World Peace through the Town Hall
Why the nation-state cannot create a culture of peace A Strategy for the Global Movement for a Culture of Peace

World Peace through the Town Hall


1) The difference between "peace" and "culture of peace" and a brief history of the culture of war

2) The role of the individual in culture of war and culture of peace

3) Why the state cannot create a culture of peace

4) The important role of civil society in creating a culture of peace

--Peace and disarmament movements

--Ecology movement

--Movements for human rights

--Democracy movements

--Women's movement

--International understanding, tolerance and solidarity

--Movements for free flow of information

--The strengths and weaknesses of civil society

5) The basic and essential role of local government in culture of peace

--Sustainable development

--Human rights

--Democratic participation

--Women's equality


--Transparency and the free flow of information

--Education for a culture of peace

--Security and public safety

--Some ongoing initiatives

6) Assessing progress toward a culture of peace at the local level

--Culture of peace measurement at the level of the state

7) Going global: networking of city culture of peace commissions

8) The future transition of the United Nations from control by states to popular control through local governmental representatives

9) What would a culture of peace be like?


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The more I investigate these matters, the more I am convinced that internal war rather than external war is the aspect that is most critical for the state. Protection from external war could, in theory, be provided by the United Nations. The United Nations condemns the conquest of one state by another, and the UN could be strengthened to provide the defense for states against being invaded by others. What is at stake, instead, is the internal function of war, and in this case the United Nations has no jurisdiction. The United Nations Charter was written so as to forbid interference in the "internal affairs" of its Member States.

Internal war remains a taboo topic, even though it is crucial for understanding the relation of the state to the culture of war since internal war is required by the state, as a last resort, to maintain power and wealth. Over the course of history the systems of power and wealth have gone through a number of important transformations; from the slavery of the Greek and Roman and Islamic empires to the feudalism of medieval Europe to the enslavement of Africans in the New World colonies to the classic colonialism of the European powers and more recently to the exploitation on a global scale ("globalization") of industrial and agricultural wage workers under neo-colonialism.

Looking historically at the case of the United States, we see that, in the early days of the republic, internal intervention was used most often to seize land from the indigenous peoples in the West and to prevent slaves from rebelling in the South. The latter is described in my article, Internal Military Interventions in the United States: (Adams 1995).

"The South was an armed camp for the purpose of enforcing slavery prior to the Civil War. In his survey of American Negro slave revolts, Aptheker (1943) found records of about 250 revolts and conspiracies, but said that this was no doubt an underestimate. Most of the revolts were suppressed by state militia, for which records are not readily available. In addition to suppressing revolts, the military enforced a state of martial law. According to Mahon (1983) in his History of the Militia and the National Guard, before the U.S. Revolution, 'the primary mission of the slave states' militia increasingly became the slave patrol' (p. 22) and after the revolution, 'the slave states continued to require militiamen to do patrol duty to discourage slave insurrections' (p. 54).

"The militarization of Southern cities was described by F. L. Olmstead in the late 1850s, as quoted by Aptheker (1943, p. 69):

'"...police machinery such as you never find in towns under free government: citadels, sentries, passports, grapeshotted cannon, and daily public whippings. ..more than half of the inhabitants of this town were subject to arrest, imprisonment and barbarous punishment if found in the streets without a passport after the evening 'gunfire'. Similar precautions and similar customs may be discovered in every large town in the South. ..a military - organization which is invested with more arbitrary and cruel power than any police in Europe.'"

Although slavery was abolished in most countries by the end of the 19th Century, its place was taken by the exploitation of industrial and agricultural wage workers. At that point the internal culture of war was transformed in order to prevent and suppress workers' strikes, revolts and revolutions, as described for the United States in my article on internal military interventions:

"The strike wave of 1877 transformed internal military intervention in the USA into industrial warfare. It began with a railroad strike in West Virginia, which spread throughout the industrial states. Before it was over, 45,000 militia had been called into action, along with 2,000 federal troops on active duty and practically the entire U.S. Army on alert (Riker, 1957, pp. 47-48). To realize the scope of this mobilization, one needs to know that according to Riker there were only 47,000 militia used during the entire Civil War, and the size of the entire U.S. Army around 1877 was 25,000 (p. 41). From 1877 to 1900, the U.S. Army was used extensively in labor disputes and a shared interest developed between the officer corps and U.S. industrialists (Cooper, 1980)."

"The 1877 intervention gave birth to the modern National Guard. This point is agreed upon by the principal histories of the Guard (Derthick, 1965; Mahon, 1983; and Riker, 1957). As Riker documents in detail, not only did all of the states establish their National Guard at that time, but also the appropriations of the new Guard were almost perfectly correlated with the number of strikers in that state. He concludes that 'in short it is reasonable to infer that the primary motive for the revival of the militia was a felt need for an industrial police' (p. 55)."

In recent years there has been a convergence of neo-colonialism and the capitalist exploitation of industrial and agricultural wage workers. Industrial enterprises in the North (Europe and United States) have largely re-located into countries of the South, decreasing the industrial class struggle within the North and re-locating it to the South.

The use of the military for internal control has changed but not diminished in recent centuries. As mentioned above it has been used especially in the United States (and presumably other capitalist countries although data are not available) for the control of industrial workers. It has also been used for the prevention and suppression of revolutionary movements; for example, the development and frequent deployment of the CRS in France, an internal military force developed after the student rebellion of 1968 which threatened at the time to be joined by a workers' revolution as well. On the other side, newly established revolutionary governments also used the military to prevent counter-revolution, and to establish a chain of command throughout the country to replace previous mechanisms of capitalism or feudalism. In the newly revolutionary China, the power base of the Communist Party and the government has been the Red Army. In the early days of the Soviet Union, Trotsky proposed that industrial production be organized primarily on the basis of military forced labor camps, and later Stalin began to carry this out. Paradoxically, when the Soviet Empire finally crashed in 1989 the military stayed in its barracks and did not intervene.

In the United States during the period 1886-1990 there have been 18 interventions and 12,000 troops per year, on average, against striking workers, urban riots, etc. This is detailed in my 1995 article mentioned above on Internal Military Interventions in the United States. I am not aware of systematic data for other countries or for the U.S. in the years since 1990.

Discussion of the internal culture of war remains a taboo topic even now as we enter the 21st Century. At the level of contemporary diplomatic discourse the taboo is total. Nation states consider that internal military intervention is a matter that is not appropriate for inter-governmental forums such as the United Nations. In fact, a special article was included in the UN Charter that forbids the UN from discussing the internal affairs of Member States:

"Article 2.7: Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state...."

One is reminded of this taboo in considering, as described earlier, how the European Union demanded that all reference to the culture of war must be removed from the culture of peace resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1999.

Extreme examples of the taboo during the 20th Century are provided by Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia during the 1930's. Each had extensive systems of internal prison camps that could not be discussed publicly in those countries. Instead, all attention was focused on military confrontation with external enemies.

A less extreme example, but no less instructive, is the McCarthy period of U.S. history as described in my history of internal U.S. military interventions mentioned above. The emphasis on the military buildup during the Cold War, the labeling of an external enemy and the claims of extensive spying for this enemy functioned as the cover for internal repression of a militant trade union movement influenced by communist ideology, a repression that was difficult to discuss in public. Notice that here we are not talking about internal war as such, but rather the internal culture of war.

We have concentrated here on internal culture of war in the United States, but readers from other regions such as Latin America and Eastern Europe will have no difficulty in recognizing this dynamic in their recent history.

Discussion of internal culture of war is not only taboo at the diplomatic and political levels, but also in the mass media and academic institutions. For example, the analysis of U.S. internal military interventions in my 1995 article in the Journal of Peace Research points out the lack of attention to this topic:

"The unchanging rate of internal military intervention in the USA and the lack of attention to such intervention in the literature on war and peace are in striking contrast to the rapid changes in other aspects of war and peace. It is argued here that this reflects an oversight which peace researchers and activists should address in the coming years."

Since the paper was published in 1995, the topic remains taboo. During the intervening twelve years, there have been only four academic references to the paper according to the Social Science Citation Index, even though it was published in a prestigious journal that one would expect relevant researchers to read. Nor have other academicians taken up the challenge independently.

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discussion board

The History of the Culture of War

What is culture and how does it evolve

Warfare in prehistory and its usefulness

The culture of war in prehistory

Data from prehistory before the Neolithic

Enemy images: culture or biology

War and the culture of war at the dawn of history

--Ancient Mesopotamia

--Ancient Egypt

--Ancient China

--Ancient Greece and Rome

--Ancient Crete

--Ancient Indus civilizations

--Ancient Hebrew civilization

--Ancient Central American civilization

Warfare and the origin of the State

Religion and the origin of the State

A summary of the culture of war at the dawn of history

The internal culture of war: a taboo topic

The evolution of the culture of war over the past 5,000 years: its increasing monopolization by the state

--1.Armies and armaments

--2.External conquest and exploitation: Colonialism and Neocolonialism

--3.The internal culture of war and economies based on exploitation of workers and the environment

--4.Prisons and penal systems

--5.The military-industrial complex

--6.The drugs-for-arms trade

--7.Authoritarian control

--8.Control of information

--9.Identification of an "enemy"

--10.Education for the culture of war

--11.Male domination

--12.Religion and the culture of war

--13.The arts and the culture of war



Summary of the history of the culture of war