Activist History

1 December 2017News

Polish scientist & anti-nuke campaigner remembered


On 6 November, peace group British Pugwash, the Polish Heritage Society UK and the Polish embassy unveiled a plaque for Joseph Rotblat on the corner of Bury Place and Great Russell Street in London. The Polish nuclear scientist won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 for campaigning against nuclear weapons. Photo: Polish Heritage Society

1 December 2017Review

Manchester Metropolitan University, 2017; 102pp; £5

In October, I travelled to Burnley for the trial of Sam Walton and reverend Dan Woodhouse (see p1). Walking to the court past derelict industrial buildings and rows of empty shops and pubs, I couldn’t help think of the Women’s Peace Crusade meetings held here exactly 100 years ago.

According to this short book, Burnley was once called ‘the largest producer of woven cotton in the world’ but, by the First World War, its economy had slumped. Over 4,000 young men from Burnley were…

1 October 2017Review

Pluto Press/Left Book Club, 2017; 272pp; £12.99

Reviewers agree that Neil Faulkner’s A People’s History of the Russian Revolution is a lively and readable account of the revolutionary events of 1917. It is also a distorted, dishonest disservice to the millions of Russian workers and peasants whose achievements Faulkner claims to celebrate.

Why should this matter to activists today? In particular, why should it matter to people committed to nonviolent revolution?

One reason is that when times get tough, and…

1 October 2017Review

Women’s Pirate Press, 2015; 148pp; €12.95

If there was ever a book that should be reviewed in Peace News this is it. Not only is 83-year old Margaretta D’Arcy a lifelong campaigner for peace but it was Peace News that drove her, at 79, to climb the fence at Shannon airport and protest on the runway – not once, but twice:

‘On the whole in the anti-war movement there was no real support for non-violent direct action. But then Peace News carried an article about an international week of protest…

1 October 2017Comment

General strike defeats austerity 


A 21.5 percent wage increase to match the inflation rate An end to the austerity measures, including layoffs and spending cuts A stop to the privatisation of state-owned companies, including telephone, gas, oil, and electricity.

The union leaders achieved their main demand to increase wages. They were partially successful in pressuring the government to agree to delay and review their austerity measures and plans to privatise state companies, though they did not receive…

1 October 2017Feature

Wadsworth Jarrell's portrait of Angela Davis and a review of Tate Modern's Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power

Wadsworth Jarrell, Revolutionary, 1972. Courtesy Lusenhop Fine Art.

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power
12 July – 22 October 2017; Tate Modern; 10am – 6pm daily; £15, £13.10 concessions, under-12s free.

Mark Godfrey & Zoe Whitley
Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power
Tate Gallery Publishing, 2017; 240pp; £29.99


1 October 2017Feature

Nonviolent action was a crucial - and oft-negelected - part of the Russian Revolution, argues Milan Rai

Women begin the revolution on International Women’s Day, 1917. PHOTO: Petrograd State museum of political history of Russia

The Russian Revolution of 1917 would not have succeeded without fearless nonviolent action by hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers. Even the ‘storming’ of the Winter Palace on 25 October was largely nonviolent. Yes, there was plenty of revolutionary armed action in Russia in the course of 1917, but there were also many extraordinary, inspiring,…

1 August 2017Review

Underhill Books, 2016; 436pp, £12 from

First published in 2006, with a new edition last year, this is an engaging memoir of the mid-’90s anti-roads movement – one of the most successful UK nonviolent campaigns of recent times.

Jim Hindle tells the story of his time camping at Newbury, Fairmile in Devon, and Stanworth in Lancashire, resisting what the Thatcher government called ‘the biggest road-building programme since the Romans’.

While the activists lost the battles – each road was eventually built –…

1 August 2017Review

OR Books, 2017; 224pp; £15 or purchase online here.

As a young man in the USA in the 1960s, Jonathan Lerner left university and became part of a radical group, Weatherman, a faction of the organisation Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).

Eventually forced underground, Weatherman (later renamed the Weather Underground Organisation) managed to not only destroy SDS but also many of its own members’ lives.

As a 13-year-old, Lerner had joined a picket line at a local apartment building so he could get to know ‘the cool…

1 August 2017Comment

 Indigenous peoples stop open-cast coal mine  

Goal: To stop open-cast coal mining.

Phulbari is an important agricultural region in northwest Bangladesh that also contains a low-quality coal deposit. Several companies have proposed using open-cast (or open-pit) mining techniques in Phulbari, which would displace thousands of people (many of them indigenous people), destroy farmland and homes, and divert water sources to the mining process.

Australia-based mining company BHP Billiton, which discovered coal in…

1 June 2017Feature

50 years after the colonels’ coup in Greece

50 demonstrators run into the Greek embassy, 21 April 1967. Still from a film shot by Nic Ralph on the night. PHOTO: NIC RALPH

On 21 April 1967, as forthcoming elections in Greece seemed likely to elect a centre-left government, a group of right-wing colonels staged a coup. Tanks rolled into Athens, thousands of leftists were imprisoned without trial and, with the collaboration of king Constantine, the colonels’ junta established military law, abolished the constitution and cancelled…

1 June 2017Feature

How striking workers resisted a seven-day work week

GOALS: To keep the owners from instituting a seven-day work week (owners were trying to add 12-hour mandatory Saturday and Sunday shifts – with no overtime pay)

On 9 June 1987, workers of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Lunafil (Lunafil Thread Factory Workers Union, or SITRALU) were given unwelcome news by management.

The Lunafil factory was located on the main highway in Amatitlan, just 15 miles from Guatemala City (capital of Guatemala). In that factory workers spun cotton…

1 April 2017Review

Pluto, 2016; 288pp; £16

‘Most humans are neither rich nor famous, but working people. Their story needs to be told.’ This book is a loudspeaker for those forgotten voices, the majority whose lives are determined by those with blue blood or laden pockets.

Even from the commoner’s perspective, dealing with history always involves interpretation. Depending on which political wing you stand on, the French Revolution was either an appalling display of mob fury or a victory giving birth to modern democracy.…

1 April 2017Review

PM Press, 2016; 128pp; £11.99

Donald Rooum has been drawing cartoons for PN since (at least) 1962, and PM’s new selection of his work – many of them featuring his most famous creation, the anarchist moggie Wildcat – takes on a wide variety of familiar targets: religion, the military, police surveillance, the monarchy and capitalism. But we’re also treated to Rooum’s delightfully offbeat takes on Rumplestiltskin and the Garden of Eden (‘When you’re not blackmailing, you quite turn me on’, the miller’s daughter…

1 April 2017Review

Verso, 2016; 512pp; £25

Don’t be deterred by this book’s hefty appearance or its purely historical premise. Using archival research, Sheila Rowbotham has retraced the lives of six US and British radicals in the late 19th century. Her commitment to mingling the personal and the political results in a fascinating mosaic of stories.

In the decades that Rowbotham reconstructs before our eyes, women could still not speak in public without ‘odium and ostracism’. Divorce and contraception were highly…