Posts Tagged ‘Peace’

RT on the Media Silence over Corbyn Receiving Peace Prize in Geneva

December 12, 2017

RT put up this video yesterday, reporting that the Friday before, Jeremy Corbyn and Noam Chomsky had been awarded the Sean MacBride Peace Prize by an international committee, the International Peace Bureau in Geneva. The committee had been impressed by the Labour leader’s ‘sustained and powerful work for disarmament and peace’. But they also note that this has not been widely reported in the British press.

Mike also covered the story from the NHS Skwawkbox. They reported that the All Okinawa Council Against Henoko New Base also received the award along with Corbyn and Chomsky. The Bureau was impressed by Corbyn’s work as an ordinary member, then vice-chair and now vice-president of CND, as a past chair of the Stop the War Coalition, as well as his work over 34 years as an MP. They were impressed by his statement that he could not press the button for retaliation in a nuclear attack, and arguing that military spending should be cut and the money spent instead on health, education and welfare.

The award ceremony itself was held on November 24th in Geneva, but Corbyn had to wait until this weekend to collect it.

Mike also noted at the very start of his piece about Corbyn receiving the prise that the British media was silent about it. He wrote:

<strong>Where are the celebrations from the mainstream TV and newspaper media in the UK? The leader of the Labour Party has won a major international peace prize and I can’t find any headlines about it at all, apart from in Skwawkbox!*</strong>

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/12/09/jeremy-corbyn-collects-sean-macbride-peace-prize-2017/

There’s no need to look very hard to find reasons why the Beeb, ITV, Channel 4 and the British press weren’t keen to report this honour for the Labour leader: they cordially hate him as a threat to the Thatcherite corporatist agenda that is ruining the country and forcing millions of Brits into mass poverty. And his fellow recipients are also enough to give any right-winger a touch of the vapours. Noam Chomsky is a veteran critic of American imperialism. I think in his personal political beliefs he’s an Anarchist/ anarcho-syndicalist. Which means he believes the best form of society would be one where there was no state, and everything was run by the workers through trade unions. The All Okinawa Council against Henoko New Base sounds like one of the local organisations set up on the Japanese island of Okinawa to oppose the presence of the American military base. The Japanese are increasingly resentful of American bases on their territory, and see it very much as military occupation, especially after the Fall of Communism and the removal of the Soviet Union as a threat to Japan.

But America now is a warfare state. It has expanded the war on terror to include military strikes and campaigns in seven countries, and its economy is heavily tied in to government spending on the arms industries. And where you have arms manufacturers with a powerful voice in government, you also find wars. And Britain is being dragged into them through the ‘special relationship’. Not that in Blair’s and Cameron’s case the Americans needed to do much dragging. I got the impression that Blair was enthusiastic for the Iraq invasion, and Blissex, one of the very highly informed commenters on this blog, stated that, according to the Americans, it was Cameron and Sarkozy in France, who pushed for the airstrikes to overthrow Gaddafi in Libya.

Throughout his period as head of the Labour party, the British media has been bitterly biased against Corbyn. When the plotters in the Chicken Coup staged their mass resignations the other year, it began with the collusion of one of the plotters to do it on Andrew Neil’s show. Now that Corbyn has made a genuinely positive achievement, which they can’t very well sneer at, or spin so it reflects badly on him, the media have no choice but to remain silent.

Apart from the issue of defence and western militarism, there are other reasons why the corporate media hate Corbyn: he wants to strengthen the welfare state, and embark on a campaign of renationalisation – renationalising the NHS and also the utilities industries and railways. This frightens the multimillionaire businessmen, who control the papers.

And so in the I yesterday, in the column where it quotes the opinions of the other papers, you had a quote from Simon Heffer in the Torygraph ranting about how ‘Stalinist’ Momentum were trying to deselect the ‘thoroughly decent’ moderates in the Labour party. And another quote from Karren Brady of the Apprentice declaring that Corbyn was a ‘Communist’, who supported nationalisation for his own peculiar reasons. She also reminded us that the nationalised industries had been failures, citing British Gas particularly.

Well, Heffer has always been a Tory spokesman, and the Telegraph has been particularly vocal in its hatred of the Labour leader. Not only is Heffer a dyed in the wool Tory, he was also a contributor to a book celebrating Enoch Powell that came out a few years ago, entitled Enoch at 100. Not only was Powell responsible for inflaming racism in Britain with his ‘rivers of blood’ speech, he was also a Monetarist, which became Thatcher’s favourite economic doctrine. Monetarism was regarded at the time by the majority of economists as stupid and ridiculous, and was effectively abandoned by Thatcher herself later in her tenure of No. 10.

And the ‘moderates’ in the Labour party are no such thing, nor are they ‘decent people’. They are liars and intriguers to a man and woman. They did everything they could to unseat Corbyn, and silence or throw out his supporters. But now that the likes of ‘Bomber’ Benn – so-called because of his enthusiasm for airstrikes on Syria – have failed, the Torygraph has to lament how they’re being ‘persecuted’ by Corbyn’s supporters.

As for Brady’s comments about the nationalised industries, yes, I do remember how there were problems with them. British Gas was notorious, and became notoriously worse after privatisation. But private ownership has very definitely not brought more investment nor improved the performance of the utilities companies. Quite the reverse – the rail network is actually performing worse now than it was in the last years of British Rail. It now consumes a higher government subsidy and charges more for worse services, all to keep its board on their expensive salaries and bonuses and bloated dividends to its shareholders.

But Brady really doesn’t want you to know that. She’s a businesswoman, who clearly stands four-square for the companies seeking to make vast profits from the former state sector. So she very definitely isn’t going to admit that there’s a problem with them.

Brady herself also likes to project herself as some kind of feminist heroine, thrusting through the corporate glass ceiling and inspiring other women and girls to take up the fight to make it in business. As Private Eye mischievously pointed out, this would be more convincing if she hadn’t begun her business career working in the offices of one of the porn companies.

The business elite are frightened of Corbyn, because he’s set to renationalise industry and empower British working people. And so if they can’t vilify him, as they couldn’t with the award of the Sean McBride Peace Prize, they have to keep silent.

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William Beveridge on the Six Great Evils

June 21, 2016

I also found this piece by William Beveridge, the author of the Beveridge Report, which laid the foundation for welfare state and the NHS, in the Penguin Book of Protest, edited by Brian MacArthur. In it Beveridge attacks the six great evils his welfare reforms were intended to combat.

My case is that this is very far from being the best of all possible worlds, but that it might be a very good world, because most of the major evils in it are unnecessary – either wholly so or to the extent to which they exist today. The evils which are wholly unnecessary and should be abolished are Want, Squalor, Idleness enforced by unemployment, and War. The evils which are unnecessary to the extent to which they exist today and which should be reduced drastically are Disease and Ignorance.

The six Giant Evils of Want, Squalor, Disease, Ignorance, Idleness and War as they exist in the modern world, are six needless scandals. The Radical Programme which I propose to you is a war on these six giants. As a Liberal I propose it as a programme for the Liberal Party. Let me take the giants in turn, beginning with the easiest to attack.

Want means not having enough money income to buy the necessaries of life for oneself and one’s family. Want in Britain just before this was utterly unnecessary. The productive power of the community was far more than enough to provide the bare necessaries of life to everyone (that, of course, is something quite different from satisfying the desires of everyone). Want arose because income – purchasing power to buy necessaries – was not properly distributed, between different sections of the people and between different periods in life, between times of earning and not earning, between times of no family responsibilities and large family responsibilities.

Before this war, as is said in the Beveridge Report, ‘want was a needless scandal due to not taking the trouble to prevent it’. After this war, if want persists, it will be ever more of a scandal. it is contrary to reason and experience to suppose that, with all that we have learned in war, we shall be less productive after it than before. And we know also just how to prevent want – by adopting Social Security in full as set out in the Beveridge Report. This means guaranteeing to every citizen through social insurance that, on condition of working while he can and contributing from his earnings, he shall, when he is unable to work through sickness, accident, unemployment or old age, have a subsistence income for himself and his family, an income as of right without means test, and not cut down because he has other means…

Squalor means the conditions under which so many of our people are compelled to live, in houses ill-built, too small, too close together, either too far from work or too far from country air, with the air around them polluted by smoke, impossible to keep clean, with no modern equipment to save the housewife’s toil, wasting the life and energy of the wage-earner in endless crowded travel to and from his job. Squalor is obviously unnecessary, because the housing which leads to squalor is made by man, and that which is made by man can by man prevented.

The time has come for a revolution in housing, but an essential condition of good housing is town and country planning; to stop the endless growth of the great cities; to control the location of industry so that men can live both near their work and near country air; to manage transport in the national interest, so as to bring about the right location of industry.

Only on the basis of town and country planning should we build our houses and they must be built not just shells, but fully equipped with every modern convenience, with water, light, power, model kitchens for clean cooking, refrigerators, mechanical washers for clothes. As is said in the Beveridge Report: ‘In the next thirty years housewives as mothers have vital work to do to ensure the adequate continuance of the British race and of British ideals in the world.’ They must be set free from needless endless toil, so that they may undertake this vital service and rear in health and happiness the larger families that are needed.

A revolution in housing is the greatest contribution that can be made to raising the standard of living throughout this country, for differences of housing represent the greatest differences between various sections of our people today, between the comfortable and the uncomfortable classes.

Disease cannot be abolished completely , but is needless to anything like its present extent. It must be attacked from many sides by measures for prevention and for cure. The housing revolution, of which I have spoken, is perhaps the greatest of all the measures for prevention of disease. It has been estimated that something like 45,000 people die each year because of bad housing conditions. Scotland – your country and my country – used to be a healthier land than England – with a lower death rate – till about fifty years ago. Now it has a higher death rate, because in the past fifty years its health has not improved nearly as much as that of England. The big difference between the two countries lies in housing, which in many ways is worse here. Let us put that right for our country. Next to better housing as a means of preventing disease ranks better feeding. Experience of war has shown how much can be done to maintain and improve health under the most unfavourable conditions by a nutrition policy carried out by the state on the basis of science. It is essential for the future to make good food available for all, at prices within the reach of all, and to encourage, by teaching and by price policy good nutrition instead of mere eating and drinking.

Ignorance cannot be abolished completely, but is needless to anything like its present extent. Lack of opportunity to use abilities is one of the greatest causes of unhappiness. A revolution in education is needed, and the recent Education Act should be turned into the means of such a revolution. Attacking ignorance means not only spending money on schools and teachers and scholars in youth, but providing also immensely greater facilities for adult education. The door of learning should not shut for anyone at eighteen or at any time. Ignorance to its present extent is not only unnecessary, but dangerous. Democracies cannot be well governed except on the basis of understanding.

With these measure for prevention must go also measure for cure, by establishing a national health service which secure to every citizen at all times whatever treatment he needs, at home or in hospital, without a charge at the time of treatment. It should be the right and the duty of every British citizen to be as well as science can make him. This, too, was included in my report more than two years ago. Let Us get on with it.

Unemployment, as we have had it in the past, is needless. The way to abolish unemployment is not to attack it directly by waiting until people are unemployed and then to make work for them, but to plan to use the whole of our manpower in the pursuit of vital common objectives.

The Radical Programme for attacking the five giants of Want, Squalor, Disease, Ignorance and Idleness through unemployment is all one programme. We abolish unemployment in war because we are prepared to spend up to the limit of our manpower in abolishing Hitler. We can equally abolish unemployment in peace by deciding to spend up to the limit of our manpower in abolishing social evils.

The last and the greatest of the giant evils of the world is War. Unless we can win freedom from war and from fear of war, all else is vain. The way to abolish murder and violence between nations is the same as that by which we abolish murder and violence between individuals, by establishing the rule of law between nations. This is a task beyond the power of any nation but it is within the power of the three great victorious nations of this war – the United States, Soviet Russia and the British Commonwealth. If those three nations wish to abolish war in the future they can do so, by agreeing to accept impartial justice in their own case and to enforce justice in all other cases, but respecting the freedom and independence of small nations and the right of each nation to have its own institutions so long as these do not threaten harm to its neighbours. By doing so, they will accomplish something far more glorious than any victory in war. In the past statesmen have prided themselves in getting ‘Peace with honour’. The formula of the future – the only one that can give us lasting peace – should be ‘Peace with justice’. Honour is national, justice is international. (pp. 173-5).

As you can see, it’s quite dated in its conception of gender roles – men go out to work, while women stay at home and raise the large families the state and society need. And after the Nazis and Fascist groups like them, any talk of national ‘races’ looks extremely sinister, though there isn’t any racist undertones here.

And Beveridge was exactly right about the evils he wanted to combat, and they’re still very much alive now. Nutrition and pricing have all returned with the campaign to improve a tax on sugary foods and drinks, and so combat the obesity epidemic and rising levels of diabetes.

And the other issues have all returned thanks to Maggie Thatcher. She deregulated and privatised public transport, which has led to further inefficiencies on the roads and railways. She and the regimes that have followed her were and are determined to destroy the welfare state, including the health service, which Cameron and Clegg both wanted to privatise.

And the result has been rising levels of poverty. It’s time we scrapped Thatcherism root and branch, and went back to the founding principles of the welfare state. The principles that were put into practice by Labour’s Aneurin Bevan.

Christmas SF Art

December 26, 2015

This is more seasonal Science Fiction art, which I found over at the site, 70s Sci-Fi Art on Tumblr, at http://70sscifiart.tumblr.com/.

First a message of peace, from artist Robert McCall.

Peace in Space pic

And two space Santas meeting, one of whom is very alien!

Space Santa

It’s from a series of Christmas covers Ed Emshwiller drew for the American SF magazine, Galaxy, from 1951 to 1960. There are several more at the 70s Sci-Fi Art site.

A Prayer for Peace

December 25, 2015

Christmas is the time of peace and goodwill. Unfortunately, our world is still riven by war, so this prayer from the Apostolic Constitutions of the early Christian church is tragically still relevant.

Let us pray for the peace and happy settlement of the world, and of the holy churches; that the God of the whole world may afford us his everlasting peace, and such as may not be taken away from us; that he may preserve us in a full prosecution of such virtue as is according to godliness.

Let us pray for our enemies, and those that hate us. Let us pray for those that persecute us for the name of the Lord, that the Lord may pacify their anger, and scatter their wrath against us.

Save us, and raise us up, O God, by thy mercy. Let us rise up, and let us pray earnestly, and dedicate ourselves and one another to the living God, through His Christ.

I wish all the readers of this blog, whether they’re Christians or not, a very happy, and peaceful Christmas. And may you also enjoy a happy and prosperous New Year (the present wretched government notwithstanding).

Israeli Advert for Friendly Relationships with Iran on the Net

April 11, 2015

I’ve put up a number of posts over the past few weeks reporting the Israeli’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and his supporters in the Republican party in America have been trying to drive America to war against Iran. They have tried to undermine and discredit Obama’s peace deal with the Iranians limiting their nuclear programme. Before then, back in 2012, Netanyahu lied to the UN about supposed Iranian readiness to develop nukes. Even Mossad, the Israeli internal security service, the Shin Bet and his own generals denied that the Iranians had the nuclear capability he claimed.

Needless to say, Netanyahu and his warmongering doesn’t speak for all Israelis, just as the Repugs don’t speak for every American. I thought I’d post the video below to show the other side of the situation, that there were Israelis who also want peace and friendly relations with the people of Iran.

It shows a young Israeli guy walking through the streets of an Iranian city, before sitting down at a café and getting out a backgammon set. He is then discovered by an Iranian friend. They greet each other, and then sit down to play a game.

I don’t speak Hebrew, but the blurb for it put up by the poster on Youtube states that it roughly reads that ‘In reality this is not yet possible. But it happens on the internet all the time’.

Here it is

I first saw it about two decades ago when it was broadcast here in Britain on Tarrant on TV. That was a late night show looking at sleaze and general weirdness on television around the world. It was mostly lurid, tabloid entertainment, but here and there it did include pieces that made a genuine moral point. One of these was this Israeli ad.

The video’s message is exactly right. Apart from ISIS and the preachers of hatred and violence, the Net has also brought nations together in ways that their rulers don’t like and can’t allow. It’s why the Iranian government during the Green Revolution attempted to censor the internet. It’s why countries like Egypt and others in the Gulf are trying to hack into mobile phones, aided with software developed by Western companies like Nokia.

Through the Net, people in widely separated countries, divided by deep historical and religious hatreds, can nevertheless meet each other in peace and friendship. Nation, can indeed, speak peace unto nation.

And it’s got a rocking soundtrack by the tartan terror himself, Rod Stewrt.

A Medieval Prayer for Peace

May 2, 2013

Going through a volume of medieval music, I found this hymn, Stella Celi, written by the English composer Cooke. It’s a prayer for peace to the Virgin Mary. It asks her to bring this about by combatting the malign astrological forces that are causing wars on Earth.

‘Star of heaven who suckled the Lord and rooted out the plague of death that first parent of mankind planted, may the same star now deign to curb the constellations whose wars are killing people by the sore of dreadful death.’

It’s a medieval prayer, written in the fourteenth century at the height of the wars that then raged, that nevertheless speaks to us across the gulf of centuries. Our modern world is also torn by war and violence. Now I don’t believe in or wish to promote astrology. Nevertheless the Bible reminds us that we also strive against the invisible powers of the fallen angels.In that respect its message is both ageless and particularly contemporary. So, let us pray that our Lady and all the saints will join with us in asking her Son, to bring an end to these present wars and guide the nations in the ways of justice and peace.

Christianity, Secularism and European Peace

June 24, 2008

In one of his comments to my original blog post on the Soviet Persecution of the churches, Robert claimed that European peace was strongly linked to the growth of secularism and the decline of Christianity, stating ‘European peace is positively correlated with the spread of secularism and the decline of Christianity.’ This is an extremely debatable claim, as it seems to assume that the peace Western Europe, at least, has enjoyed since the end of the Second World War is the product of the growth of secularism, if not atheism, and that religion, and particularly Christianity, is somehow responsible for war and violence. This claim can be criticised on a number of points.

Firstly, it’s an important philosophical point that correlation is not causation. One can suggest a number of factors that may have created greater social and political stability in Europe that could lead to a decline in religious belief and international peace in Europe as a whole, without atheism or secularism being the direct cause of either of peace or the political and social stability both nationally and internationally that created it.

Economic Deprivation and Underdevelopment as the Cause of Military Aggression and War

Western Europe, along with North America and Japan, is economically the most prosperous part of the world, despite economic stagnation and challenges from the rapidly expanding and developing economies of India and China. One of the classic causes of social and political instability is economic decline and hardship. A lack of jobs, and thus the means for people to support themselves and stave off starvation, can lead to political instability and violence as nations turn to radical ideologies to provide solutions to their economic and social problems. The Nazi party in Germany appealed to the electorate by promising work and bread on their election posters, and achieved their greatest successes at the ballot box after the catastrophic Wall Street Crash threw the global economy into chaos and millions throughout the world out of work. In such a political climate of economic deprivation and threat, radical parties like the National Socialists were able to make great electoral gains by promising radical solutions to the country’s economic and political problems, including the use of force, violence and brutality against those they claimed, both within Germany and internationally, were responsible for her problems. The result was the emergence of the Third Reich in 1932/3 , characterised by the imprisonment and murder of the regime’s political and religious opponents, as well as those who were considered a danger to it or its racist objectives because of their religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or physical or mental disability. The Nazis attempted to create a new, stronger, more powerful Germany through the conquest of central and eastern Europe and the exploitation of its resources, which were considered to form the key to global power generally, while those nations and states at the periphery of this area, such as Britain, were considered to be in a process of eventual decline through lack of access to this area and its natural resources.

The Russian Revolution and Italian Fascist imperialism were similarly strongly influenced by the lack of economic development and progress in these nations compared to the more economically developed and prosperous nations elsewhere in Europe. Lenin, for example, believed that Russia had been deliberately held back and exploited by the capitalists of the more developed nations. He therefore appealed to the Russian working class to support Communism and the Bolsheviks’ programme of economic and social development by destroying international capitalism’s hold over the nation with the slogan ‘Smash capitalism at the weakest link’.

Although usually considered to be at the opposite end of the political spectrum to Communism, Italian Fascism also had its basis in revolutionary Socialism, though this was anarcho-syndicalism, rather than Marxism, and Mussolini’s regime similarly used arguments based in the ideology of the radical left to support its campaign of military expansion and annexation. The Fascists declared that Italy was a ‘proletarian nation’ lacking the economic development and prosperity of other countries like Britain and France, and so deserved the resources of an empire, such as both of those powers possessed, in order to take its place as leading modern nation. Thus the Fascist regime justified its invasion of North Africa, Abyssinia and Eritrea, as well as its annexation of Albania and parts of Greece in Europe as part of Mussolini’s campaign to create a new, Roman empire.

Economic Success and Improving Conditions Supporting Democratic Peace in Italy and Greater Openness towards West in Russia

The collapse of the former Soviet Union created massive economic and political dislocation in the former Soviet bloc, including widespread poverty in the former Soviet Union itself as the change to capitalism saw inefficient factories and concerns closed, throwing millions out of work, and pensions destroyed over night as the rouble became valueless. Observers of the contemporary Russian political scene, such as the British journalist Jonathan Dimbleby in the recent BBC TV series, Russia, have expressed grave concern about the increasingly authoritarian, anti-democratic nature of the regime and general political climate. Nevertheless, Russia remains a capitalist state open to outside investment, and a far more peaceful attitude to Western Europe at least than under the former Soviet Regime.

Italian politics has been notoriously unstable, which has resulted in a process of political fragmentation in which a large number of small parties have emerged to compete for power, compared with the two and three party systems of North America and Western Europe. Governments have frequently fallen due to corruption, while the country has also been subject to terrorist atrocities by both the extreme Left and Right. Despite this, the Italian economy has developed considerably, so that while explicitly nationalist parties have emerged to play a major role in Italian politics, such as the Allianza Nazionale, which became a partner in Enrico Berlusconi’s coalition regime, Italian politics is still democratic and there is little popular demand for the rejection of democracy and the use of military force to increase Italy’s stature in the international community or develop her economy and society.

Nationalism as Cause of War and Stable Borders as Strong Factor for Peace

Of course, nationalism has also always been one of the major causes of violence and war. Many of the wars in the 19th century were nationalist conflicts, such as the campaigns of Greece and the other Balkan nations to gain their freedom from the Ottoman Empire, and Poland and the other nations in central Europe to gain their independence from Germany, Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The independence of many of these central European nations, like Poland and the former Czechoslovakia, was finally achieved after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the redrawing of European national boundaries after the First World War. The borders of many of the central and eastern European nations were similarly revised at the end of the Second World War, as Germany ceded large parts of its territory, such as Pomerania and Silesia, to Poland. Despite this, the national boundaries have, with the serious exception of the former Yugoslavia, been stable, though there are still continuing national tensions in the Balkans and the possibility of further warfare there. Nevertheless, in western Europe at least the question of national territories appears to have been settled. Where there is an increasing demand for independence amongst some nations, such as Scotland and Wales in the United Kingdom, there’s the expectation that this can be gained through the democratic process at the ballot box, rather than through armed insurrection and conflict.

European Peace Produced through Economic Prosperity, Lack of Nationalist Tensions and Desire to Avoid Another War after World War II

Thus part of the reason for the fifty years of peace experienced by Europe after World War II is the lack of economic and nationalist motives for war amongst the various European nations. Indeed, the horrors of the War itself and the devastation it caused economically, socially and politically left Europe exhausted and acted to turn public opinion against war and the use of military force. Of course this does not mean that these nations became pacifists, or that they ceased to wage wars against their enemies. The British fought a series of wars against nationalist rebels, such as the Mau Mau in Kenya, and the French in their turn fought militant indepence movements such as those in Algeria. Nevertheless, after the carnage of two World Wars, the military did not have the same glamour it possessed during the heyday of High Victorian imperialism. Within Europe there was a strong emphasis on international co-operation and rapprochement as a deliberate attempt to prevent the horrors of the Second World War occurring over again.

Post-War Peace in the West Product of Necessity of Creating Alliances against Threat of Soviet Expansionism

The division of Europe between the western and Soviet blocs also helped create peace in Europe. In the West, Britain and other European nations, with the exception of France, banded together with America and Canada to form NATO in order to protect themselves against the threat of invasion from the Soviet Bloc. In eastern Europe, the Communist nations formed a similar military alliance, the Warsaw pact, while the massive political control of these nations and their subordination to the Soviet Union effectively presented an economically and politically united bloc confronting the liberal, capitalist societies of the West, rather than each other. If there is an explicitly atheist cause for peace in this situation, it’s probably through the atheist nature of Communism and the Communist bloc’s suppression of freedom and independence in the member states, rather than through atheism necessarily making western Europeans less militaristic.

European Secularism Produced by Greater Prosperity and Social Stability Creating an Emphasis on This-Worldly Concerns in European Attitudes

There are numerous sociological and ideological reasons for the secularisation of Europe over the past century, many of which are outside the scope of this article. However, it’s possible that the increased prosperity and social stability in post-war Europe was partly responsible for the decline of organised religion in the continent. Material prosperity and social stablility undoubtedly helped to create an emphasis in European culture on the concerns of this world, rather than the other worldly focus of traditional religion. For many Europeans it could appear that it would be possible to find satisfaction and fulfillment on Earth through human rational social and technological developments and planning, without the assistance of the Almighty. Religion could be seen as irrelevant to more pressing earthly concerns, such as the pursuit of one’s own pleasure and interests.

Secularism Produced through European Spiritual Crisis, Prosperity and Loss of Confidence in Traditional Western Culture after World War II

Furthermore, the carnage of the two World Wars also created a spiritual crisis in many Europeans. The fact that European civilisation had created the mechanised slaughter of millions, including the planned, industrial-scale genocide of the Holocaust and similar campaigns to eradicate other peoples and minority groups, such as Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals and the disabled, during the Third Reich discredited traditional European culture in the eyes of many European intellectuals. The appearance of the Affluent Society in the 1960s produced a feeling of dissatisfaction with traditional European politics and society amongst young people, and particularly with the traditional ruling classes who were viewed as out of touch and obsolete. For many Europeans this rejection of traditional authority necessarily included the church, which was criticised because of the support parts of it had given Fascist regimes and because of its central place within traditional European culture and as the guardian and promoter of traditional European morality. This morality had been severely compromised and discredited by the horrors committed by Europeans in the Fascist regimes, and the moral authority of the European powers to govern their colonies in Africa and Asia was successfully challenged as these nations gained their independence. Away from the political sphere, the Churches’ traditional moral stance, particularly on sexuality, was criticised as repressive, if not actually oppressive. Prosperity and security helped encourage Europeans to seek to gratify their desires immediately on Earth, rather than adopt the moral restraint advocated by the Church, which was attacked as oppressive and hypocritical.

European Peace and Secularism both Products of European Prosperity and Stability

Thus the material prosperity and social stability Europe achieved after the War helped to produce both the long period of peace and the increased secularisation experienced by its nations. While undoubtedly some of those who became atheists after the War did become active in various peace movements and initiatives, the main causes of European peace lay in these social and economic developments, rather than being directly produced by the growth of either atheism or secularism in Europe.

Religion as Cause of War

Robert’s implied claim that European peace was produced by the growth of secularism further suffers from its assumption that religion, and specifically Christianity, is a major cause of war. Now clearly religious differences have resulted in tension between different faiths, tensions that have resulted in violence and armed conflict. In British politics the most obvious example of this was the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, though this could also be viewed as the result of centuries of conflict over Irish independence and its government by Britain, in which religion is one aspect of a larger question of national identity and political allegiance. Similarly, some religions do have an extremely martial character that has promoted warfare and armed conflict. In the ancient Norse religion, for example, men could only get into Valhalla, to feast and fight with the gods in preparation for the final combat with the forces of evil at the day of Ragnarok if they died in battle. Those who had the misfortune to die of natural causes instead went to the far less pleasant realm of Helheim, a cold and miserable place, though not a place of punishment and torment like the Christian Hell. One ancient Viking king was, however, so terrified of the prospect of going to Helheim through dying in bed that, as an old man, he and his elderly retainers deliberately fought a battle with the specific intention of being killed so that they could enter Valhalla. Thus ancient Norse paganism reflected and promoted the martial, warrior ethos of Viking society and its consequent positive promotion of violence and warfare.

Promotion of Peace and Attempts to Limit Warfare in Christianity

However, attitudes to violence and the morality and conduct of warfare may differ strongly between religions and different sects and denominations of the same faith. While Christianity as a whole did not reject warfare, and at times could have an extremely militaristic character, such as during the Crusades in the Middle Ages, nevertheless it also sought to promote peace and restrain violence. In this Christians have been guided and sought to put into practice Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount that ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’. Although Christians and the Church have engaged in warfare, this was subject to moral and legal constraints. Theologians and philosophers such as St. Ambrose, St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas formulated theories of the Just War, based partly on existing Roman law and the moral demands of Scripture, with the intention of limiting its violence and brutality. Warfare was adopted and promoted by Christianity purely as a means for combating evil, and violence for its own sake was explicitly condemned by the Church. St. Augustine himself condemned ‘the passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power’ and other moral failings in warfare. 1 Canon law during much of the Middle Ages required that soldiers do penance after battles because of the danger that they had fought from these immoral motives, rather than the higher morality demanded by the Church. Even those soldiers who were unsure whether or not they had actually killed anyone were thus required to do penance for 40 days after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. 2 Furthermore the chaos and bloodshed of the 16th and 17th century Wars of Religion resulted in Christians rejecting holy war because of the way Christians had attacked and persecuted fellow Christians during them. The result was that although religious freedom was very restricted in many Christian states, internationally nations rejected religious warfare. Indeed, the 16th and 17th century Wars of Religion, which included the French Wars of Religion, the revolt of the Netherlands, the Thirty Years War in Germany and central Europe, and the War of the Three Kingdoms/ British Civil War were the last time western European nations fought purely religious wars. Indeed, the British sociologist David Martin, in his book, Does Christianity Cause War?, noted that after these wars religion became merely an aspect of national identity, an aspect whose importance depended on the enemy being fought, but that wars were not fought in the name of Christianity itself or for the purposes of imposing a particular religious doctrine on the opposing side. 3

Proposal for International European Parliament by William Penn to Prevent War

Indeed, some Christian denominations, such as the Amish and the Quakers actively reject violence. William Penn, the great Quaker writer and founder of Pennsylvania, in his pamphlet arguing for religious toleration, A Perswasive to Moderation to Church Dissenters, in Prudence and Conscience, noted the constitutional arrangements granting freedom of conscience and worship in various European states to demand that Nonconformists receive similar toleration in England. 4 Rather than use warfare to settle their disputes, Penn instead urged that European states should instead solely use diplomacy. He thus proposed a plan for establishing European peace through the creation of an international parliament of European states that would meet annually to discuss and resolve disputes between the member states without resorting to military force. 5 In many ways Penn’s idea is a remarkable precursor of the contemporary European Union, and similar international bodies such as the United Nations.

Despite their aims of promoting peace and international harmony, the EU and UN have been the subjects of suspicion and criticism because of the threat they represent to national sovereignty and the national traditions of civil liberty in various member states. Critics of the EU, for example, have attacked its lack of democratic accountability and the financial corruption in some of its institutions, as well as its bureaucracy, inefficiency and bizarre official policies that can place some states at a disadvantage and leave them resentful of the benefits granted other, sometimes more powerful states.

19th Century Largely Peaceful Period in European History

Even if a single, international organisation governing the affairs of its member states is not as popular or as powerful a guarantee of freedom and prosperity as early advocates of the idea like William Penn may have hoped, nevertheless European international politics during the 19th century, when religious faith was far stronger than today, was remarkably peaceful. It has been stated that

‘Perhaps no century since the fall of the Roman Empire has been so peaceful as that between 1815 and 1914. The widespread wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had culminated in the massive campaigns of Napoleon and his enemies. Nothing like this took place in nineteenth-century Europe.’ 6 Despite brief military expeditions by various European powers into Italy Spain and Greece, and a short war between Russia and Turkey in 1828, there were no major wars in Europe between Napoleon’s defeat and 1830. The period from 1830 to 1854 was similarly peaceful, until it was broken by the outbreak of the Crimean War. This was, however, confined to the Crimean peninsula and the nations involved maintained contact with each other through neutral Austria until peace was achieved in 1856. The wars of 1859 consisted of two months of fighting in northern Italy. Bismarck’s campaigns of 1864, 1866 and 1870 were very localised and only ever involved two great powers. The 1866 war was only seven weeks long, and the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 did not last for a year. 7

Peace in 19th Century Europe Produced by Deliberate Policy of Diplomacy in preference to War by European Statesmen

This long period of European peace was the product of the ‘Concert of Europe’, the system of diplomacy and alliances that had been created to oppose Napoleon, and its successors. It consisted of regular meetings of the great powers of Britain, Prussia, Austria, Russia and, after 1815, France, with the intention of preserving European peace. The 1815 peace treaties that formed the basis of the Congress system, as it came to be known, had been designed not only to reorganise and make secure the boundaries of the various European states, punish France and reward the victorious allies, but also to preserve from revolution Europe’s traditional, established order and religion. 8 The main concern of many of the statesmen involved in the Congress system was to promote their countries’ concrete political interests. Louix XVIII’s minister Talleyrand wished to return the various European states to their original borders before 1815 and advance France’s particular national interests in Europe. Metternich of Austria and Hardenburg of Prussia were both concerned to preserve their countries from revolution, while Britain’s Castlereagh hoped to create a balance of power in Europe so that Britain could consolidate her considerable imperial gains overseas. Despite the focus of the European powers on promoting their own national concerns, Alexander I of Russia sincerely hoped to create a lasting European peace, through creating a union with his fellow European rulers ‘as members of a single Christian nation.’ 9 This ideal of a union of Christian European powers did not survive Alexander’s death. 10

Attempts to Abolish War by British Liberal Politicians

Nevertheless the European powers, and particularly the British, hoped that diplomacy could preserve peace in Europe. The Liberals in Britain in particular were deeply concerned to avoid the suffering and economic damage caused by war. In 1856 at the Congress of Paris Lord Clarendon, the chief British plenipotentiary, presented a proposal for the complete abolition of war. Declaring that ‘the calamities of war are still too present to every mind not to make it desirable to seek out every expedient calculated to prevent their return’, he recommended that Article VIII of the peace treaty between Russia and Turkey, should be generally applied to settle all international disputes. 11 This clause stipulated that any country in dispute with Turkey should first attempt mediation through a friendly state before resorting to arms, and Clarendon hoped that the adoption of this as a general principle of international diplomacy would lead to European states settling their disputes through mediation rather than armed conflict. Clarendon’s proposal was made too late to become a formal part of the 1856 peace treaty, but it did become part of the treaty’s protocol and was signed by all the plenipotentiaries of the great powers present at the Congress. Despite continued British requests to the other European powers in the years immediately following the signing of the treaty that they should respect it and attempt a mediated settlement for their conflicts, it was never used to solve any of the major international crises of the time. The attempt to create a complete diplomatic solution to international disputes and abolish war was a complete failure. 12 Nevertheless the fact that it was attempted shows the genuine commitment to peace of the European powers involved, as well as their confidence in the ability of the diplomatic machinery established by the 1815 peace treaty to solve international disputes. 13

19th Century European Peace Maintained when Europe Far More Religious than Today

The 19th century system of international diplomacy catastrophically failed to preserve European peace in 1914, and the following decades saw the rise of aggressively militaristic, Fascist regimes that utterly rejected the 19th century goal of preserving and promoting peace. Nevertheless, despite its failure the attempts of contemporary European nations to maintain peace through diplomatic negotiation and alliances is clearly partly derived and developed from these 19th century attempts to provide a diplomatic solution for international disputes, rather than the use of military force. These attempts to create the diplomatic methods to prevent international conflict were made when Europe was far more religious than it is at present and by politicians who mostly, though not exclusively, shared the concerns of general European society to preserve and maintain religion. It could therefore be considered that the peace currently enjoyed by contemporary, secular European society was founded by 19th century people of faith.

Attempts to Create Peace often Led by People of Faith Inspired by Religious Convictions

It was not just in the 19th century that people of faith attempted to achieve internationl peace. In contemporary Europe as well many of the individuals who actively worked to promote peace were people of faith who were directly inspired by their strong religious principles. The 19th century Liberal Party in Britain was strongly informed by the Protestant, Nonconformist conscience with its concern for moral and social improvement, and in the 20th century Christian clergy and lay people were also involved in various peace movements. The chairman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Britain from 1958 to 1964 was the controversial clergyman Lewis John Collins. 14 The scientist and Anglican priest, Charles Raven, was an ardent pacifist and one of the sponsors of the Peace Pledge Union. He based his arguments for pacifism very much on his Christian beliefs and theological views, presenting them in hsi work, The Religious Basis of Pacifism. 15

Peaceful Personal Conduct Commanded by the Bible, and World Peace Traditional Subject of Christian Prayers

Pacifism remains the frequently controversial view of a minority of Christians, as most Christians would probably argue that in all too many cases evil can only be combatted through warfare and deserves the use of military force against it. Nevertheless Christians, regardless of their particular views on war, have prayed for peace in the world since the period of the Early Church. The Apostolic Constitutions, for example, amongst the prayers for the Church and its people also requests Christians to pray for world peace with the words

‘Let us pray for the peace and happy settlement of the world, and of the holy churches; that the God of the whole world may afford us his everlasting peace, and such as may not be taken away from us’. 16

This concern for peace is based firmly in the Bible. St. Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews 13:20 describes the Lord as the God of peace, for example. 1 Peter 3:11 advises the Christian – ‘he that will love life’ – as they are described in verse 10 – to renounce evil and turn to peace with the words

‘let him eschew evil, and do good

let him seek peace and ensue it’ 17.

St. Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews 12:14 also urges Christians to live in peace with everyone with the command

‘Follow peace with all men, and

holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.’ 18

Thus while the Bible does not necessarily reject warfare, it does command that Christians attempt to live in peace with their fellows and condemns violent behaviour. The Bible’s concern and encouragement of peace as a part of Christian morality directly contradicts Robert’s assumption that Christianity must somehow, by its very nature, promote violence and warfare, and that European society has therefore become more peaceful through its decline.

Conclusion: European Peace Product of Post-War Prosperity, Stable Borders, and Preference for Diplomatic Solutions by European Politicians rather than Secularism

Thus while the long period of European peace in the 20th century has also been a period of decline in the Christian faith, or its observance, neither secularism or atheism is the cause of this peace, as Robert’s comment implies. Rather the immediate causes of European peace have been stable borders, produced by the emergence of the nation-state in the 19th century, and the deliberate policy of European governments to settle international disputes by diplomacy rather than military force.

This policy became a necessity after the carnage and devastation of the Second World War, and the threat of war with the Soviet bloc after the establishment of the Iron Curtain. However, European governments and statesmen had preferred to solve their disputes through negotiation rather than force, though certainly not to exclude warfare, since the middle of the second decade of the 19th century. The system of international alliances and organisations that emerged after World War II with the deliberate intention of promoting international peace and curbing the military aggression or the territorial ambitions of the individual member states can be viewed as a development of 19th century great power diplomacy with its preference for negotiation. There is a major difference between the two diplomatic systems, however in that the architects of the ‘Concert of Europe’ believed strongly in national sovereignty and would have rejected the threat posed to it by supranational organisations like the EU. Nevertheless, even the EU has its predecessors in the proposal of Christian statesmen and theologians, such as William Penn, for a common European parliament of member states to maintain European peace and harmony. Europeans had ceased to wage war purely for religious reasons after the 17th century. The main cause of European warfare in the succeeding centuries was nationalism, of which religion was largely just one aspect. The system of great power diplomacy and alliances that constituted the Concert System, although far less radical than Penn’s plan for a common European parliament, was nevertheless established by statesmen and diplomats who generally viewed religion as essential to their nations’ wellbeing, and wished to preserve it as a vital part of their nations’ security. The preservation and maintenance of established religion from attack from political radicalism was therefore one of the major purposes in the attempts to establish and preserve European peace after the defeat of Napoleon.

European Peace Partly Caused by Christian Moral Doctrine

Furthermore, while Christians have committed horrific atrocities in terrible religious wars, such as during the Crusades and the Wars of Religion, Christianity has also viewed the Almighty as a God of peace. Christian morality required peaceful, non-violent personal conduct, particularly as stated by St. Paul and St. Peter. A number of Christian sects, denominations and individuals have been determined pacifists. While these have only been a minority, Christianity as a whole has attempted to place moral limits on warfare and its conduct through the development of theories of the Just War, and Christians have continued to pray for peace in the world since the Early Church. While undoubtedly the various peace movements and initiatives that appeared in the 20th century were by no means confined to people of faith, nevertheless they have also included Christian clergy and laypeople. The peace Europe has enjoyed for the last half-century is thus partly the product of the attempts of Christians over the centuries to limit war and promote peace.

Secularism Product of European Peace, Stable Borders and Economic Development

It may be considered that the success of European governments and diplomats in establishing a largely peaceful, stable Europe may be one of the causes of European secularisation. International stability within Europe, as well as increased material prosperity and rising standards of living have led Europeans to adopt a far more this-worldly attitude to life, often to the exclusion of traditional other worldly religion. Thus national prosperity and international peace, as well as ideological challenges from secular philosophies, may have contributed to secularisation and the attitude amongst some Europeans that religion, or religious observance, is unnecessary.

20th Century Totalitarianisms Example of Possible Dangers to Peace from Rejection of Christianity and Christian Moral Support for Peace

It’s a very flawed attitude. The great totalitarianisms of the Left and Right that emerged in the 20th century did so partly as a rejection of Christianity, and traditional Christian morality. Fascism in particular celebrated warfare for its own sake, in direct contradiction to Christian theology and morality. In their attempts to impose their own ideas of the perfect society on their subject peoples, these regimes murdered millions. Terrible atrocities have been committed by Christians in the name of their religion, yet European attempts to create a genuine, just peace owe much to Christianity. The horrors committed by the extreme Left and Right during the 20th century show how peace too can suffer once the traditional moral views supporting it, based on Christianity, have been rejected.

Notes

1. St. Augustine, cited in Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett, Christianity on Trial: Arguments against Anti-Religious Bigotry (Encounter Books, New York 2002), p. 90.

2. Carroll and Shiflett, Christianity on Trial, pp. 90-1.

3. David Martin, Does Christianity Cause War? (Oxford, Clarendon Press 1997), cited in Carroll and Shiflett, Christianity on Trial, p. 95.

4. ‘A Perswasive to Moderation to Church-Dissenters, in Prudence and Conscience: Humbly Submitted to the KING and His Great Council’ in William Penn, ed. Edwin B. Bonner, The Peace of Europe, the Fruits of Solitude and Other Writings (London, J.M. Dent 1993), pp. 187-223.

5. ‘An Essay towards the Present and Future Peace of Europe, by the Establishment of an European DYET, PARLIAMENT, or Estates’, in Penn, ed. Bonner, The Peace of Europe, pp. 5-22.

6. Harry Hearder, Europe in the Nineteenth Century 1830-1880, Second Edition (London, Longman 1988), p. 154.

7. Hearder, Europe in the Nineteenth Century, p. 153.

8. Esmond Wright, ed., History of the World: The Last Five Hundred Years (Middlesex, Hamlyn 1984), p. 406.

9. Wright, ed., History of the World, p. 386.

10. Hearder, Europe in the Nineteenth Century, p. 155.

11. Hearder, Europe in the Nineteenth Century, pp. 155-6.

12. Hearder, Europe in the Nineteenth Century, p. 156.

13. Hearder, Europe in the Nineteenth Century, p. 156.

14. ‘Collins, Lewis John’, in The New Illustrated Everyman’s Encyclopedia, vol. 1 (London, J.M. Dent and Sons 1985), p. 370.

15. ‘Charles Raven’ in Geoffrey Rowell, Kenneth Stevenson and Rowan Williams, eds., Love’s Redeeming Work: The Anglican Quest for Holiness (Oxford, Oxford University Press 2001), p. 612; Charles Raven, ‘The Religious Basis of Pacifism’, in Rowell, Stevenson and Williams, eds., Love’s Redeeming Work, p. 613.

16. F. Forrester Church and Terrence J. Mulry, The MacMillan Book of Earliest Christian Prayers (New York, Collier Books 1988), p. 61.

17. 1 Peter 3:11 and 1 Peter 3:10 in the Holy Bible, King James Version (London, Collins), p. 242.

18. Hebrews 12: 14, in the Holy Bible, King James Version, p. 235.