Conclusion: the Legacy of the Post-war Peace Movement

Activists in social movements often find that the public’s understanding of and engagement with challenging issues remain superficial and uninvolved for as long as the wider public does not feel personally affected. So it was that concern over the proliferation of nuclear weapons was subsumed by a concern over radioactive fallout from testing them. It would be decades before the peace movement was able to bring the proliferation issue back into public prominence, this time when Europeans became aware that they were being placed in the front line of nuclear war.

A lasting legacy of Australia’s post-war peace movement has been the networks, national and international, along which exchanges take place on nuclear and peace issues. The rise of the more youthful CND and then the anti-war movement during the 1960s has often been represented as a break with the past. It was not as simple as that. A network of peace bodies and older peace activists survived to provide an organisational base for the burgeoning campaign in the late 1960s against the Vietnam War.

The insurgent peace movement of the late 1960s required some structure in order to coordinate large demonstrations, to relieve tensions and reach consensus between diverse groups on themes and slogans. The Vietnam Moratorium Campaign came to use the resources and outreach to the trade unions established by the CICD, which could trace it origins to the APC and even further back to the VCAWF in the 1930s. The success of the anti-war movement in the sixties and seventies had to do with the ability of the old and the new movements to form a working alliance. Networks of community groups which evolved during that time have continued to operate worldwide. Though the groups may change, a global network has remained viable, the more so with the use of the internet and email.

Community groups around the world can now exchange their local knowledge and experience with each other and coordinate transnational campaigns and actions. Within this global inter-communitarian network an understanding has grown that health and environmental hazards are associated with all nuclear undertakings. We now have a global movement, which campaigns on a broad front, for protection of the whole biosphere from despoliation by rampant technologies of all kinds. Globalisation is not now, if ever it was, the sole preserve of corporations.

‘Communitarian globalism, or globalism from below’, says Tehranian, ‘is also a powerful force assisted by global communication networks and an emerging international civil society’.[liv] The peace movement in Australia, for all its tensions, mistakes and misplaced loyalties, made a lasting contribution to this forward global movement.