Between Justice and Politics: The Ligue Des Droits de L'homme, 1898-1945

By William D. Irvine | Go to book overview

SIX
War and Peace: 1914–1934

In the years before 1914, the League took a firm stand on the issue of war. It was “pacifist” in the sense that most of its members felt that it was the duty of democratic governments to ensure that international conflict be resolved by peaceful means. They rejected war as an instrument of international relations and feared the nefarious consequences of militarism, nationalism, and imperialism for world—or at least European—peace. Progressive and mutual disarmament, binding international arbitration, and world government—in the form of international organizations—were the standard recipes of the pre-1914 League. The League participated fully in the spate of international and pacifist organizations that proliferated in prewar Europe, sending delegates, for example, to the meetings of the International Congress on Peace in Nîmes, Milan, London, and Stockholm. To judge by the amount of time spent discussing these issues in the years before the World War I, League members took them seriously. Nonetheless, in spite of much debate, the League was left with a series of platonic resolutions that sounded impressive but were ultimately vague as to just what active measures the League would take to prevent war and—more important—what it should do if, despite its best actions and those of other men of good will, war were nonetheless to break out.

With the outbreak of war in 1914, the League rallied to the defense of the French nation and, like virtually everyone in France, joined the Union Sacrée. Indeed, in the early months even some of the most articulate pacifists in the League were seduced by the super-heated patriotism of the time.1 Still, although generally supporting the war effort, the League was not uncritical of the French government. It protested wartime censorship, military justice, and suspensions of civil liberties unjustified by the exigencies of war. There was, of course, always some debate about how far the League could—and should—go in its criticism of the government without undermining the war effort. Georges Clemenceau’s ruthless suppression of defeatists after 1917 was a case in point. Few

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Between Justice and Politics: The Ligue Des Droits de L'homme, 1898-1945
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Between Justice and Politics - The Ligue Des Droits de L'homme, 1898–1945 iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • One - Origins, Organization, and Structure 5
  • Two - Ici on Ne Fait Pas de la Politique 20
  • Three - Politics, Yes, but Not Electoral Politics 53
  • Four - Liberty with All Its Risks 81
  • Five - The League from below 111
  • Six - War and Peace- 1914–1934 132
  • Seven - From the Popular Front to the Fall of France 160
  • Eight - Vichy 194
  • Epilogue 213
  • Notes 225
  • Bibliography 255
  • Index 257
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