants 39
Tolstoy 41

Action in the Face of Persecution 44
Coercion or Persuasion? 46
Ministering to Groups in Conflict 47
The Power of Example 48
Work for Social Reform 49
Political Action and Compromise 50
The Third Alternative 51


* * * * *


The purpose of the present study is to analyze the various positions
found within the pacifist movement itself in regard to the use of
non-violent techniques of bringing about social change in group
relationships. In its attempt to differentiate between them, it makes no
pretense of determining which of the several pacifist positions is
ethically most valid. Hence it is concerned with the application of
non-violent principles in practice and their effectiveness in achieving
group purposes, rather than with the philosophical and religious
foundations of such principles. It is hoped that the study may help
individuals to clarify their thinking within this field, but the author
has no brief for one method as against the others. Each person must
determine his own principles of action on the basis of his conception of
the nature of the universe and his own scale of ethical values.

The examples chosen to illustrate the various positions have been taken
largely from historical situations in this country and in Europe,
because our traditional education has made us more familiar with the
history of these areas than with that of other parts of the world. It
also seemed that the possibilities of employing non-violent methods of
social change would be more apparent if it was evident that they had
been used in the West, and were not only applicable in Oriental
societies. It is unfortunate that this deliberate choice has eliminated
such valuable illustrative material as the work of Kagawa in Japan. The
exception to this general rule in the case of "Satyagraha" has been made
because of the wide-spread discussion of this movement in all parts of
the world in our day.

I want to acknowledge with great appreciation the suggestions I have
obtained from the preliminary work done for the Pacifist Research Bureau
in this field by Russell Curtis and Haridas T. Muzumdar.

July 1, 1944

* * * * *


* * * * *


"In the storm we found each other." "In the storm we clung together."
These words are found in the opening paragraphs of "_Hey! Yellowbacks!"
The War Diary of a Conscientious Objector_. Ernest L Meyer uses them to
describe the psychological process by which a handful of men - a few
professors and a lone student - at the University of Wisconsin grew into
unity because they opposed the First World War, when everyone around
them was being carried away in the enthusiasm which marked the first
days of American participation. If there had been no storm, they might
not have discovered their affinity, but as it was, despite the disparity
of their interests and backgrounds, they found themselves in agreement
on the most fundamental of their values, when all the rest chose to go
another way. By standing together they all gained strength for the
ordeals through which each must go, and they were filled with the spirit
of others before them and far removed from them, who had understood life
in the same way.[1]

The incident may be taken as symbolic of the experience through which
pacifists have gone in this Second World War, too. Men and women of many
creeds, of diverse economic backgrounds, of greatly divergent
philosophies, with wide variations in education, have come together in
the desire to sustain one another and aid one another in making their
protest against war. Each in his own way has refused to participate in
the mass destruction of human life which war involves, and by that
refusal has been united by the strongest bonds of sympathy with those of
his fellows who have done likewise. But it is the storm that has brought
unity. When the skies clear, there will be a memory of fellowship
together, but there will also be a realization that in the half light we
have seen only one aspect of each other's being, and that there are
enormous differences between us. Our future hope of achieving the type
of world we want will demand a continuation of our sense of unity,
despite our diversities.

At present pacifism is no completely integrated philosophy of life. Most
of us would be hard pressed to define the term "pacifist" itself.
Despite the fact that according to the Latin origins of the word it
means "peace maker," it is small wonder that our non-pacifist friends
think of the pacifist as a negative obstructionist, because until the
time came to make a negative protest against the evil of war we
ourselves all too often forgot that we were pacifists. In other times,
if we have been peace-makers at all, we have thought of ourselves
merely as doing the duty of citizens, and, in attempting to overcome
some of the causes of conflict both within our domestic society and in
the relations between nations, we have willingly merged ourselves with
other men of goodwill whose aims and practices were almost identical to

Since the charge of negativism strikes home, many pacifists defend
themselves by insisting that they stand primarily for a positive
program, of which war-resistance is only a pre-requisite. They oppose
war because it is evil in itself, but they oppose it also because the
type of human brotherhood for which they stand can be realized only when
war is eliminated from the world. Their real aim is the creation of the
new society - long and imperfect though that process of creation may be.
They share a vision, but they are still groping for the means of moving
forward towards its achievement. They are generally convinced that some
means are inappropriate to their ends, and that to use such means would
automatically defeat them; but they are less certain about the means
which _will_ bring some measure of success.

One section of the pacifist movement believes that it has discovered a
solution to the problem in what it calls "non-violent direct action."
This group derives much of its inspiration from Gandhi and his
non-violent movement for Indian independence. For instance, the
Fellowship of Reconciliation has a committee on non-violent direct
action which concerns itself with applying the techniques of the Gandhi
movement to the solution of pressing social issues which are likely to
cause conflict within our own society, especially discrimination against
racial minorities. As a "textbook" this group has been using Krishnalal
Shridharani's analysis of the Gandhi procedures, _War Without
Violence_.[2] The advocates of "non-violent direct action" believe that
their method can bring about the resolution of any conflict through the
ultimate defeat of the forces of evil, and the triumph of justice and
goodwill. In a widely discussed pamphlet, _If We Should Be Invaded_,
issued just before the outbreak of the present war, Jessie Wallace
Hughan, of the War Resisters League, maintained that non-violent
resistance would be more effective even in meeting an armed invasion
than would reliance upon military might.[3]

Many pacifists have accepted the general thesis of the advocates of
non-violent direct action without analyzing its meaning and
implications. Others have rejected it on the basis of judgments just as
superficial. Much confusion has crept into the discussion of the
principle and into its application because of the constant use of
ill-defined terms and partially formulated ideas. It is the purpose of
the present study to analyze the positions of both the friends and
opponents of non-violent direct action within the pacifist movement in
the hope of clarifying thought upon this vitally important question.

Before we can proceed with our discussion, we must make a clear
distinction between non-violence as a principle, accepted as an end in
itself, and non-violence as a means to some other desired end. Much of
the present confusion in pacifist thought arises from a failure to make
this distinction.

On the one hand, the absolute pacifist believes that all men are
brothers. Therefore, he maintains that the supreme duty of every
individual is to respect the personality of every other man, and to love
him, no matter what evil he may commit, and no matter how greatly he may
threaten his fellows or the values which the pacifist holds most dear.
Under no circumstances can the pacifist harm or destroy the person who
does evil; he can use only love and sacrificial goodwill to bring about
conversion. This is his highest value and his supreme principle. Though
the heavens should fall, or he himself and all else he cherishes be
destroyed in the process, he can place no other value before it. To the
pacifist who holds such a position, non-violence is imperative _even if
it does not work_. By his very respect for the personality of the
evil-doer, and his insistence upon maintaining the bond of human
brotherhood, he has already achieved his highest purpose and has won his
greatest victory.

But much of the present pacifist argument in favor of non-violence is
based rather upon its expediency. Here, we are told, is a means of
social action that _works_ in achieving the social goals to which
pacifists aspire. Non-violence provides a moral force which is more
powerful than any physical force. Whether it be used by the individual
or by the social group, it is, in the long run, the most effective way
of overcoming evil and bringing about the triumph of good. The
literature is full of stories of individuals who have overcome
highwaymen, or refractory neighbors, by the power of love.[4] More
recent treatments such as Richard Gregg's _Power of Non-Violence_[5]
present story after story of the successful use of non-violent
resistance by groups against political oppression. The history of the
Gandhi movement in India has seemed to provide proof of its expediency.
Even the argument in Aldous Huxley's _Ends and Means_, that we can
achieve no desired goal by means which are inconsistent with it, still
regards non-violent action as a _means_ for achieving some other end,
rather than an _end_ in itself.[6]

So prevalent has such thinking become among pacifists, that it is not
surprising that John Lewis, in his closely reasoned book, _The Case
Against Pacifism_, bases his whole attack on the logic of the pacifist
position upon the theory that pacifists _must_, as he does, hold other
values above their respect for individual human personalities. Even in
speaking of "absolute" pacifism he says, "The most fundamental objection
to war is based on the conviction that violence and the taking of human
life, being themselves wrong, cannot lead to anything but evil."[7] Thus
he defines the absolute pacifist as one who accepts the ends and means
argument of Huxley, which is really an argument based upon expediency,
rather than defining him correctly as one who insists that violence and
the taking of human life are the greatest evils, under any conditions,
and therefore cannot be justified, even if they could be used for the
achievement of highly desirable ends.

Maintaining as Lewis does that respect for every human personality is
not their highest value, non-pacifists attack pacifism almost entirely
on the ground that in the present state of world society it is not
expedient - that it is "impractical." Probably much of the pacifist
defense of the position is designed to meet these non-pacifist
arguments, and to persuade non-pacifists of goodwill that they can
really best serve _their_ highest values by adopting the pacifist
technique. Such reasoning is perfectly legitimate, even for the
"absolutist," but he should recognize it for what it is - a mere
afterthought to his acceptance of non-violence as a principle.

The whole absolutist argument is this: (1) Since violence to any human
personality is the greatest evil, I can never commit it. (2) But, at the
same time, it is fortunate that non-violent means of overcoming evil are
more effective than violent means, so I can serve my highest
value - respect for every human personality - and at the same time serve
the other values I hold. Or to say the same thing in positive terms, I
can achieve my other ends _only_ by employing means which are consistent
with those ends.

On the other hand, many pacifists do in fact hold the position that John
Lewis is attacking, and base their acceptance of pacifism entirely on
the fact that it is the best means of obtaining the sort of social or
economic or political order that they desire. Others, in balancing the
destruction of violent conflict against what they concede might be
gained by it, say that the price of social achievement through violent
means is too high - that so many of their values are destroyed in the
process of violence that they must abandon it entirely as a means, and
find another which is less destructive.

Different as are the positions of the absolute and the relative
pacifists, in practice they find themselves united in their logical
condemnation of violence as an effective means for bringing about social
change. Hence there is no reason why they cannot join forces in many
respects. Only a relatively small proportion, even of the absolutists,
have no interest whatever in bringing about social change, and are thus
unable to share in this aspect of pacifist thinking.


[1] Ernest L. Meyer, "_Hey! Yellowbacks!_" (New York: John Day, 1930),

[2] Krishnalal Shridharani, _War Without Violence_ (New York: Harcourt
Brace, 1939); _Selections from War Without Violence_ was published by
the Fellowship of Reconciliation, 2929 Broadway, New York, as a
pamphlet, in 1941.

[3] Jessie Wallace Hughan, _If We Should Be Invaded: Facing a Fantastic
Hypothesis_ (War Resisters League, New York, 1939). A new edition with
the title _Pacifism and Invasion_ was issued in 1942.

[4] Many later writers have selected their examples from the large
number presented by Adin Ballou, _Christian Non-Resistance: In All Its
Important Bearings_ (Philadelphia: Universal Peace Union, 1910); first
published in 1846.

[5] Richard B. Gregg, _The Power of Non-Violence_ (Philadelphia:
Lippincott, 1934). A new and revised edition of this book is to be
published by Fellowship Publications, N. Y., 1944.

[6] Aldous Huxley, _Ends and Means: An Inquiry into the Nature of Ideals
and the Methods Employed for Their Realization_ (New York: Harpers,

[7] John Lewis, _The Case Against Pacifism_ (London: Allen and Unwin,
1940), 23.

Definition of Terms

Both in pacifist thought and in the criticisms of pacifism, a great deal
of confusion arises because of the inexact use of terms. We have already
seen that pacifists of many shades of opinion are united in their
refusal to participate in war. In this objection there is a negative
quality. The very word "non-violence" used in the title of this study
suggests this same negative attitude, and it was not long ago that
pacifists were generally known as "non-resistants." Although some of
those who oppose participation in war still insist upon calling
themselves "non-resistants"[8] many of the modern pacifists disclaim the
term because it is negative, and insist that the essence of pacifism is
the element of active goodwill toward all men.[9] Yet when confronted
with evil, even he who thinks of his pacifism as a positive attitude
must decide not only what means he _will_ use to oppose evil, but what
means he _will not_ use. At the moment when the society of which he is a
part insists that every one of its members participate in an enterprise
to employ these proscribed means, the pacifists of all shades of opinion
become "conscientious objectors." To what is it exactly that they

Most answers to this question would say that they oppose "the use of
force," "violence," "coercion," or in some cases, any "resistance" to
evil whatever. But pacifists themselves have not been agreed upon the
meanings and implications of these terms, and the opponents of pacifism
have hastened to define them in such a way as to deny validity to the
pacifist philosophy. Before we can proceed with our discussion we must
define these terms for ourselves, as we shall use them in the present

_Force_ we may define as physical or intangible power or influence to
effect change in the material or immaterial world. _Coercion_ is the use
of either physical or intangible force to compel action contrary to the
will or reasoned judgment of the individual or group subjected to such
force. _Violence_ is the willful application of force in such a way that
it is physically or psychologically injurious to the person or group
against whom it is applied. _Resistance_ is any opposition either
physical or psychological to the positive will or action of another. It
is the negative or defensive counterpart of coercion.

The very diversity of terms used to describe the pacifist position shows
that none of them satisfactorily expresses the essence of the pacifist
philosophy. Among those commonly used are: (1) non-resistance, (2)
passive resistance, (3) non-violent resistance, (4) super-resistance,
(5) non-violent non-cooperation, (6) civil disobedience, (7) non-violent
coercion, (8) non-violent direct action, (9) war without violence, and
(10) Satyagraha or soul force.[10]

Of these terms only "non-resistance" implies acquiescence in the will of
the evil-doer; all the rest suggest an approval of resistance. Every one
of them, even "non-resistance" itself, contemplates the use of some
intangible moral force to oppose evil and a refusal to take an active
part in committing evil. At least the last five indicate the positive
desire to change the active policy of the evil-doer, either by
persuasion or by compulsion. As we shall see, in practice they tend to
involve a coercive element. Only in their rejection of violence are all
these terms in agreement. Perhaps we are justified in accepting
_opposition to violence_ as the heart of the pacifist philosophy. Under
the definition of violence which has been suggested, this would amount
to virtually the same thing as saying that the pacifist has such respect
for every human personality that he cannot, under any circumstances

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Online LibraryTheodore PaullinIntroduction to Non-Violence → online text (page 1 of 7)