Activist History

26 October 2015Blog entry

A tribute to Peace News's ground-breaking drama critic 

Albert Hunt, critic, playwright and educator, and former staff member and drama critic of Peace News, was part of the wave of innovators that transformed the British theatrical scene in the 1960s and 1970s and pioneered an approach to adult education based on the active participation of students in games and creative improvisation.

Born in Burnley in 1928 to a working-class Pentecostal family, with a radical pacifist…

1 October 2015Feature

Help PN publish Andrea Needham's account of Britain's most daring anti-arms trade action

'The heroic actions of this small, but determined, group of women is told brilliantly in Andrea Needham’s fascinating account…. You can sense just how much human life matters to each and every one of these women. They spent six months in jail for acting upon their consciences – but were eventually, and rightly, found to be innocent. Anyone interested in social change, or campaigning for peace, should read this book and take inspiration from the brave actions of these amazing women.'…

1 August 2015Comment

The letters pages in Peace News have long been a forum for debate on pacifist ideas: the August 1955 issues were no exception. Sid Parker, individualist anarchist, contributed to and edited political publications over many decades; pacifist Denis Barritt lived in Northern Ireland - including during “the troubles” - opposing all armies, ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’.

Anarchist position

There is one paragraph [of a Peace Pledge Union document in a previous PN] with which…

1 June 2015Review

Verso 2015; 416pp; £16.99

In 1936, the Indian scholar BR Ambedkar was invited to give a speech to the Jat-Pat Todak Mandal (Forum for Break-up of Caste), a group of high-caste Hindus. The controversial speech was never delivered, and the conference was cancelled, but Ambedkar published the speech himself, together with the letters and records of the ensuing debate.

In her book-length introduction, ‘The Doctor and the Saint’, Arundhati Roy draws out the significance of this speech (‘Annihilation of Caste’)…

1 June 2015Comment

As the Second World War’s killing ended – in the European theatre at least – news emerged from recently-liberated concentration camps and extermination camps. Much of this PN report was based on a visit to Buchenwald a few weeks earlier by a London-based Swedish journalist.

The details of the treatment of German conscientious objectors which we print below give the first detailed factual reply to the oft-repeated war-time question – ‘What would happen to any conscientious objectors in…

1 June 2015Feature

How Britain's greatest living philosopher lost his sense of humour, but got the last laugh.


'The Banning of Bertie' by Emily Johns On 6 July 1916, Bertrand Russell – Britain's* greatest living philosopher – spoke out against the First World War at a public meeting in Cardiff, declaring that there was not ‘now any good and valid reason why this war should continue to be prosecuted’.

As a result of his talk, Russell was prohibited from residing in or entering any area…

1 June 2015Review

Pluto, 2015; 320pp; £9.99

In 1832 a major outbreak of cholera struck London. According to a government report, it was 'proof of the judgement of God among us'. With this in mind, a 'National Fast Day' was proposed, with the aim of preventing the spread of disease. The irony wasn’t lost on the poor. The National Union of the Working Classes 'encouraged its supporters to enjoy a "Feast Day" which, it argued, would benefit the poor far more.' After all, they had precious little to eat in the first place!

9 April 2015Blog entry

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jody Williams spoke recently at Winchester University.

Jody Williams spoke at the university of Winchester's Peace Jam event on 13 March. Peace Jam is a new programme launched by Winchester centre of religions for reconciliation and peace…

3 April 2015Review

2014; 128 mins

The poster for Selma, showing the head and shoulders of a solitary Black man facing a line of helmeted policemen, gives the wrong impression about this brilliant film. In fact, the film shows that Martin Luther King Jr (MLK) was enabled to achieve what he did because he worked with and through groups of fellow campaigners, using non-violent direct action (NVDA) to confront authorities in the Southern USA town. Black people were prevented from both registering to vote and voting…

31 March 2015Review

Lutterworth Press, 2014; 312pp; £20

An Anglican priest, former chair of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship and chair of the Peace Museum in Bradford, Clive Barrett is ideally placed to document Anglican resistance to the First World War.

I was hooked from the opening chapter which shows how militarism was embedded in the 39 ‘articles of religion’ to which all Anglican clergy must assent. Article 37 – ‘It is lawful for Christian Men, at the command of the magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in wars’ – clarified…

31 March 2015Comment

Peace News faced difficulties – both practical and political – whilst trying to continue as a pacifist publication during the Second World War. Although there have been threats to the existence of the paper occasionally since then, such problems have never been as frequent as during that era:

Messrs WH Smith & Sons distribute 10,250 copies of Peace News every week and other wholesalers, between them, 12,200.

Sir Arnold Wilson [a well-known…

31 March 2015Feature

PN recounts some of the achievements of a neglected figure (and movement) from the German resistance to WW1


Richard Müller & the Revolutionary Shop Stewards
by Emily Johns

“How did the workers’ councils emerge in Germany? They emerged from the big strike movements of the last years, in which we — who have always been strong opponents of the war and who have lived with tortured souls for four years given the pressure and the lies the German people were exposed to — were the driving…

31 March 2015Feature

An African-American activist-turned-academic looks back on the history of armed self-defence in the US civil rights movement

In his recent book on the US civil rights movement, This Nonviolence Stuff’ll Get You Killed, Charles Cobb argues that ‘although nonviolence was crucial to the gains made by the freedom struggle of the 1950s and ’60s, those gains could not have been achieved without the complementary – and underappreciated – practice of armed self-defence’. Indeed, the willingness to use deadly force, Cobb asserts, ‘ensured the survival not only of countless brave men and women but also of the…

1 February 2015Feature

Shout out for PN's First World War speaking tour ...

Emily Johns (Peace News co-editor) and Gabriel Carlyle (PN promotions worker) are ready to tour the UK, speaking about PN’s mammoth project ‘The World is My Country: A Visual Celebration of the People and Movements that Opposed the First World War’.

A year in the making, the 10 posters feature stories from a history of police raids and buried documents, feminist peace initiatives and clandestine printing presses, Maori princesses and striking German munitions workers.

1 February 2015News in Brief

‘Arming All Sides’ is an excellent new online First World War resource initiated by Campaign Against Arms Trade.

The website questions what role the arms trade played before, during and after the war, what opposition was mounted to the trade, and how the war affected what people thought about making and selling armaments. armingallsides.on-the-record.org.uk