Len Johnson 1929-2013

Major-General (ret’d) Leonard V. Johnson was definitely the Canadian military officer most beloved to peace activists. As Commandant of the National Defence College in Kingston, he had brought the eminent peace scholar Anatol Rapoport to speak at his college. This conversation led to others, which in turn convinced the general, who became one of the country’s most serious peace activists for three decades. After retiring from the military, he chaired the Canadian Pugwash group for some time and published a book with a revealing title: A General for Peace.

When Peace Magazine interviewed Len in 1985, we asked how that remarkable transition had occurred and how he believed activists could be effective. He said:

“I set out to find out what concerned the peace movement, and to sort these issues out in my own mind. And by the time I was finished, I felt that anyone who has any concern for the future has an obligation to be involved. And I also came to the conviction that officialdom doesn’t offer solutions in this. They can’t do anything but build more bombs. In fact, the critical thing is to get the public mobilized. Democratic, popular opinion is the only thing that will stop it. . .

“What you’re doing is transforming [militarism] from the bottom, by working on public opinion so that conventional wisdom changes. There’s nothing so hopeless as an idea whose time has not come. [We laughed.] But once that time comes, there’s nothing so powerful! Once the public reaches a certain level of awareness, people suddenly say, ‘Oh yes, of course, this is what we should be doing.”

We thank Canada’s “peace general.”

Peace Magazine Jan-Mar 2014

Peace Magazine Jan-Mar 2014, page 21. Some rights reserved.

Search for other articles by peacemag here

Peace Magazine homepage