We're glad you're enjoying History Hub Community!

This resource is available for non-ABC-CLIO database subscribers for two weeks. To access thousands of History Hub resources like this one, log in with your ABC-CLIO username and password. Or learn how to become a subscriber here.

Diplomacy and Conflict • The Arms Race

In 1980, the nuclear freeze movement began with Randall Forsberg, the director of the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies, who issued an appeal to both the United States and the Soviet Union calling for an immediate halt to all testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons. (Forsberg's appeal had its origins in a similar proposal made some 20 years earlier by the U.S. representative to the Geneva Disarmament Convention, Adrian Fisher.)

By 1981, Forsberg's appeal resulted in the establishment of a nuclear freeze campaign, central to which was the concept that war, in the age of nuclear weapons, could no longer be considered a viable instrument of foreign policy. In addition to the cessation of the production and testing of nuclear weapons, the freeze movement advocated a halt to military intervention in other countries by both the United States and the Soviet Union, a reduction of nuclear stockpiles, and a conversion of military-industry production to peaceful, civilian production projects.

In 1981 and 1982, the movement succeeded in influencing the outcome of referendums in 10 states, whose voters approved the institution of a nuclear freeze. In the latter year, the U.S. House of Representatives also passed a resolution calling for a nuclear freeze. A similar Senate resolution was tabled in 1983, but since then, more than 20 state legislatures adopted nuclear freeze resolutions, as did hundreds of local councils.

Although the nuclear freeze movement was criticized for promoting an overly simplistic solution, it nevertheless struck a chord in citizens throughout the country who embraced and supported the campaign. Nearly 1 million people demonstrated proof of that widespread support when they turned out in New York's Central Park during a nuclear freeze campaign rally in 1982. In addition, more than 1,100 individual nuclear freeze chapters were organized across the country, along with numerous rallies, workshops, and seminars. Activists made lobbying efforts, as well: the Freeze Voter, a political action committee, was organized to lend support to candidates who were in favor of a nuclear freeze.

By 1986, supporters of the nuclear freeze movement had called for legislation aimed at establishing a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, halting missile testing, and canceling the MX program and other weapons systems. Moreover, the campaign sponsored a conference entitled Common Sense Defense Budget, which concluded that real security depended not only on arms control but also on the development of a quality educational system, a productive civilian economy, and a program to rebuild the nation's infrastructure.

The nuclear freeze movement has maintained close ties with a variety of other peace organizations and has conducted polls claiming support for the idea of nuclear freeze by more than 80% of the population. Undeniably, the movement has been one of the most successful grassroots organizations for peace in the United States.

Further Reading

Hogan, J. Michael, The Nuclear Freeze Campaign: Rhetoric and Foreign Policy in the Telepolitical Age, 1994; Meyer, David S., A Winter of Discontent: The Nuclear Freeze and American Politics, 1990; Rochon, Thomas R., and David S. Meyer, eds., Coalitions and Political Movements: The Lessons of the Nuclear Freeze, 1997; Waller, Douglas C., Congress and the Nuclear Freeze: An Inside Look at the Politics of a Mass Movement, 1987.

MLA Citation

Lunardini, Christine. "Nuclear Freeze Movement." American History, ABC-CLIO, 2020, americanhistory.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/256036. Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

Entry ID: 2174297

back to top