Politics in Minutes (2016)

Pacifism and anti-war movements

The protracted and large-scale devastation of the First World War proved a turning point in international attitudes to war. It was the prompt for greater international cooperation to prevent similar conflicts, exemplified by the formation of the League of Nations, which later became the model for the United Nations. But it also acted as a spur to grassroots movements opposed to the concept of war and pacifist organizations in countries around the world.

During the First World War, some British conscripts refused to fight on religious or political grounds, and established a right to conscientious objection, which is now internationally (but not universally) recognized. The peace movement gained significant support in the wake of the First World War, but waned during the Second World War, which was seen as a more ‘just’ conflict. With the arrival of nuclear weapons and the Cold War, however, pacifist organizations flourished once more, and their influence helped to change US policy during the Vietnam War.