The Union of Democratic Control was a British pressure group formed in 1914 to press for a more responsive foreign policy. While not a pacifist organisation, it was opposed to military influence in government.
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 government minister who had resigned his post in opposition to the declaration of war, and Ramsay MacDonald who resigned as Chairman of the Labour Party when it supported the government's war budget. Also taking a key role in setting up the Union were politician Arthur Ponsonby, author Norman Angell and journalist E. D. Morel.Following an initial letter circulated on 4 September 1914, an inaugural meeting was organised for 17 November. 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 and wartime censorship 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 (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.
By 1917 the UDC had more than a hundred local branches across Britain and Ireland, 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.A. J. P. Taylor said the UDC was "the most formidable Radical body ever to influence British foreign policy".
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 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 War-Time 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 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 was briefly a UDC member in the 1950s – it had very little influence. It finally dissolved in 1966.
James Ramsay MacDonald was a British politician who was the first Labour Party member to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, leading minority Labour governments for nine months in 1924 and again between 1929–1931. From 1931 to 1935, he headed a National Government dominated by the Conservative Party and supported by only a few Labour members. MacDonald was expelled from the Labour Party as a result.
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Sir Ralph Norman Angell was an English Nobel Peace Prize winner. He was a lecturer, journalist, author and Member of Parliament for the Labour Party.
Arthur Augustus William Harry Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby of Shulbrede, was a British politician, writer, and social activist. He was the son of Sir Henry Ponsonby, Private Secretary to Queen Victoria and Mary Elizabeth Bulteel, daughter of John Crocker Bulteel. He was also the great-grandson of The 3rd Earl of Bessborough, The 3rd Earl of Bathurst and The 2nd Earl Grey. The 1st Baron Sysonby was his elder brother.
Edmund Dene Morel was a French-born British journalist, author, pacifist and politician.
Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan, 3rd Baronet was a British Liberal Party, and later Labour Party, politician and landowner. He served as President of the Board of Education in 1924 and between 1929 and 1931 in the first two Labour administrations of Ramsay MacDonald.
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The No More War Movement was the name of two pacifist organisations, one in the United Kingdom and one in New Zealand.
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Athelstan Rendall was a Liberal Party, later Labour politician in the United Kingdom.
Morgan Philips Price was a British politician and a Labour Party Member of Parliament (MP).
Walter Trevelyan Thomson was a British Liberal Member of Parliament, iron and steel merchant and soldier.
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Falsehood in War-time, Containing an Assortment of Lies Circulated Throughout the Nations During the Great War, written by Arthur Ponsonby in 1928 lists and refutes pieces of propaganda used by the Allied Forces against the Central Powers.
The Merthyr Tydfil by-election, 1915 was a parliamentary by-election held on 25 November 1915 for the British House of Commons constituency of Merthyr Tydfil in Glamorganshire, Wales.
The Leicester by-election was a Parliamentary by-election. It returned one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, elected by the first past the post voting system.
Dorothy Woodman was a British socialist activist and journalist.
Bernard Noel Langdon-Davies was a British pacifist activist.
Sophia Sturge (1849–1936) was a British Quaker suffragist, social reformer and peace campaigner who carried out activities in opposition to World War 1.