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53 years ago: Non-violent resistance to war and oppression

Michael Scott on the Committee of 100

There are in this movement many different sorts of people some of them with a capital P: philosophers, poets, preachers, politicians, playwrights and just plain people. That is why we have called this the Committee of 100 because we are all in it and all equally important.

For each and all of us whether he is a so-called starry eyed idealist or a cynic there is one outstanding fact of life that confronts us all. It is a new fact of existence that has never existed before. It is now possible for civilised existence to be destroyed within the space of four minutes warning. The work of destruction resulting from the massive accumulation of deterrents might take two or three days to be completed. This could be achieved either by a deliberate act of policy – a so-called preventative war – or as a result of a misunderstanding of an opponents intentions or miscalculation based on a series of mechanical errors.

This threat of extermination that we stand under from moment to moment is now a truism of our time which is undermining the morale of both East and West. It absorbs more and more of the productive capacity and industrial potential of the great powers and means that these “Nuclear Powers” hold the destinies of the whole world in their hands. So that the newly won independence of the small countries of Africa, Asia and South America like that of the smaller countries of Europe is overshadowed by this gigantic threat to their very existence.

All are now living in fear and dread of it – the people America, Russia and Britain as much as those who do not possess nuclear weapons. No one believes that the world could survive it. No one prepares seriously for defence.

The great problems of our age – of poverty, hunger and mass ignorance do not get solved because an ever-increasing proportion of our resources is spent on deterring one another with what would certainly this time be “a war to end war” because it would put an end to civilisation and perhaps to life itself on this planet.

It is our intention therefore to try and build a movement of resistance to both war and oppression by non-violent revolution. A movement which the statesmen of the world will not be able to ignore or brush off as they have succeeded in brushing off the protests of humanity against their irresponsibility and deadly outdated ideas.


Extract from an article by Michael Scott accompanying photographs of the Committee of 100 sit-down by 4,000 people outside the ministry of defence. 24 February 1961 issue of Peace News.