By contrast, "The Power of the People" is styled as a reference book, rather than a religious tract, but it provides a useful historical context for the theological activism of "Plowshares." In fact, we learn that the men and women of the Plowshares movement are the inheritors of an unbroken tradition of what the editors loosely call "principled non-violence," a tradition that can be traced to the "peace churches" of the earliest Colonial era--the Amish, the Mennonites, the Quakers, the Shakers--as well as the abolitionists, war protesters and the suffragettes of the 19th Century. And for those aging former revolutionaries who believe that the rhetoric and radicalism of the '60s "counterculture" were something entirely new, "The Power of the People" will come as a belated surprise.
But "The Power of the People" lacks the depth and candor of "Swords Into Plowshares"--it's a scrapbook, really, and what's fascinating are the reproductions of photographs, political cartoons, propaganda posters, and other incunabula of a century or so of revolutionary politics in America. We see, for instance, a faintly comic "tableau" of turn-of-the-century suffragettes, all dressed in neo-classical white togas and cavorting with balloons on the steps of the neo-classical Treasury Building in Washington; a leaflet which fulminates (quite unconvincingly, at least in retrospect) over the conditions at camps for conscientious objectors in World War II ("New York has its Concentration Camp"); a strangely disturbing photograph of two stout, middle-aged women locked in an angry embrace--one, a Wyoming housewife in hairpins, is pouring a soft drink down the blouse of the other, a protester at an Atlas missile base.
The text of "Power" tends to be superficial and often less than forthcoming; if the reader relies on these brief biographical entries, one might assume that the anarchist Emma Goldman and even the rough-and-tumble Wobblies were parlor pacifists rather than red-hot radicals, and that Shakers and Marxists are joined across the centuries in touching ideological solidarity. In fact, the editors appear to concede that their wide-ranging and somewhat wide-eyed survey of radical politics lacks definition and focus: "Today the institutionalized violence of the American status quo and the need for fundamental changes in individual, social and political life are more widely acknowledged," they write. "Nonviolent revolution, however, still remains more of a direction of developing thought and action than a fully formed plan or ideology."
Convincing Argument Lacking
Then, too, the contributors to the "Plowshares" anthology fail to make a convincing argument that their anti-war activism, which appears to be directed solely at Western armaments, will result in global disarmament. Indeed, one contributor--Sidney Lens--argues unambiguously and unabashedly that the underlying cause of the arms race is "imperial domination of the world by the United States and its allies . . . and the strategy of interventionism that flows from it." And Lens concludes: "We must support nationalists and radicals who are trying to free themselves from foreign domination as an integral part of the struggle against nuclear war." The Soviet Union--and its arsenal, its interventionism and empire-building--are strangely absent from "Plowshares."
We may ask whether men and women of conscience are waging the same struggle within the Soviet bloc; and we may wonder, too, how the Soviet authorities are inclined to treat them. But even if we argue with the earnest but naive political sensibilities of the Plowshares movement--a gathering of curiously compelling utopians, religious Luddites, and miscellaneous true believers--we must admire, and we may learn from their shining spirit.