from Brian Martin, Uprooting War (London: Freedom Press, 1984); this is the revised 1990 version.
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War is one of the major social and political problems facing humans. Everyone from school students to generals agrees that war is horrible. That is not the issue. The question is, what should be done about it?

Governments prepare for war, and also negotiate about how to prevent it. But disarmament negotiations have been a continuing failure for many decades. The reason is that a permanent end to the threat of war is not compatible with the state system. States are based on centralised power, especially centralised control over the use of organised violence which is claimed to be legitimate. It is futile to appeal to state elites as a primary avenue for ending war, since their actions and attitudes are premised on the continuation of the state system.

This book is based on the assumption that action to end war must come from individuals, small groups and local communities, in short from the grassroots. Grassroots action against war has a long and inspiring history of protests, campaigns and initiatives. Unfortunately, most of this activity has had little impact on military races because it has relied on influencing elites, which is the least promising avenue for such efforts. Moreover, many antiwar actions have been symbolic protests with little connection with a long-term strategy to end war. And the protests are mainly against symptoms of the problem, such as nuclear weapons, rather than directly tackling the roots of modern war.

What are the roots of war? They are not the weapons or the soldiers or the political or military elites. Take these away and new ones would soon take their places. The roots of war are the social structures which maintain centralised political and economic power, inequality and privilege, and monopolies over organised violence to protect power and privilege. Some of the key roots of war are the state system, bureaucracy, the military and patriarchy.

When I refer to war, I refer to 'modern war': the organised violence of professional military forces on behalf of states. 'War' is not a timeless and unchanging category: it reflects historical and social conditions, such as the prevailing forms of technology and the gender division of labour. In addressing the modern war system it is necessary to concentrate on the contemporary social structures most implicated in it.

Most antiwar campaigns have not focussed on changing such social structures. The state system, for example, is usually seen as an inevitable part of the social and political landscape, rather than being addressed as a dangerous structure in need of replacement.

To tackle such pervasive and entrenched social structures as bureaucracy and the state, a strategy is needed. This requires an idea of what the major problems are, of what sort of alternatives are worth working towards, and of methods to challenge the existing structures and build alternative ones. A grassroots strategy requires in addition an understanding by the people involved of how long-term goals are connected with their day-to-day activities. My focus here is on strategy: not on why things should be changed or on how they should be changed, but on how to develop programmes of action for changing them. Little is included here on the horrors of war, the burden of military spending, the desirability of disarmament or the virtues of nonviolent human interaction. Rather, my focus is on what individuals and groups can do to help transform the structures underlying war.

Chapter 1 outlines some of the weaknesses of the usual ways of tackling the problem of war. The purpose of this critique is to show the need for other ways to tackle the problem of war. In chapter 2 some of the principles underlying a grassroots strategy against war are presented, including nonviolence, participation and changing structures as well as individuals. Chapters 3 to 5 treat three key components in a grassroots strategy against war: social defence, peace conversion and self-management. Social defence provides a nonviolent, grassroots alternative to military defence. Peace conversion is the process of transforming war-oriented social structures. And self-managing political and economic structures are necessary as a basis for a world without war. As well as describing these components, I outline how they can form the basis for campaigns.

Chapter 6 treats a key area in grassroots action: organisation and mobilisation. How are people to be brought together and motivated to take action for structural change in society?

Chapters 7 to 13 deal with strategies for challenging and replacing some of the key structures underlying war, with particular focus on the state, bureaucracy, the military, patriarchy, science and technology, and state socialism. These key structures are interconnected in many ways: for example, bureaucracy is a basic building block of the state. Likewise, campaigns against these structures are interconnected, and I emphasise the role of social defence, peace conversion and self-management as well as other approaches.

In looking at structures such as bureaucracy or patriarchy, I focus mainly on their role in the war system. Examination of other aspects of these structures would be important in considering different social problems, such as the alienation of workers and the oppression of women within the family, which are not my main concern here. Also, my emphasis on particular structures, especially the state, is due to their central importance in the war system. In dealing with different social problems, other structures would deserve more attention, such as the role of capitalism in creating poverty in the Third World.

In chapter 14, several individuals describe their personal relationship with social action campaigns. At the end of the book are selected references with annotations.

It is a common view among those who support fundamental social change from the grassroots that such change cannot or should not be planned in any detail, but rather should be left to those who are creating the change. For example, Kirkpatrick Sale in his mammoth book Human Scale gives endless examples of the hazards of bigness and centralisation in every realm of society and nature. But he refuses to give any suggestions about how to get from present society to society on a human scale, arguing that this would pre-empt the actual change.

I disagree with this stance. Without detailed ideas of methods and alternatives, most people will rely on the models with which they are most familiar, such as existing large-scale bureaucracies, decisions by elites and advice from experts. Presenting ideas for how social change might be achieved does not necessarily pre-empt local initiatives. The result instead can be to stimulate local initiative and foster widespread discussion of strategy and action. After all, ideas do not cause social change. Rather, social change is caused by people who can choose to use the ideas, adapt them or reject them, and take action.

The usual procedure in studies of social problems is to devote most space to analysing what is wrong and to tack a few conclusions about 'what to do' at the end. I have partly reversed this emphasis and ordering. I treat the issue of what to do about the roots of war in the early chapters--especially 3 to 6--and only afterwards look in detail at the roots of war themselves, in chapters 7 to 13. There is a logic in this: discussing the general methods and goals beforehand allows the analysis of structures and sources of opposition to be undertaken with a specific purpose in mind, namely to provide insights for pursuing a certain type of social transformation.

In collecting ideas and experiences relevant to grassroots strategy for uprooting the structural underpinnings of war, I have found many strengths but also many weaknesses and gaps. There is an enormous amount of academic knowledge about bureaucracy and the state, for example, but hardly any about alternatives, and next to nothing about strategies. Some of the gaps in both academic and activist understanding are quite amazing, and reflect the lack of ongoing interaction between the theory and practice. This is also a consequence of lack of any widespread thinking about grassroots strategies. I have tried to emphasise not only positive alternatives and promising campaigns but also weaknesses and omissions, of which there are many. The existence of such weaknesses and gaps need not be a source of depression. Activists are bound to encounter them if they are genuinely moving ahead rather than just repeating old campaigns.

My main focus is on grassroots strategy for activists in liberal democratic societies, where there are opportunities for significant open social action without immediate government repression. Many of the examples and many of the research studies drawn upon come from English-speaking countries, especially Australia, Britain and the United States.

In several chapters I give examples from the experiences of groups in which I have been involved. This is not because the experiences of these groups are necessarily significant in themselves, but rather because I can be more confident about drawing lessons from the experiences, and in particular about spelling out weaknesses and failures. It is easy to go astray in reading accounts of experiences elsewhere, which are often made to sound more promising or successful than the reality. For example, one of the most inspiring books about creating locally controlled institutions is Neighborhood Power by David Morris and Karl Hess, which tells about the Adams-Morgan neighbourhood in Washington, D.C. Having read their book, I was interested to read Karl Hess's later book Community Technology, which discusses further developments in Adams-Morgan. But then I read a very critical review of Community Technology written by David Morris presenting an entirely different view on the matter. Given conflicting accounts, it would be easy to accept uncritically the interpretation that accords with one's preconceived views.

The same problem applies even more acutely to events in different cultures, such as the Chinese Cultural Revolution which has been glorified by some and condemned by others, usually according to the preconceptions of the observer. This problem cannot be overcome entirely. I have tried to maintain both a degree of openness and a degree of scepticism.

Another reason for including examples, especially ones in which I have been personally involved, is to give a better idea of the sort of experiences on which my generalisations are based. Grand generalisations and overarching theoretical frameworks often owe a lot to the necessarily limited and individual experiences of the generaliser or theorist. I prefer to expose at least some of the experiences underlying my own interpretation of social reality.

Finally, with examples from personal experiences I have tried to bridge some of the gap between long-term strategies and the day-to-day efforts by individuals and small groups. Until grand theory and everyday practice meet, neither is likely to be very successful.