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The Peace News log

Andrea Needham reports on the recent trial of Sam Walton and Dan Woodhouse in Burnley

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Sam and Woody with supporters outside the court

Poor old British Aerospace. Not only were the first group of people to break in to their Warton site in Lancashire to disarm a warplane acquitted, now the second lot have also been found not guilty. It's curious how difficult it appears to be to convict people for acting peacefully to prevent war crimes.

The first such disarmament action took place in January 1996, when a group of women (myself included) broke in and disarmed a Hawk warplane being sold to Indonesia for use in their brutal war on the people of East Timor. Six months later, all of us were acquitted by a jury, having made the defence that we were simply using reasonable force to prevent crime, as allowed in British law.

The serial number on the casing was visible, showing that the bomb was made by Raytheon in Glenrothes, Scotland, after the war against Yemen started.

The second action took place exactly 21 years later (the date was a happy coincidence), when Sam Walton and Dan Woodhouse broke in with the intention of disarming Typhoon, Tornado and Hawk warplanes which BAE is selling to Saudi Arabia. As we all know, Saudi Arabia is pursuing a brutal war in Yemen, which has led to thousands of civilian deaths. The almost total destruction of the infrastructure of the country has caused the biggest outbreak of cholera in recorded history, and millions of people are on the verge of starvation. Yet BAE continues to sell warplanes, other British companies sell bombs, and the British government falls over itself to appease the fragile Saudi ego, touchy as the rulers are about accusations of war crimes.

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The full references for the Peace News double-pamphlet 1917: The Nonviolent Russian Revolution / 1917: The Grassroots Working-Class Revolution that Lenin Crushed

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These are the footnotes for the double pamphlet written by PN editor Milan Rai in October 2017 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

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Esme Needham reflects on her experiences at FiLiA 2017

ImageThe conference formerly known as Feminism in London is scheduled to start at nine thirty, and to make sure they get everyone there on time, the organisers have booked Cordelia Fine as their keynote speaker. We are told that she has come all the way from Australia specially to tell us about her new book, Testosterone Rex.

But it's not Feminism in London any more- the world is changing, and the UK's biggest feminism conference now bears the name FiLiA, a word meaning 'sister'. Ticket prices are changing, too, which probably accounts for the four hundred attendees who don't quite fill the thousand-seat auditorium to the brim. Not, however, to cast blame on FiLiA- because apart from anything else, it's amazing to share such a huge space with so many like-minded people. It could be a meeting of stick insect collectors, for all that it matters: it's that feeling of unity.

And yet, it does matter. After all, there are almost four hundred women here, and about twenty men. It's a size disparity that feels almost strange; after all, in many situations, it would be the other way around. What the conference does, among other things, is grant all these women the liberty to look how they want to look and say what they want to say without being judged. That's because there's a simple thing everyone here has in common: we all believe in basic gender equality (or at least, I assume this is the case, because not many people who aren't sure where they stand on a subject are willing to pay fifty pounds to go to a conference about it. Just saying.)

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Ian Sinclair talks to George Lakey, Matt Kennard and Alex Nunns

ImageIan Sinclair writes: My new Peace News article ‘The biggest fight of our lives’ includes comments from George Lakey, Matt Kennard and Alex Nunns. Due to space considerations I could only include a small portion of the commentary each of them sent me in the article itself. Below are their full comments.

Why is Jeremy Corbyn seen as such a threat to the British establishment?

Matt Kennard, author of The Racket: Corbyn is seen as such a threat to the British elite and establishment because he is a major threat to their interests. They are not stupid. They understand when a political figure and movement endangers their ability to retain domination of the economy and political system. Never in the history of Britain has an anti-imperialist socialist ascended to the position of leading any of the major parties. It's huge moment in British history - and arguably world history. If he becomes Prime Minister it will be the first core capital country ruled by an anti-imperialist socialist. They have every right to be fearful. Corbyn is the real deal, he can't be assimilated into the state-capitalist elite's framework on either end of their spectrum. Because of that they have to turn to unconventional warfare, which we've seen over the past two years every day.

The threat Corbyn poses is that he shows that Another World Is Possible. His vision is optimistic about what we can achieve as a species and upends all the useful ideology that has been built up over the neoliberal period that says we have to cut public spending and to eliminate any idea of collectivism. Corbyn has shown that it doesn't have to be like that, and not only that, but these policies are popular amongst the electorate. He has put to bed for generations the idea that left ideas can't win elections, the idea they've been beating us with ever since 1983 and Michael Foot's 'longest suicide note in history'. Now, we find out that actually it was the policies themselves that the Labour right didn't like, not that they won't win elections. The 2017 elections changed everything.

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US author and Quaker activist tours UK

ImageUS author and Quaker activist George Lakey is touring the UK mainly to talk about his new book Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians got it right and how we can too (about how mass nonviolent struggle won radical changes).
George is also the author of Toward a Living Revolution: A five-stage framework for creating radical social change

Wednesday 4 October
NOTTINGHAM NG1 5JD
Viking Economics. Hosted by Five Leaves Bookshop in association with Nottingham Quakers as part of national Quaker Week. £3, incl refreshments. 7pm–8.30pm. Friends Meeting House, 25 Clarendon St. Booking essential: fiveleaves.bookshopevents@gmail.com. www.tinyurl.com/GLakeyUK4Oct

Thursday 5 October
HUDDERSFIELD HD1 4TR
Huddersfield Quaker Peace Lecture: ‘A divided Britain: what can we learn from the Nordics?’ Hosted by Huddersfield Quakers. 7.30pm–9pm. Huddersfield Quaker Meeting House, Church St, Paddock. More info: 01484 664 290; www.tinyurl.com/GLakeyUK5Oct

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CND marked the opening of the nuclear ban treaty for signatures in New York with an event in Downing Street, central London.

On 20 September, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) handed in hundreds of letters from citizens across the United Kingdom at No 10 Downing St in London. The United Nations had started to accept signatures for the nuclear arms ban treaty earlier the same day.

'British democracy has happened this afternoon. The public have made their voice heard, and we hope that the prime minister will take notice,' said Kate Hudson, CND general secretary. 'There’s a big multi-signature petition to Mrs May getting her to take the ban treaty seriously.'

Prior to the delivery of the letters, CND read its own letter outside the gates of Downing Street. The campaign encouraged the prime minister to sign the treaty the 'start of a long struggle'. 'Nothing is going to happen instantaneously… this is the first step today,' said Hudson. The general secretary also discussed public opinion polls from British citizens have shown their desire for the prime minister to show support of the treaty. 'We have to do the best we can to translate that public sentiment into political top-level sentiment,' Hudson said.

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A report from a Christian conference on nonviolence.

Lucas Johnson, co-ordinator of International Fellowship of Reconciliation

The practice of nonviolence was an integral part of the life, teaching and work of Jesus. This was the message heard by those attending the conference Reclaiming Gospel Nonviolence, sponsored by the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, Pax Christi and the Fellowship of Reconciliation held in Kinnoull, Perth on 14-16 July.

John Dear, a Roman Catholic priest from the USA, looked over the life of Jesus and the lives of the early Christians to draw inspiration for the idea that practising peace is the core duty of all Christians and people of faith. 'As a society we are addicted to death', he said, from the wars that have been continually fought for the last seventy-plus years to the dead and fossilised animals we burn as coal, oil and natural gas.

'Change happens when people act. Sometimes this may involve breaking bad laws and facing the consequences', said Dear. This can be seen in the life of Jesus, who Dear described as 'a one-man crime wave' for actions such as overturning the tables in the temple and healing the sick on the Sabbath. He urged participants to be witnesses for peace in their communities, through their actions and their lives, adding: 'We are called to be faithful, not to be successful'.

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122 countries vote in favour of a treaty banning nuclear weapons - Britain refused to participate

UN negotiations on treaty to ban nuclear weapons, 3 July - ICAN

New York, 7 July 2017: Negotiations of a new international treaty that bans nuclear weapons concluded at the United Nations today as the treaty was formally adopted by states. The United Kingdom, alongside other nuclear-armed states, has boycotted the negotiations despite government claims to support multilateral disarmament and a world without nuclear weapons.

'States that are serious about eliminating nuclear weapons have joined the United Nations treaty negotiations to ban nuclear weapons and they represent the majority of states in the world,' said Richard Moyes of Article 36.  

'The UK along with other states that possess nuclear weapons have chosen to boycott these talks, but the process has shown that any group of committed and concerned states can and should take collective responsibility to reject these horrific weapons,' said Moyes.

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Who carries out the works of mercy in the war-torn country of Afghanistan?

10-year-old Afghan Street Kid Mubasir smiles despite his difficulties.

10-year-old Afghan Street Kid Mubasir smiles despite his difficulties.

 At an April, 2017 Symposium on Peace in Nashville, TN, Martha Hennessy spoke about central tenets of Maryhouse, a home of hospitality in New York City, where Martha often lives and works. Every day, the community there tries to abide by the counsels of Dorothy Day, Martha’s grandmother, who co-founded houses of hospitality and a vibrant movement in the 1930s. During her talk, she held up a postcard-sized copy of one of the movement’s defining images, Rita Corbin's celebrated woodcut listing "The Works of Mercy" and "The Works of War."

She read to us. "The Works of Mercy: Feed the hungry; Give drink to the thirsty; Clothe the naked; Visit the imprisoned; Care for the sick; Bury the dead." And then she read: "The Works of War: Destroy crops and land; Seize food supplies; Destroy homes; Scatter families; Contaminate water; Imprison dissenters; Inflict wounds, burns; Kill the living."

The following week, US general James Mattis was asked to estimate the death toll from the U.S. first use in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, of the MOAB, or Massive Ordinance Air Burst bomb, the largest non-nuclear weapon in U.S. arsenals.

"We stay away from BDA, (bomb damage assessment), in terms of the number of enemy killed," he told reporters traveling with him in Israel. "It is continuing our same philosophy that we don't get into that, plus, frankly, digging into tunnels to count dead bodies is probably not a good use of our troops' time."

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Blending theatre, art and politics, the Peace History Conferences go from strength to strength

Michael Mears performs This evil thing

The Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW), organiser of the series of Peace History Conferences, has a strong and creative relationship with the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in London. This works because, on MAW’s side, there is an attitude not of dogmatic pacifism but of reasoned opposition to the legitimacy of war; and on the Museum’s side, war is not glamorised but commemorated in all its aspects. This makes it a fitting venue for a conference like the one on 10 June, especially as the IWM in London is also currently running a major exhibition on the history of the peace movement.

The previous evening, actor and writer Michael Mears presented his one-man play This evil thing at the nearby Oasis Hub. The story of conscientious objectors in the First World War, and especially of CO Bert Brocklesby, was brought to life by Mr Mears as he rearranged the wooden crates which served as props to suggest platforms, trenches or rooms. He also played every role, putting on a jacket to indicate a new character, and switching accents and mannerisms with ease. The play, which first won praise at the Edinburgh Fringe, is accessible to all, a riveting story for those with no prior knowledge of the subject, and one that will probably shed new light on this topic even for seasoned peace campaigners.

The day which followed illustrated both the diversity and the consistency to be found in those working for peace.

Frank Cottrell-Boyce, writer and screenwriter famed for his opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics, read extracts from a work written in 1517 by Desiderius Erasmus, The Complaint of Peace, in which Peace, personified, wonders why humanity persists in the use of violence. Both the issues and the wit with which they are described are surprisingly relevant for a modern audience.

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