The Americans Who Opposed the Great War by Michael Kazin

The Americans Who Opposed the Great War by Michael Kazin provides an overview of the diverse array of antiwar activists who opposed the US entry into World War I. Kazin celebrates the bravery of the opponents of war as well as the group’s diversity, which crosses class, regional, ethnic, racial, and political lines. Opposition to the war began before America’s official declaration of war as many anti-war groups published articles and began organizing efforts (such as the American Union Against Militarism). These activists lobbied the Wilson administration to remain neutral and to avoid an arms build-up, often using both Wilsonian and patriotic rhetoric against the idea of going to war. To illustrate the diversity of the antiwar coalition Kazin briefly discusses four leaders from differing camps: Morris Hillquit (Socialist), Crystal Eastman (Progressive feminist), Claude Kitchin (Democratic Congressman), and Robert LaFollette (Progressive Republican Senator). With America’s declaration of war, Kazin turns to the wide array of governmental powers that came into existence, and the worries by contemporaries such as Randolph Bourne and William Stone that the US would be forever changed as a result of the war. While anti-war movements “have no natural constituency” and are often quixotic efforts, Kazin argues the opponents of World War I were prophetic in decrying the risks to liberal democracy from state-sponsored nationalism, militarism, and waging overseas warfare.[1] The Kazin article is very much a thought piece reflecting on a historical turning point for the US. It is a compelling essay and can be considered representative of what appears to be a historical consensus/theme holding the opponents of World War I in high regard.

[1] Michael Kazin, “The Americans Who Opposed the Great War: Who They Were, What They Believed,” Oregon Historical Quarterly 118, no. 2 (July 1, 2017): 252–255.