The War Resisters League (WRL) is the oldest secular pacifist organisation in the United States.
Founded in 1923 by men and women who had opposed World War I, it is a section of the London-based War Resisters’ International. It continues to be one of the leading radical voices in the anti-war movement.
Many of the organisation’s founders had been jailed during World War I for refusing military service. From the Fellowship of Reconciliation many Jews, suffragists, socialists, and anarchists separated to form this more secular organization.
Although the WRL was opposed to US participation in World War II, it did not protest against it; the WRL complied with the Espionage Act, ceased public protests, and did not solicit new members during this period. During World War II, many members were imprisoned as conscientious objectors. In the 1950s, WRL members worked in the civil rights movement and organised protests against nuclear weapons testing and civil defence drills.
In the 1960s, WRL was the first pacifist organisation to call for an end to the Vietnam War. WRL also organised the first demonstration against the war with a 21 September 1963 vigil at the US Mission to the United Nations (UN), followed by an 09 October 1963 picket of Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu speaking at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. WRL was among the primary groups (along with Committee for Nonviolent Action, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Socialist Party, and the Student Peace Union) to organise coordinated nationwide protests against the Vietnam War on 19 December 1964.
The organisation’s opposition to nuclear weapons was extended to include nuclear power in the 1970s and 1980s. The WRL has also been active in feminist and anti-racist causes and works with other organisations to reduce the level of violence in modern culture.
Presently, the War Resisters League is actively organising against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the impact of war at home. Much of its organising is focused on challenging military recruiters and ending corporate profit from war. It publishes an annual peace calendar, the quarterly magazine WIN: Through Revolutionary Nonviolence, and other materials and is involved in a number of national peace and justice coalitions, including United for Peace and Justice and the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee. Since 1958, WRL has awarded almost annually the War Resisters League Peace Award to a person or organisation whose work represents the League’s radical nonviolent programme of action.
The War Resisters League annually publishes a pie chart showing how much of the US federal budget actually covers current and past military expenses, listing the total as 54%:
“The figures are federal funds, which do not include trust funds — such as Social Security — that are raised and spent separately from income taxes….The government practice of combining trust and federal funds began during the Vietnam War, thus making the human needs portion of the budget seem larger and the military portion smaller. “
These figures are at odds with official government figures:
“[Dov S. Zakheim, the Pentagon comptroller pointed] out that the 2004 military budget would represent 16.6 percent of all federal spending, compared with 27.3 percent in the late 1980s.”
War Resisters League Peace Award
Since 1958, the “War Resisters League”, the pacifist group founded in 1923, has awarded almost annually its War Resisters League Peace Award to a person or organisation whose work represents the League’s radical nonviolent programme of Gandhian action.