Union of Democratic Control
The Union of Democratic Control was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 pressure group formed in 1914 to press for a more responsive foreign policy
Foreign policy
A country's foreign policy, also called the foreign relations policy, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve its goals within international relations milieu. The approaches are strategically employed to interact with other countries...

. While not a pacifist
Pacifism is the opposition to war and violence. The term "pacifism" was coined by the French peace campaignerÉmile Arnaud and adopted by other peace activists at the tenth Universal Peace Congress inGlasgow in 1901.- Definition :...

 organization, it was opposed to military influence in government.

World War I

The impetus for the formation of the UDC was the outbreak of the First World War, which its founders saw as having resulted from largely secret international understandings which were not subject to democratic overview. The principal founders were Charles P. Trevelyan, a Liberal
Liberal Party (UK)
The Liberal Party was one of the two major political parties of the United Kingdom during the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was a third party of negligible importance throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, before merging with the Social Democratic Party in 1988 to form the present day...

 government minister who had resigned his post in opposition to the declaration of war, and Ramsay MacDonald
Ramsay MacDonald
James Ramsay MacDonald, PC, FRS was a British politician who was the first ever Labour Prime Minister, leading a minority government for two terms....

 who resigned as Chairman of the Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 when it supported the government's war budget. Also taking a key role in setting up the Union were author Norman Angell
Norman Angell
Sir Ralph Norman Angell was an English lecturer, journalist, author, and Member of Parliament for the Labour Party.Angell was one of the principal founders of the Union of Democratic Control...

 and journalist E. D. Morel
E. D. Morel
Edmund Dene Morel, originally Georges Eduard Pierre Achille Morel de Ville was a British journalist, author and socialist politician. In collaboration with Roger Casement, the Congo Reform Association and others, Morel, in newspapers such as his West African Mail, led a campaign against slavery...

While non-partisan, the UDC was dominated by the left-wing of the Liberal and Labour Parties.

The Union did not call for an immediate end to the war but for a full examination of the war aims in public and by Parliament. It did strongly oppose conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 and wartime censorship
thumb|[[Book burning]] following the [[1973 Chilean coup d'état|1973 coup]] that installed the [[Military government of Chile |Pinochet regime]] in Chile...

 along with other restrictions on civil liberties. As a result
of this, the UDC was denounced by right-wingers such as The Morning Post newspaper as undermining the British war effort.
The Religious Society of Friends
Religious Society of Friends
The Religious Society of Friends, or Friends Church, is a Christian movement which stresses the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Members are known as Friends, or popularly as Quakers. It is made of independent organisations, which have split from one another due to doctrinal differences...

 (Quakers) provided general backing and most of the funds for the Union came from wealthy Quakers. There were also close links between the Union and the supporters of women's suffrage
Women's suffrage
Women's suffrage or woman suffrage is the right of women to vote and to run for office. The expression is also used for the economic and political reform movement aimed at extending these rights to women and without any restrictions or qualifications such as property ownership, payment of tax, or...


By 1917 the UDC had more than a hundred local branches and 10,000 individual members; it also had affiliations from organisations which represented 650,000 more. It became increasingly influential in the Labour Party, to which its members increasingly graduated due to the continued support for the war from the Liberals. The UDC criticised the Versailles Treaty as being unjust to Germany, and also
advocated the withdrawal of Allied troops from Russia
Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War
The Allied intervention was a multi-national military expedition launched in 1918 during World War I which continued into the Russian Civil War. Its operations included forces from 14 nations and were conducted over a vast territory...


Subsequent activity

At the end of the war, no thought was given to disbanding the Union and it continued to be active through the 1920s. In the first Labour government in 1924, fifteen Government ministers were members of the UDC.

As time went on, the UDC became more supportive of outright pacifism and Arthur Ponsonby
Arthur Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby of Shulbrede
Arthur Augustus William Harry Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby of Shulbrede was a British politician, writer, and social activist. He was the third son of Sir Henry Ponsonby, Private Secretary to Queen Victoria, and the great-grandson of Frederick Ponsonby, 3rd Earl of Bessborough...

 published his pacifist statement Now is the Time in 1925 under UDC sponsorship. Ponsonby also started a petition of those who "refuse to support or render war service to any government which resorts to arms", and in 1928 published Falsehood in Wartime which claimed that public opinion was invariably peaceful unless roused by propaganda.

In the 1930s the UDC was led by Dorothy Woodman who reshaped it as an anti-fascist
Anti-fascism is the opposition to fascist ideologies, groups and individuals, such as that of the resistance movements during World War II. The related term antifa derives from Antifaschismus, which is German for anti-fascism; it refers to individuals and groups on the left of the political...

 research and propaganda campaigning group. Membership was on a steep decline by this point. While the Union continued to exist in some form until the 1960s -
Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

 was briefly a UDC member in the 1950s - it had very little influence.

External links

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