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Pacifism and "just war" as a coherent socio-political practices
Material posted: Publication date: 16-11-2019
In the history of pacifism, acted as a political ideology and socio-cultural practice. If you consider pacifism as a system of certain beliefs, that during the whole time of its existence, its Foundation has remained the philosophy of non-violence and radical anti-militarism, which has been variously interpreted depending on the era. As social activities pacifism is often taken for inaction, however, is actually a pacifist movement, with rare exceptions, was non-violent – social-ethical or international-legal form of resistance to the violence.

Opposition to the war is not the last issue of peacekeeping, it is more important to eliminate violence in society in any of its manifestations: social, religious, political, national, racial. In this regard, pacifism puts forward the concept of radical anti-militarism, which involves the rejection of military service and replacing it with an alternative, universal disarmament. Almost every war you have your splash pacifist movement, because people are aware of the irreversibility of the consequences in the form of millions of dead, destroyed the environment.

The study of the problem of pacifism remains relevant for either long as humanity continues to fight, despite the experiences of the two world wars, uncountable human casualties and environmental disaster. In the modern world in connection with the increase in conflict situations, the accelerated pace of development of armaments, the growing threat of terrorism and nuclear war, increased "hot spots" on the planet are particularly acute questions about resolving conflicts between countries in a humane way, without use of military equipment and the use of violence.

The theme of pacifism sufficiently studied, which confirms the separation of pixology – the science of the world, the main objects of study which are ways of achieving peace, the factors that contribute to the elimination of political, social and other prerequisites for the emergence of wars. This branch of science emerged in the mid-twentieth century, as a reaction to Western scientists on the threat of the destruction of mankind by nuclear war. The theoretical basis for the study of problems of peace and war is extensive and includes the works of ancient philosophers (Herodotus, Tacitus), thinkers of the Renaissance (Erasmus, S. Saint-Pierre), French encyclopedists (J.-J. Rousseau, D. Diderot), representatives of German philosophy (Kant), Russian writers (L. N. Tolstoy), American public figures (G. Thoreau, M. L. king).

The concept of "pacifism," appeared in the twentieth century, he suggested the French party Congress on peace in 1902 as a counter to the notion of "war". From a philosophical point of view, pacifism is a doctrine calling for the freedom from war and violence. According to historical dictionaries, pacifism is to promote the ideas of peace and nonviolence in times of imperialist wars, which was not accompanied by calls for revolutionary struggle against imperialist governments and the overthrow of the bourgeois system. Pacifism is characteristic of some specific features. First, this phenomenon is ambiguous, due to the fact that the advocates of pacifism can be as activists, fighters for a world without violence, and people who prefer inaction. Secondly, the basis of pacifism are many teachings, concepts, ideas and movements that can not even be linked to a temporary or geographic boundaries, but in them all lies a single idea about the value of peace for humanity.

So, in the Oxford dictionary pacifism is defined as "the belief that war and violence are never justified and all disagreements and contradictions should be resolved peacefully". This definition does not distort the essence of pacifism, but if you rest only on him, not paying attention to other interpretations, you can prevent quite a serious inaccuracy - defining the word "pacifism" only in the terms that carry a negative connotation, it is logical to assume that pacifism is the only response to them. But this is not true. Many philosophers define peace not just as the absence of war, conflict, cruelty and violence, but also as the presence of harmony, harmony and positive relationships between all members of society. In their understanding of the term "world" should be used only to refer to conflict-free relations between States, but also to describe relations between people in society or even the state of the human mind[1].

In this embodiment, the definition and the pacifism goes in much deeper and more detailed level, the aim is the conflict between not only the big violence world level, but in General anyone, no matter how many small. In this case, pacifism becomes not only political ideology, but culture – specific way of thinking and acting. The word "pacifism" acquired its present meaning at the same time with the emergence of a social movement aimed at ending and preventing war as a method of conflict resolution that emerged in the second half of the XVIII century. The result of the spread of this movement, formed such a large organization as the new York peace society (The New York Peace Society), which appeared in 1815 in the United States, the Society for the promotion of permanent and universal peace (The Society for the Promotion of Permanent and Universal Peace), more commonly known as Peace (The Peace Society), formed in 1816 in England. "Pacifism" was the most appropriate term to describe the activities and aspirations of both organizations.[2]

However, according to many historians and philosophers of pacifism began to develop simultaneously with the appearance of Christianity. This is due to the fact that the preaching of Christ and his act of self-sacrifice ever-present and quite pronounced the idea of absolute non-violence, the essence of which is opposition to violence in all spheres of life, at all levels of social organization, under any circumstances[3]. However, widespread pacifism was still quite late, namely after the First world war. Until that time, the war in the minds of the people seemed to be something necessary and natural. However, only after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the final stages of the Second world war, the British philosopher and social activist Bertrand Russell said that using nuclear weapons in a world war there is no hope to win one of the conflicting parties, since we are talking about universal destruction, the destruction of humanity and the animal world. According to B. Russell, on scientists who study the thermonuclear weapons is the main task to convey to people the danger of its application.[4]

As a result, in 1955, London was proclaimed the Manifesto of Russell-Einstein anti-war appeal, formulated the 11 largest scientists. The resolution of the Manifesto read as follows: "due To the fact that in the future world war will certainly to use nuclear weapons, and because these weapons threaten the existence of the human race, we insist that all governments understood and publicly stated that disputes between States cannot be resolved in the result of the outbreak of world war II. We demand that they find peaceful means of resolving the dispute".[5]

This Manifesto marked the beginning of the Pugwash movement of scientists, United by common ideas of disarmament, international security and the prevention of nuclear war. The movement got its name from the canadian town of Pugwash where 7-10 July 1957 with the support of American industrialist Cyrus Eaton hosted the first meeting of scientists to discuss the most important aspects of world politics, in particular the threat of nuclear war. In the first conference brought together 22 scientific figure from 10 countries, including the USSR and the USA. By 2005, the number of meetings has increased to three hundred around the world. The goal of the movement is the exchange of ideas between established scientists who are interested in the problem of the danger of use of nuclear weapons, and to find ways of limiting nuclear tests, control methods for their implementation. Pugwash movement continues to play a major role in uniting the efforts of leading scientists and politicians to search for solutions to critical issues of arms control and disarmament. Since the 1990s, the Pugwash movement has focused considerable attention on issues of sustainable development, environment, ethical conduct of scientists. In the framework of the Pugwash organization are research groups and projects in the nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, regional conflicts and global security, energy and the environment, sovereignty and intervention, research collaboration and scientists ' social responsibility.

For the first 15 years of existence of the Pugwash movement signed several important international treaties on disarmament issues. On 4 of the conference in Baden in 1959 it was proposed to conclude the Treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, and on 12 June 1968, he was endorsed by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The Treaty entered into force on 5 March 1970, its members are 190 States, excluding India, Pakistan, and Israel. This document contains the obligation of countries to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the creation of opportunities for the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. However, according to statistics, the number of nuclear warheads in the world after 1970 has not decreased, and Vice versa: in 5 years, the number of arms increased by 9279 units.


Figure 1. The number of nuclear warheads in the world

At the 38th Pugwash conference in Dagomys in 1988 a Declaration was adopted to "Ensure the survival of mankind", which refers to the problems of environmental destruction, the need for cooperation between States, the elimination of economic injustice and mutual trust. Thanks to the activities of the Pugwash movement signed several important international agreements in the field of disarmament and international security: the Treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water (1963), the Treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons (1968), Treaty on the limitation of anti-ballistic missile systems (1972), Convention on the prohibition of biological (1972) and chemical (1993) weapons, the Treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe (1993) etc. In the period between 1985 and 1990 the total number of nuclear warheads in the world began to decline and decreased by 7412 units for 5 years, and from 1990 to 1995 there was a sharp reduction in the number of weapons at 25282 units. The importance of the work of the Pugwash movement is undeniable, it was set up dialogue between the West and the East, reduced the number of nuclear weapons tests, there were treaties aimed at reducing tension between States.

In 1995, the movement was awarded the Nobel peace prize "For efforts to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in international politics and, in the long run, to ban this type of weapon". However, all signed contracts, did not completely rid the world of nuclear weapons, they only prevented its use. In the modern world total number of nuclear weapons in the world, it is estimated, is 14465 units, most of which are concentrated in Russia and the United States, they account for more than 93% of the world's nuclear potential. Despite the fact that governments support the ideas about the world, the process of reducing arms moving slowly, the nuclear powers continue its modernization.


Figure 2. Nuclear arsenals the US and USSR/Russia

By the way, this problem was stated in the Manifesto of the "Einstein-Russell": "Any agreement on the prohibition of the use of hydrogen bombs nor were reached in time of peace, they are considered optional in military time. And both sides will immediately begin to manufacture hydrogen bombs as soon as war breaks out, because if one side starts to produce the hydrogen bomb, and the other is not, then the party that possesses hydrogen bombs, will inevitably be the winner"[6].

Interestingly, for the security of the state, the level of violence, the degree of involvement in political conflicts there is a "Global peace index" which was developed by a group of experts from different countries on the basis of the Institute for Economics and peace the University of Sydney in Australia. The index is based on 23 items, grouped into 3 main groups: the availability and scale of conflict, security and the degree of militarization.


Figure 3. Peace index (2014 – 2017)

For example, according to 2017 Syria was the state with the highest value of 3.81. Followed by Afghanistan and Iraq with similar performance – and 3,56 3,57 respectively. According to published data, for the last time 93 countries have improved their positions, while 68 declined in this ranking. The authors of the study noted positive dynamics, including on the basis of their registered low-level state of terror in the countries under consideration, as well as the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. However, it is too early to speak about the steady tendency of consolidation of peace.

In this regard, we should note that many pacifists in the twenty-first century have become more inclined to the "power law world", in which the primary method of conflict resolution becomes a force – or rather, "a hybrid of diplomatic and military methods of conflict resolution"[7]. Accordingly, one of the militaristic theories adopted by supporters of building a conflict-free society, is the theory of "just war."

On the issue of just war, argued already the ancient Greek philosophers. For example, Plato expressed his opinion about the rules of waging war, its justice or injustice in such works as "State", "Laws", the dialogue "Timaeus" and many others. How justice was Plato important and the key point is very clearly seen in the work of the "State" where, describing an ideal social order, he calls justice as a key principle of healthy social life, and argues that the state, whose laws do not conform to the principles of justice, is disjointed, since the individual group companies will act, seeking only their own benefit.

In the "Phaedo" the causes of the war, Plato calls it the pursuit of wealth and pleasure (although in a subsequent work "Alkiviad I" he expresses his idea that war is a consequence of the violence and cruelty). In General, Plato comes to the conclusion that even the just person from time to time to commit evil, but it should be aimed at achieving or restoring justice. The key to preventing war is unjust and Plato believed in the four virtues: justice, courage, temperance and prudence (if the Governor knows all these principles and will strive for the common good, the state will be devoid of conflicts, both internal and external, and will be in harmony).[8]

According to the views of Aristotle the aim of life and, therefore, of any man is to achieve happiness, and therefore the state in which he lives should be one Union, striving for the one most important goal of achieving the highest good. This principle, according to Plato, and to guide the ruler of a state Ellie he starts a war to protect, to seize property or territory, that is natural human desire to achieve happiness, it means that this war is for a good purpose[9]. Thus, both Plato and Aristotle, believed that the war can be part of a well organized society, if it is a way of attaining the ultimate goal of the common good, happiness and peace, which makes it justifiable and fair.

In addition, one of the founders of this theory can reasonably be considered of Aurelius Augustine. So, the focus of his attention was a religious war, and, apparently, a kind of core of the theory was the need to make the war acceptable in the eyes of Christians. According to the views of Augustine, war can (and should) be undertaken and this will be considered justified if it aims to correct the injustice, restore peace or provide security. In the interpretation of Augustine legitimate power are the executors of the divine will, so the face of God the only responsible for all the cruelty and violence that were committed during the war, is the ruler[10]. In addition, he makes a distinction between the two types – normal earthly world to which all people desire and including and using the war and the peace of God, which is the ultimate goal of life for every Christian. And since one of the features of a man is sin, which becomes an obstacle to achievement of true peace, and the war may not be such an obstacle. However, it should be noted that this doctrine does not glorifies war, and sees it as an act of kindness, but as an emergency measure, therefore, one who seeks violence for violence, according to the views of Augustine, bear full responsibility before God and will be appropriately punished. Hence, the ideal world would be a world in which all the Christian Nations would unite and all together against the infidels, thus trying to achieve a true society.

In fact, in the middle Ages to justify the war did not need a sacrifice that had to be rescued from the injustice, it was enough virtuous figure, striving to accomplish new things and improving the world. Violence to the party against whom this valiant figure fought, was justified not because the "bad" side is unjust or violates someone rights, and it must be stopped, and the fact that she's just weaker than the "good" side, whose well-being depends on the number of affected enemies and conquered lands[11]. Therefore, the war was considered fair and reasonable if one of the parties was a significant chance to get out of it a winner, while receiving a benefit. Of course, in this case, neither of which pacifism can not be out of the question – based on this system, it is possible to justify any war aimed at their own enrichment in any respect, in principle, directed the vast majority of all armed conflicts. In addition, this belief system not only justifies the violence against the weaker, but also provokes him, that fundamentally contradicts the basic idea of any of pacifist ideologies.

In XVI – XVII centuries in Western Europe began the transition from the dominance of religious beliefs to the rationalistic way of thinking, which was reflected in the theory of "just war" of the time. Hugo Grotius, one of the founders of many of the principles of international law, believed justice is the most important principle that's worth following, defining the system of relations between any members of the society[12]. Grotius sought to identify particular norms of natural law, the obligation of which no one would doubt, and would be accepted as an axiom that would make them mandatory for leadership in times of peace and on the brink of war. However, he believed that these standards will be the main proof of the lack of needs, morality and justification in the process of war. In 1625 appeared the treatise "On the law of war and peace," written by Grotius, the purpose of which was to establish certain frames and rules, guided by which ought to regulate the war. On previous experience it was clear that the absolute prohibition of war is not practical because of its impracticability, so Grotius tried to find a balance between the extremes of absolute prohibition and absolute permissiveness, both of which led to undesirable consequences[13].

Therefore, defining the word "war," Grotius does not give him any negative or positive color – war in his mind only a means, and the degree of equity depends on the methods and purposes of its implementation. According to the author, the principles of common sense contradicts such a war, which disrupts the peaceful existence of society and violates someone's natural rights, which include the right to life and freedom. The war, aimed at the preservation of his own life and freedom, in this case, it will be considered fair, but only as long as it does not violate the same right of another person. Therefore, not every war was started with good purpose, to the end to remain fair, but a violation of the rules of war though, and leads to its disapproval of the ban on it all the same does not apply for the reason that defend and reflect enemy attacks is still needed[14]. Grotius recognizes that to understand exactly where the line that separates fair from unfair actions is extremely difficult, so the definition of these boundaries is at the discretion of the warring parties themselves, but they, unfortunately, do not always have integrity. In addition, Grotius did not deny the fact that many of the rulers described fair use purposes only as a pretext behind which to hide their true selfish motives[15]. Nevertheless, at least some of the key principles of the theory of Grotius, and has not found wide application in real life, many of its provisions, such as the right to self-defence, protecting himself, his life and his property, formed the basis for the beginning of the formation of the modern legal rules.

A modern version of the above theory are presented in the works of M. Walzer, who, in fact, in 1977, brought her back to life after a long break in the work "just and unjust war" by which the theory of "just war" later became one of the most developed philosophical theories about the war[16]. The main directions of the work of contemporary theorists of the "just war" – a search for principles that will help limit the use of force, to make war rarer and more humane, and leading to peace. Thus they develop the idea of armed struggle for peace, which was rejected by the majority of supporters of classical pacifism. In fact, M. Walzer defines the theory of "just war" as "the idea of a moral approach to war as a species of human activities"[17]. In this perspective, it is human nature to act according to their moral beliefs, and since the war has long been an integral part of his life, and it can be held without contradiction to the principles of humane ethics and morality. But the need to harmonize their actions with moral principles lies not within the individual himself and not in his mind, and in terms of external environment, which, in fact, represents a tradition and institutional setup of various peoples. Determining in the above-mentioned working conditions of military action, which must be subject to moral restrictions the author puts on the first place aggression (any aggressive war, in his opinion, will be treated as a violation of the law). In other cases, there are only two options where the state would be entitled to the use of force is self defense and law enforcement war.

Note that in the war against States like Nazi M. Walzer admits the need to depart from moral principles, as in this case, the greatest evil will be not retreat from morality, and of the impossibility to overthrow the government, which cannot do otherwise but to fight in all possible ways to permanently destroy. However, allowing this situation swarnabhoomi, the author intentionally leaves a loophole to justify other wars by interpreting the concept of swarnabhoomi. However, all other cases, that is such wars as religious, revolutionary, commercial, and military intervention, Walzer recognizes the unfair and unjustified under any circumstances[18]. Thus, in the framework of today's views, world war will be considered fair in those cases, if it is the only available exit from a conflict situation, to carry the defensive end, to be absolutely necessary (or if the state will be the official resolution of the UN Security Council to carry it out).[19]

Actually, upon closer inspection, it turns out that the transfer of the provisions of just war theory in legal acts unchanged may lead to a further increase in the number of armed conflicts, due to the fact that these provisions are very subjective, and they can be used to argue the justice of almost any military operation.

The imperfection of the system of regulation of armed conflict is recognised and the UN, as decisions of the Security Council often does not find embodiment in real life due to differences of the participating countries regarding the content and interpretation of the basic principles of international law. The supporters of the introduction of the concepts of the theory of "just war" in international law see the solution to this problem is to give each state independence in determining the fairness of the purpose of war and use of force to achieve fair. However, the question of the reasonableness of absolute state sovereignty and the increasing immunity of government decisions remains open, since opponents of the application of the theory believe that such a decision is contrary to almost the most important fundamental principle of international human rights and pacifism in General – the principle of non-violence. It turns out that any act aimed at legitimizing the military and violent actions contrary to basic human rights, first and foremost, the most important – the sanctity of life. From this it follows that the combination of the words "war" and "justice" should be alerted to arouse the suspicion of any man, considered himself a supporter of pacifism. Despite this, search pacifists alternative methods of confronting the escalation of violence resulted in the justification of international military intervention, examples of which are relatively recent operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and others.

At the end of XX – beginning of XXI centuries has greatly increased the number of internal ethnic and religious conflict, often degenerating into large-scale civil war, which massively violated the basic international human rights[20]. In this regard, the global society was actively seeking ways to counteract such conflicts in the 1980s the activists of various humanitarian organizations, among them Bernard Kouchner, decided that sometimes the only morally correct response in some humanitarian contexts is a military operation that ideally should hold the UN, though it is permitted to conduct and separate state[21]. This operation, whose main goal is the protection of and assistance to victims of violence or threats to international peace, called "humanitarian intervention." Presumably, the trend for the campaign emerged after operations to protect the Iraqi Kurds from the Iraqi regime after the Gulf war in 1991 After it was undertaken attempts to protect through military intervention of humanitarian assistance in Somalia and Bosnia in 1992, and later in Kosovo and East Timor. All these operations were justified by the humanitarian considerations.

Explore the latest intervention shows that the States engaged in military intervention, is now seeking not only to suppress violence in a specific territory, but to hold certain socio-political changes, such as, for example, the granting of autonomy or independence of various regions, demilitarization, the adoption of new laws, change the form of government, etc.[22] However, researchers disagree about the efficacy of humanitarian intervention: many believe that this military intervention could become a very effective way of limiting the number of subsequent murders, others are convinced, what's the most that can bring intervention is a temporary stop to the bloodshed, which may be sufficient only to conduct diplomatic negotiations and victim assistance[23].

Of course, should be aware that many government officials, by resorting to the method of intervention in the first place, followed by his personal rational reasons and deistvuet on the basis of economic and political interests of their country. Currently, the number of violent deaths caused by international intervention exceeds the number of deaths caused by other conflicts, but it is worth to note a significant decrease in the total number of violent deaths in the last fifty years.


Figure 4. Dynamics of human losses in various types of armed conflict

To ensure the fairness of the international intervention, proponents of intervention policy has formed several requirements for its implementation: the state of osushestvlyae interventi, should have no political or economic interest in the outcome of the conflict; at least the part of the citizens of the state, which will undergo the intervention should be agreed to it; the intervention should be proportionate to the harm which she needs to prevent[24]. If you perform all three of the intervention can be considered fair and justified, and the state, it carried out, will not be subject to stanchly from the UN.

Thus, it is possible to draw a General conclusion about the existence in modern international theory and practice the phenomenon of "war for peace". In fact, pacifism and the theory of "just war" are at some diabeticescom unity, and to predict the future direction hybridization of these areas of social thought is extremely challenging.


[1] Fiala A. Pacifism. // The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. [Electronic resource] – URL: (accessed 04.03.2019)

[2] Alexandra A. Political Pacifism. // Social Theory and Practice. 2003. Vol. 29 No. 4. P. 591.

[3] Fiala A. Pacifism. // The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. [Electronic resource] – URL: (accessed 04.03.2019)

[4] Pavlyuchik Elena. Mind against nuclear war, 2018 [Electronic resource] – URL: (date accessed: 24.04.2019)

[5] the Manifesto of Russell – Einstein, 1955 [Electronic resource] – URL: (date accessed: 24.04.2019)

[6] Manifesto of Russell – Einstein, 1955 [Electronic resource] – URL: (date accessed: 24.04.2019)

[7] P. Sartre Making UN Peacekeeping More Robust: Protecting the Mission, Persuading the Actors. New York: International Peace Institute, 2011. P. 10.

[8] See: Lobanov, E. V. Plato and Aristotle about the "law of war". // Knowledge. Understanding. Skill. 2015. No. 1.

[9] ibid.

[10] See: Volkov S. Y. the development of the doctrine of just war in early modern time // Vestnik of NNSU. 2009. No. 3.

[11] Budaev, E. V. the tale of the just war in medieval political discourse. // Political linguistics. 2007. No. 23.

[12] Volkov S. Y. the development of the doctrine of just war in early modern time. // Vestnik of NNSU. 2009. No. 3.

[13] See: Didmanidze U. T. Contribution of Hugo Grotius to the development of the concept of "just war." // Vestnik RUDN. Series: Law. 2014. No. 1.

[14] Volkov S. Y. Ethical aspects of political-legal doctrine of Hugo Grotius // Scientific-technical Bulletin of Saint-Petersburg state Polytechnic University. Humanities and social Sciences. 2016. No. 1 (239).

[15] Volkov S. Y. the development of the doctrine of just war in early modern time // Vestnik of NNSU. 2009. No. 3.

[16] D. A. Kumankov the evolution of the concept of just war in the works of Walzer, M. // Bulletin of Adyghe state University. Series 1: regional Studies: philosophy, history, sociology, law, political science, cultural studies. 2012. No. 4.

[17] Luban D., Yakushev, L. V., Prokofiev A. V. Preventive war // Ethical thought. 2016. No. 2.

[18] Yakushev V. L. Modern transformation of the just war theory // Ethical thought. 2016. No. 2.

[19] Davydov A. V. the Theory of just war and its understanding through the prism of contemporary international law of armed conflict // Scientific and practical electronic journal Avenue of Science. 2017. No. 9.

[20] Modin N. "Humanitarian intervention" as a method of regulating international conflict // the Power. 2007. No. 3.

[21] Schweizer B. Moral dilemmas of humanitarian action in the era of "humanitarian" military intervention // international review of the red cross. 2004. No. 853-855.

[22] Ivanov, A. A. Intervention as part of foreign policy: the evolution of ideas // Polity. 2013. No. 1 (68).

[23] Modin N. "Humanitarian intervention" as a method of regulating international conflict // the Power. 2007. No. 3.

[24] Ivanov, A. A. Intervention as part of foreign policy: the evolution of ideas // Polity. 2013. No. 1 (68).


Kunin E. S.

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