Kent, Bruce

Bruce Kent
1 December 2019Comment

A different kind of life is possible

Greetings to everyone. This, at least for a time, is my last ‘As I Please’. Don’t burst into tears. I’ve just passed 90. There must be a young 80- or 70-year-old with significant things to say about peace and our way forward. Better still, a 20- or 30-year-old with fresh eyes and ideas.

Before signing off, I would like to say how valuable Peace News is. It’s readable, international and interesting. Thanks to all on the team, especially our very modest editor.

Anyway, I’…

1 October 2019Comment

Bruce Kent reflects on prisons, peace and justice for all

I must have passed through Reading station dozens of times in recent years on my way to Wales or the West Country. It always gives me a twinge when the train comes into the station from London.

Once one could see clearly the large red brick lump of Reading Gaol. Why a twinge? Because I always remember that it was the place of Oscar Wilde’s incarceration. The Ballad of Reading Gaol goes on for many verses but the first is quite enough to move me:

I know not…

1 August 2019Comment

The role of persistence and reliability in our movements is often underrated.

I hope all readers had as good a time as I did on Saturday afternoon, 6 July. A trip to the Faringdon Peace Fête is not to be missed.

So, as soon as you get next year’s diary, make sure you put in ‘Faringdon, 4 July 2020’.

Why this enthusiasm? Faringdon can’t take the credit for the sunshine but it can for almost everything else that makes the day a success.

The peace group are old hands at this. It was the 38th such summer fête they have organised, which…

1 June 2019Comment

Direct action comes in different shapes and sizes

What a pleasure it was to read about what one bold cardinal has been up to in Rome.

Apparently, in May, the electricity was cut off for a building occupied by 450 squatters – about 100 of them children. Many were refugees.

Cardinal Krajewski (Polish – you guessed) decided on a bit of very direct action. He lifted a lid set in the ground, climbed down to remove a seal, and switched on the electricity.

Light and hot water restored. If there’s a fine, the…

1 April 2019Comment

'Weapons are supposed to bring security”

I still have a scar on my left hand. It is a reminder of a school fight that took place many long years ago. The street knife violence of today comes out of the same stable.

In my area of north London, criminal violence is far from unknown.

There was a row on a bus some years ago between older boys from two different schools. One boy got off the bus not far from his home. But another boy followed him up the street and stabbed him to death. His companion escaped…

1 February 2019Comment

'I was a stranger and you welcomed me'

Just before the prime minister’s plans for leaving, or not leaving, the European Union were voted on in the Westminster parliament, there was a very large gathering, rather noisy but not violent, in London’s Parliament Square. Union Jacks and European Star flags were there in about equal numbers.

Only a few hundred yards away, outside the home office, there was a very much smaller and quieter gathering – only 10 of us. A vigil rather than a demonstration. We were there to call for…

1 February 2019Feature

Responses from peace activists to the BBC’s 2018 Reith Lectures on war

Noted historian Margaret MacMillan took war as her theme in five Reith Lectures she delivered for the BBC in mid-2018.

The overall title of the lecture series was ‘The Mark of Cain’, referring to the story in the Hebrew Bible of the first murderer. Cain, the oldest child of Adam and Eve, murdered his brother Abel, then denied his crime. According to scripture, God cursed Cain and put a mark on him – the Hebrew is not clear whether this was a physical mark on his body or some kind…

1 December 2018Comment

'We've got to have the bloody Union Jack on top of it!'

We all have to thank, if that is the right word, the late Ernest Bevin for getting us into our nuclear weapons mess. He was late for a meeting called by the then British prime minister, Labour’s Clement Attlee, in October 1946. Attlee wanted to discuss whether to plan for a British nuclear weapon or not.

Bevin, the foreign secretary, went to Downing Street to discover that Attlee’s meeting had started and the general consensus was not to go for a British atomic bomb. Too expensive…

1 October 2018Comment

Nationalism's days are numbered, says Bruce Kent

It is now well over a hundred years since czar Nicholas II of Russia invited other states to come to The Hague, in the Netherlands, in 1899, to discuss possibilities for world peace. It is almost 20 years since thousands of individuals and peace groups came also to The Hague, in 1999, for an event to plan progress in the direction that the first Hague pointed to. I still have the booklet with ideas that came from that centenary meeting.

In 1999, we believed that we could challenge…

1 August 2018Comment

Bruce Kent draws the dots between NHS funding and Trident replacement

What I was doing on 5 July 1948 I can’t remember. Marching up and down on parade in Aldershot I imagine, as a national service conscript.

I certainly did not notice that on 5 July 1948 something remarkable happened. Health minister Aneurin Bevan, in a Manchester hospital, launched the National Health Service. A very progressive step forward for the country. Bevan’s announcement came only a few months before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, agreed in December 1948 by the…

1 June 2018Comment

UN reform should be a priority for radicals, argues Bruce Kent

Something odd happened a few weeks ago. Britain, France and the United States sent their planes off to bomb targets in Syria. None of those countries had been directly attacked. It was a punishment raid for the use of chemical weapons, allegedly by Syria.

About 100 missiles were launched and at first the claim was that no one was killed. Then a single casualty was mentioned. No one else. I’ll believe that when I see pigs flying.

Where did these three get the authority…

1 April 2018Comment

Blowing up the world in 'a graduated controlled way'

A few nights ago, I watched on TV the house of commons discussing the attempted murder of the ex-Russian spy and his daughter. I am not naïve and have no illusions about what states will get up to. We British helped to kill over 200,000 civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki because we insisted on Japan’s unconditional surrender. Even now we supply Saudi Arabia with the bombs which have enabled them to kill tens of thousands of people in Yemen.

But as I watched the debate I wondered…

1 February 2018Comment

Bruce Kent celebrates three inspiring 'peace and justice women'

Since I am writing this piece in early February, between the hundredth anniversary of the granting of the first and partial voting rights for women in the UK (6 February 1918) and International Women’s Day (8 March), there is only one obvious subject. So here come a few words about three great and strong peace and justice women among so many who have inspired me.

The first is Olive Gibbs, commemorated in Oxford Town Hall on 6 February itself – which would have been her 100th…

1 December 2017Feature

Bruce Kent extols the virtues of the Housmans Peace Diary

At this end of the year, the conflicts of the world can be seen in our small north London back garden.

The birds are hungry and our swinging seed feeder is getting a lot of attention. But then comes the arrival of the large and powerful – the green parakeets from Hampstead. Colourful they may be, but greedy they certainly are. The small ones – robins, wrens, finches, and the like – get driven off. Or they would get so driven if I did…

1 October 2017Comment

We owe the 'refuseniks' more than we know, says Bruce Kent

It is nearly 70 years since I began my two years of conscripted military service.

Having been to a boarding school, it was not much of a shock. Despite some class differences we were all in the same boat and got shouted at in the same way by various corporals and sergeants.

In 1947, the cold war was just starting, and it was to faraway places like Malaysia and Korea that some of my contemporaries were sent. At least one, my friend ‘Tubby’ Maycock, a year below me at…