2. Lew Hill’s Passion and the Origins of Pacifica

From: Active Radio

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The ideal of a world without war led to Lewis Hill’s involvement in the movement for revolutionary nonviolence during and after World War II, and subsequently to his founding of Pacifica. Long associated with religious conviction and individual witness, pacifist ideology and strategy underwent a dramatic transformation in the twentieth century. The unfathomable carnage of World War I and the luminous example of Mahatma Gandhi combined to forge a more politicized and oppositional form of struggle— “radical pacifism”— based on principles of active nonviolent resistance to war and to the social circumstances that engendered violence . Hill and other founders of Pacifica were deeply involved in this movement; their collective experience as pacifists during World War II molded the vision they pursued for their radio station. “The Moral Equivalent of War” At the dawn of the twentieth century, the international peace movement flourished as never before. Individuals and organizations on both sides of the Atlantic agitated in favor of disarmament and for a World Court to arbitrate regional or national conflicts. In this context, those struggling against war sought a dynamic, “scientific” grounding for their political beliefs, finding the older religious vocabulary anachronistic. As the president of the League of International Peace and Liberty put it in 1901, first giving the peace advocates a name they continue to use: Our great party needs a name; we have no name and this deficiency impedes our progress considerably. We are not 2. Lew Hill’s Passion and the Origins of Pacifica I do not know what is true. . . . But in the midst of doubt, in the collapse of creeds, there is one thing I do not doubt, . . . that is that the faith is true and adorable which leads a soldier to throw away his life in obedience to a blindly accepted duty, in a cause which he little understands, in a plan of campaign of which he has no notion, under tactics of which he does not see the use. —Oliver W. Holmes, “The Soldier’s Faith,” in The Mind and Faith of Justice Holmes, selected and edited by Max Lerner 27 passive [i.e., religious] types; we are not only peace makers, we are not just pacifiers. We are all those but also something more—we are pacifists . . . and our ideology is pacifism.1 This desire to demonstrate that “pacifists” were “something more” than just “pacifiers ” was made evident in the spectacle of grand peace conferences held in 1899 and 1907 at The Hague. These events addressed questions of trade in arms, the rules of war, and the construction of a World Court. An international rule of law, derived from the Enlightenment tradition exemplified by Kant’s essay “Perpetual Peace,” served as the practical, “rational” ideal guiding the delegates. With a secular faith in the power of dialogue, they were certain that the enormous technological achievements and economic advances of the industrial revolution lay the groundwork for a new world order. Governments, like persons motivated by selfinterest , would respond to the call for impartial arbitration rather than plunge into unprofitable violence when disputes arose. Forty-five new peace organizations formed in the United States alone during the first decade and a half of the twentieth century. Prominent groups of lawyers, teachers, and businessmen gave the struggle for peace greater prestige than it had ever known. In a glorious display of pacifist solidarity, twelve hundred delegates (including Supreme Court justices, cabinet officers, and other government officials ) attended the National Arbitration and Peace Conference, held in New York in 1907; more than forty thousand persons participated in the Carnegie Hall meetings throughout the event. Yet behind these vibrant public displays were both ideological and practical disagreements that would undermine pacifist unity at the dawn of the modern era. On the ideological level, there was a split between the Socialists and liberals. Although both professed an ideal of internationalism, those on the Left interpreted war as a necessary entailment of class-riven society where the few profited at the expense of the many. There could be moments of quiescence during which class conflict was suppressed, but at heart capitalism remained a system “dripping from head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt.”2 This argument was substantiated by the havoc imperialism wrought in the colonial periphery in the late nineteenth century. Some Socialist pacifists did not altogether eschew violence but, borrowing from the “just war” tradition, differentiated the inherent and irremedial brutality of capitalism from legitimate, if bloody, revolutionary insurrection. Proletariat revolution...