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"Peace News has compiled an exemplary record... its tasks have never been more critically important than they are today." Noam Chomsky
Editorial: Disciplined fury
75 years on, what is the future for Peace News? One thing is clear. As activism, and life in general, become more and more digital, Peace News will have to develop its presence online, and find new ways to be useful to new generations of activists. The new website we’re launching this summer is just the start of a broad range of major digital PN projects.
Having said that, and despite our reliance on phone conferences for organising PN activities, we remain firmly committed to old-style, face-to-face meetings and campaigning. The high point of the Peace News year is Peace News Summer Camp, now entering its third year. At the first camp, a long-time PN staffer and board member said it was the most diverse PN event he had ever been to, in terms of people’s politics and their ethnicities and their religious identities.
That mixing, and the mutual respect that grows up at Summer Camp when people meet across boundaries, can only come when we meet face to face and spend the time we need to chew over complicated issues. Peace News began as a paper serving “all those who work for peace”, and it is still intended as a service to that broad mix of currents. Over the decades, however, PN has developed an increasingly radical critique, and a deepening commitment to social revolution.
For us as co-editors, the touchstone of that nonviolent revolutionary perspective has for many years been Barbara Deming, the US pacifist, feminist, lesbian poet and activist. Her two classic essays “Revolution and equilibrium” (1968) and “On anger” (1971) seem to us to set a moral and political standard that we still aspire to, and strive towards.
Barbara Deming was willing to engage with the experience of the Chinese revolution (a major inspiration for young activists at the time), and she was willing to debate with leading proponents of radical violence, such as Frantz Fanon, author of The Wretched of the Earth. She treated the Chinese revolutionary experience with respect, and she treated Fanon with respect. She was willing to grant her respect to those who chose violent revolution, while answering their positions with firm and compelling counter-arguments.
Here we can choose only one passage to share on this anniversary, from an address Barbara Deming gave to the pacifist War Resisters’ League: “[O]ne anger is healthy, concentrates all one’s energies; the other leaves one trembling, because it is murderous.... Our task of course, is to transmute the anger that is affliction into the anger that is determination to bring about change. I think, in fact, that one could give that as a definition of revolution... It is particularly hard on us as pacifists, of course, to face our own anger. It is particularly painful for us – hard on our pride, too – to have to discover in ourselves murderers.”
Those of us who are committed to nonviolence need that honesty and that determination and that disciplined fury.