Radical Pacifism and the General Strike Against War: Jessie Wallace Hughan, the Founding of the War Resisters League, and the Socialist Origins of Secular Radical Pacifism in America



Founded by Jessie Wallace Hughan, a socialist pacifist, the War Resisters League (WRL) has remained the major secular, mixed-gender, radical pacifist organization in America. This article, which explores the neglected story of the WRL's socialist roots, examines Hughan's socialism, the founding of the WRL, and the transatlantic socialist and pacifist origins of Hughan's theory of war resistance. In this context, I examine the Socialist International's pre–World War I proposal to wage a “general strike against war,” British No-Conscription Fellowship, Independent Labour party, No More War Movement, and War Resisters' International. This article argues that the international socialist movement and European socialist pacifism shaped Hughan's war resistance; that Hughan and the WRL advocated a general strike to prevent war and advance social—and socialist—reform/revolution, a nonviolent technique borrowed from the socialist and labor movements; and that the WRL represents a socialist pacifist ideology and organization.