Home > Uncategorized > John Middleton Murry: Pacifist movement to bear witness against total dehumanization of humanity necessitated by modern war

John Middleton Murry: Pacifist movement to bear witness against total dehumanization of humanity necessitated by modern war


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

John Middleton Murry: Selections on peace and war


John Middleton Murry
From The Pledge of Peace

It is, I believe, gradually coming to be understood, in experience (which is better than understanding) that the cause of absolute Pacifism must be finally grounded in religion. No doubt the rational mind is capable of appreciating the insensate folly of modern warfare, and even of demonstrating, as Mr. Bertrand Russell has done with the utmost cogency, that a great modern war is almost certain to involve the loss of all those liberties which we shall be supposed to be defending; but when it comes to the decision to take, as an individual, the path of absolute war-resistance, and to accept the consequences, purely rational considerations are not enough. To hold that a condition of affairs is insensate is one thing; to decide that one will risk everything, even one’s life, to put a stop to the madness is quite another.


I am passionately convinced that if a Pacifist movement judges itself only by results, it will fall to pieces. A Pacifist movement, unless it is to disintegrate, must look beyond success or failure in the matter of actually achieving international peace. The real business of a Pacifist movement is to bear witness against the total dehumanization of humanity necessitated by modern war. If once Pacifists succumb to the view that the validity and value of its movement depends upon its success in preventing war, they have surrendered everything, and their movement is bound to fail. It is manifest that there is not going to be, as facile optimists imagine, a vast upsurge of national opinion against war. If this is what the “practical” pacifist counts on, he is not going to get it; and if he does not get what he counts on, he is bound to be lukewarm and indifferent. The man who wants to be on the winning side has no place in the Pacifist movement.

The Pacifist cause will be won, if it is won, only by those who have come to see that winning is a secondary affair. What matters is that men and women should bear their witness – and bear it, if need be, to the end. For they are the men and women who will win the cause of Pacifism, if it is to be won at all. I believe it can be won.

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