I’ve been reading up on early 20th century pacifism, recently, and spent today reading the works of W.T.Stead, who founded the Stop The War Committee in response to the Boer War. In 1912 he wrote “The Great Pacifist: an Autobiographical Character Sketch”, which you can find here.

Stead started the weekly newspaper The War Against War, which became The War Against War in South Africa after the beginning of the Boer War. He was one of the organisers of the Peace Crusade in 1898, which was to go to capital cities to spread the word about pacifism. One of its other organisers was Tsar Nicholas II.


He was an odd sort of pacifist. He believed that Britain needed to maintain a navy twice the size of any other in the world. He thought that Cecil Rhodes was one of the goodies. He thoroughly supported the maintenance of the British empire ar0und the globe (although he made it clear that this was for moral not ‘jingoistic’ reasons.

For a pacifist, his views are close to what we would think of today as “the Tony Blair philosophy of war”, or, as he described it “the imperialism of responsibility”. (As a side note, he also wanted to establish a United States of Europe as a stepping stone to a World State with an international High Court Of Justice, where states could be brought to trial).

But what caught me eye was what he had to say about Russia, and the Crimea. Bear in mind, he’s one of the West’s most pro-Russian journalists, and is personal friends with the Tsar when he says:

All my life long I have been a thoroughgoing opponent of the Russophobist war spirit which has plunged Europe into the Crimean War, and which has repeatedly brought about war both in Europe and in Asia. By advocating constantly the principle of the European Concert, and demanding the enforcement, if need be, by the armies and navies of Europe, of the treaty-guaranteed rights of the unfortunate Christians of the East, I was always more or less at variance with the orthodox Peace Party, whose one idea was non intervention and abstention from all European complications. I protested against this doctrine because I believed it to be an abdication of the responsibility which we owed to those for whose good government we had made ourselves responsible by the Treaty of Paris and the Treaty of Berlin; and whenever the chronic misgovernment of Turkey became acute in massacres and atrocities I never ceased to urge upon England and upon the other Powers to use the overwhelming strength which they possessed for the purpose of compelling the Turks to carry out their treaty obligations.