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Peace News log archive: May 2011

Articles from the Peace News log.
For archive articles from the whole site, look here




Peace News is 75 years old this month. Come and help us celebrate 75 years of radical reporting and resistance to the war machine.

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“On December 23, April 6 activist xxxxxxxxxxxx … alleged that several opposition parties and movements have accepted an unwritten plan for democratic transition by 2011; we are doubtful of this claim” – secret cable from the US Embassy in Cairo to Washington [1]

“Nonviolent action is not just about non-violence, but also about joy and happiness … [People] saw in Tahrir what Egypt could possibly be in the future and they wanted to be part of this new Egypt” – Wael Adel, Academy for Change [2]

In the popular imagination, mass nonviolent action (“people power”) is often portrayed as a largely improvised and unplanned affair. The reality is usually very different.

Thus, Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger and the ensuing Montgomery bus boycott are respectively (mis)remembered as the action of an ordinary woman who was simply “too tired to move”, and a spontaneous public reaction to her subsequent arrest and prosecution.

In reality, Parks was secretary of the Montgomery chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and had recently attended the legendary Highlander Folk School – a crucial training center for civil rights and labour activists. Moreover the local Women’s Political Council had decided to call a boycott at least nine months before Parks’ refusal, and were just waiting for the right person to get arrested. [3]

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Milan Rai interviews the Tricycle Theatre's artistic director

I was in two minds as to how to write up the interview with Nicolas Kent. Our usual format in PN is to just to present the transcript of the interview, and that’s what we did in the end (for an unusually long three pages), but I was very tempted to write it up in a more traditional journalistic style. These notes are a small move to bringing a bit more of the flavour of the thing over.

When I called up to arrange the interview, Nicolas Kent was very gracious, but it was clear he was under a lot of pressure of work and he had only half an hour to spare. This meant that a lot of things didn’t get teased out enough (I didn’t try to engage with his ideas about Afghanistan, which I didn’t agree with) and some things didn’t make it in at all.

The thing that was left out that I regret most, which indicated most clearly what type of person Mr Kent is, and therefore what these plays really are, was an incident in relation to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

As everyone knows, Stephen Lawrence was a young black man killed by a gang of white racists in 1993. The inquiry into the failed police investigations describes his murder in these terms:

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Polls in the UK show confusion and a lack of enthusiasm for the war in Libya

Two months on, the opinion polls show the British public is largely undecided about the Libya war, undecided and unenthusiastic.

The first two polls were contradictory. A Comres poll showed greater opposition than support: 35 per cent in favour of the military action and 43 per cent against it. A YouGov poll showed 45 per cent of people supporting action by Britain, the US and France, and 36 per cent stating that it was wrong. One showed eight per cent more opposition than support; the other nine per cent more support than opposition, a 7% swing!

Two explanations for the discrepancy might be that the two polls were taken at slightly different times (Comres was carried out between 18 and 20 March; YouGov was carried out two days later, between 20 and 21 March), and they had slightly different questions. The Comres question (“[Do you agree or disagree that] It is right for the UK to take military action against colonel Gaddafi’s forces in Libya”) implied UK unilateralism, while YouGov (“Do you think Britain, France, the US and other countries are right or wrong to take military action in Libya?”) stressed international participation in the war. On the other hand, Comres mentioned Gaddafi, who is a hate figure in the UK, while YouGov did not, which may go some way to evening out the biases in the questions.

Neither poll, carried out just after British pilots started their bombing runs, showed more than 50% support for the war, when, as Peter Kellner of YouGov pointed out, 53% of Britons supported the invasion of Iraq immediately after the war had started.

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Jill Gibbon at the 2011 BAE Systems AGM

Dan Viesnik reports from a protest Camp outside Sizewell nuclear power station.

ImageOn Good Friday, I headed down to a sunny Sizewell Beach on the picturesque Suffolk coast. The nuclear power station, directly overlooking the beach, was, for the third successive year, the target for the annual spring weekend camp of the Stop Nuclear Power Network.

As usual, it was timed around the anniversary of Chernobyl – the world’s worst ever civil nuclear disaster (prior to Fukushima, at least) – which this year coincided with Easter.

Within a few hours of arriving, a sizeable tent village had magically sprung up on the beach, consisting of a row of colourful banners and flags billowing in the north sea breeze, a field kitchen, a marquee, a welcome tent, toilet tents and dozens of personal dwellings. Who knows what the two-headed adders of Sizewell Beach and their genetically-mutated human and canine visitors made of this spectacle.

Chernobyl and Fukushima

Tuesday, 26th April, would mark exactly a quarter of a century since the fateful day in 1986 when reactor 4 at Chernobyl, Ukraine went into meltdown, due to a combination of poor design and human error. The fire that ensued sent a plume of deadly radioactive materials high into the atmosphere, to be blown west by the wind, over the adjacent Belarusian border and across vast swathes of northern Europe. Britain was not spared from the fallout, with northern regions particularly badly affected, even to this day.

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Photos of the March for Alternatives, 26 March 2011 by Fred Chance