3 April 2010Comment

Kate Hudson’s generous tribute and Pat Arrowsmith’s more critical remarks in this issue, capture different parts of Michael Foot’s legacy, a legacy which is entangled with the history of a broad section of the British peace movement.

On the question of war, Michael Foot distinguished himself in his middle years with his resolute opposition to “Suez” – the Anglo-French assault on Egypt in 1956. 26 years later, having become leader of the Labour party, Foot took a less…

3 April 2010Comment

Five years ago, I went to visit [the former Labour Party leader] Michael Foot, when I was writing a history of CND. He was kind, witty and utterly committed to nuclear disarmament. His vision for nuclear abolition, here and internationally, was far-sighted.

It cannot have been lost on him that many of his views, for which he had been so pilloried in the past, are now common currency at the highest levels and across the political spectrum.

We talked about his role in…

1 February 2010Review

Mainstream Publishing Company, 2009. ISBN: 978-1-845-964-56-6, 336pp, £19.99

Based on over 200 personal testimonies from the Imperial War Museum’s oral history collection, Voices Against War is a fascinating and lively survey of anti-war protest in the UK from 1914 to the present day.

A university lecturer and author of the bestselling Young Voices, Lyn Smith is keen to stress the complexity and range of anti-war positions held by those who have resisted their Government’s call to go to war. For example, in the first world war conscientious objectors (COs)…

3 December 2009Comment

On 25 July 2009, Henry John “Harry” Patch died. Aged 111, he was the last British survivor of the First World War trenches still living in the UK. Following the funeral held in Wells Cathedral he was buried near Combe Down where he was born.

For more than 80 years Harry refused to talk about his wartime experiences, refused to attend regimental reunions and avoided war films on the television. It wasn’t until he was over 100 that he broke his silence. In 1998 with the…

1 December 2009Review

Jonathan Cape, 2009; ISBN 978-0224071093; 432pp; £20

In 2001 legendary non-fiction cartoonist Joe Sacco travelled to Gaza on an assignment for Harper’s magazine to report on the fate of Palestinians in the town of Khan Younis during the second Intifada.

That visit prompted him to follow up a reference he’d read many years earlier in Noam Chomsky’s book The Fateful Triangle: a short quote from a UN document concerning a massacre in the town during the 1956 Suez Crisis, in which scores of unarmed men were shot in their homes or lined-up…

3 September 2009Comment

The funeral of the last British survivor of the trenches of the First World War was held in Wells Cathedral on Hiroshima Day (6 August) attended with pomp and circumstance, and solemn honours from politicians and the mainstream media. While they proclaimed their respect for Harry Patch, who died at the age of 111, political leaders and media commentators almost entirely ignored the core message to which Harry Patch devoted his last years.

The man who saw some of his best friends…

1 September 2009Review

Palgrave Macmillan, 2008; ISBN 978-0230217744; £15.99

Between the summer of 1918 and the following spring about 230,000 people died in Britain from a deadly strain of influenza, popularly called Spanish Flu. The toll worldwide may have been as high as 100 million. This book describes the pandemic in Britain making use of unpublished testimonies of survivors and the memoirs of doctors, soldiers, and civil servants.

The title comes from a rhyme sung by children at the time: “I had a little bird / Its name was Enza / I opened the window /…

1 September 2009News

Peace News asked participants in the Trident Ploughshares Summer Camp in Coulport to reflect on the Second World War, and to give their suggestions for what they would have done in 1939. Here is a collection of answers that they gave (over the phone) after a long discussion of the topic:

After the First World War, we would have started campaigning against future wars and concentrated on arms companies. We would have lobbied churches, other groups and individuals to disinvest from…

3 July 2009Comment

The idea began at the Friends Meeting House in Taunton in 1981. 11-year-old Jonathan Stocks felt that the room where they held the children’s meeting needed cheering up. He discussed it with their teacher, Anne Wynn-Wilson. They needed pictures. Why not a history of Quakerism in collage or mosaic? Or embroidery?

Anne was a professional embroiderer. She had recently completed a study of the Bayeux Tapestry, which is not really a tapestry but a 70-metre-long strip of linen embroidered…

1 July 2009Feature

Earlier this year, I was invited to take part in a discussion about “growing the radical peace movement” in Britain. I immediately turned to my esteemed co-editor, who suggested that “the radical peace movement” would to some extent not be able to take part in the discussion because it was out in Gaza, standing alongside Palestinians as they faced the might of the Israeli state and then struggled to recover from Operation Cast Lead.

Another long-term activist objected that many of…

1 July 2009Review

University of Pennsylvania Press, ISBN 978 0 812239 69 0; £16.50; 459pp

Just over a year ago (PN 2497), we suggested there was a convergence of views of Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X in their later years, in particular their growing convictions that overcoming class oppression was central to black liberation.

We quoted King in 1966: “something is wrong with capitalism… there must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move towards a Democratic Socialism”; and 1967: “capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black…

1 July 2009Review

Theatre503, The Latchmere, 503 Battersea Park Road, SW11 3BW, 0207 978 7040, www.themountaintop.co.uk, 9 June – 4 July

Waging what one of his aides termed a “war on sleep”, Martin Luther King Jr spent the last months of his life trying to organise the Poor People’s Campaign: a new inter-racial, class-based movement among the poor, in which he hoped black preachers would play a key galvanising role.

Fighting insuperable odds to bring this vision to reality, King also found himself sucked into the struggle of striking sanitation workers in Memphis – and discovered that workers, ministers, unionists and…

1 June 2009Review

Palgrave Macmillan, 2008; ISBN 978 0 230574 49 6; 256pp; £50

Written by three British-based scholars – a political scientist, a human geographer and a sociologist – Anti-War Activism is the first book-length academic analysis of the post 9/11 anti-war movement in the UK.

Focusing on six organisations – Stop the War Coalition, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Faslane 365, Muslim networks, the Quakers and Justice Not Vengeance – the study is based on 60 interviews with activists, including Peace News editor Milan Rai and columnist Maya Evans.…

1 March 2009Review

Metropolitan Books, 2008; ISBN 0-8050-8744-3, 288pp; £9.99

Combining American historian Howard Zinn’s bestselling A People’s History of the United States and his autobiography You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train, A People’s History of American Empire is an inspirational “history from below” in comic form.

Starting with 9/11, the book takes the form of an extended lecture from Zinn, focusing on lesser-known episodes from American history, including the invasion of the Philippines in 1898 (where an early form of waterboarding was used during…

1 February 2009Review

Free exhibition at the British Library, Euston Rd, London, NW1, runs until 1 March 2009. Mike Ashley, Taking Liberties: The Struggle for Britain's Freedoms and Rights, British Library Publishing Division, 2008; ISBN 978 0 7123 5029 7; 144pp; £15.95

This timely British Library exhibition and accompanying book reflect the civil liberties debate moving into the mainstream and allow an important opportunity to reflect on the history of the struggle and to value what has been achieved so far.

On the one hand it emphasises the importance of codifying rights on paper (laws, manifestos etc…) and the power of this in sustaining ideas over time. It starts with the Magna Carta, the most significant provision of which was brought into…