by Werner Lange
In the last chapter of his brilliant life, W.E.B. DuBois was a leading anti-war activist. At the height of McCarthyism, DuBois and his comrades in the Peace Information Center were denounced as “traitors” and “anti-American” for declaring that first-use of nuclear weapons is a crime against humanity.
A Lesson on Peace in our Troubled Trump Times from W.E.B. DuBois
by Werner Lange
“DuBois’ acquittal in late 1951 was the first time the US government failed to convict a citizen targeted by McCarthyism.”
Within a week of Trump’s inauguration, the Doomsday Clock moved closer to midnight than it’s been since 1953, an extremely ominous sign which has so far failed to shake the lethargic peace movement out its doldrums and delusions. It better do so, and soon, or there will be hell to pay. Hopefully a look back to those bitter early 1950s, when a vibrant peace movement was also nonexistent in the USA -- with one notable exception -- will help remind us of the things that make for peace now. The notable exception was W.E.B. DuBois and the Peace Information Center.
At a time when nukes numbered in single digits (instead of thousands) and nations possessing them were limited to only two (instead of nine and counting), a worldwide campaign was launched in the early 1950s to outlaw nuclear weapons and declare any nation which first uses them as a war criminal. The text of the Stockholm Peace Appeal, put in the form of a petition, was unambiguous and uncompromising in its call for the abolition of these horrific new weapons of unprecedented mass destruction:
“We demand the outlawing of atomic weapons as instruments of intimidation and mass murder of peoples. We demand strict international control to enforce this measure. We believe that any country which first uses atomic weapons against any other country whatsoever will be committing a crime against humanity and would be dealt with as a war criminal. We call on all men and women of good will throughout the world to sign this appeal.”
“DuBois and associates at the PIC were ordered by the US government to register as foreign agents.”
Over 2.5 million Americans joined some 140 million persons worldwide in signing the first international appeal to abolish nuclear weapons. Organizing this historic peace effort in the USA was the short-lived Peace Information Center, led by W.E.B. DuBois, the most prominent of the unsung heroes and pioneers of the American peace movement against the very existence, let alone proliferation, of nuclear weapons. Under his prophetic and indefatigable leadership, the PIC -- though only permitted a six-month existence in McCarthyite America – disseminated 485,000 copies of the Stockholm Peace Appeal along with thousands of “Peacegrams” sent to some 6000 Americans on its mailing lists.
Although over 125 prominent Americans, including the 1946 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, endorsed the Appeal, it was the enormous grassroots support which undoubtedly engaged the Administration of the only world leader to ever authorize use of nuclear weapons for mass slaughter. Truman’s Secretary of State publicly smeared the SPA as “propaganda trick in the spurious peace ‘offensive’ of the Soviet Union”; the head of the US delegation to the UN called American signers “traitors to their country”; the corporate media almost uniformly denounced this “anti-American” petition; circulators were often assaulted and occasionally jailed; and DuBois, along with associates at the PIC, were ordered by the US government to register as foreign agents. Subsequent to their refusal and a federal grand jury hearing at which only government evidence was presented, the elderly DuBois was indicted and arraigned inn handcuffs at the Criminal Courtroom of Washington’s Federal Courthouse.
“Over 125 prominent Americans, including the 1946 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, endorsed the Appeal.”
A worldwide outpouring of righteous anger at his arrest coupled with expert legal defense prevented his death behind prison walls in America. His acquittal in late 1951 was the first time the US government failed to convict a citizen targeted by McCarthyism, marking the beginning of the end of this dark and repressive time in American history.
The darkness of those times is returning with a vengeance under the Trump regime. His warmongering Secretary of Defense, “Mad Dog” Mattis, proudly boasts of his pleasure at killing “some people”; his intent to “modernize” nuclear weapons; and his commitment to expansively use America’s “power of intimidation. Trump’s Zionist ambassador to the UN is “taking names” of nations to be targeted and intimidated by US military strength. Trump himself has placed US funding of the UN in serious question and given implicit support for a bill calling for the removal of the UN from the US.
DuBois, an associate consultant to the American delegation at the 1945 Founding Conference of the United Nations, must have foreseen the re-emergence of such diabolical forces in the land of his birth long after his death. In a 1958 letter to a friend who ascribed much of the UN”s ineffectiveness to its location in the USA, DuBois wisely and prophetically responded: “The United Nations had to be located in the United States. Only here could it get world publicity and American publicity and carry on its battles in the face and before the eyes of its most vicious enemy, which is the United States.”
Trump has inadvertently proven DuBois correct. Now it is up to the real America, the one loved by DuBois, to prove Trump wrong by joining the rest of the world in invigorating the UN and embracing its determination to abolish nuclear weapons, before it is too late.
Werner Lange was a Sanders delegate to the 2016 DNC; participant in the 2009 Viva Palestina delegation to Gaza; and author of the 2013 book, A Voice in the Wilderness: W.E.B. DuBois on Peace.