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Articles from the Peace News log: Activism

Articles from the Peace News log.
For articles in this category from the whole site, look here

The Inaugural Alternative Claudia Jones Memorial Lecture 2018

Kerry-Anne MendozaIn a tucked away corner of Rotherhithe, down a little cobbled street oozing with history, stands Sands Film Studios. Well-known amongst lefties and radicals, this unique corner of London was the perfect place to hear from a unique, leftie and often radical character, Kerry-Anne Mendoza.

Mendoza began by talking about the namesake of the lecture, Claudia Jones. Like Mendoza, Jones was a radical leftie – both women do not sit back and wait for change, they get on and make change happen. Born in Trinidad in 1915, at the height of Empire, Jones didn't keep her birth name but changed it in what she called an act of 'self-protective disinformation' - to avoid receiving judgement based purely on her race. Despite a deeply disadvantaged background, including the loss of her mother at a young age, Claudia was very able academically, and won the Theodore Roosevelt Award for Good Citizenship in high school. However, being a working-class woman of colour, she was prevented from pursuing higher education in an act of triple oppression. While she worked in a laundry, Jones wrote a column in the Harlem Journal. When the case of the Scottsboro Boys hit the news, Claudia became politically active, and joined the Young Communist League.

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A report from the Movement Against War youth delegation to the International Peace Bureau Congress on demilitarisation.


IPB Congress 2016

Young delegates stop nuclear missile launch at the IPB Congress!

From the 30 September – 3 October, MAW Youth (Jen Harrison, Becky Garnault, Maddy Ridgley) plus 2 competition winners (Ella Johnson and Khem Rogaly) attended the International Peace Bureau world congress in Berlin.

For 4 days we were immersed in fascinating panel discussions and workshops delivered by an impressive collection of academics, activists, writers, politicians and economists. In our spare time we engaged in stimulating, nuanced and informative discussions with fellow attendees of diverse ages and nationalities. Together, we created a breeding ground for progressive ideas and fostered a community intent on building a climate of peace, reducing military spending and challenging the destructive power structures pervasive to our world.

A theme common to many of the plenaries and workshops was the effects and causes of global military spending. Though the strapline to the conference was the “the world is over armed and peace is underfunded” (Ban-ki Moon), the economist Samir Amin pointed out that it would be more appropriate to say that “the West is over armed”, as Western countries account for 75% of the total global military spending ($1.7trillion). This shocking figure is made worse when the huge cuts to social and public services across Europe and the USA in recent years are considered. The speakers emphasised the extent to which war is a systemic problem intimately connected to global capitalism, European colonialism and patriarchy. Over the course of the conference, the nature of militarism as a metastatic cancer, infecting different levels of thought became ever clearer.

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New book marks 20th anniversary of land-mark anti-arms trade action

ImagePress release
27 January 2016
Peace News [1]

Contact 07596 483 272 for more info or to arrange an interview with Andrea

New book marks 20th anniversary of land-mark anti-arms trade action

7pm, 29 January 2016, Friends House, London: A woman who disarmed a warplane bound for genocide in South East Asia will be launching her newly published book about the action and subsequent trial at an event in Friends House, London this Friday, the 20th anniversary of the action itself [2].

Published by Peace News Press, Andrea Needham's book 'The Hammer Blow' [3], is an inside account of the Seeds of Hope East Timor Ploughshares action, in which four women used household hammers to disarm a Hawk warplane at a British Aerospace factory in Lancashire in 1996 [4].  The plane was about to be delivered to the Indonesian military, for use in their then-ongoing campaign of genocide against the people of occupied East Timor [5].

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Opting to do something can lead to various forms of activism and that in turn can lead to the difficult area of politics. Saying 'no' to what we oppose is one approach.

How many of us are in some way dissatisfied with the way things are in the world? Perhaps you've witnessed some grave injustice or you're even the victim of a social ill? Maybe you've spent years in academic settings trying to understand what's wrong with the world, but isn't the point to change it? Maybe you just know, things aren't meant to be like this.

Chances are you can relate to most if not all of the above and if so you might have been drawn to do something about it. Making the choice to do something about situations we don't like can lead us to various forms of activism and that in turn can lead to the difficult area of politics, in one form or another.

Politics is something of a touchy subject. For some it's a passion, or a necessary evil to make change. For others it's pointless, boring and is best represented by a bunch of middle aged old men who sit around in parliament spouting hot air at each other, pretending to disagree whilst making polices that no one outside parliament wants. This latter view of politics brings to mind budget cuts, MP's allowance scandals, fracking in the “desolate” countryside and failed deals on Climate Change, not to mention illegal wars or drone strikes in far away places.

The political context in Britain at this point is rather bleak, when you think of it in these terms. More recently there has been a shift in government policy towards “permanent austerity”, showing that the budget cuts weren't about “solving” the financial crisis but were an ideological attack to the working class. Hardly a surprising move for a Tory government. Even more shocking, perhaps, are the revelations about the extent of corporate power that George Monbiot has written about recently, including allowing for “corporate courts” to protect multinational companies in international trade policies and the idea of having “ministerial buddies” available for meetings at companies' every request. These and other troubling insights have led Monbiot to suggest that politics has failed in bringing about positive social change and will continue to do so until corporate power is challenged.

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From opposing Ireland allowing the US military to use Shannon Airport to Limerick Prison

ImageOn Saturday 25 January, Zoe Lawlor and John Lannon of Shannonwatch visited Margaretta D'Arcy in Limerick Prison. She has been there now for 10 days, as a result of her conscientious refusal to sign an undertaking that she would stay away from the restricted areas of Shannon Airport. She has made it clear that she has no problem signing a peace bond - after all, peace is what she is campaigning for. However, the runways at Shannon Airport are directly linked to crimes against humanity, and Margaretta has made it clear that her integrity would be violated if she undertook not to confront this improper use of the runways of a supposedly civilian airport in a supposedly neutral country.
During the visit Margaretta was told of the great support there is for her and her principled stance against the state's collusion in US war crimes. She was brought photographs and reports of demonstrations in Galway, Limerick, Dublin, London and Bil'in in Palestine, as well as a selection of some of the many articles written about her since her imprisonment. She was pleased that the issue of the U.S. military use of Shannon was being highlighted, and expressed her thanks to everyone who has shown their support.

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US perspective on Emily John's arrest, trial and recent sentencing following protests against the Bexhill Link Road.

ImageEmily Johns, Peace News co-editor and Hastings-based activist, was arrested last spring and sentenced last week after protesting for government transparency.

Her trial is part of a larger issue. With the Combe Haven Defenders, she is fighting against the Bexhill Hastings Link Road and the Department of Transports’ refusal to release crucial economic information. “It is a local way to tackle national issues of climate change and sustainable transport,” Johns said.

The Bexhill Hastings Link Road is the first of 190 planned roads to be built across England and Wales in the coming years. A total of £113 million has been committed to the Bexhill Hastings project, according to the Campaign for Better Transport, and construction leads the road through a valley with “exceptional tranquillity and beauty,” Johns said.

Anti-road activist Andrea Needham said the road will cut through the countryside between Bexhill and Hastings, to allow the county council access to build housing and industrial buildings.

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First part of a series to feature on the PN blog about grassroots struggles in China.

In the last few decades, one of the major phenomena occurring on the global scale has been the rise of China. In 1978, the country opened to the outside world after nearly 30 years of almost non-existent contact with what lay outside its borders. Since then, China has grown incredibly, in economic terms, and in terms of the global political balance of power. In little more than 30 years, China has become the second largest economy of the world, and a major economic partner for most countries both in the Global North and in the Global South.

Global attention has been focusing on China more and more, attentively looking at the changes that have been occurring at the government level and at the Chinese Communist party (CCP) level, and what these might mean in terms of international relations. In March, Xi Jinping was formally elected general secretary of the Communist party, an event that has been given extensive media coverage throughout the world. No country can be indifferent to the destiny of China.

Nevertheless, in the Global North, attention to China is often limited to the mainstream, formal life of the country. Chinese civil society is rarely taken into account in the international media, and when something is said about it, it is often derogatory. ‘Lack of human rights’; ‘censorship’; ‘limited freedom of action, speech and thoughts’: these are all-too-often recurring terms in the mainstream discourse in the Global North when analysing Chinese civil society.
In this way, a stereotype that sees Chinese citizens as passive victims of development is maintained and reinforced, thus disempowering civil society and taking away any chance of ordinary people expressing their collective agency.

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Ian Sinclair speaking at the University of Southampton about his book 'The march the shook Blair' that also featured Matt Barr who has recently returned from Iraq.

ImageIn 2003 the UK and US invaded Iraq without a UN resolution. This is common knowledge to anyone who was old enough to pay attention to the news at the time and the following years. Many in my generation also attended the anti-war marches that were organised not only in Britain but across the world, although the London march, attracting between one and two million people according to different estimates, was clearly the largest and attracted the most attention.

What may not be as common knowledge is what has happened in the years following the invasion and this was the topic of the event at University of Southampton on May 29th. The event brought together Matt Barr, a PhD student at the university who specialise in post-conflict decision-making focusing on Iraq, and Ian Sinclair, a freelance journalist and author of the book ‘The march that shook Blair: An Oral History of 15 February 2003’.

Matt who has travelled to Iraq on multiple occasions, including during the 10th anniversary of the invasion, spoke about his experiences there and the impact that the sanctions and the war has had on the people and their communities in Iraq. This could be simple things, like the story Matt told about how after a confrontation involving guns outside the house he was staying the neigbour’s young child knew that a bullet cartridge that has just been fired would be hot so did not pick it with their hands but instead used the cloth of their shirt to prevent getting burnt. Speaking to a mixed academic audience of undergraduates, postgraduates and professors these stories about the people Matt met out in Iraq showed a side to the war, and perhaps more importantly the aftermath, that we were all probably aware of, but knew little about in specific detail and about specific people.

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Report back from Natalia Grana’s recent trip to the Faslane Peace Camp

ImageEver since Peace News Summer camp 2012 I had been hankering after getting up to visit Faslane Peace camp, in fact to be totally honest I had wanted to visit and support the peace camp since I heard about it many years previously, and had driven past it during the Faslane365 year of actions when we did an action.

Anyway, with the backing of Manchester and Warrington Area Quaker Peace group I finally went and what follows are my notes and observations:

Day 1: I got to the camp after a long train ride from England to Scotland. I swore that I smelled the freshness of the air through the train windows as we crossed the border. I was met at Helensburgh station by a member of the camp who has now sadly left. When we arrived at camp I was struck by the lovely welcoming gate and the little rockeries that framed the paths in between the caravans, and the Hiroshima tree was decorated and looking healthy. I was given a guided tour, and shown the new addition of the washing machine, which campers jokingly told me not to mention as then they might seem too posh to outsiders!

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REPORT FROM IRAQ: Non-violent protests by the people of Halabja at the 25th anniversary commemorations of the town's gassing help highlight the political misuse of the massacre.

ImageSaturday was the 25th anniversary of the March 16, 1988 gassing of the town of Halabja, which is north-east of Baghdad and whose backdrop is the mountains that make up part of the Iran-Iraq border. This attack killed upwards of 5000 civilians, mostly women and children, injuring thousands more as Iraqi planes dropped chemical bombs on the town.

Having previously visited the town in April 2009 I returned to Halabja on Saturday to be part of the commemorations, although, for reasons I'll explain later, this most recent trip can only just be described as an actual visit to Halabja as it was a very sanitised version of the town, where the true impoverished nature of the place was kept hidden from visiting eyes.

Away from ceremony and international attention, the first time I visited Halabja I met a man who had lost 24 members of his family of which he was the only one to survive, he lost brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, nieces, nephews, his parents and his grandparents. He himself only survived because he had been injured in a previous 'conventional' attack a couple of days earlier and had shrapnel in his leg. For this reason alone he was outside the centre of the town receiving treatment as the chemical attack rained down on his family and all the others that were murdered on that March day in 1988.

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