Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement

By Lawrence S. Wittner | Go to book overview
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2 The Rise of Popular Protest,
1945–1953

Following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and nagasaki, a movement against the Bomb rapidly took shape in dozens of countries around the world. Alerted to the existence of nuclear weapons and to their catastrophic effects, hundreds of thousands of people rallied behind a loose, popular crusade to save humanity from nuclear destruction. This movement argued that nations should end the traditional practice of securing their interests by marshaling superior military might—a practice that, with the advent of the Bomb, seemed fraught with new and terrible dangers. At other times, the campaign focused more narrowly on the need to eliminate or control nuclear weapons. In either case, this grass-roots struggle against the Bomb championed an alternative that, for a time, had considerable popular appeal: One world.


Components of the Popular Struggle

At the center of the antinuclear campaign stood the world peace movement. Since the early nineteenth century, citizens' movements for peace had agitated for alternatives to the policies of national aggrandizement and military buildup that so often had led to international conflict and war. But world war II significantly undermined the three major international pacifist organizations—the war resisters' international (WRI), the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), and the women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). In lands under fascist rule, thousands of their supporters were imprisoned or slaughtered, while in non-fascist nations their adherents were marginalized, discredited, and sometimes imprisoned. The once-powerful pacifist influence within religious denominations and within Labor, Social Democratic, and Socialist parties also dwindled.

On the other hand, the world war substantially enhanced the antiwar influ

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