In 1927, the leaders of the Peace Section of the American Friends Service Committee contemplated producing a statement of principles concerning Quaker peace work. They soon rejected the idea, citing the difficulty of creating "any one statement that would be accepted by the Society of Friends." The leaders knew an uncomfortable fact, most Quakers had discarded the faith's traditional peace testimony. Fashioning a new testimony, as well as the more united Society of Friends such a statement would require, occupied Quaker peace workers for decades afterward. The struggle over the peace testimony became the crucible of 20th century Quakerism and, because of the commitment of some Quaker pacifists, exerted a pivotal influence on the modern American peace movement.
During the Cold War, the peace testimony's most ardent backers initiated a movement to renew the Society of Friends. The renewalists' allegiance to Quakerism and pacifism generated a dual mission--while America's embrace of war demanded radical social change, the acceptance of war by most Quakers demanded the renewal of the faith's peace testimony. The two goals created strife as some renewalists concentrated on changing the Society of Friends while others stressed transforming the society at large. The differences frequently converged on the effort to define nonviolent action, a debate that encompassed the degree of pacifism expressed in Quaker peace work, the wisdom of sponsoring vigils, demonstrations, and civil disobedience, and the appropriateness of building ecumenical community peace groups. The disagreements, seemingly small in the beginning, divided and eventually helped end the renewal movement.
The renewal movement did not end before these Quaker pacifists had helped alter the very foundations of American radicalism. The notion of consistent ends and means that stood at the core of their rejection of violence brought the concept of prefigurative politics into the peace movement. And, while Quaker pacifists were joined by a wide variety of people in constructing the American peace movement of the 1950s and 1960s, this small group welded enormous influence. Ultimately, the notion of prefigurative politics fostered second wave feminism, spurred an alternative culture, and inspired a new environmental movement--demonstrating a continuity among the diverse social movements that have come to comprise American radicalism.
Modern Quakerism inherited a faith in organizational and theological disarray. During the first half of the 19th century, internal migration, the social tumult of the market revolution, and the rise of a more evangelical Protestantism all combined to split the Society into four major tendencies--Orthodox, Hicksite, Gurneyite, and Conservative--with numerous other smaller groups. Every local meeting struggled to define Quakerism. At the same time, the Quaker doctrine forbidding individual participation in war declined, prompted by Societal disunion and the growing Quaker consensus against slavery. Many young Quaker males, the majority in some areas, served in the Civil War in the Union army. Few were disowned. During World War I a clear majority of young Friends served on active duty and numerous leading Quakers publicly supported the war effort. Neither group suffered organizational admonishment. National Quaker assemblies invariably supported conscientious objection, but ceased requiring that members uphold the position. Individual apostasy towards the peace testimony had become the rule.
The disarray prompted a turn-of-the-century movement to modernize the faith's theology and unify its organizational structure. A group of Quaker intellectuals, led by the Haverford College philosophy professor Rufus Jones, began to steer Orthodox Quakerism towards a more liberal theology and a reform ethos that emphasized remaking society more than saving immoral individuals. The changes brought Orthodox Quakers into agreement with the Hicksites, who had arrived at such modern ideas several decades earlier by way of transcendentalism. Yet, even in Philadelphia, the center of the reform movement, the obvious merger was not completed until 1955. In the interim, reform Quakers used the peace testimony to unite the various factions and promote social change.
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) served as the primary vehicle for this effort. In 1917, Jones and Henry Cadbury, the two leading reformers, convinced the main Quaker factions to form the AFSC. The new group neither publicly criticized the war nor preached pacifism, Quaker support for the war and government censorship prevented either. Instead, like its English model, the Friends Service Council, the AFSC undertook relief work in Europe and supported the relatively few Quaker conscientious objectors. Unlike its British model, however, which was governed by a single Quaker religious body, the London Yearly Meeting, the AFSC's national board was comprised of representatives from varied Quaker bodies. Intended as a coalition for overseas relief work, the structure allowed the AFSC to develop significant autonomy from any single Quaker religious organization.
The AFSC's Peace Section led the transformation toward increased domestic political work and greater structural independence. During the 1930s, staff members Ray Newton and Raymond Wilson established the basic outlines of AFSC's domestic peace work: weekend Institute for International Relations (IIR) seminars, youth caravan projects, and a peace news service run by Devere Allen--all undertakings that established structures outside the yearly and monthly meetings of the Society of Friends. In 1935, Newton induced Quaker peace workers to initiate, fund, and largely lead the Emergency Peace Campaign (EPC), a broad coalition of antiwar forces that included 20 offices, 150 staff members, and 1200 local affiliates. After the EPC's 1938 demise, the Peace Section established a wider AFSC base upon the remnants, taking over the EPC student work in 1937 and hiring ten field secretaries in 1938. By 1941, Newton directed seven associate peace secretaries, eleven field peace secretaries, and numerous areas offices. In 1946, AFSC leaders discussed the effect of the peace department's work on the larger organization, and cited, in particular, "the growth of area offices from centers of peace education activity of the Peace Section to the many demands now made on these offices by interested people in the community."
The AFSC's peace work provided an additional legacy--Quaker converts in numbers not seen for almost a century. Ray Newton, Raymond Wilson, and Devere Allen were converts, as were such peace leaders as Emily Greene Balch, Frederick Libby, A. J. Muste, and Mildred Scott Olmsted. During the 1930s, these "convinced Friends," as they were know within the Society, formed meetings that insisted on a strong peace testimony and established their independence from the two major Quaker factions by affiliating with neither (called independent local meetings) or both (called united local meetings). The AFSC actively recruited converts by establishing the Friends Fellowship Council (FFC) in 1936 to function as an alternative "central meeting." Affiliating with the FFC allowed independent local meetings to earn official Quaker status, without allying with any of the competing yearly meetings. The AFSC also created the Wider Quaker Fellowship (WQF) for "friends of the Friends" to gain association with the Society before committing themselves to actual membership. By World War II, pacifist converts had created 64 independent or united meetings out of some 850 Quaker meetings nationwide, while WQF had some 2000 members.
Those who joined the Society of Friends in the 1930s were, in many respects, a generation at odds with their decade. They were highly educated in a time when few people possessed the resources to pay for a university education. They possessed a social consciousness uncommon for their elite status but were uneasy with the problems of the Great Depression and of the second-generation, immigrant working class that dominated the decade. A belief in nonviolence and a concern for spiritual matters also differentiated the new Quakers from most 1930s radicals. The isolation that surely helped propel them into the Society of Friends also developed the character required to bear a lonely witness against the fast approaching war.
World War II temporarily halted the changes with the Society of Friends as Quakers concentrated on relief work abroad and supporting conscientious objectors at home. Quakers joined the other traditional peace churches--Brethren and Mennonite--in the Civilian Public Service (CPS), an effort in shared management by government of alternative service for some 12,000 men. The AFSC intensified relief and refugee work, particularly after the war ended, when the group helped feed and clothe millions in war-torn Europe. The relief work earned the AFSC the 1947 Nobel Peace Prize, an award it shared with the Friends Service Council of Great Britain, in honor of work by the Society of Friends worldwide.
World War II also reminded Quaker pacifists of their minority status within a Society of Friends that still numbered under 100,000. Some 90% of eligible Quakers served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces. The Society was a peace church only in the historic sense. One leading pacifist Quaker, Norman Whitney, spoke in 1945 on the "shabby story" of the majority of Friends who served and supported the war. He was "deeply distressed and fearful" about the Society's future and believed that "we have lost our faith and we have lost our practice, and so our integrity as a religious society." Privately, he was even more critical. Whitney had written in 1944 of his agreement with AFSC National Peace Education Secretary Ray Newton's idea that "the religious pacifist movement must be built outside and independent of" the Society of Friends. The deep disappointment these pacifists felt toward the behavior of their fellow Friends influenced all ensuing Quaker peace work.
The war did provide one positive outcome for Quaker pacifists, a new generation from among World War II conscientious objectors. These younger men established groups like the Committee for Nonviolent Revolution and Peacemakers, invigorated existing pacifist organizations like the War Resisters League, and occupied numerous staff positions with AFSC. Often, but not universally, drawn to Quakerism, people like David Dellinger and Bayard Rustin began promoting a stricter peace testimony and more active opposition to war. The younger pacifists also emphasized nonviolent action and civil disobedience. For some, such acts could change institutions and public policy; for others, such acts might produce a revolution; for all, the major focus was changing American society.
The debate within AFSC on alternative service during the Korean War demonstrated the strengthened commitment to a more rigorous pacifism. The AFSC repudiated the World War II CPS model. The group believed the arrangement had compromised its principles and implicated the organization in the suppression of dissent. The AFSC agreed to provide alternative service during the Korean War only if guaranteed autonomy from Selective Service regulations and management. Selective Service head General Lewis B. Hershey denied it such latitude. Hershey informed AFSC representatives in summer 1952 that the AFSC was "trying to cramp [its] conscience" by cooperating with Selective Service. The AFSC representatives thanked Hershey for seeing the problem "even more clearly" than they did. That fall, the organization rejected participation. Individuals might convince their local draft boards to allow alternative service with the AFSC, but the Quaker service body would not even "communicate with" the Selective Service to assist them in those efforts.
Peace activity during the Cold War changed the AFSC. In the 1920s the group's budget had declined to 2% of its World War I relief work high. During the 1950s, the AFSC budget fell only 50% from its World War II peak. More importantly, priorities had changed. In 1945, the vast majority of the AFSC's $3.7 million dollar budget was spent abroad, where most of its 573 staff served. In 1954, the AFSC allocated equal amounts for domestic and overseas work, while only 56 of its 381 staff worked outside the United States. The 1954 annual report showed another consequence of work outside the faith. Non-Quakers provided the majority of the AFSC's financial donations and two-thirds of its staff. These figures, combined with the number of convinced Friends, accented the small role birthright Quakers played in the organization. The debate over the peace testimony still touched relatively few Quakers and, as yet, only slightly impacted the larger society. However, the peace testimony increasingly involved challenging American domestic society, particularly the ceaseless preparations for war.
Two events provided the final impetus for the renewal movement. The 1955 merger of the Hicksite and Orthodox yearly meetings in New York and Philadelphia provided a more unified structure and ended the renewalists' organizational isolation. The Cold War consensus also lessened slowly, symbolized by the emerging civil rights movement and opposition to nuclear testing. However, a strengthened Quaker peace testimony could only inspire comprehensive social change if expanded to encompass the entire society. This expansion was the primary intellectual work of the renewal movement.
The most important previous AFSC publication on the Cold War, the 1951 Steps to Peace: A Quaker View of U.S. Foreign Policy (STP), had concentrated only on intergovernmental relations. Robert Pickus, then Chicago AFSC Peace Secretary, had severely criticized STP and the national AFSC's peace education program in a 1954 memo. Pickus asserted that both promoted only limited reforms of the international system. His call for a new pacifist pamphlet had resulted in a new document that shunned any such limitations. In 1955, the AFSC published the 70-page pamphlet Speak Truth to Power: A Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence (STTP). Stephen Cary, the chair of the AFSC American Section and a CPS veteran, wrote the body of the text. Norman Whitney wrote the conclusion. A thirteen-person committee, which included such leading pacifists as Robert Gilmore, Milton Mayer, A. J. Muste, Clarence Pickett, and Robert Pickus incorporated numerous comments in the final draft.
Renewalists expanded the peace testimony's reach by emphasizing the consequences of a militaristic foreign policy for American domestic life. The new pamphlet asserted that militarism not only caused war but devastated democracy. The writers made their preference clear; they would rather "give up our military strength and accept the risks that involved, than keep our guns and lose our democracy." Quaker pacifists argued that the requirements of war--the wartime incarceration of Japanese-Americans, the bombing of civilians, and conscription during times of peace as well as war--had already severely diminished American democracy. Certain that "democracy and militarism are incompatible," the writers of STTP frequently claimed that militarism alone caused American mass society. The notion that a nation's foreign policy determined its domestic structure, whatever its accuracy, allowed a wide range of social criticism.
The renewalists created a new definition of peace by altering its linguistic opposite--peace would no longer be contrasted to war but to violence. The new dyad allowed pacifists to move beyond the foreign policies of the nation-state to criticize any action that could be labeled as violent. Previously, Quaker pacifists had emphasized the negative effects of war between nations and proposed a series of alternative foreign policies. The notion of nonviolent action, if used at all, was still tied to the nonresistance concept of suffering for one's principles and converting one's opponents by moral example. For example, Howard Brinton, the leading Quaker intellectual on peace matters before the Cold War, equated nonviolence with "passive resistance" and "suffering" in a 1950 pamphlet on the peace testimony.
The effort to define nonviolence stood at the heart of the eventual divisions within the renewal movement. The committee behind STTP claimed that the "heart" of nonviolence was its ability "to knit the break in the sense of community whose fracture is both a cause and a result of human conflict." Leading STTP supporters argued that "restraints can be built into the individual personality and into the process of organized communities" that will improve man's potential for good. In effect, these Quaker pacifists promised that in return for the state forswearing violence, individuality would be tempered by a renewed sense of community. The notion of nonviolence as action that "neither killed nor submitted" but promoted social change was, as yet, but a "dim outline." Despite the popularity of Gandhi within American peace circles, Quaker pacifists in such groups as Peacemakers and the War Resisters League had failed in their efforts to promote a more activist version of nonviolence.
In February 1957, renewalists succeeded in reorganizing the AFSC's Peace Education Department (PED). One renewalist concern had been administrative. The relative autonomy of regional offices and administrative weaknesses within the national office had created an unfocused program. The larger issues in the reorganization concerned how to define, and then implement, the peace testimony. Renewalists complained the PED had failed to clearly state the peace testimony's fundamental opposition to violence. They hoped to make nonviolence, as expressed in STTP, the centerpiece of the department's work. Renewalists themselves lacked consensus regarding implementation. Some continued to support the weekend IIR as the model for community peace work. Others favored building more permanent, and activist, community peace groups. The AFSC's U.S. director, Stephen Cary, hoped to solve the three problems by hiring Norman Whitney to direct AFSC's peace work.
Norman Whitney had emerged as an important Quaker peace leader during World War II. Born in 1891 in rural western New York, he moved to Syracuse in 1919 to teach English at Syracuse University. Raised a Baptist, Quakerism's peace testimony drew Whitney into the Society. Once convinced, Whitney led. He joined the AFSC staff in 1942 to help oversee the CPS camps. After the war, Whitney toured Europe several times for the Society of Friends and traversed the nation every summer speaking on the peace testimony for the AFSC. Whitney served on the AFSC Board from 1947-1952 and 1954-58 and published a widely-read private newsletter called the Spectator Papers. His energy, commitment, and leadership prompted the Quaker faithful to rewarded him with the appellation "The Bishop."
In the years immediately before rejoining the AFSC staff Whitney had won wider support for the renewal effort. In 1957, the Young Friends Movement of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the heart of reform Quakerism, chose Whitney to deliver their prestigious annual William Penn lecture. Whitney severely criticized the Society for having "watered down" the testimonies and of practicing a "practical indifference to inward conviction, disguised as respect of conscience or mistaken for democracy or tolerance." Whitney hoped a revitalized Society of Friends would promote radical social change. He repeatedly asserted that "the time is ripe for the completion of the reformation by the Quaker movement that was once seen as the 'radical left wing of the Reformation.'" For generations Quaker historians had downplayed the sect's ties to the radicalism of Britain's tumultuous Civil War. As the Cold War thawed and American society opened up, Whitney embraced the long obscured revolutionary intentions of Quakerism's founders in hopes of prompting a moral and social revolution in the United States.
Administratively, Whitney succeeded. Over three years he centralized literature production, initiated a monthly newsletter to departmental staff and local activists, produced a thirty-six page manual for peace secretaries, visited every regional office twice, and increased the PED's national staff from three to fourteen. Programmatically, Whitney strongly pushed STTP. He printed an additional 25,000 copies, initiated two national tours of a play based on the pamphlet, and secured funding to produce a film version. The AFSC's budget and structure reflected the efforts of Quaker peace workers. In 1959, the group allocated 23% of cash donations for relief and development abroad and 49% to changing American foreign policy. In 1960, the AFSC abolished the longstanding division between work undertaken at home by the American Section and that undertaken abroad by the Foreign Service Section, a decision motivated in good part by the AFSC's increasing domestic activism.
On one point Whitney was decidedly against change, his strong support for the IIR model. He asserted that the weekend conferences allowed the AFSC to engage in "peace education and action," while adding that the "order of the phrasing is significant." (emphasis in original) His words contained a rebuff obvious to his readers, albeit one he himself had not expected. Whitney had assumed opposition to a strengthened peace testimony would come from the same "older and conservative" Friends who had always criticized the AFSC's peace work. Surprisingly, his most active challengers emanated from Quakerism's radical wing.
More than any other person, Lawrence Scott represented the radical Quaker position. Born in 1908 in Missouri to evangelical Christians, Scott kept that faith until college. A religious conversion in 1939 propelled him to seminary school. Opposition to war in 1942 conveyed him into Fellowship of Reconciliation. After that year, he always worked full-time for social change: directing an interracial FOR project in Kansas City, working for the radical pacifist group Peacemakers, directing an AFSC summer student project in St. Louis, and spending a year in residence at the Quaker study center at Pendle Hill. He officially converted in 1948, and in 1954 became the Peace Education Secretary for the Chicago AFSC office.
Scott brought a greater sense of mission and zeal to his work than the AFSC could accommodate. In spring 1957, he resigned and published his resignation letter, titled "Words are Not Enough," in the May 1957 issue of the radical pacifist journal Liberation. Scott strongly criticized the "effete middle-class Friends of today." He asserted that the AFSC's peace education program "may be doing more harm than good by accenting the separation between words and action." Because Scott believed that "speaking words has become so cheap in this age that only the literal act has much meaning," he proposed a program of civil disobedience to foment economic and social revolution.
Scott left AFSC at an opportune moment. Radioactive fallout had begun to draw a variety of activists into a campaign to stop nuclear weapons tests. Scott played a crucial role. He sparked the meetings that created the Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy (SANE) and the Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA), although he would devote his energies to the mostly Quaker CNVA. On August 6, 1957, Scott joined ten others in illegally entering the U.S. nuclear testing site in Nevada. In early 1958, Albert Bigelow, a convinced Friend and veteran of the Nevada action, Harvard Yard, and the U.S. Navy, captained the ship "The Golden Rule" on its sail into the U.S. Pacific testing ground. The majority of people arrested in both projects were converts to the Quaker faith.
Most CNVA founders, among them Scott and Bigelow, left the group after 1958. They thought newer members too quick to employ civil disobedience, particularly after Eisenhower's 1958 nuclear testing moratorium. Scott attempted to rescue the notion of nonviolent action from the adherents of civil disobedience by initiating a vigil against biological weapons at Fort Detrick in Maryland that ran from July 1, 1959 to March 30, 1961 and involved some 1600 people. The vigil concept combined older notions of religious witness with newer ideas of nonviolent action. Vigils also appealed to a far wider group by eschewing civil disobedience and thus arrests. However, this approach regulated the discussion on the relation of civil disobedience to nonviolent action to the background--for the moment.
The growing antinuclear movement, the nuclear testing moratorium by both superpowers, and the civil disobedience moratorium by many radical Quakers provided Quaker peace activists with the opportunity to attend to the long-neglected peace testimony within the Society of Friends itself. Prompted by the 300th anniversary of Quaker founder George Fox's 1660 statement on peace, Quaker peace activists won resolutions supporting a renewal of the peace testimony from the New York Yearly Meeting, the Young Friends Committee, the Peace and Social Order Committees of the Friends General Conference, and the Five Years Meeting. On the weekend of November 12-13, 1960, some 1000 Quakers held a Pentagon vigil officially sponsored by the Society of Friends. Scott coordinated the weekend's events while the recently retired AFSC head Henry Cadbury chaired the organizing committee.
Following the November 1960 event, Scott pushed for another vigil in Washington. The AFSC board sanctioned the new effort, but with conspicuous reservations. The board permitted regional AFSC committees to endorse the effort, but refused to endorse the vigil itself or allow any national AFSC staff to work on the project. The obvious compromise did little to hide the tension. Regional AFSC peace secretary Ray Hartsough wrote Stewart Meacham, the national peace secretary after Whitney retired in 1960, that Hartsough could "almost see the blood dripping" from the recent AFSC vigil statement. Scott, the director of the 1961 Washington vigil committee, wrote that a "conflict of interest" within the AFSC forced the movement to use an ad hoc committee structure.
Norman Whitney's reactions to vigils and civil disobedience also demonstrated the growing tensions between the two wings of the renewal movement. In 1958, CNVA leader Brad Lyttle wrote Whitney about the group's upcoming civil disobedience at a Wyoming missile base. Whitney's letter to Bayard Rustin about the action signaled both opposition and incomprehension. "In Philadelphia," Whitney wrote, "there is a category of persons known as 'confused, elderly Friends.' I grow more and more convinced of my eligibility." In 1959, Whitney published a positive account of his participation in the Fort Detrick vigil. However, he urged that such tactics be used "carefully, perhaps sparingly," and argued that such projects should not become "a substitute for the more conventional, time-tried means of persuasion." Whitney wrote soon after to radical renewalist Ross Flanagan that his main concern was "the Peace Testimony within the Society" (emphasis in original) not the effect of witness actions on those outside Quakerism.
The 1961 Easter Witness for Peace was an even greater success. The event brought some 3000 people to Washington while an additional 20,000 individuals participated in hundreds of local vigils around the nation. The Quaker activists won endorsements from local affiliates of the AFSC, FOR, SANE, SPU, WRL, and WILPF, groups whose national leadership had often been slow to endorse public demonstrations. The vigil leaflet boldly declared its "primary purpose" was a call for new policies that "would lead to peace and the revitalization of democracy." The wording underscored the movement's domestic focus, early 1960s peace activists wanted to change American society as well as the international system.
Events after the Easter 1961 vigils would soon increase tensions within the renewal movement. The fall 1961 decision by the USSR, and then the U.S., to renew nuclear testing prompted some Quakers to again employ the still controversial tactic of civil disobedience. Renewed testing--in a portent of Vietnam-- also sparked new peace groups and rejuvenated older ones, involving an ever greater number of people. How to relate to a broader and more diverse peace movement would comprise a major challenge for Quakers during the rest of the 1960s.
The Quakers who moved toward more activist ideas did so before most Friends had fully endorsed the more limited vigil concept. The November 1960 Friends Journal discussed the "strains" produced by the emphasis on the peace testimony. The peace committee of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) conceded in 1961 that Quakers "are not of one mind about the value of demonstrations and vigils." A 1961 survey of New York local meetings by the peace committee of the New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM) disclosed that only a small number of meetings participated in any peace vigils. Instead, most meetings "concentrated on achieving more unity" while some meetings witnessed "little change" in tensions the discussions caused.
The decision of the more radical wing of the renewal movement to establish an organizational home in the peace committees of the NYYM and the PYM often exacerbated the tensions. Committees under the yearly meetings attracted issue- oriented people, a process of self-selection that limited ideological disagreements. In effect, the yearly meeting peace committees allowed the renewalists to act in the name of the Society of Friends, without being limited by the less radical members in their own monthly meetings.
Renewalists in New York won endorsement of a proposal to renew the peace testimony at the 1959 NYYM. However, the older members of the peace committee did not support the radical wing's activist intentions. As a result, NYYM peace activists split into two different committees. The more activist group of renewalists formed the Peace Action Committee and endeavored to develop "methods of public witness for peace in the spirit of Friends." The committee described its work as
presenting a convincing challenge . . . to the view that peace is primarily a matter of non-violent relations between nations and that appeals to head of states or to person in important positions in government is the way to bring about change in national policy.Each year the yearly meeting urged the Peace Action Committee and the older Peace and Service Committee to merge. Each year they refused.
The peace committee of the PYM, controlled by the most activist of Quaker peace workers, suffered no such split. As early as 1956, an FPC leaflet declared that there were "major changes" taking place in the testimony: "There is no longer a testimony, but several." (emphasis in original) Committee members wrestled with the "problem of birthright Friends who do not hold the Peace Testimony," but were unwilling to allow non- pacifist Friends to slow their intellectual and political project. The FPC announced in 1962 that its mission was "not merely to reject war, but also to expand and extend positive peacemaking, which may include actions outside narrower definitions of the word 'religious.'. . . Praying for peace and maintaining personal testimonies are not enough."
The emergence of a new national peace group in 1961 sharpened the Quaker debate over peace work. The upsurge in activism after the renewal of nuclear testing prompted a national campaign to establish a local peace group in every American community. The effort, called Turn Toward Peace (TTP), attracted the endorsement of every major peace group in the nation. AFSC national peace secretary Stewart Meacham explicitly placed the origins of TTP within ongoing debates over AFSC peace work:
[TTP's] approach was at least partially developed by [Robert] Pickus in the Chicago region while he was the AFSC peace secretary there about ten years ago. It was characterized by the attempt at moving away from the "event" centered program to one more oriented toward "involving" people actively in peace work; it aimed at the development of community peace centers.
Meacham favored a broad renewal of the peace testimony and was far more open than his predecessor to moving away from the IIR conference model that had dominated AFSC peace work for over a decade. Meacham had arrived at Quakerism from a combination of seminary training and labor organizing. Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1910, and a graduate of Davidson College, (where he roomed with Dean Rusk) the fundamentalism Meacham inherited from his pastor father did not survive his attendance at the liberal Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Meacham's 1934 return to his Southern hometown as a Presbyterian minister committed to industrial unionism and racial justice was predictably short lived. Thereafter, Meacham worked for the labor movement, moving to Ridgewood, N.J. after World War II for a job with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers. He began attending the Ridgewood Meeting, officially becoming a member in 1957 when he first joined the AFSC staff.
Turn Toward Peace won far more endorsements than commitments. Only the AFSC and SANE devoted significant resources to the new organization. The AFSC designated the project a priority for all peace secretaries and New York City AFSC staffer Robert Gilmore worked full time on the project. SANE contributed its Washington staff member Sanford Gottlieb while national board member Norman Thomas chaired TTP. The final staff member, Robert Pickus, funded himself through his own west coast peace organization.
SANE and the AFSC had very different visions of how to build community peace groups. Meacham wanted to create democratic and autonomous organizations. He believed the AFSC should create local groups, "which later emerge in organizational forms over which the AFSC cannot and should not exercise control." Thomas, on the other hand, demanded a centralized structure to insure TTP would not be "captured" by leftists or pacifists. Both Pickus and Gilmore supported Thomas, highlighting the divisions among Quaker pacifists. Pickus had long been concerned with defeating communism at home and abroad. Gilmore's decision was more surprising. He had resigned from SANE in opposition to its May 1960 decision to expel communists from the organization. However, Gilmore was far more bitter toward the CP than toward SANE's anticommunist national board. Together, the three men imposed the new group's structure. TTP would explicitly forbid membership, precisely limit affiliate power, and place all power in a small executive council dominated by Thomas and his allies.
Meacham abhorred the evolving structure. He accused his coalition partners of developing "a network of centrally controlled" local peace organizations "under the guise" of creating a broad coalition. The reaction of TTP to the renewal of nuclear testing exacerbated the conflict. The organizations's founding statement had promised to "criticize or praise both sides in the Cold War." Notwithstanding, TTP refused to condemn the U.S. renewal of atmospheric nuclear testing in 1962. In hopes of maintaining the very limited cooperation of a few union leaders, the organization decided to cease issuing any policy statements. Even more damaging, some TTP leaders acted in a duplicitous manner, asserting to reluctant supporters the ad hoc nature of the new endeavor while conspiring among themselves to create an organization capable of controlling the peace movement. These collective disagreements led Meacham to push for the withdrawal of AFSC support in 1962. His opposition effectively destroyed TTP, although an acrimonious debate within the AFSC on the matter stretched into 1964.
Regardless of its short existence, TTP had a significant impact on the peace movement and the Quaker peace workers. The debate within the AFSC generated bitter feelings within the small group of long time activists which never dissipated. Quaker peace activists within the NYYM and the PYM grew ever more committed to creating local peace groups independent of the endless bickering at the national level. Meacham became even more committed to the coalition approach, and played a critical role in establishing such coalitions around the Vietnam War. Gilmore and Pickus continued to promote an anti-communism version of the peace testimony increasingly rejected by Quaker and non- Quaker peace activists alike. More important for future peace effort, the attempt to coordinate the movement had faltered just as anti-nuclear protests peaked. The failure to create a permanent organization that encompassed local groups and coordinated national activists significantly contributed to the ad-hoc and coalitional approach the peace movement adopted during the Vietnam War.
Quaker religious organizations were not early opponents of U.S. actions in Vietnam. The 1964 NYYM statement on Vietnam, reached only after "considerable discussion," called for neither negotiations nor withdrawal. Instead, the NYYM urged the "use of our best economic and sociological resources instead of military efforts," without alluding to any specific goals. In 1965, the NYYM urged negotiations and ambiguously called on the U.S. government to "avoid unilateral actions motivated mainly by the containment policy." The PYM was no bolder. The yearly meeting's peace committee "raised Quaker eyebrows in more than one meeting" with its 1964 call for the U.S to withdraw all military forces. However, the 1965 PYM itself could only call for "constructive means rather than military" ones and urge a "move toward an orderly society in Vietnam. Regardless of reputation, the Quaker faithful were predominantly moderate in its political outlook.
The AFSC's early stance on the war was no more militant. In October 1965, the Quaker service body called for a cease fire, negotiations, the eventual "withdrawal of all armed forces, and the acceptance by all of an international presence to maintain order and give protection." The statement left unspecified exactly which country the Vietnamese armies might retire to, or if the U.S. could be part of the international force. More disturbing to Quaker radicals, the AFSC negotiated with the U.S. government for over a year on establishing a relief program in Vietnam, and then accepted the its decision to sharply limit what the AFSC might send.
Dissatisfied with his Quaker brethren, Lawrence Scott organized A Quaker Action Group (AQAG) in 1966. Based in the peace committees of the yearly meetings of New York and Philadelphia, the new group hoped to foment opposition to the war in Vietnam and "arouse the Society of Friends." The leaders of AQAG worked to accomplish both by sending relief supplies to the very people the U.S. military attacked, individuals living in North Vietnam. AQAG mailed aid parcels to Hanoi, which the U.S. Post Office refused to forward, and collected money for the Red Cross Societies of North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the National Liberation Front, which the U.S. Treasury seized. In 1967, AQAG sent a boat carrying medical supplies to the North Vietnam Red Cross, earning the further enmity of the federal government.
AQAG insisted the Society of Friends endorse its view of the peace testimony. In 1967, Scott urged radicals to push for "public affirmations" of the peace testimony within monthly and yearly meetings, regardless of the tensions. "The way of revitalizing the Society of Friends and the peace testimony," he wrote, "does not lie along the road of avoiding conflict and contention." The efforts increased tension within the largest yearly meeting in the United States. In 1967, the PYM rejected an activist statement on the peace testimony and approved a minute on Vietnam with only the most general of objectives. In 1968, the PYM called for negotiations and a cease fire, but admitted that some Friends believed pacifism required a call for U.S. withdrawal. In 1969, the PYM recorded a generally held opinion that members should act on the peace testimony "outside the corporate body of the Meeting" because of "a basic lack of unity." The PYM was still unable to call for a withdrawal of U.S. forces in 1972. The annual epistle admitted the obvious: "We are torn by differences in our understanding of the Quaker witness."
The radical renewalists won more support within the AFSC. In fall 1966, the AFSC called for the "complete U.S. military withdrawal from Vietnam, beginning now." In 1968, the AFSC decided to send medical supplies to the NLF for civilian use even after the U.S. government denied permission. It was the first time the Quaker group had "disobeyed the government in a direct confrontation." The organization's annual report the previous year acknowledged the significant changes that were occurring by admitting the current AFSC was "very different" than that of 1917:
Then it [the AFSC] was preoccupied with the immediate task of relieving the suffering of war victims. Now, while still involved in relief programs, it goes beyond them to the roots of war and attempts to bring about peaceful social change.The struggle to end the Vietnam War had allowed Quaker renewalists to win an increased AFSC commitment to building local groups that would, regardless of the Quaker content or level of AFSC control, promote broad social change. The decades of peace activism had transformed the AFSC from a service body for all--or at least most--Quakers into a more independent and radical organization.
However, even the AFSC would not move far enough for some radical Quakers. In March 1971, a group of AQAG supporters proposed the AFSC establish a division for nonviolent revolution. The AFSC rejected the proposal. In April, AQAG leaders debated whether undertaking the task itself would alter AQAG's character as "a force for renewal of the Society of Friends." George Willoughby, a convinced Friend who had been a member of both CNVA and the PYM peace committee, answered that "working to renew the Society of Friends" was no longer so important. AQAG then transformed itself into the Movement for a New Society (MNS). The new group, while committed to personal change and social radicalism, and comprised of numerous Quakers, largely abandoned the goal of revolutionizing the Society of Friends. That decision marked the end of the Quaker renewal movement.
The renewal movement played a crucial role in propagating a radicalism based on prefigurative politics by altering the Quaker peace testimony in ways that helped birth new social movements. By pairing peace with violence instead of war, renewalists changed both the tactics and the scope of peace work. Any act that could be labeled nonviolent could be undertaken. Any action that could be labeled violent could be opposed. Individuals made peace with, and in, their own lives: the personal had become far more political.
The MNS book-length manifesto, "Moving Toward a New Society," originally written by AQAG in the late 1960s and titled "Revolution: Quaker Prescription for a Sick Society," displayed the transformed pacifism. The book integrated ideas about international relations with newer notions of ecology, feminism, and decentralization, all under the rubric of creating a nonviolent society.
There is no need to wait until after the revolution to practice decentralization, participation, equality, and nonviolent action. The campaigns we develop now, the organizations we build now, the style we adopt in relating to each other, can give a taste of what it would be like to live in a nonviolent social order. (emphasis added)
The war in Vietnam helped foster the ideological shift implicit in altering the definition of peace by bringing violence into every local community. Few American citizens actually killed people in Vietnam, but many contributed to the war. Some served in the military; a larger number made weapons in factories; most citizens paid taxes. The long war also engendered a large and vibrant peace movement, forcing pacifist leaders to articulate their ideas to a multitude of potential recruits.
However, the discursive strategy was not without problems. First, the attempt to expand peace work to include opposition to all violence proved unstable. Those interested in ending violence toward women would more likely call themselves feminists than peace activists. Second, the shift to opposing violence weaken pacifism's previous total condemnation of war. Few renewalists could accept the absolutism required to preach pacifism to third world revolutionaries struggling to end enormous structural violence within their respective societies. Third, the Vietnam War caused the peace movement to concentrate on foreign policy and the state, a similarity with earlier peace efforts that obscured--and perhaps even hindered--the transition from one kind of radicalism to another.
That Europe spawned a powerful New Left without the direct immediacy of a Vietnam War or a comparable civil rights struggle indicates the need for a deeper understanding of the origins of the 1960's radicalism. The ultimate foundation of the new radicalism lay in new cultural concepts, particularly the notion of prefigurative politics. Unfortunately, culture is largely ignored in the existing historical narrative. Scholars typically discuss the small 1950s bohemian rebellion, and then quickly return to issue-oriented organizational politics until culture reemerges in the 1970s. The peace movement, which owed so much in organizational origins and intellectual content to the Quaker renewal movement, provides a crucial link. For those activists, creating peace meant building a fundamentally new society. On that point, the Society of Friends, like the nation, failed to reach consensus.