War Resisters League

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The War Resisters League (WRL) is the oldest secular pacifist organization in the United States.[1][2]


Founded in 1923 by men and women who had opposed World War I, it is a section of the London-based War Resisters' International.[3] It continues to be one of the leading radical voices in the anti-war movement.[1]

Many of the organization'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.[4] During World War II, many members were imprisoned as conscientious objectors.[5] In the 1950s, WRL members worked in the civil rights movement and organized protests against nuclear weapons testing and civil defense drills.[2]

In the 1960s, WRL was the first pacifist organization to call for an end to the Vietnam War.[2] WRL also organized the first demonstration against the war with a September 21, 1963 vigil at the U.S. Mission to the UN, followed by an October 9, 1963 picket of Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu speaking at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.[6] 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 organize coordinated nationwide protests against the Vietnam War on December 19, 1964.[7]

The organization'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 organizations to reduce the level of violence in modern culture.

Current activities[edit]

Presently, the War Resisters League is actively organizing against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the impact of war at home.[8] Much of its organizing 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 organization whose work represents the League's radical nonviolent program of action.

The War Resisters League annually publishes a pie chart showing how much of the U.S. 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 [emphasis added] — 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. "[9][10]

Using the larger total spending that includes trust funds, official government figures produce smaller percentages for military spending:

"[Dov S. Zakheim, the Pentagon comptroller pointed] out that the 2004 military budget would represent 16.6 percent of all federal spending [emphasis added], compared with 27.3 percent in the late 1980s."[11]

Key members[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "War Resisters League" Fellowship for Reconciliation website
  2. ^ a b c "WRL History". Warresisters.org. Retrieved 2013-12-04.
  3. ^ Roger Powers S (2012). Protest, Power, and Change: An Encyclopedia of Nonviolent Action. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-136-76482-0.
  4. ^ Bennett, p. 74.
  5. ^ Bennett, p. 69ff
  6. ^ WRL News, Nov-Dec 1963, p. 1
  7. ^ The Power of the People, ed. Robert Cooney & Helen Michalowski, New Society Publishers, Philadelphia, PA, 1987, p. 182
  8. ^ Barry, Dan (2003). "A nation at war: at war at home; as wars come and go, Ralph keeps protesting". New York Times (March 22). Retrieved 2008-07-16.
  9. ^ Pie chart, warresisters.org.
  10. ^ Sardi, Bill. "How Much Does It Cost Your Household for War?". lewrockwell.com. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  11. ^ Wayne, Leslie. THE PRESIDENT'S BUDGET PROPOSAL: THE MILITARY; Despite Bush's Vow, Spending on High-Tech Weapons Remains at Low Level, New York Times. (February 4, 2003).
  12. ^ "Group Seeks End to Draft". The Chapel Hill News. 5 March 1982. p. 10.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bennett, Scott H. Radical Pacifism: The War Resisters League and Gandhian Nonviolence in America, 1915-1963 NY: Syracuse Univ. Press, 2003.

External links[edit]