The Sheffield Peace Movement 1934-1940
The object of the thesis was to build a portrait of a local peace movement in order to contrast and compare it with existing descriptions of the peace movement written from a national perspective. The Sheffield Peace Movement is examined from the commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War to the disestablishment and reformation of the Sheffield Trades and Labour Council in 1940 as a result of its support for the anti-war line taken by the Communist Party of Great Britain. The peace movement is treated holistically. Political, religious and other organisations associated with it are discussed alongside groups specifically devoted to the issues of peace. These various strands are followed through from the impulse to unity which existed after the successful operation of the Peace Ballot, through the fundamental division between pacifist and pacificist outlooks which began with the War in Abyssinia, to the final split of the movement when its large pacificist majority accepted the necessity for war with Germany. The character of local peace movements, it is suggested, depended very much on the political, social and economic context in which they flourished. The history of the Sheffield movement is characterised by competition between three groups for its leadership. The Labour Party dominated its political relationships but is scarcely to be understood without reference to Communistinspired efforts to form a Popular Front of socialist and liberal groups. The Anglican Church leadership provided a strand of pacificism difficult to distinguish from defencism but nevertheless crucial to the position of the majority of the movement at the outbreak of war, while Nonconformism dominated the city's pacifism. Despite the strength of both these party political and religious influences, however, the League of Nations Union led the Sheffield movement during two key periods. The growth of the pacificist consensus, which at a national level saw the formation of a coalition spanning both right and left of British politics, is a stronger theme in Sheffield than the move of the minority pacifist wing into absolutism. The impact of a new "realism" on the "utopian" theories of the first decade and a half after the Great War is generally to be found in the move from the quasi-pacifism of the early thirties, which found expression on the Left in Sheffield in the policy of working-class war-resistance, to the rather crude version of League of Nations inspired Collective Security embodied in the mutual defence pacts and guarantees sought by Britain after March 1939. The ideological complexion of Sheffield's Left-wing and its importance in the deliberations of the Sheffield Trades and Labour Council ensured that, overlaying the general move towards pacificism, were a number of specific objections to aspects of the "realist" policies espoused by the national Labour leadership rooted in Communist Party policy and opposition to Chamberlain's National Government. The superficial similarities between communist objections to specific aspects of war preparations and the policies of the pacifist rump of the peace movement gave the impression that Sheffield was a centre of opposition to the war. The fundamental division between the pacificist and pacifist approaches ensured. however, that these two groups, the only remaining anti-war elements of the Sheffield movement after October 1939, never entered a formal alliance. The Communist Left remained wedded to interaction with working class groups while the remaining pacifists became isolated and increasingly quietist under the relentless pressure of the pro-war majority including their former pacificist colleagues in the peace movement.