Antiwar Movements Throughout History: An Introduction

Eugene V. Debs, five time candidate for President, following his release from Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in 1921. Photo by Wikimedia Commons

By Jessie Mai Mitnick, age 12

“... no war by any nation in any age has ever been declared by the people.”  — Eugene V. Debs

Eugene V. Debs, an influential socialist and antiwar leader, gave a speech on June 18, 1918, which resulted in his imprisonment under The Sedition Act of 1918. During WWI, there were strict laws passed on dissenting voices. Debs highlighted how the war was affecting minority groups and working-class people, and the speech still rings true to the antiwar movement in modern times. 

In his speech, Debs recognized how the war and its aftermath exacerbated the equality and class issues society was already grappling with. “The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose — especially their lives,” Debs said in his speech.

Antiwar movements create a platform for people who are in opposition to a war to have  their opinion voiced. These efforts are a way for the people’s perspective to be represented and for them to do everything in their power to prevent or stop war.


Dissent: the expression or holding of opinions at variance with those previously, commonly, or officially held.
Exacerbate: make (a problem, bad situation, or negative feeling) worse.

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