Much of the writing about peace movement activities has been in the nature of analysis appraising the political effectiveness, or more often ineffectiveness, of the movement’s major campaigns calling on Australia to free itself from its nuclear connections and to adopt a more peace-orientated foreign policy.
Such judgement takes no account of the diversity of campaigning by peace bodies active within the movement at that time. During the cold war promoting world peace was branded ‘communist’ by the government. Yet it was the pacifists who took the high moral ground and campaigned for a nuclear-free world while other activists, particularly those on the left of politics, accepted realpolitik visions of a bi-polar world.
The peace movement of the 1930s-1960s was a network of community bodies and individuals representing a wide range of political, religious and philosophical leanings. Post- war, the Movement’s campaigns against nuclear proliferation provided the only significant counter to official policies; whether as the compassionate plea on behalf of Hiroshima victims against callous indifference and praise for the power of the bomb; or warnings about the fallout hazards against shameful cheers in our parliament for a British nuclear inferno; or standing up against despoiling Aboriginal traditional lands with nuclear fireballs.
For all its mistakes and internal disputation, the peace movement opened up the debate on the dangers and hazards of nuclear technology. The peace movement of the 1930s-1960s, laid the ground for effective anti-nuclear and anti- war campaigning in the 1970s and 1980s. The following is an exploration of this legacy by examining the campaigning of the Australian peace movement, in the 1930s to the 1960s, and its efforts to rid the world of the nuclear menace and more widely from all war.